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Previous: Revelation 1:13b

15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. - Revelation 1:15-16

"His feet were like fine brass." The bronze feet are a further picture of judgment, bronze being the material of the Altar of Sacrifice (Exodus 27:1-4), and of the serpent in the wilderness, one of God's most graphic judgments of sin. (Numbers 21:5-9; John 3:14-18).

Again, these symbols are very similar to Daniel's vision that we just cited above (Daniel 10:6).

The Greek word for "fine brass" (chalkolibano) is found only here. It is a compound word combining "brass" and "incense." It is thought that the idea conveyed is that the color is not just the orange of brass, but mixed with yellow like frankincense. It could depict a mixture of brass and gold, and is translated here as "fine" brass.

John continued to describe the brass feet, "as if refined in a furnace." Refining metals usually requires the use of a large, very hot furnace. Smaller quantities of some metals can be melted in a heavy pot over a fire.

When we were kids, we would sometimes melt small pieces of lead this way to make toy soldiers. In those days most people didn't know it was bad to be exposed to lead. It was fascinating to watch a bar of cold, hard metal gradually melt in the pot like an ice cube would. It then became a little blob of liquid. It always had some impurities in it, so the surface would be dull. We could "refine" it by using a cold spoon to skim the impurities off the top. It would then be shiny and pure. We could see our reflections in it. Then we carefully poured it out into the molds to finish the project.

Peter had this refining process in mind when he explained that the trials we must endure (which sometimes could be discipline) would produce a purified faith.

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, - 1 Peter 1:6-7

This is certainly a picture of Jesus standing as judge in the midst of His Church. We will see in His messages to them that there are certain things they are doing right, but with most of them He finds serious faults that need to be corrected. His judgment is not meant to destroy them, but to correct them if they are willing.

Even in our secular judicial system, the purpose of judgment, especially of lesser crimes, is to bring about improvement. Prisons were called "penitentiaries," meaning a place of penitence or repentance. They have not always done such a good job of making this happen, but the hope is - and in some cases it turns out this way - that the prisoner will change his mind about breaking the law, and when he is released, he will be a good citizen.

In Hebrews we find a wonderful explanation of the Lord's discipline.

5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

"My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives."

7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. - Hebrews 12:5-11

Discipline in the home is not punishment, but teaching. In the field of education, different subjects are called "disciplines." And in the Church, those who are learners are called "disciples."

In the light of this lofty purpose of judgment or discipline, it is both startling and comforting when John portrays Jesus this way: "and His voice as the sound of many waters." The harsh trumpet-voice mentioned in verse 10 has changed to something like a mighty river, a waterfall, or the sound of the ocean's waves reaching the shore. Those who hear these sounds usually understand the power behind them, but they are nevertheless drawn to them, and learn to find a sense of security in their constant roar.

"He had in His right hand seven stars." The meaning of this symbol is interpreted in the vision itself. In verse 20 of this same chapter we are told that they are the angels of the seven churches. The word "angel" (Greek aggelos) literally means "messenger." Therefore the messengers to these churches may be their pastors. We will look at this in greater detail when we get to that point.

Why are they called "stars"? The word star (Greek aster) is used in many ways in the Bible. Right here in Revelation we will discover its use as a description of Jesus; of important people - like the twelve Patriarchs of Israel; of angels; of fallen angels or demons; and of asteroids or meteors. Stars make good symbols for many reasons. They are beautiful. They are fascinating. And, as in this verse, they are used for navigation or direction.

Perhaps the description of Jesus that is most difficult to picture is this: "out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword." This expression naturally brings to mind this verse about God's Word:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12

It is obvious that Jesus faithfully taught God's Word, but, most amazingly, in John's Gospel, he actually called Jesus "the Word," who spoke the Creation into being, and later became flesh and dwelt among us! (John 1:1-3; 14; cf. Genesis 1)

Jesus has the ability to invariably say what is right and true, and what must therefore be done. And He has the power to cause whatever is spoken to come to pass.

We will also see Jesus described with a sword in His mouth in the message to the Church at Pergamos (Revelation 2:12). Finally, at the Battle of Armageddon His only weapon will be the sharp sword out of His mouth (Revelation 19:15, 21). The ultimate power of the judge is the ability, if necessary to put the offender to death.

In addition to all the other striking aspects of this vision, John said that "His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength." Just as a person dare not look directly at the Sun, a glance at the face of Jesus was so brilliant that, according to the next verse, John fell at Jesus' feet like a dead man.

John had actually seen Jesus in a similar way when he was invited to join his brother James and Peter for a most unusual occasion, the Transfiguration of Christ.

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. - Matthew 17:1-3

It is interesting that even though the other three Gospels all recorded the Transfiguration, John did not include it in his account of Jesus' life. This is probably best explained by the fact that John's Gospel was written much later than the other three (known as the "synoptic" Gospels), and he knew that the episode was already well-reported. His Gospel usually gave additional information not found in the others.

Next: Revelation 1:17-18


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