The Fear-Dispelling Lord Jesus Christ
John had just seen a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ and had heard His voice: it first sounded like a trumpet blast of command, and then as the sound of rushing waters - either a deluge of judgement or life-giving (Revelation 1:12-16). Awestruck, John collapsed at His feet. Moses had not been allowed to see the Lord because His majestic purity would consume him (Exodus 33:20-23). Yet Peter, James and John had been allowed to see the Lord Jesus gloriously transfigured (2 Peter 1:16-18). In Jesus Christ, God has become accessible (John 1:14). Even so, John was totally overwhelmed by the divine vision, and he adopted the position of an unworthy person begging for mercy.
The right hand of Jesus rules in power. We may wonder what John thought as that hand was placed upon him. Perhaps more terror, fearing judgement. But the voice which spoke was neither a stern command, nor a deluge of sounds, but kind intelligible speech. His first words were, 'Do not be afraid'. It is an often-repeated divine command (over 350 times in the Bible) to those who accept God's authority and recognise their own sin and weakness. Jesus then describes His sovereignty over creation using Isaiah's description of God, 'the First and the Last' (Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12): the One who accomplishes all He begins. But for the believer, that is not judgement, but glory – so there is no need to fear.
Jesus is alive. Whatever heresy may have circulated about Jesus, He proclaimed His own eternal life. His death was only possible because of His physical body sacrificed for us: but death could not hold the ever-living God (Acts 2:24). Jesus wanted John to look at Him and listen to Him. The prophecy in Revelation is of such importance that John must have no doubt at all that this was Jesus speaking, because He alone has authority over the future, death itself (which He proved to be defeated by His resurrection), and those who are dead.
It is a strange paradox that those who are most in awe of the glory of God are often those who are most conscious of their unworthiness. The more we know of God's grace in Christ, the more we despair of ourselves and tremble at His voice. That is why the Lord says, 'Do not be afraid'. It is one of the implied themes in Revelation, to comfort the believers in hardship and give leading lights through the darkness, because the Lord is coming back for His people and their future is truly glorious (Revelation 21:1-4). In the meantime, we need true comfort about death (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) so that we can live confidently despite our inner weakness, temptation and persecution. Cowering fear has no right to control the believer. The One who died is alive, proving that His sacrifice for our sins has been accepted. Despite Satan's best efforts to convince us that we are imprisoned in our past, the Lord has commanded us to trust Him and not be afraid.
© Dr Paul Adams