Revelation 1:17-18 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
It has always struck me that John, of all people, collapsed from the shock of seeing Christ glorified, when he had been the one who had laid his head on Jesus’ chest (John 21:20) and who had seen Him after the resurrection, too. Our systems really can’t take the full glory of God. That’s one reason we have to be transformed when we go to heaven! The words that Christ spoke to John here are of course enormously important. First of all, it was, “Don’t be afraid.” If John had not been a faithful believer there would have been no reason to say that, because he would have had every reason to be terrified of the judgment that was coming. Next, Christ stressed the fact that He is eternal. As finite beings in mortal bodies ourselves, we have very little grasp of the eternal, and really don’t even have words to talk about it rationally. It is because He is eternal that our spirits are eternal, so it is important to get some sort of a handle on that. Then, He pointed out that He had died but was alive. That is amazing on two fronts. First, it is amazing that eternal God could die, but this is an affirmation that the Incarnation was real; Jesus really was born, lived, and died as a human being, with the same sort of body we have. Second, it is amazing that this One who really died is now alive eternally. That’s why He could say that He has the keys of death and Hades. It’s certainly not Monopoly, but He’s our “Get out of death free card!” When our Lord has the key, death can no longer hold us, even as He said to Martha in Bethany. (John 11:25-26)
I have never seen Christ glorified, but I have been given faith that He is my Lord. I have preached many funerals, and the difference between that of a genuine believer and someone who was not is enormous. The first funeral I ever did was for a man who attended church but to my knowledge had never confessed Jesus as Lord, even though his wife was a pillar of the ladies group. That was a hard one! I cannot say categorically that he wasn’t saved, because it is possible that he had confessed Christ to his wife, or even to an EMT who was caring for him at the last, but I certainly couldn’t say, “He’s in heaven now.” On the other hand, I have done funerals for believers that were true celebrations. Such funerals are powerful evangelism! I have already written something I want read at my funeral, whenever that is, because I want it to be a net to catch a lot more fish! I need to help people understand that Jesus isn’t just the baby in the manger, or the teacher in Galilee, or even the Lamb on the cross; He is our glorious Lord, and those who are in Him have absolutely nothing to be afraid of.
Father, thank You for this Word. A week ago today I thought I might be losing my wife in front of my eyes, and now she’s scheduled to get out of the hospital on Monday. Thank You for the peace I really did have even before that happened, and for the experience of going through it all. Thank You for the healing that she is experiencing. I do pray that all her mental functions would be restored fully, for her to get back to the life of service that she desires. May we rejoice in our Lord right now, whatever we might be walking through at the moment, so that we won’t yield anything at all to the devil, but delight in all that You intend for us, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!