Many attribute the book of Revelation to John, son of Zebedee and brother of James; the text merely refers to John with no other identifying factors. His contemporaries would have known exactly which John was exiled to Patmos, and thus it would be unnecessary to provide additional information. The fact that the early church kept his letter and took it seriously proves that whichever John wrote the message, he was respected among believers.
The isle of Patmos is famous because of John—I don't think I've ever heard it referenced for any other reason. The isle is located on the Aegean Sea, near Greece. Romans exiled people to the isle because it is barren, with rocky terrain—the opposite of the island get away you think of for vacation. It is here that John receives profound, and often confusing, vision of the end.
John Receives a Vision
Revelation is a vision. When God gives visions (or dreams) to people He speaks to them in symbolic language. Seeing a cow in the vision doesn't mean a literal cow will appear. Examples of this can be seen with Joseph (Genesis 41), Daniel (Daniel 7), and Peter (Acts 10-11). As such, many of the images given to John are symbolic. To understand these symbols, we must look for references within the Word that define the symbols for us. The majority of Revelation's symbols are defined in the book of Daniel or as they're given, but occasionally we must look in other books of the Bible as well.
Image of the Messiah
The following description is given of the Messiah:
13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
The first thing John takes note of is the Messiah's attire: a garment to the feet that is girded at the chest. Usually, garments are held up (or girded) at the waist. Another time we see someone wearing a breastplate to gird their garments is in Exodus 28:15-29. The breastplate described was worn by the High Priest of Israel and contained the names of each tribe engraved in the stones that decorated the garment. Since Christ is the new High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16), it makes sense that He would appear to John, who was very familiar with the garments of the High Priest, wearing such an attire. For the Israelites, the reference of this attire would have been obvious. Elsewhere in Revelation, we will see references to white garments, but John doesn't give any more detail about Christ's garments here. Since He is dressed as the High Priest, it is possible that His clothes were blue and appeared as described in Exodus 28:31-36.
Head and Hair
Many of us have taken the comparison of Christ's hair to wool to be literal, asserting that Christ had curly hair (I have made this statement myself). However, it appears that the reference being made is actually to the color of his hair. Of course in Daniel 7:9, we see the same reference and in the original language (Aramaic) the verse reads closer to "hair like pure wool." As outlined in the 2nd commandment, we aren't supposed to get caught up on what God or Christ look like, which is probably why He made it hard to draw any hard-line conclusions about his appearance from the text. In this particular verse, the point being made is about attributes, not His physical appearance. The significance of white hair is the inference of wisdom (Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 16:31). When I was a child, I defined "old" as anyone with gray hair. If I had seen a 40 year old with all gray hair, that was the same to me as a 70 year old with gray hair. Without having ever read the Biblical passages given above, I associated gray (or white) hair with the maturity and wisdom that comes with age. The Messiah presented Himself this way to John as a reminder that He is eternal and has eternal wisdom.
What does it mean for Christ's eyes to be like fire? When I hear about fire, especially in the context of Revelation, I automatically think of judgement, but fire is significant for many reasons. The Bible associates fire with God's judgement (e.g., Genesis 19:24) and God's presence (e.g.,Exodus 3:2). There are also many verses that speak of God seeing or searching the "inward" parts of man, which is a form of judgment as He is only concern with our character. This fire represents the all seeing, all knowing presence of God—the only One Who has authority to judge the world.
33 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. 34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.
To this day, Middle Eastern culture regards the foot as unclean or undesirable. This is why it was so shocking that Christ would wash the disciples feet and why it was considered an act of humility. In more recent times, you may remember when past president, George W. Bush visited Iraq and a journalist threw shoes at him. Culturally, this was a profound statement of disrespect from the Iraqi journalist responsible for the act. Psalms 108:9 also references "casting a shoe" in a manner that tells us it is not good.
The feet however, are the foundation of your body—anatomically speaking. If it weren't for you feet your could not stand up, jump, run, walk, or even dance. The feet could be seen as your root. The fact that Christ's feet are described as brass or bronze lends to both of these points. John explicitly says it was as though these feet had been in a furnace. Daniel 3 gives us a basis for why Christ's feet might look as though they'd been in a furnace. Just as He walked with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) in the fiery furnace, He came to earth as a man and experienced all the trials and tribulations of man. Christ experienced shame, just as we have, and it is through this shared experience that He is able to build a relationship with us. This relationship is our foundation in His Kingdom.
When I think of the voice of God, I think of thunder. If you give me time, I might get to the still small voice that Elijah heard ( 1 Kings 19:12). The description of His voices as many waters is something I had to think about and research. It is a reference to Ezekiel 43:2, where God's voice is also described as the sound of many waters. Interestingly, there are many places in the Bible in which "waters" is associated with a nation or army. In fact, this correlation is explicitly stated in Revelation 17:15. I wonder if the fact that the Messiah's voice sounds as many waters, symbolizes His ability to unify people from all over the world into His Kingdom?
In His right hand (the hand of favor) are 7 stars. These stars are defined later in the chapter as being the angels of the seven churches (which come up inRevelation 2-3). These could be guardian angels, or simply human messengers. We have to remember that the term angel simply means messenger. Thus, it is hard to identify these particular angels as being heavenly or earthly. Either way, they are connected to the message John is about to receive for each each church.
Out of His Mouth
A double-edged sword coming out of one's mouth sounds both terrifying and painful. The sword is defined in Hebrews 4:12 as the Word of God. The Messiah speaks truth, and only truth. We all know the phrase "the truth hurts," and in God's case, the truth can hurt both the judge and the judged. God does not want us to choose death and it pains Him to have to execute that judgement. Obviously for those who have chosen death, the judgement will hurt them. However, for those who stand on the truth of God's Word, there needn't be any fear of this sword.
Countenance usually references your face or expression. So to have a face or expression like the sun implies brightness to me. We know that God is light, and we also know that after Moses "saw" God, he glowed (Exodus 34:29-35). Many believe that before the fall, mankind had a similar glow about them.
Christ identifies the 7 lampstands as the 7 churches. The 7 churches of Asia minor (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardia, Philidelphia, and Laodicea) are identified in Revelation 2-3. Each of these churches existed in real life, but the struggles each church faced can be more broadly applied in a Spiritual sense. It is unclear whether the reference in Revelation 1 refers to the literal 7 churches of Asia minor, or if it references the spiritual 7 churches.
Alpha and Omega
Most of us know Alpha and Omega mean beginning and end. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet (the original language of the book of Revelation) and Omega is the last letter. An Amazing Facts sermon on this chapter actually gave me a whole new meaning to Alpha and Omega.
Alpha and Omega represent letters, just like A and Z. These letters and all the letters in between are used to create words which express and represent our thoughts. Christ is the Word of God (John 1:14), the thoughts of God revealed.
Other Relevant Posts
References and Footnotes
- Daniel 7:9 Interlinear Bible". Blue Letter Bible; visited July 5, 2020
- Antonia Noori Farzan. "10 years ago, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at George W. Bush and instantly became a cult figure". The Washington Post. December 14, 2018
- "The Inward Being". Knowing Jesus; visited May 16, 2020
- "Patmos". Encyclopædia Britannica. August 9, 2018
- Ree Hughes. “". PSALMS to God. May 2, 2020