Revelation 1:10-20

 

An artist's rendering of John's vision--sans yarmulkes as usual

It was in this exile that John writes, 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, the Kuriake emera, which in Hebrew might be rendered the Yom Hashem.  Kuriake is used elsewhere in the NT (1Co. 11:20) to refer to a fellowship supper, and it is likely that John here refers to one of the Feasts of Hashem given in the Torah.  There is no evidence that he used “Lord’s day” to refer to Sunday, a practice which came later.  And I heard behind me a loud voice, like a shofar, a horn, typically from a ram or ibex, such as Israel heard when Hashem descended on Mt. Sinai, along with thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain . . . and all the people who were in the camp trembled (Exo. 19:16). 1:11 saying, “What you see, write in a book and send to the seven assemblies: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” Both the definite article “the” and the numerical “seven” tell us that these are not just seven local assemblies, but are in some way representative of the whole Ekklesia, as we will see in chapters 2 and 3.  How then can so many blithely assume that nothing after chapter 3 has any real relevance to believers in the current age?  On the contrary, just as the Eternal One intended this book to be kept and understood by the believing Ekklesia, He intended it all for His Body.

1:12 I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. Having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands—not, it should be noted, the seven branched menorah that stood in the Tabernacle and the Temples.  These lampstands are, of course, symbolic of the Ekklesia, who on earth in this present age, are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden.  Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house. Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Who is in heaven (Mat. 5:14-16).  Yeshua says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).  Having passed out of the world, now He lights the world through those who have received Him into their hearts.

The menorah for the coming Temple

These are seven individual lampstands, prophetic of the coming division of the Ekklesia, first into Jew and Gentile, and then into sects and denominations.  In chapter 11, we will see the seven rejoined into two, and from there into one.  The mystery of how this division took place and how it will be reconciled will unfold before us in due time.

1:13 And among the lampstands was one like a son of man, Yeshua’s favorite title for Himself.  As we saw in v.7, this title comes from Daniel 7, in which a semi-Divine figure is brought to the Throne of the Most High and given dominion over all things.  It is also common to the apocryphal Book of Enoch, where it is used no less than eighteen times.  Here are two representative quotes:

1 “And there I saw One who had a head of days, And His head was white like wool, And with Him was another being whose countenance had the appearance of a man, And his face was full of graciousness, like one of the holy angels.   2 And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the hidden things, concerning that 3 Son of Man, who he was, and whence he was, (and) why he went with the Ancient of Days? And he answered and said unto me: This is the Son of Man who hath righteousness, With whom dwelleth righteousness, And who revealeth all the treasures of that which is hidden, Because the Lord of Hosts hath chosen him, And whose lot hath the pre-eminence before the Lord of Hosts in uprightness for ever.” (Enoch 46:1-3)

2 And at that hour that Son of Man was named In the presence of the Lord of Hosts, And his name before the Ancient of Days. 3 Yea, before the sun and the signs were created, Before the stars of the heaven were made, His name was named before the Lord of Hosts.   4 He shall be a staff to the righteous whereon to stay themselves and not fall, And he shall be the light of the Gentiles, And the hope of those who are troubled of heart.  (48:2-4)

John continues describing the risen Yeshua, clothed with a robe reaching down to his feet, and with a golden sash around his chest.  Elsewhere in Revelation, pure white garments are described as being given to the holy ones as a sign of their good deeds, and it may be that we are to infer that Yeshua’s own robe is white, a Yom Kippur garment for the high priest:  He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches on his body, and shall put on the linen sash, and he shall be clothed with the linen turban. They are the holy garments (Lev. 16:4).  That Messiah’s sash is golden, rather than pure linen, speaks of His royal dignity and Deity.

1:14 His head and his hair were white as white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire. 1:15 His feet were like burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace.  Each of these elements has symbolic importance for the letters that follow, but for the moment, we will look at them as a whole.  The rabbis conceived of Adam as a near-Divine being, possessed of a glory derived from God Himself.  There was an indescribable brightness in his face, the brightness of the sole of his foot darkened the sun, how much brighter was his face!  The light which he possessed enabled him to see throughout the world. . .  Moreover Adam was worthy of the worship of angels.  They had been the ‘best-men’ at his wedding and had served him at table.  Finally, the wisdom of Adam . . . exceeded that of the angels . . .[1]

The rabbis emphasized Adam’s glory (a glory reflected from God, in Whose image he was made) in order to fully express the tragedy of the fall.  Here, in a reversal of the Fall, John sees Yeshua, the Last Adam(1Co. 15:45, cf. Rom. 5:14), who was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3) is now restored to His original glory.  Where Adam broke the commandment and joined with his bride in her degradation, Yeshua kept the commandment, and saved His Bride by His obedience and sacrifice.

