Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Revelation 1:12-18
Pastor Steve Schell
Revelation 1:12
Verse 12: When John turns to see who spoke to him, his consciousness is instantly lifted to a vision of Jesus standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands. Each lampstand represents one of the seven churches (Rev 1:20), and taken literally John’s words mean there are seven individual lampstands rather than one with seven branches like the menorah in the tabernacle (Ex 25:31,32). However, the word John uses is the same Greek word which is used in the Septuagint for the menorah, so it’s possible that what he sees is actually seven menorahs rather than seven single-columned stands. If so, the symbolism would emphasize the role of each church as a source of spiritual light to its community. And since there are seven of these lampstands, whether each is seven-branched or only a single column, when grouped collectively they still symbolically represent God’s “menorah” to western Asia Minor.

Revelation 1:12
Verse 12 (continued): In the theology of the tabernacle the menorah’s role in the outer court was as much symbolic as it was practical. Yes, it provided illumination in the otherwise unlighted room, but standing opposite the table of shewbread (Ex 40:21-25) its presence expressed God’s promise to give His people the spiritual light of revelation, while the table of shewbread represented His promise to provide them the practical resources (“bread”) they needed. So the image of seven lamps, and possibly seven menorahs, would immediately communicate to a Jewish prophet like John the message that God intends these seven churches to be a “light” to their region (1Ti 3:15).

Revelation 1:13
Verse 13: As John explains his vision he first tells us he saw seven golden lampstands, then he says he saw someone standing in the middle of them. We have no idea how the lamps were arranged in the vision, whether in a circle, or a semi-circle, or a straight line, but the fact that He is positioned in the center tells us He is fulfilling His promise to dwell in the midst of His Church (Mt 18:20; 28:20; Jn 17:23). The description of Him is drawn from the prophecy of Daniel. Daniel saw “one like a son of man…” (someone who looked like a human) approach the throne of the Ancient of Days (God the Father) and be given eternal dominion over all humanity (Da 7:13, 14). During His earthly ministry Jesus applied this title to Himself (Mt 26:26). The obvious meaning behind John’s choice of this title is that the resurrected Jesus is the Person Daniel saw in his vision to whom the Father is given eternal dominion. And His appearance now is glorious. He exudes holiness and power at a level far beyond anything we’ve ever seen in a human. He is wearing a full-length robe which reaches down to His feet, and over this a golden sash is wrapped high around His waist.

Revelation 1:14, 15
Verses 14, 15: John uses terminology drawn from Daniel’s visions of the Ancient of Days (Da 7:9) and an unnamed archangel who visited Daniel (Da 10:5,6), to express the fact that Jesus’ body shone with an extremely brilliant white light. He says His “head and hair were like wool, like snow…” (Da 7:9); “His eyes were like a flame of fire…” (Da 10:6); “His feet were like burnished (shiny) bronze…” (Da 10:6); and then he compares the volume and intensity of His voice to the loud roar made by a crashing waterfall or a cascading river, “His voice like the sound of many waters” (Da 10:6; Rev 14:2; 19:6). Though these descriptions are similar to those used in Daniel’s visions, and elements of brilliant light and loud volume may easily be understood symbolically (Holiness, purity, power), there is every reason to believe that John is being given an actual glimpse of the resurrected Jesus and that this is what His glorified body really looks like (Mt 17:2; Mk 9:3; Lk 9:29).

Revelation 1:16
Verse 16: In the ancient Near East the right hand is a place of honor (Ps 110:1), but it is also the hand which commonly has the most strength (Ex 3:20; 15:6; Ps 118:15,16). This is why Jesus holds the seven “stars” in His right hand. These stars must have appeared to John as seven bright points of light, but as will soon be explained (Rev 1:20), they are really seven angels. Each has been assigned to help one of the churches (Rev 1:11) understand the revelation given to them. John himself has been assigned an angel (Rev 1:1; 17:1-18; 19:10, 22:6, 16). The message here is that these prophecies have been sent to the seven churches by Jesus Himself. He who dwells in the midst of the churches is sending an angel to accompany His message to each of them. Verse 16 (continued): Having a sharp sword coming out of His mouth is a symbolic way of saying that Jesus is so divinely powerful that all He need do is speak a word and His enemies will be destroyed (Rev 2:16; 19:15; 2Th 2:8; Is 11:4). For Him it requires no physical effort, He need only speak. To the seven churches the sword of His mouth may bring severe discipline (Rev 2:12, 16, 22, 23). To the armies aligned with antichrist it will bring annihilation (Rev 19:15-21).

Revelation 1:16
Verse 16 (continued): The last element of the resurrected Jesus that John describes is His face. He says it shone “like the sun shining in its strength”. This is not the first time John has seen Jesus’ face look like this. On the mount of transfiguration (probably Mt. Hermon) as Jesus was being transformed before his eyes, the Lord’s face also “shone like the sun…” (Mt 17:2). It’s one thing for a person’s garments or feet to shine, but the face is where the human personality is most fully expressed. It is the part of the body where the “inner” person is most directly reflected, so John concludes his description at Jesus’ face. Here the divine glory of the Son of God shines through like the sun. For thirty-some years the world beheld the Son in a mortal body, but now that season of frailty is passed. To see the face of Jesus now is like trying to look into the brilliance of the sun. To see Him now inspires either terror or worship.

Revelation 1:17, 18
Verse 17: John himself is overwhelmed at the sight, collapses and possibly faints until he is reinvigorated by a touch from Jesus’ right hand and is told “do not be afraid” (Eze 1:28-2:2; Da 8:17, 18; 10:8-10; Mt 17:6,7). Jesus then identifies Himself by three powerful titles: The first is an indisputable claim to divinity, “I am the first and the last”. The meaning of this statement is nothing less than the Father’s earlier claim to be the “Alpha (first) and Omega (last)…who is and who was and who is to come…” (Rev 1:8). To be “the first and the last” means Jesus existed before the creation of all things and will continue to exist forever into the unending future. Verse 18: And there is no question that the Person speaking these words is the Son and not the Father because in the next statement He identifies Himself as “…the living One, and I was dead and behold I am alive forevermore…” Only the Son died, and it was a real death for all life left His body and His spirit departed. But the person now standing in front of John is not a spirit, He is a resurrected man who will never die again. The divinity and humanity of Christ are both affirmed by these first two statements. 

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