In the Lord’s Day
By Arlen L. Chitwood
Judged in His Presence
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;
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.
The book of Revelation is a prophecy (1:1; cf. 22:7). Except for several introductory verses, chapters two and three, and a few concluding verses, the book concerns events that will transpire beyond the present dispensation, during “the Lord’s Day” (1:10), the future Day of the Lord. And even chapters two and three, which have to do with the present dispensation, must also be looked upon as prophetic in nature. Among other things, these chapters depict a history of the Church — beginning with Ephesus (which left its “first love”) and terminating with Laodicea (described as “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked”); and John, though writing at a point beyond the present dispensation (in the future Day of the Lord into which he had been transported), wrote for those living in his own time, at the beginning of the dispensation (1:11).
In order to receive this prophecy, called, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1), John was removed from the earth, taken to heaven, and placed at the very beginning of the future Day of the Lord. From that point he was progressively moved forward in time and shown a sequence of events that would transpire throughout this future day, both in heaven and on the earth (1:10-20; 4:1-22:6); and at the very beginning of this time he was allowed to look back upon certain events that would transpire during the present dispensation, preceding the Day of the Lord (chapters 2, 3).
The events occurring during “the Lord’s Day” that John saw began with the removal of the Church at the conclusion of the present dispensation and ended over 1,000 years later with preparatory events anticipating the eternal ages, the Day of God, which will follow the Day of the Lord (cf. Revelation 1:9, 10; 4:1, 2; 21:1ff; 2 Peter 3:10-13). The complete scope of time covered by the Day of the Lord is thus clearly revealed in the book of Revelation.
The Day of the Lord covers not only events during the Tribulation and Millennium but also certain events immediately preceding the Tribulation and certain events immediately following the Millennium. It includes the judgment of Christians in heaven, preceding the Tribulation (cf. Revelation 1:10-20; 6:1ff); and it includes events beyond the Millennium, preparatory to the eternal ages, the Day of God (Revelation 20:7ff; cf. Revelation 1:10, 11; 22:6).
This is why Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, clearly associates God’s
activities during the Day of the Lord with both the earth-dwellers and with Christians; and insofar as Christians are concerned, this association is clearly revealed to be immediately following the rapture, preceding the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18); and this is also why the destruction of the present heavens and earth and the creation of a new heavens and earth at the end of the Millennium are placed within the Day of the Lord (cf. 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 21:1).
(Actually, Scripture presents an overlap between the ending of the Day of the Lord and the beginning of the Day of God. Note that the destruction of the present heavens and earth occurs both during the Day of the Lord and during the Day of God [2 Peter 3:10-12]. This destruction occurs at the very end of the Day of the Lord and at the very beginning of the Day of God. Thus, at least some, if not all, of the events beyond the Millennium in the book of Revelation will occur during the Day of God as well as during the Day of the Lord.)
The Son of Man
The title, “the Son of Man,” in Scripture is intimately connected with the Lord’s coming dominion over the earth. This title first appears in Psalm 8:4, a Messianic passage quoted in Hebrews 2:6, within a Messianic setting. Psalm 8 begins and ends with the same statement: “O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (vv. 1, 9). The reference is to the coming day of His “glory” when He will possess “dominion” over the earth (cf. vv. 1, 6). Thus, by the use of this title in Psalm 8:4, a first-mention principle is established that remains constant throughout Scripture.
Wherever this title occurs in Scripture, the underlying thought through its use always has to do with the Lord’s coming dominion over the earth. The first appearance of this title in the New Testament is in Matthew 8:20: “And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’” At first glance there would appear to be no Messianic connection. But note the last mention of this title in the New Testament: “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle” (Revelation 14:14).
