Our Glorious Judge
Our Glorious Judge
Brad Mills / General
Son Of Man / Revelation 1:12–20
In the prologue (1-3) John informed us about how the revelation came to him by an angel sent by Jesus. The Triune God has greeted his redeemed Church with grace and peace reminding us that we are a kingdom of priests (4-8). Then Christ commissioned John to write a book and send it to the seven churches in Asia Minor (9-11). John addressed them as “brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus.”
We belong to the kingdom because we have submitted to the King of kings and Lord of lords. In our passage this morning we will get a glimpse of Christ in his royal splendor. John, in his vision, saw the Lord in his glorious majesty. And he heard his self-description which is filled with divine attributes. Both his appearance and message point to the justice he will bring when he returns to judge.
The following passage follows a typical pattern in apocalyptic visions. (1) The vision is received, followed by (2) the response to the vision, and finally (3) the interpretation of the vision. Vision > Response > Interpretation. This vision of our glorious Judge is meant to strengthen the Church for tribulation.
The majesty of Christ reveals his authority to bring divine judgment and preserve his elect.
Language of “the elect” is not some elitist terminology. Our English word “election” stems from the Greek verb “to choose”. Jesus himself provides a definition for election, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (Jn 15:16). The vision of Christ in this passage affirms His authority to both judge and preserve.
Read Rev 1:12-20.
› John interrupts the speech of the son of man to describe his appearance…
I. The Splendor of Glory (12-16)
The Witness of the Church (12)
It’s important to keep the overall image in mind. This is a powerful portrayal of our Lord in his role as our Great Prophet, Priest, and King. He is our royal high priest standing in majestic authority. He is the King who can bring that authority to bear in uncompromising judgment. And his prophetic message reveals his divinity, warns his enemies, and comforts his bride.
The description here draws heavily upon the two images in Daniel. The vision of “the Ancient of Days” in Dan 7:9 is combined with the human figure from Dan 10:5-6 who would defeat the succession of pagan kingdoms. Poythress writes, “What was distant for Daniel has now become reality through Christ’s death and resurrection” (p78).
After hearing his commission to write, John turns and sees “seven golden lampstands”. We can jump ahead to verse 20 and see that these lampstands represent the seven churches. Jesus called his disciples “the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt 5:14). They were to be a stand upon which the lamp of the gospel would continually burn as a witness to those living in darkness.
In Rev 11:1-13, the church is again represented by lampstands witnessing between Christ’s first and second coming, at times, in the face of severe persecution.
Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were martyred for their Christian faith under the reign of Roman Catholic Queen “Bloody” Mary. When the flames of their execution were lit Latimer encouraged his companion, “Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” It was an incredible example of their strength in the face of persecution. Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer’s deaths (known as the Oxford Martyrs) certainly did fuel the reformation for generations in England.
Richard Phillips, “Surely it is in large part due to the dim light and lukewarm commitment of so many worldly Christians and churches that so few people pay attention to the gospel today. It has always been believers who shined and burned for Christ who gain the world’s notice.”
Let us be mindful of our purpose as a lampstand. We represent the light of Christ. We cannot shy away from our task due to cultural pressures. We must remain steadfast in our stand against the world, the flesh, and the devil. We can only do that when we have a proper perspective of the son of man.
The Tending of Christ, Our Priest (13)
As the church shines the light of the gospel, Jesus Christ is in their midst tending to them in the same way that priests of old tended to the candlestick in the tabernacle and temple. It was their job to ensure that the light burned continually (Lev 24:1-4). Once Christ lights the lamps of his Church by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, he remains in their midst trimming their wicks and ensuring the oil of the Holy Spirit never runs dry.
Through his constant care, Christ upholds the witness of the Church throughout this present age! No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. He remains our faithful High Priest, who continually intercedes before the Father on our behalf. He is emboldening them and empowering them by his Spirit. He is with them in their persecution. His compassionate ministry continues today. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench” (Mt 12:20).
Do you feel like your faith is bending like a reed that is about to break? Do you feel like a faintly burning wick? Rest in your Savior’s loving protection. Allow him to strengthen your faith and to cup his hands around the flickering light so that the winds of temptation and persecution will not extinguish its flame.
He protects the smoldering wick while also bringing forth justice to the nations who persecute his Church. He is the one granting success and growth to his churches. And as we will see in the letters, he is also the one who can remove the lampstand from his presence.
The Authority of Christ, Our King (14-16a)
The imagery that follows points to Christ’s kingly role as our Sovereign Ruler. His purity and wisdom are depicted by the white hair which resembles the Ancient of Days (Dan 7:9). Once again, we find the vision describing Jesus in terms the Old Testament applies to the Father.
