The Lord Jesus Christ as Priest-Judge
Revelation Lesson #028
December 19, 2004
Open your Bibles with me to Revelation 1, and we will continue our review while we all get caught up to about the same place in our study of Revelation. There are three sections in Revelation that are really outlined by Revelation 1:19. In that verse the Lord is commissioning John to write the things that he has seen. That is the thrust of the section from Revelation 1:9 through the end of the book. In Revelation 1:19 the Lord says, “Write the things that you have seen.” That is that he has seen already up to that point. “The things which are,” that is present tense and that will be covered in Revelation 2–3. And third, “the things that shall take place after this,” and that looks forward to the future, to yet unfulfilled prophecy.
So we are looking at the first division in Revelation 1, “the things that have been.” So if we were going to outline the chapter, the first chapter is divided into two sections. There is a prologue in Revelation 1:1-8; and then there is the commissioning of John to write, and that is in Revelation 1:9-20. So it breaks down easily into two sections. The first section is the prologue. It is a preface, a challenge to the readers to listen and respond to the message of the book. This is most clearly seen in Revelation 1:3 where John says there is a special blessing to those who teach, as well as to those who heed the message of Revelation. “Blessed is he who reads.” The word there in the Greek indicates public reading of Scripture, not just quietly sitting at home having your morning devotion, reading through the Text, but hearing it read publically, or we would say today, in exposition, explaining the meaning of the book of Revelation.
“Blessed is he who reads,” that would be the pastor exegeting and teaching the Word, “and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep the things that are written.” Notice that conjunction. It is not just those who hear it. They are not going to get a blessing simply because they come to Bible class and hear me teach through the book of Revelation. It is only if you respond in your soul positively to the message that is taught; and the basic message in the book of Revelation is really a warning. It is a challenge to be prepared and a warning that the time is near, which is how this verse ends. “Blessed are those who read, those who hear and teach the things that are written in it for the time is near.”
We don’t know when the Lord is coming back, which is the thrust of this particular book, anymore than we know when the Lord is going to take us home. We have to be ready. I remember when I was ordained some 23-24 years ago. The pastor said you had to be ready to preach, pray or die at a moment’s notice. And for the believer the message of Revelation is – we have to be ready to stand before the judgment seat of Christ at a moment’s notice. That is really the thrust of the first four chapters, but the entirety of Revelation deals with this theme of judgment, that one day God is going to judge everyone. Believers are going to be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ at the BEMA seat during the Tribulation period after the Rapture. Unbelievers are going to be judged on the earth through a horrific series of divine judgments known as the Great Tribulation.
During that time many will come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and believe that He died on the cross for their sin, and tens of thousands of Jews will come to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah. Then at the end of the Tribulation period there will be a judgment known as the sheep and goat judgment, separation of believers from unbelieving Gentiles. There is also going to be a judgment of Jews at the end of the Tribulation period. That of course is followed by the establishment of the millennial kingdom. Then at the end of the millennial kingdom there will be another judgment for all unbelievers known as the great white throne judgment. So the key idea throughout Revelation is judgment.
It is interesting that in the course of the history of Christianity two of the most famous sermons ever preached, especially in the English language, dealt with this whole theme of judgment. R. G. Lee was a Baptist preacher at the turn of the last century. He preached a message called “Pay-Day Someday.” Prior to that there was a message by Jonathan Edwards, who many think was the greatest of all theologians in American church history and philosopher-theologians. He certainly was brilliant, but he was post-millennial and had a number of other problems with his theology as well. But he is well known for his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” And the theme of both messages was judgment. And the Lord used both of those messages to challenge numerous people to the need for salvation and maturity in their own Christian life.
When we come face to face with the reality that one day we will stand before our Lord, and everything in our life will be evaluated on the criteria of what we’ve done with what He has given us at salvation, then it changes our perspective. Unfortunately when we are young we usually don’t think about the fact that this is a reality. As we get a little older we begin to realize that life really isn’t that long and sooner or later we will be standing before the judgment seat of Christ. And that realization in our lives is what we refer to when we talk about living today in light of eternity; starting to make decisions in our life on a day to day basis because we know that it won’t be long before we’re standing before the judgment seat of Christ. So the warning at the beginning of Revelation is “the time is near.”
Then the next set of verses, Revelation 1:4-8, is a salutation where John addresses the seven churches and designates the ultimate source of the revelation, the entire 22 chapters, as having its origin in God, in the Triune God. We see that in Revelation 1:4 he says, “John,” identifying himself as the apostle John, “to the seven churches which are in Asia.” That is the Proconsulate province in western Turkey. “Grace to you and peace from Him” first of all, He, “who is and who was and who is to come.” That is a reference to God the Father. This is not a reference to any other Member of the Trinity and that third phrase, “who is to come” is really a reference to the fact that when the New Jerusalem is on the earth in the New Heavens and New Earth, then we will see God the Father face to face. That has never happened before.
“The seven spirits who are before His throne” is a reference to the full ministry of God the Holy Spirit, and then in Revelation 1:5 “from Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is emphasized in this salutation with two sets of triplets:
1. He is identified as “the faithful witness.” This is a reference to His mission during the Incarnation, during the time that He was on the earth in public ministry.
2. The phrase “the first born from the dead” summarizes and encapsulates in one phrase everything that He did on the cross. It refers to His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. “The first born from the dead” focuses of course on the resurrection, but that is the conclusion of the process of what took place on the cross in terms of death, burial and resurrection.
3. “The ruler over the kings of the earth” and this anticipates His future role when He returns at the Second Coming to take His rightful place as the ruler over the kings of the earth.
And then there is a dedication to Him. He is:
1. “The one who loves us,” present tense.
2. “He washed us from our sins” by means of “His own blood,” referring to the work of redemption.
3. “And has made us kings and priests to His God,” a reference to the end result of sanctification.
You see we have to recognize that the purpose of salvation isn’t simply to end up in heaven. The purpose of salvation is to prepare us as His bride and as His body to rule and reign with Him during the millennial kingdom. So from the moment you are saved until you die physically, God is working in your life to prepare you to operate in the messianic administration during the millennial kingdom. Our destiny is to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ. The only way we can learn to do that is by going through this process of spiritual growth during our time on the earth. He has made us kings and priest to His God. We will serve as priests in the millennial kingdom, and we will rule and reign over the angels. 1 Corinthians 4 teaches that we are going to rule over the angels.
Our last lesson ended right at Revelation 1:7 which talks about this future coming. It is as if the apostle, having talked about Jesus and His future reign, suddenly recognizes that He’s coming back. He announces it, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” This phrase that “every eye will see Him” derives from an Old Testament (OT) passage, Zechariah 12:10. Zechariah 12:10 reads, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” This looks forward. This prophecy in Zechariah 12 looks forward to that time at the end of the Tribulation, at the end of that period known as the day of the Lord, when the Messiah comes into His own and establishes His kingdom. It is at that time that there will be a massive revival, a genuine revival, when vast numbers of Jews finally accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. It is at this time that the Lord says, “I will pour out upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced.”
When we look at Revelation 1:7 it states that Jesus is “coming with the clouds” Now it is important to pay attention to that phraseology, “He is coming with the clouds.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which is a Rapture passage, we are told that at the time of the Rapture “we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds.” Now there is a difference in this phrase “in the clouds,” which is a locative concept. It indicates a location in the clouds; and the phrase in Revelation 1:7 “with the clouds.” The phrase “with the clouds” has tremendous meaning if we understand the imagery from the OT. There will be a time of tremendous darkness and clouds at the Second Coming. Let’s look at a couple of passages in Revelation, Revelation 14:14-16 specifically. John says, “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man.” So here is a picture at the end of the Tribulation where John looks and there’s this white cloud and on the cloud there is standing the Lord Jesus Christ, designated the Son of Man, because that picks up the imagery from Daniel 7, that it is the Son of Man who comes to destroy the kingdoms of man at the end of the Tribulation and establishes His own kingdom.
