Revelation 1:10-16 “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet which said: Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. I turned 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.”
One hears many Christians talk about how God “spoke” to them. That is why they decided to follow some certain path in their lives. Rarely do such people claim that they actually heard a voice. Rather, they felt some vague impression moving them to follow a certain course.
Occasionally such people will even admit that what they thought was God speaking to them evidently must have been something else. Even James Dobson warns, “I have come to regard the interpretation of impressions as risky business, at best…The human mind will often obediently convince itself of anything in order to have its own way.”
Neither you nor I are in a position to judge the source of every impression any person has ever had. But here is our comfort when it comes to Scripture: What John writes in the chapters of Revelation, what the other writers of Scripture recorded for us in the rest of the Bible, were not vague impressions open to their own interpretation. Though God didn’t always reveal his message in the way he did here, John heard a voice definitely speaking to him in a miraculous way.
Of course, John was only the messenger. Our confidence grows in what he writes when we see the one who gave him the words. Do you see who this is, this one who looks like a human, a “son of man” on the one hand, but whose features are all white and blaze like fire and shine like the sun? This is Jesus. We don’t have to try to find some meaning in every feature of his description. It is enough to recognize how majestic he appears.
This isn’t anything like the humble carpenter from Galilee John had spent three years sharing dinner with and walking alongside, who once even kneeled down in front of John and washed his feet. This is nothing like the condemned man John once watched bleeding and dying on a cross. Then John could relate to him more like an everyday acquaintance. There was almost a casual familiarity John had with Jesus before he returned to heaven. Now, he tells us, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” In the presence of Jesus, now displaying the glory of his godhood, John feels compelled to fall flat on the ground in humble worship.
Do we feel this kind of awe and reverence before Jesus today? Do we sense such holiness, such glory, that sets him so high above us lowly creatures below?
We are familiar with the very human face of Jesus that preached and healed, and ultimately suffered and died for us because of his unfathomable love for you and me. We love this image of our Savior, and rightly so. But let’s not forget that Jesus no longer lives in such humility. He is now the one who rules in heavenly glory. All power in heaven and on earth has been given to him. Countless angels attend and serve him. Evangelical-turned-Lutheran Craig Parton tells of how he took his family to the Greek Orthodox church for a while when he was still on his spiritual search. He did so not because he agreed with its doctrine, but because its people would get on their knees and put their face right on the ground in recognition of Christ’s glory and majesty. He wanted his children to recognize this about their God and Savior. We do well to recognize it about him, too.
For when we do, won’t we also approach his words with a sense of humble reverence? John is setting the stage here for the rest of the book. This is the source of the Revelation that follows. In fact, this is the source of all revelation. The words John writes are the words that come from this glorious God, and his glorious appearance assures us that we can count on the words he reveals.