Both the first and last times this title appears in the New Testament, there is a reference made to Christ's “head.” At His first coming, He did not have a place on the earth (which He would one day receive for an inheritance) to even lay His head. This was the day of His shame and humiliation, the day when a crown of thorns was placed on His head, followed by His crucifixion between criminals. However, the day is coming when He will wear a golden crown upon His head (signifying divine kingly power [“gold” in Scripture signifies deity]). That will occur during the coming day of His power and exaltation.
(The Greek word used for “crown” in Revelation 14:14 is stephanos, not diadema, indicating that Christ, at this time, will not yet have entered into His office as King. A ruling monarch wears a “diadem,” not the type of crown that the Greek word stephanos signifies. By contrast, in Revelation 19:12, Christ is seen wearing “many crowns [the Greek word diadema rather than stephanos is used here].” Thus, that which occurs in Revelation 14:14 anticipates that which will occur in Revelation 19:12.)
The true nature of His identity — Israel's Messiah, the One destined to possess dominion over the earth — is exactly what Jesus had in mind when He asked Peter, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matthew 16:13). And Peter, after responding to that question, in response to the Lord’s next question, “But who do you say that I am?” (v. 15), responded within the same framework in which Christ had asked both questions. Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16).
In essence Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the Firstborn of God, the One in possession of the rights of primogeniture.” And this is why Jesus said in response, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (v. 17).
This title is used about eighty times in the four gospel accounts, and outside the gospels the title only appears in the New Testament four different places, in three books (Acts 7:56; Hebrews 2:6; Revelation 1:13; 14:14).
The passage in Acts 7:56 presents “the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” The offer of the Messianic Kingdom was still open to Israel at this time, Stephen had just finished delivering a lengthy dissertation about Jesus the Christ to the Jewish council (7:2-53), and the door was open for the Jewish leaders to respond in a positive manner. Had they done so, Jesus would have returned and restored the kingdom to Israel. This is the reason He is seen “standing” at God's right hand and identified as “the Son of Man.”
The passage in Hebrews 2:6 is simply a quotation from Psalm 8, a Messianic Psalm where the title is first used in Scripture. The use of this title in Hebrews speaks volumes about the Messianic nature of this book. Paul never used the title in His writings, though he had far more to say about the coming kingdom than many realize. But Hebrews is different yet. Hebrews is a book given over almost entirely to things surrounding the Heir and His co-heirs, as these things relate to the Messianic Era.
Then in the book of Revelation the title is used of Christ twice at the conclusion of the present dispensation (1:13; 14:14), anticipating His coming reign over the earth. Both times the title appears in this book, judgmental scenes are in view. The title appears first in connection with the Son judging the Church preceding the Tribulation, with a view to the manifestation of His co-heirs at the termination of this judgment; and the title appears the second time in connection with Christ judging the earth-dwellers at the end of the Tribulation, with a view to His taking the reins of government.
His Description in that Day
As soon as John was transported into heaven, into the future Day of the Lord, he heard behind him “a loud voice, as of a trumpet,” telling him to write the things being revealed and to send the record to seven particular churches in Asia. The words following this command — “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” — appear in some Greek manuscripts but are usually considered spurious by textual critics. The person speaking though had previously identified Himself after this same fashion (v. 8) and does so after a similar fashion later in the chapter (vv. 17, 18).
John turned to see the One speaking; and having turned, he saw seven golden lampstands and the person possessing the “voice, as of a trumpet” standing in the midst of the candlesticks (vv. 12, 13). The person John saw was the glorified Christ as He will appear after the present dispensation is over, at the very beginning of the Day of the Lord (note v. 18); and the seven lampstands were said to be “the seven churches” (v. 20).
Consequently, John didn't see Christ as our present High Priest, but as our future Judge. The time in view and John’s description of Christ clearly reveal this fact.
