Death and life are intimately linked.

I think we like to believe that life sits over here, while death has its own box on the other side of the room. Life is the front door, the window sill, death is the basement, the back scary corner of the garage no one wants to clean so we all just ignore it.

It doesn’t work that way and Revelation tells us why. It also tells us what death and life both have to do with resurrection.

Revelation 1:17-18 –

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

The Him in verse 17 is Jesus. The I is the apostle John. The John who reclined at table with Jesus, so close he could probably hear his heartbeat, but also saw Him transfigured on a mountain top in all His glory. There is no doubt that John knew Jesus as a teacher, a friend, and also knew without a doubt Jesus was the God of the Universe.  So why do we find John in Revelation falling like a dead person at Jesus’s feet?

There are other examples in Scripture of death-like responses to visions sent from God. The prophet Daniel 10:7-9 –

And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

The ESV translation notes clarify that my radiant appearance was fearfully changed is more accurately translated from Hebrew as my splendor was changed to ruin.

The NIV translation of verse 8 stands out to me –

So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless.

Was Daniel passed out, trapped frozen in fear, deep in worship because of the vision? Was John?

Death is always connected to resurrection.

Death is a powerful force in this life. People fear it, wait for it, try to subvert it. John’s reaction is just another reminder of death’s power over each of us.

However, it’s also noteworthy that when we are confronted with the resurrected Christ, in the flesh, in John’s instance, or at the very least the His message and messengers in Daniel, something like death is the reaction. Coming face to face with the Resurrected Jesus is coming face to face with God’s raw power over all things.

Read Revelation 1:17-18 again and look closer at verse 18 this time:

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Jesus, in Revelation, proclaims that he doesn’t just hold resurrected life in His hands, but He’s in charge of death too. God is always in charge and we know in our brains that means that God holds power over death, but the resurrection reminds us that not just life is in God’s hand, but death too. He keeps both the Keys of Life and the Keys of Death and Hades.

Ack. I don’t think this makes us very comfortable. We want God to weep life from His pores, but have nothing to do with death.

What does it mean that He holds the keys to death?

Eternity is for unbelievers, just as much as it is for believers.

Death will come to us all. In that way, it is part of God’s plan. Maybe that’s why atheists are fine with Jesus being a prophet, fine with Jesus’s death, but the resurrection is where they draw the line.

The Resurrection shows us clearly that this God, this Jesus Christ of Nazareth, controls both realms. He’s over all and through all and in all. Death and Life aren’t in boxes for Him. Instead, He has the power to hold them, to open them, for His plans. If you don’t know Him, that’s more than uncomfortable. It’s terrifying. When you know Him you know this as well:

This same Jesus reaches out His hand in the face of death.

Revelation 1:17-18 keeps giving us nuggets of goodness –

 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

He laid his right hand on me…

I died, and behold I am alive forevermore…

Yes, death and God’s connection to it are not comforting, but our powerful Savior is also the Savior who lays His nail-pierced hand on us and welcomes us to Life, Resurrected Life in Him.

One of my favorite Revelation commentaries assures me that

Jesus offers grace, in life, in death, and in Life again.

 

3 thoughts on “”

  1. “The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing, but the righteous finds refuge in his death.”
    ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭14:32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

    This was our memory verse this week. What a strange thing to find refuge in death….and yet, that’s exactly what God’s grace has given us!

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