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In the first century AD many Christians were suffering persecution on account of their belief in Jesus. The Apostle John had been exiled to the island of Patmos because of his faith. John was living away from his home, his familiar surroundings and his friends. However, God had not forsaken him. The Lord came to John and revealed a message of assurance, victory and hope that we know today as the book of Revelation. In chapter one, we are told how the Living Lord Jesus appeared in a glorious way to John and spoke to him. In Revelation 1:17-18, Jesus 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."

Jesus had walked this earth as a true man. He was fully human and as a human being He died. He suffered crucification for our sins. He shed His blood and gave up His life. When His lifeless body was taken down from the cross there was no doubt that Jesus had died. His body was placed in a tomb and a stone was laid in front of the tomb. To most people the situation may have seemed hopeless and final. Nothing more could be done but weep.

However, Jesus came out of the tomb alive. This month we will again celebrate the joyous message that Jesus has risen from the dead. He is alive. The tomb was empty on Easter morning and the living Lord Jesus appeared to His disciples. He showed them the wounds on His body. He spoke with them and even ate with them. He gave many convincing proofs that he was real and He was alive. Jesus had risen from the dead and He would never die again. Years later the living Lord Jesus appeared to John on the island of Patmos and gave this assurance "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."

Jesus rose from the dead and He will never die again. Still today Jesus lives. Still today He holds the keys of death and Hades. For us this is good news. Because of Jesus we have the assurance that through faith in Him we too will live forever and ever. Jesus will one day unlock our grave and grant us eternal life in heavenly glory. We are unable to unlock death and enter life on our own. But Jesus has done it for us. "Because He lives we too will live." (John 14:19)

The Apostle John was suffering on account of His faith in Jesus. There may be times when we too will face times of suffering and hardship in this world. But we need not be afraid. We need not fear for as Jesus came to John on the island of Patmos, He also comes to us in our suffering, our loneliness, our sickness, our pain, our cancer, or whatever situations we and our loved ones may be encountering in this world. He brings us this blessed assurance from Revelation 1:18: "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." Jesus has power over death. He is still alive and now because of Jesus we too will live forever and ever. On account of Jesus we can look forward to the day when every tear will be wiped from our eyes and death will be no more, neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away (Revelation 21:4). We will be in a perfect place where there is only life in all its fullness. As we celebrate Easter this month there may be sufferings and hardships that you have to endure. Some of these things may be constantly on your mind of the minds of loved ones. But be assured that on account of Jesus, we too, will be able to one day confess these joyous words. "I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever!"

Pastor Schoenfeld