In Revelation 1:12-13, when John turned around to see who was speaking, he saw Jesus. But he saw Him in the midst of the churches. It is through the local church that the Lord seeks to reveal Himself and to speak to others. The first dwelling-place of God mentioned in the Bible is the burning bush that Moses saw in the wilderness (Deut.33:16). Like John at Patmos, Moses also turned aside at that time to see that marvelous sight. And that's when God spoke to him (Exod.3:3). Today the church is God's dwelling place. God desires every church to be aflame with His Spirit like that burning bush was. When people look at a local church, they should be able to see the life of Christ revealed through the members of that church. Then God can speak to people through the church.

John then goes on to describe the Lord Jesus as he saw Him. Even though the Lord is risen, He is still called the "Son of man," emphasising the fact of His identification with humanity permanently. His long robe (undoubtedly white in colour) reaching to His feet, points to His High-Priestly ministry of intercession for us - for this was how the Jewish High-Priest was dressed when He went into the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle, on the day of atonement every year (Rev. 1:13). The Lord was wearing a golden girdle (belt) across His breast (Rev. 1:13). Gold symbolises what is Divine. The girdle symbolises righteousness and faithfulness (according to Isaiah 11:5). This emphasises the perfect righteousness of God that was seen in Jesus' earthly life and the perfect faithfulness with which He keeps His promises to us. His head and His hair were white like wool (Rev. 1:14). Daniel 7:9 uses this very same symbolism to refer to God's eternity (His endless age). The white hair also speaks of wisdom. So this emphasises the fact that Jesus, although the Son of Man, is nevertheless also the Eternal God, perfect in wisdom.

His eyes were like a flame of fire (Rev. 1:14). That means that "all things are open and laid bare" to Him (Heb.4:13). His eyes penetrate through all religious veneer, and can see through the flowery and pious language and the "form of godliness" of the religious hypocrite. It also sees beyond the broken, stuttering words of the God-fearing soul into the sincerity of his heart. As a result, His evaluations are totally different from man's. His feet were like burnished bronze (Rev. 1:15). Bronze was the material with which the altar of sacrifice was made (in the outer court of the tabernacle), where the sin- offering was slain. Bronze, therefore, symbolises God's judgment of man's sin at Calvary. While crushing the serpent's head, Jesus' feet had to be pierced on the cross (Gen.3:15). His voice was like the sound of many waters (Rev. 1:15). The rivers of living water symbolise the Holy Spirit (Jn.7:37-39). The speech of Jesus was always full of the gentleness and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

He held seven stars in His right hand (Rev. 1:16). The seven stars are the seven messengers of the churches (Rev. 1:20). God has ordained that the New Testament church be led by a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23; Tit.1:5; Acts 20:17). But God usually equips one among the elders with the gift of proclaiming the Word in the church, as His messenger. This one is referred to here as "the messenger of the church." (The word translated as "angel" is a Greek word which actually means "one who brings news" or "a messenger"). These messengers are held by Christ in His hand. That is why we are commanded to give double honour to the elders "who work hard at preaching and teaching" (1 Tim.5:17). It is necessary, however, to mention that many elders of churches and many who preach God's Word today are NOT held by Christ in His hand, for they are self-appointed and not appointed by Him. A messenger appointed by the Lord will be a man of God, who inspires your confidence, and through whose life and ministry you will be fed, led and blessed. Such a man should be respected - for he is held by the Lord in His hand. There are few men like that in the world today - but praise God there are a few.

God's servants are special targets of Satan. Therefore they are specially kept by the Lord in His hand. As long as they remain there in humility, Satan cannot touch them. But when they are puffed up, or if they sin and do not repent, then God allows Satan to inflict them in various ways so that they can come to repentance. It is a tremendous privilege to be held by the Lord as His messenger in His hand. But it has awesome responsibilities as well.

Out of Jesus' mouth came a sharp two-edged sword (Rev. 1:16). This refers to the Word of God that He speaks (Heb.4:12). We noticed in Revelation 1:15 that His voice was like the sound of many waters. These two verses put together indicate that Jesus always speaks God's Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. He speaks with great gentleness, but He also rebukes firmly, where necessary. His face was like the sun shining in its strength (Rev. 1:16). This is how Peter, James and John saw Him on the mount of transfiguration as well (Mt.17:2). This symbolises the "unapproachable light" in which God dwells (1 Tim.6:16). The holiness of God is compared here to the noonday sun, which we cannot look at directly. The sun is a ball of fire in which no germs or bacteria can dwell. No sin can dwell in the presence of God either (Isa.33:14).

Zac Poonen