When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
"Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (NIV)
Falling at His Feet
These two visions are very similar but also very different. Daniel’s vision specifies a man clothed in linen while Jesus is described as one like a son of man having a long robe. Even though Daniel says he is a man, the description of him is much more than a man. My mind pictures both as having with clothes, but color isn’t specified. Daniel’s man has gold around his loins (waist and thighs) but Jesus has a gold band around His chest. Their faces are both bright, one like lightning and Jesus’ like the sun. Their eyes are very much the same with flame of fire. And finally, their voices are like multitudes, Jesus’ voice is like many waters.
This could very well be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. Daniel often calls him lord; however, it is not uncommon for a person to refer to an angel as lord. Although there is no indication that Daniel worshipped this person, he was unable to stand in his presence in the same way that John fell before Jesus.
This person touched Daniel twice, once to give him strength to stand and again to enable him to speak. In the presence of this person who was sent from the throne of God, Daniel was unable to stand or talk. How much more would he have been in awe if it were God?
In the same way, when Jesus laid His hand on John was able to continue and carry out God’s command. Without God’s touch in our lives we are unable to do anything. In fact, it takes more than just a touch, it takes the living Christ abiding or living in us. It is a two-way relationship. As we live in Him, He then also lives in us.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. (John 15:4 NKJV)
In Isa 6, Isaiah saw the Lord and was dreadfully afraid. In this case, the Lord sent an angel (seraph) to touch his lips with a coal so that his guilt would be taken away. Isaiah knew that he could not stand before the living God without a touch from Him to cleanse him and give him that ability. Likewise, when Ezekiel saw a vision of the Lord in Chapter 1, he fell face down until the Holy Spirit came into him and raised him up.
We have an advantage over the Old Testament saints because the blood of Jesus has already cleansed us. We also have many promises in Scripture that tells us we will be able to come into His presence without blame.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25 ESV)
With His saving touch, we know that He loves us and we can have confidence to respond to Him and be completely free in His love. It is Jesus who takes us into the presence of God the Father and that Jesus, Himself, is God. He is the one who will touch us and tell us not to be afraid.
But consider this: John had been with Jesus for three years and probably knew Him better than any of the other disciples.
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") (John 21:20 NIV)
Jesus loved John so much that John called himself the disciple that Jesus loved five times in his gospel. You would think that if there were anyone who, upon seeing Jesus, would be able to run to Him and give Him a bear hug, it would be John. Yet look at what happened when John saw Jesus in His glory. He fell at His feet as though dead! I hear a lot about people saying how they will run up to Jesus and give Him a big hug when they get to heaven. Yeah, right! I think that when we see Jesus for the first time, we will only be able to fall at His feet in worship until He touches us and gives us the ability to stand in His presence.
Why We Should Not Fear
Jesus says that He is the first and the last, the same as the Lord told the people through Isaiah. Jesus is our God and there is no other.
Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. (Isa 44:6 KJV)
That means everything is in His control. There isn’t anyone who has been around longer than Jesus has and He will be here long after all others are gone. He knows all that has happened and all that will happen in our lives and the lives of every person we know.
He is the Living One.
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26 NASU)
It is by faith in the Living One that we too can have eternal life. It would be rather ludicrous to place your faith in a dead person to give you life.
He was dead. He knows precisely what will happen to us when we die and there is nothing to fear. Many people don’t even want to talk about what will eventually happen to them. It is too fearful. Jesus has been there and He assures us that we don’t need to fear death.
"O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:55-57 NKJV)
He has conquered death; it has no power over us because of who He is. Isn’t death the worst that can happen to us? If we shouldn’t be afraid of death, then what other things could so paralyze our lives with fear that we fail to what is right and follow our Lord?
I heard about a widow who had a bum of a son in his 40’s who wouldn’t work so she was working herself to death to support them both. She sought counseling and the counselor asked her a few questions.
“What would happen if you quit work?"
"I wouldn’t have any money.”
"Then what would happen?"
"We would be evicted and starve.”
"Then what would happen?"
"I would die.”
"Then what would happen?"
"I would be with Jesus!"
"Would that be so bad that you are letting your son ruin your health as well as his life?”
The woman then went home and didn’t get up the next day to go to work. Her lazy son asked her why she wasn’t getting up and she told them she had quit and it was up to him to support both of them. It took a couple of days for the son to believe it, but he finally got a job and started taking care of his mother.
Sometimes we simply need to ask ourselves the same “worst case scenario” questions to find out how to face difficulties and fears.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Cor 15:58 NLT)
Ultimately, though, He has given us the victory so that we can give ourselves fully to Him and His work.
Jesus has the keys to death and the Hades. No one is going to die and go to hell without Jesus’ intervention. That should give us great confidence in our eternal security.
Why We Should Fear
Since Jesus has the keys to death and Hades, we should show Him the proper fear.
"I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4-5 RSV)
Just because Jesus has the victory over death and Hades doesn’t mean that everyone is going to escape hell. Only those who have surrendered themselves to Jesus will participate in His victory. That is a great comfort for those who have made their alliance with Him, but should be a terrible fear for those who are still fighting against Him. If you haven’t formally surrendered, then guess on which side you are.
What is Next
John is commanded to tell everything that he has just seen – the appearance of Jesus and His commands. He is also to write, “What is now” – the messages to the seven churches. Then he is to write, “what will take place later” – the message that starts in chapter four. Many things have occurred that seem to fit what John describes in his “now” and his “later.” For this reason some view the whole book as a book of history. Others can see today’s events unfolding in both of these areas. Others can only see the far distant future in what will happen next. Then there are some who say that these things are only symbolic and have no place in real time.
The Bible is the best commentary on the Bible. Read enough and much will be explained. For example, Jesus tells us that the stars are the angels or messengers of the churches and the lampstands are the churches. We can look at the symbols in the future chapters and try to find out what God is saying to us in those symbols. We can also look at the clear meaning of the text and discover that some things are not symbolic. When Jesus said to write what will take place later, we know that He was talking about John’s future. If we haven’t seen what John described, then it must also be our future.
What comes next is a series of letters to seven churches that existed around 90 AD. Jesus has some good and bad things to say to these churches because they are supposed to be lampstands. In the temple there was a lampstand that was always supposed to be burning. The Church is always to be before God and should be on fire, shedding its light to the world.
The angels must be the pastors because it doesn’t make sense for God to send messages to angels via men. In chapters two and three, He says to write to the angel of each church, yet the message is definitely for people. Because this is a timeless book, we will be able to apply His message to ourselves and to our churches.
May you look forward to His message through His word, and not fear to do His will.