Revelation 1:10-16

In the preceding chapter we considered the prologue and dedication of this great Book. He who is alike the Revealer and the Revealed is now to occupy our attention. It is a befitting sequence, to pass from the announcement of the subject, to a description of the adorable Person and character of Him whose tongue of living fire dictates the immediately succeeding letters to the Seven Churches—whose Presence fills every subsequent unfolding of the prophetic roll, and whose glorious Advent is the culminating event—the terminating act of the sacred drama.

But under what form is this description of the majestic Being, who dwells in inaccessible light, to be brought before His Church? How can even John (though 'the eagle' be his traditional symbol) soar upwards on his wings of love and devotion to catch a sight of the Invisible; endure the splendors of the unclouded Sun—and present the result in human words? It cannot be embodied in the usual forms of speech; and, therefore, in accordance with many antecedents in Hebrew history, this revelation of the Person of Christ is to be made, not in earthly language, but by heavenly vision. Ages before, the greatest of all historic revelations of Himself and His ways (in the Exodus and wanderings) was preceded by the "appearing" of the Covenant Angel to the Shepherd of Midian in the burning bush as the Great I AM. Now, in the greatest of all prophetic revelations, the same Almighty Being manifests forth His Person and resurrection glory, not in the desert's flaming bush nor from the cleft rock, but amid the scenery and furniture of Tabernacle and Temple—amid golden Candlesticks and other symbols and accessories most familiar and hallowed to a Jew.

On the day commemorative of his Lord's rising from the dead, the aged Apostle of Patmos, as we have already seen, is startled with "a great voice as of a trumpet." Probably in this there was yet another Jewish memorial and association. A sound broke upon his ear similar to that with which the Israelite was so familiar, when the festal trumpet summoned to some great convocation—or rather, perhaps, recalling those ominous blasts heard in times of terror, and rebuke, and war. Never, at all events, was there a grander meaning than now, attached to the customary summons which accompanied these trumpet-tones—"Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" John turns around, awe-struck and astonished. It was no phantasy—no imaginary voice, (such as, in the devout imagination of the Greek, haunted mountain and cave and waters), but the living presence of a Living Being, who announced Himself as the "Alpha and Omega, the first and the last."

The direction, moreover, was added, that what was about to be uttered was not for the solitary one of Patmos only, but for "the Churches in Asia"—not for John the Prophet alone—but, through these seven congregations of that province, as a directory for the people of God, in every age, to the end of time. It was, therefore, to be written "in a Book"—engrossed in a Scroll—as dictated by the lips of the Church's adorable Head. Very possibly this 'voice like a trumpet', as we have just indicated, suggested not so much the silver trumpets of jubilee, as those which would prepare the listener for communications of retribution and judgment, such as were heard in a future vision—"Woe, woe, woe to the inhabiters of the earth."

Let us turn then aside, like Moses of old, with reverent gaze, to see this great sight—it is a vision alike of sublimity and comfort. May the Holy Spirit, whose special office it is to take of the things of Christ and show them unto His people, enable us so to behold His glory, that we may be led to exclaim, "I have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!"

Reserving for the present the consideration of the Seven golden Candlesticks and other accompanying symbols, we have here successively described to us the Garment, the Sash, the Hair, the Eyes, the Feet, the Voice, the Sword, and Countenance of the Divine Redeemer. The First thing which seems to have arrested the attention of the Apostle was his Lord's GARMENT: He was "clothed with a garment down to the foot." The long flowing robe, partly priestly, partly regal—but more the former than the latter—suggests the first of many resemblances to the visions of Daniel, when on the banks of the river he saw the man clothed in the long linen garment. In both cases they pointed to the Royal Priest—"the Priest upon His throne"—the God-man Intercessor. The ungirded robe flowing down to the feet, further indicating perhaps, repose—absence of toil—release from labor—in other words, that He who was thus attired had finished His work, fought His great fight—His loins no longer girded for conflict, He had entered on His glorious rest.

There were other awful emblems of Divine majesty there, which we might rather have supposed would have first claimed John's attention. He fastens on the one which formed the badge of his Lord's mediatorial character and office, which enabled him to see God and live. "I saw," said he, "One like the Son of Man." SON OF MAN!—blessed title!—the name by which the adorable Person now revealed called Himself on earth—He loves it still, and wears it still in heaven!

In the glorified lips which were about to whisper, in mingled omnipotence and love, "Fear not!" the Evangelist recognizes the same lips, which in trembling accents from the cross, once called him "Son!" When we remember that John himself was now bowed down with a load of sorrows—a dark midnight of persecution at hand for himself and the Church of God, need we wonder that when the Church's living Head appears, John should have singled out first what reminded and assured him of his Beloved Master's undying manhood? It afforded the certain pledge and guarantee that, though the faithful in that and in other ages might be destined to pass through the severest ordeal of suffering, there was One at the right hand of the Throne (the same who had been disclosed to the dying eye of the martyr Stephen) who could say from dearly-bought experience, "I know your sorrows."

Again, he beheld His SASH: "And standing in the middle of the lampstands was the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a golden sash across his chest." This was the symbol alike of His Truth, His Unchangeableness, and Love. The Apostle had just noted that which revealed his Lord to be "full of grace;" when he saw the golden sash it confirmed him in the assurance of whose glory it was he beheld—"the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father"—not only "full of Grace," but "full of Truth;" of whom the Prince of Prophets had predicted—"Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist."

Moreover, it was the pledge and badge of His unaltered and unalterable Love. Since John had last held visible fellowship with his Redeemer, that Redeemer had been enthroned amid the Hosannahs of Angels, and the glories of Heaven. The question may possibly have often suggested itself—has He changed? Have sixty years of ascension glories dimmed His love, or alienated His affection? Can He be "that same Jesus" who, during His ministry on earth, called His disciples 'friends,' and whom, from the heights of Bethany, they had seen go into heaven? Has He still the Brother's eye, and the Brother's love, and the Brother's heart? That golden Sash afforded silent testimony that, though altered in His outward estate and condition, His name and memorial—His inviolable attachment to His people—knew no change. That name is "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever."

Unlike the similar sash of fine gold in Daniel's vision, which encircled the loins, this sash was girded around the Redeemer's chest—around His very Heart of love. Immutability must become mutable, before that Love be altered or that Affection die! But the glorified Humanity of Christ is not of itself enough for His Church. The arm that is to save a world, and wield the scepter of universal Empire, must have the omnipotence of Deity slumbering there—our God, yet our Brother; our Brother, yet our God! The beloved Disciple accordingly, having so far had his fears allayed by a revelation of his Lord's exalted manhood, proceeds to contemplate the symbols of His Godhead—His fourfold attributes of Eternity, Omniscience, Holiness, and Power.

His ETERNITY: "His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow." The Ancient of days who appeared to Daniel now stands before him. There is a remarkable identity here also in the two picturings, and in nothing more than in this significant emblem. It is the echo and response in vision, of the spectator's own magnificent introduction to his gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." It is the translation into symbol of the preliminary announcement which had just accompanied the great trumpet: "I am Alpha and Omega." Wondrous theme of contemplation! Christ "set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before ever the earth was." Before the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted their jubilant anthem over a new-born world—in the remote recesses of the past—before the trance of Eternity had been broken by any manifestation of Divine power—He was rejoicing in the presence of the Uncreated One, Himself the Uncreated Lord! Well did he who spoke of "the Child born, the Son given, the Prince of peace," celebrate Him also as "the Wonderful, the Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father," (or, as the words may be rendered, the Father of ETERNITY).

Again John gazes, and lo! His OMNISCIENCE: "His eyes were as a flame of fire," Penetrating in searching scrutiny every corner of creation—darting down the vista of the future, and bringing up from its remotest depths material for His servant to register in his prophetic roll, scanning with lightning speed the destinies of His Church, until the last shadow had been cast on earth's dial. And what Christ was to John, He is to His Church still. These flaming eyes are still abroad at this moment, through every remote avenue of the universe, roaming the tracts of immensity; and yet not more there than here—above us, around us, within us.

Comforting and yet fearful truth! Comforting—that there is not the lonely spot or desolate heart where the cognizance and sympathy of Christ are not—that these flaming Eyes—the same which once wept over human sorrow and bereavement, human impenitence and guilt—are watching the heaving of every burdened sigh, and the falling of every tear—that they reach the martyr in his cell, and the exile in his Patmos, and the sufferer on his sick-bed, and the saint at the threshold of the Dark Valley. But dread thought also! Christ's eye is upon me! All things naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do! That eye a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart—no deed of darkness to be screened from His view—no sin, undetected by man, unnoted and unregistered by the Great Heart-Searcher! "If You, Lord, should mark iniquities—O Lord, who shall stand?"

But if His Omniscience be such, what of His HOLINESS and PURITY. This is what the Apostle next beheld "His feet like unto fire" (or, as it has been translated, heated or glowing) "brass, as if they burned in a furnace." How unblemished! how spotless! Even the Seraphim "the burning ones" in the vision of Isaiah—with two of their wings covered their feet, in token of imperfection. But Christ's feet are here uncovered. Why? Because the purity of the holiest created intelligences is a derived purity—His is underived. The one is finite the other infinite. The one is the softened and borrowed luster of the satellite—the other the great central Luminary of Heaven—the Fountain of light and life and glory!

Let us not lose sight of this doctrine—the untainted holiness of the God-man Mediator. He was the true paschal Lamb, "without blemish." As one leak would sink the mightiest vessel that was ever borne on the waters, so never could the Church ride out the storm, had not her living Head—the true Ark—been "the Holy One of God." He rose "glorious in Holiness." He ascended with the song vibrating through the ranks of Heaven, "Holy, holy, holy!" "Sing unto the Lord, O you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness!"

One other attribute still remains: John heard His VOICE, (emblem of POWER.) It was "as the sound of many waters." Of no attribute did the Evangelist require to be more certified than this—that the Church whose destinies were about to be unfolded to him, should be able to claim as her King and Head, One boundless in His resources—strong to smite, strong to save. And accordingly, as if doubly to strengthen and confirm his confidence in the ability of his Lord, his attention is immediately arrested by another emblem of almightiness—the two-edged SWORD proceeding from His mouth. So that the Apostle in Patmos could take the Psalmist's language and say, "God has spoken once—yes, twice have I heard this, that POWER belongs unto God."

Believer! are you encompassed with trouble? Are the floods lifting up their waves, and making a mighty noise? Christ's Voice is "as the sound"—no, says the Psalmist, "it is mightier than the noise of many waters—yes, than the mighty waves of the sea." That Voice has only to utter the mandate, "Peace, be still!" and immediately there will be a great calm. Whatever be your troubles, your fears, your misgivings—all power is committed unto Him in heaven and in earth. As a Prince, He has power with God and must prevail. The lowly prayer from a burdened saint ascends—the omnipotent "Father, I will," irrevocably secures the boon. "Son! you are ever with Me, and all that I have is Yours!"

The Apostle's closing description in the vision is the radiant COUNTENANCE of Immanuel: "His countenance was as the sun shines in his strength." The Church in the Canticles is said to be "fair as the moon"—her luster is not inherent; like that of the Seraphim we have just spoken of, it is derived. But the Church's Lord and King is in the spiritual universe, what the sun of heaven is in the natural—nothing has any glory by reason of the glory that excels—Christ being all and in all. His countenance is like the cloudless splendor of the brightest noon! While blessed it is, to bask under the sunshine of that Countenance whose smile is heaven, whose favor is life—fearful is it to provoke that righteous wrath which is worse than death! The Countenance of Christ is like the two-edged sword. It has a double brightness—or rather, it is like the forked lightning—if it does not illumine, it must scathe. While we read of those who are to hail the bright and morning Star, we read of others who are to be "destroyed with the brightness of His coming."

May it be ours, like Israel of old with their guiding pillar, to walk in the light of His countenance. This is the Countenance which we are told, at the close of this Book, is in a world of glory to displace and supersede all material luminaries. No sun needed in heaven to walk the skies—no moon with her starry retinue to shed their radiance—"for there shall be no night there, and they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light, and they shall reign forever and ever."