THE SON OF MAN – I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (Revelation 1:12-16)
His Surroundings – When John turned to see the source of the great voice, what immediately caught his eye was not the source of the voice, but rather seven golden lampstands that surrounded the speaker. John is told later that the seven golden lampstands are the seven churches. There was a seven-branched candlestick in the Old Testament tabernacle (Exodus 25:31, 32), which was one lamp-stand with seven (six arms and one central shaft) candlesticks (Zechariah 4:2, 11). Some see the lampstands here as seven separate candlesticks representing the seven individual churches addressed later, connected to one central lampstand representing the entire Church. This would be a bit different than, but somewhat reminiscent of the one in the tabernacle. This image would suggest several churches that are mutually independent as to external ceremonies and government, yet one in the Headship of Christ. The candlestick is not the source of light, but is the bearer of the light, holding it forth to enable it to give its light all around. The light is the Lord not the Church. Christ, standing in the midst of the seven lampstands, supports the argument that these are seven separate lampstands.
His Identification – John draws heavily on the vision of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7 and the vision of the angelic figure in Daniel 10. During His ministry, Jesus appropriated Daniel’s “one like a son of man” terminology in reference to Himself (see Daniel 7:13; Matthew 9:6; 10:23; 11:19). John, who had been with Jesus during His earthly ministry, would have known and would also have been familiar with Daniel’s visions. Thus, it should be no surprise that he would use this familiar terminology to describe the glorified Christ. Of course John also witnessed the glorified Christ at the Transfiguration, so he would be in a position to recognize Him in this vision.
Son of man is an expression that is found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is used in three ways:
• Man – As a poetic synonym for man or human, as in Psalms. 8:4 and 80:17;
• Ezekiel –As the title by which God regularly addresses the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:1, 3; 3:1, 3); and
• Christ – As the identity of the person whom the prophet Daniel sees coming with the clouds of heaven to approach the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7).
The Son of Man is a designation of Christ that is used frequently in the New Testament. It was, in fact, Jesus’ favorite term to identify Himself and to signify both his messianic mission and his full humanity. This was His way of saying He was the Messiah without coming out directly and saying, I am the Messiah. Jesus quoted the following passage in His trial before the Sanhedrin: Then the high priest said to Him, “By the living God I place You under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!” “You have said it,” Jesus told him. “But I tell you, in the future you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right hand’ of the Power, and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.’” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Look, now you’ve heard the blasphemy” (Matthew 26:63–65). Jesus clearly understood that the passage in Daniel about the Son of Man was a title for the Christ, the Son of God. Evidently, the high priest also understood the passage in this way, for he considered it blasphemy for Jesus to have applied the passage to Himself.
His Appearance – This vision of Christ was totally different in appearance from the Savior that John walked with when He was ministering on earth. He was not the gentle Jewish carpenter of humble means that came to die for our sins. He is the risen, glorified, exalted Son of God, the Priest-King who has the authority to judge all men, beginning with His own people (1 Peter 4:17).
• His Robe – The long robe He wore is symbolic of dignity and honor. It could be a royal robe, a priestly robe, or both (compare Isaiah 6:1). The girdle is an Old Testament symbol of power, righteousness and truth (Isaiah 22:21; Job 12:18; Isaiah 11:5).
• His Hair – The Son has the same purity as God the Father, as signified by the whiteness of His head and hair. The Ancient of Days took His seat. His clothing was as white as the snow and His head was white like wool (Daniel 7:9).
• His Eyes – His eyes, “like a blazing fire,” symbolizes that He sees all things (Revelation 19:12; Hebrews 4:12), thus enabling Him to judge righteously.
• His Feet – His feet of burning brass also suggest judgment, since the brazen altar was the place where the fire consumed the sin offering. The Lord had come to judge the churches, and He would also judge the evil world system.
• His Voice – His voice, which John had already likened to the sound of a trumpet, was also like the sound of a mighty waterfall, similar to the description in Ezekiel 43:2 of the voice of God (like Father, like Son – One in essence).
• His Right Hand – In His right hand He held seven stars, identified in Revelation 1:20 as the angels or messengers of the seven churches. Significantly Christ held them in His right hand, indicating sovereign possession, authority and control.
• His Mouth – Speaking of Christ’s role as a Judge, John saw a sharp double-edged sword coming out of His mouth administering His justice. It is the sword of His Spirit. The edge of reproof and punishment, rather than the edge of converting power, is the prominent point in this text. Still, as He encourages the churches, as well as admonishing them, the former quality of the Word is not excluded. Its two edges (back and front) may allude to its ability to condemn some while converting others.
• His Face – The Lord’s shining countenance reminds us of His transfiguration (Matthew 17:2) and also the prophecy of Malachi 4:2 (“the Sun of righteousness [shall] arise”). The sun is a familiar image of God in the Old Testament (Psalm 84:11), reminding us not only of blessing, but of judgment. The sun can burn as well as bless!
Up Next – Do Not Be Afraid.