“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘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 1:17-18 (ESV)
I’ve never read a book as frightening and comforting as the Bible. That is because the God of the Bible is a frightening and comforting God.
He is full of blinding glory and tender grace, both transcendent and immanent, the eternal God who clothed himself in frail humanity.
When the apostle John set his eyes upon the one who had eyes like a flame, feet like burnished bronze, a voice like the roar of many waters, and a face like the blazing sun, he was struck to the ground with fear (Rev 1:14-17).
Appropriately so. As Calvin said, “Man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty” (Inst. 1.1.3)
How marvelous it is, then, that this same God who filled the apostle with dread touched the trembling man with his right hand and said “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.”
Yes, the God whose thunderous voice breaks the cedars (Ps 29:5) can also calm the fearful soul of the one who trembles before him. Because this majestic one has died and risen again and has full authority over death and the judgment to come, the redeemed sinner is touched by God and told not to fear.
And so let us come before him with reverence and awe, with wonder and trembling, and with thankful and joyful hearts that this God who dwells in unapproachable light has come near to us in his Son.