And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:…
I. THE ROYAL CHRIST PROCLAIMS HIS ABSOLUTE LIFE. There is a much closer connection between the words of our text and those of the preceding verse than our Authorized Version gives. We must strike out that intrusive and wholly needless supplement "I am," and read the sentence unbrokenly. "I am the First and the Last and the Living One." Now that close connection of clauses in itself suggests that this expression "the Living One" means something more than the mere declaration that He was alive. It means, as I believe, exactly what Christ meant when, in the hearing of this same apostle, He said upon earth, "As the Father hath life in Himself so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself." A life which, considered in contrast with all the life of creatures is underived, independent, and, considered in contrast with the life of the Father with whom that Son stands in ineffable and unbroken union, is bestowed. It is a paradox, I know, but until we have gone round the boundless boundaries of that Divine nature, we have no business to say that it is impossible.
II. THE ROYAL CHRIST PROCLAIMS HIS SUBMISSION TO DEATH. Such a statement implies our Lord's assumption of flesh. The only possibility of death, for the Living One, lies in His enwrapping Himself with that which can die. As you might put a piece of asbestos into a twist of cotton wool, over which the flame could have power, or as a sun might plunge into thick envelopes of darkness, so this eternal, absolute Life gathered to itself by voluntary accretion the surrounding which was capable of mortality. Let us bow before that mystery of Divine love, the death of the Lord of Life. The motive which impelled Him, the consequences which followed, are not in view here. But there is another consideration that I may suggest. The eternal Life became dead. Then the awful solitude is solitary no longer. As travellers are cheered on a solitary road when they see the footprints that they know belonged to loved and trusted ones who have trodden it before, that desolate loneliness is less lonely when we think that He became dead.
III. THE ROYAL CHRIST PROCLAIMS HIS ETERNAL LIFE IN GLORY. "Behold!" — as if calling attention to a wonder — "I am alive for evermore." Again I say we have here a distinctly Divine prerogative claimed by the exalted Christ. For that eternal life of which He speaks is by no means the communicated immortality which He imparts to them that in His love go down to death, but it is the inherent eternal life of the Divine nature. The "I" of my text is the Divine-human Jesus. The manhood is so intertwined with the Deity that the absolute life of the latter has, as it were, flowed over and glorified the former; and it is a Man who lays His hand upon the Divine prerogative, and says, "I live for evermore." And so, "because I live, ye shall live also." We cannot die as long as Christ is alive. Christ's resurrection is the pledge and the source of eternal life for us.
IV. THE ROYAL CHRIST PROCLAIMS HIS AUTHORITY OVER THE DIM REGIONS OF THE DEAD. The original does not read "hell and death," but "death and" Hades, the dim unseen regions in which all the dead, whatsoever their condition may be, are gathered.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: