I am he that liveth, and was dead - I am Jesus the Savior, who, though the fountain of life, have died for mankind; and being raised from the dead I shall die no more, the great sacrifice being consummated. And have the keys of death and the grave, so that I can destroy the living and raise the dead. The key here signifies the power and authority over life, death, and the grave. This is also a rabbinical form of speech. In the Jerusalem Targum, on Genesis 30:22, are these words: "There are four Keys in the hand of God which he never trusts to angel or seraph.
In Sanhedrin, fol. 113, 1, it is said: "When the son of the woman of Sarepta died, Elijah requested that to him might be given the key of the resurrection of the dead. They said to him, there are three Keys which are not given into the hand of the apostle, the key of life, the key of the rain, and the key of the resurrection of the dead." From these examples it is evident that we should understand ᾁδης, hades, here, not as hell, nor the place of separate spirits, but merely as the grave; and the key we find to be merely the emblem of power and authority. Christ can both save and destroy, can kill and make alive. Death is still under his dominion, and he can recall the dead whensoever he pleases. He is the resurrection and the life.
I am he that liveth, and was dead - I was indeed once dead, but now I live, and shall continue to live forever. This would at once identify him who thus appeared as the Lord Jesus Christ, for to no one else could this apply. He had been put to death; but he had risen from the grave. This also is given as a reason why John should not fear; and nothing would allay his fears more than this. He now saw that he was in the presence of that Saviour whom more than half a century before he had so tenderly loved when in the flesh, and whom, though now long absent, he had faithfully served, and for whose cause he was now in this lonely island. His faith in his resurrection had not been a delusion; he saw the very Redeemer before him who had once been laid in the tomb.
Behold, I am alive forevermore - I am to live forever. Death is no more to cut me down, and I am never again to slumber in the grave. As he was always to live, he could accomplish all his promises, and fulfil all his purposes. The Saviour is never to die again. He can, therefore, always sustain us in our troubles; he can be with us in our death. Whoever of our friends die, he will not die; when we die, he will still be on the throne.
Amen - A word here of strong affirmation - as if he had said, it is “truly,” or “certainly so.” See the notes on Revelation 1:7. This expression is one that the Saviour often used when he wished to give emphasis, or to express anything strongly. Compare John 3:3; John 5:25.
And have the keys of hell and of death - The word rendered “hell” - ᾅδης Hadēs“Hades” - refers properly to the underworld; the abode of departed spirits; the region of the dead. This was represented as dull and gloomy; as enclosed with walls; as entered through gates which were fastened with bolts and bars. For a description of the views which prevailed among the ancients on the subject, see the Luke 16:23 note, and Job 10:21-22 notes. To hold the key of this, was to hold the power over the invisible world. It was the more appropriate that the Saviour should represent himself as having this authority, as he had himself been raised from the dead by his own power (compare John 10:18), thus showing that the dominion over this dark world was entrusted to him. And of death - A personification. Death reigns in that world. But to his wide-extended realms the Saviour holds the key, and can have access to his empire when he pleases, releasing all whom he chooses, and confining there still such as he shall please. It is probably in part from such hints as these that Milton drew his sublime description of the gates of hell in the “Paradise Lost.” As Christ always lives; as he always retains this power over the regions of the dead, and the whole world of spirits, it may be further remarked that we have nothing to dread if we put our trust in him. We need not fear to enter a world which he has entered, and from which he has emerged, achieving a glorious triumph; we need not fear what the dread king that reigns there can do to us, for his power extends not beyond the permission of the Saviour, and in his own time that Saviour will call us forth to life, to die no more.
And of death - A personification. Death reigns in that world. But to his wide-extended realms the Saviour holds the key, and can have access to his empire when he pleases, releasing all whom he chooses, and confining there still such as he shall please. It is probably in part from such hints as these that Milton drew his sublime description of the gates of hell in the “Paradise Lost.” As Christ always lives; as he always retains this power over the regions of the dead, and the whole world of spirits, it may be further remarked that we have nothing to dread if we put our trust in him. We need not fear to enter a world which he has entered, and from which he has emerged, achieving a glorious triumph; we need not fear what the dread king that reigns there can do to us, for his power extends not beyond the permission of the Saviour, and in his own time that Saviour will call us forth to life, to die no more.
Through all our trials we have a never-failing Helper. He does not leave us alone to struggle with temptation, to battle with evil, and be finally crushed with burdens and sorrow. Though now He is hidden from mortal sight, the ear of faith can hear His voice saying, Fear not; I am with you. “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore.” Revelation 1:18. I have endured your sorrows, experienced your struggles, encountered your temptations. I know your tears; I also have wept. The griefs that lie too deep to be breathed into any human ear, I know. Think not that you are desolate and forsaken. Though your pain touch no responsive chord in any heart on earth, look unto Me, and live. “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” Isaiah 54:10. DA 483.1
However much a shepherd may love his sheep, he loves his sons and daughters more. Jesus is not only our shepherd; He is our “everlasting Father.” And He says, “I know Mine own, and Mine own know Me, even as the Father knoweth Me, and I know the Father.” John 10:14, 15, R. V. What a statement is this!—the only-begotten Son, He who is in the bosom of the Father, He whom God has declared to be “the Man that is My fellow” (Zechariah 13:7),—the communion between Him and the eternal God is taken to represent the communion between Christ and His children on the earth! DA 483.2
Because we are the gift of His Father, and the reward of His work, Jesus loves us. He loves us as His children. Reader, He loves you. Heaven itself can bestow nothing greater, nothing better. Therefore trust. DA 483.3Read in context »
Jesus changed the mother's grief to joy when He gave back her son; yet the youth was but called forth to this earthly life, to endure its sorrows, its toils, and its perils, and to pass again under the power of death. But Jesus comforts our sorrow for the dead with a message of infinite hope: “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, ... and have the keys of hell and of death.” “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Revelation 1:18; Hebrews 2:14, 15. DA 320.1
Satan cannot hold the dead in his grasp when the Son of God bids them live. He cannot hold in spiritual death one soul who in faith receives Christ's word of power. God is saying to all who are dead in sin, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead.” Ephesians 5:14. That word is eternal life. As the word of God which bade the first man live, still gives us life; as Christ's word, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise,” gave life to the youth of Nain, so that word, “Arise from the dead,” is life to the soul that receives it. God “hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.” Colossians 1:13. It is all offered us in His word. If we receive the word, we have the deliverance. DA 320.2
And “if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Romans 8:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. This is the word of comfort wherewith He bids us comfort one another. DA 320.3Read in context »
The sinner so recently dead in trespasses and sins is quickened by faith in Christ. He sees by faith that Jesus is his Saviour, and alive forevermore, able to save unto “the uttermost [all] that come unto God by Him.” In the atonement made for him the believer sees such breadth and length and height and depth of efficiency—sees such completeness of salvation, purchased at such infinite cost, that his soul is filled with praise and thanksgiving. He sees as in a glass the glory of the Lord and is changed into the same image as by the Spirit of the Lord. He sees the robe of Christ's righteousness, woven in the loom of heaven, wrought by His obedience, and imputed to the repenting soul through faith in His name. FW 106.2Read in context »