So there is a direct connection here with OT Messianic expectation. “I looked and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple (that is the temple in heaven in context), crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” This is just at the end of the Tribulation. Revelation 14:16, “So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.” This is the imagery that is used of that final judgment that leads up to and is culminated in the Battle of Armageddon.
This same imagery of the clouds is used by the Lord in Matthew 24:30. There, when it is talking about His return, He said, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven.” Notice, the Lord used that same designation, Son of Man. Every time you see that designation in the New Testament (NT) you ought to immediately go back to the imagery of Daniel 7, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” So once again clouds are associated with the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are numerous OT passages that reference clouds, but perhaps the most significant are Joel 2:1-2 and Zephaniah 1:14-15. These two passages describe the coming of the Lord in judgment as a day of wrath, a day of trouble, a day of distress, darkness, gloominess, clouds, and thick darkness. And it is in the midst of this dramatic scene that the Lord comes with the clouds and comes for the purpose of executing judgment. Now this is the picture. We start off with Revelation 1:1-3 in the introduction; and John ends with saying, “for the time is near.” This is a warning: believer, prepare yourself. Then he begins a salutation. He addresses it to the seven churches that are in Asia. He gives the salutation from the Holy Spirit, and then from the Son. When he comes to the Son He ends with this focus on His coming with the clouds for judgment.
Everything that we see in Revelation 1 focuses on judgment. Jesus Christ is coming to judge. This isn’t just a picture of Jesus Christ in His glory and His power, but Revelation 1 is setting us up for what Jesus Christ is going to do in relationship to local churches in chapters 2-3. There is judgment not just coming, but there is on-going judgment on the church during the church age. He is constantly working to purify the church and to prepare believers today for that future responsibility to rule and reign with Him. So as we read through this, always think in terms of Judgment. This is the imagery.
Now coming to Revelation 1:8 we have to do a little technical work here, and we will in Revelation 1:9 as well due to the fact that there are some problems that occurred in the transmission of the Text over time. It is not that we don’t have the original. It is that as you copy manuscripts down through time, sometimes scribes inadvertently insert things. Some times a scribe will write a commentary or a note in the margin and then the next one that copies that manuscript inserts it. The study of comparing ancient manuscripts is known as textual criticism and it is practiced for any ancient document, whether you are studying Caesar, whether you’re studying Homer, whether you’re studying Shakespeare, or whether you are studying someone like Thomas Aquinas, or Voinovich, or some theologian in the Middle Ages.
There are various manuscripts and you’ll always hear some skeptic come along and say, “well, you see, there are these various differences; how can you know for sure what the Bible says originally?” If they apply the same criteria to other literature that they apply to the Bible then we’d have to throw away all of Shakespeare, all of Caesar, all of Homer, and everything else in the ancient world, because many of the ancient documents that we have, Herodotus, Acedias, Caesar, are based on just one or two or, in some cases, a dozen or fifteen copies that date to within only 800 or a 1000 years of the original. We just have a few manuscripts, and in some cases only one manuscript that may have survived or may be dated to about the 9th or 10th century A.D. But when it comes to the NT we have over 5,000 manuscripts.
Now it is very easy to pair manuscripts that you have in order to reconstruct the original. If I were to read a passage of Scripture to you and have every one take out their notebook and write down what I said, there would be some mistakes. Some of you would miss a word; some of you would add something; some of you would maybe misspell a few words; then when we got done, let’s say the original was lost. All we have are these copies. Many of you would have an exact copy. So by taking 70 or 80 different copies we could easily reconstruct the original. It wouldn’t be hard. We would easily be able to discover the errors that entered in. It is not rocket science. It can get very difficult and complicated because you enter into all kinds of probabilities and other things that come along, but it’s pretty easy to reconstruct the original.
