A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, January 7, 1872, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *8/30/2011
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his
right hand upon me, saying to me, “Do not fear; I am the first and
the last: I am he who lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive
for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Re 1:17,18)
For other sermons on this text:
(See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Re 1:17")
(See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Re 1:18")
1. Low thoughts of the Lord Jesus Christ are exceedingly mischievous to believers. If you lower your estimate of him you lower everything else accordingly. He who thinks lightly of the Saviour thinks so much the less of the evil of sin; and, consequently, he becomes callous concerning the past, careless concerning the present, and uncaring concerning the future. He thinks little of the punishment due to sin, because he places little value on the atonement made for sin. Christian activity for right is also abated; as well as holy horror of wrong. He who thinks lightly of the Lord Jesus renders to him very little service; he does not value the Redeemer’s love high enough to stir his soul to ardour; if he does not consider the blood by which he was redeemed an unholy thing, yet he thinks it is a small matter, not at all sufficient to claim from him lifelong service. Gratitude is weak when favours are undervalued. He serves little who loves little, and he loves little who has no sense of having been greatly beloved. The man who thinks lightly of Christ also has very poor comfort concerning his own security. With a little Saviour I am still in danger, but if he is the mighty God, able to save to the uttermost, then I am safe in his protecting hand, and my consolations are rich and abounding. In these, and a thousand other ways, an unworthy estimate of our Lord will prove most solemnly injurious. May the Lord deliver us from this evil.
2. If our conceptions of the Lord Jesus are very enlarged, they will only be his due. We cannot exaggerate here. He deserves higher praise than we can ever render to him. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high is he above our loftiest conceptions. Even when the angels strike their loudest notes, and chant his praises most exultingly on their highest festal days, the music falls far short of his excellence. He is higher than a seraph’s most soaring thought! Rise then, my brethren, as on eagle’s wings, and let your adoring souls magnify and extol the Lord your Saviour.
3. When our thoughts of Jesus are expanded and elevated, we obtain correct ideas upon other matters. In the light of his love and atoning sacrifice, we see the depth of the degradation from which such a Redeemer has lifted us up, and we hate, with all our hearts, the sins which pierced such an altogether lovely one, and required the Lord of life to die. Forming some adequate estimate of what Jesus has done for us, our gratitude grows, and with our gratitude our love — while love compels us to consecration, and consecration suggests heroic self-denying actions. Then we are bold to speak for him, and ready, if needs be, to suffer for him; while we feel we could give up all we have to increase his glory, without so much as dreaming that we had made a sacrifice.
4. Let your thoughts of Christ be high, and your delight in him will be high too; your sense of security will be strong, and with that sense of security will come the sacred joy and peace which always keep the heart which confidently reposes in the Mediator’s hands. If you yourself would be raised, let your thoughts of Christ be raised. If you would rise above these earthly toys, you must have higher and more elevated thoughts of him who is high above all things. Earth sinks as Jesus rises. Honour the Son even as you would honour the Father, and, in so doing, your soul shall be sanctified and brought into closer fellowship with the great Father of Spirits, whose delight it is to glorify his Son.
My object, this morning, is to suggest a few truths for your memory
which may help to place the Lord Jesus on a glorious high throne
within your hearts. My motto, this morning, will be —
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown him Lord of all.
My desire is that he may be crowned with many crowns in all these many hearts, and that you may now perform those exercises of faith, those delightful acts of adoring love, which shall bring to him great glory.
6. I. Coming to the text, the first thing we notice in it is THE DISCIPLE OVERPOWERED. We will meditate upon that for a little while. John writes, “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.”
