That’s a lot to take in. Let me help you out. You might see that in a classic sense; in a more modern comic book sense; or even in a LEGO sense. But, the key is that you take in the vision.
We’ll talk about symbolism here But, first, don’t get overly caught up in deciphering. Your primary thought shouldn’t be what does it MEAN? But, what do I SEE?
Let’s work through that. First, we get a better glimpse of the situation with the author of the book:
** your brother
** your partner
– in tribulation
– in the kingdom
– in patient endurance
– which are in Jesus
Times are hard. Christianity is under fire. The church is being challenged to abandon or water down the faith.
** an exile
– on Patmos
– on account of the word of God
on account of testimony of Jesus
As John is our partner and brother, we should join him in suffering for the testimony of Jesus.
While he is exiled, God comes to him in a vision.
In the Spirit, on the Lord’s Day
a voice like a trumpet (Jesus) saying write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches.
What comes next is an incredible picture of Christ exalted. If you pause to take it in, you will join an impressive line of people. John saw this; Ezekiel saw this; Daniel saw this; Nebuchadnezzar saw this; Zechariah saw this; Isaiah saw this; Moses saw this.
Like each of them, your first response should not be let me get a grasp onto this. Rather, I cannot grasp this. This is beyond me. I am overwhelmed.
Remember, this book is designed to be visual. So, we need to involve our sanctified imagination.
Seven lampstands (1:12) = seven churches (1:20)
in the midst one
like a son of man
clothed with a long robe and golden sash
hairs were white – like wool, like snow
eyes like a flame of fire
feet like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace
voice like the roar of many waters
in his right hand seven stars (1:16) = seven messengers / angels (1:20)
from his mouth a sharp, two-edged sword
face like the sun shining in full strength
You got it? Now add this thought: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.”
What do you see?
Strength. Purity. Brilliance. Majesty. Beauty…
Now, call your vision to mind again. John sees it and falls as dead. Then he places his right hand upon him and says, “Fear not.” Now, what do you see?
Love. Grace. Acceptance. Courage.
Now add this. I am the first and last; the living one; I died and I am alive forever; I have the keys of Death and Hades. Now, what do you see?
Victory. Authority. Supremacy.
Now, there is symbolism here – much of it rooted in OT prophets and the early church would likely recognize it.
Son of man – Jesus’ most used descriptor of himself rooted in the prophecy of Daniel 7. He holds an everlasting dominion and kingdom.
Long robe and sash – priestly garments (though also associated with kingship).
White hair like wool / snow – Ancient and wise.
Eyes like fire – discernment, judgment, piercing through to the truth.
Feet like burnished bronze, refined – Purity and strength to trample any foe.
Voice like many waters – the sound of the Almighty (Ez 1:24).
Two-edged sword – discernment and judgment; God’s word.
Face like the sun – radiance and glory.
First, last, and living – Creator, sustainer, eternal
Died and alive forever – Conqueror of death
Holding keys – Authoritative ruler
Seven lampstands – he is in the presence of the churches.
Seven stars – he holds the witness of the churches in his hands. (We’ll get into more specifically about what / who these “angels” are next week.)
Remember: the purpose of the book is not to have charts all filled out, it is to inspire us to live for Jesus in the midst of persecution – to know that we are a part of his Kingdom now and that he reigns now – therefore we are secure regardless of what the world offers.
So what is our response to this vision of Jesus?
** Worship – the more you see and respond to his majesty and dominion, the less influence the kingdoms, cultures, and people of this world will have over you.
** Beholding and Transforming – in 2 Cor 3:18 Paul says “beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”
This is one of the reasons why reading God’s word regularly is so important – that we behold his glory. And, when we don’t make that effort, we are left with immature Christians. To grow in Christ behold the glory of Christ regularly.
** Hope leading to Purification – in 1 Jn 3:1-3 we read about how we don’t fit in the world: “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him…what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is…everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
** Seeking Victory – The truths revealed in this vision of Jesus lead us to overcome tribulation and struggles of this life. As Rom 8(31-39) reminds us: “If God is for us, who can be against us? …we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” We’ll get into this a bit more next week. As we look at the letters to the seven churches we’ll see that out of this vision of Jesus we are called to a life where we conquer sin, Satan, and surrender in our lives.
Messages in this series
Messages by Greg Taylor