• His burning eyes depict the holy presence of God. Fire has the dual purpose of purifying and punishing.
• His bronze feet represent the warrior on mission to conquer all his and our enemies.
• His roaring voice reminds John of the sound of the crashing waves against the Island of Patmos. The phrase “roar of many waters” comes from Ezek 43:2 where God is described as coming “to destroy the city.” His thundering voice would strike fear in whoever stood opposed to him.
• The seven stars in his hands represent his cosmic sovereignty and rule.
Have you bowed before the King of kings? His the display of God’s glory, as revealed in his word, brought you to your knees in humble submission? Christ, as our King, subdues us to himself. He is the One who goes into battle before us conquering his and our enemies. Let us ensure that we are on his side.
The Condemnation of Christ, Our Prophet (16b)
The sword represents Christ’s coming in judgment. His word is the double-edged sword that has the power to save and condemn. His judgment will certainly fall upon unbelievers in pagan nations, but he will not spare those wolves who hide among the sheep.
His shining face is reminiscent of the glory that shone upon Moses’ face whenever he departed from the Lord’s presence. Moses’ glory would fade over time, but the glory of Christ will light up the new heavens and new earth making the sun unnecessary.
What we have in this description of the son of man is the revelation of the attributes and character of Jesus. This is not a portrait of Jesus in his glorified body. It is a representation of Jesus’ divine identity. We see his infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. We see these attributes displayed in his eternal roles as our great Prophet, Priest, and King.
Beale, “Jesus’ constant presence with the churches means that he always knows their spiritual condition, which results either in blessing or judgment.”
The purpose of the Old Testament prophets was to bring words of comfort to those who were persevering under trial, and words of warning and judgment to those who were living in rebellion.
Jesus Christ is present even now. His presence will may bring you a sense of guilt and shame that will lead you either to repentance or judgment. Conviction is a necessary component of faith. But Jesus does not leave us in to wallow in that conviction. True repentance is always accompanied by the apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ. When we know him as he truly is, we willingly submit to him and offer our lives as a living sacrifice. And he makes that offering holy and acceptable before his Father.
› Upon seeing the appearance of the son of man, John experiences…
II. The Effect of Glory (17a)
John’s overwhelming reaction to seeing the glory of the Lord is typical. Theophanic visions like this are rare in Scripture, but they are almost universally filled with fearful reactions. Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel all reacted in a similar fashion (Isa 6:5; Ezk 1:28; Dan 7:28; 10:8-9). In fact, three of the disciples, including John himself, reacted in the same way when Jesus was transfigured before them.
Matthew 17:6–8 ESV
When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
John may be experiencing a bit of deja vu as he recalls seeing much of the same glory and experiencing much of the same fear as when he witnessed the transfiguration.
But why would John be filled with fear? Why does the glory of Jesus leave John face down on the ground?
Spurgeon, “The most spiritual and sanctified minds, when they fully perceive the majesty and holiness of God, are so greatly conscious of the great disproportion between themselves and the Lord, that they are humbled and filled with holy awe, and even with dread and alarm.”
To behold Jesus, even in veiled glory, is to be aware of his perfect righteousness. His holiness creates a sharp contrast with our sinfulness. John, being a humble and mature saint, was fully aware of his own ongoing struggle with sin. His fear stems from the recognition of his own unworthiness to stand where he is.
He was following in the steps of Isaiah, whose vision of the throne of God led him to declare, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). Peter had a similar reaction when Jesus provided the miraculous catch of fish. He fell down at Jesus’ knees and cried out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:7-8).
The holiness of Jesus ought to leave sinful humans terrified. When we catch a glimpse of his purity, we begin to recognize with horrifying clarity our own filthy garments.
› We’ll cover the third section next week, but if you would like some closure for your outline it’s: “The Announcement of Glory”.
If you have never fallen on your face in humility before the glorious Judge of the universe, you must not know him. If the holiness of our Lord—who remains in our midst even now—does not strike an equally fearful reverence in us, then we likely are not as mature in our faith. A lack of fear does not make us stronger, it reveals just how weak we are when we disconnect our head from our heart. When we can worship God only in our thoughts, but our emotions are far from him.
Beeke, “In Gethsemane, the enemies of Jesus fell backward in terror when Jesus declared His glory as “I am” (John 18:6). By contrast, John falls toward his Lord. He falls down at His feet. Enemies fall away from Christ, but His people fall toward Him.”
And in response, Jesus lays his hand on the penitent sinner, and he says “Fear not…” It is that very sense of our own unworthiness that causes us to cling to him alone. None of us can be saved until we die to ourselves and fall at his feet.