This episode in our series on John’s use of the Old Testament in the book of Revelation looks at Rev 1:7-20. In these verses John repurposes the divine council scene in Daniel 7, specifically the descriptions of the Ancient of Days and the Son of man. He also takes readers to Isaiah 11 and 49 and Zechariah 4. John seeks to remind his readers that Jesus is the risen divine warrior, God in flesh, risen and victorious on their behalf.
We are back in the book of Revelation. No surprise there, because we’ve just begun the series, and it’s going to take us a while. We’re still in Revelation 1, 7-20 this time. And I think what I’m going to do to start off here is basically just read Revelation 1. Because even the material we’ve had to this point, we’ve skipped around a little bit in the chapter. And we are going to skip at least one thing in the chapter today because we can pick it up in a different chapter as we keep going. And I’ll telegraph what that is in a moment. But let’s just read Revelation 1 so we have this in our heads. And we’re going to really kind of park in two parts of this passage.
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like 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.” Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
That’s the end of chapter 1. And obviously, if you’ve been following the series, even these first few episodes in you can pick up on some of the things we talked about before. We will be tapping into a little bit of that as we settle on the passages within chapter 1 that we’re going to hit on today.
Our focus today is going to be John’s combination of the earthly servant son of David and the divine son of man. So that discussion’s going to come from really two parts of chapter 1. There’s Revelation 1:7, and I’ll just read that again real quickly.
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
So Revelation 1:7, and that’s going to get married to or combined in our discussion with verses 12-15, which are:
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.
Now there are several things in that description and a prior verse (verse 7). In verse 7 you have the reference to coming with the clouds. In verses 12-15 you’ve got the hair of his head was white like wool (like snow), eyes like a flame of fire. feet like burnished bronze, even the voice being like the roar of many waters is going to orient us to some extent in the book of Daniel. Now most of this stuff is going to be from Daniel 7. And John’s going to loop in a few other passages. But you can already tell that we’re going to spend some time in Daniel today, because this is what John is angling for. But that is by no means everything. The second area of our episode that we’re going to focus on is verse 16. So I just read verses 7 and then 12-15, but the next verse (verse 16)… I actually already read this, too.
In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
That doesn’t come from Daniel (either chapter 7 or somewhere else); it comes from other passages. So I want to focus today on, really, verse 7 and then 12-16. But doing so, we’re going to… On one part we’re going to be talking a lot about Daniel 7, and another part we’re going to go off into some other passages. I’m specifically going to skip for today’s episode… Even though we read the whole chapter and we’ve labeled the episode Revelation 1:7-20, I’m going to hold off on
verse 18 (“the keys of Death and Hades”) because that’s easy to pick up when we hit Revelation 3:7 and even Revelation 9, because those things are referenced there. So for the sake of time, we’re not going to deal with that this time. But we’ll hit it. We’ll hit it because there’s some interesting Old Testament stuff going on there.
So let’s jump in to Revelation 1:7 and then 12-15 and, of course, Daniel 7. The connections there are obvious. So Daniel 7…Daniel 7 is a divine council meeting. If you’ve not read Unseen Realm and you pick that book up to read it, this is going to be pages 249 and 250. I’m just going to read a little bit from those pages.
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.
The scene begins (Dan 7:1–8) with an odd vision. Daniel sees four beasts coming out of the sea. The fourth beast is the most terrifying and imposing. We learn that the four beasts represent four empires, as had been the case with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2.
What’s described next is significant (here’s the Divine Council meeting in Daniel 7, a meeting of God and his heavenly host].
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.
Now this translation… This is from Unseen Realm, so I believe they use the LEB here. It has “the judge.” The word is actually the word for “court” or “council.” So “the court sat” (ESV has “court”) or the “council.” So everybody has a seat, the books were opened, and here we go. So they’re meeting to actually judge the beasts of the first eight verses. What’s going to be their destiny?
[Some] things jump out at us right away. First, we know that the Ancient of Days is the God of Israel because the description of his throne as fiery and having wheels matches that of the vision of Ezekiel 1 [there’s really no ambiguity here]. Ezekiel’s vision also included a human figure on the throne of God (Ezek 1:26–27).
And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him.
Scholars refer to the figure in Ezekiel 1 as the divine man. You don’t see all of him, but you see him from the waist down (and so on and so forth) seated on a throne. And the throne here is the same description that you get in Daniel 7. The only real difference is the cherubim part in Ezekiel 1. So that much is clear. We also know from the passage that there’s more than one throne in heaven. It’s not a single throne.
Second, there are many thrones in heaven, not just one (“thrones [plural] were set up”). These thrones mark the presence of the divine council.
