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Who Is Jesus, Really?

Written by College Park Church on

In the book of Revelation, we get our first vision of Jesus and our first series of symbols in Revelation 1:12-16. You may think you know what Jesus is like based upon your reading about him in the Gospels, but we’re about to learn a lot more!

In verse 11, John hears a voice. In verse 12 he turns “to see” the voice. This pattern of turning and seeing something surprising is central to the book of Revelation. It’s a theme that will be repeated in other places later in the book.

What John Sees About Jesus

The first thing John sees is seven golden lampstands. In the book of Revelation, there are many symbols whose meanings are a bit cloudy. Not this one. If you look ahead to verse 18, you’ll see clearly that they are the seven churches. But what’s stunning to John is what’s in the midst of the lampstands (or the churches).

John describes the person he sees as one “like a son of man.” This title may not have meaning or emotional connection for us, but it would have for the original audience of this book. A modern example might be if I said, “In walked the commander in chief,” you’d know I meant the president in his role as commander of the armed forces. Or if I said, “I was on a walk and found a Ben Franklin, ” you’d know I was referring to money. Well, the title “Son of Man” comes out of Daniel 7, and the imagery resembles the description of “The Ancient of Days.”

As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire (Dan. 7:9).

John sees Jesus as both the messenger of the divine (son of man) and as himself divine.[1] Notice the incredible description of Jesus:

…like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. 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.

Revelation 1:13-15

This text points to Jesus’s role as priest and king and describes him as entirely pure, seeing everything, authoritative, and powerful. But that’s not all. John sees seven stars in his right hand, a two-edged sword coming out of his mouth, and a face shining like the sun. This is a vision inclined to action and mobilization. It’s an image of a mighty conqueror and sovereign warrior.

That’s important and encouraging for two reasons. First, it shows us a different vision than the world we live in. There are times when it appears that emperors are all powerful, exile is lonely, and the devil is winning. Eugene Peterson writes:

Prior to the vision, St. John is on the prison island in isolated exile. He is cut off from his churches by a decree out of unholy Rome. Rome is the ascendant power. The gospel has proved a weak and ineffective ally against unstoppable evil. Two generations after the euphoria of Pentecost it is thoroughly discredited. Everything St. John believed and preached is, to all evidence, a disaster. And then, without a single thing having happened in Rome or in Asia – no earthquake…no revolution to change the government in Rome – St. John is on his feet. He has a message…The difference between St. John the prisoner and St. John the pastor is Christ, in vision and in reality…By virtue of the vision, the crushed exile becomes a vigorous prophet.

John’s vision of Jesus was not just descriptive; it was transformative.

Where John Sees Jesus

But where did John see him? That’s important too. Jesus was in the midst of the lampstands, the churches. As we read on in Revelation, it is clear that they’re far from perfect. Some things are going really well. Other things are a mess. But Jesus is in the midst of them. “He chooses to be in and among his perfect people who follow and serve him in imperfect ways.”[2]

It shouldn’t surprise you that every church has some things that are commendable and some things that deserve critique. And yet the church is the means by which God chooses to advance his kingdom in the world.

As you live in the midst of a broken world, alongside a broken people, look to Jesus. Fix your eyes on the Son of Man, the King and the Savior.  He holds the universe in his hands, his word is powerful, and his glory is unbelievable. When you look to him, you too will be transformed.

Based on the sermon Write What You See from the 2022 Revelation series by Mark Vroegop.

[1] James M. Hamilton Jr., Preaching the Word: Revelation—The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 47.

[2] Nancy Guthrie, Blessed: Experiencing the Promise of the Book of Revelation, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2022), 47.

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