I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for ever more, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
1:12-20 The churches receive their light from Christ and the gospel, and hold it forth to others. They are golden candlesticks; they should be precious and pure; not only the ministers, but the members of the churches; their light should so shine before men, as to engage others to give glory to God. And the apostle saw as though of the Lord Jesus Christ appeared in the midst of the golden candlesticks. He is with his churches always, to the end of the world, filling them with light, and life, and love. He was clothed with a robe down to the feet, perhaps representing his righteousness and priesthood, as Mediator. This vest was girt with a golden girdle, which may denote how precious are his love and affection for his people. His head and hairs white like wool and as snow, may signify his majesty, purity, and eternity. His eyes as a flame of fire, may represent his knowledge of the secrets of all hearts, and of the most distant events. His feet like fine brass burning in a furnace, may denote the firmness of his appointments, and the excellence of his proceedings. His voice as the sound of many waters, may represent the power of his word, to remove or to destroy. The seven stars were emblems of the ministers of the seven churches to which the apostle was ordered to write, and whom Christ upheld and directed. The sword represented his justice, and his word, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, Heb 4:12. His countenance was like the sun, when it shines clearly and powerfully; its strength too bright and dazzling for mortal eyes to behold. The apostle was overpowered with the greatness of the lustre and glory in which Christ appeared. We may well be contented to walk by faith, while here upon earth. The Lord Jesus spake words of comfort; Fear not. Words of instruction; telling who thus appeared. And his Divine nature; the First and the Last. His former sufferings; I was dead: the very same whom his disciples saw upon the cross. His resurrection and life; I have conquered death, and am partaker of endless life. His office and authority; sovereign dominion in and over the invisible world, as the Judge of all, from whose sentence there is no appeal. Let us listen to the voice of Christ, and receive the tokens of his love, for what can he withhold from those for whose sins he has died? May we then obey his word, and give up ourselves wholly to him who directs all things aright.
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.
Hades, See Scofield Note: "Lk 16:23".
I am he that liveth,.... As the eternal God, who has life in himself, originally, essentially, and inderivatively, and is the fountain and author of life to others; and who ever lived as the Mediator and Redeemer, and still does, and ever will, yea, even when he was dead as man:
and was dead; he died the death of the cross, for the sins of his people, in due time, and but once; and it was but a short time he was held under the power of death, and will never die any more:
and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; he was always alive as God, or he was always the living God, and ever will be; and he is now alive as man, and will for ever continue so; and he is alive to God, he lives by him, with him, and to his glory; and he is alive to the benefit and advantage of his redeemed ones, for whom he died; he ever lives to make intercession for them; he rose again from the dead for their justification; their being quickened together with him, and their being begotten again to a lively hope, are owing to his being alive; and as their reconciliation is by his death, so their salvation, or the application of it to them, is by his interceding life; and his resurrection is the cause of theirs: this is very fitly said to John, who was fallen as dead at the feet of Christ, and might be to animate him against the fears of death, or whatever he was to meet with on account of Christ; as well as to make himself known unto him, who had before known him, living, dying, and risen again. The word "Amen" is left out in the Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions; but is in others, and is rightly retained, either as an asseveration of Christ to the truth of what is before said, or as an assent of John's unto it, who was a proper witness both of the death and resurrection of Christ:
