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The reaction of John 1:17-18

17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He placed his right hand on me saying to me, "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am He who lives and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and Death. - Revelation 1:17-18

John wrote, "And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead." Like most other people in the Bible who received such visions (Isaiah 6:5; Ezekiel 1:28), he was terrified!

"Then he placed his right hand on me." John was revived by the glowing vision of Christ, who touched him and identified Himself with several meaningful descriptions. One of the most amazing things about the earthly life of our Savior was the way he mingled with people and freely touched them, even though they might be diseased and sinful. He touched John with the same hand that was holding the seven stars. The right hand of any dignitary is considered a place of honor (Matthew 25:31-34). Just a touch by Jesus was all John needed to go on. It is a sensation that Christians of all ages have experienced when they needed it most. In the words of Bill Gaither's most famous chorus,

He touched me, oh He touched me
And oh the joy that floods my soul
Something happened and now I know
He touched me and made me whole.

At the same time Jesus told John, "Do not be afraid." Fear is a natural survival instinct. It is one of the most negative and uncomfortable of feelings. It is sometimes considered the opposite of faith and courage, and therefore to be avoided. But there are times when fear is helpful. The most notable example is "the fear of the Lord" which the Book of Proverbs calls, "the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 1:7). Such fear is explained as "reverence," because if a person truly reveres God, he will be afraid of the consequences of disobeying Him.

The Greek word for fear is phobos, and it is incorporated in literally hundreds of words in our own language (claustrophobia, hydrophobia, etc.- A list is available on the Internet at

On the other hand, when one trusts the Lord, there is no need to fear. Some have noted that the Bible adjures us not to be afraid so many times that a different verse could be chosen each day of the year to remind us of this fact. Paul says that God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). The greatest antidote to fear is to abide in God's presence and to follow His direction. Then we can say, as the Psalmist did,

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; - Psalm 23:4

Years ago, when I was planting a church in Southern California, and was working as a "tentmaker" in my father's construction business, I learned something about overcoming fear. We occasionally had to modify Propane tanks. A welder would be required to do the job, but if the tank had already been used, it was not safe to cut into it with an acetylene torch until it had been properly neutralized or decontaminated. We paid to have that process done, but a welder would still not be willing to believe that it was safe unless I would stand right next to him while he did the welding. It made sense. He knew that I would not take the chance if we had not done the job correctly!

God reminded Joshua that he could be strong and courageous, because He was with him (Joshua 1:9). In the same way Jesus encouraged His disciples when he gave them the Great Commission.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." - Matthew 28:18-20

Again, Jesus said, "I am the First and the Last." See the notes on verse 11.

Then Jesus said, "I am He who lives" affirming His resurrection. In this chapter the narrative alternates between John's descriptions of the awe-inspiring Christ, and Jesus' own words. In verse 5 John had already described Him as "the firstborn from the dead." Throughout the book we will see that the concepts established in one place are often reinforced in other portions of the vision.

He added, "and was dead." That fact should be obvious, but He emphasized it to counter the idea of some skeptics that He didn't really die on the cross. They say that he just "swooned" during the crucifixion and was resuscitated later by His disciples to deceive the people. This error has persisted to our own time, with such theories as "The DaVinci Code," claiming that He went on to wed Mary Magdalene and live in seclusion with his family. Of course, doubters cannot explain how He could have survived when He suffered so greatly, and was pierced with a spear so that blood and water came out (John 19:34) Medical professionals say this condition was caused by a broken heart.

In the Bible "death" of a human never means annihilation. Instead, it means "separation." Physical death is separation of the physical body from the non-physical aspects of a person. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul said, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Some theologians think that Soul and Spirit are the same. It is true that in some places in the Old Testament the two words seem to be used interchangeably. However, considering the story of Creation and the types of living organisms on our planet, it makes more sense to see them as separate. When the Lord created plants their physical bodies had the basic functions of life, including nutrition, elimination, growth, and reproduction. When He created animals, they had all of these functions plus the aspects of personality: intellect, emotion, and will (think about your pets). They had both body and soul. Then the Lord created the first human by a special act. Mankind would have had a body and soul, like other animals, but God gave him a spirit so he would be, in that special sense, "like" God. Jesus said "God is spirit" (John 4:24).

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." - Genesis 1:26

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. - Genesis 2:7

The word "breath" in Genesis 2:7 (Hebrew neshamah) also means "spirit."

So, physical death is separation of the body from the soul and spirit. There is also spiritual death, separation of our human spirit from God because of sin.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, - Ephesians 2:1

When a person is "born again" (John 3:3), his spirit is reconciled with God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

A third and even worse separation is the "second death," which is mentioned four times in the Revelation (2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). The second death means eternal separation from God. This is what will happen to a person who dies physically while he is still dead spiritually.

Jesus died physically on our behalf, and it could be said that He tasted spiritual death when our sins momentarily separated Him from His Father, and He cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).

Yes, Jesus was dead, but in victory He declared, "and behold, I am alive for evermore." His goal was to provide eternal life for us (John 3:16), and we know that He succeeded because of His resurrection, which He had predicted.

"A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. - John 14:19

"Amen" is like a spiritual punctuation mark in the Bible. It means "So be it!"

Furthermore, Jesus said, "and I have the keys of Hades and Death." Hades is the name of the place of departed spirits. It is seen as the enemy of the Church (Matthew 16:18). Since Christ's ascension (Ephesians 4:8-10), it is the temporary abode of unbelievers who have died and await their final judgment (Revelation 6:8; 20:13-14). We will explore the concepts of hell and hades more when we get to these passages.

Next: Revelation 1:19


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