Christ, the Priest-Judge; Rev. 1:12-15
We saw last time that we have a destiny to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Millennial kingdom and on into eternity, and the training ground right now is today. This is it. When we die and go to be face to face with the Lord our training is over with. The capacities that we develop during our time on earth is what we take with us into eternity. Some of us are going to have tremendous capacity; others may not have any capacity, it all depends on what we do with the doctrine we learn during our time on earth. John emphasizes this.
What happens in the verses of Revelation 1:10-20 takes place in a matter of seconds. John was "in the spirit," that is, in a situation where he was able to see into the spiritual realm. God opens up the curtain between the dimensions so that John is able to see into the future and to see that which is normally unseen. That is the idea of that phrase. He is taken by surprise when he suddenly hears this loud voice. It grabs his attention, and he turns around and see something. What he hears as he turns around is the original commission to write.
Revelation 1:12, "And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden lampstands." In the midst of these he sees this person, unlike anything he has seen before. He was one of the disciples who was closest to the Lord Jesus Christ and he had never seen Him like this, not even in resurrection body. This is a unique vision of Jesus Christ having to do with His eschatological, not His original role at the first advent. He sees how He is dressed and all of this hits him at one time, in one second. He is taking all of this in before he hears this reiteration of the commission. All of we have hear down to verse 17a is a description of what John sees but he takes this in in just a second. He sees the seven golden lampstands and this figure in the middle that is just a brilliant white burning glow. It is reminiscent of Jesus as he appears in the Old Testament in the Shekinah glory over the tabernacle. All of these images go back to Old Testament eschatology passages in Daniel and Ezekiel.
"I turned to see the voice" – he utilizes a figure of speech called a metonymy of effect for cause. A metonymy is when you say one thing and put it in place of something else. So here he is talking about the effect for the cause. The cause of the voice would be the person speaking. You don't look at a voice, a voice isn't something physical. What is saying is that he was turning to look at the person who produces the voice that speaks to him. The next phrase should be translated "having turned." The first time it is used he says, "I turned." That is the Greek verb EPISTREPHO [e)pistrefw], aorist active indicative. The aorist tense simply summarizes this action without reference to its beginning, its end or its duration. It just simply refers to it as a simple past action, "I turned." The word EPISTREPHO means to turn around, to go back, to change direction. Thus it can mean to change belief or the course of conduct. Sometimes it is almost parallel to the concept of repent, to change your mind. But here it simply refers to the physical act of turning around, and it is used twice. The first time it says, "Then I turned." The second time that it shows up is when it says, "and having turned," which is an aorist active participle without an article, which means it is adverbial. There are various nuances to an adverbial participle but the one that fits here is that this is a temporal adverbial participle. It should be translated, "and when I turned." "I turned to look at the voice that spoke to me, and when [or, after] I turned I saw seven golden lampstands."
The Bible always interprets itself. When we see any kind of symbol in Scripture we are not left to contemplate our navel and try to figure out what this means. If we look down to the end of the chapter we will see that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to tell us what these symbols mean. "The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches." So these seven lampstands represent the seven churches that John is to send this book to.
Revelation 1:13, "And in the midst of the seven lampstands one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle." Jesus is standing in their midst. To understand the lampstand we have to understand it in the framework of Scripture. The word here that is used for lampstand is LUCHNIAS [luxniaj]. This is different from LUCHNOS [luxnoj] which refers to a lamp, which would be an oil lamp. A LUCHNIAS is the lampstand on which you would place the lamp for illumination. This is not a candlestick, it is a golden lampstand. The "golden" indicates the high value that is placed by God upon these churches. We will see that even though some of these churches are filled with carnality and tolerating false doctrine each of them is still represented by this golden lampstand. That indicates that there can be rank carnality and even false doctrine but that doesn't mean the church is not a genuine church and that the people in the church are not true believers. That doesn't mean that they are all believers, but it means that they are viewed as being made up of believers. They are being warned. They are being told to get with it in their spiritual life, not to get saved! They are still believers. The solution to challenge isn't to get saved, the challenge is to get with it in their spiritual life. What we see here is the beginning of this imagery that is going to dominate the next two chapters. Jesus is in the midst of these seven golden lampstands, in the midst of the churches. He is moving in the midst of these local congregations.
