Saturday, 23 April 2016 18:02

10. The keys to where?! * Revelation 1:12-20 , Part 3

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17 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.

18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later".


PART 3 - Revelation 1:17-19


*** When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead ***: Very often in the Bible, we see people falling at the feet of Jesus after having a special encounter with the Son of God. Peter at the boat (Luke 5:8), the Samaritan leper who was cured (Luke 17:15-16), the sick woman who touched Jesus (Luke 8:47), and many others. Ezekiel also fell with his face to the ground when he had a vision about the glory of God (Ezekiel 1:26-28). Saul, on the road to Damascus is another example (Acts 9:3-6). One significant moment was when Peter, James, and John saw Jesus' Transfiguration. After hearing God speaking from the cloud covering Jesus, “they fell facedown to the ground, terrified” (Matthew 17:1-8). During their vision, both Daniel and John, had a similar experience described in the Transfiguration. We read in Daniel 8:18 and in Daniel 10:8-9 that Daniel fell with his face to the ground, trembling with fear. The scene of the Transfiguration, and John's and Daniel's vision of the messenger from God were no ordinary encounters with Christ. Those men saw Jesus as Heaven sees Him, covered with the Glory of God. A tremendous feeling of overwhelming fear must have taken over them, and caused them to fall down.

*** Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid” ***: in all three instances we mentioned earlier (Daniel’s vision, the Transfiguration, and John’s vision), the men hear “do not be afraid” right after they fall to the ground. Jesus Himself tells them that. In all three scenes, Jesus touches them, and restores their strength. God had already promised this special care to those who experienced this powerful encounter with Him. We read this promise in Isaiah 41:10: "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

*** “I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!” ***: once again, Jesus is identifying Himself. He is presenting His credentials, which are the reasons why we do not need to be afraid when we fall at His feet. He is "the First and the Last". He always existed, and He will always exist. He is Life itself. He is the one who died, but has resurrected and now lives for all eternity.

*** “And I hold the keys of death and Hades” ***: some Bible versions translate the word Hades as hell. Hades is the Greek word hadēs, and in the Greek culture hadēs can be a place or a person. In other words, the place of the dead, or the one who rules over the dead. Christians in the first century were familiar with the pagan concepts of Hades and its mythology. But most importantly, we (as did the first century Christians) need to see this concept of "death and Hades" under the light of the Scriptures, in order for us not to be misled by false pagan teachings. The word in Hebrew that corresponds to Hades is Sheol. So let's now see what the Bible tells us about death and Hades/Sheol. In Acts 2:29-33, we read that Jesus did go to Hades, or as some translations say, the "realm of the dead". Meaning, Jesus died. But it also says that He was not abandoned there in Hades (He did not stay dead). He was resurrected to life, and is now exalted by the right side of the Father. This passage of Acts 2:29-33 gives us the explanation to Psalm 16, written by David centuries earlier. Let's now look further at Hades/Sheol as a place. What does the Bible say this place is? In Psalms 88:3 David says in the original language: "For my soul is full of troubles, and draws near to Sheol". Different versions translate Sheol as death or grave. Many versions leave the original word Sheol. In Genesis 37:35, we read about how devastated Jacob was when he thought Joseph was dead. He said he would mourn Joseph's death until he went to the grave (Sheol) himself. So, we can see that Sheol is not a place where only the bad people go. Jesus, David, Jacob, and Joseph expected to go to Sheol when they died. Psalms 49:14 tells us that Sheol is the place where our forms decay and are consumed. So the translation "grave" is a very appropriate translation for Hades/Sheol, as the place that holds the dead. 2 Timothy 1:10 tells us that Jesus "abolished death and brought life and immortality to light". He overcame death. He is larger than death. He has dominion over death. He judges the dead. He holds the keys to death and the grave. After Christ's death and resurrection, God's people can enjoy eternal life and not worry about the second death. Revelation 20:6 says that the second death has no power over the sealed people of God. The passages in Revelation 20:10, 13-15 are very clear, and tell us that the devil, the two beasts, death and Hades, along with the people whose names were not written in the book of life will all be "thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death." And that is HOW there will be no more death, or graves, or sinful beings, or pain and tears (Revelation 21:4): death itself and the grave, Satan and the beasts, and the lost people are forever destroyed.

*** “What is now and what will take place later” ***: as we discussed in Revelation 1:1, about the “ things that must soon take place”, the events relating to the time of the end started when Christ died, resurrected and ascended to Heaven. The message John was writing to the seven churches was relevant to them. They needed serious help. As we will see when we go into detail on each of the churches, things were happening at that time already. But the message was not just about the "things that are now". They were also important for the following generations, since there were important things that would take place at a later date. This is why a historical approach is essential when studying the book of Revelation. We need to look at the events from the start of humanity. We cannot understand the end if we do not understand how it all began.

*** Overview ***: often in the Bible, when people had their special encounter with Christ, they fell at His feet. Jesus's hand was always quick to lift those people up, encourage and strengthen them. He wanted to assure His people that He is the one who conquered death. Jesus is the one in control, and one day the opposing forces will be destroyed forever, including death itself. He is the Living One, who is telling John to write this message about the things that are happening at that time, and also about the things that would "soon take place". Jesus gives John all this historical background, with references to the times of the prophets and Moses so we can all understand that He is still the same God, who was so present in the past; and that He has been giving His people the same message throughout history. We cannot separate the beginning from the end of the world, because the problem tormenting humanity at the end of the world will still be the same that afflicted Adam and Eve initially: sin. The events that "will take place later" on Earth are the things that will happen as a consequence of what happened in the past. These future events will lead to the resolution of the sin problem once and for all.

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