The time is in the future Day of the Lord. Christ today is exercising the office of High Priest in order to effect a present cleansing of the “many sons,” the “kings and priests,” He is about to bring “to glory.” His present ministry in the heavenly sanctuary is strictly on behalf of those who are being called out to occupy positions as co-heirs with Him during the coming age. If He does not “wash [a reference, typically, to cleansing provided by water in the laver in the courtyard of the tabernacle]” them now (through His high priestly ministry, on the basis of His shed blood on the mercy seat), they can have “no part” with Him during the coming age (cf. John 13:8-10; 1 John 1:7-2:2).
John sees Christ in heaven at a time beyond the present dispensation, beyond the time of His present high priestly ministry. The complete Church, shown by the seven churches in His presence, will have been removed from the earth; and Christ’s present high priestly ministry will have come to an end. Christ, at this time, will come forth from the sanctuary to judge those for whom He had previously interceded with the Father.
The description that John then gives of Christ is that of a Judge. A description of Christ as Priest in the future day of the Lord, with the Church in His presence, would be completely out of place, for this would not be in keeping with events set forth in the book at all.
The Day of the Lord is associated in Scripture with God’s judgment, and the dispensation during which Christ exercises the office of High Priest will have ended when this day begins. Thus, without even reading John’s description, one could, contextually, only expect John to see Christ as Judge. And that is exactly the description that he gives.
1. Clothed . . . . (v. 13)
John described Christ first of all as “clothed with a garment down to the feet.” Such a garment would be worn by either a priest or a judge. But John next states that He was “girded about the chest with a golden band”; and only a judge wore the girdle in this position.
A priest wore the band around the waist, signifying service. He would often lift the hem of his garment and tuck it under the band as he went about some of his various priestly duties. By contrast, a judge wore the band over one shoulder and across his chest as an insignia of the magisterial office that he held.
Thus, John sees Christ at a time after He has removed the band from His waist and placed it over one shoulder, allowing it to rest at a position across His chest. This signifies that His high priestly work has ended (the present dispensation is over) and His judicial work has begun (those for whom He occupied the office of High Priest are now in His presence, in heaven, in the Day of the Lord; and they are about to come under judgment).
2. His Head and Hair . . . . (v. 14)
It is significant that at this point in the book John sees Christ, in the future Day of the Lord, without a crown upon His head. This part of the revelation of Jesus Christ occurs prior to the time He is seen wearing a crown (cf. Revelation 14:14; 19:12). It occurs at the time He judges Christians, at the end of the present dispensation but preceding the Tribulation.
Christ will turn His attention to the earth-dwellers only after He has first dealt with the Church (Revelation 5:1ff); and seemingly, at this time, He will begin wearing a crown — first a stephanos, to later be followed by a diadem. This thought is derived from comparing four different verses — Revelation 6:2; 12:3; 14:14; 19:12.
In Revelation 6:2 the Antichrist is seen wearing a stephanos at the beginning of the Tribulation, three and one-half years before Satan gives to him “his power, his throne, and great authority” (Revelation 13:2) — three and one half years before he actually enters into his regal office and wears a diadem (Revelation 12:3; 13:1, 2), anticipated by the stephanos.
Christ will wear a stephanos prior to the time He actually assumes regal power and is seen wearing many diadems (cf. Revelation 14:14; 19:12); and since Antichrist dons a crown (though not a regal crown) at the very beginning of the Tribulation, it seems evident that Christ will have donned a crown (though not a regal crown) at this time also. Satan is the great counterfeiter, and he will see to it that regal activities surrounding Antichrist are patterned after regal activities surrounding Christ.
(See the author’s book, Judgment Seat of Christ, chapter 12, for additional information concerning how the words stephanos and diadema are used in this respect in the Greek New Testament.)
The yet-to-be-crowned head of Christ and the hairs of His head were described by John as being “white like wool, as white as snow.” Wisdom, dignity, and superiority (all surrounding longevity) are in view, but the best commentary on the passage is Daniel 7:22, where the results of Christ’s judicial activity set forth in Revelation, chapter one are depicted.