Now what we have in Revelation 1:8 are both some additions and deletions. If you are working with the King James or New King James, you’ll notice that it varies a lot from what you find in New American Standard or NIV (New International Version). As a reminder, there are two views on how to work through textual problems. One is the assumption that what’s in the older manuscripts is best. The other view is that the majority, that which is read in the majority of manuscripts, is most likely the correct reading. I am really simplifying this. It is much more complicated than that, but that is a pretty simple way to cover it for our purposes.
The interesting thing is that these differences found in Revelation 1, and there is a number of them, is what makes the exegesis of this chapter so challenging. A number of these differences the older manuscripts and the majority of manuscripts actually agree on. It was that small collection of eight or nine manuscripts that made up the Textus Receptus, or the Received Text, that was the basis of the King James translation where we have a problem. So what we have in Revelation 1:8, if you read it in King James or New King James, reads, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” But when you compare it with the majority of manuscripts as well as the older manuscripts, the phrase “the Beginning and the End” isn’t there. And the word GOD is present.
Now why is that important? The reason it’s important is because for generations you had scholars studying, and in many cases they didn’t know the original language, or if they did they just had the Textus Receptus. They’re studying in the original and they came to some definite conclusions about who was speaking here in Revelation 1:8. And their conclusion was that this was the Lord Jesus Christ. And so many people, when they read this and they see that title the Alpha and the Omega they immediately identify that as the Lord Jesus Christ. But once you factor out the phrases, the phrase “the Beginning and the End”, which is a title for the Lord Jesus Christ, and you recognize that the most accurate early manuscripts would have had Lord God, not simply Lord, then it becomes clear that the person who is speaking here is God the Father, not God the Son. And the phrase Lord God is used almost exclusively in the Scripture to refer to God the Father.
The phrase in the Greek for Lord-God is KURIOS HO THEOS and it is used only ten times in the NT, only one of which is outside the book of Revelation and that is in Luke 1:32, which reads “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” So it is clear from the context who does God refer to then? It can only refer to the Father because it’s taking about the Son. So the phrase Lord God in Luke at least refers to God the Father. If you go through and examine other uses of it in the book of Revelation, it is also clear that it is a phrase that refers to God the Father, especially when it is used in conjunction with the term “the Almighty”. And again and again in Revelation you have God the Father referred to as the “Almighty.” For example, in Revelation 4:8, the four living creatures sing to the One on the throne, who is God the Father, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.”
You see the same scenario in Revelation 11:17, “We give you thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come.” Again, that same phraseology; that same description that we had back in Revelation 1:4 for God the Father. Revelation 15:3 “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works Lord God Almighty.” Notice the distinction in that verse between the Lamb on the one hand, who is the second person of the Trinity, and the Lord God Almighty. In another passage where it is also clear is in Revelation 16:7. The point is that what we have in Revelation 1:8 is a statement from God the Father. He is the Alpha and the Omega. Now that phrase is also applied to the Lord Jesus Christ later in Revelation, but only once does it refer to the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a phrase for eternity. It is a descriptive image of eternity, Alpha being the first letter in the Greek alphabet and Omega being the last letter in the Greek alphabet. It was a phrase indicating eternality, the beginning and the end. You don’t have to repeat that phrase.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega says the Lord God who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. “So we have three descriptive titles here:
1. The Alpha and Omega – clearly, if you trace it out through Revelation, it is always applied to the Father until the last use.
2. Lord God always refers to the Father - “who is and who was and who is to come” is only applied to the Father.
3. “The Almighty” is only applied to the Father, which makes it clear that this (Revelation 1:8) is a statement from the Father.
So now we have to answer the question: why suddenly at the end of this section do we have this insertion, almost an interjection, from the Father? And it is a statement of authenticity. We have a salutation beginning in Revelation 1:4 and extending down to Revelation 1:7, and then the Father gives His stamp of authority on this message. Remember back in Revelation 1:1. The first verse begins, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him,” that is Jesus Christ. So you have the origin, the ultimate origin of the book of Revelation coming from God the Father. God the Father gives this body of information to the Son and the Son then discloses it or reveals it to His servants. And at the end of this opening introduction, this prologue, God the Father puts His stamp of authentication on this message. It comes from the throne of the Lord God Almighty. So we are to pay particularly close attention to it.
