Before Jesus Christ returned to his Father the very last thing he told his disciples was: ‘surely I am with you always’ [Matthew 28:20]. The reality of that promise, that truth, is now the very first ‘revelation of Jesus Christ’ that is given to John to pass on to the churches.

We read in Revelation 1:12,13 that John saw someone ‘like a son of man’ among ‘seven golden lampstands’ [Revelation 1:12,13]. Verse 20 explains that the ‘lampstands’ are ‘the seven churches’, which are representative of all churches of all ages. In Revelation 2:1 Jesus describes himself as walking among the lampstands.

To the suffering and pressured churches specifically addressed in Revelation, and to all churches then and in all subsequent generations, the very first vision that God gives us in Revelation, the very first truth he wants us to know and to take with us as the perspective from which to understand everything else he reveals in the visions that follow, is that Jesus Christ is with us, Jesus Christ is walking among us.

But the Jesus John sees in this vision [Revelation 1:12-16] does not look like the Jesus he saw in the flesh. The Jesus he sees here, the Jesus who walks in the midst of his church, is a Jesus radiant with his rightful glory, a Jesus whose power and authority no one could fail to recognize. Even John, who knew with great certainty that Jesus is God, and who had seen his divine glory for a few minutes on the Mount of Transfiguration [Matthew 17:1-8], is utterly overwhelmed by what he saw and heard in this first vision of Jesus in Revelation [see verse 17].

This Jesus is a being of dignity and authority – depicted by his long robe and his golden sash [verse 13].

This Jesus radiates the same brilliant overpowering glory described by Ezekiel and Daniel in their visions of God [Ezekiel 1:25-28; Daniel 7:9; Revelation 1:14-16]. Neither sin nor darkness can survive in his presence except by his grace and by his permission.

This Jesus has a voice that is clear, penetrating and demanding [‘like a trumpet’ – verse 10], and utterly overwhelming and consuming [‘like the sound of rushing waters’ – verse 15].

This Jesus sees everything and knows everything [his eyes are ‘like blazing fire’ – verse 13]; nothing escapes his notice, nothing is or can be hidden from him.

This Jesus speaks with both creative and destructive power and authority; his word gives life to those who receive it and brings judgment to those who reject it [the sharp two-edged sword in his mouth – verse 16]. As it was at the beginning, so it will be at the end: he speaks, and it is done.

This glorious, authoritative, divine figure is the Jesus who walks in the midst of his church. All of this was true of the incarnate Christ, but it was veiled by his humanity. Now in this vision the veil is ripped away and his power and glory are exposed.

But he is not altogether an unfamiliar figure – he is ‘like a son of man’. By this description we are immediately taken back to the incarnation, to Jesus’ preferred title – ‘the Son of Man’, and we are reminded of what he said of himself under this title – that the ‘Son of Man’ came to serve, that the ‘Son of Man’ must suffer, must give his life as a ransom for many, must die and be raised to life. The glorious and powerful Jesus revealed in this vision is also the one who became one of us sharing our human flesh and blood, the one who loves us and gave himself up for us, bearing in his own body the complete penalty for our sins, to bring us back to God.

Here in this first vision, as the foundation of all other visions, as the perspective from which the Church must view all that happens in the interim between Jesus’ first and second comings, we see Jesus the Son of Man: the one who died in our place, the Lord of power and glory. And he is still ‘Immanuel’ – God with us. Here in our midst. Here in his Church.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015