And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:…
No wonder that John fell senseless at His feet. There is no sign that he was prostrated by any sudden and appalling sense of sin. It was simply the rush of a magnificence too intolerably splendid. In a very small measure we can understand it, by the effect of a sudden glare of lightning and roll of thunder at midnight, or of being afloat on a fiercely agitated sea. It is not the guiltiest that are most excited, even if they be most alarmed; innocent children are overcome, sensitive and gentle women are profoundly moved; delicate nerves have more to do with the effect than guilty consciences. What has happened is a powerful impression of the contrast between these tremendous scenes and our poor faculties, our slight resources to avert, endure, or overcome. But our most awful impression was as nothing compared with his, upon whose mortal vision blazed the immortal splendours of a manhood taken into God. Now what is the comfort for human self-abasement and dread in the presence of supreme power?
1. It is, first, the nearer approach in love of what was so terrible in grandeur. He laid His right hand upon me saying, "Fear not." So, then, the Highest and Most Awful can be gentle. He whose feet can trample like burning brass has a hand whose touch is soothing; and the great voice, which crashed like a trumpet through the Sabbath stillness, can be so modulated as to reassure the trembling heart.
2. That John may not fear, his Master proceeds to announce who and what He is. The first word needs to be strongly emphasised; "I am the First and the Last," as if the voice had said, "It is I, and not another, who am thus exalted." Can we doubt that with this word the personality of Him who spoke came in full force upon the heater's soul? Well for us, in danger and dread, if our past life has tender and vivid associations with Him with whom we have to do, if we have known Him as the Hearer of our prayer, the Helper of our weakness, the Cleanser of our hearts. "I, then, whom thou knowest, and lovest, and canst trust — I am the First and the Last, and the Living One, and I became dead." It is not only said that Jesus is first and last, He is the First and the Last. No assertion of Deity could be more explicit. But like all such Scripture statements, this is made in the practical form best suited to the hearers' need. To the heart that quails and faints amid new revelations of dazzling majesty and overwhelming force, it is announced that His Loved One is behind and beyond all change, and that all life and power flow out from Him, the Living One. It is added that He "became dead," to remind His creature of expiation for all sin, and of the immutable heart which once broke, rather than be pitiless.
(G. A. Chadwick, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: