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Bible: What Does Revelation 1 Teach Us About John's Vision of "the Son of Man"?
The Apostle John
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Coming to Reign on the Earth
Revelation 1--The Apostle John's Vision of the Son of Man
The author, the Apostle John, introduces this prophetic book by designating it “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (v. 1a). [One may construe the prepositional phrase “of Jesus Christ” as either an objective or a subjective genitive. That is, either Christ gave the revelation from God, or John recorded divine revelation about Jesus]. God gave the revelation to Christ in order that He might show His “slaves” certain events that would happen “shortly”; that is to say, quickly once they began to occur (v. 1b). Jesus sent “His angel” to communicate it to His bondservant (“slave”) John (v. 1c; cf. 22:6). [Who is “His angel”?] John testifies to the truth of everything he heard and saw (v. 2), and announces that spiritual benefits will come upon two groups: both the readers and the hearers who obey what he has written. In addition, he asserts that the “fulfillment” of this prophecy might occur in a short period of time (v. 3).
In his address to seven local churches in Asia Minor, John prays that the Father (“Him who is and who was and who is to come”), the Holy Spirit (“the seven Spirits who are before His throne”), and the Son, Jesus Christ, would bestow grace and peace upon them (vv. 4-5a). [The apostle clearly presents God as a Triune Being]. [Ryrie associates the number seven with “completion, fulfillment and perfection,” and delineates the numerous times John uses it in this book (457)]. He describes Jesus as (1) “the faithful witness”; that is, Christ testified to the truth of God with perfect loyalty; (2) “the firstborn from the dead,” meaning that Jesus was the first person to receive an immortal resurrection body; and (3) “the ruler over the kings of the earth,” which speaks of His earthly sovereignty (v. 5b).
Next, John ascribes eternal honor and kingship to Him for loving sinners, for cleansing them from their iniquity by shedding His blood as a sacrifice on their behalf, and for making them a “kingdom” that represents others (“priests”) before the Father (vv. 5c-6). He directs their eyes of faith to Christ’s return to earth when everyone living at that time will see Him, even “those who pierced Him”; His parousia will cause universal mourning. John understands their reaction as the way it should be (v. 7; cf. Matt. 24:30; Zech. 12:10). [Jesus did not return in the first century. Who, then, will be “those who pierced Him”? The Jews? The Romans? Will fear of punishment cause the “tribes” to mourn, or will their weeping be a sign of repentance?] Now the apostle records words from the Lord God, which declare His eternality and omnipotence (v. 8; cf. 1:4 where John affirms the Father’s eternality, and 22:13 where he cites Jesus calling Himself by these designations).
John's Vision of the Divine Son of Man
Who is the Son of Man?
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Charles C. Ryrie
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John's Autobiographical Account
Having completed his greeting to the seven churches, John commences an autobiographical account of how he came to write this book, describing his banishment to the isle of Patmos for preaching the gospel and his encounter with the risen, glorified Savior in a vision (vv. 9-20).
He calls himself “your brother” (a member of God’s family) and “a fellow-partaker” in three things related to Christ:
(1) The tribulation (trouble, not the Great Tribulation period);
(2) The kingdom (Jesus’ future reign on Earth); and
(3) Patience (“perseverance”) [v. 9a], and then locates himself on the isle of Patmos (“A small island in the Aegean Sea, SW of Ephesus,” Ryrie 457).
John recounts that he experienced a Spirit-generated vision on “the day of the Lord” defined as “an extended period of time in which God deals in judgment and sovereign rule over the earth” (Walvoord, Revelation, 42).
During this time, he heard a trumpet-like voice identifying Himself (according to NU) as the eternal God and telling him to write what he sees to seven specific local churches in Asia Minor (vv. 10-11).
John Beholds the "One like the Son of Man"
Having turned around to see who was speaking to him, John beholds “One like the Son of Man” standing in the middle of seven golden lampstands (vv. 12-13a).
[The designation “One like the Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-14) points to the Messiah, the One to whom the Ancient of Days would give absolute rule on the earth.]
He proceeds to describe a Man who is dressed in the clothes of a priest-judge (“a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band”) [v. 13b], and who looks like Daniel’s “Ancient of Days” because of His exceedingly white hair (v. 14a; cf. Dan. 7:9).
[Note that both the One like the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days have white hair, perhaps designating great wisdom.]
John’s Jesus has fiery eyes (v. 14b), but Daniel’s Ancient of Days sits on a fiery throne; the latter writes nothing about His eyes.
[Later, however, the prophet describes another Person whose eyes burned “like torches of fire” (Dan. 10:6); this One appears to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.]
Jesus’ brass-like feet signify One who stands in judgment, and His voice indicates that His word is powerful (v. 15; cf. Dan. 10:6).
John sees Jesus holding the seven stars” (messengers, human leaders) of the seven “lampstands” (churches) in His right hand, the place of honor (v. 16; cf. 20 for John’s interpretation).
The Lord wields a sharp two-edged “sword” that juts from His mouth (symbolic “both of the truth and severity of the Word of God [Heb. 4:12]” [Ryrie 458], and a brilliant radiance emanates from His face (v. 16; cf. Dan. 10:6).
Christ Resuscitates John
Once he observes this awesome Being the apostle collapses, overcome by fear, and he behaves as though he were dead (v. 17).
Christ, however, gently touches him, and assures John that he had no need to fear.
He identifies Himself as the eternal God (cf. 1:8, 11 [NKJV]): the One who lives (a permanent state of being), and was dead, but who now lives eternally because He has authority over physical death and over Hades (the place which the soul/spirit of unbelievers inhabits between physical death and the second death) [v. 18].
The Outline of the Book of Revelation
Jesus commands John to write “the things which you have seen” (chapter one), and “the things which are” (chapters two and three), and “the things which will take place after this” (chapters four to twenty-two) [v. 19].
[With these directions, Christ gives John a basic outline of Revelation.
The words meta tauta (“after these things”) appear at the beginning of chapter four (4:1), logically suggesting the start of the third section of the prophecy.]
In verse 20 John provides Jesus’ interpretation of the symbols of the seven stars and the seven lampstands.]
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