(Verses quoted in the post as I explain them.)
Introduction to Ancient Roman Priests
“Ancient Roman priests were charged with performing the religious rituals with exactness and scrupulous care so as to maintain the gods’ good will and support for Rome.” (see Ancient Roman Priests below).
Priests insured “good luck” for the nation and for individuals. They functioned somewhere between modern “psychic readers” and “shamans.” However, these all, then and now, are but purveyors of idolatry. Psalm 96:4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all [so-called] gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. I added the phrase “so-called” since “idols are but different faces of the dragon Satan” (David deSilva). God alone is God!
“The job of the [ancient Roman] augures (pictured to the right) was to determine how the gods felt. (In his hand was a Lituus, see below). They accomplished this by divination of omens (omina). Omens might be manifest in bird flight patterns or cries, thunder, lightning, entrails, and more.” (see Ancient Roman Priests below).
Modern Equivalents of Ancient Roman Priests
Why do people need “psychic consultants?” Do we not have the God who created all things and to lead us in His ways? Why consult a horoscope to make a decision? Surely the millions that were born on that same day do not experience the same “fortune!” Beware of anyone who claims to know, and sell you, secret things that will help you!
God speaks in His Word
Deuteronomy 29:29 is very clear about where our information is to come in order to live for God. “29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” We have God’s revealed Word to guide us in decision-making.
God answers Prayer
When God’s Word does not speak to our situation directly and we are confused about what to do, we have prayer. Prayer to our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, is the way to insure we get the favor of God! Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The Clothing of Our Great High Priest in John’s Vision vs. 12-13
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like [the] Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.
His Garment vs. 13
Christ in the Vision is set forth as Priest-King of the church militant on earth. His character as King-Priest is emphasized by the descriptions in 1:13-16. Since the Letters to the Seven Churches in Chapters 2 & 3 contain references to this vision, I will not elaborate on these here. (See picture right.)
The Risen Christ wears a Priestly-Kingly garment [Greek = podḗrēs meaning “a garment coming down to the feet”; the full-length tunic of the high priest]. (see Fee, p. 16, below).
His garments were held together with a Golden sash = sash worn by the High Priest (see Fee, p. 16, below). Josephus tells us that the sash was made of fine linen which was interwoven with golden threads. There is no doubt that John is referring to Jesus’ Priestly office with which he was invested by the Father.
His Hair and Eyes vs. 14
14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire,
The Risen Christ has white hair = bright, brilliant hair; language taken directly from Daniel 7:9, where it describes the Ancient of Days. Thus, as in the Gospel that bears his name, John has no difficulty portraying Christ as Divine. (see Fee, p. 17, below).
In Dan. 7:9 the Ancient of Days is the one who has hair white like wool. There is an obvious identification of Divine attributes between the Father and the Son. John’s Christology is indeed exalted!
The Risen Christ’s has eyes like fire = “with eyes as a flame of fire.” Christ is all-penetrating and all-seeing in His knowledge of His world. (see Fee, p. 17, below). This represents Jesus as one who has a penetrating gaze. He has Divine insight into all things. He is the Lord of History and of the Church. Listen to the hymn below.
His Feet vs. 15a
15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace… .
The Risen Christ is pictured as stable, with feet like bronze smelted in a furnace. He is absolutely sturdy and unable to be tarnished, and thus not subject to decay or falsehood. (see Fee, p. 17, below).
This characteristic represents strength and stability of stature. If you remember the statue in Daniel had feet of clay mixed with clay in Daniel 2:31-25 [Click on the link to read the passage in a new window].
Christ’s Voice, Right Hand, Mouth, and Visage vs. 15, 16
15b and his voice was like the roar of many waters.
16 In his right hand he held seven stars … and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
Christ will be heard, with a voice like overpowering sound of rushing waters; (see Fee, p. 17, below). From Ezekiel 1:24 click link below to read it.
Etching of Niagara Falls by Frederic Edwin Church, 1826-1900
The Sword out of His Mouth vs. 16b
16 …from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword.
The Risen Christ is pictured with a sword coming out of his mouth. Christ speaks words of both salvation and judgment. His Words will be realized in time and space and in eternity (see Fee, p. 18, below).
The Risen Christ has a face shining like sun. This aspect anticipates the conclusion of the book (Rev. 21:11—22:5) , where at the eschatological consummation of all things the sun is no longer needed for light because of the presence of God and Christ. (see Fee, p. 18, below). (Click link below to read Rev. 21:11-22:5 in a new window)
Meaning of the Vision to 1st Century and 21st Century Christians
Fee sums up this vision as it was received by the Asia Minor churches—
“Although it is difficult for many people in a verbal culture like ours, having been raised on the sights and sounds of television, to visualize this portrayal of Christ, for John’s readers it would most likely have been readily available to their imaginations.
“Here stands the true high priest—the heavenly one, Christ himself—and as such he has something to say to the church, two generations after his death and resurrection.” (see Fee, p. 18, below).
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophesy as our great Priest-King, like Melchizedek. No matter what occurs around us, Christ will defend and comfort us as his children. He will also judge and punish all His and our enemies.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (Click this link to read this passage in a new window)
Application of Vision of the Risen Christ
More next time on Rev. 1:17-18, 20.
7 Tips for Understanding Revelation. (2017). Zondervan Blog. Accessed January 11, 2019 from https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/how-read-revelation/
Baker. (1996). Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. s.v. “Kingdom of God.” accessed January 23, 2019 from https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/kingdom-of-god.html
ESV. English Standard Version of the Bible accessed from https://www.biblegateway.com
Fee, Gordon D. Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Ancient Roman Priests. (2019). “Ancient Roman Priests: Functions of Various Ancient Roman Priests” Accessed April 26, 2019 from https://www.thoughtco.com/ancient-roman-priests-116638
Lituus. Accessed April 26, 2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lituus
© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved