(1.17)  And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

 

1.   John is a normal Christian man. When he sees the glory of the risen Savior he does what we who read the Bible have come to expect. He falls on his face as a dead man. Have you ever heard of the term “slain in the Spirit?” Or, have you seen folks who are supposed to have been overcome by God falling backwards, only to be caught by folks standing conveniently behind them? Let us look into the Word of God to see what happens in the Bible when someone is overcome in the presence of God. There are several examples I want you to look at:

 

a)   Turn to Genesis 17.1-4 and read with me:

 

1      And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

2      And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

3     And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

4     As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

 

In the presence of Almighty God, Abram falls. Two questions for your consideration: Does Abram fall forward or backward? In order to fall on your face you have to fall forward. Right? Next, is Abram friend of God or foe?

 

b)   Turn to Joshua 5.13-15:

 

13   And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?

14   And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

15   And the captain of the LORD's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

 

Before the captain of the Lord’s host, Who is the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, Joshua falls. Two questions: Is Joshua God’s friend or foe? Which direction does he fall, forward or backwards?

 

c)   Third passage. Judges 13.20-21:

 

20   For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.

21   But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD.

 

The “angel of the LORD” is yet another appearance of the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. Again, two questions: Did the future parents of Samson fall on their backs or their faces? And, were they friend or foe of God?

 

d)   One final passage before we return to our text. John 18.1-6. Again, let us read this passage and ask questions:

 

1     When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.

2     And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.

3     Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

4     Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?

5     They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.

6     As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.

 

In the presence of the incarnate Son of God, did these men fall forward on their faces or did they fall backward? Second question. Were they friend or foe?

 

e)   Is it not interesting that every single time we see a friend of God overwhelmed in His divine presence the friend of God falls on his face before God, just as we will see them do in heaven as we continue in our study of Revelation? But the single time we see men filling backward, as so many seem to be doing on television when they are supposedly overwhelmed by God, or in Charismatic or Pentecostal Churches, they are not God’s friends, but those who have come to arrest Christ and then crucify Him. Seems to me, there needs to be a little Bible study done by those who participate in these so-called ministries that feature so much falling backward. Amen? Seems to me they show by their behavior that they are no friends of God. Amen?

 

2.   Back to our text. Why do you suppose John fell at Christ’s feet as dead? Probably for the same reason Joshua and Abram and Samson’s parents fell on their faces. He was scared to death.

 

a)   I do not believe John is here manifesting that proper fear of the LORD that is mentioned so many times in God’s Word in connection with wisdom and knowledge. If he had feared as wisdom, or as knowledge, or as understanding dictated, he would not have been gently admonished to “Fear not.”

 

b)   This is the disciple who leaned on the Savior’s breast the night of the Last Supper. This is the man who was more personally intimate with the Lord Jesus Christ than any other. Yet he is so overwhelmed by the glory of the Lord Jesus that he falls on his face in terror.

 

c)   Does he get familiar with the Lord Jesus here? No, he does not. He does not run up and say “Hey, Jesus.” No, he is awestruck. John Bunyan remarks that John is here fearful of the Lord Jesus because “His presence is dreadful.” Specifically, “His most comfortable and joyous presence” is dreadful to us.[1] He goes on to comment, regarding the fear of God, “Take note: if the presence of God is not a dreadful and a fearful thing even in his most gracious and merciful appearances, how much more so, then, when He shows Himself to us as one that dislikes our ways, as one that is offended with us for our sins?”[2]

 

d)   In other words, if the Lord Jesus Christ is so dreadful to John with such a gracious and merciful appearance, what must His appearing be like to those He disapproves of, to those He will come to judge?

 

3.   “And He laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last

 

a)   Everything in Scripture is significant. Therefore, take note that the Lord Jesus laid His right hand upon the terrified John. This, as I have said before, is the hand of favor and honor. It is also the hand in which He, moments before, held the seven stars, verse 16. I think, with this gesture of comfort and reassurance, we see the affection the Lord Jesus Christ had for His beloved John.

 

b)   Have you counted the number of times the Lord Jesus told people to “Fear not” in the Gospel record? Seven times He directed individuals to “Fear not.” You see, if you fear Him in the proper way, you need not fear anyone or anything else. No matter what the worry, whether it is a storm on Galilee, financial worries, or a sick child, He does always say to His Own “Fear not.”

 

c)   You might wonder, “Why did He tell John not to fear if the Bible tells us to fear God, and to fear Him?” There are different kinds of fear. One kind of fear drives a man away from God, the way Adam and Eve were motivated by fear to hide from God. Another kind of fear is the cowering fear that a slave has for a brutal master. God does not want these kinds of fear from His Own. He wants the kind of fear that a child has for his loving and tender father who will chastise him for his own good. John had the wrong kind of fear, and the Lord Jesus Christ gently rebuked him for it, so that John would have had an instructed fear, a spiritual fear, and not an ignorant and cowering fear.

 

4.   And again, let us not overlook the fact that when He said, “I am the first and the last” He was reasserting His deity. Isaiah 48.12 confirms this:

 

Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.

 

What means this comment about being first and also being last? “Idols will come and go. He was before them, and He will remain after them.”[3] And another little observation. Who told Abram to “Fear not” in Genesis 15.1? Was it not Jehovah? So you see, my friends, the cumulative weight of evidence attesting to the deity of Jesus Christ in this book of the Revelation is crushing.

