Meeting Jesus Face to Face
I have not yet met Jesus face to face. I have met Him by faith. Paul pointed out
that at this time "we walk by faith and not by sight" but that the time would
come for the faithful to go home to be "with the Lord" and that one day all of
us "will appear before the judgment seat of Christ." (II Corinthians 5:7-10).
Jesus referred to our present situation when He told Thomas, "Because you have
seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."
What will Jesus look like? We do not know, but we do "know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is." (I John 3:2). Certainly seeing Jesus for the first time as He is now, in His glorified state, will be a tremendously awe-inspiring and moving experience, unlike anything else we have ever known. The last man to see Jesus as far as I am aware of was the apostle John, years after Jesus' ascension back into heaven. In highly symbolic language (the type of language in which the book of Revelation is written) John describes what he saw when Jesus appeared to him and commanded that he record what is now the final book in the Bible. Keeping in mind the figurative nature of the words, as John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes concerning what he saw that day, note especially his description of Jesus, the same Jesus who had walked and talked with John on earth, but is now glorified.
The Vision on the Island of Patmos
"And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands one like the Son of Man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle. And His head and His hair were white like wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire; and His feet were like burnished bronze, when it had been caused to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. And in His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, 'Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades." (Revelation 1:12-18).
"And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man." (Revelation 1:17a). Seeing Jesus in His glorified state had such an awe-inspiring effect on John that all his muscles lost their strength, his knees buckled and he fell limply to the ground. Some of us have probably felt similar physical reactions during times of great emotion. John's emotion, upon seeing Jesus, was holy fear. John had spent three years with Jesus in the flesh, and once had even seen Jesus glorified in a cloud when He had been "transfigured" on the mountain, but even that had not prepared him to see Jesus as He was on this day.
We recall that all will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ "that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (II Corinthians 5:10). Do not think that your reaction on that occasion will be all that much different than John's. "Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him" (Revelation 1:7) and it is God's plan that "every knee should bow" and "every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." (Philippians 2:9-11).
"...and in the middle of the lampstands one like the Son of Man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle." (Revelation 1:13). The clothing Jesus wore signified something. It was not something He had "just pulled out of His heavenly closet." The long robe signifies honor and dignity. Isaiah's vision of the LORD seven centuries before also mentioned the long, flowing robe. (Isaiah 6:1-3).
The golden girdle spoke of Jesus' righteous priesthood. It should not be thought that Jesus chose to appear like the Old Testament priests, but rather, that God, centuries before, had given instruction to the priests of Israel regarding their garb so that they might appear similar to how Jesus appears in heaven. The human priests of the Old Law were a mere shadow, or copy, of Christ Jesus. He is the eternal One; they were temporary.(Hebrews 8:1-6).
"And His head and His hair were white like wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire... and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength." (Revelation 1:14; 16b). The whiteness of Jesus' head is described both "as wool" and "as snow." It is not the same kind of "white" as we normally think of skin color. Perhaps His hair was like white wool, while the rest of His head was like snow. Certainly, this description speaks of Jesus' purity and holiness.
In addition to the whiteness, the face of Jesus shone as bright as the sun in its full strength. Jesus certainly is the light of the world. He is the source of light. We should also recall that the righteous will become like Him, shining forth as the sun in their eternal home (Matthew 13:43).
His eyes are like a "flame of fire" which suggests their penetrating quality, and the wisdom behind them. The "sword" issuing from His mouth suggests the truthfulness and accuracy of His words and judgments (Hebrews 4:12).
"...and His feet were like burnished bronze, when it had been caused to glow in a furnace..." (Revelation 1:15a). We are caused to think of power and strength as we read this description. There might also be a suggestion of judgment (Malachi 4:1-3). At any rate, the Lord is on His feet; He is active and powerful. Later in the book of Revelation, both the sword from His mouth and the treading of His feet will be used to symbolize divine judgment being dispensed in the world (Revelation 19:15).
"...and His voice was like the sound of many waters." (Revelation 1:15b). We should think of the roar of a mighty waterfall, or the crashing of powerful waves along a rocky shore, when we think of His voice. It is powerful and strong, and yet at the same time can be comforting and tender. The voice of God is described as being as the sound or many wings, and as the sound of abundant waters in other Scripture (Ezekiel 1:24). It is the voice by which the universe was spoken into existence. On the day of judgment, we will hear that voice say either "Depart from Me, I never knew you." or "Well done, good and faithful servant... enter into the joy of your Master." (Matthew 7:23; 25:21).
"And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, 'Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades." (Revelation 1:17b,18). There was no reason for John to be afraid. He was not in danger. Far from it. In fact, he had never been in less danger.
The One who had caused such awe in John was John's friend. He had died for John, but was now alive, and would be forevermore. He had the keys of death and Hades. He had met man's worse enemy and had overcome it. With His right hand, he assures John that all is well, and it was time for John's instinctive fear give way to his reason. After so many years, He was once again in the presence of Jesus. With Him, not even death and Hades are unconquerable. He has the keys.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 4.12; December 1997