7. The beloved disciple was favoured with an unusual vision of his glorified Lord. In the blaze of that revelation even his eagle eye was dimmed, and his holy soul was overwhelmed. He was overpowered, but not with ecstasy. At first sight it would have seemed certain that excess of delight would have been John’s most prominent feeling; it would appear certain that to see his long lost Master, whom he had so dearly loved, would have caused a rush of joy to John’s soul, and that if overpowered at all, it would have been with ecstatic bliss. That it was not so is clear from the fact that our Lord said to him, “Do not fear.” Fear was far more prominent than holy joy. I will not say that John was unhappy, but, certainly, it was not delight which prostrated him at the Saviour’s feet; and I gather from this that if we, in our present embodied state, were favoured with an unveiled vision of Christ, it would not make a heaven for us; we may think it would, but we do not know our own spirit. Such new wine, if put into these old bottles, would cause them to burst. Not heaven but deadly faintness would be the result of the beautiful vision, if granted to these earthly eyes. We should not say, if we could behold the King in his beauty as we now are, “I gazed upon him, and my heart leaped for joy,” but like John we should have to confess, “When I saw him I fell at his feet as dead.” There is a time for everything, and this period of our sojourn in flesh and blood is not the time for seeing the Redeemer face to face: that vision will be ours when we are fully prepared for it. We are as yet too feeble to bear the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. We are so prepared by his grace that, if now he took us away from this body, we would be able to bear the splendour of his face. However, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and that when, as an exception to the rule, a mortal man is permitted to behold his Lord, his flesh and blood are made to feel the sentence of death within themselves, and to fall as if slain by the revelation of the Lord. We ought, therefore, to thank God that “he holds back the face of his throne, and spreads his cloud upon it.” That face which shines as the sun in its strength, reveals its love by wearing as yet a concealing veil. Be grateful, that while you are to be here to serve him, and to do his will in suffering for him, he does not deprive you of your power to serve or suffer, by overwhelming you with excessive revelations. It is an example of the glory of God’s grace that he conceals his majesty from his people, and wraps clouds and darkness all around him; he does this, not to deny his saints a bliss which they might covet, but to preserve them from an unseasonable joy, which, as yet, they are not capable of bearing. We shall see him as he is, when we shall be like him, but not until then. So that for a while we may be able to perform the duties of this mortal life, and not lie perpetually stretched like dead men at his feet, he does not reveal himself to us in the clear light which shone upon the seer of Patmos.
8. Notice with care this beloved disciple in his fainting fit, and notice first, the occasion of it. He says, “I saw him.” It was this that made him faint with fear. “I saw HIM.” He had seen him on earth, but not in his full glory as the first begotten from the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. When our Saviour lived among men, in order to accomplish their redemption, he made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant; for this reason he restrained the flashings of his Deity, and the godhead shone through the manhood with occasional and softened rays. But now, Jesus was resplendent as the Ancient of Days, clothed with a golden sash, with a countenance outshining the sun in its strength, and even this the best beloved apostle could not endure. He could gaze with dauntless eye upon the throne of jasper and the rainbow of emerald, he could view with rapture the sea of glass like crystal, and the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, but the vision of the Lord himself was too much for him. He who did not quail when the doors of both heaven and hell were opened to him in vision, still fell lifeless when he saw the Lord. No one either in earth or heaven can compare with Jesus in glory. Oh for the day when we shall gaze upon his glory and partake of it. Such is his sacred will concerning us. “Father, I will that they also whom you have given to me may be with me where I am, so that they may behold my glory.” To bear that sight we shall need to be purified and strengthened. God himself must enlarge and strengthen our faculties, for as yet, like the disciples upon Tabor, we would be bewildered by the brightness.
9. Here was the occasion of his faintness. But what was the reason why a sight of Christ so overcame him? I take it we have the reason in the text, it was partly fear. But, why fear? Was not John beloved by the Lord Jesus? Did he not also know the Saviour’s love for him? Yes, but for all that, he was afraid, or else the Master would not have said to him, “Do not fear.” That fear originated partly in a sense of his own weakness and insignificance in the presence of the divine strength and greatness. How shall an insect live in the furnace of the sun? How can mortal eye behold the unquenched light of Deity, or mortal ear hear that voice which is like many waters? We are such infirmity, folly and nothingness, that, if we have only a glimpse of omnipotence, awe and reverence prostrate us to the earth. Daniel tells us that when he saw the great vision by the river Hiddekel, there remained no strength in him, for his comeliness was turned within him to corruption, and he fell into a deep sleep upon his face. John, also, at that time, perhaps, perceived more impressively than ever the purity and immaculate holiness of Christ: and, being conscious of his own imperfection, he felt like Isaiah when he cried “Woe is me, I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the Lord of Hosts.” Even his faith, though fixed upon the Lord our righteousness, was not able to bear him up under the first surprising view of uncreated holiness. I think his feelings were like those of the patriarch of Uz, when he says, “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you, therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” The most spiritual and sanctified minds, when they fully perceive the majesty and holiness of God, are so greatly conscious of the great disproportion between themselves and the Lord, that they are humbled and filled with holy awe, and even with dread and alarm. The reverence which is commendable is pushed by the infirmity of our nature into a fear which is excessive, and what is good in itself is made deadly to us; we are so prone to err on the one side or the other.