Then we come to the next section, Revelation 1:9. Revelation 1:0 down to the end of the chapter can basically be summarized as the divine commission to John to write. If you think about the verbs in Revelation 1:9 John says, “I was on the island that is called Patmos. I heard a loud voice behind me saying to write,” a command to write. That command to write is reiterated down in Revelation 1:18-19. He says “I was on the island (stated verb) that is called Patmos. I heard a loud voice behind me, as of a trumpet. I turned to look at the voice and I saw…”; then you have a lengthy description of what he saw and it concludes with the fact that… actually all this just took about two or three seconds. It is a dramatic scene. John is just quietly sitting on Patmos looking over the Aegean Sea, enjoying the view and thinking about the Lord, and all of a sudden he’s in the Spirit, which is a phrase, a term, that is used uniquely in Revelation for being in a state to receive revelation. It is not the same as being filled with the Spirit.
Being filled with the Spirit is not a revelatory state. But every time we have this phrase “I was in the Spirit” John received revelation. He is given these visions. That is completely different from what any believer in the Church Age experiences when we are filled with the Spirit. So John is in a unique position. He says “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day”. Again he will say that he’s in the Spirit when we come to Revelation 4. That is when he is transported into heaven and he sees what is going on around the throne of God when he gets to heaven. So in Revelation 1:9 he identifies himself again, “I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” And this again is a verse that needs a little tweaking because of some textual problems. It should not be handled “John, both your brother.” It is just “I, John, your brother and companion.” Then we have an interesting phraseology here called an HENDIATRIS.
A figure of speech known as a HENDIADYS is when you take two words and link them together with a conjugation in such a way that both of them describe the same thing. For example a pastor-teacher, that is a HENDIADYS. But the DYS at the end is two words. This is when you have three words linked by a conjunction and they all refer to basically the same thing. They are viewed as a tight unit. And we should translate this not “tribulation” because that has overtones of the Great Tribulation, but simply a word for ongoing adversity in the believer’s life. “Both your brother and companion.” Pastors and apostles weren’t any different from any other believer. We all have to go through adversity to grow. And in the midst of adversity we learn to trust God, and when you continue to apply doctrine day in and day out that is called endurance. And you can’t grow and advance in the spiritual life without endurance, without hanging in there, without applying the Word consistently over a long period of time.
That is the third word we have in this triplet here. We have the word:
1. Tribulation, which indicates the adversity in the spiritual life, the Greek word THIPSIS.
2. Kingdom - that is what we are being prepared for.
3. Endurance, the word HUPOMONE, which has the basic idea of staying under something.
That is what endurance is. Endurance isn’t “oh, I’m in adversity now; I’m going through this; let’s figure out a way out because I want life to be easy; I want every thing to go smoothly; and I want the Lord to just bless me. The Lord’s not blessing me unless everything is going good.” Your popular secular Christian life is that if we’re doing everything right then it’s going to be easy. But in the Christian life when we are doing everything right, it may get very difficult. We may go through a lot of adversity and testing in order to give us the opportunity to utilize these stress busters, the problem solving devices, so that we can grow and advance in our spiritual lives. That’s the only way we can grow according to James 1:2-4 where we are told to “count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter” what? “Various trials (causal adverbial participle) because you know that the testing of your faith, that is your doctrine, produces endurance, HUPOMONE. And let endurance have its maturing consequence that you may be mature and sufficient in all things.”
I hate to tell you, to burst your bubble, but if you are going to grow to maturity in the spiritual life you have to go through a lot of adversity. And the key to passing those tests is endurance. And the end result is that this is headed for preparation for the kingdom. So it should be translated with hyphens. I would translate it adversity-kingdom-endurance. It is one idea. This is all interconnected. That’s the impact of the syntax here if John is our brother and companion in the adversity-kingdom-endurance of Jesus Christ. And then he says, “I was on the island called Patmos,” literally because of the Word of God and because of the testimony of Jesus Christ; so he has been sentenced to prison, as it were, on the island of Patmos. He is not under house arrest there. He can walk all over the island, and it is quite roomy as we see here. This is a picture coming into the harbor. It is kind of a horseshoe shape.
