Week 2 - A Vision of the Glorified Son of Man Revelation 1:9-20
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
Authored by Jerry Marshall
According to the record and pattern of scripture, whenever God appeared to someone, it was always for the purpose of issuing a divine commission or revealing information or truth that had not been previously known or understood. Sometimes, His appearances were for the purpose of articulating a promise based upon His character or affirming a covenant that He had made with an individual or to an entire nation. On other occasions He appeared to certain people in order to provide direction and instructions.
- His appearances to Abraham (Genesis 18)
- His appearances to Moses (Exodus 3:1-9)
- His appearance to Manoah (Judges 13:2-22)
- His appearances to Paul (Acts 9, Galatians 1:10-11)
Never did God appear simply to impress someone with the brilliance of His radiant glory. Nor did He ever appear in response to the demand of an unbeliever who required such an appearance of Him in order to believe in Him. God’s appearances were rare, exceedingly special and always in accordance with His will and purpose. When He did appear to someone, what He communicated was always consistent with His perfect character and His word. Nor did He allow the individual to whom He appeared, to interpret this vision of God through the vehicle of subjective musings.
When God did appear to certain people, they were terrified and assumed that they would die (Judges 13:22). Others who had seen the Lord were suddenly struck with the reality of their sinfulness in comparison with His brilliant holiness (Isaiah 6:1-6). Worship was the first response of those who were privileged enough to behold the Lord.
This Biblical pattern of God’s special appearance, as well as the reaction to such a vision, is what John experienced as he had the privilege of seeing the glorified Son of Man. Actually, this is one of three different visions of the Lord that are recorded in the book of revelation that John experienced. In chapters 4-6 He beheld the throne of God and the Lamb of God. In chapter 19, He beheld the Second Coming of Christ.
Our focus this morning will be on four important features of a vision of the exalted Lord of the Church experienced by the Apostle John and recorded in Revelation 1:9-20
I. What John Heard (1:9-11)
Revelation 1:9 (NASB95)
9 I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
A. The Setting (1:9-10a)
It should be noted that this is the third time that John referred to himself by name. (1:1, 4) This is the Apostle John, one of the twelve who was personally chosen by the Lord to be one of the foundation builders of the church. He is one of the two sons of Zebedee, the other being James, who was the first martyred apostle. John and his brother were nicknamed the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17), which was probably descriptive of their youthful disposition of being outspoken and intense. Later, John would be called the Apostle of love because agape was such a prominent theme in all of his writings.
In addition to writing the book of Revelation, he is also the human author of the Gospel of John and three epistles. He is distinguished from the other Apostles as being the one that Jesus loved (John 21:20, 24).
In this context, he humbly describes himself as a brother (in the Lord), a term of endearment used in the community of Christ which is descriptive of our family relationship with all who are the true children of God.
Being a brother in Christ, there were certain things that he shared in common with the believers who composed the seven churches in Asia. He experienced with them the same kind of tribulation that the churches in Asia had encountered under the hand of the Roman Emperor Domitian. Although we don’t have a lot of detail available to us regarding the severity and the scope of this persecution, we do know that it resulted in John being exiled to the Island of Patmos and at least one Pastor had been martyred (2:13).
From history, we are also aware of some of the contributing factors that fueled the hostility of the Roman world toward the people of God.
- The natural hostility of fallen men to the truth of the exclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- The refusal of the church to acknowledge the Roman Emperor as the supreme authority who was also worthy of their worship.
- The rejection of the Roman pantheon of gods.
- The Biblical teaching that all people were considered equal in terms of their spiritual position in Christ. This was seen as a threat to those who composed the social hierarchical structure in Rome. It was thought that such teaching would eventually topple the elite from their privileged status.
- And economically, because many had turned to Jesus Christ, many of the merchants, craftsmen, and priests who personally profited from idol worship were being put out of business (Acts 19:23-41).
In any event, John and those believers who composed the seven churches in Asia shared not only a status in the family of God, but also a common suffering experienced at that time by those who were the devoted followers of Christ.
In addition, John shared with them a common kinship as subjects in the Kingdom of God, which is that sphere of salvation in which Jesus reigns as the exclusive sovereign Lord over the community of the redeemed.
They also shared a common perseverance. The word perseverance is a translation of the Greek word Hupomone, which describes a steadfast patience. The word conveys the idea of a kind long suffering that is fueled by principles that cannot be compromised.
John was exiled to the Roman penal Island of Patmos; a small 10 by 6-mile island located about 37 miles southwest of the coast of Asia. He was there not because he was a common criminal but because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus, two spiritual treasures that are frequently found to be offensive to those who are lost and alienated from God.