10. There is no doubt, too, that a part of the fear which caused John to swoon arose from a partial ignorance or forgetfulness of his Lord. Shall we charge this upon one who wrote one of the gospels, and three choice epistles? Yes, it was doubtless so, because the Master went on to instruct and teach him in order to remove his fear. He needed fresh knowledge or old truths brought home with renewed power, in order to cure his dread. As soon as he knew his Lord he recovered his strength. The wonderful person who then stood before him told him that he was the first and the last, the everliving and Almighty Lord. The knowledge of Jesus is the best remedy for fears: when we are better acquainted with our Lord we part company with half our doubts — these bats and owls cannot tolerate the sun. Jesus in his person, work, offices, and relationships, is a mine of consolation; every truth which is connected with him is an argument against fear: when our heart shall be filled with perfect love for him fear will be cast out, as Satan was cast down from heaven. Study your Lord then. Make it your life’s object to know him. Seek the Holy Spirit’s illumination, and the choice privilege of fellowship, and your despondency and distress will vanish as night birds fly to hide themselves when the day breaks. It is folly to walk in sorrow when we might constantly rejoice. We do not read that John was any more afraid after the Lord had spoken lovingly upon his own glorious person and character. That divine enlightenment which was given to his mind, purged from it any secret mistake and misjudgment which had created excessive fear.
11. But, while we so notice the occasion and the reasons, we must not forget the extent to which John was overpowered. He says, “I fell at his feet as dead”; he does not say in a partial swoon, or overcome with amazement: he uses a very strong description, “I fell at his feet as dead.” He was not dead, but he was “as dead”; that is to say, he could see no more, the blaze of Jesus’ face had blinded him; he could hear no more, the voice like the sound of many waters had stunned his ear; no bodily faculty retained its power. His soul, too, had lost consciousness under the pressure put upon it; he was unable to think much less than to act. He was stripped not only of self-glory and strength, but almost of life itself. This is by no means a desirable natural condition, but it is much to be coveted spiritually. It is an infinite blessing for us to be utterly emptied, stripped, spoiled, and slain before the Lord. Our strength is our weakness, our life is our death, and when both are entirely gone, we begin to be strong, and in very deed to live. To lie at Jesus’ feet is a good experience; to lie there as sick and wounded is better, but to lie there as dead is best of all; a man is taught in the mysteries of the kingdom, who comes to that. Moses with dim legal light needs to be told to take off his shoes from his feet in the presence of the Lord of Hosts, but John is obviously far in advance of him, because he lies lower, and is like a dead man before the Infinite Majesty. How blessed a death is death in Christ! How divine a thing is life in him. If I might see Christ at this moment upon the terms of instant death, I would joyfully accept the offer, the bliss would far exceed the penalty. But as for the death of all within us, that is of the flesh and of fallen nature, it is desirable beyond measure, and if for nothing else; my soul would pant more and more to see Jesus. May that twoedged sword which comes out of his mouth strike all my besetting sins; may the brightness of his countenance scorch and burn up in me the very roots of evil: may he mount his white horse and ride through my soul conquering, and to conquer, casting out of me all what is from the old dragon and his inventions, and bringing every thought into subjection to himself. There I would lie at his dear conquering feet, slain by his mighty grace.
Only one other reflection while we look at this fainting apostle,
observe well the place where he was overpowered. Oh, lovely
thought. “I fell as dead”; but where? “I fell at his feet as
dead.” It does not matter what ails us if we lie at Jesus’ feet.
Better to be dead there than alive anywhere else. He is always gentle
and tender, never breaking the bruised reed or quenching the smoking
flax. In proportion as he perceives that our weakness is revealed to
us, in that degree he will display his tenderness. He carries the
lambs in his bosom, and gently leads those who are with young;
feebleness wins him over. When he sees a dear disciple prostrate at
his feet, he is ready at once to touch him with the hand of his
intimate love, and to revive him by his own strength. “He restores my
soul.” “He gives power to the faint.” He says to our pitiful
weakness, “Do not fear, I am the first and the last.” To be as dead
would not be desirable, but to be as dead at Jesus’ feet is safe and
profitable. Well does our poet say, when expressing his desire to
escape from all worldly bonds.