The lower level here on the left is the center of the horseshoe. That’s where the main harbor is. But John had full access to the entire island. So he was walking around on the Lord’s Day and he sat down at some point, and church tradition says that it was in this area.
And there is a cave here under the building where the Greek Orthodox built a chapel; and it is in that cave that allegedly he had his vision in Revelation 1. Now we don’t know that. He could have been anywhere, but that’s the legend. This is another look at the building built over the cave where John allegedly had the vision.
I tend to think that he was probably just enjoying the beautiful view and then suddenly instead of looking at that gorgeous blue Aegean Sea he saw the Lord Jesus Christ. He said in Revelation 1:10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet.” It probably blasted him right out of his seat. The voice said, and here we have another textual issue that requires a lot of time dealing with, Revelation 1:11; in the King James and New King James it seems to indicate again that this is Jesus speaking, so Alpha and Omega, we just saw that a couple of verses earlier; so that would be Jesus. But we see that was inserted later. It is not in most of the manuscripts. It is not in the older manuscripts. It is not in the majority text. So just scratch out, if you’ve got a King James or New King James, just scratch out “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.”
He hears a loud voice saying, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches.” And again, it doesn’t repeat “that are in Asia.” That has already been stated earlier. And then the seven churches are identified: “to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” Now the point that I want to emphasize here is that he is to take everything he sees and write it in a book. He is going to send that book to the seven churches. Now when we get to Revelation 2-3 there are going to be seven little postcards to these churches. But don’t get the idea that they are sent individually. It is the whole book that is sent. When John got the original revelation, he wrote it down and made seven copies. Those seven copies of the totality of Revelation 1-22 were sent to each church so that each congregation would have a copy of the entire revelation.
Revelation 1:12, then he turns “to see the voice that spoke with” him. And when he turns he begins to describe for us what he saw. Now it takes several verses to describe what he saw, but it hit his consciousness immediately even though it takes some time to describe it. But in reality all this takes place in just a few seconds. He turns, he sees, and as he is hit with what he sees he falls on his face much as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6 and many others in the Scripture. When they come face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ in His glory they fall on their face. Now let’s just summarize this. There are eleven different figures that are used in the imagery her3, and we’ve gone through them in detail; at least those who have studied the previous lessons in this series. So let’s just hit the high spots:
1. He saw seven golden lampstands. In Revelation 20 we are told those seven lampstands represent the seven churches. Now in the OT the lampstand that you had in the tabernacle and the temple was one lampstand that had seven distinct bowls. That one lampstand represented the unity of the nation Israel. But here you don’t have one lampstand, you have seven distinct lampstands and they represent the function of each congregation as being a light to the world. So in the present dispensation the church is the means of distribution of the light of revelation and Truth. The seven lampstands represent the completeness of the provision of the church. The church is sufficient to the task. The seven individual lampstands represent the idea that the church is not a unified nation like Israel. We are one in the body of Christ, but the lampstands represent autonomous congregations.