When we look at these lamps, first of all, the first four points deal with the Old Testament background for understanding a lamp.
1) In Israel they had a seven-branch single lampstand in the tabernacle—seven branches, one lampstand. The picture we have in Revelation is not of the candelabra that is used in the tabernacle which was one lampstand and seven bowls. This is seven individual lampstands. The seven-branch single-based lampstand in the tabernacle and temple was used to represent Israel because of their role in the Word of God to be the light of the world.
2) The lampstand is removed from Israel to Babylon with the exile in 586 BC. 2 Chronicles 36:17-21. The spiritual failure of the nation led to the removal of the lamstand to Babylon.
3) We see the restoration or partial restoration of the lampstand under Zerubbabel, because the whole nation doesn't return. Zerubbabel has a vision of the lampstand in Zechariah 4:11 which is a picture of Israel being fully restored in the Millennial kingdom under the Messiah.
4) The Old Testament lampstand represented the unity of one nation, Israel.
5) The lampstand was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the ultimate revelation of God, John 8:12; 9:5, "I am the Light of the world." So the lampstand is a type of Christ in His role as the one who reveals God the Father and reveals His plan to man. John 1:12. Now Jesus is the physical representation of that lamp and the anti-type of that lamp at the first advent, but when Jesus was crucified His body was put in the grace, He rose from the dead, and then He ascended to heaven so that His physical resurrection body is now seated at the right hand of the Father. What replaced it on the earth? The body of Christ, the church. We as the body of Christ replace the physical body of Christ on the earth and we are the representative of Christ on the earth. So people are to look at the church and see Christ. This is one reason why character matters in the Christian life in the church age, not a legalistic overt change but a real change from the inside out. Now the church is represented as the light of the world in the seven independent lampstands. Why? Because each church ism autonomous. Though there is one church there is not a hierarchy of churches. This is a great passage to show that you don't have a unified hierarchical church in the Scriptures, but each individual church, each individual, autonomous body of believers is responsible for its own teaching, its own conduct, its own government, and its own application of the Word of God.
6) In the present dispensation Christ has replaced by the church, His body. Which means that part of the responsibility of the church is to be a distributor of revelation and truth, and this is done through the comm8unication of Bible doctrine.
7) Seven represents fullness, completion or sufficiency. Just as there was the seven-branched lampstand with Israel, indicating that God had provided everything to them and that was a sufficient organization and basis for revelation in the Old Testament, so too in the New Testament there is a sufficiency in the church. So these seven churches are going to be a sufficient revelation and representation of every church in the church age. Every church fits one of the patterns that are mentioned in these seven churches.
In verse 13 John sees one like the Son of Man. The term "son of" is a Hebraism, an adjectival phrase describing something about a person's character. Judas was a lost unbeliever, so he is called "son of perdition," from the same root as those who perish in John 3:16. Son of God means deity; Son of Man means humanity. Jesus Christ is truly human. He is true humanity, the second Adam; He is everything Adam could have been and should have been if he had not disobeyed God and eaten the fruit. So Jesus is the Son of Man, but the term Son of Man is a strong messianic term that seems to have heavy connotations for Israel. We see that in the Gospels where Jesus uses the term Son of Man over 70 times to refer to Himself, and it has this strong Jewish emphasis. But it is not restricted to that.
