When I read John’s encounter with the Lord in Revelation, it reminds me of Isaiah’s vision of God in the temple in Isaiah chapter 6. There are parallels but there are significant differences as well, and those differences are important for us as believers.
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: (Revelation 1:17)
First, there are the reactions. Both men were overwhelmed by what they saw. When you read their accounts, they are practically running out of words to describe the scene. Both men are also overwhelmed by their unworthiness. Isaiah cries out:
“…Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).
John is just as overcome by the Lord’s presence and tells us he “fell…as dead,” but an acknowledgement of sin is conspicuously absent from his account. Is it because John was sinless? No. It is because John’s account is after the cross and Isaiah’s is before the cross. John has no need to bemoan his uncleanness because he is clean through the finished work of Christ.
There is another significant difference in these two accounts. Both men had very real and personal encounters with the Lord, but when you read Isaiah’s account of God in the temple, there is a definite feeling of distance between the prophet and God. Isaiah sees the Lord “upon a throne, high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1). He saw angelic beings busily ministering and praising God. As they flew, they “cried unto one another and said, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts” (v. 3). When Isaiah declared his uncleanness, it was not God who approached him. The prophet says:
(6) Then flew one of the seraphims [a kind of angel] unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
(7) And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
Remember, this is a vision. So physical actions often represent spiritual realities. Isaiah was not literally touched with a burning coal, but the spiritual reality is that he was cleansed in order to serve.
John says he heard the Lord’s voice behind him (Revelation 1:10) and when he finally turned to see Who was speaking, he “fell at His feet as dead.” That there was no distance between John and the Lord is made even more clear because the Lord “laid his right hand upon” John (v. 17). In Scripture, the right hand is the hand of blessing and fellowship. Why was the Lord so close to John and with Isaiah so distant? For the same reason that John felt no need to declare his uncleanness. Because John is after the cross, what has separated man and God is no more. Those who know Christ as Savior have immediate fellowship with Him.
Because of Christ, I am clean before my heavenly Father and I have close fellowship with Him as my Father. What a difference Christ makes!
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