But oh, for this, no strength have I,
My strength is at his feet to lie.
13. II. And now, having seen the disciple overpowered, I shall ask your consideration of THAT SAME DISCIPLE RESTORED. He was not long in the condition of death, for the Master laid his right hand upon him, and said to him, “Do not fear.” Here then, we shall notice, that when the children of God become exceedingly faint and feeble, and their own sense of impurity and nothingness becomes painful, and even killing to them, the Lord has ways of restoring and reviving their spirits.
14. And first, he does it by a condescending approach. “He laid his hand upon me.” It is noticeable, that in the great cures which our Saviour accomplished, he almost always touched the patient. He could with a word have healed, but to prove his fellowship with the sick, he put his hand upon the leper, and upon the blind eye, and touched the deaf ear; so revealing his condescending contact with the infirmities of our nature. The Master could have spoken a word to John, and have revived him; but he did not stand at a distance, or guard himself with a “Do not touch me” but, instead of that, he began his care with a touch. No other hand could have revived the apostle, but the hand which was pierced for him had matchless power. There is mighty healing in the royal hand of our Emmanuel. When the Holy Spirit inspires us with a sense of the relationship which Christ bears to us, of the sympathy which Christ feels with us, of the kinship and fellow feeling which reign in Jesus’ heart, then we are comforted. To know that he is not ashamed to call us brethren is a wellspring of comfort to a tried child of God; to feel his presence, to perceive the touch of his hand, and to hear him say: “I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God,” this is new life for our waning spirits. Oh what bliss this is! “In all their afflictions he was afflicted.” He is a brother born for adversity, a sympathetic and tender friend, touched with a feeling of our infirmities. “He laid his hand upon me.” Oh child of God, pray for a revelation of the kinsman Christ to your soul; ask that he would instruct you concerning the fact that he enters into your grief, having himself endured the same. You are one with him, and he is one with you; and as surely as the head feels the pain of the members, so Jesus shares in all the sorrows of his people. Let this be a comfort for you, you who are now lying as dead before the risen Lord. He comes near to you, not to kill you, but to revive you by most intimate communion, talking with you as a man speaks with his friend. Oh man, greatly beloved, do not be so overwhelmed with the greatness of your Lord as to forget his love, his great love, his intimate love, which at this moment lays its hand upon you.
15. The same action implies the communication of divine strength. “He laid his right hand upon me.” It is the hand of favour, it is also the hand of power. God gives strength to those who have none. He puts power into the faint. When the child of God is brought very low, it is not a mere subject for consideration or theme for reflection that can lift him up: sick men need more than instruction, they require cordials and supports. There must be actual strength and energy imparted to a swooning soul, and, glory be to God, by his own Holy Spirit, Jesus can and does communicate energy to his people in the time of weakness. He is come that we may have life, and that we may have it more abundantly. The omnipotence of God is made to rest upon us, so that we even glory in infirmities. “My grace is sufficient for you, my strength is made perfect in weakness,” is a blessed promise, which has been fulfilled to the letter for many of us. Our own strength has departed, and then the power of God has flowed in to fill up the vacuum. I cannot explain the process: these are secrets and mysteries to be experienced rather than expounded; but just as the coming of the Spirit of God into us first of all makes us live in regeneration, so the renewed coming of the power of God into our soul raises us up from our weakness and our faintness into new energy. Be encouraged, then, you fainting spirit today. Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. All power belongs to the Lord, and he will give it plenteously to those who have none of their own. Be of good courage and wait upon him for no one shall be ashamed who makes him their confidence.
Then there followed a word from the Master’s own mouth. He spoke
and said, “Do not fear.” Here he applied the remedy to the disease.
Christ himself is our medicine, as well as our physician. His voice
which stilled the sea, also casts out all our fears. The word of God,
as we find it in this book, is very consoling; the word of God, as we
hear it from Christ’s ministers, has great power in it; but the real
and true power of the word lies in Jesus THE WORD. When the truth
falls fresh from his own lips, then it is power. Very truly did the
Master say, “the words which I speak to you, they are spirit and they
are life.” With what power did those syllables fall on the fluttering
heart of John — “Do not fear.” Oh that we might hear the same voice by
the Spirit in our innermost souls.
Oh might I hear thine heavenly tongue,
But whisper “Thou art mine.”
Those gentle words should raise my song
To notes almost divine.
