Jesus appears to John in the midst of heavily symbolic imagery.
9. I, John, your brother, sharer in the kingdom, and by the patience of Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony about Jesus.
10. I was in Spirit on the Lord’s day when I heard a loud noise behind me, like a trumpet,
11. Saying, ‘write down what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
12. I turned around to see whose voice was speaking with me. When I turned, I saw seven golden lampstands.
13. In the midst of the lampstands was like a son of man, dressed in clothes hanging to his feet and a belt of gold around his chest.
14. His head and hair were white as wool or snow. His eyes were a flame of fire.
15. His feet were like bronze, as if refined in a furnace. His voice was the sound of many waters.
16. He had in his right hand seven stars. A double-edged sword came out of his mouth. His face was like the sun when it shines in all its power.
I have a lot of questions. One of them is how big are these lampstands? I think of them of them as tall, maybe ten feet, and the Son of Man is standing in the midst of them.
The voice, we must assume, is from the Son of Man, Jesus. He is telling John to write these letters to the seven churches. Another question then is why these seven churches? There were many other churches, notably Antioch, Rome, Corinth, Philippi and so forth. We know these seven are all geographically linked, but there must be more to it. My gut tells me these are representative of something.
I am curious about the clothes the Son of Man is wearing. They are white, and they hang to his feet, but somehow we know that this feet looked like refined bronze. Did the Son of Man show these to John, or did the clothing he wore come just above the ankle? Did John spy his feet as he walked?
The belt of gold is sometimes rendered as a sash. I have a hard time seeing it as a sash. It is golden, and around his chest, but I just can’t bring myself to think of it as a sash.
The white hair that looks like wool calls to mind the visage of a black man of age, which matches the color of bronze on his feet. If this is John the Apostle, then he knows who Jesus is and what he looks like. Here, he describes him, and it may be the only description we have of him other than he looked pretty much like everyone else. The Son of God pictured as an older black man with white hair and flaming eyes is a powerful image of wisdom, burden, and power.
The face of the Son of Man intrigues me. How can the sword come out of the mouth? Either this is a metaphor for the word of God, or John is trying to tell us something else. We also see that his face shines like the sun in all its glory, at full strength.
The brightness of the scene is, I think, lost on us if we don’t stop and imagine. The gold in the lamp stands, the fire in the lamp stands, the white clothing, the golden sash, and the brightness of Jesus’ face would have been luminescent, ultraviolet, or even radioactive. Could John see his bones through his flesh? Did he have to cover his eyes? Close his eyes?
All of that shining light is an indicator of God’s holiness and his glory. John is not in the presence of a prophet or a teacher. The Son of Man is radiating divinity. He is God.