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. A VAST KINGDOM CLAIMED. To have "the keys" is to possess authority. To possess the key of a house, palace, or region, is to have the supreme power therein the disposal of the things and persons located there. Among the Jews, a key borne on the shoulder, hung by a belt, or inwrought in the robe, was the well-known badge of office. Now, in the text, our Lord claims this supreme regal power for Himself. "I have the keys, and the houses, the palaces, the realms, whatever they are, to which these keys give admission, all are Mine. I possess them, I rule them, and from My decisions there is no appeal." Yes, this is the sovereign authority. A protest could be lodged, by the conscience at least, against the abuse of any kingly power on earth, and an appeal carried up to the court of heaven. But who shall dare protest against the decisions of the Son of Man? and to what court shall any cause be taken when solemn judgment has been pronounced at His bar? He has the keys — of what? Of earthly prisons? or of earthly palaces? of kingdoms? or continents? or seas? He does indeed possess even those keys; for all earthly kingdoms, with all their inhabitants and all their affairs, are comprehended within His royalty and realm; but the empire here is a far larger one. He has the keys "of Hades and of death." The keys of Hades and of death, i.e., of the passage which leads from this world into that. All who leave this world, with some rare exceptions, to enter into that, go along the passage of death. Whether they go to glory or to gloom, they go by death, and the Redeemer has the keys of death. His dominion does not begin beyond the last barriers and confines of mortality; it is a power which commands those barriers, which claims death and holds its keys. Death and life, things present and things to come, height and depth, all are His. There is no realm of the universe for which He has not a key; there is no being whom He does not command; no event that He does not control. He has the key of birth, by the turning of which each is ushered into being; the key of childhood, which admits the little pilgrim to the first steps of the journey; the key of youth, which opens the gates into life's greenest and most radiant fields; the key of manhood, which sets the pilgrim on life's hill-top; the key of old age, which lets him gently down among the shadows; and the key of death, which ends all toil and sorrow. And of those great realms too, as we have seen, He has the keys: opens and no man shuts, shuts and no man opens. And of all which chequers life and gives character to it in its progress, He possesses the power. Majestic kingdom! whose lengths and breadths, and depths and heights far surpass our knowledge! over the vastness of which we can only look, but never travel
I. The interests of which we can think of. but never comprehend! The glories of which come only within the scope of one eye — the eye of omniscience. The powers of which rest only in the hands of one Being, and He the everlasting King!
II. A ROYAL TITLE EXHIBITED. As creation supposes creator, and law supposes lawgiver, so kingdom supposes king; and the king of such a kingdom must have a royal title which cannot be impugned. "I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen." This title, observe, does not rest on His Divinity alone; that He had from all eternity: nor on His humanity alone; for no mere man could hold space and time in His grasp; and rule life and death; and be the judge of quick and dead. It is a title wrought out by His incarnation, and inseparably connected with His mediatorial character. The substance of it is the life of the God-man with its sorrows, virtues, obedience. It is written as with the blood of His Cross. The light by which we read it is the light of His resurrection. He was born that mothers might forget their sorrow, and rejoice when a man-child is born into the world. He prayed that He might be the hearer of prayer. He died that we might not fear to die, hoping to find life in Him. And now He has gone to claim His kingdom; He has received it from the Father, and through all its wide realms He exhibits His royal title — a title which all the good accept, and which the very devil dare not impugn. His title to this universal kingdom is our title to the blessings of grace and salvation. And so He tells us not to be afraid, for our enemies are vanquished; not to be ashamed, for our redemption draweth nigh. He teaches us to defy all antagonisms; to claim all needful helps; to put our proprietary seal upon every visible thing; to say, "All things are ours, for we are Christ's"; to open our hearts every day for grace; to hasten on every day to glory; to endow ourselves with His unsearchable riches, and to fill our souls unto all the fulness of God.
III. THE GRACIOUS PROCLAMATION MADE. "Fear not." It is very brief. It is a dissuasion from all fear that "hath torment," from all undue anxiety and apprehension, from all excitement, fore-boding, solicitude, which would bring pain. It affects all personal, all relative, and all religious and public interests. "Fear not" for thyself. I will wash thee thoroughly from thine iniquities, and cleanse thee from thy sins, create in thee a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within thee, give thee the joys of My salvation, and uphold thee with My free spirit. "Fear not" for any among thy kindred and acquaintance of the same family of God. There is a shield over the head of each, a Providence as watchful of every one as if that one alone were a dweller on the earth. "Fear not," amid changes however startling, circumstances however unexpected; for I am not a mere watcher over a broken and lawless world, mending, and checking, and trying to save something from the wreck! I am the perfect ruler of a perfect providence, setting kings on their thrones and watching sparrows in their fall; preserving your mightiest interests, and numbering the hairs of your head! Brethren, it is this "fear not" which often we most need to hear; we do not exercise ourselves in great matters — we can trust these to Him, for we feel they are too high for us; but we do painfully exercise ourselves in lesser things as if we had the sole charge of them. Not now, or not there, or not thus, we are always saying. Not now, we say, when the father is called to leave the family of which he is the sole stay. "Let him live, let a few years elapse, let his family be provided for, let his work be done!" It is done, is the answer. His fatherless children are provided for; I have taught him to leave them with Me. "The Father of the fatherless, the Husband of the widow, is God in His holy habitation." Or, we say, "Not there," oh, not there! Away on the sea — a thousand miles from land — let him not die there, and be dropped into the unfathomed grave. Or not in some distant city or far-off land — strangers around his bed, strangers closing his eyes, and then carrying him to a stranger's grave. Let him come home, and die amid the whisperings and breathings of the old unquenchable love. "He is going home," is the answer, and going by the best and only way. "I can open the gate beautiful in any part of the earth or sea." Or, we say, "Not thus," not through such agonies of body, or faintings of spirit, or tremblings of faith — not in unconsciousness — not without dying testimonies. Oh, shed down the light, the fragrancy of heaven, upon the dying bed! The answer is, "They are there, and you are so dull of sense that you perceive them not. Your friend is filled with the 'peace that passeth understanding,' and safe in the everlasting arms."
(A. Raleigh, 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: