8 Symbols That Give Us a Portrait of Jesus—Revelation 1:9-17 — Beautiful Christian Life (2023)

“I wish I could have seen Jesus, just like the disciples did.”

You might crave this, especially in hard times. To be next to Jesus, to listen to him and see him face-to-face. To be comforted by that living presence.

In fact, we have been given something even better than that. Revelation 1:9-17 brings us face-to-face with Jesus. Through John’s eyes and ears we see and hear him. And by the Holy Spirit this vision becomes immediate and alive. Here we do not just read about someone who once came face-to-face with Christ. Instead, the Holy Spirit brings us here and now into his actual presence.

Why is this “better” than what the disciples had two thousand years ago? It is better because the disciples saw Jesus before his death, resurrection, and ascension, before he had shown them all that he is and all that he had done. In this vision we see Jesus in his complete post-ascension power and glory. Nothing is missing. Are you ready?

I, John, your brother andpartner inthe tribulation andthe kingdom andthe patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmoson account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (Rev. 1:9)

They say that John was the only disciple not to die a violent death. Yet he was forced to “patiently endure” for Jesus. He was exiled by the authorities to Patmos, a rugged little volcanic island in the Dodecanese, two hours by ferry from the coast of Turkey.The Sea is a major character in Revelation, appearing in twenty-one verses. John was certainly in the midst of it on that rocky crag.

The NIV version of Revelation 1:9 describes John as “a companion in the suffering...that are ours in Jesus.” Suffering also meanspressure. Jesus said, “‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me,they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Persecution and pressure are integral to the Christian life.

Exile was intended to get John “out of the way.” God used John’s exile, however, to record this apocalyptic vision, which would help and strengthen Christians for millennia to come.

I was in the Spiriton the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voicelike a trumpet saying,“Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” (Rev. 1:10-11)

This is the only “Lord’s Day” reference in the New Testament. Most think that it is Sunday, the first day of the week, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, and of Pentecost. Two other passages describe Christians gathering on “the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:12), so it is no surprise that from the very beginning the church called Sunday “the Lord’s Day” and gathered that day to worship Christ.

This is what John was doing. He was “in the Spirit,” and the Holy Spirit gave him the extraordinary vision which we are about to read.A “loud voice like a trumpet” seizes John’s attention like the priestly trumpets that called Israel to assemble in God’s presence. That is exactly where John finds himself and where he is commanded to write what he sees on a scroll. Only a select few in the ancient world were trained to write and read, so John’s ability was a rare one. How wonderfully he used that skill.

The seven churches that John writes to are all in Asia Minor and form a roughly clockwise circle. Seven letters were written into one large letter that was to be passed from church to church and read out loud. No doubt it was also copied.

(Video) Revelation 1:9-20 • Vision of the Son of Man

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I sawseven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstandsone likea son of man. (Rev. 1:12-13a)

John turned to see the same Son of Man that Daniel 7:13-14 describes, coming “with the clouds of heaven” (Rev 1:7). Note that he is “among” the lampstands. We will come back to that.Look now at how Jesus, the Son of Man, is portrayed to us with eight symbols. Each of them is very important.

1. Jesus’ Priestly Robe and Sash

“[He was] clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest” (Rev. 1:13b).

Moses had clothed Aaron with a tunic and sash (Lev. 8:7). It was the basic uniform of an Old Testament priest.

His robe and golden sash identifiesJesus also as a priest and mediator. He speaks to us on God’s behalf and prays to God on our behalf. He stands before God interceding and pleading for the salvation and welfare of his people.Be encouraged, for he is most certainly heard:

For we do not have a high priestwho is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has beentempted as we are,yet without sin. (Heb. 4:15)

2. Jesus’ White Hair

“The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow” (Rev. 1:14a).

As we age the pigment cells in our hair follicles die. With less melanin our hair becomes more transparent, appearing grey, silver, or white. This is not a disaster. In the Bible some “snow on the roof” advertises wisdom, the experience that comes with having travelled around the sun a few more times than one’s contemporaries.

So, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Prov. 16:31), and “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (Prov. 20:29). God the Father, the Ancient of Days, appeared to Daniel with hair that “was white like wool” (Dan. 7:9). This symbolized God’s perfect wisdom. In John’s vision Jesus has that same “white as wool” hair. How vital that the persecuted and suffering church knows this, that the one who rules our circumstances rules with perfect wisdom and is incapable of mistakes.

3. Jesus’ Blazing Eyes

“His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Rev. 1:14b).

We often describe unusually clear and brightly colored eyes as “piercing.” We have all sat under the steady gaze of a person who seems to be able to look beyond our outward appearance into our inner thoughts and desires.

It seems our faces are quite hopeless at keeping secrets. They are wired deeply to our souls and involuntarily betray our deepest thoughts, inclinations, and feelings. Interested and observant people can see all of these things. That is rarely comfortable.

Jesus has eyes “like blazing fire.” He sees everything. Remember Nathaniel? Philip told him about “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathaniel snorted, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Later, Jesus showed Nathaniel that though he had not been physically present, he had seeneverything(John 1:46-50). Busted.

(Video) The Lord’s Work in His Church (Revelation 1:9–20)

Jesus always knew exactly what people were thinking (Mark 2:8, Luke 5:22, John 2:24-25). The suffering church must know that he has “eyes like blazing fire.” He knows everything that is happening to us, and he responds with perfect wisdom.

4. Jesus’ Burnished Feet

“His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace” (Rev. 1:15a).

Remember the five-part statue Nebuchadnezzar saw in Daniel 2? The golden head represented Babylon. The silver chest and arms was perhaps the Medo-Persian empire, and the bronze belly and thighs Greece. The iron legs might have been Rome, or all earthly empires to come. The feet were an iron and clay composite—for all earthly kingdoms are poised upon a brittle foundation.

Though human empires dazzle and awe with their size and might, they are all fragile. Brash Babylon was swept away overnight by Persia (Dan. 5:30-31). Potent Persia was prostrated by Alexander the Great’s phalanxes. But Alexander died at 33, and within two centuries Rome had taken over. So it went, and so it goes.

Jesus Christ, by contrast, has feet “like bronze glowing in a furnace.” There can be no admixture of clay in that furnace; his feet are perfectly solid and sound. If earthly empires come and go,

His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:14)

Christians are tempted to bow before the dazzling might of the empires, rulers, and cultures that persecute them. But these powers are as frail as daisies and will, like all before them, soon be swept away. We choose to bow only to Jesus Christ, for only his Kingdom is eternal and good.

5. Jesus’ Thundering Voice

“Andhis voice was like the roar of many waters” (Rev. 1:15b).

The Gap is near Albany, Western Australia. It is a monstrous gouge in the granite coastal cliffs of that region. You can stand on a viewing platform overhanging the edge and watch the waves surging and spraying in and out some forty meters below.

But be warned! The Southern Ocean is a wild and treacherous beast. Without any warning it will hurl a King Wave at you, ten times the average size. Many, standing on the edge and feeling high, dry, and safe, have been stunned and drenched by those terrifying monsters. The Gap itself was blasted by the force of such waves. The Bible likens the power of God’s words to such surging seas:

The floods have lifted up, OLord,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
theLordon high is mighty!
Yourdecrees are very trustworthy;
holiness befits your house,
OLord, forevermore. (Ps. 93:3-5; see also Rev. 14:2, 19:6)

Though Christians may feel frightened and overwhelmed by hostile powers and circumstances, Jesus’ voice is “like the sound of rushing waters.” His laws are unbreakable. His teaching is eternal. His Word made and shapes the universe. His promises are invincible, “Surely I am with you always, until the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

6. The Stars in Jesus’ Hand

“In his right hand he held seven stars” (Rev. 1:16a).

(Video) Verse by Verse Bible Study | James 1:9-20 | Gary Hamrick

For the ancients, as for us, the stars marked the times and seasons. But they are impossibly distant. Empires come and go, but the stars shine on, serene and untouchable. Yet Jesus is so much greater than the stars that he picks them up like seashells on the beach.But there’s much more to the stars than that, which Jesus reveals at the end of the chapter.

7. Jesus’ Sharp Sword

“From his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword” (Rev. 1:16b).

