17) And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to
me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.
18) I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the
keys of Hades and of Death.
19) Write the things you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take
place after this.
20) The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lamp
stands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands
which you saw are the seven churches.”
John in the last verse has just finished describing the resurrected and ascended Jesus. John says that he fell at Jesus’ feet as if he was dead. This was not the first time John had seen Jesus in His glory. While Jesus was still in His earthly ministry, John was one of the three disciples Jesus took to the Mount of Transfiguration. While there Jesus was seen in His eternal Spiritual body; and there was such a cloud of glory around everything that the particulars of the preceding 4 verses were not visible. So when John sees Jesus in His eternal resurrected and ascended glory, he falls on his face at Jesus’ feet. This is an act of worship. Remember the difference between Martha and Mary when Jesus finally arrived to raise Lazarus from the dead? Their words were exactly the same, but their approach and actions were different. Martha wanted to argue and blame Jesus. Mary fell at His feet in worship.
John says he fell at Jesus’ feet as if he was dead. One of my favorite Christian songs, by Mercy Me, is “I Can Only Imagine.” In the song, the singer wonders what he will do when he actually sees Jesus face to face. Well, we know what John does – he falls flat on his face and prostrates himself before the Lord. He lies so motionless he appears to be dead.
John says that Jesus lays His right hand on him, the hand in which he holds seven stars. The right hand is the hand of position. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare for the Passover feast, and at that last supper, John sat or reclined at the right hand of Jesus. The Leonardo Da Vinci painting of The Last Supper is really not an accurate depiction of how Passover meals were celebrated. In reality the table was shaped like a backwards c in our language (really like the Hebrew Letter kaph). At the top of the table sat 3 people and at the bottom of the table sat 3 people. The other six sat down the long side. At the top of the table sat one of the preparers (John, on the outside), the master of the feast (Jesus, in the middle), and another disciple (Judas Iscariot, next to Jesus). At the bottom of the table on the very end sat the other person who helped to prepare the feast – Peter. This seating plan was the tradition by which all Jews celebrated Passover (preparers at either end, master of the feast, invited guests or family in between).
John tells us here in Revelation that Jesus just touched him. Jesus did not help to pick him up. Jesus tells John not to be afraid. This was a typical statement of Jesus throughout His earthly ministry. He often said, “Do not be afraid” or “Fear Not!” The Greek here is phobeo (pronounced, fob-eh’-o). It means being fearful enough to run away. Jesus is saying to John, “Be still. Don’t go anywhere.” Then Jesus repeats Himself from verse 11. He says He is protos, the foremost One, the One who was before the beginning, and the eschatos, the One who is as far from the beginning as you can get. Again, creation has a beginning and an end – but the Son of Man does not!
Jesus says in verse 18 that He is the One who lives. The Greek here is the word zao (pronounced dzah’- olt), meaning to live in the absolute sense, a life which has no end. He was dead, nekros, (pronounced nek-ros’), which literally means dead/corpse, whether laid out for viewing or in a tomb.
He was without life. But that was then, right after the crucifixion, and this is now. Now, He is alive forevermore. The English term “forevermore” is made up of two Greek words: 1) aion (pronounced ahee-ohn’) and 2) eis pronounced ice). Together they mean “without end”, to which Jesus says “Amen” or “so be it.” Jesus goes on to say that He has the keys to Hell and Death. Having the keys means Jesus has all authority and power over Hell and Death. Jesus is now the final judge for Heaven and Hell. The Greek for Hell or Hades is haides (pronounced hah’-dace). It is the place of eternal punishment, the final place of the wicked, the abyss or bottomless pit. Notice both Hades and Death are capitalized. This denotes not the importance of the place but of Jesus’ power and authority! The Greek for Death is thanatos (pronounced than’-at-os). Does this sound familiar? If you saw the last two Avengers movies, the villain in both was named a derivative of this, Thanos. It means the extinction of life, naturally or by violence. It carries with it the sense of destruction, perdition, and misery – implying both physical death and total separation from God as a consequence to sin and disobedience. Jesus is saying He has the authority and power over death and the eternal punishment that goes with it. This is good news for the Christian! Jesus is saying that those who have placed their faith in Him, in His position as the Son of God, in Him as the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world, in His precious name, in His Redeeming blood, in His finished work on the cross, in His resurrection and in His position at the right hand of the Father – NO LONGER HAVE TO FEAR DEATH. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians that the last enemy to be put under Jesus’ feet would be death. Jesus is telling John here that this has now been accomplished. Death and the judgment of death have not only been placed under His feet but now are also totally under His power and control.
In verse 19 John is commanded again not to just write but to engrave. The Greek means to engrave in stone, to keep forever, to make permanent – not to be antiquated, done away with, or repealed. Engraving in stone makes permanent and eternal all that he has seen, all that he is seeing, all that he will see. Jesus wants the church for eternity to know this revelation (to use our common phrase, it is written in stone!)
Jesus reveals to John in verse 20 a mystery. This is an unusual term because the Greek word is musterion (pronounced moos-tay’-ree-on). It literally means something into which one must be initiated and instructed. One would think that by using this term Jesus will make John work for it. But no. He explains it simply. The seven stars are the angels of the before-mentioned seven churches. The angels are very important, for here the Greek translates angels as messengers. Each church has a messenger. Thus, the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been given to the churches. There is no excuse for unfaithfulness! The seven lamp stands are the seven churches themselves.
Remember, these seven churches are representative of all churches. There are seven churches because in Hebrew numerology seven represents completeness and is the holiest of numbers.
1) After John saw the Jesus he described in the previous verses, he fell in worship at Jesus’ feet.
a) He did not move till Jesus touched him.
b) Jesus touched him with His right hand, reinforcing John’s position as a disciple.
c) Jesus tells John to not be afraid.
2) Jesus restates that He is the one who has no beginning and no end.
3) Jesus proclaims that the life He now lives has no end.
a) Yes, He had died – was totally dead, a corpse.
b) He now lives a never-ending life unto all eternity.
4) He has been given the authority of final judgment and ultimate power over death.
5) Everything that John sees from this point on must be engraved in stone and kept for all eternity.
6) Jesus reveals the mystery of the angels and the lamp stands. The angels are the messengers to the
seven churches. The lamp stands are the seven churches themselves.
In Christ –
Remember to pray the 91st psalm daily in the first person.