It’s like a courtroom scene. So they are going to sit and open the books. heavenly books. These are the basis for heavenly judgment and so on and so forth. So this is another one of those passages. We’re not going to go back into that material. But there’s a meeting here to decide the fate of these beasts. And then you read verses 9 and 10. The meeting starts, then you eventually hit verses 13 and 14, where we’re introduced to a different character. This character is not God (it’s not the Ancient of Days). The Ancient of Days is seated, along with the council. And here we get a new character. Daniel says:
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
So as Daniel 7 continues, readers are introduced a little bit more to this son of man character, who is distinct from the Ancient of Days. And of course, these two
characters are well-defined in Daniel 7.
the description here is a big deal because we have a deity epithet that is ubiquitous in the ancient world because it’s associated with Baal (the one who comes with the clouds, or on the clouds, or the cloud rider)—the one who rides the chariot through the clouds. Something to do with riding through the clouds. This is stock description of a deity. And it’s used… Some variation of this theme—these words, these phrases—are used five times in the Hebrew Bible. Four of them are used to describe the God of Israel. And those references are Deuteronomy 33:26, Psalm 68:32-33, Psalm 104:1-4, and Isaiah 19:1. The fifth one is this passage (Daniel 7). And what’s interesting about it and noteworthy about it is this time the phrase is not used of the seated God of Israel, it’s used of the son of man.
Two Powers in Heaven
Two Powers in Heaven
So this is part of the Two Yahweh figures that’s part of Old Testament theology. The transcendent Yahweh, God the Father (so to speak)… I think that’s a good way to put it. It’ll be more familiar to Christians listening. And then we have a second person—a second Yahweh figure. And in the Old Testament, for the most part, you have a transcendent Yahweh figure. And when God interacts with people in a number of events (and some of them are really key events), he comes to a person (whether it’s Abraham or Moses or Samuel) as a man—God as man in the Old Testament. And so a son of man that carries a deity description—deity epithet—with him is not unusual in the Hebrew Bible, and it’s especially noteworthy here because the two figures are clearly distinguished. And anyone familiar with the titles about riding on the clouds or coming with the clouds knows that this is language you use of Yahweh, except for here. So we’ve got this two-deity figure. This Two Yahwehs idea was originally part of Jewish theology up until the second century A.D. It’s called the “Two Powers in Heaven.” And Daniel 7 was a huge passage that Jewish Rabbinic thinking was oriented around. They understood what I just described to you very clearly. And there’s a lot of discussion about it in between the two testaments (between the Old and the New Testament)—the Second Temple period or the Intertestamental period. You can get whole books written by scholars who published their dissertations, basically, on the discussion within Judaism as to who the second Yahweh figure was. (How do we identify this second figure? Who is that?)
So this was part of Judaism (part of Jewish theology) until after Jesus shows up and dies and then you have the resurrection and the ascension. Then it became something to forbid discussion over for obvious reasons—because it just smacked too much of high Christology.
So orienting back here to John, John is writing in the first century (probably late first century). The date of the book of Revelation isn’t determined. No one knows for sure, but sometime in the first century at the very least. And he has this imagery and it clearly applied to Jesus. In the context of Revelation 1:7, if you read verses 5 and 6 (before you even get to Revelation 1:7), this is abundantly clear. So going back to Revelation 1:4b:
and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
So it’s very clearly linked to Jesus here. But if you look at verses 12-15, you get something odd. The Ancient of Days imagery, if you go back to Daniel 7, the seated God (the God of Israel, seated on the throne)… It’s his hair which is white like wool and snow. But for John, John takes the description of the Ancient of
Days and applies that to Jesus as well, which is really odd. It’s odd in one sense because if you go read Daniel 7, it’s very clear that there are two characters. But John not only identifies Jesus as the son of man of Daniel 7, he also takes the descriptions of the Ancient of Days and applies those to Jesus as well. This is part of John’s theology. The Ancient of Days imagery gets applied to the son of man in Revelation 1:14 (“the hairs of his head were white like white wool”). If you go back to Daniel 7, that’s not the son of man; that’s the Ancient of Days. But John says, “No.” He feels very free to apply more deity description to Jesus. He blurs the distinction between them.
Now prior to verse 14, where you get the Ancient of Days language applied to the son of man, we get this cryptic language about seven golden lampstands. That’s verse 12. So we’ll hit that in a moment. But it’s like, “What’s up with that?” Because that’s not in Daniel 7. We don’t read about lampstands there. And then you’ve got verse 13 (“in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man”), “Okay, that’s from Daniel 7. I got that.” But then it’s “clothed with a long robe with a golden sash around his chest.” Well, that’s not part of Daniel 7. I mean, what in the world is John doing? As I said in the last episode that we had in this series, “Wouldn’t it be nice if John just quoted the Old Testament straightforwardly, completely, so that you knew the one place he was thinking about and then you could go back there and think about why he’s using it?” He just doesn’t do that. It’s messy. He draws stuff from all over the place and then just sort of throws it all into the blender. And look at what he’s doing here.
So part of it very clearly… The son of man imagery from Daniel 7 is applied to Jesus: Got it. That’s easy. I mean, even Jesus says that when he’s on trial in front of Caiaphas. He references Daniel 7 and identifies himself as the son of man. That’s easy. But if you keep looking at what John is doing here, John’s net is drawing in not only things from Daniel 7 that aren’t said about the son of man and then applying it to the son of man, but John’s net is wider than Daniel 7. He’s drawing other stuff in.
