Exegetical Comments on Revelation 1:12-16

Exegetical Comments on Revelation 1:12-16

            The context of the passage it is in the beginning introduction of John’s apocalyptic message. He will deliver specific messages to seven churches after this passage; the purpose of vss.12-20 is to introduce the message. Specifically, 12-16 introduces the figure of Jesus using apocalyptic language. John has introduced himself by name (vs. 9a), his location of Patmos off the western coast of Asia Minor (vs. 9b). John also identified his audience as the seven churches named in vs. 11 and addressed through chapter 3. After establishing the author, location, and occasion, John introduces the central figure in the book, the glorified Jesus.

            The voice in vs. 11 that names the seven churches designated to receive the message is  Christ. The vision described in vss. 12-16 is of glorified Jesus. The description is similar to the description of Jesus’ transfiguration John witnessed and narrated in the Synoptics. John also saw other items of note. The seven lampstands (vs. 12) refer to a menorah, the seven candle lamps in the temple.[1] John also describes the one among the lampstands as “one like the Son of Man,” a close reference to Daniel 7:13 and a phrase Jesus used to describe himself.  The dress of the figure and the description of his physical features recall the transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9). For instance, the description of the robe and the sash indicate a priestly appearance.[2] His feet of bronze (vs. 15) could reference the bearers of God’s throne (Ezekiel 1:7) and/or the angel of Daniel 10:6.[3]

            Two other items of note are the seven stars and the sword that comes out of the figure’s mouth. The stars (vs. 16a) and the lampstand will have further explanation in vs. 20. However, the sword (vs. 16b) is essential for three reasons: 1. It is repeated several times throughout the book (2:12,16: 19:15, 21), 2. The word he uses for sword is ῥομφαία used only one other time in the NT (Luke 2:35), 3. It is parallel to Isaiah 11:4, “He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.”[4] Through these images, John presents Jesus as “the greatest conceivable figure” in line with apocalyptic literature.[5] The image John is portraying of Jesus is a glimpse through Jesus to the Father himself.[6] The context of the rest of the message is in in this person, the glorified Jesus.


[1] Gordon D. Fee, Revelation, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), 16.

[2] Leon Morris, Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 58.

[3] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Re 1:13–15.

[4] Alan F. Johnson, “Revelation,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 428.

[5] Keener, Re 1:13-15.

[6] Tom Wright, Revelation for Everyone, For Everyone Bible Study Guides (London; Louisville, KY: SPCK; Westminster John Knox, 2011), 8.

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