Given that Sunday was the Feast of Christ the King and that we have begun to read the Book of Revelation in the Office of Readings, this is an opportune time to examine the glorious portrait of Jesus Christ presented in Revelation 1:8-20. It is a portrait of the risen Christ in all His glory. The vision is of a high Christology. The Christ that is encountered here is the Lord of glory, who has attained to His glorious kingdom and who is the Lord of history and King of the Universe.
Let’s look at the passage and then draw from it ten descriptions of Jesus the Christ.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” … Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash round his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades (Revelation 1:8, 12-18).
The Recapitulating Christ – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” In this usage, recapitulating means subsuming many things under one heading. Saying that the Lord is the Alpha and the Omega means more than just the beginning and the end. It also means, “I am A and Z.” In other words, “I am the alphabet of God. I am in every word you speak or read. I am in every thought you articulate.”
He is the Word of God. He is the refulgence of all wisdom and knowledge. He knows all things. The Bible says this of Jesus:
That in the dispensation of the fullness of times [God the Father] might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him (Eph. 1:10).
For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:16-17).
The Reigning Christ – Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash round his chest. These are regal robes, the dress and splendor of a king, magistrate, or judge. Indeed, the portrait here is not of Jesus Christ as savior per se, but Jesus Christ as judge.
We must all face Jesus one day as judge: For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So each of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:11-12).
The title “Son of Man” was one Jesus often used to describe Himself. It points to the vision of Daniel: I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).
Thus, we behold Christ here in all his glory.
The Righteous Christ – His head and his hair were white as white wool … This text speaks of His wisdom, righteousness, and purity. White (or gray) hair is a symbol of wisdom. The whitened wool also speaks to His purity and recalls this text from Isaiah: Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Is 1:18). Hence, Jesus’ wisdom is pure, lightsome, and holy. He alone can cleanse us and make us share in His righteousness.
The Revealing Christ – His eyes were like a flame of fire… His eyes illumine and see all things. He has a kind of penetrating vision, like x-rays. He sees right through you.
Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him to whom we must render an account (Heb 4:13).
He knows everything you’ve ever done; every thought, every word, every deed. His eyes not only see all things, they illumine all things, shining the light of truth on them.
The Relentless Christ – his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace. This means that His Kingdom and His judgement will be unstoppable. Brass, a hard, weighty metal, symbolizes that which is unyielding and unstoppable.
When Christ comes again, no one will be able to resist His word and judgment. Myriads will be summoned before Him in the valley of decision. Scripture reports an awesome and terrifying aspect of the judgment concerning the feet of Christ: So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city (Rev 14:18-20).
Here, then, is burning judgment and strong feet. He is the relentless Christ; you cannot stop Him. He is going forth to judge. He will judge. He must judge. “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” For the Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honor the Son (John 5:22-23).
The Resounding Christ – and his voice was like the sound of many waters. A likely background to this text is Psalm 29: 2-4 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thunders: the LORD is upon many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. He is our majestic Lord and God.
God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet (Psalm 47:5).
The LORD shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 25:30-31).
For the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29).
The Regulating Christ – in his right hand he held seven stars. Jesus doesn’t just have the whole world in His hand; He’s got the whole universe in His hand. He is the one who regulates it all. He runs and rules all of creation.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Col 1:15-17).
The Book of Revelation also defines the stars as the seven churches. Rev 1:20 states, The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. Thus, we see here the governance over the Church that Christ has. And he is the head of the body, the Church: he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence (Col 1:17-18).
The Rebuking Christ – from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword. This is a word picture that is reminiscent of Hebrews 4:12. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The sword that is in His mouth is His Word.
Repent; or else I will come unto you quickly, and will fight … with the sword of my mouth (Rev 2:16).
And out of his mouth goes forth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them (Rev 19:15).
Thus, the Word of God must act like a surgeon’s scalpel and remove all that is putrefied in us. We must be healed by God’s word and the sacraments of grace, lest we perish on that day when His Word shall have its full effect.
The Refulgent Christ – and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory. He is the Light of the World.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world (John 1:4-9).
If we are faithful, this light shall transform us. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).
The Reassuring Christ – When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” On the one hand, our world needs today a new vision of the holiness of God. Look at John: He knew Christ and lay his head upon His chest at the last supper. Despite all the history that John has with Jesus, when he beholds the glorified Christ, he falls on his face as though dead.
“But you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Too frequently, today, God has been trivialized. Look at John’s experience. Jesus will reassure him, but the glory is awesome.
Yet Jesus says, Fear not. He is the reassuring Christ. Notice what He tells John not to fear: death and the power of evil one. Thus, the awesome power and majesty of Jesus becomes the basis for fearing not. His resurrection is the source of His glory and also the reason we should not fear. Jesus lets His glory shine forth not to make John afraid, but to reassure him. Jesus has power to save.
Here then, is a picture of the risen and glorified Christ. He is King; He is Lord and His glory is eternal.