So we’ve got this golden lampstands stuff. We’ve got a man clothed with a long robe with a golden sash around his chest. Then when you get to verse 16, what in the world is with the seven stars and the mouth with a sharp two-edged sword? Face shining like the sun? I mean, that’s not in Daniel 7 either. What is he doing? Why is he doing it? So it’s just messy.
Now that language… Let’s just pick the stuff in verse 13—this description of the long robe and the golden sash… That does come from somewhere, and it comes from the book of Daniel, but it’s not chapter 7, it’s actually Daniel 10:5 and 16. Let me read those verses to you. So Daniel 10:5 is the one reference. We read this. Daniel is speaking. This is part of his vision of a “man.” He’s standing on the bank of the Tigris River in verse 4. So in verse 5 it says:
I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist.
That’s Daniel 10:5. And if we go down to verse 16:
And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength.
So he’s clearly talking to a human figure. Between Daniel 10:5 and Daniel 10:16, we have this whole “Michael, one of the chief princes, the prince of Persia and prince of Greece” stuff that we’re all really familiar with (those of us who are into angel stuff). That’s all in between. But sandwiching that is this figure who is speaking to Daniel, and then he gets into the Michael stuff and then comes back, and this same figure touches him and Daniel’s all freaked out and whatnot. So this figure isn’t Michael. This figure isn’t Michael. Michael’s part of the chapter, but this figure himself is not Michael. Apparently we have a figure who is above Michael.
Now I just want to take you through this, because to see the significance of the description of this particular figure (the way he’s described) it will begin to make sense as to why John took this description and brought it into Revelation 1 along with the deity/son of man stuff from Daniel 7. And he feels free to put this stuff into the same bucket, because this is ultimately going to point to a figure who is superior to Michael. And so that fits. That fits. Those merits throwing the stuff into Revelation 1.
So if you think about the book of Daniel (just a little sidebar here), Daniel 8 opens with the prophet’s vision of the ram and the goat (the first 14 verses of Daniel 8). After conquering the ram, the goat’s great horn was broken. And out of that horn sprouted four horns. So this is one of Daniel’s weird visions. And from one of those horns came a little horn that grew high and exalted to the heavens, where it cast down some of the heavenly host to the ground. Then, in verse 11, we read that the little horn “became great, even as great as the Prince [śar] of the host.”
So this isn’t a prince of princes. There’s a reference here to “the Prince of the host” (the whole host)—the Prince of the heavenly host. Now that phrase in Daniel is identical to the phrase (the same vocabulary) as Joshua 5:14, which typically gets translated “the captain of the Lord’s host,” “the captain of the host of Yahweh,” “Prince of the host,” “commander of the army.” So there’s actually a connection between Daniel 8’s “Prince of the host” and the second Yahweh figure from Joshua 5. And we know from Joshua 5 that this is God as man because he tells Joshua, “Take your shoes off from your feet, for where you stand is holy ground.” It’s the same language that happens at the burning bush, where we have God, but we also have an angel in the burning bush. So it’s already being taken into the Two Yahwehs thing.
So the suspicion should be in your head already, “Well, this figure who’s not really identified, this ‘Prince of the whole host’ guy (which of course means that he’s above Michael, who’s just one of the chief princes), maybe that is the second Yahweh figure. Maybe that’s TheAngel of the Lord.” So just store that away. If you keep reading in Daniel 8, this man comes to assist Daniel in understanding the vision. The description of this assistance is our focus here, and its wording will prompt us to return to the phrase “prince of the host.”
So let’s just recap here a little bit because I don't want to conflate two things. In Daniel 8, we have the vision of the horns and the little horn. (He’s the antichrist figure. Most of you will know that because of what the book of Revelation does with this passage. And we’ll get to that stuff as well.) But there’s this phrase in Daniel 8 that refers to the prince of the host. That’s item one. As you keep reading in Daniel 8, Daniel encounters a man—a specific man. The description of this man who encounters Daniel to assist him will ultimately take us back to this wording—this mystery figure of the prince of the host. The man Daniel sees turns out in chapter 8 to be Gabriel. But Gabriel is commanded to speak to Daniel by the voice of another “man” that emanates from between the banks of the Ulai river, where Daniel has been when overcome by the vision. The unseen “man” commands Gabriel. So he is superior to him. Gabriel appears again to Daniel to interpret a vision in Daniel 9. So Gabriel’s part of this, but he’s not this other man. This other man, in fact, instructs Gabriel.