and have the keys of hell and death; or "of death and hell"; as the words are transposed in the Alexandrian copy and Complutensian edition, in the Vulgate Latin and in all the Oriental versions, agreeably to Revelation 6:8, by which phrase is expressed the power of Christ over both: his power over death is seen in taking away persons by death when he pleases, the instances of Ananias and Sapphira are proofs of this; and in delivering persons from death when near it, as the centurion's servant, Peter's wife's mother, and the nobleman's son of Capernaum; and in raising persons from the dead, as Jairus's daughter, the widow of Naam's son, and Lazarus, when he was here on earth; and in his raising up his own body when dead, and which will also appear in raising all the dead at the last day: and his power over "hell", by which may be meant the grave, or the place of the departed, and separate souls, or the place of the damned and of the devils which are there, will be seen in opening the graves at the time of the resurrection, when death and hell, or the grave, will deliver up the dead in them, at his command; and in retaining or sending out the separate souls "in hades"; and in opening the doors of hell, and casting in the wicked, and destroying them, soul and body, there; and in shutting them up, that they cannot come out from thence who are once in; and in binding Satan, and casting him into the bottomless pit, and shutting him up there, the key of which he has in his hand; and in preserving his church and people from his power and malice, so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against them. This is an expression of the sovereignty, power, and authority of Christ; and is designed to encourage and support John under his present concern and anxiety of mind about the person he saw in this vision: , "the key of the grave", and of the resurrection of the dead, is frequently said by the Jews to be one of the keys which are in the hands of the holy blessed God, and his only; not in the hands of an angel or a seraph, or any other (u),
(u) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 73. fol. 64. 3. Targum Jerus. in Genesis 30.21. & Jon in Deuteronomy 28.12. Zohar in Gen. fol. 67. 3. Pirke Eliezer, c. 34. T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 2. 1. & Sandedrin, fol. 113. 1.I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
I am He that liveth (καὶ ὁ ζῶν)
Not a fresh sentence connected with the following words as in A.V., but connected with the first and the last by καὶ and. Rev., and the living One. Compare John 1:4; John 14:6; John 5:26.
And l was dead (καὶ ἐγενόμην νεκρὸς)
Strictly, I became. So Rev., in margin. Compare Philippians 2:8, "became obedient unto death."
See on Revelation 1:6.
The keys of Hell and Death
Rev., correctly, of Death and of Hades. Conceived as a prison-house or a walled city. See on Matthew 16:18. The keys are the symbol of authority. See Matthew 16:19; Revelation 3:7; Revelation 9:1; Revelation 20:1. The Rabbinical proverb said: "There are four keys lodged in God's hand, which He committeth neither to angel nor to seraph: the key of the rain, the key of food, the key of the tombs, and the key of a barren woman."
18. Translate as Greek, "And THE Living One": connected with last sentence, Re 1:17.
and was—Greek, "and (yet) I became."
alive for evermore—Greek, "living unto the ages of ages": not merely "I live," but I have life, and am the source of it to My people. "To Him belongs absolute being, as contrasted with the relative being of the creature; others may share, He only hath immortality: being in essence, not by mere participation, immortal" [Theodoret in Trench]. One oldest manuscript, with English Version, reads Amen." Two others, and most of the oldest versions and Fathers, omit it. His having passed through death as one of us, and now living in the infinite plenitude of life, reassures His people, since through Him death is the gate of resurrection to eternal life.
have … keys of hell—Greek, "Hades"; Hebrew, "Sheol." "Hell" in the sense, the place of torment, answers to a different Greek word, namely, Gehenna. I can release from the unseen world of spirits and from DEATH whom I will. The oldest manuscripts read by transposition, "Death and Hades," or Hell." It is death (which came in by sin, robbing man of his immortal birthright, Ro 5:12) that peoples Hades, and therefore should stand first in order. Keys are emblems of authority, opening and shutting at will "the gates of Hades" (Ps 9:13, 14; Isa 38:10; Mt 16:18).
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.
1. The key of the rain;
2. The key of provision;
3. The key of the grave; and
4. The key of the barren womb."
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.
1:18 And he that liveth - Another peculiar title of God. And I have the keys of death and of hades - That is, the invisible world. In the intermediate state, the body abides in death, the soul in hades. Christ hath the keys of, that is, the power over, both; killing or quickening of the body, and disposing of the soul, as it pleaseth him. He gave St. Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven; but not the keys of death or of hades. How comes then his supposed successor at Rome by the keys of purgatory? From the preceding description, mostly, are taken the titles given to Christ in the following letters, particularly the four first.
1:18 He that liveth, and was dead.
Put to death but living.
And have the keys of hell and of death. The keys of death and of Hades (Revised Version). Not only a victor over death, but the very gates of death and Hades are under his control. Hence he can deliver from the dead whom he will.