Death’s surprising connection to life (My Redeemer Lives 1:2)

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.


Written in Iron Ink


What are some of your favorite ways in which God comes to you?

In our church body, we teach three particular ways, or means, in which God comes to us – through His Word (the Bible), in our baptisms, and in the Lord’s Supper.

Your belief system might be a touch different, but I doubt that it strays much from these three connectors. We need God like fish need water, more than that. Our deepest need in this life is for God. We will scramble any which way until our hearts settle in His arms. God, however, does not remain hidden. He has left these three precious things that are both physical and spiritual for one reason – to come to us. God loves worship. He loves praise. He loves His created things. But all of it is intended for connecting us with His Son, His promises, and His Salvation. When we understand that He comes in these three ways, according to His Word, then we are no longer searching and searching and searching. Instead, we know we have been found by Him.

If all of that last paragraph sounded like theological mumbo jumbo to you, just rest in this.

God comes.

God comes to you.

Let’s return to Isaiah 43 once again, and study this concept. Start by reading Isaiah 43:1 below. If you feel so led, write this verse out in a notebook, on scrap paper, on your shoe, wherever, to commit it deep into your heart.

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.

God calls.

Note: God is the action taker. God is the seeker. He calls, we answer. Before you were born, He called you. Before your parents or your grandparents brought you to church or you, yourself, came to church, He called. Before baptism, before confirmation, before growth…He called you.

God calls you by your name.

Heidi, David, Macee, Jonah, Jyeva, Ezekiel

This is my family. Each with their own name. He didn’t just call each of us, He called us by our names. What is your name? Fill it in the space below.


God calls you, He brings you into His redemptive plan, by this name. He writes this name in His Book of Life (Rev. 3:5) and on His heart. And guess what…He keeps writing.

The book of Job shares another way that God reveals Himself, by His Word, to those around us. Please read Job 19:23-24.

Oh that my words were written!
    Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead
    they were engraved in the rock forever!

So, Job’s life, not so easy. The first part and the last part, pretty good. The middle was all kinds of gunky and hard. Loss, ongoing health problems, cruddy friends, embarrassment, marriage issues, the list goes on for our friend, Job. His physical, earthly problems bubbled up into a spiritual crisis. In the verses above, Job attests to what each of us would want in the same circumstance,

“If I am going to go through all of this, I want it to matter.”

Job cries out to God,

“Make it count! Don’t leave me here. Do something with this!” (Heidi’s personal paraphrase)

What Job wanted is what God indeed gives to each of us – a testimony of His work, written in Iron Ink.

Unerasable. Durable. Able to withstand the arguments and the questioning. Going out for generations to come- in our families, in our churches, in our communities.

Listen to Job’s testimony, written in the Iron Ink of Job 19:25-26:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God…

God comes to others through our testimony of Jesus Christ.

He reaches into this Word so that others can know of our great Redeemer. They will know Him by who we are and where we have been and the Word we share because of it.

Flip back to Isaiah 43. This time scroll down to verses 14 and 15 –

Thus says the Lord,
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“For your sake I send to Babylon
    and bring them all down as fugitives,
    even the Chaldeans, in the ships in which they rejoice.
15 I am the Lord, your Holy One,
    the Creator of Israel, your King.”

Babylon is not a happy prophecy for Israel. Israel is about to have a Job moment. Right after the proclamation of grace in Isaiah 43:1, “I have called you by name, you are mine,” God brings hard news to His people. It’s about to get messy. Babylon is bondage. They will be sent far away, their nation destroyed, families split up, livelihoods decimated. Messy. But God’s message isn’t just “messy is coming,” It is –

I use the messy.

It is no mistake that God calls Himself Redeemer in this passage. You are mine, He says, when life comes at you, when you walk through the fire, when bondage overtakes you, people will see my redemption story. “For your sake,” (verse 14) “I send.” the Lord says, “So that I can redeem. So that they will know my redemption.”

We are iron ink. Every time we share His Word and His testimony on our lives, He comes.

He comes for you.

He comes for me.

He comes for them.

He comes. Redeemer, Holy One, Creator, King.

Watch Him write, friends. Watch Him write.



Listen to the Podcast Intro for our segment based off of this post – Written in Iron Mink: Ministry Stories


This post is from He Calls Me Loved: A Study of Isaiah. Find more information on that study on the Studies Available page.


Walking out of the cave

The unknown of life is a scary thing.
And so much of life is a little unknown.
Little children may be fearful of water or new places, or even new food because so much is unknown to them about things. Adolescents have all kinds of nerves about school and relationships because so much of it is unknown. College students wonder where they will live, who they will marry, what life will look like for them- the unknown. In adulthood the unknown doesn’t stop – how best to raise a child, how they’ll turn out, tackling illnesses to come, changes in employment, moving, changes in anything- more and more unknown.
Our children really love the movie “The Croods.” (We do too, to be honest!) The entire movie centers around the premise that the dark cave is safe, nothing can get to you in there, the world outside holds dangers untold. The Dad in the movie has a family motto that he makes everyone recite – “Never not be afraid.”
We could live our whole lives like this, in our metaphorical dark caves, feeling “safe” and protected. God tells us that He wants to be our protection. He is what is safe, resting in His grace and salvation, living in His light, this is Life. Otherwise, it’s not Life at all, just a phony imitation.
Nothing can separate us. We’ll find that truth in the next verse. That truth is for another day. Today, Jesus invites us to shed fear.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Notas the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
  John 14:27

His peace rests in our hearts.

The unknown is known to Him.