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Bible: What Does Revelation 1 Teach Us About John's Vision of "the Son of Man"?

Updated on June 21, 2016

The Apostle John


The Place Where the Church Meets for Worship


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

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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.]

© 2013 glynch1


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    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      Yes. Positionally, believers reside in the New Jerusalem. But practically, we also live on the Earth. All things will become new in the future after the Great White Throne judgment and the dissolution of the present heavens and earth.

    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      Tim LaHaye is/was not as thorough a scholar as was John Walvoord, so you may want to study the latter's writings a little more closely.

      Yes, the book is rich in Christology, but it is especially important in eschatology. Do you truly believe we are dwelling in the New Jerusalem right now? Spiritually, yes, we are hid in Christ. But I do not spiritualize OT prophecy; I believe ethnic Israel still has a future on Earth, and Christ will literally sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem when He returns.

      I appreciate your comment about my writing ability; I wish to use it to bring glory to my Savior. Forgive me for sounding as if I did not wish to continue our conversation; however, I do appreciate that you "promise not to pester me with many comments."

    • AdamMaarschalk profile image

      Adam Maarschalk 4 years ago from Bowling Green, Ohio

      No problem - we can agree to disagree. I'm actually very familiar with the futurist view. I used to hold this view myself, and promoted it rather passionately. I've read Tim Lahaye more thoroughly than John Walvoord, but I've encountered some of his writings as well.

      I do believe that the book of Revelation is rich in content, and meaningful and highly significant for us today. For one, it paints a beautiful picture of our Savior, whether one is a futurist or a preterist. Also, not only do I rejoice in what I believe He accomplished by keeping His word and doing what He said He would do, but I see great ongoing significance in His kingdom being among us, the privilege we have in dwelling in the New Jerusalem, the church being equipped with the leaves of the tree of life for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22), etc. I believe Revelation 21 is most profound in the way it takes many types and shadows from the Old Testament, and shows their glorious ongoing fulfillment and application in this new covenant age. If you ever have the time or the interest, I've compiled studies on Rev. 21 and the rest of the book of Revelation here:

      I don't imagine that I can't learn from a futurist. I think you're a good writer, and I plan to read your other hubs on Revelation when time allows. I promise not to pester you with many comments.

    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      We simply interpret the book in a different way. You are a preterist (by all accounts), and I am a futurist. Your view tends to destroy any future significance to the book; it now is just a literary curiosity with little prophetic meaning. I see it as rich in eschatological content, and it holds great significance to me. I could offer refutations for your arguments, but I do not have the time or inclination to do so. If you wish to understand the futurist view better, you ought to consult the books of John Walvoord from Dallas Theological Seminary.

    • AdamMaarschalk profile image

      Adam Maarschalk 4 years ago from Bowling Green, Ohio

      Thank you for your reply. In your article it appears that you interacted with the word "shortly." If I approach a service counter, and the attendant says, "I'll be with you shortly," I don't understand this to mean "immediately," but I do understand it to mean "soon." The Bible Suite by Biblos website lists 19 parallel translations for each verse, and these are the words used for verse 1:

      "soon" (8x), "quickly" (2x), "shortly" (9x)


      And these are the words used in verse 3:

      "near" (9x), "at hand" (9x), "nigh" (1x)


      I agree that the Transfiguration did not fulfill Jesus' promise to come in His kingdom. (I noticed that you said "earthly kingdom," but Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world, and also that it would not come with observation - Luke 17:20-21.) I believe He came in judgment and in His kingdom at the time of the Roman-Jewish War (67-73 AD), and the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Some of His disciples were still alive at that time, per His words in Matthew 16:27-28. None had died by the time of His Transfiguration, nor was that a time of judgment.

      He told His disciples that His kingdom would come before His own generation had passed away (Luke 21:31-32). This fit Daniel's time frame in which he foretold that "in the days of those kings [Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed" (Daniel 2:44). The Roman empire fell in 476 AD.

      Besides the time statements in Revelation 1:1 and 1:3 (and again in Rev. 22), one of the greatest clues for the timing of the events in Revelation comes in chapters 16-18. John was shown in Rev. 16:4-6, 17:4-6, 18:20, 18:24 that the harlot woman, the great city (Babylon) was full of the blood of the saints, prophets, and apostles, and was about to be judged. In Matthew 23:29-37 Jesus proclaimed that Jerusalem was guilty for the bloodshed of the saints and the prophets, and that His own generation would be judged for this bloodshed. The "who" and the "when" questions concerning Revelation 16-18 were already answered by Jesus during His ministry. The fact that "the great city" is identified in Rev. 11:8 as "the city where our Lord was crucified" is only further confirmation of these things.