When you get to Daniel 10, the prophet again sees a vision involving a glorious “man clothed in linen.” This is the sash and so on and so forth. That man is not identified as Gabriel. And he’s also not identified as Michael because this unidentified man is opposed by the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece. So whoever this is is distinct from Gabriel. He’s not Gabriel; he’s not Michael. He’s being opposed by these other supernatural princes. Now Michael assists this unidentified figure specifically against the prince of Persia. And the unidentified figure later touches Daniel (in Daniel 10) to strengthen him. And he informs him in the first person, “I will return to fight against the prince of Persia,” adding that
he expects the “prince of Greece” is also going to be part of the battle. Now we don’t know who this is yet. We just know that he’s not Gabriel and he’s not Michael. He gives orders to Gabriel and Michael assists him. So we’ve got this subordinate kind of context. We don’t know who this figure is. But early in Daniel 8, there was some reference to “The Prince of the host” (the whole host). But we don’t have anything directly to put them together yet, except that the Prince of the host is the same line—the same vocabulary—as we find in Joshua 5 for the
“Yahweh as a man” figure, the “Captain of the Lord’s army.”
Now we don’t meet this man again until Daniel 12, which interestingly enough… In Daniel 12, there’s a scene that takes place “above the waters of the stream,” which takes us back to “the man clothed in linen” in the initial appearance to the mysterious figure who was on the other side of the banks of the River Ulai. So who is this guy? Who is this guy? Now I would argue on the basis of Joshua 5 and the similarity (he’s really basically identical) to the Prince of the host here… I would argue that this is the Angel of the Lord. This figure is the Angel of the Lord.
Prince of the Host
Prince of the Host
He is the Prince of the host. He is the Captain of the Lord’s army. He is The Angel. Michael is subordinate to him. Gabriel is subordinate to him. Michael is just one of the chief princes, so he can’t be the Prince of princes, which is a title used in Daniel 8:25, and he can’t be the Prince of the host (also found in Daniel 8). So this superior, to me, can only really be one person, and that is The Angel of the Lord.
Now if you put all this together… You put all this together and what John does (if this is coherent) in Revelation 1:7 and 12-15 should not be confusing. Let’s put it this way. What John isn’tdoing is describing Jesus as the son of man (the deity figure) and then comparing Jesus to a lesser angel. That’s not what he’s doing. When John picks the description about the man being clothed in linen having the golden sash, he is referring to this figure not specifically identified in Daniel 8 and in Daniel 10 and in Daniel 12, but who is nevertheless The Prince of the Host, The Commander of the Lord’s army, The Prince of all princes. This is the Angel of the Lord who is God as man in the Old Testament who gets identified with Jesus in the New Testament. So what John is doing here should make sense. He assumes that you sort of kind of know the data points and that you would know why he’s marrying this description to the son of man in Daniel 7. Because they’re both deity (God level, God as man in the Old Testament). They’re both that. They are not just a mere angel like Gabriel or Michael, even Michael being an archangel. Michael is one of a class. He’s oneof the chief princes, which means there are other chief princes. He has equals. This figure does not. There’s nothing to suggest he has equals.
Now the outlier here, if you go to verse 14 in Revelation 1… Let’s go back to Revelation 1 here. Because there’s one other thing here.
The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire,
That isn’t all entirely in Ezekiel 1, but it basically mostly is. “The eyes like a flame of fire” are a bit of an outlier, but elsewhere you’re going to see these kinds of descriptions used of God. So if you’re willing to sort of find all the little pieces of the description you’ll see that what John is doing is fusing Yahweh descriptions that come from different locations into Revelation 1 and describing Jesus this way. So it’s not just Daniel 7, it’s other pieces that identify Jesus with God. So you get… It would be nice if John was neat about it, but he’s not. This is John’s theology: Jesus is Yahweh embodied. He is Yahweh incarnate. And to get that point across, he’s not going to restrict himself to just one passage. He’s going to go different places.
Let’s go on another trajectory. Let’s look at the lampstands again. And believe it or not, this actually contributes to what we’re trying to do here—trying to show that the little points of John’s description come from different places but they’re consistent. They work together. They all produce the same conclusion. So Zechariah 4, you might recall, is the place where John gets this lampstand imagery. So let’s go to Zechariah 4:1 and I’ll read the first few verses here
And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”
And then he starts talking to this angel. So we have this reference to the lampstand with these menorah branches. Now here’s the question. Is the angel who is talking to Zechariah… I’ll read verse 1 again.
And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me,
Who is this figure? To answer that we have to go back to Zechariah 1. I’m going to read from verse 7.
On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, “I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. Then I said, ‘What are these, my lord?’ The angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’ So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, ‘These are they whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’ And they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.’ Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’
I’m going to stop there for a moment and just draw your attention to a few things. That’s Zechariah 1. There is no reference in the first six verses to an angel coming up to Zechariah. The first occurrence of the angel that we get is in these verses that I just read in the book: “The angel who talked with me said to me.” So where did he come from? Because prior to that, we get this description: “A man riding on a red horse. He was standing among the myrtle trees.” Well, is there a man riding a red horse and a second man standing among the myrtle trees? Or are they the same? That’s going to be… You say, “How can they be the same?” but as you’re going to see, this is actually a relevant question. It’s confusing. So to whom does Zechariah say, “What are these, my lord?” Well, it’s some angel who talked with me and said, “I’ll show you what they are.” So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees… Okay, now we get a reference to this man.
So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, ‘These are they whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’ And they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.’
They? Who is “they?” Well, it must be either the myrtle trees or somebody on the horses, or maybe the horses don’t even have riders. I mean, again, there’s a lot of confusing things here.
10 And they answered the angel of the LORD who was standing among the myrtle trees,
Now we get a reference to The Angel of the Lord. He’s apparently the man standing among the myrtle trees. Okay? So we have the Angel of the Lord in this vision. But the real question is, “Is there a difference between the Angel of the Lord and the angel who’s talking to Zechariah?” Are they different or the same? And it’s actually going to matter to some extent (or least be a possibility) when you get to chapter 4, that the angel who is talking with Zechariah is the Angel of the Lord. It’s not certain, but it’s a possibility.
You say, “Why even mention it?” Again, it’s a confusing passage because you have switches from the third person to the first person. You have an issue of how many men are there. Do the horses have riders? Does it matter? Can you have one angel standing among the myrtle trees but also be the one talking to the prophet? It’s a very confusing passage. And scholars have been quite frustrated about it. I’ll give you an example. Eric and Carol Meyers in their Anchor Bible volume comment on this passage. They say:
The sequence between verse 7 and the first-person account of the vision in verse 8 and following is problematic, probably because verse 7 [could be] part of the editorial framework that introduces the prophet’s visions…
Because if you go back to the first eight verses, there’s a switch between the first person and the third person. Again, if you’re familiar with my illustration… I have this lecture about proof that there’s editorial activity going on in the Bible and I always take people to Ezekiel 1:1-3, where Ezekiel is described both in the third person and you also get the first-person speaker, who is supposedly the prophet. So can’t the prophet make up his mind to say, “I did this. I saw that. I’m this person.” And if it is, why does he refer to himself in the third person? It doesn’t make any sense, unless you have someone who has taken Ezekiel’s sermons— his content—and fashioned it into a book. Someone who isn’t Ezekiel, in other words, an editor. You have the same thing going on here. You have these weird switches of person and it creates confusion.
So without being able to unravel that… Because honestly you can’t. I mean, people try text-critically to make sense of this. Without worrying about all that, let’s zero in on verse 8. Who is the so-called man riding on a red horse? And what is his relationship to the other characters or character? (Again, how many are there in Zechariah 1:1-7?) Here’s what the Meyerses say and it’s kind of interesting:
The identity of this individual on horseback is a matter of some confusion.
Subsequent figures in this vision, the Interpreting Angel (vv 9, 13, 14) [of Zechariah 1] and the Angel of Yahweh (vv 11 and 12), perhaps can be identified with each other, at least in the present stage of the text, which perhaps represents a conflation of visionary materials. The man on horseback, who is surely also an angelic being (cf. Gen 19:1; 32:25 [RSV 32:24]), would then be a distinct actor in this vision; yet in verse 11 he appears to be the same as the Angel of Yahweh. The problem is further complicated by the sudden appearance of the Interpreting Angel as the object of the prophet’s query in verse 9. Zechariah does not introduce the angelic actors nor does he give them proper names…
We just saw that. They just pop into the scene. They pop into the text. There’s no lead up to them. They don’t have proper names…
… although the angels he depicts may emerge in later literature, such as the Book of Daniel and some intertestamental writings [and then they give some possibilities]: the angel Michael, Gabriel, and others (see Dan 8:16; 9:21; 10:13; 12:1) [or some unidentified angel, which is where I’m leaning]. The lack of specificity in Zechariah’s use of angelic figures perhaps befits their character as divine beings, which must remain beyond full ken [full knowledge].
Now I think that that’s fair. I mean, there’s really no way to tell. If we asked the question, “Is the angel in 4:1 who talks to Zechariah the Angel of Yahweh? Is he Yahweh embodied or is it some other angel?” the answer is uncertain. But the question is interesting for this reason. I’m going through all this for this one reason: John does allude to Zechariah 4.
Let’s go back to Revelation 1. John takes his readers to Zechariah 4 with this line:
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.
Well, if you go back to Zechariah, the figure there associated with the lampstands and, of course, also these myrtle trees earlier could very possibly be the Angel of the Lord. And what that means… (And apparently John thinks it is the Angel of the Lord.) That means what John is doing here is identifying Jesus with the Angel of the Lord. It’s a very convoluted path because Zechariah is just messy because of the editorial hand—the switches between first and third person, the fact that the angels don’t get introduced or identified or distinguished. But it’s very possible that you could have the Angel of the Lord present in Zechariah 1 and Zechariah 4, and John draws that figure into Revelation 1 and identifies him with Jesus. And if he does that, that makes very good sense because the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is God as man in the Old Testament—just like the Word, just like the Name, just like the one who rides on the clouds. John is putting his theological cards on the table. He’s actually being kind of redundant, to be honest with you. He could just lay down son of man from Daniel 7. “Oh, okay. Jesus is the human one that inherits the kingdom, the human one who rides on the clouds, which is a deity description.” So John, you believe Jesus was God. “Yep.” He could just end it there. But he actually loops in more passages. He keeps piling on.
So given the clustering of other factors that link Jesus to the son of man—to the glorified angel in Daniel, the Prince of the host in Daniel 8, the Prince of princes... If this is The Angel, and John is using descriptions of that guy and applying it to
Jesus, he’s piling on. He’s trying to argue that Jesus is the divine man of the Old Testament—Yahweh as a man in the Old Testament. He uses Daniel 7, he uses Daniel 10, he uses Zechariah 1, he uses Zechariah 4. Again, he could’ve just picked one and been done with it. But he doesn’t. He just keeps piling on. And it’s confusing to us because, at least in the Zechariah part, that’s just confusing stuff because of the way it’s written. But it’s confusing to us because he doesn’t actually just tell you this is why he’s doing it. He just doesit. And he leaves it to you, the reader, to just figure it out. Again, this is the same thing… I said it in the last episode. This is what we’re dealing with here in this whole series. John is like the kid in the candy store. Or negatively, he’s like the crazy guy. “I like all these things that I see in front of my eyes, all these bright shiny objects. I want them all. I want to play with them all. I’m just going to grab handfuls of them and lump them all together to make my point. And if you can’t figure it out, well, that’s just too bad. You should be able to figure it out.”
So this is how it’s going to be. This is what he does. This is why it’s messy. And let me add this. This is why, if you’re reading a commentary on Revelation that A) doesn’t discuss the Old Testament or B) only picks one item from the pile and then builds a theological conclusion on it… Sometimes you can land in the right place there, but other times people are going to take one thing out of a passage and construct a theology and they’re going to ignore other things in the passage that really don’t allow you to draw XYZ conclusion. You need to be wary of it, is what I’m trying to say. You need to, when you’re studying Revelation, try to trace… I don't even know if I can call them threads. Try to trace John’s threads. Because in many cases, they’re just words, phrases, little pieces. I don't even know if I can call them a whole thread. This is just how he does it. It’s frustrating at times. But the end result of it is, if you can see it, John’s saying, “Well, I don't have just one argument from the Old Testament that Jesus is God. Here’s four of them.” Again, he piles on. Which in the end is great stuff, but it’s just hard to ferret it out.
Let’s take a little turn and go to Revelation 1:16 for what’s left of our episode here. And this is a single verse. I’m going to focus on a single phrase here. This is about the figure, the one with golden sash, long robe, Ancient of Days imagery, also the son of man:
In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
So that’s Revelation 1:16. Now I’m not going to focus on the star element. We spent enough time on that in earlier episodes. Beale actually argues in his Revelation commentary that Revelation 1 follows Daniel 10. We just spent a few minutes talking about Daniel 10. He actually thinks Revelation 1 follows Daniel 10 in a number of elements—a number of respects. And he calls it… He says
John has a Daniel 10 outline in places. But again, we’ve hit on a couple of those. We’re not going to go back and pick up the star imagery and all that. I’m after the other elements: “from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” Those two things. So let me go back to Beale. And here’s what Beale says. This is from Beale’s commentary on the Greek text in the International Greek Text Commentary Series on the Book of Revelation. He writes:
The “sharp two-edged sword” proceeding from Jesus’ mouth is based on the prophecies of Isa. 11:4 and 49:2, which adds further to his depiction as an eschatological judge and as the one beginning to fulfill this messianic expectation… That this is the primary meaning is clear from the use of the same metaphor in [Revelation] 2:16 and 19:15; in particular, 19:15 shows that Isa. 11:4 is uppermost in mind here, since there “in order that he should strike the nations” from Isa. 11:4 is added directly following “and from his mouth proceeds a sharp sword.” The use of Isa. 11:2–3 [earlier in the chapter] in Rev. 1:4 and [later, in Revelation] 5:5–6 confirms this.
So let me try to put that in a more comprehensible way. Beale is saying, look, Isaiah 11 is in John’s head a lot, both in this chapter and elsewhere. So let me read Isaiah 11:4, just so that you can get a feel for it and see what Beale is latching on to. I’ll back up to verse 3. And the “he” here is the stump of Jesse, the messiah from verse 1:
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
That’s Isaiah 11:4. And I might as well read Isaiah 49:2, since that’s also part of this. This is the Servant of the Lord, which is a messianic figure when it’s an individual. We’ll start at the beginning of the chapter
Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away.
So there you have the sharp sword imagery associated with the mouth. So Beale is saying, “Look, this notion of striking the nations and from his mouth proceeds a sharp sword, it’s very evident that John is referencing Isaiah (two passages—
11:4 and 49:2) in what he’s saying.”
Now Steve Moyise… We’ve cited his book, The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation. He has similar thoughts. Let me read what he says:
The combination of the ‘sharp two-edged sword’ and ‘sword of my mouth’ has suggested to many commentators that John is combining two important texts from Isaiah. The first is Isa. 11:4b, which reads, ‘he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked’. The LXX speaks of the ‘word of his mouth’ rather than ‘rod of his mouth’….