Truly there are many voices and each has its significance, but the voice of Jesus has a heaven of bliss in its every accent. Only let my beloved speak to me, and I will forego the angelic symphonies. Although he should only say, “Do not fear,” and not a word beyond, it would be worth worlds to see him open his mouth to us. But you say, can we still hear Jesus speak to us? Indeed, by his Spirit. His Spirit still has fellowship with the hearts of men, and he can bring the word of Scripture right home into the soul, until it becomes no more the letter but the living, quickening word of Christ. Do you know what I mean by this? If you do not, it is not possible to tell you; and if you do, you will need no explanation. Jesus speaks to the heart, the truth comes not in word only, but in demonstration of the Spirit and with power. Oh you troubled believer, you who are abashed by the very glory you have been made to see, be assured that Jesus will draw near to your soul, and touch you, and speak with you, so that you shall be strengthened with might by his Spirit in your inner man. Had John not fallen as dead, he might never have heard the voice and felt the touch of his Lord. Sweet is the fall which leads to such a rise again.
17. In order to complete the cure of his servant our Lord went on to give him fuller instruction in that very matter which had overpowered him. Sometimes like cures like. If in a certain sense it is true of divine revelations, that “shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,” it is assuredly true that “drinking largely sobers us again.” If a glimpse of Christ makes holy men to faint, a clearer sight of him will set them on their feet again. Our Lord went on to instruct John in the glory of his person and power, so that his fears might be removed. And truly, brethren, John was in a proper state for such celestial instruction; he who is lowly is ready to learn mysteries. He was like wax ready for the seal; or as paper cleansed of all other writing. Because we think we know, we do not know; but the death of the pride of knowledge is the birth of true understanding. For pupils the Lord loves best those who lie lowest before him. “He will guide the meek in judgment, he will teach the meek his way.” “With the lowly is wisdom.” Where Jesus is the teacher, and instructs the heart in the things concerning himself, the soul is made to inherit substance, and its treasures are filled. Blessed are the men who are taught by him who is the wisdom of God, even though while they watch at the posts of his doors they lie as dead men; they are blessed, for they shall find life, and obtain favour from the Lord.
18. III. We will now advance to the third point of our discourse which contains its pith. We have observed the beloved disciple overpowered and we have seen him afterwards revived; now we shall consider for awhile THE SAME DISCIPLE STILL FURTHER INSTRUCTED.
19. Let me have your attention, dear friends, to the glorious truth which is now opening up before us in the text. John was first of all instructed concerning the Lord’s person. “Do not fear, I am the first and the last; I am he who lives and was dead.” Concerning the Lord’s person, Jesus revealed to his disciple that he was most truly divine. “I am the first and the last.” This language can be used of no one else except God himself; no one except he is first; no one except he is last; no one except God can be first and last. Now, our Lord Jesus Christ was evidently first. He existed before he was born into the world. We read, “you have prepared a body for me.” Then Christ was a previously existing one for whom that body was prepared; and it is he who said, “Lo, I come, to do your will oh God.” He came into the world, but he had from old eternity dwelt in the bosom of the Father. John the Baptist was born into the world before the Saviour, of whom he was the forerunner, but what does he say? His testimony is “he, coming after me, is preferred before me, for he was before me.” He is first in order of honour because first in order of existence. John was the older as man, but as God the Lord Jesus is from everlasting. Go back in history as far as you wish; with one leap ascend to the days of Moses, and there is Christ before you, for we read: “Let us not tempt Christ as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents.” Then Christ was there in the wilderness vexed by the people. It was he whose voice then shook the earth, but who will yet shake not only the earth but also heaven. Go further back to Abraham, and we find the angel of the covenant there. Our Lord expressly says, “Before Abraham was I am.” Notice that, not “I was,” but “I am”; — he speaks in a Godlike manner. Ascend even to the age of Noah, the second parent of our race, and there we discover Jesus Christ preaching “to those spirits who are now in prison, who for sometime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing.” It was Christ in Noah, who by the Spirit preached to the antediluvian sinners. We go further back to the creation of the world, and we find “In the beginning was the word, and the word was God”; and if we fly back to old eternity, before the creating hand commenced its work, we find in Proverbs the witness of the incarnate wisdom himself. “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or before the earth ever was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills I was brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.” (Pr 8:23-26) So our Lord is the first: and so assuredly he will be the last; for all things consist and exist through the perpetual emanations of his infinite power; and when the kings of the earth shall sleep in the dust, and their powers shall have passed away, when the treasures of time shall have melted, and its most enduring memorials shall have gone like the mists of the morning, he shall be the same, and there shall be no end of his years. Christ is the true Melchizedek, without beginning of days or end of years, “made a priest not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.” This was revealed to John for his comfort, and it stands true for us today, and is equally full of consolation.
