Monday, April 29, 2013

I AM the first and the Last

Red tulip
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead person, and he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid! I am the first and the last, and the one who lives, and I was dead, and behold, I am living forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of Hades.  Revelation 1:17-18
I am the First and the Last”   Revelation  1:17

In these verses Jesus again proclaims that He is God.  He again uses the "I  AM" statement. The I AM statement was the words that God used as His name to Moses at the time of the burning bush. On this occasion John is receiving a revelation from Jesus concerning the "end times."  The resurrected King Jesus, appears to John from His throne in heaven. When John see Jesus, he immediately falls  to his feet as if dead. The glorious appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of the golden candlesticks literally knocks John to the ground.  John was familiar with Jesus, he had walked and studied with Him on earth for several years. John saw Jesus at this time in much of His glory.  John fell at the feet of Jesus for respect and honor, but also this was an immediate act of fear. 

Falling on one's face in the presence of the glory of God is a natural  response. In our human state and body we could never tolerate the full glory of God. God must hide much of His glory from us or we would die.  In Genesis 17:3  we see Abraham "fell on his face".  Moses also has a similar response, Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.  Exodus 3:6    Balaam “bowed his head and fell flat on his face.” Numbers 22:31  Ezekiel did the same in the presence of the Lord, As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake. Ezekiel 1:28   There are other Old Testament examples of a human to the appearance of God.  In the New Testament the reaction of the disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration was; When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. Matthew 17:1-8  Also there is the conversion of Paul; As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  Acts 9:3-4

John fell as if dead before Jesus. Jesus responded to John with amazing tenderness.  Jesus touches John with His right hand. The hand that scattered the stars in the sky.  The hand of the Almighty, the hand with total power.  The hand of God reaches out to touch John. Throughout the Bible the Right Hand of God is a familiar anthropomorphism.  It is found sixty times in the Bible. The right hand of God is used figuratively to show the power and majesty of God.  It is a symbol of God’s strength, salvation, and majesty. The  "right hand" of God demonstrates His omnipotence. In heaven now Jesus now sits at the right hand of God.  Jesus, while God the Son in the flesh, completed His saving power on earth.  Sitting at the right hand of God indicates that Jesus has sat down from his saving work to reign as the Almighty God.  Jesus is the Lamb upon the throne. The Holy Spirit is at work in the calling of new Christians.  

John was overwhelmed by the majesty of the glorified Son of man. When Jesus appeared to John at this time, He did not appear in His human body.  The character of God is displayed in His tenderness and concern for John the beloved.  Jesus further comforts Jesus with the words, "Do not be afraid!" How amazing is that!  Jesus knew the fear that John would feel in his presence.  Jesus gave comfort and encouragement to John with those words.  

"I am the first and the last, and the one who lives, and I was dead, and behold, I am living forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of Hades." These words of Jesus announce His eternal existence.  His words describe His being and His purpose for becoming a man. He was a sinless man who voluntarily took upon Himself the burden of our sins.  He laid down his life that he might take it again, and thereby gave magnificent proof that he is The Living One, the one who lives. Christ is self existent.  His life came from none and is sustained by none. He is the Living One. He was dead.  He chose death His death to ransom us.  He was resurrected, and lives forever. The keys of Hades and of Death describes Christ’s sovereign dominion in and over the invisible spiritual world.  Death and Hades are similar, but death is the condition and Hades is the place of the dead.  Christ decides who lives, who dies, and when death will occur.

John was imprisoned on the island of Patmos when He received this revelation from the Lord. John has just frightened by the glory of the Lord.  Jesus knew of John's fear.  Jesus cared for His beloved John and comforted him with kind words and a touch.  Jesus is the First and the Last. How wonderful it is to know Him as your Savior.  Jesus is alive forever.  Those whom He has redeemed are known as His children. Christians will have trials in this world.  We are not promised a rose garden here on earth.  But if  Christ is our Lord, we will know Him. We have His promises. We can expect comfort from His right hand. We can hear Him say, Do not be afraid.  And we can look forward to an eternity where will will see God in His glory.

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