on Revelation 1 :18
I am he that liveth, and was dead - I am Jesus the Savior, who, though the fountain of life, have died for mankind; and being raised from the dead I shall die no more, the great sacrifice being consummated. And have the keys of death and the grave, so that I can destroy the living and raise the dead. The key here signifies the power and authority over life, death, and the grave. This is also a rabbinical form of speech. In the Jerusalem Targum, on Genesis 30:22, are these words: "There are four Keys in the hand of God which he never trusts to angel or seraph.
1. The key of the rain;
2. The key of provision;
3. The key of the grave; and
4. The key of the barren womb."
In Sanhedrin, fol. 113, 1, it is said: "When the son of the woman of Sarepta died, Elijah requested that to him might be given the key of the resurrection of the dead. They said to him, there are three Keys which are not given into the hand of the apostle, the key of life, the key of the rain, and the key of the resurrection of the dead." From these examples it is evident that we should understand ᾁδης, hades, here, not as hell, nor the place of separate spirits, but merely as the grave; and the key we find to be merely the emblem of power and authority. Christ can both save and destroy, can kill and make alive. Death is still under his dominion, and he can recall the dead whensoever he pleases. He is the resurrection and the life.
on Revelation 1 :18
I am he that liveth, and was dead - I was indeed once dead, but now I live, and shall continue to live forever. This would at once identify him who thus appeared as the Lord Jesus Christ, for to no one else could this apply. He had been put to death; but he had risen from the grave. This also is given as a reason why John should not fear; and nothing would allay his fears more than this. He now saw that he was in the presence of that Saviour whom more than half a century before he had so tenderly loved when in the flesh, and whom, though now long absent, he had faithfully served, and for whose cause he was now in this lonely island. His faith in his resurrection had not been a delusion; he saw the very Redeemer before him who had once been laid in the tomb.
Behold, I am alive forevermore - I am to live forever. Death is no more to cut me down, and I am never again to slumber in the grave. As he was always to live, he could accomplish all his promises, and fulfil all his purposes. The Saviour is never to die again. He can, therefore, always sustain us in our troubles; he can be with us in our death. Whoever of our friends die, he will not die; when we die, he will still be on the throne.
Amen - A word here of strong affirmation - as if he had said, it is "truly," or "certainly so." See the notes on Revelation 1:7. This expression is one that the Saviour often used when he wished to give emphasis, or to express anything strongly. Compare John 3:3; John 5:25.
And have the keys of hell and of death - The word rendered "hell" - ᾅδης Hadēs, "Hades" - refers properly to the underworld; the abode of departed spirits; the region of the dead. This was represented as dull and gloomy; as enclosed with walls; as entered through gates which were fastened with bolts and bars. For a description of the views which prevailed among the ancients on the subject, see the Luke 16:23 note, and Job 10:21-22 notes. To hold the key of this, was to hold the power over the invisible world. It was the more appropriate that the Saviour should represent himself as having this authority, as he had himself been raised from the dead by his own power (compare John 10:18), thus showing that the dominion over this dark world was entrusted to him.
And of death - A personification. Death reigns in that world. But to his wide-extended realms the Saviour holds the key, and can have access to his empire when he pleases, releasing all whom he chooses, and confining there still such as he shall please. It is probably in part from such hints as these that Milton drew his sublime description of the gates of hell in the "Paradise Lost." As Christ always lives; as he always retains this power over the regions of the dead, and the whole world of spirits, it may be further remarked that we have nothing to dread if we put our trust in him. We need not fear to enter a world which he has entered, and from which he has emerged, achieving a glorious triumph; we need not fear what the dread king that reigns there can do to us, for his power extends not beyond the permission of the Saviour, and in his own time that Saviour will call us forth to life, to die no more.
on Revelation 1 :18
1:18 And he that liveth - Another peculiar title of God. And I have the keys of death and of hades - That is, the invisible world. In the intermediate state, the body abides in death, the soul in hades. Christ hath the keys of, that is, the power over, both; killing or quickening of the body, and disposing of the soul, as it pleaseth him. He gave St. Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven; but not the keys of death or of hades. How comes then his supposed successor at Rome by the keys of purgatory? From the preceding description, mostly, are taken the titles given to Christ in the following letters, particularly the four first.