20. Moreover, by the words “the first and the last” are meant, in most languages, the sum and substance of all things. We say sometimes its top and bottom is so and so; we mean that it is the whole thing. And the Greeks were accustomed to say, “This is the prow and stern of the business,” meaning that it is the whole thing. And so Jesus Christ, in being first and last, is all in all. And, truly, it is so in the working of redemption and salvation; he begins, carries on, completes; he asks no creature help and will have none. For us he is the author and the finisher of our faith, the alpha of our first comfort, and the omega of our final bliss. We worship Christ as the sum and substance of all good. Herein is a wealth of comfort, and, therefore, the Lord instructed his servant, John, in this, he as much as said, “John, you need not fear, for I am no enemy, no stranger, no avenging spirit, but God himself, in whom you have learned to put your trust. You believe in God, believe also in me.” To every trembling believer we would say, “Why do you fear? Jesus is all.” Are you afraid of him, your brother, your Saviour, your friend? Then, what do you fear? Anything of old? He is the first. Anything to come? He is the last. Anything in all the world? He is all in all, from the first to the last. What do you want? If you have him you have everything. Do you need more than all? Have you discovered a need within your spirit, a grievous lack which troubles you? How can that be when your Lord Jesus fills all things, and all things are yours in him? If you have, indeed, placed your confidence in him, and made him all your salvation, to what end and for what purpose should you be troubled with any kind of fear? Having a divine person to be your protector and your Saviour, why should you be afraid?
21. In addition, however, to render to John the comfort derived from his person, our blessed Master went on to comfort him with the truth of his self-existence. “I am he who lives,” he says, “or I am the living one.” Creatures are not living in themselves, “they borrow leave to be”; it belongs to God alone to exist necessarily. He is the I AM, and such is Christ. Why then do you fear? If the existence of your Lord, your Saviour, were precarious and dependent upon some extraneous circumstances, you would have reason for fear, for you would be in constant jeopardy. If he had to borrow permission to be, derived strength from creatures, and needed to look here and there for strength to sustain his own existence, you would be always in danger, and consequently in distress; but, since Jesus cannot possibly cease to be, or be other than he is, or less than he is, what occasion can you have for alarm? A self-existent Saviour, and yet a troubled Christian! Oh, let it not be so. “Do not fear, I am he who lives.”
22. And, if these two sources of consolation should not suffice, the Lord in the glory of his tenderness mentions a third — that is, his atoning death. He says, “I was dead,” the original more correctly rendered is “was made dead.” Here we come upon the human nature of our Redeemer. As God and as man he had two natures, but he was not two people. As one person he always lives, and yet he was made to die. He came into this world in human form so that he might be capable of death; the pure spirit of God could not die, it was not possible that he, the I AM, could be subject to death; but he allied himself with humanity, and in that human form Jesus could die, and did die. In very deed, and truth, and not in semblance; Jesus bowed his head, and gave up the ghost, and they laid his corpse in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Here is a fruitful source of consolation for the child of God. He died, then the atonement is complete; without the shedding of blood there is no remission, but the death of the Son of God brings plenteous pardon. There must be in the death of such a one of sufficient merit to remove guilt and cleanse transgression. Is it not written, “He has washed us from our sins in his own blood?” Do you not hear that song in heaven? Will its music not make you glad? His own blood has washed you; if you believe in him you are clean. Look to Calvary, and as you look there and perceive that he was dead, “Do not fear.”
23. And then the master declared his endless life, “I am alive for evermore.” He who offered up the atonement lives again to claim the effect of his sacrifice. He has presented the meritorious sacrifice, and now he has gone to heaven to plead the sacrifice before the throne of God, and to lay claim to the place which he has prepared for those who love him. You have no dead Saviour to trust in: you rely in him who once died — this is comfort for you, but he lives, the great Redeemer lives. He has risen from the tomb; he has climbed the hills of heaven; he sits at the right hand of the Father, prepared to defend his people. If you had a Christ in the sepulchre that would be sorrow upon sorrow; but you have a Christ in heaven, who can die no more. Be of good cheer.