2. Then the next thing that we see here is the manlike figure, One like the Son of man. This of course picks up the imagery from Daniel 7:9. Daniel, who at the time was analogous to a prime minister or secretary of state in the Babylonian Empire; he was involved in daily political developments. And during that time God gave him various revelations that related to future times. For example, you had the explanation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2, where Nebuchadnezzar saw the tremendous image that was really an outline of human history. There it pictured the kingdoms of man as man sees them. It is the beautiful image with a head of gold and a torso of silver and the waist of bronze, and this is how man looks at man’s kingdoms. We look at Rome and Greece and all these great empires in terms of how much they accomplish, but Daniel looks at these in terms of God’s perspective. The empires of man are represented as beasts because they are not fulfilling God’s intention for man, but all the political empires of history are represented as beastly. We have a high view of what the Babylonians and the Persians and the Romans and the Greeks accomplished, but God doesn’t because those were pagan empires. So he looks at them from a different vantage point. And so we see these four beasts:
- The lion representing the Babylonian Empire
- The bear representing the Medes and the Persians
- The four-headed leopard representing the Greek Empire
- Then the indescribable beast that had the ten horns which is the Roman Empire and then the Revived Roman Empire
And at the end of time these empires are going to be destroyed and replaced by the Lord Jesus Christ Who is referenced as the Son of Man because in His reign He represents true humanity. Daniel 7:9 says “I kept looking until the thrones were set up.” This is after the destruction of these kingdoms. “Until the thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days” that is God the Father “took His seat, His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames; its wheels were a burning fire.” Daniel 7:10 “A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him”; this is a picture of the throne room of God that is not unlike that of Revelation 4. We’ll make those comparisons when we get there. “Thousands upon thousands were tending Him.” These would be the myriads upon myriads of angels referenced in Revelation 4. “And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened.” So it is a picture of judgment.
And then Daniel 7:13 “I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and he came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.” Daniel 7:14 “And to Him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom.” So this picture of judgment takes place at the end of the Tribulation and is a heavenly scene where the kingdom is given to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t have a kingdom until then. He has the title “King” but it isn’t activated until the end of the Tribulation. Daniel 7:14 “And to Him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”
So when Daniel speaks of the “Son of Man” he is thinking of it in this Messianic sense. And it is at this point that judgment responsibility is delegated to the Son from the Father, John 5:22, Jesus said, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” Now this introduces this aspect that is so crucial to understanding Revelation 1. That it is picturing Jesus not as the Priest-Intercessor, which is what we get out of Hebrews, but it is a picture of Jesus as the Priest-Judge. The whole picture here reinforces this.
3. He is clothed with a garment down to the feet. The term used in the Greek here for down to the feet is PODERE, which comes out of an OT context and is used as the robe of the high priest. So that would remind the reader who’s knowledgeable of the OT of a priestly garment. In Ezekiel 9:11 this word is used to describe the clothing of the man with the inkhorn in a scene that is dealing again with the idea of judgment. So the long robe represents the office held by the one wearing the robe.
4. He is girded about with a golden band. This same idea is present in Daniel 10:5 where Daniel says, “I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz!” It’s a picture of someone who is in a high office. It pictures someone of royal dignity. So Jesus is pictured here as someone with a high office and one of dignity. It is an image that speaks of someone who is a judge, someone who is a priest.
5. He is described as having white hair, white like wool, as white as snow. And again it takes up imagery from the OT. You can’t understand the NT without understanding the OT. You can understand some things, but every dimension of this description and what Jesus says at the end is based upon OT prophecy. Revelation is the culmination of everything that is said in the OT plus prophecies in the NT and you can’t just jump into this and start, oh, I’m going to interpret this anyway I want to and just start grabbing metaphorical images to figure out what it says. The white here is a reminder of Daniel 7:9, “the Ancient of Days” Whose “vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head was like pure wool.” It is identifying the Son here with that judicial role of the Father described in Daniel 7:9. The whiteness emphasizes purity. Remember, God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. This is the picture of the integrity that God has in judgment.
6. Revelation 1:14 states that the Son of Man had eyes like fire. This is referenced later in the letter to Thyatira, where there will be a reference to the One whose eyes were like flames of fire. This again has an OT background, Daniel 10:6 talks about the One whose body was like beryl, his face like lightening, his eyes like torches of fire. It speaks of purity, judgment, insight and omniscience.
7. The feet are refined, shining metal, Revelation 1:15. The Greek word here is CHALKOLIBANO, which is not found anywhere else. This is the only time we have this word. We don’t know what it means. Is it bronze; is it brass; is it gold; is it silver; is it platinum? We don’t know. It is a kind of metal that is bright and shining. Again you have this image of purity. Something that is so bright that you want to shield your eyes. And of course this speaks of something that has been refined in a fiery furnace. So it is pure; therefore, it speaks of the qualifications of the One who judges.
