Revelation 1:18: Power-filled Commissioner

Updated: Jul 27, 2019

Verse 18:[1] (Rom. 6:9) I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, (Rev. 4:9; 5:14) I am alive for evermore, Amen; and (Psalm 68:20; Rev. 20:1) have the keys of hell and of death.


[And, etc., καὶ ὁ ζῶν—ἀμήν] And the living One (or, that living One [Vatablus, Piscator], or, who lives [Beza], that is, that living God [Cluverus, Durham], having life in myself, and bestowing it upon others, John 5:26 [Durham]: Ζῶν, the living One, that is, ζωοποιῶν, the life-giving One, as ζῶν is used in John 6:51[2] and Acts 7:38:[3] Christ, while dwelling in the earth, had proclaimed life to the dead, health [which also is itself called life among the Hebrews] to the sick [Grotius]), and I was made (or, but I had been [Beza], or, for I had been indeed [Piscator]) dead (namely, as man [Durham]: that is to say, and yet I myself in fact entered death: This, therefore, is said [either] so that He might be known to be one that is able to have compassion on others, Hebrews 4:15: Indeed, that especially was pertaining to the removal of John’s fear, the fear arising from the majesty of Christ [Grotius]: [Or, that is to say] Thus also ye, although ye die, shall rise again full of glory; enemies shall not harm you [Ribera]), and (or, but [Piscator]), behold, I am living for evermore. (He invokes the resurrection, and the consolation flowing from thence to the faithful [Durham]: [that is to say] I live in such a way that I am able to supply to thee and to others temporal and eternal life, John 10:28 [Grotius]. The particle, behold, denotes a thing to be admired [Pareus, Cluverus]. Everlasting life, not even falsified by death, He attributes to Himself: I, says He, was living and dead, that is, at the same time, on account of His two natures; otherwise He was saying nothing new or great, since no one is said to be dead except that he was previously alive [Pareus].) Amen (Montanus, etc.). This appears to be an interlocution of John; and that after this the speech of Christ is continued. The persons speaking are silent in the meantime. See near the end of this Book (Grotius). Others: It is an asservation for the confirmation both of His own Resurrection, and that He is the living God and man in one person (Durham): that is to say, This, which I say, is most certain, that I live, etc. (Brightman).


I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore; the living God, who had life in myself, and gave life to the world, but assumed the human nature, and was made man, and in that nature died; but I rose again from the dead, and shall die no more, but ever live to make intercession for my people. Amen; this is a great truth.



[And I have the keys of death (both temporal, and eternal [Piscator]) and of hell] That is, of the second death, Revelation 2:11 and 20:6 (Cluverus). He mentions only these two things because on account of these especially the faithful fear for themselves (Durham). Θάνατος is death; ᾅδεης/Hades is the state after death.[4] See Matthew 16:18;[5] 1 Corinthians 15:55;[6] Revelation 6:8;[7] 20:13, 14.[8] What is said of God, 1 Samuel 2:6; Psalm 68:20, Christ claims this for Himself also by right. He is able both to close and to open the bars of Death (Grotius); He has the key by which hell is opened and shut (Piscator). The key signifies authority and power (Grotius, similarly Cluverus, Durham), as in Isaiah 22:21, 22 (Durham); Matthew 16:19 (Cluverus); Revelation 3:7; 9:1; 20:1 (Grotius, Cluverus). He anticipates an objection, Thou hast indeed transformed death into life. But how shall this come to pass for us (Cotterius)? Response: I open to whom I will (Cotterius, thus Ribera); I am able to snatch away to death and to restore to life (Ribera). The Jews and Gentiles were menacing Christians, that they were delivering them to death, and thus casting them down to hell. But, says He, I am the Lord of both, and I am able to disjoin those things (Lapide). Christ means this, that thou shalt not die except when I will: and I will liberate my Church when I will. Now, the titles and ornaments of Christ will soon be brought back into view for the Churches, according to the deserving of each (Grotius).


And have the keys of hell and of death; and have a power to kill, and cast into hell; or, I have the power over death, and the state of the dead, so as I can raise those that are dead to life again: I have the command of death, whether temporal or eternal; as he who hath the keys of a house can let in and shut out of it whom he pleaseth, so I bring to heaven and throw to hell whom I please.

[1] Greek: καὶ ὁ ζῶν, καὶ ἐγενόμην νεκρός, καὶ ἰδού, ζῶν εἰμὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν· καὶ ἔχω τὰς κλεῖς τοῦ ᾅδου καὶ τοῦ θανάτου.


[2] John 6:51: “I am the living (ζῶν) bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live (ζήσεται) for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”


[3] Acts 7:38: “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively (ζῶντα) oracles to give unto us…”


[4] Revelation 1:18b: “…and have the keys of hell (τοῦ ᾅδου) and of death (τοῦ θανάτου).”


[5] Matthew 16:18: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell (ᾅδου) shall not prevail against it.”


[6] 1 Corinthians 15:55: “O death (θάνατε), where is thy sting? O grave (ᾅδη), where is thy victory?”


[7] Revelation 6:8a: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death (ὁ θάνατος), and Hell (ὁ ᾅδης) followed with him…”


[8] Revelation 20:13, 14: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death (ὁ θάνατος) and hell (ὁ ᾅδης) delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death (ὁ θάνατος) and hell (ὁ ᾅδης) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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