24. And then, to conclude the sermon, the Master said “Amen, and has the keys of hell and of death.” The mediatorial office which Christ now occupies is one of great power. He is “God over all, blessed for ever.” His dominion is over land and sea, and over heaven and the regions of the dead. There is nothing hidden from the energy of his power. He is Lord of all. “He has the keys of hell and of death.” By the word “hell” may be meant here the entire invisible land, the whole realm of spirits: Christ is Lord there, adored in heaven and feared in hell. But, if we restrict the sense to the common meaning of the word in our language, he is Lord of hell. The devil despite his malignity can do nothing except what Christ permits him. He is a chained enemy; he may rave and rage, but he cannot injure the child of God. Christ always has him in check, and when he permits him to wander abroad, he makes the wrath of man and the wrath of demons to praise him, and the remainder he restrains. Therefore, why do you fear? You say, “I am a sinner — Satan will prevail against me.” But Christ says “I am master of Satan, I am Lord of hell, he cannot prevail against you.” He cannot leave hell unless Christ permits him, for Christ can turn the key and lock him in. He could not take you there, for Christ has locked you out and keeps the key. You are eternally and perpetually safe from all the machinations of the powers of darkness. And do you tremble about death? Does that alarm you? Have the pains and groans and dying strifes sounded in your ear until you are timid and afraid? Then remember Christ has the keys of death. You cannot die until he permits. If men of blood should seek your life, they could not strike you until your Lord should allow it; and if plagues and death should fly all around you, and thousands die at your right hand, and ten thousands at your left, you cannot die until the Lord wills it. You are immortal until he says “return.” The iron gate of death does not open of its own accord to you, a thousand angels could not drag you to the tomb; you only come there at his call. Do not fear, therefore, but remember that death is no longer death for the saints of God, they fall asleep in Jesus. Since your Lord will be with you, it will not be death to die; you shall find death to you an enemy muzzled and chained: the wasp shall have lost its sting, it shall be a bee that shall bring you honey; from the lion, as Samson did, you shall get sweetness for yourself. Death is overcome, and when it arrives, Jesus will come with it, and make your deathbed most soft for you.
Remember one more thought. He who has the key of death will
annihilate death; for your body shall not become the prey of the worm
for ever. At the trump of the archangel your body shall rise again.
There shall not a bone or a piece of a bone of one of his people
perish, their very dust is precious in his sight. They sleep for
awhile, and rest from their labours; but,
From beds of dust and silent clay,
The Lord of life shall call them all.
Oh death, where is your sting! Oh grave, where is your victory! Since Jesus who died and lives for ever has the keys of death and hell on his belt, we will not fear to die, no matter when the appointed time happens. So that you see there was abundance of comfort for the sinking spirit of the apostle John.
26. Let me close by saying, in the glory and exaltation of Christ is the saint’s cordial. Some of us have tried it when our mouths were full of bitterness, and we have rejoiced and been exceedingly glad at the thought. A reigning Saviour makes a joyful people. Run there for comfort, you sons of sorrow: rejoice in your King all you his saints.
27. But this same glorious Saviour will be the sinner’s terror. They shall hide their faces at the last from the brightness of his glory; they shall ask the hills and mountains to conceal them from his face who sits upon the throne. A glorious monarch is the rebel’s horror. By so much as he whom you have rejected is great and glorious, by so much shall the punishment from his right hand be intolerable. Oh that you were wise enough to cease from fighting with the Almighty Lord.
But, lastly, he is also the penitent’s hope; for now, today, if
you wish to be forgiven, the exalted Saviour presents himself to you
most freely. He is exalted on high, but what for? It is to give
“repentance and remission of sins.” The greater he is the better for
those who need great mercy; the more royal and kingly he is the
better for humble, broken, bleeding hearts. “Oh, kiss the son, lest
he is angry and you perish from the way while his wrath is kindled
only a little.” From the highest heaven he stretches down the silver
sceptre; touch it by a simple faith. May he enable you to do it, and
though as yet you fall at his feet as dead, you shall hear him say
this morning, “Do not fear, I am he who lives, and was dead, and am
alive for evermore, and am, therefore, able to save to the uttermost
those who come to God by me, seeing I always live to make
intercession for you.” May God bless you, dear friends, by his
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Pr 8:17-36 Re 1]