 

5.   Before continuing on to verse 18, I think a comment, an observation, an application is in order. Reflect upon John’s reaction to seeing the majestic Savior, “The terrible splendour of such majesty was more than the apostle could bear, and he fell down deprived of his senses.”[4] “So fallen is man that God’s manifestation of His glorious presence overwhelms him.”[5] Consider, then, my friend. If the godliest man on earth, the last living apostle of Jesus Christ, John the beloved apostle, the one who had leaned on the Savior’s breast in the upper room the night before His crucifixion, could not stand before Him . . . what will you do when you find yourself standing before Him?

 

a)   In Psalm 24.3, the psalmist asks, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?”

 

b)   In Psalm 130.3, the question is asked, “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”

 

c)   Finally, Malachi 3.2 asks, “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap.”

 

The question you need to ask yourself is, “Will I stand?”  Will you stand in God’s holy place? On the day of His coming, when Christ appears, will you stand? Only if you are converted, only if you know Him in a personal way, only if your sins have been cleansed by His precious blood.

 

(1.18)  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.

 

1.   Can there be any doubt after this verse, that the One to Whom deity is ascribed in the last several verses, is the Lord Jesus Christ? Does this not prove, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the Lord Jesus Christ actually did die a literal and real physical death, and was then literally and physically raised from the dead?

 

2.   But He is now alive for ever more. And the keys, symbolizing authority, show that He has authority over Hell and death. Hell is a place, while death is a state. Hell has to do with the souls of men, while death has to do with the bodies of men. Thus, Jesus has authority over your body and your soul. Allow me to explain some things with respect to this subject that may be unclear to you:

 

a)   Turn to Luke 23.43: “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” In this verse, Jesus is responding to the thief on the cross next to Him, who said, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” He asked the Savior for a future blessing, but the Lord Jesus Christ promised Him an immediate blessing. Jesus was going to paradise when He gave up the ghost, and He was taking the thief with Him.

 

b)   What must be remembered is that paradise is not the same place as heaven. In John 20.17, we read, “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”  Jesus said this after He had risen from the dead. So, we know from Jesus, Himself, that He had not gone to heaven until He had first taken His own shed blood to offer as our great high priest for our sins.

 

c)   So, where is this paradise, if it is not heaven? Turn to Acts 2.31: “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” When Jesus died on the cross, this place we call Hell had two compartments. One portion of Hell was reserved for unsaved people who died and is a place in which they suffer great torment. However, the other part of Hell, the other compartment of Hell, if you will, which Jesus referred to as paradise, and which He also referred to as Abraham’s bosom, was the place where saved people went when they died before Jesus ascended to heaven.

 

d)   You might think of it as being this way before Jesus ascended into heaven:  Except for two men, Enoch and Elijah, who were translated into heaven by God without ever dying, everyone who died went to Hell. Everyone! Sinners went to Hell and saints went to Hell. Believers went to Hell when they died, and unbelievers went to Hell when they died. But, you have to understand that Hell actually has two parts, two regions, two compartments. The good part is called paradise, or Abraham’s bosom, and is a very nice place. The bad part is a very bad place of pain and torment. Therefore, when Abraham died he went to the paradise part of Hell. When David died and when Daniel died, they went to the paradise part of Hell. But, when Cain, who murdered his brother, died he went to that portion of Hell that is the place of fire and torment.

 

e)   When Jesus died, He went to paradise. That is, His soul went to paradise. I think He was in paradise for three days and three nights while His body was in the tomb. Then He came back, was reunited with His body, which was then glorified, and He rose again in His now glorified body and was seen by His disciples on a number of occasions. Then, when He gave to His disciples the great commission, He ascended to heaven to sit at His Father’s right hand.  Mark 16.19: “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.”

 

f)    There is something else that Jesus did when He ascended to heaven. He took all those believers who were in paradise to heaven with Him. Ephesians 4.8: “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive. . . .” So, when Jesus ascended to heaven he took Daniel and David and Joshua and Moses and Jacob and Abraham and Rahab and Sarah and Hannah, and all the others who had been in Hell, but who were in the paradise part of Hell.

 

g)   So, now that Jesus is in heaven with the Father, everyone who is a Christian who dies goes straight to heaven. The good part of Hell is now empty, with no one there. Only the terrible part of Hell, the place of fiery torment, is still occupied. And whenever sinners die they still go to that bad part of Hell, where they will stay until the last judgment, at which time they will be cast into a far worse place, the lake of fire.

 

h)   So, Jesus’ soul did not go directly to heaven when He died. His soul went directly to Hell, the good part of Hell, the place called paradise. He remained there with people like David and Abraham and Daniel and Sarah and Joseph for three days and nights. Then He rose from the dead and His soul rejoined His body, which was then glorified. He appeared among His disciples on a number of occasions, and then He went to heaven and took everyone from the good part of Hell with Him. That is where they all are now, in heaven, with Jesus.

 

3.   What words of comfort and consolation to a frightened Christian man. “Fear not; 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.” But what words of foreboding and pending disaster to a lost man.


[1]  John Bunyan, The Fear of God, (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1999), pages 3 and 5.

[2]  Ibid. page 5.

[3]  See footnote for Revelation 1.17, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1993.

[4]  Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[5]  Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

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