The One Who Holds the Keys – Revelation 1:4-18

“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17b-18)

Have you ever considered the power you have as a key holder? Perhaps you have been given keys to a house, signifying your authority as a homeowner. Perhaps you’ve been given keys to a building or a room at work, indicating the trust invested in you by a superior. Perhaps you’ve even experienced losing your keys and desperately wishing you had them to open the door.

The human race is like a desperate man who lost his keys. We knock, claw, and pound at the door, but it just won’t budge. Our cries grow louder as we turn around and see a formidable enemy charging at us, but there is no escape.

This bleak picture signifies the condition we’re in. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death is our enemy. Try as we may, we cannot escape its power, nor can we open the door to eternal life.

Enter the good news of Easter. The resurrection of Jesus is a statement given in strongest terms against death and hell. And what is the statement? That death has been conquered!

Not only was death given a deathblow at the resurrection, but also Christ’s nature and character were vindicated. The resurrection proved Christ’s divinity; it proved his power; it proved the finality of the atonement; it proved his prophecies and teaching; and it proved his authority. Death “no longer has dominion over him” (Romans 6:9).

The grave carries some authority. It is a stark reminder of the temporal nature of life. We’ve witnessed loved ones succumb to its call. Its inevitability influences many decisions we make, from purchasing life insurance to going on diets and whatever we can to stay its arrival. Sometimes, death comes unexpectedly. All humans are subject to death. No matter how successful one is, death is expected to get the last laugh.

However, Jesus Christ, by virtue of his resurrection, has all authority in heaven and on earth – even over death! This ultimate authority is pictured by the phrase “I have the keys of Death and Hades” in Revelation 1:18.

The keys signify Christ’s power over the grave. They show us that death has an authority of it now, namely our Lord Jesus. They tell us that there is only One who can open the door to life for us. They display the satisfaction of God the Father handing all authority to his Son, the Living One. The Lord Jesus Christ holds the keys, and we can trust him to have the final victory over death and grant us access to life eternal with God. He is risen!

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Ephesians: A Disappointing Epilogue Revelation 2:1-7

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Revelation 2:4

With all of the highly exalted doctrine, majestic Christology, and practical teaching on church and family life, contained in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesian church, we might expect the church at Ephesus to have become the strongest in all of Asia, as they read, digested, exposited, and lived this epistle. And indeed as the risen Jesus Christ appeared to John on the island of Patmos dictating His final inspired message to the seven churches, he commended the church of Ephesus to be much about the Father’s business: they are strong in upholding God’s holiness in their midst; they are quick to recognize false apostles and false teaching; they have persevered and have patience, and have labored for Christ’s name sake and have not become weary (Rev 2:1-3).

Nevertheless, Jesus had a very important indictment against them that strikes at the heart of what it means to be a Christian – they had left their first love. (Rev 2:4). Somehow they had fallen from the early heights of their devotion to Jesus Christ and descended to the plains of mediocrity. As Jesus prophesied, “the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:12), sad to say, this was true of the Ephesians. What a disappointing end for a church to whom much was given!

Without our first love, the work, ministry, holiness, and doctrinal purity of the church is lifeless. It is significant that 30 years prior to this message, Paul ended the epistle to the church with a prayer for those “who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love undying” (Eph 6:24). By now, a new generation had arisen whose love was faltering, weakened, and dying. They toiled with vigor but not with love; they put the message of their teachers to the test, but without love. Their orthodoxy and orthopraxy had become cold and dead, without the warmth which comes with love for Christ.

Has this not been a pattern in the church over and over again? Wherever there have been revivals of great doctrinal truths, have they not often fizzled out into disappointingly cold dead religion? Just a look at much of Presbyteriansm and Lutheranism today is evidence of how revivals and reformation end up dying. And we are not exempt from this. Just as Jesus warned the Ephesians, He warns us as well, that unless we remember, repent, and resume our first works, that He will remove our lampstand from its place (Rev 2:5). No individual church has a secure and permanent place in God’s kingdom on earth. If we can judge by the letter that Ignatius wrote to the Ephesian church in the second Century, they heeded Christ’s appeal, as he wrote of them in glowing terms; however, by the Middle Ages, it lapsed again and was all but obliterated.

To this warning, Christ adds a promise to the penitent. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God (Rev 2:7). The church has a mission and a work to be done, we have a fight to be fought and creed to be defended, but above all we have a Person to love with love incorruptible. May ours be a church not only about the Father’s business, but continually repenting and burning ever hotter in our love for Jesus Christ.

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