Famous last words. Julius Caesar, 44 BC – “Et tu, Brute?” P.T. Barnum, 1891 – “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?” Joan Crawford, 1977, to her housekeeper who had begun to pray for her – “Don’t you dare ask God to help me!” French writer Francois Rabelais, 1553 – “I owe much. I have nothing. The rest I leave to the poor”
The last word we heard from Jesus on Friday was, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Then there was sadness, grief and gloom. It seemed as though death and Satan had the final say, the last word.
If that would have been the end, we wouldn’t be here this morning. When it comes to the life and words and works of our Savior there is a BR and an AR. BR stands for “before the resurrection.” Again, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” AR – “after the resurrection.”
After the resurrection, our Savior spoke many times. During the forty days before his ascension some of his words were recorded in the gospels. But the gospels don’t contain the last words of Jesus. We have to go to the last book of the Bible, Revelation, to hear those. The words of our text in Revelation, are AR, after the resurrection. “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 behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
Take a look at the one who has the last word: He saw “someone ‘like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”
It was a man, or at least he had human qualities. He had hair, eyes and hands and feet like we do. But this person was different. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow—When we think of white hair, we think of wisdom, but not only is Jesus wise and old, eternal!, he is sinless, pure. He is holy and righteous.
His eyes were like blazing fire—God sees all. He sees what’s happening half-way around the world. He sees what’s rolling around in my mind, in my heart. He knows our fears and doubts. Maybe you wives can read your husband’s body language, but no one sees all and knows all like Jesus.
His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace. He has power over his enemies. His enemies serve as our Savior’s footstool. His enemies are no match. His enemies will be destroyed.
His voice was like the sound of rushing waters. His word is powerful. Ever walk in a river? Ever stand next to a stream in flood stage and try to carry on a conversation with someone else? With his Word he created all that exists. With his word he silences your fears and assures you of your forgiveness.
In his hand he held seven stars—the stars are the pastors of the seven churches who received John’s letter. He holds the pastor in his hand.
And he was standing among the seven lampstands. The lampstands are his seven churches. God’s people are the light of the world. And the fact that he is standing among the seven lampstands is a way of saying that Jesus is with his people here on earth. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Out of his mouth came a double-edged sword. A double-edged sword is always cutting. Jesus word is always cutting, always working, always effective.
He who has the last word says, “Don’t be afraid.” And he has the last word because he is the first and the last—he is eternal. He’s been ruling long before we got here, and he will rule long after we leave.
He who has the last word says “Don’t be afraid” because He’s the “living one.” He rose again three days after he died to pay for sin, and John saw him alive. Now it is 60 years later and John sees him again. He’s still alive. He still has the power over life and death and proved it. “Because I live, you also will live,” he said.
He “holds the keys of death and Hades.” Jesus has the power to raise the dead and to rescue from death and the grave. Jesus is the one with the last word, and what a message. Don’t be afraid. From his perspective, because he triumphed over sin, death and the grave, you and I have no reason to be afraid, ever.
John’s reaction to seeing the living Christ is to fall down as though dead. John was a sinner. He once asked Jesus if he could call down fire from heaven to torch a Samaritan village. He once asked Jesus if he could have a spot of honor next to Jesus in his kingdom. Revenge is sin. Ambition is sin. John couldn’t stand before Jesus in his glory.
We couldn’t stand either. We wonder if he sees everything. We wonder is he is truly in the way he orders our lives. We wonder if he can win the battle over his and our enemies. We wonder if his word really is powerful. We wonder if he really is with his people and does he really hold the pastor in his hand? No, we couldn’t stand either. No sinful human being can be in the presence of God and live. And without God in the picture, sin and death and Satan would have the final say, the last word. But that’s without the resurrection.
But clearly there is life, forgiveness and salvation because of the resurrection. The last word wasn’t “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” But, and this is after his resurrection, Jesus placed his right hand on John, a powerful gesture of forgiveness and acceptance. Then he said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Know what this means? That Jesus has the keys to death. Death doesn’t have the final say. The grave and the punishment for sin that follows doesn’t have the final say. Neither does Satan. Sin doesn’t and can’t condemn. Jesus has the last word. Jesus died for sin. Jesus rose again. Jesus is the Living One, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega.
Sin, Satan and death are still spooking around, all scary and loud and frightening. But their bark is worse than their bite. Satan’s been relegated to pest status. And while death stings, while death hurts, it can’t hold you or your loved ones who’ve died in Christ. Death is done, defeated, merely the door to life. “Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting. Thanks be to God, he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:55,57) Just like Job, we can say with confidence, “I know that my redeemer lives!” Jesus gets the last word.
Check out this picture of heaven made possible by Jesus, the one with the Last Word. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” You know how when someone dies, we say that he has passed away. In heaven, death will have passed away. Death definitely doesn’t have the last word.
Says who? Says Jesus, who is in fact the Word of God. John 1:1 tells us that “In the beginning was the Word.” Not only was Jesus there at the beginning and before the beginning, but he will be there at the end. The very last words recorded in the Bible spoken by the one with the last word: “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Jesus, the Word, has the last Word. It is a word of forgiveness, peace and life. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word stands forever. He is risen and has the last word. Alleluia! And Amen.