As we look at John’s description of the Savior we have to remember to discern between what is literal and what is spiritual. What John sees here is literally Jesus, but Jesus is manifesting Himself in a way that John can bear. Scripture teaches us that no man can look on God in His full glory and live (See Exodus 33:20-23). So, when the glorified Lord reveals Himself to John in our passage, it is in a form that John can comprehend and survive! (Think about the infinite power and the infinite control our Lord possesses.) As Jesus manifests Himself to John, it is important to note what it is about Himself He chooses to reveal.
(12) And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
(13) And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
(14) His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
(15) And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
A Priest Dedicated to His Task
What John sees tells us much about the Person, character and ministry of our Savior. After seeing Him as “one like unto a son of man,” John says the Lord was “clothed with a garment down to the foot.” This was the clothing of both kings and prophets. However, John uses an interesting word for “garment.” It is a Greek word that appears seven times in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and in six of those seven times it is used to describe the robes of the High Priest. Jesus certainly is King and He certainly is the Prophet, but John wants us to understand that this great and glorious Savior of ours, this One who is a son of man is also our Great High Priest, our Intercessor, our Advocate, the One through whom we have access to God the Father. To add to this understanding John also notes that Jesus was “girt about the paps with a golden girdle.” To put that in more modern terms: “He wore a golden sash across His chest.” That golden sash was also part of the High Priest’s attire. (See Exodus 28:4; Leviticus 16:4) So, of all the things John could note about the Lord’s attire and ministry, the Lord sees to it that he first notes Jesus’ ministry as our great High Priest.
A Priest All-Wise and All-Knowing
John goes on to say that the Lord’s “head and…hairs were white like wool, as white as snow….” Daniel 7:9 uses similar language to describe “the Ancient of Days” (God the Father). So, here again, as he so often does in his gospel, John is proclaiming the deity of Christ. The word we translate as “white” is the Greek word leukos and carries with it the idea of something that is “blazing, or brilliant.” It is a symbol of the Lord’s eternality, purity, holiness, and truthfulness.
A Loving Priest All-Seeing and Unbiased
Jesus sees His people with love and with absolute clarity. While on earth He said, “…there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed and hid that shall not be known” (Matthew 10:26b). Jesus’ love for us is not clouded by sentimentality. Of course He loves us with an everlasting love, but it is love that is clear, honest and completely in keeping with His character. John captures this idea when he describes the eyes of the Lord “as a flame of fire.” For us as believers, this should bring both joy and reverential fear. My God sees me as I am, and yet he loves me! At the same time, I should not treat that love lightly. It is a holy love, and my constant desire should be pure even as He is pure. (See 1 John 3:1-3.)
The Lord loves His Church and because He loves it, He watches it closely, allowing nothing to obscure His vision or cloud His judgment. He recognizes sincere worship for what it is and sees right through our hypocrisy. There is no sin in the Church that escapes His gaze. At the same time there is no act of kindness, no deed done for His honor and glory – no matter how small – that will escape His notice. “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).
A Priest with Complete Authority
“And His feet [were] like unto fine brass, as if they burned ins a furnace” (Revelation 1:15a). In ancient times, kings sat on elevated thrones, so when someone came before the king to be judged, he could not help but notice the king’s feet. The feet of a king thus came to symbolize his authority. In the book of Daniel, king Nebuchadnezzar had a frightening dream where he saw a great image representing the great kingdoms of the earth (Daniel 2). One of the things that the king noticed was that the image had feet of iron and of clay. Daniel understood that to mean that the kingdom it represented would be “partly strong, and partly broken” (Daniel 2:42). It would be handicapped in its authority because of corruption. John describes the feet of the Lord as fine brass, as if burning in a furnace. Not only is the Lord’s authority without corruption, but His judgment is righteous, thorough and unbreakable. Moving amongst the seven candlesticks, Jesus is active in His church chastening His people and meting out discipline as needed to deal with wayward Christians. (See Hebrews 12:5-10.)
When Jesus speaks to John again, he describes the Lord’s voice, not as a trumpet which was used in OT times to gather the children of Israel together to hear an important pronouncement, but as “as the sound of many waters” (1:15b). The “voice as of a trumpet” signifies the Lord’s absolute right to be heard. The “sound of many waters” signifies the full authority behind that right. When the Lord speaks, the whole world – and especially His Church – must listen. One day, it will be this voice that will summon even the dead to come forth from their graves and bow the knee to Him.
As believers, we have a Great High Priest like no other. John wants us to understand this in no uncertain terms – and we’re not even through the first chapter yet! Let’s remember as John did Who it is we worship. Our Savior is wonderful and fearful!