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. JESUS CHRIST CLAIMS TO BE THE PROPRIETOR OF LIFE. "I am He that liveth." The language is emphatic and suggestive. It is not "I live." Every animated existence in the universe might with truthfulness say, "I live." It is, however, one thing to possess life, but quite another thing to have it at our disposal. Amid the teeming myriads of existences which people the universe, there is not a creature in the heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the far-off districts of immensity, that can say, "I am He that liveth," or "I am the Living One." The title belongs exclusively to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Lord and sole Proprietor of life. The plenitude of life is in Him, and from Him it emanates to all animate existences. This significant title suggests that Jesus Christ is the Proprietor of His own life as well as ours. It was His love for you and me that fastened Him to that awful cross. Had there been no love, the nails could not have detained Him. Even when entombed in the grave He was still the Proprietor of His life, and had perfect power over it. The grave had no power to detain His body a moment longer than He chose to submit to its detention.
II. The life of which Christ claims to be the Proprietor is A LIFE SUBSEQUENT TO DEATH — a resurrection life: "Was dead." The death of Christ constitutes the foundation of our hope, the ground of our confidence, and the burden of the heavenly song. There could, however, be little or no joy in the hearts of the redeemed in heaven if Jesus Christ had not lived again after having died. To feel, while sharing the bliss of heaven, that the Lord Jesus was away, would shed a dash of bitterness into your cup, otherwise so full of joy, and dim the radiance of your immortality. What pleasure could there be in the feast if He whose beneficence provided it were absent? What joy could there be in your Father's house if the Master of the house were away? If on Calvary the King's Son had been lost, if He had then fallen to rise no more, yet the victory of that day would have been turned into mourning, the loss to God's moral empire would have been greater than the gain — for it would have been greater to lose a Christ than to win a world. But, thanks be to God, costly as was our redemption, it was not at this cost; for He that was dead liveth again; and, behold, He is alive for evermore.
III. The life of which Christ is the Proprietor is ETERNAL. — it is to experience no interruption, no cessation: "I am alive for evermore." His glorified body is beyond the reach of corruption. Immortality flows through every vein, animates every limb, nerves every sinew. The announcement that Christ would live on for ever was peculiarly fitted to encourage the Church in her sorrow and persecution. Her position at this time was most painful and critical. A dark, portentous cloud brooded over her, and threatened to discharge a tempest of endless destruction upon her. But, in the midst of all her gloom and alarm, the Lord Jesus appears as her Hying and life-giving Head, and announces the cheering fact, "I am alive for evermore." Men, by hatred and opposition, may bring the Church low, but they can never destroy; they may scatter, but they can never annihilate.
IV. JESUS CHRIST CLAIMS SUPREMACY OVER DEATH AND HELL — "I have the keys of hell and of death."
1. Jesus Christ is supreme over death. Look at that poor Christian pauper languishing on his pallet of straw in his unfurnished room. His death excites no interest, and is treated as unimportant and insignificant. But there stands One by his bed of death. It is no mortal, no creature whatsoever, it is not Michael or Gabriel; it is the Lord of Life, whose mandate must go forth ere the soul struggles loose from flesh. Disease cannot destroy him, the fever cannot consume him, and want cannot waste away the life, until Jesus gives the word of command for the spirit's departure. A man walking the scaffold trips his foot against a stone, the stone rolls over, and falls upon the casual passer-by, and the result is fatal. The case is brought before a coroner's jury, and as no malice, no intention, can be proved against the man who tripped against the stone, the verdict is given, "Accidental death." In the vocabulary of heaven no such word is found. Men do not die at random. Whether a man dies with the suddenness of a thunderbolt or by lingering consumption, by the hand of the assassin or by an agonising disease, it is by no means fortuitous, for it takes place by the permission and under the immediate presidency of the Lord Jesus.
2. The Living One asserts that Ha has the key of hell, of Hades, the invisible world. This term applies to heaven, hell, and the grave.
(1) Jesus Christ has the key of heaven. At the close of this earthly life every human being will undergo the severest scrutiny. It will be for Jesus to decide whether that spirit is fitted for the world of light and blessedness, or whether justice requires it to be doomed to regions of woe and despair for ever.
(2) The expression "Hades" applies with equal force to hell literally. Jesus Christ has "the key of hell." What a solemn view does this give of the death of the wicked! They have rejected Christ, banished Him from their thoughts; but it is His hand, the hand that was pierced for them, that held out to them the overtures of pardon and peace, that opens for them the outer gate of death and the inner gate of hell. A few years since, a French scientist discovered that the retina of the eye retains for twenty-four hours after death a faithful image of the last object on which that eye fell during lifetime. He suggested that murderers might be detected by this process. Suppose a man murdered on the high road, if the victim's eye were fastened on the murderer the last lingering moment of his existence, there would be found on the retina a correct image of the murderer. I do not know what amount of truth there may be in this theory, or what practical results may spring from it; but this I believe, that the last object on which the sinner's eye shall fall before he enters the world of retribution will not be the form of weeping friends, or mourning wife, or sorrowing children; it will be something more awful, it will be the form of a rejected and therefore a grieved Saviour.
(3) The term "Hades" may signify the grave. Infidelity impiously assigns the key of the grave to Annihilation, who is represented like a goddess presiding over the empire of the dead, and announcing that the opening of the graves of this lower world and the quickening into life of the dust of humanity is a thing incredible and impossible. But Jesus Christ holds the key. If I am doomed to be the prisoner of the graver this I know, that both the prison and the prisoner will be in the custody of the Lord of Life. He will watch my dust. Not an atom shall perish. He will know where to find it all, and how to quicken it all.
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: