The Son of Man

The first vision centers on Jesus in his role as the high priest who oversees the churches. When introducing himself, John did not hold up his apostolic credentials. Instead, he identified himself with the plight of the seven churches. He was a “fellow participant” with them in the “tribulation and the kingdom and the endurance.” Likewise, the “Son of Man” is intimately involved with the care of his people.

The book’s first vision begins in Chapter 1 and continues to the end of Chapter 3. It consists of the vision of the Risen Christ walking among “seven golden lampstands,” and the seven messages from him sent to the “angels” of the Asian congregations.


John found himself exiled on the isle of Patmos - “I came to be on the isle called Patmos,” where he found himself one day suddenly “in spirit”:

  • (Revelation 1:10-11) – “I came to be in spirit on the lordly day, and I heard behind me a great voice, like a trumpet, saying: What you see, write in a scroll and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”

I came to be in spirit in the Lord’s day.” The verb ginomai means “to become, to come to be,” signifying a change in condition or state. The verb tense indicates a past action seen in its entirety. “I came to be” depicts a singular event at a specific point in time when John found himself “in spirit.”

In the spirit” refers to an out-of-the-ordinary visionary experience. Revelation uses the same term twice, and the similar “carried in the spirit,” also twice, at key literary junctures - (Revelation 1:10, 4:2, 17:3, 21:10).

Twice in the book, John “came to be in spirit”; once on Patmos, and once before the “throne.” And twice he was “carried in spirit”; once to the “wilderness” to see “Babylon,” and once to the “great and high mountain” to see “New Jerusalem” - (Revelation 1:8-10, 4:2, 17:3, 21:10).

Roman magistrates may have placed John on Patmos, but, “in the spirit,” Jesus placed him “in the day of the Lord” where he saw things from a vastly different perspective. Elsewhere, the “day of the Lord” refers to the coming day of judgment on the wicked and the time when the righteous are vindicated - (Isaiah 13:6, Joel 1:15, 2:31, Amos 5:18, Obadiah 15, Zephaniah 1:7, Malachi 4:5, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:2).

The book of Revelation does not use the term “day of the Lord” again; however, note the similar clauses:

  • The great day of their wrath has come” - (Revelation 6:17).
  • The great day of God, the Almighty” - (Revelation 16:14).
  • In one day, her plagues will come” - (Revelation 18:8).

In this first vision, the great voice John heard “like a trumpet” alludes to the day when Mount Sinai was covered with a thick cloud from which all of Israel heard “a loud trumpet’s voice” – (Exodus 19:16-18).

John was commanded to record all that he saw in a “scroll” and to send it to the “seven churches in Asia.” The order in which the cities are listed is the sequence by which a traveler from Patmos would visit each one after first making landfall in Ephesus.

And “write what you see in a scroll.” This clause alludes to Habakkuk 2:2 - “Yahweh answered me and said, ‘Write the vision, make it plain on tablets that one may read it swiftly.” The same passage was echoed previously in the prologue - “the one who reads” the things written in the prophecy. Originally, this was Yahweh’s response to the prophet’s complaint: How could a just God allow Babylon to attack Judah?


Next, John sees a figure he compares to a “son of man.” He walks among “seven golden lampstands” while holding “seven stars.” The image further develops the themes of sufferingkingdom, and priesthood. This “son of man” represents Jesus, now exalted and possessing all authority. And the voice “like a trumpet” is his voice.

  • (Revelation 1:12-16) – “And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands; and among the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and gird about at the breasts with a golden girdle. And his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and his voice as the voice of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shining in his strength.”

Language from the book of Zechariah is present. John also sees “seven golden lampstands.” This refers to the type of stands that held ancient oil lamps. Likewise, the prophet Zechariah saw a “lampstand all of gold,” however, he saw a single lamp with seven branches corresponding to the seven-branched lamp in the Tabernacle.

The seven lampstands indicate a sanctuary setting. The figure of the “one like a son of man” is from the book of Daniel and its vision of the “fourth beast” with the “little horn” that attacked the “saints” - (Exodus 25:31-40, Daniel 7:13-14).

And John sees this “son of man” walking among the seven golden “lampstands” and maintaining them, just as the priests in the Tabernacle tended the seven-branched lamp, the ‘menorah,’ trimming its wicks and replenishing its oil.

The figure is arrayed in a full-length robe adorned with a golden belt. This points to his priestly office. The description of his glorious appearance borrows heavily from the tenth chapter of Daniel - (Leviticus 8:1-13, Daniel 10:5-6).

In Daniel, the man “clothed in linen” revealed what would befall the people of Judah in later days. Here, Revelation alludes to that passage because of its focus on what will happen to the “churches” in the “season” that is now upon them.

The “sword” wielded by the “son of man” is not held in either hand. Instead, it flashes from his mouth. This symbol occurs later in Revelation and represents the authoritative word of Jesus – (Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 49:2, Revelation 2:12, 2:16, 19:15-21).


John reacts to the appearance of the “one like a son of man” by prostrating himself at his feet “as though dead,” which is another parallel to the vision from Daniel (“Daniel fell into a deep sleep upon his face with his face to the earth”).

  • (Revelation 1:17-20) – “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Write, therefore, the things which you saw, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass afterward; the mystery of the seven stars in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven lampstands are seven churches.”

The clause, “I am the first and the last,” alludes to three passages in Isaiah – (Isaiah 41:4, 44:5-6, 48:9-15). “First and last” parallels the earlier claim of God, “I am Alpha and Omega.” Here, Jesus lays claim to this high privilege because of his obedient death - (Revelation 3:21-22).

I am the living one, and I became dead.” The statement anchors the visions of Revelation in his past death and resurrection. Likewise, he has “the keys of Death and of Hades.” That is, he has full authority over death. Hades was the abode of the dead and corresponded to the Hebrew concept of Sheol. In his resurrection, Jesus triumphed over death.

John is commanded to “write what things you saw, what they are, and what will come to pass after them.” What John “saw” refers to the visions recorded in the book.

What they “are” refers to the provided interpretations of the visions. “Are” translates the Greek verb eimi, here, in the plural number and present tense. This understanding is demonstrated in the next verse when John sees the “seven lampstands,” which symbolize the “seven churches” (“they ARE [eisin] seven churches.” Likewise, the “seven stars ARE [eisin] seven angels.”

This same verbal formula is used elsewhere to provide interpretations of several visions. For example, the seven "lamps of fireARE (eisin) the “seven Spirits of God”; the “seven horns” and “seven eyes” ARE (eisin) the “seven Spirits of God,” and the “two witnesses” ARE (eisin) “two lampstands” - (Revelation 4:5, 5:6-8, 11:4).

The MYSTERY of the seven stars and the seven lampstands.” The “mystery” is that the “seven stars” and the “lampstands” symbolize seven “angels” and seven “churches.” Thus, Revelation interprets its visions symbolically for the reader.

The Greek term rendered “angel” may refer to human or angelic “messengers.” It is not clear which sense is intended. But the blessing pronounced previously on “he who reads, and they who hear” provides a clue. Did John send one messenger to read the book in each of the seven churches, or were seven men dispatched to each city with each bearing a copy of the book?

The opening vision will now continue with the seven letters sent to the “seven churches” with messages for each of the seven “angels” from the Risen Christ.



The Suffering Servant

The Living Word