Sunday, 30 August 2020
I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Revelation 1:18
In the previous verse, Jesus spoke forth, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.” John had fallen “at his feet as dead.” He was so overwhelmed that he couldn’t believe he could continue living. That thought probably brought a moment of fear to his mind. Jesus understanding this said, “Do not be afraid.” What He will now say follows on with the words, “the First and the Last.” He begins with, “I am He who lives.”
The Greek literally reads, “and the Living One.” In other words, it is not a separate sentence, but is connected to the previous verse –
“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the Living One.” (BLB)
John fell as if dead. Would that be the end of Him? What if it really was. But Christ proclaims that He is the Living One. John saw Him crucified. He saw Him after the resurrection. And He saw Him ascend to heaven. Now, He sees Him in all of His radiant glory. I AM THE LIVING ONE!
Having said that, He then says, “and was dead.” The Greek rather reads, “and became dead.” He is the Living One, but He became dead. Many verses come to mind, but two will give the sense of what is being conveyed –
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:4
“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 1:8
Despite being the Living One, Christ was willing to give that up through His incarnation and crucifixion. He “became obedient to the point of death.” This was a substitutionary death for those who were already dead, spiritually cut off from God, and who were destined to die physically as well. But, despite becoming dead, the magnificent words of Christ continue, saying, “and behold, I am alive forevermore.”
The Greek states it in a superlative way, “to the ages of the ages.” He is alive and that shall never end. For all eternity, the life He possesses He shall continue to possess. He is THE LIVING ONE. With that stated, He proclaims “Amen.” So bet it. It is and it shall never be otherwise. Of this, Charles Ellicott states, “There are two wonders here: the living One becomes dead, and the dead One is alive forevermore.”
Because of this, something was gained. As Jesus says, “And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” Some manuscripts have them reversed – “of Death and Hades.” The words here hearken back to Isaiah 22 when speaking of Eliakim the son of Hilkiah –
“The key of the house of David
I will lay on his shoulder;
So he shall open, and no one shall shut;
And he shall shut, and no one shall open.” Isaiah 22:22
To have the keys to something means that one has full and unfettered access. Death and Hades were as if prisons. Men would die and they would remain dead, the pit or Sheol in Hebrew, would swallow up the souls of man, and there was no hope to be released from its grip. But Christ, through His work, opened both, using the keys that He had merited through His sinless perfection. Death could not hold Him, but more – because His death was a substitutionary death (dying for others and not for His own sin) – death can no longer hold those who are saved by Him.
He went into the grave, taking the sin of His people with Him. When He came out, that sin remained in the grave. Because the wages of sin is death, and because the sin of His people is carried away, His people are granted life – the same eternal life that He possesses. His redeemed can never die again. It is a note of the absolute assurance of the doctrine of eternal salvation.
Life application: 1) “He who lives” is certainly a reference to the “Living God” of the Old Testament. It is a term used no less than 12 times when speaking about the God of Israel – “Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” 1 Samuel 17:36. The Living God is the eternally existent God who breathed the breath of life into man.
2) “And was dead” identifies Jesus with the most feared and final of human experiences. Death is the result of and payment for sin; it is what humans receive – all humans. It is a final tragic end that results in separation from the Creator who is perfect and sinless.
3) “And behold, I am alive forevermore” is the greatest note of victory ever penned. Peter explained how it happened when speaking in Acts 2:24 – “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Because death is the result of sin, and because Jesus never sinned, it was “not possible” for death to hold Him; prevailing over death was the only possible option for the sinless Son of God.
4) “Amen” means “truth” and, when spoken by Jesus, who is the embodiment of truth, there is not only a calm certainty in the statement, but the confident backing from the Creator that it can be trusted.
5) “And I have the keys of Hades and Death.” Hades is the repository for disembodied spirits, like a holding chamber of the dead. Toward the end of Revelation, a Great White Throne judgment is described in exacting detail. Once the dead of the ages have been judged there, both Hades and Death will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
After this, there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain for those who are granted eternal life through Jesus Christ. This verse clearly teaches that the eternal destiny of all humanity is completely under the jurisdiction of Jesus Christ – only He prevailed over death. There is no other way to avoid hell than through Him. He holds the key to death, He is the judge of man, and He is the eternal hope and joy of the believer. He is Jesus.
The victory is won through the work of Jesus. Now death and hell have no power over the sons of Adam. Instead, Jesus holds the keys to them. We know that by faith in His work we are saved from both. Glory to God in the highest – Jesus was victorious! Amen.