As we have continued to look at Old Testament allusions in the book of Revelation, we have also been introduced to John’s use of Apocalyptic literature and how it functions. In short, this type of literature is to be primarily understood through the idea of vision and pictures, enticing a sense we don’t often exercise with today’s literature. The picture John is giving the seven churches, and us, is a heavenly perspective for the people of God. Today, we will look into Revelation 1:17-19 and the great importance of John’s use of Daniel, which is also Apocalyptic literature.
DANIEL 10:9-12 IN REVELATION 1:17-19
In Revelation 1:17-19, John is responding to the previous vision of the exalted and glorified Christ. As is proper for any man before God, he immediately falls to his face at the feet of Jesus (1:17). This obviously has allusions to many Old Testament prophets when they saw God (Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc.) but John has a specific scene in Daniel in mind. As Charles Spurgeon once wrote. “The most spiritual and sanctified minds, when they fully perceive the majesty and holiness of God, are so greatly conscious of the great disproportion between themselves and the Lord, that they are humbled and filled with holy awe, and even with dread and alarm” (Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 18:4). As we will see, God in his grace doesn’t leave his people paralyzed in fear…but fear and awe must not be absent. In Daniel 10:9-12 we see this account of Daniel being in the presence of a heavenly being:
“Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground. 10 And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you,and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.“
What is astonishing about John’s use of this passage is two-fold: First, John is equating the person in Daniel 10 to the person of Jesus in Revelation 1. Second, John is showing the seven churches a glimpse into Christ’s heart in heaven towards sinners on earth (Thomas Goodwin coined that phrase and book). We see his heart here because John rightfully falls in fear before the holy and majestic Creator of the heavens and earth. But Jesus responds by laying his hands on John and assuring him he is the eternal One who died and is alive. In short, Jesus reminds the beloved apostle of the Gospel.
WHY THIS MATTERS?
The first century believer would have heard this part of Revelation and immediately thought of a picture in Daniel 10. When Daniel similairly bows before the heavenly being in Daniel 10, the immediate action that follows is meant to comfort suffering exiles by getting a glimpse of God’s care for them. Daniel is immediately picked up (10:10), is told he is “greatly loved (10:11)” and told to, “Fear not (10:12).” The love of a holy God spurs on trust in the midst of chaotic circumstances among the exiles in Daniel, the suffering churches in Revelation, and those enduring to keep the faith today. When the world around us increasingly gets more evil, and the ability to trust in our circumstances decrease, we are reminded that we are a people greatly loved and ought not be afraid because our Savior died for us and has raised to eternal glory for us. He is on his throne and will accomplish his heavenly purposes on this earth until that great day where heaven kisses earth (Rev. 21).
The fact that the exalted Christ is for his people is a great comfort, not just because he is holy and loves us, but because he has defeated the evil one. As Satan’s time is quickly coming to an end, he still accuses and tempts God’s people with the ferocity of an unleashed lion (1 Peter 5:8). The truth of the matter is that the heavenly perspective of this struggle is that Jesus has won and is keeping his blood-bought people. In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian receives a vision from The Interpreter. He is brought before a fire where a figure (Satan) is continually casting water on the fire but it never goes out. Christian is told that “the fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart.” While Satan continues to splash water on the grace of God in us, Christian also finds out that there is another figure continually splashing oil on the fire to keep it ablaze. That figure is Christ himself and the vision is meant to teach a tempted and suffering people that “it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul.” In conclusion, our exalted Christ is doing a work in us that we often do not see. He has died and rose again to an eternal kingship that continually makes known his love for his people and will finish the work he began in them (Philippians 1:6).