The words, “saints of the Most High,” in Daniel 7:22 (also vv. 18, 25, 27) should literally be translated, “saints of the high places [heavenly places].” Since Israel, through rejection, forfeited the right to occupy these heavenly places in the coming kingdom and the Church was called into existence to be the recipient of that which Israel rejected (cf. Matthew 21:43; 1 Peter 2:9, 10), Christians (among others, e.g., martyred Tribulation saints [Revelation 20:4]) would have to be the ones receiving judicial power and authority (rulership) in Daniel 7:22 (even though the Church was not in existence at the time this was written).
And since all such power and authority has been committed into the hands of the Son (cf. Matthew 28:18; John 5:22), “the Ancient of Days” in Daniel 7:22 would have to be identified as Christ, even though “the Ancient of Days” is a title used of the Father back in verse nine of the same chapter (cf. v. 13; also note the Son’s title, “the Son of Man,” in this verse).
The thought is similar to Psalm 45:6 and Hebrews 1:8. The author of Hebrews, quoting Psalm 45:6, takes words directed to the Father in the Old Testament and uses them relative to the Son in the New Testament. The words, “Thy throne, O God . . . .,” are used of both; and in Daniel 7:9, 22, the title, “the Ancient of Days,” is also used of both.
(In Daniel, chapter seven, verses seventeen through twenty-seven form an “interpretation” of several visions that Daniel had previously been shown, recorded in verses two through fourteen [v. 16]. However, the manner in which “the Ancient of Days” is presented in the interpretation is significantly different than the way He is presented in the visions.
In the visions, “the Ancient of Days” gives the Son “dominion and glory and a kingdom.” [vv. 13, 14]; but in the interpretation, “the Ancient of Days” gives the saints of the high places judicial power and authority in the kingdom [vv. 22, 27]. The former allows the latter to occur, and in this respect, revelation becomes progressive as one moves from the visions to the interpretation.
In the visions, the Father, called “the Ancient of Days,” acts on behalf of His Son; but in the interpretation, it is the Son who acts. The Son, now in possession of the kingdom [received from His Father], is also called “the Ancient of Days” and acts on behalf of His co-heirs.
This is the manner in which the delegation of power and authority in the coming kingdom is presented elsewhere in Scripture. The Son receives the kingdom from His Father [an act of the Father as He delivers the kingdom over to His Son]; but once the Son has received the kingdom, then He, rather than the Father, is the One seen acting with respect to the power and authority placed in His hands [cf. Luke 19:12, 15-19; Matthew 20:23; 25:19-23]. This is why the work of “the Ancient of Days” in Daniel, chapter seven must be looked upon as progressive acts of both the Father and the Son.)
In Daniel 7:9, the Father is described as having hair “like pure wool,” and this same description must be looked upon as also applying to the Son in verse twenty-two, which perfectly fits the description given of the Son in Revelation 1:14. The Father cannot be described one way and the Son another. The Father and the Son are “one” (John 10:30), which can be easily illustrated by comparing the description of the Father in Daniel 7:9 with the description of the Son in Revelation 1:14, in the light of Daniel 7:22.
Thus, not only does the manner in which Christ is clothed in Revelation 1:13 depict a judicial scene, but the first thing said about the description of His person in the following verse (in the light of Daniel, chapter seven) also depicts judgment.
3. His Eyes . . . . (v. 14)
John next calls attention to His eyes, described “like a flame of fire.” “Fire” is used numerous places in Scripture in connection with God’s judicial activity.
In Daniel 7:9-11, in the same judicial scene previously considered, God’s throne is described as being “a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire”; and a “fiery stream [a stream or river of fire] issued and came forth from before Him.”
Fire is used after this same fashion in connection with what Scripture reveals about the judgment seat of Christ: “Every man's work shall be made manifest . . . it shall be revealed by [‘in’] fire; and the fire shall try every man's work . . . .” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). This is where the baptism “with [‘in’] fire” occurs — on Christ’s threshing floor when the wheat is separated from the chaff and the chaff is burned (Matthew 3:11, 12; cf. Hebrews 6:8, 9).
