John now had both the vision of Christ and the words of Christ to record. Here is Chapter One complete.
- Salutations from John and Jesus (Chapter 1)
- From John (1:1-10)
- From Jesus (1:11-20)
Yet there are two aspects to this first vision which still require thought:
- Jesus’s eyes as flaming fire.
- Jesus’s feet were like brilliant bronze, as in having been fired in a furnace.
His Eyes as Flaming Fire
At first glance, this would seem to be a description that matched Jesus’s head and hair white like wool and His face like the sun shining at full force. But one of the messages Jesus gave John to share repeated this description:
to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze:Revelation 3:18
And towards the end of the Revelation, this description has a reprise.
His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself.Revelation 19:12
So, it must mean something more than a glorious and awe-inspiring vision of Jesus’s glory.
Searching back through the Hebrew scriptures, God’s eyes are spoken of in terms of searching throughout the earth for righteousness and gazing upon unrighteousness in judgement.
- The eyes of God were always on the land, looking after Israel.
- God promised that the Lord’s eyes and heart would remain in the temple, consecrated by God—this is a direct reference to God’s Shekinah settled upon the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant.
- God watches over and listens to those whose hearts are turned toward the Lord.
- God searches continuously, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth to strengthen those whose heart is true to him.”
- God weighs humankind in judgment, The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold; his gaze examines humankind. The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence.
Several of the Proverbs speak of God’s piercing gaze, for nothing is hidden from the Lord.
For human ways are under the eyes of the Lord, and he examines all their paths.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.
The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge, but he overthrows the words of the faithless.Proverbs 5:21, 15:3, 22:12 (NRSV)
And the prophets reminded the people of God’s judgment.
The eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth —except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the LordAmos 9:8 (NRSV)
“These seven are the eyes of the Lord that range through the whole earth.”Zechariah 4:10 (NRSV)
The Apostle Peter summed up all of this wisdom in his first letter, writing,
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,1 Peter 3:12 (NRSV)
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
Jesus’s eyes carry the warmth and brightness of love, which become the fire of purification.
A final thought: Remembering that the Word of God is both Jesus, and the words of God, and remembering that the Apostle John often kept both those truths together in his writing, consider the eyes of Jesus as also the illumination of God’s words and God’s Spirit.
His Feet Like Brilliant Bronze
Accompanying Jesus’s piercing gaze, filled with the heat and brightness of flames, are Jesus’s feet of burnished bronze, as in having been fired in a furnace. If there was a question about what burnished bronze might signify, the fiery furnace answers it.
Again, a word search through the Hebrew scriptures makes the meaning of this word clear—it is the purity of God’s promises and the purifying quality of God’s wrath.
The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.Psalm 12:6 (NRSV)
Throughout the scriptures, God’s promises are proven true. What the Lord says God will do, God does. God brings every prophecy to fulfillment and every promise to completion
Because this is so, God is faithful to redeem all those who put their faith in God, and God is also faithful to cleanse completely every redeemed person.
You will make them like a fiery furnace when you appear. The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them.Psalm 21:9 (NRSV)
The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.Proverbs 17:3 (NRSV)
See, I have refined you but not like silver; I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.Isaiah 48:10
There is one more association with the fiery furnace, it is the cleansing quality of God’s wrath that burns away all that cannot be purified. The ancients understood the necessity of smelting, the extraction of impurities from metal ore. The action of intense heat in a controlled setting, and the introduction of certain chemical elements (such as charcoal or coal) cause the ore to decompose. Gasses and impurities are released, which later form into slag, and leave the metal behind.
Even the coarsest ore can be reduced in this way, and though a great deal of schist may need to be burned off, and a great deal of slag remain, still, after the smelting process there will remain whatever good metal was there, hidden in the original raw material.
But what happens when rock from a mine ends up being so degraded that no real metal can be ascertained?
and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the plain and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace.Genesis 19:28 (NRSV)
In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, not even ten righteous people could be found. God personally extracted four people, only three finally were saved, and the story of those three helps us understand how truly righteous God’s justice is and how truly gracious God’s mercy is.
Later, Jesus would speak of God’s judgment in terms of Gehenna, the constantly burning pit just outside Jerusalem, in the Valley of Hinnom where the city’s garbage as well as executed criminals were consumed night and day by the never-ending fire. In antiquity, the Prophet Jeremiah had delivered God’s words of condemnation on this valley, and by God’s direct command pronounced a curse upon it.
For the people of Judah have done evil in my sight, says the Lord; they have set their abominations in the house that is called by my name, defiling it. And they go on building the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire.
… Because the people have … filled this place with the blood of the innocent and gone on building the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it enter my mind, therefore the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth or the valley of the son of Hinnom but the valley of Slaughter.Jeremiah 13:30-31, 19:4-6 (NRSV)
By the first century, the Valley of Hinnom—Γέεννα | Géenna in Greek—had come to symbolize God’s judgment against the incorrigibly wicked.