Daniel 7:9-14. Daniel is having a vision of the end of the Tribulation period when there will be a judgment. He has just traced in the earlier part of the chapter the various kingdoms of man that are pictured as the wild veracious beasts. All of the best of man in terms of his political empires and political unity, and that which we often value in terms of their contributions to human history, are all pictured by God as being bestial at the very core of their nature. These kingdoms are all going to be destroyed by the Son of Man when he comes and he sets up His kingdom, contrasting the genuine human—real human minus sin, minus carnality—nature, versus the bestial nature of all human political systems.
"I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days [God the Father] did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting."
The description of the Ancient of days was the same as that of Jesus in Revelation chapter one. His throne was a blaze of flame. This is the same imagery we see in John's vision. This is a picture of God the Father as a judge before a courtroom. All of this picture of the whiteness and the brightness and the fire has to do with His role as a judge. In verse 14, "one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven" is the same imagery as in Revelation chapter one. In John 5:22 we are told by Jesus, "For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son." So there is a transfer of judicial authority from God the Father to God the Son at the second coming. It goes with His responsibilities as King of kings and Lord of lords.
All of this sets us up for understanding not only the dynamics for the end of Revelation chapter one but what is happening in terms of our spiritual life, because the picture here is of Jesus Christ, not as a King, and even though He is clothed with a garment down to His feet, which some people want to take as priestly function, this is a picture of royalty, of aristocracy. It is a picture of a royal official who has a claim to authority. The picture that we see with His hair white as snow, eyes like a flame of fire, is all imagery of judgment. Jesus Christ moves in the church age as a judge. This is part of His role as a priest—not as a priest-King but as a priest-judge. Why? Because His business today in the church age is to purify the church because we are to rule and reign with Him as priests in the coming kingdom. The underlying foundation to church age sanctification is to purify us mentally and spiritually to prepare us, not just positionally but experientially because experientially is where we are prepared to rule and reign with Jesus Christ as priest-kings, royal priests, during the Millennial kingdom. This is the imagery here of the Son of Man functioning in this priest-King role in the midst of the churches. The long robe going down to the feet is a picture of official authority, although it is used in Exodus 28:4 of the robe of the high priest. It is also used in Ezekiel 9:11 for the clothing of this man who comes to Ezekiel with the ink horn. It is a scene which represents judgment. It has to do with the kind of a garment that an official, someone with high authority would be wearing. The same thing is true of the golden band. The high priest's robe was woven with an element of gold thread, but this is a gold band itself. Again, it indicates the authority of an official. While there are overtones of the priest idea here it has more to do with judgment, so we have Jesus Christ as the priest-judge.
There is another example of this in the Old Testament in Daniel 10:5. Daniel is having another vision and in this vision he looks up: "Then I lifted up my eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with fine gold of Uphaz." This again indicate this person who is coming, the context is judgment, and it is an official. Verse 10 also feeds into this because this person has eyes like a flame. So we see this same kind of connection with this picture of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1:14, "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire." The whiteness indicates purity, brilliance. This was not seen at the first advent, either pre or post-resurrection. This just appears at the second coming. This picture of Him is as a judge. His eyes like a flame indicates that which knows everything; nothing escapes His judgment. The phrase "eyes like a flame of fire" is taken from Daniel 10:6. Notice the similarity, we see these things over and over again. To know the New testament we have to understand the Old Testament.
Revelation 1:15 continues the description, "And his feet like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters." The Greek word translated here as "fine brass" is CHALKOLIBANON [xalkolibanon]. It is not found anywhere else outside of the book of Revelation. It refers to some kind of refined metal or alloy. It is brilliant, almost white. They are said to be refined in a furnace. Jesus is refined on the cross. That is where He went through judgment, and because He was judged for our sins He is now qualified to be our judge. We are judged by a priest-judge who has been tested in all points as we are, yet without sin. We are judged by a peer so that He has gone through what we have gone through, yet without sin.
Then we are told at the end of this verse that He had a voice like the sound of many waters. That is a reference to Ezekiel 43:2, "And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory." This was a loud voiced that reverberated ever4y part of John's being and called him to attention.