His voice was like the voice of many waters, such as the Psalmist described:  The LORD’s voice is on the waters.  The God of glory thunders, even the LORD on many waters. The LORD’s voice is powerful.  The LORD’s voice is full of majesty (Psa. 29:3-4).  Ezekiel too writes of the cherubim, When they went, I heard the noise of their wings like the noise of great waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a noise of tumult like the noise of an army: when they stood, they let down their wings (Eze. 1:24), and later, of the return of the Sh’khinah, the Divine Presence to the Temple, Behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shined with his glory (Eze. 43:2).

Daniel and John had the same reaction to their visitors

1:16 He had seven stars in his right hand. Out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17), living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).  His face was like the sun shining at its brightest, even brighter than the face of Moses, of whom the Torah says, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come near him. . .   When Moses was done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face (Exo. 34:30, 33).  But where the children of Israel were merely frightened at the brightness of Moses’ face, John writes, 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man, just as Daniel looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, whose thighs were adorned with pure gold of Uphaz: his body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as flaming torches, and his arms and his feet like burnished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.  I, Daniel, alone saw the vision; for the men who were with me didn’t see the vision; but a great quaking fell on them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength (Dan. 10:5-8).

And just as had happened to Daniel, John writes, He laid his right hand on me, saying, “Don’t be afraid, which set me on my knees and on the palms of my hands (Dan. 10:10).  I am the first and the last, Who has worked and done it, calling the generations from the beginning (Isa. 41:4), the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of Hosts . . . I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God.  Who is like me? Who will call, and will declare it, and set it in order for me, since I established the ancient people? Let them declare the things that are coming, and that will happen (Isa. 44:6-7).  Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel my called: I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. Yes, my hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand has spread out the heavens: when I call to them, they stand up together.  Assemble yourselves, all you, and hear; who among them has declared these things? (Isa. 48:12-14).

The empty tomb

And it is this very same First and Last One, the Eternal One of Israel, who claims to be 1:18 the Living one. I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.  Once again, the liturgical quality of the first chapter of the Revelation comes through. I have the keys of Death and of Sheol, the full meaning of which will be explored in the next chapter. 1:19 Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will happen hereafter, the first of the three kinds of divisions of the book of the Revelation, which are key to understanding it:

The Three Tenses (Rev. 1:19)

  1. The things that were
  2. The things that are
  3. The things yet to come

Journeys in the Spirit

  1. In the Spirit with Yeshua (chapters 1-3).
  2. In the Spirit in Heaven (ch. 4-16).
  3. In the Spirit to see the fate of Babylon, the Beast, and the False Prophet (ch. 17-20).
  4. In the Spirit to see the New Jerusalem (ch. 21-22).
Revelation plays out like a novel, always working closer to the finale.

Sevens

  1. Seven letters,
  2. Seven seals,
  3. Seven trumpets, and
  4. Seven bowls.
  5. Seven “personages” (Rev. 12-14:5)
  6. There are seven angels—including Yeshua as the Angel of HaShem (Rev. 14:6-20)
  7. Seven “new things” of chapters 21-22.

Like a novel, Revelation often backtracks and changes its point-of-view, but each division ends a little closer to the final culmination:

And Yeshua also tells John to write of 1:20 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 assemblies, who guard over them just as heavenly powers guard and dominate the earthly nations, as it is written in the Torah, he set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God (Deu. 32:8, DSS), which is explained in the Targum, “He cast the lot among the seventy angels, the princes of the nations with whom is the revelation to oversee the city, even at that time He established the limits of the nations according to the sum of the number of the seventy souls of Israel who went down into Mizraim.”  So it was revealed to Daniel by the mighty angel, “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; but, behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me: and I remained there with the kings of Persia . . . Now I will return to fight with the prince of Persia. When I go forth, behold, the prince of Greece shall come” (Dan. 10:13, 20).

Should it surprise us at all that the assemblies of the Messiah should also have their own angels?  For Yeshua Himself said of the little ones, “I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 18:10); how much more should the assemblies that guard and teach the little ones also have their own angels.  And finally, Yeshua reveals, The seven lampstands are seven assemblies, which will be explained fully in the next chapter.


[1] Davies, Paul, p. 46  (Note:  See our Bilbliography here)

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