DIG: What does each image here suggest about Christ? What did the seven lampstands represent? When John saw Him, what earlier experience in his life did this image remind him of? How is this image different than the previous one? What does the term Son of man come from? What does it mean? What three titles does Jesus hold? What does the term star mean when used symbolically in the Bible? What do the seven stars in this passage represent?
REFLECT: Does this description of Yeshua Messiah seem strange to you? How so? When you see this description of Jesus Christ, how does it make you feel? Are you encouraged, or does it make you fearful? Why? What is the difference in your mind between seeing Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), and seeing Him as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5)?
The placing of this vision of Yeshua Messiah right at the beginning of the book is significant. The believers in Asia Minor were a pitifully small remnant and were persecuted by Domitian. To all out-ward appearances their situation was hopeless. But it is only as Jesus Christ is seen for what He really is that anything else can be seen in its true perspective. So for those persecuted ones it was important that first of all the glory and the majesty of the risen Lord be seen by them. In doing this, John constantly makes use of words and concepts associated in the TaNaKh with God. He does not hesitate to employ divine attributes to describe the glory of Messiah. And He does not do this and then forget it. The titles used of Christ in this vision are used elsewhere, notably in the letters to the churches.21
With the booming, majestic voice of the Savior still echoing in his ears, John turned around to see who was speaking to him, he saw a vision of Messiah that he had never seen before (1:12a). He saw Jesus as the glorified Son of man, an expression used in Dani'el 7:13 to refer to Messiah. The different descriptions given to him here all come from the TaNaKh.
Despite the glory of His appearance, squinting, John’s eyes settled on the source of the voice and recognized Him to be a man, indeed the very Son of man, the representative man, true man, man as God intended man to be. The term Son of man (1:13b), was Christ’s favorite term for Himself. He used it more than eighty times in the four Gospels. The term was first used in Psalm 8:4, prophesying His First Coming in humility, and last in 14:14, prophesying His Second Coming in power.22
Jesus holds three different offices: prophet, priest and king. He functioned as a prophet in His First Coming. Messiah is functioning as a priest now, as He sits at the right hand of God the Father, and when He returns, He will function as a king. So Christ has three offices, prophet, priest and king, but He does not function in all three simultaneously at this time. However, when Messiah returns He will function in all three areas of ministry.
John’s vision pictures Jesus Christ as a king. But a king has many roles, one of which is to serve as a judge, for He is about to come and judge the whole world at His Second Coming. This is a sub-theme to the entire book.23
Yeshua is seen to be among the seven golden menorahs, or lampstands (1:12b-13a). Apparently these were individual lampstands rather than one lampstand with seven lamps as was true of a similar piece of furniture in the Tabernacle (see my commentary on Exodus Fn - The Lampstand in the Sanctuary: Christ the Light of the World).24 As was stated in the introduction, every symbol in Revelation will be explained either in another part of the book itself or elsewhere in the Bible. In this case, the meaning is explained in 1:20, where it states that the seven golden lampstands represent the seven churches. It pictures Yeshua in the midst of the seven churches ready to judge.25
There was no doubt that this was Jesus, but not the kind of Jesus that John remembered from many years earlier – preaching to the multitudes, healing the sick, suffering on the cross, or even ascending into heaven. No, the message from this Jesus sent John’s thinking racing backward in time more than sixty years to a power experience on Mount Herman (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Gb – Jesus took Peter, James and John up a High Mountain where He was Transfigured). There, before his eyes, Messiah briefly unveiled His Shechinah glory. Now, near the end of his life, John saw a more detailed vision of the risen Lord in all of His splendor.
No one living today knows what Yeshua looked like during His days on earth. The New Covenant is silent on the subject of His physical appearance. But whatever He looked like then, His current appearance is far more important because this is the way we will see Him throughout all eternity.26 Thus, John gives us a seven-fold description of Him as He was in heaven at that time and will be when He returns. The ancient apostle used the best words that he could come up with to describe what was basically beyond words. His initial image resembled a human form – but He was clearly more than a man.
