Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; 13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. 14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. 16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. (Vs.12-16)
The very first thing that John saw is given to us in vs. 12-16. His commission was to “write in a book what you see”. The first vision was one of breathtaking beauty and overwhelmed him to the extent of John falling at His feet as though dead. What he saw was Jesus! The very first thing he observed was a golden lampstand. This item is identified with the churches of Asia Minor (Rev. 1:20) but what is the significance of comparing the church with these lampstands? The lampstands were really nothing new to John as he surely would have known that they are found in Exodus 25:31-40; 37:17-24 and in Numbers 8:1-4 but the more focused text in comparing this vision would probably have taken John back to Zechariah 4:1-10 where we read:
Then the angel who was speaking with me returned and roused me, as a man who is awakened from his sleep. He said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side.” Then I said to the angel who was speaking with me saying, “What are these, my lord?” So the angel who was speaking with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”‘” Also the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. “For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel–these are the eyes of the LORD which range to and fro throughout the earth.”
The text of Zechariah 4 speaks not of furniture found in the temple but seems to present the rebuilding of the temple itself but not by any human effort but “by my Spirit”. I believe that the usage of the lampstand is speaking of the church (the body) being built by the Spirit of God. Without the Spirit the church has no power or light hence it becomes a dead. The chief cornerstone was laid through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (1:5-6) and by sending the Spirit is what gave light to the gatherings. (John 14:16-17; 16:5-16)
The second vision of John has as its focus the Son of man. In the middle of those seven lampstands was the one who ruled over the churches. The son of man is a reference back to Daniel’s visions in Daniel 7 and 10 where the son of man is presented as the king. The clothing referred to however seems to be presenting the Lord Jesus as the great high priest who was responsible for the care of the lampstands. (see Exodus 25:7; 28:4; 29:5; 35:9; Zech. 3:5)
What is fascinating in the next section is the usage of the term “like”. John was attempting to explain a loveliness that was undeniably inexplicable. We, as humans, learn through comparison but what is expressed in John’s vision can only be left wondering what it was that he truly saw. There will be a day where “we shall see Him as He is…” (1 John 3:2) and gaze at that lovely face for all eternity!
The next few descriptions that John presents to us are all parts of the human body:
The head and hair: His head and hair were pure white as that of white wool or snow. When we return to the Old Testament for clarity on this terminology, we find in Daniel’s prophecy a description of “the ancient of days”. (Daniel 7:9-12) The head and hair being white seems to be denoting the purity of his nature, the brightness of his majesty, and his uncorruptness in judgment: (Gill) The Lord Jesus is presented as the supreme wise judge.
His eyes: The eyes are described as being “like a flame of fire”. This is once again referring to judgment as we will see further on. (Rev. 2:16-23). This is also borrowing from Daniel 10:6 where the Son of man is seen as judge hence the parallel. There is nothing hidden from Him as His judgment is inescapable. I appreciated Clark’s comments:
No night so dark as to dim his vision. No path so torturous and crooked that he cannot follow it. No secret so hidden that it does not blaze before him. No heart that he does not read like an open page. No deed so buried that it does not stand out beefore him. Nothing so forgotten that it will not come to light. That eye sees through everything.[i]
The feet: John portrays the Lord Jesus as having feet like burnished bronze when it has been made to glow in the furnace. The feet were the means how one walks and I believe this reference is stating that the one who is the priest, king and judge is also the one who walks in perfect purity. The bronze feet also symbolize judgment as in Ezekiel 1:7 where it speaks of a coming judgment of Israel.
The voice: The voice of the son of man is compare to the sound of “many waters”. This seems to be the same voice Ezekiel once referred to when he wrote: I also heard the sound of their wings like the sound of abundant waters as they went, like the voice of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army camp; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings.(1:24) and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory.(43:2)
The right hand: John continues with the description of what he saw by speaking now of the right hand of the Lord Jesus. He states that in His right hand He held seven stars which, in v.20, is identified as the angels of the seven churches. The right hand is generally an image of the place of honour when it is denoting a position (sitting-see Hebrews 1:3; 13) but in this instance the stars are said to be “in His right hand”. I believe this is speaking mainly of these angels being sovereignly in subjection to the Son of man. In other words it is speaking of the right hand of power.
The mouth: The one whom John saw is the one whom out of His mouth came a two edged sword. This is continuing the scene of the one who is able to judge by His word. The sword seems to be parallel with what Isaiah saw (Isaiah 11:4-5; 49:2). It should be clearly noted that the judgment here will not only be on the nations (Rev. 19:15) but more directly in the next verses, on the church of Pergamum. (Rev. 2:16) Those who receive the word it becomes life (John 6:63) however to those who reject it, it become judgment. (John12:48_
His face: We are never given a clear description of the face of Christ anywhere in the gospels or elsewhere. The beauty of His face depicted here is describing a beauty, not of vain human appeal, but of the glory of the one whom John saw. The glory of God is found in the face of the Lord Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:6). This is very similar to the glory that three privileged apostles saw while the Lord Jesus was on earth. (Matthew 17:2)
What so many lose in this vision is that the description of the Son of Man is a visualization so as to prepare the apostle John to take in the seriousness of the message that will be communicated to the churches in Asia. The apostle was in dread to which, as we will see in v.17, led him to such a great terror that he fell at His feet as though dead. This wasn’t a result of bowing in worship as much as it was a trauma that came from what he saw. We must never forget the seriousness of the message and what impact it had on these churches. To lose sight of this is to completely miss the very essence of the Revelation.
[i] The Message from Patmos, David Clark,