Christ used the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna), the place of refuse south of Jerusalem, where the fires always burned, as a synonym for the place numerous individuals found unworthy to enter the kingdom would occupy following judgment.
Then there are the fiery judgments of the Tribulation, the destruction of the earth by fire at the end of the Millennium, and the Lake of fire as the final abode of the unsaved.
There can be no question concerning how “fire” is used in Scripture; and when Christ is presented as having eyes “as a flame of fire,” only a judicial scene can be in view.
In the subsequent messages to the seven churches, Christ is presented as the One who sees all and consequently knows all. Nothing that occurs escapes His attention. And this same individual is the One who will one day judge all those in each of the seven churches (pointing to a judgment of all Christians); and nothing that occurs during the present day will escape His attention in that coming day when every man’s work will be “revealed by [‘in’] fire.”
Christ's eyes, “as a flame of fire,” in that day will be searching, penetrating, and revealing, just as they were when He looked upon Peter after his foretold denial of Christ. Immediately after Peter had denied his Lord the third time, the cock crowed a second time; and the Lord (apparently being led at that moment past Peter into “Praetorium (‘the hall of judgment’)” turned and looked upon Peter, awakening him to the stark reality of that which he had done (Luke 22:61).
The Lord's look at this time was far more than a brief glance. The word used in the Greek text (emblepo) points to Christ fixing His eyes upon Peter in an intently searching sense. These were the eyes that John saw in Revelation 1:14; and Peter looked into these eyes, as will every Christian.
Peter came under scrutiny for his actions, causing him to remember that which had previously occurred. Resultantly, he “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). And Christians who have followed a similar course of action will react after a similar fashion when they, in that coming day, look into those same eyes, described as “a flame of fire.”
4. His Feet . . . . (v. 15)
John not only sees Christ's feet as being “like fine brass,” but he further describes them “as if refined in a furnace.” Thus, there is actually a dual reference to judgment, for both “brass” and “fire” are used in Scripture depicting judgment, with “brass” specifically depicting judgment upon sin as borne for us.
In Numbers 21:5ff, God judged His people because of sin. He sent poisonous serpents throughout the camp, and numerous Israelites, bitten by the serpents, began to die.
Moses interceded with God on behalf of the people, and God provided him with the antidote. He was to take a brazen serpent, affix it to a pole, and lift it up in the camp of Israel. And any individual who had been bitten by a serpent needed only to look upon the brazen serpent in order to live.
In the antitype (to which Christ called attention in John 3:14) man today is under the sentence of death. Man is dying, and God has provided the antidote. In the camp of Israel, serpents caused the problem, and a serpent provided the cure. In the world today, man (the First Adam) caused the problem, and Man (the Last Adam) has provided the cure. God has judged sin in the person of His Son, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15).
The same use of brass in Scripture is seen in the two articles of furniture in the courtyard of the tabernacle. The brazen altar was constructed of wood overlaid with brass, and the brazen laver was constructed completely of brass. Both appear in connection with God’s judgment upon sin.
The brazen altar stood next to the only door to the tabernacle and barred the way for any who would not come via the required blood sacrifice (typifying Christ’s finished work on Calvary); and the brazen laver stood between the brazen altar and the Holy Place and barred the way for any priest who would not first avail himself of cleansing from present defilement, provided by the water in the upper and lower basins (typifying Christ’s present work as High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary).
5. His Voice . . . . (v. 15)
His voice, heard and described by John, was “as the sound of many waters.” During Christ's earthly ministry, officers sent to apprehend Him returned empty-handed and confessed to the chief priests and Pharisees, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46). At a later time, shortly before His crucifixion, Judas led a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees in another attempt to apprehend Him, and, at the sound of two words that He used to identify Himself, they were caused to go backward and fall on the ground (John 18:5, 6).
Christ identified Himself to His would-be captors through the use of the expression, “I am.” By using this expression, Christ identified Himself with the God of the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14). He revealed that those sent by the chief priests and Pharisees had been sent to take God Himself captive. It was God who was later led into the “Praetorium (‘the hall of judgment’),” and it was the blood of God that was subsequently shed to redeem fallen man (John 18:28; Acts 20:28).
A judicial scene in connection with Christ speaking can be seen in Matthew 22:11, 12, in the parable of the marriage feast. This parable has to do with the festivities surrounding the wedding of God’s Son, and the King coming in to see the guests in verses eleven and twelve can only be identified as the Son Himself making His appearance, as King.
The King, viewing the guests, sees a man who does not have on a wedding garment, and he asks the man a very revealing, searching question: “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?”
The way the question is worded in the Greek text indicates that the man knew he was supposed to have a wedding garment to attend the festivities, but he deliberately, defiantly refused to provide himself with one and sought to attend the festivities dressed after another fashion. This fact was called to his attention in Christ’s question, and he was left without any way to respond. There was nothing he could say. The man, as described in the text, was “speechless.”
6. In His Right Hand . . . . (v. 16)
John saw Christ with “seven stars” in His right hand, which are identified as the “angels of the seven churches” (vv. 16, 20).
These are “angels,” not men, and would have to be identified as being angels from among the “ministering spirits” of Hebrews 1:14 — ministering on behalf of Christians during the present dispensation but somehow connected with the future judgment of those for whom they presently minister. God has always used angels to carry out affairs in His kingdom, and angels will apparently be very active in events surrounding the judgment seat of Christ (ref. the author’s book, So Great Salvation, chapter 2).
7. Out of His Mouth . . . . (v. 16)
Out of Christ’s mouth went a sharp two-edged sword. A “sword” in Scripture is symbolic of the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). God always acts in complete accordance with His revealed Word; and judgment, wherein a just recompense will be rendered to every Christian, will be carried out in perfect keeping with that which God previously revealed in His Word.
In Christ’s message to the church in Pergamos (the church that had settled down in and, as its name implies, had become “married” to the world), reference is twice made to the “sharp two-edged sword” from Revelation 1:16 (2:12, 16). The church in Pergamos was warned that unless those in the church repented, the day would come when Christ would appear to them and “fight against them” with the sword proceeding out of His mouth.
That day would be when Christians appear before the judgment seat of Christ as seen in chapter one. And the common teaching that only blessings and rewards will emanate from Christ’s judgment seat can immediately be dispelled by noting how Christ uses this same sword in His dealings with the unsaved at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 19:21).
Christ, on His judgment seat, will come against those Christians settling down in and associating themselves with the world; and Christ, at the time of His return, seated on a white horse, will come against those in the world itself.
Christ will speak, and it will be done; and that which He speaks will be in perfect keeping with that which He previously revealed in His Word.
8. His Countenance... (v. 16)
John then sums up the appearance of Christ by writing that “His countenance [His overall being] was as the sun shining in its strength.” The allusion is to the sun at noon on a cloudless day, too intense for man to gaze upon.
This is Christ in His glory, as John, along with Peter and James, had beheld him about sixty years earlier on the Mount. At that earlier time “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light" (Matthew 17:2). Now, six decades later, John sees the same glorified Christ and compares His complete being to the shining of the sun; and it is not just simply the sun shining but the sun shining in its strength.
When Christians see Christ it will be at His judgment seat, and the description given in Revelation 1:13-16 is exactly what they will see in that day. That which John saw caused him to fall at Christ’s feet “as dead” (v. 17); and his experience will also be that of numerous Christians when they look upon Christ as Judge and realize that “the terror of the Lord” is about to be manifested (2 Corinthians 5:11; cf. v. 10), and a “fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” is about to occur (Hebrews 10:27; cf. v. 30).