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day
Bible scholars have argued about whether this is a reference to the human spirit or the Holy Spirit. The context would seem to indicate that this is the Holy Spirit. It describes a particular spiritual condition in which one is so under the Holy Spirit’s control, that it serves as the best kind of spiritual context to receive a visitation from the Lord. It describes a spiritual moment in time when the voice of the flesh and the impulses of the flesh seem as if they are mute and the promptings of the Holy Spirit are dominant.
It is a kind of spiritual condition in which the ordinary faculties of the flesh are suspended, and the inward senses are most responsive to the will of the Holy Spirit. In the Spirit is the opposite of being in the flesh.
After John describes his spiritual condition, he tells us of the very day of the week when this special vision of the Son of Man took place, it was on the Lord’s Day. By this time in church history, the Lord’s Day was commonly understood as the first day of the week which is Sunday according to the Jewish measurement of the week. It was called the Lord’s Day because it was the day that Jesus rose from the dead. It was also the day that believers met corporately to worship, to hear the word, to share in communion and to fellowship (cf. Acts 20:7).
B. The Sound (1:10b-11)
The simile that John uses was to make the point that the voice he heard behind him - like a trumpet - was clear, piercing and commanding, unmistakable. And this voice, this clear voice of authority, commanded him to write in a book (scroll) what he saw, and send it to the seven churches. This is one of twelve different times in the book of Revelation that John is commanded to write what he sees in a scroll.
John obeys this command and provides for us a permanent written record of his vision of the glorified Son of Man in verses 12-16, which we will get to in just a minute.
It’s interesting to note that the seven churches which existed in these seven cities represent the key cities of the seven postal districts into which Asia at this time was divided. Therefore, these cities were “Central points for disseminating information.”
The seven cites appear in the order that a messenger, traveling on the great circular road that linked them, would visit them.
II. What John Saw (1:12-16)
Revelation 1:12–13 (NASB)
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; 13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.
It is interesting to note that the first thing that captures the attention of John, having turned to see the one who is speaking to him, is this vision of seven golden lampstands. And located in the middle of the lampstands is one like the Son of Man.
The symbolism of the lampstands is clarified for us in the last part of verse 20. Lampstands of the first century were used to elevate portable oil lamps in order to provide the best light for a room during the night. Such symbolism denotes the primary responsibility of those churches and that is to bear the light of the Gospel to a world that has been darkened by sin.
This reminds me of the words of Jesus to his disciples recorded in Matthew 5:14
14 “You are the light of the world.
It is interesting that John does not see Jesus seated at the right hand of God - nor is he standing at the right hand of God - but John sees him in the middle of the seven golden lampstands.
The Lord, standing in the midst of the lampstands suggests His continuous enabling and empowering presence with His church, which He promised to build. We as the church may not be conscious of His abiding presence - but we need not wonder if the Lord is among us. He is!
John saw the glorified Son of Man. What John had witnessed undoubtedly called his mind back to an O.T. passage that he was very familiar with which records a vision of the Prophet Daniel.
13 “I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
Sixty-six years earlier, John heard Jesus apply this passage to Himself.
26 “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.
Son of Man used over eighty times in the Gospels primary by Jesus himself as his primary descriptive title was clearly understood by the Jews of His day to be a Messianic title. Theologically, this title also emphasizes the incarnation of the Lord as well as the deity of the Lord.
Some sixty-six years ago, John along with Peter and James witnessed the preview of the coming glory of the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration. Now, John sees the same Lord in that glory (Matthew 17:18).
As we examine the appearance of the glorified son of man, it is important to note the heavy use of similes by John captured by the repeated word, like. One of the dangers of interpreting these similes are turning the word “like” into “is.” What I mean by this is that if John used comparison statements to describe what he saw; we must be careful in our interpretation of these similes as if we know for certain what John could only describe as like something.
His clothing (1:13)
In verse 13, John does begin with a very direct statement of the clothing of the Son of Man. I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.
This description of His clothing links him with the High Priest of Israel who wore a long robe and a golden sash. Perhaps we can understand this clothing as a symbol of one of the three offices held by Our Lord. He is a prophet, a king and our only High priest.
The writer of Hebrews spoke of this position:
23 And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24 but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently.25 Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
His Head and His Hair (14)
1 The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
This sounds similar to Daniels vision of the Ancient of Days recorded in Daniel 7:9.
“I kept looking until thrones were set up,
And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow, And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, its wheels were a burning fire.
In the O.T., white hair was the symbol of the aged who were worthy of respect and who were thought to possess wisdom. Dignity, wisdom and longevity were all captured by the symbol of white hair.
