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The voice that John heard on the Lord’s day told him to write a book to the seven churches, telling them what he saw. However, before John began to record this message, he observed his surroundings and turned to see who was speaking to him.
The Voice from the Temple
Revelation 1:12, 13 says,
12 And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands. 13 and in the middle of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle.
This, then, was a vision of the temple in heaven with the voice of God speaking out of the temple—the heavenly sanctuary. Of this we read in Hebrews 9:11,
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation.
The risen, glorified Christ was not speaking from the Most Holy Place as one might expect, but from the midst of the lampstands in the Holy Place. Obviously, these seven lampstands were meant to represent the seven churches. John speaks of the lampstands seven times in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:12, 13, 20 (twice); Rev. 2:1, 5; 11:4), as if to emphasize the seven churches.
Since the Spirit had been given to the church on the day of Pentecost, we find Christ positioned in the midst of the church. The church, then, is seen fulfilling the role of the priesthood, for only priests were allowed to enter the Holy Place. It suggests that all true believers are priests.
Christ is described as appearing in the form “like a son of man,” that is, in human form, clothed as the great High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek. Of course, the term, “son of man,” had great prophetic significance, as this is the term used to describe the One coming to the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:13 to receive dominion over the earth. He could rule in heaven as the Son of God, but after man was given dominion over the earth in Genesis 1:26-28, He had to become a son of man in order to rule the earth. He had to be the last Adam, fully in the image and likeness of God, a perfect image and reflection of the Father, to receive this dominion.
Hebrews 8:1, 2 says,
1 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.
John himself (through his mother) was from a family of priests, as I explained in Dr. Luke: Healing the Breaches, Book 8, chapter 9. Hence, Caiaphas knew John personally (John 18:15), and at Jesus’ trial, John was able to talk to the doorkeeper in order to allow Peter access to the courtyard where the trial was being held. Toward the end of the second century, Polycrates wrote,
“Again there is John, who leant back on the Lord’s breast, and who became a priest wearing a mitre [petalon], a martyr and a teacher; he too sleeps in Ephesus.” [quoted by Eusebius in Eccl. Hist., III, 31]
John’s connection to the Aaronic priests seems to have given him a priestly persona even in the church at Ephesus and perhaps all of the churches in Asia.
The Description of Christ
The robe of Aaron, the first high priest of the old order, was blue (Exodus 28:31). John does not tell us the color of Christ’s robe in the tabernacle of heaven, but we may presume that it too was blue, representing the law, heaven, and the realm of spirit. Recall that Paul said in Romans 7:14, “the law is spiritual.” Hence, it is represented by the “cord of blue” (Numbers 15:38), which was to remind people of “all the commandments of the Lord” (Numbers 15:39). The high priest was to be the embodiment of the complete and exact intent of the law of God.
Aaron’s sash was described in Exodus 39:29,
29 and the sash of fine twisted linen, and blue and purple and scarlet material, the work of the weaver, just as the Lord had commanded Moses [in Exodus 28:39].
The sash (belt, girdle) was multicolored, having linen (“righteous acts of saints,” Revelation 19:8), blue (spiritual law), purple (dominion), and scarlet (redemption). Unusual emphasis is placed upon the fact that it had to be done by a “weaver” in order to integrate all of the colors and unite them as one.
Nonetheless, in Revelation 1:13 we find Christ “girded across His breast with a golden girdle.” Gold represents the divine nature. In the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, which was made of wood overlaid with gold, the prophetic picture is of human nature overlaid with the divine nature. It was a picture of Christ as Son of Man and Son of God.
The old high priest wore a woven sash having many colors, but Christ wears a golden sash. His divine nature trumps all of the other colors, for it was because of His divine nature—given through the virgin birth—that the purpose and prophecies of the other colors found their fulfillment.
Revelation 1:14 says,
14 And His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.
Christ is here described in terms similar to the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9, “His vesture was like white snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool.” The physical description has spiritual meaning and purpose, for the law says in Leviticus 19:32,
32 You shall rise up before the grayheaded [Seybah, hoary, old age ], and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.
This law prophesied that men will rise from the dead when the Ancient of Days comes. So in Daniel 7 we see the dead rising to stand before the Ancient of Days at the final judgment. Daniel 7:13 tells us that the Son of Man “came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.” He tells us also that the Ancient of Days had white hair, but he gives no physical description of the Son of Man.
It remains for John to tell us that the Son of Man also had white hair. The same respect that was to be given to the Ancient of Days is thus accorded to the Son of Man. It also identifies Christ as the Judge of the earth, as Jesus said in John 5:26, 27,
26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself, 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.
Jesus then spoke of the resurrection in John 5:28, 29.
It is also important to note that the resurrection, rising up before the One with white hair, was not a request or a suggestion. Under the Old Covenant, the commandments are mere commands to be obeyed by the will of man. Under the New Covenant, they are prophecies and promises that are performed by the will of God alone. Therefore, the Old Covenant demands that men rise at the presence of an old man, and men may or may not obey. However, the New Covenant does not place the decision in the hands of men, but only in the hands of God. For this reason, when the dead are raised, it is not by their choice. They are arrested and brought forcibly to the Great White Throne for judgment.