The First and the Last

Key Texts: Revelation 1:17-18

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

I think most anyone who looks at it would agree – the Book of Revelation is not easy reading.

It’s filled with complicated imagery, dazzling symbolism, hints of heaven and glimpses of hell, angels, demons, martyrs – you name it – it’s got it.

So, people react to it in a number of ways.

Some see it as a “mystery” book – where only careful analysis and study will lead to understanding.

Others see it as an interesting example of ancient apocalyptic writing – but dismiss it as irrelevant as a guide for spiritual life today.

Still others glance at it, say “Ugh” and simply walk away.

I see it as an amazing book; not one to spend 24 hours a day studying, but not one to dismiss out of hand either.

And, in its deep, mystical way – I find it brings hope.

John’s vision of Christ is, for me, summed up in this one, brief powerful phrase from the lips of the Lord:

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

There it is: “And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

You can’t read the Book of Revelation, take it seriously on faith, and decide that Jesus of Nazareth is just a good man or a talented rabbi of long ago.

You must accept, again on faith, that He actually is “the First and the Last.”

Otherwise, you might as well set aside the Book of Revelation as interesting, but irrelevant.

I for one, take it on faith.  I may not fully understand its deepest mysteries completely, and doubt that I will, this side of heaven.

But I take it – and Christ – on faith.

How about you?

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. Elpis is the Greek word meaning “expectant hope.” He also serves on the associate clinical staff of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, Richmond, Virginia, both as a pastoral counselor and a ministerial assessment specialist, specializing in executive, clergy and relationship coaching. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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