June 30, 2021 – Wednesday
Revelation 1:17-18 NIV
17 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.
18 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.”
1 John 4:18 NIV & TLV
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear [For fear in TLV] has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Looking above you might reasonably ask, “What’s going on?” After all, 1 John 4:18 was covered on June 22, 2021 just 8 days ago. Great question. Well, it turns out someone wrote to me following day and asked the following question:
If John indeed was the beloved apostle who penned these words about “perfect (complete) love that casts out fear”, why does this same John write: “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.”
Then he posed a second related question:
What had happened to John’s “boldness and confidence” at that moment? Will we not all experience the same paralyzing fear when we appear before the “bema” seat? (2 Cor. 5:9-11) My brief study of 1 John 5:18 [sic] tells me that this “confidence” is a specific term in Greek, having to do with “freedom of speech”, which a citizen had as a “civil right”, i.e. to speak freely and openly w/o fear of punishment. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with actions or emotions, as we know them.
Note: The “bema” seat mentioned is the judgment seat of Messiah or of Christ within 2 Corinthians 5:9-11
Addressing the questions above, let us first be clear the apostle John was the same John who wrote 1 John 4:18 (and all of 1 John) and Revelation 1:17-18 (and all of Revelation) as well as the Gospel of John, 2 John, 3 John.
Now let’s look at the first question (paraphrased), why did John write 4:18 and then Revelation 1:17-18.? In the first case John was writing about the perfect love of God and what Jesus had done on the cross. It was on the cross Jesus paid the price for all of our sins. That was an act of perfect love, entirely sacrificial, out of love for all of mankind. It was not some kind of emotional love that makes one feel good. No, this was a love of incredible and total commitment to us – mankind. We should all fear God and facing the judgment seat because of our sins, unless we individually believe, truly believe, Jesus paid the full price for all of our sins. When we have repented of our sins and fully truly believe Jesus died for our sins and rose on the third day we are able to stand before the judgment seat without fear with Jesus as our advocate.
If we go back to 2 Corinthians 5:9-11, we have an obligation as believers to persuade others of the fate that awaits them at the judgment seat. Those who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior as we do would face the judgment seat with great fear because they have not believed. Thus, they will pay an eternal price for not fearing God enough to believe in the wonderful gift of grace offered through His Son. Not wanting anyone to suffer in hell is why we are to pray for the lost in the hope they will one day turn to the salvation offered through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Next what happened to confidence or boldness John mentions in 1 John 4:17 depending upon the version you are reading, This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus NIV or In this way, love is made perfect among us, so that we should have boldness on the Day of Judgment. For just as He is, so also are we in this world TLV. Underline added. Confidence or boldness is presented to us as the opposite of fear for us on the day of judgment while those who have rejected Christ’s salvation will have a terrible fear. In the Cambridge Bible we read that this Greek word means literally ‘freedom in speaking, readiness to say anything, frankness, intrepidity’ and here it means especially the fearless trust with which the faithful soul meets God. Strong’s definition for G3954 gives us all out-spokenness, i.e. frankness, bluntness, publicity; by implication, assurance. Vine’s Expository Dictionary adds, the absence of fear in speaking boldly; hence, confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, without any connection necessarily with speech.
But wait, what about John’s fear in Revelation in 1:17-18 when he fell at His feet as though dead? This is easier to explain than you might expect. John had known Jesus as a man, as a man who died on the cross, as a man who rose from the grave on the third day, as a man who ascended into heaven. He also saw Jesus transfigured once where His face was like the sun and His clothes were white as light. Let us compare that to what John saw when he turned around to see who was speaking in the vision he was experiencing. In Revelation 1:13-16 we read (NIV), among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to His feet and with a golden sash around His chest. The hair on His head was 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 coming out of His mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. What he saw was Jesus as he had never seen or imagined Him. It is likely that he did not know it was Jesus initially. Think of all the descriptions of Jesus in the Gospels and then this one. This one is so foreign as to be unrecognizable and clearly a figure to be feared. This was not the judgment seat where those who have accepted the grace of Jesus and His salvation have no reason to fear.
Then something incredible happened, Jesus put His right hand on John 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. From this I believe John then knew it was indeed Jesus and followed His instructions to write what he had seen and messages to the seven churches.
John in his vision saw Jesus in heaven as he had never seen Him before and was fearful. Jesus made Himself known 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. And, that dear readers, ties right back to the promise in 1 John 4:18. We need not be afraid if we believe. We can indeed approach the judgment seat without fear. Nor are we to fear sharing our faith because of the same perfect love Jesus and His Father have demonstrated for us. We only have to believe, really believe and act on what we believe.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Your promise of grace through Your Son frees us from fear of the judgment seat when we accept the fact Jesus paid for all of our sins. Help us also not to fear sharing the wonderful good news of the salvation You have provided for us. – In Jesus’ Name. Amen.