Priestly Son of Man

The first vision centers on Jesus in his role as the High Priest who oversees the congregations of Asia. The vision begins in Chapter 1 and continues to the end of Chapter 3. It consists of the image of the Risen Christ walking among “Seven Golden Lampstands,” and the seven messages that he sends to the seven “Messengers” of the Asian congregations.

John was exiled to Patmos. While there, he found himself suddenly “in spirit” and received his first vision: “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” - (Revelation 1:10-11).

Menorah - Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash
[Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash]

The Greek verb translated as “
came to be” or ginomai means “to become, to come to be.” It signifies a change in condition or state. The verb tense points to 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.”

The phrase “in the spirit” refers to an out-of-the-ordinary visionary experience. Revelation uses the same term twice, as well as the similar phrase “carried in the spirit,” also twice. In each case, the clause is found at a key literary juncture of the Book - (Revelation 1:10, 4:2, 17:3, 21:10).

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

While “in the spirit,” Jesus placed John “in the Day of the Lord” where he saw things from a different perspective. Elsewhere, the “Day of the Lord” refers to the coming day of judgment on the wicked and the time when the righteous will be 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).

The great voice that sounded like a “trumpet” echoed 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 Assemblies in Asia.” The order in which the cities were listed in verse 11 describes the sequence by which a traveler from Patmos would have visited each one after making landfall in Ephesus.


John compared the figure he saw to a “Son of Man.” He was walking among “Seven Lampstands” and holding “Seven Stars” in his right hand. This figure represented Jesus as the High Priest of his people who possessed all authority. The voice “like a trumpet” was 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 Zechariah is used. John also saw the “Seven Golden Lampstands,” a reference to the vision of Zechariah of a “lampstand all of gold.” However, he saw a single lamp with seven branches corresponding to the seven-branched lamp in the Tabernacle, while John saw seven individual lampstands – (Zechariah 4:2).

The Seven Lampstands indicated a sanctuary setting. The figure of the “one like a son of man” was derived 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).

John saw the “Son of Man” walking among the “lampstands” and maintaining them, just as the priests in the Tabernacle tended the seven-branched lamp, the ‘menorah,’ by trimming its wicks and replenishing its oil. He was arrayed in a full-length robe adorned with a golden belt, pointing to his office as the High Priest. The description 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 would befall the “Seven Assemblies” in the coming “season.”

The “sword” wielded by the “Son of Man” flashed from his mouth. This symbol also occurs in Chapter 19 and represents the authoritative Word of Jesus, in this case, his words sent to each of the Seven Assembles in Chapters 2 and 3 – (Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 49:2, Revelation 2:12, 2:16, 19:15-21).


John reacted by prostrating himself at this figure’s feet “as though dead,” which is another parallel to the vision in 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). The term “first and last” parallels the earlier claim of God, “I am Alpha and Omega.” Jesus laid claim to this high privilege because of his obedient death - (Revelation 3:21-22).

He was the “living one, and I became dead.” This anchored the Book’s visions in his past Death and Resurrection. Likewise, he had “the keys of Death and of Hades,” meaning he had full authority over the realm of the Dead.

John was commanded to “write what things you saw, what they are, and what will come to pass after them.” What he “saw” referred to the visions recorded in the Book and what they “are” to the provided interpretations. “Are” translates the Greek verb eimi in the plural number and present tense. This understanding was demonstrated when John was told the “Lampstands” represent the Seven Assemblies (“they ARE [eisin] seven churches.” Likewise, the “seven stars ARE [eisin] seven angels.”

Small Chapel Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
[Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash]

The revealed “
mystery” was that the “Seven Stars” and the “Lampstands” symbolized seven “messengers” and seven “assemblies.” Thus, Revelation interpreted this first vision symbolically for its readers.

The Greek term translated as “angel” or “messenger” could refer to human or angelic “messengers.” It is not clear at this point which sense was intended. But the blessing pronounced previously on “he who reads, and they who hear” provided a clue. Did John send one messenger to read the Book in each of the congregations, or were seven men dispatched to each city with seven copies of the Book?

The opening vision continues with the Seven Letters sent to the “Seven Messengers” of the Assemblies with messages for each of them from the “one like a Son of Man.” What Daniel saw in an enigmatic form is about to be revealed in the body of Revelation.

  • Revelation of Jesus - (The Prologue of Revelation presents the key themes of the Book and declares that the season of fulfillment has arrived – Revelation 1:1-3)
  • Priestly Kingdom - (Disciples reign with Jesus as priests who render service in his Tabernacle and mediate his light and Word in the World)
  • Ruler of Kings - (The Faithful Witness now reigns supreme over the Kings of the Earth, and he is shepherding the nations)



The Living Word

The Suffering Servant