      This also further confirms why John was told that he was being shown things that would soon take place, because the time was near (Rev. 1:1, 3).

    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      John uses the phrase "en tachei" here; he uses a similar word (tachys) seven times later in this book. In those cases, scholars use the word "quickly" to translate it.

      The expression "at hand" indicates nearness from the standpoint of prophetic revelation, not necessarily that the event will occur immediately.

      The Transfiguration merely provided the three apostles a foretaste or preview of His coming to set up His earthly kingdom; what they witnessed was not the main event.

    • AdamMaarschalk profile image

      Adam Maarschalk 4 years ago from Bowling Green, Ohio

      glynch1, I like how you mentioned at the beginning of your hub that "the Revelation of Jesus Christ" can be construed as either "an objective or a subjective genitive (or both)." That's my understanding as well. I also appreciated your comparison of John's vision of the Son of Man to Daniel's similar vision(s).

      I'm curious on what basis you took the phrases "what must soon take place" (verse 1) and "for the time is near" (verse 3) to mean that events "would transpire quickly once they began to happen." Would John's first century readers have interpreted his words the same way, as if his visions concerned a later generation and not their own? I believe it's also worth observing that when Jesus used similar language, as in Matthew 26:45 ("Then He came to the disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.'), He really did mean that the predicted events were about to occur.

      You also asserted that Jesus did not return in the first century. However, didn't He promise His 12 disciples that He would come [1] in His kingdom [2] in judgment [3] with His holy angels, and [4] in the glory of His Father BEFORE all of them would die (Matthew 16:27-28)? I believe that Jesus kept His word. I also believe it was this promise, a similar one in Matthew 10:23, and parallel promises in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) that gave the writers of the New Testament epistles the confidence to make statements such as these:

      "The Lord is near." (Phil. 4:5)

      "It is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire." (II Thess. 1:6-7)

      "It is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand." (Romans 13:11-12)

      "For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay." (Hebrews 10:37)

      "You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand." (James 5:8)

      "The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer." (I Peter 4:7)

      "It is the last hour." (I John 2:18)

      "There is about to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked." (Acts 24:15)

      "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near." (Revelation 22:10)

      I believe that, of those who did pierce Jesus (Rev. 1:7), some were still alive to mourn His coming in judgment upon apostate Israel. They belonged to the harlot (Rev. 17), also known as Babylon the Great or "the great city," earlier identified as "the city where our Lord was crucified" (Rev. 11:8), i.e. Jerusalem.

    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      Thank you for your kind remarks. I have found that having a more or less comprehensive understanding of the Older Testament (especially the book of Daniel) helps greatly with the interpretation of Revelation.

    • profile image

      Patrick44 4 years ago

      Interesting write-up and analysis glynch1. I've always found the Book of Revelation to be rather complex...but fascinating.

      I look forward to reading more of your essays on this and other spiritual-related topics.

    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      Perhaps my comment needs clarification. In John's vision, Jesus appeared as a priest-judge. Reading the details about what an Old Testament high priest wore would give you a better idea of the way He appeared in heaven. However, while He lived on the Earth, Jesus wore the long robe of a rabbi.

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      Rayne123 4 years ago

      I did mean a sound like a trumpet sorry.

      Garments of a rabbi, this is very interesting though

      thank you

    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      The Apostle John saw the glorified Jesus in a vision when He gave him this message. When the Lord was on the Earth, He probably wore the garments of a rabbi. The loud voice that John heard was like the sound of a trumpet; he did not write that it was a trumpet. Scripture says nothing about "seven signs of the apocalypse"; you must learn to obtain your information from the Bible, not from the "many" who hear sounds.

    • profile image

      Rayne123 4 years ago

      very powerful hub thank you

      you know when I watch/read bible stories, I often wondered what Jesus was wearing as I really could not find a description of it as of yet in the bible.

      I was thinking about what he was wearing last night and then you gave somewhat of a description for me to get some vision. Thank you

      As for the trumpet sounds, according to many (seven signs of the apocalypse) some recorded to already hearing sounds from the skies that sounded like trumpets.

      Thank you for this hub