12 When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. 13 And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. 15 His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. 16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.” (NLT)
• “seven gold lamp-stands. 13 And standing in the middle of the lampstands...” The seven lampstands are the seven churches (Rev. 1:20) that bring the light.
Philippians 2:15 “ so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”
The number seven speaks of the fullness of the church in every era. John sees Jesus in the midst of them, which indicates that he is intimately involved with what happens in each one; he knows them closely just as he says to them “I know your works” (2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8 and 15). How do you feel when you know Jesus is so close, observing what we do as a church?
• “like the Son of Man.” is referring to the Messiah prophesied by Daniel hundreds of years prior, and was Jesus’ favorite title to describe himself. It describes his interest in humankind to the point of identifying with them.
Daniel 7:13-14 “As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.”
Mark 13:26 “[Jesus said:] “Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory”
Acts 7:56 “And [Stephen] told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
• “He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest” John saw Jesus dressed like a priest (Exodus 28:4; Leviticus 16:4), which speaks of his current role. The details, like the gold sash (Revelation 15:6), which binds his chest and the “sword that comes from his mouth” (v. 13) are also signs of his rank and o ce as King and Prophet that walks among the churches with the authority and dignity to speak to his bride the way he does.
Hebrews 4:14-15 “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High
Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same
testings we do…”
Christ’s appearance in this vision is designed to highlight the aspects of His nature that are most relevant for the needs and circumstances of the seven churches. Last week, we said that these virtues are like a menu that displays what the Holy Spirit will feed the Church to prepare her to overcome indulgence, withstand persecution, and to partner with Christ in His plan for the end times. Two examples of how his virtues sustain us:
- Jesus sees things as they really are and shows us the truth that we need to realign ourselves.
2:9 “I know about your su ering and your poverty—but you are rich!”
3:15-17 “I know all the things you do… 17 …You say, ‘I am rich… you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked..”
Jesus, in his love and unmatched objectivity as the “faithful witness” (Rev. 1:5; 3:14) reveals the true nature of everything. He knew exactly what each church was like, not to condemn her, but to “present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.” (Ephesians 5:27).
- Since Jesus overcame death he can strengthen those who are in danger: 2:8 “this is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive: The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will su er for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.”As the one who overcame death, Jesus pours love and courage into those who are su ering and in danger of death. He promises to give them the crown of life.
• “his head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow” Often times, John will describe something with a more general term, and then use a more specific one like here, adjusting his language to give a fuller picture: his head and his hair are extremely white, like wool or like snow. This is how Daniel describes the Father, the ancient of days:
Daniel 7:9 “I watched as thrones were put in place, and the Ancient One sat down to judge. His clothing was as white as snow, his hair like purest wool. He sat on a fiery throne with wheels of blazing fire, Jesus looks like His Father! His glory and his white hair speak of his eternal existence, wisdom, purity, and dignity, which means he deserves all of our respect: Leviticus 19:32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” (ESV) Proverbs 16:31 “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.”
- “his eyes were like flames of fire.” This speaks of his capacity to know all things with a clarity that sees through them, just like fire penetrates metal. This description of Jesus’ eyes also speaks of his capacity to feel and impart love and to remove everything that hinders this love from flowing to those who are his:Daniel 10:6 “His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of
lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude”
Mark 11:11 “And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.”
Jesus knows our deepest thoughts…
John 2:24 “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”
- “His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace,” His feet looked like metal that is being heated and glows within the furnace. This demonstrates his strength, stability, and readiness. It is also an allusion to the purity of his walk on earth and even among the churches:Romans 10:15b “As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
- “and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves.” Like the roar of the ocean or a waterfall. Impressive in authority, powerful and irresistible.Psalm 29:4-5 “The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty… 5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.”
This voice should be heard because it is the voice of the Father through the Son.
Hebrews 1:1-2 “God spoke to our fathers by the prophets… 2 in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”
- “He held seven stars in his right hand” His right hand is the o cial symbol of honor and sovereignty. This is how he sustains the messengers (or angels) or the seven churches (Rev. 1:1). His hand is the safest place there could ever be.John 10:28 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Bible scholar William Barkley wrote: “Christ’s hand is strong enough to hold the heavens and gentle enough to wipe our tears from our eyes.”
- “a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth.” This is the type of sword the Romans used to kill. As he speaks and as it is written, this is the sword he will use to judge his enemies.Rev. 19:15 “ From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule[a] them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty..” (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12)
Isaiah 11:4 “but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked..”
• “And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.” This is the picture of his purity, holiness, justice, and restorative mercy.
Matthew 17:2 “ And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.”
Psalm 80:3 “Restore us,[a] O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!”
Johns first vision includes Jesus’ messianic o ce, associated with all of its functions: the judgement of the unjust, comfort for those of his people who su er. We see his high rank is the way that he can carry divine wrath, his preexistence at the same level as God the Father, his intelligence that pierces and carries the capacity for righteous judgement, his movement among the churches to give them a pure moral standard, his identification with the Father in power and word, his authority over the seven messengers to the seven churches, his ability to overcome his enemies, and his return to earth to establish lasting justice on the earth.
APPLICATION: THE PRINCIPLE OF CONTEMPLATING FOR THE SAKE OF TRANSFORMATION
2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit”.
True character change will come from the Hoy Spirit as we fix our yes on Jesus in prayer, worship, meditation, and by being in the Word. We become what we behold, what we treasure enough to give our attention and our time. We need Christ’s perseverance in the face of a iction. We need Christ’s strength in the face of pressures and wearing. We need Christ’s stability in the face of rapid social, political, and personal changes around us. We need the safety of his sovereign authority in a culture that gets further away from his will with each day that passes..
- What will you do to intentionally contemplate Christ’s beauty?
- How do you think one is strengthened by contemplating Jesus?
- Pray that you and your family will receive what you need: The Relation of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:17)