We have before us the wonderful climax of chapter 1: the vision of the glorious and exalted Christ. In the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, John hears the voice of the Savior, like a mighty trumpet blast (vv. 10–11), he then turns to see the voice in verse 12: “And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands…”
The first things which John sees in the vision are the seven golden lampstands. John does not behold the lampstand that stood in the Old Testament tabernacle -that lampstand that served as a constant reminder of the presence of God. John beholds no such shadow. John beholds the reality. John beholds the presence of God Himself! John does not stand in the tabernacle made with human hands. John stands in the tabernacle made without hands – eternal in the heavens. John does not stand in the shadow. John stands in the reality.
John’s attention is arrested, then, not by the lampstands, but by the One who stands in the midst of the lampstands. Notice that John gives no description of the seven lampstands, other than to say they are golden. But his description of the One who stands in the midst of the lampstands is lengthy and detailed.
Christ stands in the midst of the lampstands, and is described as “One like the Son of Man”, a reference taken from Daniel 7:13. He is clothed with a garment down to His feet, as the Great High Priest. The fact that He is clothed with a garment down to His feet tells us that He is no longer offering sacrifices of blood, for in that case the garment would have been taken up by means of the girdle. His garment hangs down to His feet, because the great and final sacrifice for sins has been paid; and it has been paid in full. It is finished.
Nevertheless, He does continue to wear the golden band about His chest. Though the work of the final sacrifice is complete, Christ continues to serve as the High Priest of the Church. He is still serves in the Great Tabernacle where He ever lives to intercede for His people, as our Great High Priest.
The description continues. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow. This was the description that was given to the Ancient of Days in the book of Daniel. It is now given to Christ. Christ is God; He is One with the Father. He is the Ancient of Days—the everlasting God, without beginning of days or end of life. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the One who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
His eyes are like a flame of fire. He is the Great King – the Great King who judges – the Great King-Judge who knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. With those eyes like a flame of fire, He knows and judgesthe deepest secrets of man’s heart.
His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace. He is pure and those who would dwell in His presence must be pure, even as He is pure; they must be holy even as He is holy.
His voice is as the sound of many waters. Like the thundering of the waters upon the rocks of the shore, so is the voice of the Almighty. It is the voice that is heard the world over.
He had in His right hand, seven stars (more on that below).
Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword. The Word of God – sharper than any double-edged sword – proceeds from His mouth, and by that Word He shall judge the nations. Here He is set before us as the Great Prophet – the Prosecutor of the Covenant, who will judge by the Word of His mouth.
And finally, His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. He is the Bright and Morning Star; He is the Dayspring from on High. He is the Light that shines in the darkness. He is the Light of the World.
This description of Christ as “One like the Son of Man” is taken from Daniel 7, a chapter that opens with these words: “In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts. Daniel spoke, saying, ‘I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other….’” (Daniel 7:1–3).
We have here nothing less than a description of the Satanic enterprise. Satan is bringing forth a kingdom in his own likeness. Did you notice the words of verse 2? It tells of the four winds hovering over the sea. Sound familiar? Genesis 1:2, and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters…! In fact, the same Hebrew word, ruach which is translated in Genesis 1:2 as Spirit, is used again here in Daniel 7:2, and is translated, “wind.” In Daniel 7 Satan is acting creatively over the Great Sea to establish his kingdom.
The four beasts that are then described in verses 4-8 are the agents of Satan ascending from the pit of hell to do his bidding. With each of the four beasts, there is an intensification of destruction and wickedness. Things grow progressively worse as Satan builds his kingdom.
The picture is parallel to that which we have in the book of Revelation. As you make your way through the book of Revelation - through each of the seven sections - the picture of evil intensifies. Horror and devastation are described more vividly. Things do not get better.
Things get worse. Bear in mind that what is being described in Daniel 7 and what is being described in the book of Revelation is the time period from Christ’s first coming to His last. This means that we are living in the midst of the increase of corruption, the increase of wickedness, the increase of evil, the increase of sin, the increase of the kingdom of Satan. Yes, Satan has formed and fashioned a kingdom after his own likeness; and in our day that kingdom continues to grow in strength and in number.
That increase in wickedness, that increase in Satan’s kingdom, continues until the final act of judgment in Daniel 7. “‘I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.’ I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. ‘I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed’” (7:9–14). In this final act of judgment the Satanic kingdom is destroyed, even as the kingdom of the Son of Man is established in all of its glory forever and ever.
This Son of Man – destroyer of Satan’s kingdom (Daniel 7:9–12) and King of the eternal kingdom (Daniel 7:13–14) – is the Son of Man whom John beheld! Is it any wonder that John falls down at the feet of Jesus Christ as dead?! We cannot even bear a glimpse at the sun. But John beholds the glory of One whose countenance shines like the sun in the fullness of its strength! Is it any wonder that John falls down at the feet of Jesus Christ as a dead man?!
Yet Jesus Christ lays His right hand upon John and says to Him, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.” And Jesus proceeds to give John the interpretation of the vision. “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (1:18). “I am the One, John, who entered death. I am the One, John, who entered the grave. I am the One, John, who entered the pit of hell. I am the One, John, who has done battle with the great Serpent. I am the One, John, who has become the death of death. I am the One, John, who has buried death in the grave. I am the One, John, who has stormed the gates of hell. I am the One, John, who has slain the dragon. I live.
John! Though I was dead, John, I am alive forevermore! I have the keys of Hades, John! I have the keys of Death, John! Do not be afraid, John! I am greater than the evil one! I am greater than the serpent! I am greater than the dragon! I am greater than the devil! I am greater than Satan! My kingdom is greater than his kingdom! My kingdom is an everlasting kingdom! Do not be afraid!”
The background of John’s vision in Revelation 1 is found in Daniel 7, but there is a great difference. Do you see it? It is the key to understanding the message of the vision!
Daniel sees the increase of Satan’s kingdom before He sees the glory of Christ. John sees the glory of Christ before he sees the increase of Satan’s kingdom. The order has been reversed!
Do you understand the message?! Do you understand the point?! In His death and resurrection, Jesus has begun the crushing of Satan’s head! In His death and resurrection, Jesus has bound Satan! Satan, and his kingdom, are under the control of Christ the King!
This is the message that Christ would give to the church. Note His command to John, verse 19: “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” Even as things continue to get worse and worse, we need not be pessimistic. We need not hang our heads low with a defeatist attitude, for Christ the King is with us. Look at the words of verse 20, “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”
Christ, the King, is in the midst of the lampstands. He abides with His Church. The Church belongs to Him! O Church of Jesus Christ, you belong to the Son of Man who walks in the midst of the lampstands! You belong to the One clothed with a garment down to His feet! You belong to the One girded about the chest with a golden band! You belong to the One whose head and hair are white like wool, as white as snow! You belong to the One whose eyes are like flames of fire! You belong to the One whose feet are like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace! You belong to the One whose voice is as the sound of many waters! You belong to the One who holds in His right hand the seven stars! You belong to the One out of whose mouth goes a sharp two-edged sword! You belong to the One whose countenance is like the sun shining in the fullness of its strength!
O Church of Jesus Christ, you belong to the One who is the First and the Last! You belong to the One who lives, who was dead, and behold who is alive forevermore! You belong to the One who holds the keys of Hades and Death! You belong to Christ the King! He has gathered you; He protects you; and He will preserve you to all eternity!
“What do you believe concerning the ‘holy catholic church’? I believe that the Son of God, through His Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for Himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.” Praise God!
Rev. Brian Vos is the Pastor of the Trinity United Reformed Church in Caledonia, Michigan. He is also the President of the Board of Reformed Fellowship.