Majestic Words (Revelation 1)
Some of the most majestic words which ever fell from the lips of the Lord Jesus, are found in Revelation 1.
The apostle John was in the little Island of Patmos, as a prisoner because of the witness he had given to Christ. Now our God is above all the workings of evil men. He makes the wrath of man to praise Him. The remainder of wrath He restrains for Himself in the day of wrath. (See Psalm 76:10).
As one has said, “The persecuting emperor little thought what he was giving to us, when he banished the Apostle; no more than Augustus in his political plans as to the census of the empire, knew he was sending a poor carpenter to Bethlehem, with his espoused wife, that Christ might be born there; or the Jews and Pilate’s soldiers, that they were sending the thief to heaven, when they broke his legs in heartless respect for their own superstitions or ordinances. God’s ways are behind the scenes; but He moves all the scenes which He is behind. We have to learn this, and let Him work, and not think much of man’s busy movements; they will accomplish God’s. The rest of them perish and disappear. We have only peacefully to do His will.”
It was thus in the will of God that John was found in the solitude and quietness of Patmos, and “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” Circumstances had been controlled of God, that he might receive the communication for the welfare of His people, until the return of the Lord Jesus in His glory.
All being ordered thus, the servant being prepared for the service, and the service being prepared for the servant, the Lord makes His presence known to the Apostle, who hears behind him a great voice, as of a trumpet, calling him to attention. The Lord of glory then speaks, for He is the Alpha and Omega; the First and the Last.
His Godhead glory is thus declared. He is Jehovah, Almighty, the Lord: Who is and Who was and Who is to come; “the First and the Last.”
Turning to see the speaker of these awesome words, the Son of Man is beheld. No longer is He seen in His lowly grace as Saviour—though He remains such. Here He is the Ancient of Days and His supremacy in judgment is indicated. Every detail of the symbolic language used speaks of His supreme greatness and surpassing glory.
Such a presentation of Himself, by the Lord, leads the Apostle to fall at His feet as dead. He had known what it was in holy confidence and affection to lie in the bosom of Christ at the supper table. Now he lies low as if stricken to death in the presence of his Lord. And let us pause a moment, as we think that the reverence expressed by the Apostle becomes us in our spirit today. “He is thy Lord and worship thou Him,” should be remembered constantly by each of His saints and servants.
Then it was that His words of comfort, “Fear not,” fell from the lips of the Glorious One, as He adds,
“I am the first and the last:
I am He that liveth, and was dead:
And, behold, I am alive for evermore.
Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”
Nothing can exceed the sublime majesty of the utterance of the Lord of Glory, the Son of God, in His announcement on this occasion. Let us dwell for a little, on His words.
“I am the first and the last.” It has been pointed out that the “I” is emphatic. HE HIMSELF is before us. He is THE FIRST, He is before all. HE is THE LAST. He sums up everything. The beginning and the ending of all are in the power of His Almighty hand.
“I am He that liveth.” He is THE LIVING ONE,” who ever was, and is, and will be. He is “The Same”: The Same “yesterday,” in the past of eternity and of time; and “today” in the present in the midst of all that changes here; and “forever” in the future, whatever that may be. HE LIVES eternally “the Same.” Faith has ever delighted in His changelessness. Down the ages “The living God” has been the refuge and rejoicing of His saints in their every difficulty and danger.
“And was dead.” He became that which He had not been. Of His own will, He went into death. No man could take His life from Him. He laid it down of Himself and took it again. For His Father’s glory He became flesh—taking upon Himself holy, spotless humanity in the body prepared for Him. For His Father’s glory He gave His immaculate life in sacrifice, at the cross of Calvary.
“And, behold, I am alive for evermore.” THE FATHER’S GLORY was before all else at the silent sepulchre in Joseph’s garden. The Son was raised from the dead by the Glory of that Father. It could not be that the Holy One could see corruption. Christ lives in triumph over every foe. The Spirit of God delights to call our attention to Him as alive from out of death. So we read, “It is Christ that died, yea, RATHER that is risen again.” Note well that adverb of divine preference. The Victim of the cross is now the Victor of the throne.
“Amen, and have the keys of Hell [Hades] and of Death.” The “Amen” of solemn affirmation and confirmation is to be observed. His solemn words are to be pondered over and kept in mind. As we have seen, He lives for evermore, and as such He has “the keys of death and of hades.” “Neither death nor life” separates the believer from His love. All power is His, in heaven and in earth, whether over the grave, or in the region of departed spirits. He opens or shuts at His will, and soon He will exercise His authority in resurrection for all His own.
Thus He comforts those about to suffer martyrdom in Smyrna, as He says to them, I am “the First and the Last which was dead and is alive” out of death. Fear not, “be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:8-10).
In view of that which he had seen of the personal, the official and the moral glories of the Son of Man, the Apostle was to write the book of “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” And so it should be with all His servants. With reverence and godly fear they should present the things which they have spiritually discerned, concerning the Son of Man and Son of God. He is the Centre of the Gospel story, the Centre of the thoughts and purposes of God.
Soon He will come forth “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” subjecting all to Himself. Meanwhile we are “called to His kingdom and patience” and await His kingdom and glory at His return to claim His inheritance. May we be loyal and true to Him in the interim, with life and lip witnessing of His majesty and mercy, and proclaiming His salvation far and wide.