Which is interesting. “The word of his mouth” is in the Septuagint. That’s what the Septuagint actually has. And if you’re looking back and Revelation 1 here, in verse 16, “from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword,” it’s a sword. It’s not a rod. So again, this is a good case where John is picking up on the Septuagint. So back to Moyise:
The LXX speaks of the ‘word of his mouth’ rather than ‘rod of his mouth’. The second [passage] is Isa. 49:2a, which reads, ‘He made my mouth like a sharp sword’. The two are combined in the inaugural vision [this vision of chapter 1 into], ‘and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword’ (Rev. 1:16b). They also occur in the parousia vision…
Which is the vision of the Second Coming. Parousiais an academic word that refers to the Second Coming. So Moyise says the same combination also shows up later in Revelation 19:15, 21, and there they’re…
…once again combined with other Scripture allusions (Rev 19:15, 21)… [T]he image is almost a ‘topos’ in Jewish writings…
A rough definition of that academic term is sort of a familiar thematic pattern. And he cites a bunch of passages: Psalms of Solomon; he cites a Dead Sea Scroll; 2 Thessalonians 2; 4 Ezra; and 1 Enoch 62.2. So basically, he’s saying other Second Temple Jewish writers that are contemporary or a little earlier than John in Revelation, they do the same thing to describe the messiah. So this is not an unfamiliar description. It is certainly a description of conquest. But it’s also… Since it has to do with the word of his mouth, yes, there’s a conquest element.
Yes, it’s going to get repurposed in Revelation 19 when the Lord comes back and destroys the wicked. But there could be other things here, too, as far as speaking the truth and whatnot.
The other element (the shining face) is also of interest here. And we’ll talk about what these things mean when we loop this one in. Matthew 17:2 is where you see this image as well (the shining face).
And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
Matthew 17:2 portrays Christ’s face in the same way at the Transfiguration. Beale takes Matthew 17:2 (the Transfiguration vision there) as anticipating the glory of Christ’s heavenly reign. So this is sort of a… At the Transfiguration, the disciples that are there get a glimpse of what Jesus is going to be like when he’s reigning in his glory. And Beale writes that this anticipates Christ’s heavenly reign, “part of which is depicted in Rev. 1:12–18.” So he thinks this has to do with royal, ruling, reigning imagery, which would make sense because John has just talked about the son of man who inherits the kingdom and rules the earth. That makes sense. Now Moyise has some similar thoughts here. He writes this:
The vision [of Revelation 1:16] would not, therefore, have been read in a vacuum but would be interpreted in the light of present knowledge. For example, the shining face and bright clothes might have been read in the light of the transfiguration tradition, in which Jesus ‘was transfigured … and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white’ (Mt. 17:2).
So what they’re saying is that if you have a first century reader (and Revelation is one of the later books), when people read this, they’re going to be thinking of Matthew’s Gospel, or the description earlier. They’re just not going to be able to dissociate those two things. They’re going to put those things together. Beale moves beyond this, though. He thinks that there’s more going on than the reference to the Transfiguration. He actually connects it back to Daniel 10, which he thinks is a big deal in this passage. And it is, for reasons we’ve already stated. And I don't want to get into all the weeds he gets into. But he connects it back to Daniel 10 and he adds an interesting sidebar from the book of Judges, believe it or not. Beale writes this:
The last description of the “Son of man” as having a face “like the sun shining in its strength” (v 16c) still follows the Daniel 10 outline, but the actual wording is derived from Judges 5:31 [in the Septuagint, specifically the Vaticanus manuscript] (LXX B), the link with which may lie in the descriptions there of the bright appearance of the victorious Israelite warrior, in Daniel 10 of the “Son of man,” and here of Jesus as a warrior. It may be significant that the warrior of
Judg. 5:31 is associated with the “stars” that “fought from heaven” in Judg. 5:20…
Now let me stop there. Let’s go back to what Beale is citing here. Let’s go back to Judges and I’m going to specifically… I don't know which manuscript the Septuagint that I have here is going to be using. But let’s just see what we find here in Judges 5:31.
“So may all your enemies perish, O Lord! But your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might.” And the land had rest for forty years.
Now this is the Song of Deborah (Judges 5). There’s this line.
31Thus may all your enemies be destroyed, O Lord, and those loving him as the going out of the sun in his might.
