Jesus makes a world-altering proclamation: “The Father is Greater than All” followed with “I and the Father are One!”
This sent the religious leaders spiraling out of control, and would later send John into the Heavenly Throne Room (in Revelation 1) to get a passing glimpse at the Unveiled Jesus; to see who He REALLY is as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus in his glorified state is beyond belief and beyond true description. He is beautiful, powerful and magnificent above all, which knocks us to our knees in worship, breaks the chains of sin and death, and sets us free to live out our new identity as His Bride.
As you flip open the Book of Revelation it is easy to quickly get glassy-eyed and confused. Ironically “Revelation” simply means “unveiling,” but it seems like the last thing this book does is make things more clear. Before you give up on interpreting the seals, dragons, bowls and all of that, look at how the book begins. Chapter 2 & 3 are Seven letters to the Seven Churches in modern day Turkey. Jesus, through the hand of John, sends letters along the ancient postal route with words of conviction and encouragement. But before pointing out sins and inviting us into faithful endurance, John gets completely enraptured in the absolute glory of the Risen Jesus. The Holy Spirit ushers John to the curtain, pulls it back just a little, and there He is. The King of King himself. The last time John saw Jesus He was about 33 years old and ascending into heaven. Now look at him. He is completely unhindered by the flesh and ruling with absolute power.
Let’s look at a few of the descriptions. But before we do we need to adjust our brain and expectations. What John describes is not meant to be taken lightly or literally. John has just seen something so infinitely glorious that it is beyond human words. He is trying to use his native tongue to describe something unutterable. And so he uses artistic and imaginative language. This does NOT mean that it’s untrue. It means that John is trying to convey a holy truth in words that we can (at least a little) understand. The question we have to bring to the text is “What is Jesus actually trying to reveal about himself?”
So let’s jump in.
Revelation 1 12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
“Long robe and with a golden sash” – We beautifully begin with the Kingly Christ who was and is and is to come. We have a ruler that is not crossing his fingers, hoping that things turn out for the best. We have a King that is a Provider and Protector.
“Hairs of his head were white…” – now we can start to scatch our heads. Why does Jesus all of a sudden look old (or like he just spent the summer on the California beach). Until you put yourself in John’s Jewish shoes. When he saw Jesus’ white hair a Messianic passage would have quickly come to mind:
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.
Pay attention to what is happening. Jesus is confirming that he is the Messiah, the Christ, that the world had been anticipating for thousands of years.
“His eyes were like flames of fire” – Do your best to not let your mind go literal. Jesus is not Superman shooting lasers out of his eyes. It’s actually much bigger and better. All throughout scripture God’s eyes permeate creation. Nothing is unseen and nothing is unknown.
“His feet were like burnished bronze” – This seems pretty odd, until we remember another passage out of Daniel 2 where King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a huge statue of a mighty king. Except that he had feet of clay which would shatter and bring down the whole man and whole kingdom. But Jesus doesn’t have feet of clay (clay being merely flesh) but feet of strong bronze. Unshatterable and stable.
“His voice was like the roar of many waters….from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword.” – Remember back to Genesis 1. God’s voice holds holds inexpressible power. Power to create something of nothing. By his words alone he brings kingdoms up and tears them down. And then Jesus came as the Word made Flesh. We also see (in Hebrews 4:12) that God’s two-edged Word brings Truth and Justice to a wicked world.
“His face was like the sun shining in full strength” – Add all of the other “body parts” and they come to this: The Face of God. This is his “Shekinah Glory” — the very majesty of God. It was God’s face that Moses couldn’t see and live. It was God’s face that Aaron referred to in his beautiful blessing:
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
And there is so much more. Revelation has a lot more to say about Jesus and shockingly amazing he is. And when John saw him, he fell down in fear and awe. But Jesus lifted him back up and told him that there was no reason to be afraid. Though in his flesh John was so filthy that he’d be consumed by Jesus’ purity, Jesus himself paid for that filth and imputed his righteousness into John, and all believers. So now we can be in utter reverence AND yet stay standing as His priests and ambassadors.
Now that we’ve gone through a few of these description let me confess….I may be wrong on some (or all) of them. These are glorious descriptions of the Ultimate Superlative. We can do our best to understand, but our minds this side of heaven will be limited. And you know what? That’s just fine. Even if we ruminate on the hair, eyes, mouth and face of Jesus and don’t quite get the “right answer” — guess what…we actually accomplished what I believe John wanted us to. Our hearts, minds and souls meditated on the Lord of Lords. That’s what it is all about. Before we get into what we should and shouldn’t do; before we get into issues of theology, sexual ethic, justice and how a church should run, we must fall to our knees in AWE and WONDER of Jesus himself. Those other things are important (even commanded), but only as they flow out of Jesus himself and our worship of him.