Revelation 1:17
(17) I fell at his feet as dead.--At the sight of Him, the Evangelist fell as one dead. "Was this He whom upon earth St. John had known so familiarly? Was this He in whose bosom He had lain at that Last Supper, and said, 'Lord, which is he that betrayeth Thee?' When I saw Him thus transformed, thus glorified, I fell at His feet as one dead. Well might such be the effect, even upon the spirit of a just man made perfect--and St. John was still in the body--of such an open revelation of the risen glory of Christ" (Dr. Vaughan). It was pity, and the pang felt at the severity of retribution which overtook sin, which made Dante fall as a dead body falls (Inferno, v.); it is the felt consciousness of unworthiness which seems to have overcome the Evangelist. This consciousness has its witness outside the Bible as well as in it. "Semele must perish if Jupiter reveals himself to her in his glory, being consumed in the brightness of that glory." (Comp. Exodus 33:18; Exodus 33:20, "Thou canst not see My face; for there shall no man see Me and live.") For every man it is a dreadful thing to stand face to face with God. Yet the consciousness of this unworthiness to behold God, or to receive a near revelation of His presence, is a sign of faith, and is welcomed as such. Of him who said, "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof," Christ said, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel" (Matthew 8:8-10).

He laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not.--The words "unto me" should be omitted. The gesture is designed to give the assurance of comfort; the hand which was raised up to bless (Luke 24:51), which was reached forth to heal the leper, to raise the sinking Peter (Matthew 14:31), and to touch the wounded ear of Malchus, is now stretched out to reassure His servant; and the words, like those which John had heard upon the Mount of Transfiguration, and when toiling against the waves of Galilee, bid him not to be afraid. (Comp. Daniel 10:10.)

I am the first and the last.--The "last" must not be taken here to mean the least and lowest, as though it referred to our Lord's humiliation; the last points forwards, as the first points backwards. He was before all things, and so the first; and though all things change, folded up as a vesture, yet His years shall not fail, and so He is the last. "The first because all things are from Me; the last because to Me are all things" (Richard of St. Victor). (Comp. Colossians 1:16-18; Hebrews 1:11-12.) This pre-eminence of first and last is thrice claimed for the Lord Jehovah in Isaiah (Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12), and thrice for the Lord Jesus in this book (in this passage, in Revelation 2:8, and Revelation 22:13).

Verse 17. - I fell at his feet as dead; literally, as one dead - as a dead man. St. Peter had fallen at Jesus' feet when he became conscious of the ineffable difference between sinlessness and sinfulness (Luke 5:8). How much more, therefore, would consciousness of the glorified Christ overwhelm St. John! Long years of contemplation of the incarnate Son would not prevent that. In like manner, Joshua (Joshua 5:14), Daniel (Daniel 7:17, 27), and St. Paul (Acts 9:4) are affected by the Divine presence. Fear not. Thus Christ encouraged the terrified apostles on the lake (John 6:20) and at the Transfiguration. So also the angel cheered Daniel (Daniel 10:12), Zacharias (Luke 1:13), Mary (Luke 1:30), the shepherds (Luke 2:10), and the women at the sepulchre (Matthew 28:5).