The first thing John noticed was that He was dressed in a long robe reaching down to His feet (1:13c). The Greek word translated, a garment down to the feet, is seen only here in the New Covenant, but is used in all but one of its seven occurrences in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the TaNaKh) to describe the robe worn by the high priest. That He also wore a golden sash around His chest (1:13d) reinforces that interpretation because the high priest in the TaNaKh wore such a sash (see my commentary on Exodus Fv – The Selection of Aaron and His Sons as Priests).27
Second, the most striking feature of His appearance, however, is His snow-white hair. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow (1:14a). The whiteness of His hair corresponded to that of the Ancient of Days, or God the Father (Dani'el 7:9). His hair seems to point to both His purity (Matthew 5:48), and His age, since He was with God in the beginning (John 1:1).
Third, His eyes were like blazing fire (1:14b), searching, revealing, and penetrating to the very depths of His followers. We shall see this in His piercing judgment of sin to the immoral religious community at Thyatira (2:18). Jesus said: There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known (Matthew 10:26b). Dani'el’s vision of the Messiah, he said His eyes were like flaming torches (Dani'el 10:6). Yet these were the same eyes that would weep over the death of Jerusalem and the death of His friend Lazarus (Luke 19:41 and John 11:35). Various aspects of His deity follow the graphic description of His appearance.
Fourth, the same feet that had rough spikes driven through them at the cross will return to trample His enemies (Psalm 110:1; Isaiah 63:3). This concept of judgment is further illustrated by His feet that were like bronze glowing in a furnace (1:15a). The bronze altar in the Tabernacle was a place of sacrifice for sin (see my commentary on Exodus Fa - Build an Altar of Acacia Wood Overlaid with Bronze), and here in Revelation, Jesus has come to judge sin.
Fifth, His voice, which seemed clear like a trumpet, was compared to the sound of rushing waters (1:15b). It sounded to John like the familiar sound of the sea crashing on the rocky shore of Patmos on a windy day. His voice was similarly described like the roar of rushing waters in Ezekiel 43:2, and indicates both power and majesty.
Sixth, as the head of the body, the Church, Christ exercises authority over her (Ephesians 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). In John’s vision, Christ held seven stars in His right hand (1:16a). Domitian himself, issued a gold coin picturing his dead son sitting on the earth playing with seven stars, symbolic of Domitian’s domain over the world (see Ac – The Book of Revelation From a Jewish Perspective).28 But to comfort the persecuted believers in the first century, Christ identifies the seven stars as the seven angels of the seven churches in His right hand (1:20). Not as Domitian’s sovereignty over the universe. With one exception, wherever the word star is used symbolically in the Bible, it is always a symbol of an angel. These, then, were individual angels who acted as guards, and assured the arrival of each individual message to each of the seven churches.
Seventh, out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword (1:16b). Isaiah said: He made My mouth like a sharpened sword (Isaiah 49:2; also see Revelation 19:11-15). This expression means that Christ will have the ability to pronounce judgment. And the writer to the Hebrews wrote: For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Heb 4:12). Messiah will be decisive and be able to get down to the very root of the problem and deal with it. This type of sword, the Greek word rhomphaia, is also referred to in 2:12 and 16, 6:8, 9:15 and 21. Jesus is no longer pictured as a baby in Bethlehem, He is now the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (5:5). The very appearance of the glorified Messiah and the sound of His regal voice flowing from the blinding light of His face, gave every word a sword-like brightness and sharpness that John could almost feel. Like the Transfiguration, His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance (1:16c).
The encouraging point for us is that John found Jesus in all His power and glory – and we can find Him as well. In our prayers, when we go to worship, or when we read the Bible, we can go beyond the mental exercise of confirming our faith in Christ’s victory. When we seek Him, He will reveal Himself to us and fill our hearts as well as our minds. Although originally speaking to the nation of Isra'el, He makes the same promise to you today: You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).
What will we see when He comes? Maybe we will experience the sword of His word exposing and cutting away the sin from our lives. Maybe we will feel the piercing gaze of His look of love. Perhaps we will hear His voice calling us with the strength of the ocean. We might be impressed by His purity and His desire to make us pure as well. Perhaps we will be over-whelmed by His kingly authority over our every fear. Jesus knows what you need in each particular moment of your life, and He is eager to reveal Himself to you and care for you. When you pray today, expect Yeshua to show Himself to you. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to take strength in the fact that He who is all powerful is standing with you no matter what you may be going through.
Jesus, I turn toward You to gaze on Your beauty and Your glory. Reveal Yourself to me, Lord, so that I will come to know You and love You with all my heart.29
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017