When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”
– Revelation 1:17-18 NASB
The book of Revelation was written by the apostle John while he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea just off the coast of modern-day Turkey. Near the beginning of the book, Jesus makes the statement you see above through His angel who was appearing on His behalf to John. The purpose of the vision was to have John send a strengthening message to the believers in seven different cities on the mainland in a time of heavy persecution.
By this time in John’s life, Jesus has been safely ensconced in heaven for a number of years, having ascended there some forty days after rising from the dead. Though John might not need it, those who had never seen Jesus before or after He was raised from the dead were surely encouraged when they heard these words – all of them!
“Do not be afraid…”
Given that the imagery and language of the book of Revelation sometimes unnerves readers, this is a good exhortation for Jesus to have put at the beginning.
“…I am the first and the last…”
This phrase appears three times in the book of Isaiah, so those familiar with it would recognize Jesus’ connection to God.
“…and the living One…”
In other words, Jesus is assuring all those who were believing in Him: “I am not dead!”
“…and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore…”
It’s not that Jesus was never dead. He was. For three days. But not anymore. And not forevermore!
“…and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”
According to the Old Testament, Hades (Sheol) was the residence of all the dead. That Jesus had the keys indicates that He is now in charge of everyone who dies. Also according to the Old Testament, death meant separation from God…but Jesus uses the keys open Hades and take its captives to heaven instead.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord Jesus, we know Your words are as true now as they were when Your angel spoke them to John so long ago. We live today still believing in You…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.