1:12-20 The churches receive their light from Christ and the gospel, and hold it forth to others. They are golden candlesticks; they should be precious and pure; not only the ministers, but the members of the churches; their light should so shine before men, as to engage others to give glory to God. And the apostle saw as though of the Lord Jesus Christ appeared in the midst of the golden candlesticks. He is with his churches always, to the end of the world, filling them with light, and life, and love. He was clothed with a robe down to the feet, perhaps representing his righteousness and priesthood, as Mediator. This vest was girt with a golden girdle, which may denote how precious are his love and affection for his people. His head and hairs white like wool and as snow, may signify his majesty, purity, and eternity. His eyes as a flame of fire, may represent his knowledge of the secrets of all hearts, and of the most distant events. His feet like fine brass burning in a furnace, may denote the firmness of his appointments, and the excellence of his proceedings. His voice as the sound of many waters, may represent the power of his word, to remove or to destroy. The seven stars were emblems of the ministers of the seven churches to which the apostle was ordered to write, and whom Christ upheld and directed. The sword represented his justice, and his word, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, Heb 4:12. His countenance was like the sun, when it shines clearly and powerfully; its strength too bright and dazzling for mortal eyes to behold. The apostle was overpowered with the greatness of the lustre and glory in which Christ appeared. We may well be contented to walk by faith, while here upon earth. The Lord Jesus spake words of comfort; Fear not. Words of instruction; telling who thus appeared. And his Divine nature; the First and the Last. His former sufferings; I was dead: the very same whom his disciples saw upon the cross. His resurrection and life; I have conquered death, and am partaker of endless life. His office and authority; sovereign dominion in and over the invisible world, as the Judge of all, from whose sentence there is no appeal. Let us listen to the voice of Christ, and receive the tokens of his love, for what can he withhold from those for whose sins he has died? May we then obey his word, and give up ourselves wholly to him who directs all things aright.And when I saw him,.... The glorious person here described, who was just behind him, and of whom he had a full view, being so near him:

I fell at his feet as dead; through consternation and fear, the sight was so amazing and terrible; the appearance of a divine person in any degree of majesty and glory, has had some considerable effect upon men, even upon the best of men; but John seems to be more affected with it than any, as the vision was the more grand and illustrious: Manoah was afraid he should die, but did not fall down as dead; Ezekiel fell upon his face, but had his senses; Daniel's comeliness turned into corruption, and he retained no strength, he fainted, and fell into a deep sleep; see Judges 13:22; but John fell down at once, as dead. This panic which good men were seized with, at any more than ordinary appearance of God, or apprehension of his presence, arose from a notion that present death ensues a sight of him; hence Jacob wonders, and is thankful, that he had seen God face to face, and yet his life was preserved, Genesis 32:30; and such an effect as here, upon the body, any uncommon discovery of the divine Being has, partly through the weakness of human nature, which in its present circumstances is not able to bear the rays and glories of a divine person; hence the resurrection of the body in power, glory, and immortality, incorruption and spirituality, is necessary to the enjoyment of God and Christ in a state of bliss and happiness to all eternity; and partly through a consciousness of sin, which ever since the fall of Adam has occasioned fear and perturbation of mind, even in the best of saints, when they have had any sense of the divine Majesty being near, in an unusual form of glory:

and he laid his right hand upon me; even the same in which he had, and held the seven stars; and which showed what an affection he had for him, in what esteem he had him, what care he took of him, and what power he would exert in lifting up, strengthening, and supporting him; for he laid not his hand on him in wrath and angers, but in love; and in order to raise him up and revive his spirits, and remove his fears; hence the Ethiopic version renders it, "and he took hold on me with his right hand, and lifted me up"; as he does all who in a spiritual sense fall at his feet; it is always safe and comfortable falling there:

saying unto me, fear not; language which John had heard from him in the days of his flesh, and might therefore be chose now on purpose that he might the sooner know who he was and be comforted; see Matthew 14:27.

I am the first and the last; a way of speaking used by God when he is about to comfort his people, and remove their fears; see Isaiah 41:4; and is used by Christ for the same purpose here; and so is a proof of his true and proper deity, and is expressive of his eternity, and also of his dignity and excellency: he is the first and last in divine predestination, in the covenant of grace, in creation, in the business of salvation, and in his church, by whom, and for whom, are all things in it; he is the head of the body, the Son over his own house, and the firstborn among many brethren; and so the Alexandrian copy read, here, "the firstborn and the last". "the first", is a name of the Messiah with the Jews (t); See Gill on Revelation 1:8.

(t) T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 5. 1. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 63. fol. 55. 2. Vajikra Rabba, sect. 30. fol. 171. 2. & Tzeror Hammor, fol. 71. 4.

Revelation 1:16
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