8. His voice is like the sound of many waters, Revelation 1:15. It is loud. It is overwhelming. If you’ve ever stood at the shore by Niagara Falls, you can’t hear yourself think. That is the sound of the voice. It is overwhelming. This too has a basis in the OT. A quote from Ezekiel 43:2 “And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice (that is the voice of God) was like the sound of many waters.”
9. He has seven stars in His right hand, Revelation 1:16. Notice there is a distinction here, which we will come back to, between the stars in His right hand and the churches He’s walking in the midst of. They’re distinct. So He has these seven stars in His right hand who are later described in Revelation 1:20 as the seven angels of the seven churches.
10. Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, Revelation 1:16. This is the Greek word RHOMPHAIA, a sword that was used in judgment. Revelation 19:15, when Jesus returns “out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, a RHOMPHAIA, that He should strike the nations.” So this is not the MACHAIRA used of the Word of God, but the RHOMPHAIA, which is used for judgment. Also in Revelation 19:21 “the rest were killed with the sword” with the RHOMPHAIA, which proceeded from His mouth” So the picture here is of someone coming in judgment.
11. His countenance is like the brilliance of the sun, Revelation 1:16. This summarizes the whole image. The white hair, the shining feet and legs, everything; His countenance is like the brilliance of the sun. It is overwhelming and as a result when John sees Him he falls at His feet as if dead, Revelation 1:17, “I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last.”
And here we see three things that Jesus says which indicate His Person:
1. I am the first and the last. Again, phraseology that comes out of the OT, Isaiah 44:6, which you can compare with Isaiah 48:12. There Isaiah hears the voice of God saying, “I am the first and I am the last, besides Me there is no God.” So Jesus is identifying Himself as full deity. We live in an age today where people want to challenge this notion about the deity of Christ. “He’s not really God.” That was a notion that was dreamed up by Constantine in the 4th century, A. D. 325. It was imposed on the ecclesiastical hierarchy that met at Nicea. You can see this in the garbage that is promoted in the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, who doesn’t know anything about history and knows even less about theology, but has an agenda, which is to attack Christianity with numerous lies so that he can discredit it because he has a hatred for biblical Christianity. His claim is that the church imposed deity on Christ at a later date, but here you have clear evidence from Revelation dated in A. D. 95 that the church from the very beginning, in fact, Jesus Himself claimed to be deity. This isn’t something that was added later on. The OT anticipated a divine Savior.
2. I am the living One. This has OT roots as well, Joshua 3:10; Psalm 42:2; Hosea 1:10. In the OT God is characteristically described as the living God in contrast to the pagan idols of wood and stone and metal.
3. Jesus said, “ I have the keys of death and of Hades.” The rabbis had a saying that there were three keys which belonged to God and which He would share with no other: the key of birth, key of reign, and the key of raising the dead. The statement “I have the keys of death and of Hades” is a metaphor for saying I have power over death, because Jesus Christ conquered death in the resurrection. And the only way that we can conquer death is to be identified with Christ, and that comes when we put our faith alone in Christ alone.
The point that we see here is that throughout this imagery the book of Revelation clearly portrays Jesus as fully divine. He is fully God, Eternal God. He is identified closely with the God of the OT. He is identified closely with God the Father, and He is the One who is qualified to judge us because He was the One who was incarnate on the earth. He went through all the sufferings, every category of suffering and testing and temptation just like us; and yet He passed the test. And so when He judges us we are not judged by someone who hasn’t gone through what we’ve gone through. We can’t say, “well, you just don’t know what it’s like Lord.” The Lord is going to say, “Oh, but I do; I’ve been through it all.” And so we won’t have a leg to stand on. This whole imagery here is a warning to us that one day, someday, we will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and there will be an evaluation. Not of our sins; that was paid for! But positively, what have we done with that spiritual life? What have we done with all those assets that He gave us? What have we done to prepare ourselves for our future ruling and reigning with Jesus Christ?