“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. 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.’” (Revelation 1.17-18, NKJV)
We have a rat terrier named Penny. Usually she barks and runs to me when I come home from work. (Now that our children are grown up it’s a great ego boost to have someone run up to greet me!) But sometimes I’ll come home and not hear the barking. I’ll open the door and have to call her name. Slowly, she comes out crawling with her face to the ground. I know that she has done something wrong. But what? (Do dogs really feel guilty?)
There is a healthy fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom. But there is also an unhealthy fear based on false guilt or feelings of condemnation. In the perfect light of Christ we see ourselves for who we really are. That’s enough to cause panic in any of us. We know we aren’t worthy, and we are afraid to come into His presence. Is it any wonder that the commandment Jesus gave most often was, “Do not fear?” We are afraid of so many things: rejection, failure, the future, past sins, economic need, loneliness, etc. But perhaps the greatest and most universal fear is the fear of death. It was for this reason that Jesus came. The author of Hebrews tells us:
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2.14-15, NKJV)
The fear of death is bondage. It holds us captive and prevents us from really living in faith, freedom, power and victory. So when John fell down at Jesus’ feet, Jesus touched Him with His right hand and comforted him by saying, “Do not be afraid.” Then Jesus encouraged him with three truths:
- “I am the First and the Last.” Whatever we may have to go through, Jesus is at the beginning and He’ll be at the end. He is the author and finisher of our faith.
- “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” He took upon Himself flesh and blood and satisfied the righteousness of God. Then He died so that He could ultimately destroy the one who had the power of death–namely, the devil. In conquering death He has removed its sting and delivered us from its fear.
- “I have the keys of Hades and Death.” Satan is no longer holding the keys–neither is the grim reaper. Jesus holds the keys of Hades and Death, and He saves all who put their trust in Him.
While guilt over our sins drives us to the cross, once we have received forgiveness through faith, confession and repentance (U-turn), guilt’s work is done. Now we can receive His healing touch and hear those words, “Do not be afraid.” He has set us free from the bondage of fear. We don’t have to crawl with our nose in the carpet anymore. We can lift ourselves up and jump up into His arms!
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