So it compares to the Lord, the Divine Warrior, who has given them victory. And Beale references verse 20 in the same chapter, talking about the victory that Deborah and Barak have just experienced. They say, “From heaven the stars arrayed themselves from their tracks.” Or a lot of English translations have “from their courses they arrayed themselves against Sisera.” This is Divine Warrior imagery, where the Lord of hosts… What are the hosts? You say, “Oh, they’re angels or heavenly beings.” Yes they are. But “Lord of hosts” as a phrase also refers to the stars. So this is a reference to the heavenly warrior—God as the warrior with his heavenly army being arrayed against Sisera, and giving his people (led by Deborah and Barak) victory. And verse 31 compares the leader (the Lord) and those with him, but specifically the Lord… “May all your enemies be destroyed, O Lord, and those loving him as the going out of the sun in his might.” The advance of God (the warrior God) is like the sun coming out and shining—the sun sort of booming over the horizon, just coming out that way. It’s light imagery. Well, Beale is saying he suspects this is where this idea of the
“face shining like the sun” comes from—the reference to the sun. And he thinks that… Basically the end game here is Beale considers this language not just to refer to the Transfiguration (Jesus’ future rule and reign), but he, because he links it back to this Judges passage about God being like the sun, he thinks it’s also Divine Warrior imagery. He says here:
[I]t is possible that Judg. 5:31 has also been applied to Christ because it was seen as typological of the ideal messianic warrior and because John associated the
“Son of man” with “stars” in vv 16a, 20b.
See, the one we’re talking about, the face shining like the sun, he has stars in his hand. They’re under his command. So you get the idea? Beale thinks this is also Divine Warrior imagery. He says:
Judg. 5:31 is a description of the victorious warrior, and this finds an escalated meaning here with Christ.
Now again, you might think, “Well, I don't know about that. The connections might be a little loose.” But I think they’re worth considering. Beale actually takes this passage as being about spiritual warfare—spiritual victory. Beale summarizes the theological point of the imagery this way:
The Christians in Asia [these churches in Asia Minor] are to understand that Jesus will do battle in this manner not only against the evil nations [later on in Revelation 19:15] but also against all those among the churches who compromise their faith (2:16).
Basically, any enemy of the gospel… The warrior, the risen Christ, the son of man, the one whose face shines like the sun, the transfigured warrior, the transfigured victor, all these things combined... Basically Beale is saying, the warrior element of the son of man should not be forgotten. It’s one thing to think about the son of man coming and offering spiritual salvation. But he’s suggesting, and I think he’s onto something here, that when believers read this, they’re expecting the Lord to return and to deliver them from evil and to deliver them from their oppression. They‘re under persecution and all this. He thinks, “Look, we have to realize that this imagery is not just sort of a soft form of encouragement, that, ‘Oh, when life catches up to you and you’re going to die, you’re going to be with the Lord because you’re on the Lord’s side,’” and all that’s true. But he’s saying, “Look, this is warfare imagery. And when the Lord returns, he’s not coming back (as I like to say) blowing kisses. He’s coming back and he’s going to clean house. And so John is using warfare imagery, drawing it from the Old Testament, to remind people that the Lord’s coming will not just be for the salvation of the faithful. It will be for the judgment of the wicked. And everything everywhere—everyone everywhere—who opposes him will (to put it succinctly) get what’s coming to them, whether it’s spiritual forces or human forces. And no matter where those human agents are... They could be within the church; they could be outside the church. But if you are not on the Lord’s side (the side of the Lord of hosts, the Captain of the Lord’s army)… Think about all this imagery that weaves together: the Commander of the host, the one dressed in the white robe and the golden sash (who happens to be the one commanding Gabriel and Michael), and the son of man from Daniel who’s going to rule the nations. Out of his mouth you either have a rod or the sword. All of this is warfare imagery.
So John is not just writing words of encouragement to cheer people up that, “Oh, when push comes to shove and then the end comes, you’re going to be with the Lord.” That’s all true. But he’s reminding people that the return of the Lord for the
wicked, for those who oppose him, is going to be a terrible thing. It’s going to be a terrible thing. And all this fits well with the whole son of man idea. And the use of the Old Testament here is putting forth Jesus as the true king, not just in terms of rulership and favor toward those who are on his side, but he’s against something too. This is why… Look at verses 17 and 18 that follow this description.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
And you could add a footnote there. “And I know who I’m putting in there.” You know? I mean, it’s just… “I’m coming back to fill the realm of the dead and Hades as well.” Again, this is warfare imagery.
So we need to keep these things in mind. John is not always going to portray Jesus as something comfortable. He certainly doesn’t do it here. We who are on the Lord’s side, we look at the positive side of all this. But John is saying, “There’s another side to this coin. And it’s not going to be pleasant.” And so part of his description in chapter 1 isn’t just to say, “Hey, Jesus is God. Don’t forget that.” He’s also saying, “Hey, one of God’s roles was to be a warrior to destroy evil and wickedness. So if Jesus is that, well, he’s that, too.” And he wants to present a full picture of the whole thing. It is time. This is all set-up to Revelation 2 and 3, when he addresses the churches. It’s all set-up for the churches. And the Lord’s going to have some uncomfortable things to say to the churches. To quote Peter here, it’s like he’s saying, “It’s time for judgment to begin at the house of God first.” So you’re going to get some encouragement, but you’re also going to get some reckoning. And John wants people to do what? To keep believing, stay on the Lord’s side, don’t switch sides. I mean, don’t do that. Don’t do that. Because this is what’s coming.