His eyes (1:14b)
This description of the eyes of the Lord is repeated elsewhere in this book. (2:18; 19:11-12) Scholars understand that the biblical force of this simile refers to the penetrating vision of the Lord which causes all things to be fully disclosed to Him. It is the penetrating powerful eyes of the omniscient God.
“His searching, revealing, infallible gaze penetrates to the very depths of His church, revealing to Him with piercing clarity the reality of everything there is to know.”
13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
His feet (1:15a)
Scholars have all kinds of notions regarding what the feet of the Lord symbolize in this vision. There is very little agreement. Perhaps the emphasis should not be so much on the feet but on the way, they are described - Like highly polished bronze glowing in a furnace. What seems to have really caught the eye of John is the radiating of the glory of God emanating from the feet of the Lord. This glory is the outshining of the sum total of His divine attributes.
His voice (1:15b)
When John first heard the voice of the Lord, he said it sounded like a trumpet - piercing with clarity commanding and unmistakable. In this verse, he describes it as the sound that many waters make. That rushing crashing, sound that John was certainly familiar with as he heard daily the roar of the surf crashing against the shores of the Island of Patmos. This would certainly be an adequate simile for the sovereign and powerful voice of our ascended Lord. A voice that is so powerful that will command the dead to come forth from their graves one day. It is the voice of supreme authority that we do best to heed.
His right hand (1:16a)
In the last part of verse 20, we are told exactly who these seven stars represent. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. They are the ones who are to be addressed first as John writes the personalized messages from the Son of Man to each individual church (Note chapters 2-3).
The word “angels” is a transliteration of the Greek word angelos which basically refers to a messenger from God be they heavenly beings or a human being.
24 After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John:
The content of what John is commanded to write to these angels and to the churches they represent, frequently calls for repentance and an exhortation to obedience on the part of these angels as well as the churches they represent. These are two spiritual practices no longer applicable to angelic heavenly beings. Therefore, it is best to understand these angels as the human messengers of the Lord who are in leadership positions in the churches. Holding these seven angels in his hand symbolizes the fact he is in control of the church and its leaders.
His mouth (1:16b)
The writer of Hebrews describes the character of God’s Word in the same way.
12 For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
It is safe then to understand this to mean that out of the mouth of the Son of Man came the Word of God. The inspired Word that is able to judge the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.
His face (1:16b)
Once again, what John beheld on the face of the Lord is the radiating of His awesome glory - The outshining of the sum of His attributes. He beheld the glory of the Lord bore on the face of the Lord.
III. What John Did (1:17-18)
Revelation 1:17–18 (NASB95)
17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
In a manner similar to his experience some 66 years earlier when he beheld the glory of the Lord on the mount of transfiguration, John responded to what he had seen with a fearful reverence that forced him to fall at the feet of the Lord motionless like a dead man. This response stands in stark contrast “to the silly, frivolous, false, and boastful claims of many in our day who claim to have seen God, the reaction of those in Scripture who genuinely saw God was inevitably one of fear.” (MacArthur. Page 50)
The Lord quickly comforts his servant John with a touch and a word of assurance; a touch that John had not felt for over 66 years when he would lay his head on the chest of the Lord (1:17b-18).
This comforting touch and word came...
1. From the Eternal One
2. From the Living One
3. From Resurrected One
4. From the Sovereign One
IV. What John was Told (1:19-20)
Revelation 1:19–20 (NASB95)
19 “Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.
20 “As for 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 are the seven churches.
The apostle is commanded to write what is essentially the substance of this book which in the end forms the outline of this book.
1. Regarding the things that John had seen
2. Regarding the things which are
3. Regarding the things after these things
The chapter closes with a revelation of the meaning of the seven golden lampstands and the seven stars (1:20).
1. Jesus is alive! (v.18) The founder of our faith was not a well-meaning martyr or a dead heroic religious leader. He is the living Lord who is the Savior of the world. The fact that John had beheld the living One assures us that he is also the coming One.
2. Jesus is present with His church. (v.13) In spite of the imperfections of the church which will be revealed to us in chapters 3-4, Jesus is still present with the church. This is an enabling and empowering presence of the Lord for His church. The fact that the Lord has not abandoned his church in spite of its imperfections, serves as a testimony of the value of the church to our Lord.
3. Jesus has communicated to His church. (v.11, 19)
The Lord loves His church enough to communicate to the body of Christ a written record of what they need to know about His character, His will and His purposes. He also loves them enough to communicate to the church its need to recalibrate its attitude and conduct when they step beyond the boundaries of His will.