Sunday, January 23, 2011

Revelation Chapter One, Part 6 of 6

1:17-18 I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen.
The NASB has a footnote for this verse that gives the literal translation of the Greek. When it states “and was dead” the Greek literally says “and became dead.” Our Lord chose to surrender His life, and that is what He did upon the cross. Jesus told the Jews this much when He said “Destroy this temple, and in three day I will raise it up;” “He was speaking of the temple of His body,” John 2:19, 21.

Cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the notion that Jesus was bodily resurrected, because in their theology death means annihilation, and resurrection constitutes being re-created by Jehovah. Yet if death does mean annihilation and there is no bodily resurrection, then our Lord just spoke nonsense, since He was clearly referring to a bodily resurrection. Likewise, the prophecy found in the Psalms is a pointless one which states, “You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will you allow Your Holy One to see corruption,” Psalm 16:10. This prophetic passage teaches two things that Jesus accomplished: the first was that while His soul descended into Sheol, He was raised back up from Hell and reunited with His physical resurrection body, as described by Paul in 1st Corinthians 15:47-55. The Hebrew term Sheol can mean either the physical grave or Hell, depending on the context; the context here clearly means the latter, since one’s soul or “breath” in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ case, does not linger in a grave.

Jesus’ soul was not left in Hades, and His body was not left moldering in the grave, which was precisely why the apostles, on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, could not find His body: He had physically been raised from the dead! Neither Jesus’ soul nor body saw corruption and in this respect He won the victory over Satan. The Devil must have been gloating at the first when Christ was dying; little did he know that by sending Jesus to His death, He was opening the doors of Hades, and giving the keys of Hell and death to his conqueror! To hold to the interpretation the Watchtower offers would, despite their professed reverence for God’s word, do despite to Jesus’ own claims about a bodily resurrection, and render pointless a passage of prophecy that the apostles used to evangelize the Jews, teaching a physical resurrection in the end days.

Listen to what the glorified Son of God was telling John. He is the God of Isaiah and the Old Testament (first and the last), He lived and died as a Man, and behold! He is eternally alive, never to suffer death again; there is no more offering for sin. Jesus concludes with “Amen” which essentially means “It is true.” A journey through Revelation chapter 1 should teach us, if nothing else, that John saw in Jesus Christ the personification of God. Also, he saw in his Lord the fulfillment and perfection of Old Testament prophecy and the hope of resurrection based on the faithfulness of the One who vouchsafed salvation. For the modernist of the day who espouses the phrase, “Have faith in yourself” I would ask if you might instead abandon faith in yourself, and cast all of your faith upon the only One in Heaven and earth worthy of it: Jesus Christ. Jesus’ statement is meant to engender comfort and trust. Christ conquered death. Those who place their faith in Him will not suffer it; that is, spiritual death and separation from God, John 8:51; 11:25-26.

1:18 and have the keys of hell and of death.
Again, take note that there is a distinct dichotomy between Hell and death. Hell is the holding cell for the spiritually lost; death is the grave. When Jesus descended into Sheol He led captivity captive, and brought the Old Testament saints waiting in Paradise or Abraham’s Bosom out of Hell and with Him into Heaven and the presence of God. While Jesus’ body lay in the grave, His soul was not sleeping or annihilated, but was very much awake. Adherents to sects such as the Seventh Day Adventists may want to thoughtfully meditate over this verse. The Bible does not teach “soul sleep” at all, but immediate conscious entrance into a new state of being.

As James states: “the body without the spirit is dead,” James 2:26. The body is a house, so to speak. Peter spoke as having to put off his tent; and that while he still lived in the tent of his flesh he would exhort his brethren. This “tent” was his body, which he spoke plainly about departing from upon death, 2nd Peter 1:13-15. Death, then, is an evacuation of residency; not an extinguishing of consciousness.

When Jesus triumphed on the cross, He disarmed the power of Satan, and robbed our adversary of his most potent vehicle which he tormented men with: the fear of death. “[Jesus] Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” Hebrews 2:14-15. “[Jesus] disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it (the cross),” Colossians 2:15. Death was a potent weapon the Devil wielded over the nations, inspiring a legion of religions and philosophies that sought in vain to answer the looming question of what could be done to avoid or conquer death. The Grecians, for example, saw gods, demons and spirits in every natural occurrence on earth and tried with vain oblation to gain the favor of the gods, so as to receive eternal life. As Solomon wrote, God has set eternity in the hearts of men; yet no man may naturally discern God’s work of redemption, Ecclesiastes 3:11.

This is the essence of the gospel. God entered our universe, our planet, our daily life in the Person of Jesus Christ, and the light of His gospel has revealed to men God’s plan of salvation. There is eternal life, and that life is in Christ. One may receive this life by saving faith; no works or obedience to law, no natural piety or ethical living would prove efficacious. Christ has the key to Hell and death; Hell cannot withhold its victims. The grave cannot keep its prey; if Jesus our Lord calls for His redeemed, then neither power may retain them; this is the assurance and comfort of life in Christ. Like Lazarus, who was dead for four days, yet when Jesus called out for him, his spirit returned from whence it had gone and his body was restored from its putrefied state to wholeness.

With this same key He shall entrust an angel to bind Satan in its depths for one thousand years, Revelation 20:1-3. So not only has our Lord, by virtue of His victory on Calvary, purchased the prerogative to ransom His saints back from death and Hell, He also may justly sentence all whose desire it is to suffer eternal fire rather than bend their neck to the yoke of their Creator and Redeemer. Make no mistake, however: Hell is not the eternal fire which we know is the Second Death. Hell is a holding cell for a time. The Lake of Fire, prepared for Satan and his rebel angels, will be the place that eternally holds those who choose the world and self over Christ and salvation, Matthew 25:41.

1:19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter
The things “thou hast seen” comprise the visions of the risen and glorified Christ walking amidst the seven candlesticks. The “things which are” represents the present dispensation, or church age we presently live in. That is, from the time of Pentecost to the moment of the Rapture, these are things which are. The “things which shall be hereafter” denote a time following the church age (represented, I believe, by the seven churches of Asia) when God will continue dealing with the Jews and will begin to pour out His wrath on a Christ-rejecting world. This is largely what Revelation is preoccupied with (chapters 6-19).

2 comments:

  1. Praise God, the victory is already won. It is like a court case where the only thing still lacking is the sentencing hearing. Isn't it exciting?

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  2. Ian - I want to personally thank you for such an in-depth study into the book of Revelation. I have had several discipleship classes on this subject and I must say that yours is one of the better ones that I have read and meditated on.

    Thank you again for being such a faithful servant and spreading the TRUTH of God's Word across cyberspace for all to read. Blessings my brother in Christ. Lloyd

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