This strange symbol banishes any idea that John was seeing Jesus in a natural, physical way. This is apocalyptic; the curtain is parted so that we can see the spiritual truth about Jesus represented by powerful symbols. This particular symbol is understood in a moment but only grasped over a lifetime.The words of Jesus are like a sharp, two-edged sword:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

Ultimately, Jesus’ words will slay his enemies.In the pressure of persecution, we must know that the Word of Christ is no dead letter. It strengthens our thoughts and hearts. And, like Saul the Pharisee, it can turn persecutors to worshipers, and even missionaries.

8. Jesus’ Brilliant Face

“Andhis face was like the sun shiningin full strength” (Rev. 1:16b).

Our parents always said, “Don’t look at the sun; it will damage your eyes.” You can’t really look at the sun anyway, not for long. It is unbearable.

Jesus’ face shines brighter than the sun. He is brilliant, he is the source of the light of truth, he is impeccable and holy, and like the sun, his face sheds life-giving light and warmth.John had already seen this on the mountain when Jesuswas transfigured:

And his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. (Mark 9:3)

Under trial and persecution things seem dark and cold. Turn to Christ and be flooded with the warmth and light of his holiness and truth.

Stop and dwell on this.

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead”(Rev. 1:17a).

When a frail, mortal, sinful creature comes face-to-face with Jesus, and when they see his glory, power, and holiness, there is only one response. “All the peoples on earth will mourn because of him” (Rev. 1:7). “Every knee will bow” (Phil. 2:10).

John knew that all that infinite holiness, power, and glory, that sharp two-edged sword, should have come crushing down upon his godless head, slaying him for eternity.Submerged, paralyzed, terrified, John fell at Jesus’ feetas though dead.If and when we see Jesus for all that he is, we will do the same.

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“Buthe laid his right hand on me, saying,“Fear not,I am the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17b).

An intimate gesture of reassurance and love.

Ultimately, we bow and submit to what we fear. Do not fear earthly powers; don’t bow to their pressure.John shows us the way,Jesus is truly the only one we need fear.Worldly powers are soap bubbles beside Him.Bow and submit only to Jesus; yet, “Fear not”:

There is no fear in love, butperfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has notbeen perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

We must not fear the fearsome Christ, because he “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Rev. 1:5).

Related Articles:

  • You Must Be Ready for Jesus' Return!

  • 8 Attributes of God We Encounter at the Cross

  • Why Is Jesus Taking So Long to Return?

  • 10 Words Every Christian Should Know (and Be Able to Explain)

Campbell Markham has been a pastor in the Australian Presbyterian Church for over twenty-two years and lives in Perth, Western Australia. He blogs at Campbell Markham: Thoughts and Letters.


What are some of the symbols we see that represent aspects of Christianity? ›

What important religious symbols are there in Christianity and what do they mean?
  • Cross. The Cross is the most important symbol of Christianity. ...
  • Fish. Sometimes you can see a fish attached to cars as a Christian symbol. ...
  • PX monogram of Christ. ...
  • Alpha and Omega. ...
  • Rainbow. ...
  • Vine and wine. ...
  • Lamb of God. ...
  • Candle.

What is the symbol for Jesus? ›

The most common, and easily recognisable, Christian symbol is the cross. This refers to the Christian belief that Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross to save mankind.

What is the symbolism of Jesus in Bible? ›

Jesus Christ is truly the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for us so that we no longer have to be subject to the effects of sin and death. While Moses and the children of Israel journeyed from Egypt toward the promised land, they relied upon the mercies of the Lord for daily bread.

What are the symbols of the Christian Church? ›

  • Crucifix. The most common symbol of our faith is the crucifix – a cross with the figure of the body of Jesus Christ attached to it. ...
  • Alpha and Omega. Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. ...
  • The Sacred Heart. ...
  • IHS and Chi-Rho. ...
  • The Fish. ...
  • The Dove. ...
  • The Lamb. ...
  • The Pelican.

What is the symbol of faith in Christianity? ›

Latin Cross – Few other signs or symbols exist that are as widely recognized or hold as much meaning as the Latin Cross. It is the form of the cross on which Christ died and is used worldwide to symbolize Christianity.

What are the 4 religious symbols? ›

What are some examples of religious symbols?
  • Islam - Star and crescent.
  • Sikhism - Khanda.
  • Christianity - Christian cross.
  • Judaism - Star of David.
  • Hinduism - Om (or Swastika)
  • Buddhism - Wheel of Dharma.

What are three symbols of the passion of Jesus? ›

The Cross on which Jesus was crucified (True Cross), either depicted alone or with the crosses of the two thieves. The Crown of Thorns. The pillar or column where Jesus was whipped in the Flagellation of Christ. The whip(s), in Germany often birches, used for the 39 lashes.

What are the symbols of God? ›

Alpha and Omega: Represents God, the beginning and the end. Three interwoven circles: Represents the Trinity. A circle has no beginning or end, so it signifies the eternal nature of God. The interweaving of the three circles symbolizes the equality among God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

What is the symbol of Jesus love for us? ›

One of the great symbols that we have in most of our churches and in many other spaces including our homes is the crucifix. This is an image that has the suffering Christ on the Cross. It represents the great sacrifice that Jesus made and the pain of that sacrifice.

What are the four 4 symbols of the church? ›

The words one, holy, catholic and apostolic are often called the four marks of the Church.

What are some symbols in the Bible? ›

While the cross, water, bread and wine are symbols at the centre of the Christian faith and practice, they are not the only symbols mentioned in the Bible. Many texts of the New Testament draw on symbolism from the Old Testament.

What are the 7 symbols of the Holy Spirit? ›

The symbols of the Holy Spirit are: Dove, Fire, Oil, Wind and Water. The Dove: This can be seen in the description of the baptism of Christ (Matt.

What are the 6 main religions symbols? ›

Some examples are:
  • Islam - Star and crescent.
  • Sikhism - Khanda.
  • Christianity - Christian cross.
  • Judaism - Star of David.
  • Hinduism - Om (or Swastika)
  • Buddhism - Wheel of Dharma.

Is Jesus a symbol of God? ›

The task of christology is to explain what it means to say that Jesus is the bearer and revealer of God in the Christian community, the decisive mediation of God's salvation -- or, in other words, the symbol of God.

What are the 4 symbols of the Gospel and its meaning? ›

They are often represented with their attributes: the Angel for Saint Matthew, the Lion for Saint Mark, the Ox for Saint Luke and the Eagle for Saint John. Sometimes these symbols stand in for the Evangelists. Saint Mark is also often shown with a book representing his Gospel.

What is the universal symbol of God? ›

The cross is a universal symbol for the Christian faith and a reminder of Christ's death and resurrection. There are many types of crosses that have been used throughout history, many having regional/ethnic origins.

What is the symbolism of the church? ›

It symbolizes purity and peace. It is also regarded as a symbol of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who gives peace and hope to the whole mankind and is an inexhaustible source of eternal life for all, thirsting in the desert of human selfishness and indifference.

What are the four symbols of the Catholic Church? ›

Traditionally, the four Gospel writers have been represented by the following symbols: St. Matthew, a pine man; St. Mark, a winged lion; St. Luke, a winged ox; and St.

Why are symbols important in Christianity? ›

Religious symbols are used to convey concepts concerned with humanity's relationship to the sacred or holy (e.g., the cross in Christianity) and also to the social and material world (e.g., the dharmachakra, or wheel of the law, of Buddhism).

What does the 8 pointed star mean Catholic? ›

It symbolizes the restitution of the original harmony between God and humanity brought about by incarnation and redemption--of which Mary is a 'helper'. The number eight symbolizes salvation and its meaning is derived from Gen 6,18: eight people escaped the deluge finding salvation in the ark (see also 1 Peter 3.20).

What are the main symbols of each religion? ›

What are some examples of religious symbols?
  • Islam - Star and crescent.
  • Sikhism - Khanda.
  • Christianity - Christian cross.
  • Judaism - Star of David.
  • Hinduism - Om (or Swastika)
  • Buddhism - Wheel of Dharma.

What are the Catholic symbols of the Holy Spirit? ›

The symbols of the Holy Spirit are: Dove, Fire, Oil, Wind and Water. The Dove: This can be seen in the description of the baptism of Christ (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:30-34).


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