EYES OF FIRE (Ch. 1:14b)

June 29, 2009 on 8:19 pm | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on EYES OF FIRE (Ch. 1:14b)

“Bizarre” is the word one might think of when first reading the description of Jesus in Revelation 1:13-16—brass feet, fire eyes, a sword coming out of the mouth, etc. It doesn’t seem “normal”—and it isn’t. But we remember that Revelation is largely a symbolic book, and many of its pictures are just that—symbolic. But what are we to make of it all? For example, note this next observation about “eyes like fire.” What is this supposed to reveal to us about Jesus?
We sometimes speak of someone whose eyes “look right through you.” Perhaps that is true here, but what does the Bible say about it, acting as its own interpreter? I believe the Bible presents two different interpretations of this symbol, both true. Just like the others in this sequence, we can see both justice and mercy blended mysteriously in this One Being—Christ. But that’s getting ahead of the story.
First, the justice aspect. In Revelation 19:2 we see the same descriptive terminology—“eyes of fire.” This time it is in the context of Jesus coming to execute judgment against those who have opposed Him (see verses 11-21). Supporting this idea is Job 34:21: “For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps.” Hebrews 4:13 adds: “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” The clear implication is that His eyes symbolize His omniscience—His all-knowing ability—and that nothing can be hidden from Him and we are accountable for our actions and thoughts. No one can cover up their sins and hope to get by with them, and sneak into heaven.
But is there a mercy side to this symbol as well? Note that in Daniel 7:22 where the judgment scene is also portrayed, it says that “judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.” So judgment is two-sided—while it is against one party in a dispute, it is in favor of the other party. In line with that thought, Revelation 5:6 speaks of seven eyes sent out to all the earth. In 2 Chronicles 16:9 adds that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” So if the eyes of the Lord have you in their focus, whether that is scary or encouraging depends on you. If you are a faithful follower of Him, then His eyes need not frighten you, but rather give you joy. After all, Jesus is looking to see how many people He can save, not how many He can keep out. God makes an appeal to us in Ezekiel 33:11: “’As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die…?’”
Perhaps an incident in the life of Jesus while He was on earth can help to illustrate this blending of justice and mercy in His own attitudes. Jesus was in the temple one morning as many people came to hear Him teach. Suddenly a disturbance interrupted Him as the scribes and Pharisees burst into the crowd, dragging a disheveled woman with them. They pushed their way forward and dropped the woman on the pavement in front of Jesus. They were clearly agitated, yet a bit pompous at the same time. They fairly spit out the words—“Teacher, we caught this woman in adultery—in the very act itself! Red-handed! Now, Moses stated that such an act should be punished by stoning. But what do You say?
Did Jesus look at them with those “eyes of fire?” He could certainly discern their thoughts and it was instantly obvious to Him that this whole scene was just a setup to put Him into a corner with no wiggle room. If He agreed with them, they would accuse Him to the Romans as usurping their authority of judgment. If He disagreed, they would get on His case in front of the people as not believing the inspired counsel of Moses and the Scriptures. How would He handle this case, especially when He knew they were a bunch of hypocrites? Incredibly, Jesus loved them all, and would give each a chance to acknowledge their need of Him.
John 8:6 says He seemed to ignore them—He said nothing, but stooped down and began to write in the dust with His finger. The scribes and Pharisees kept pressing Him for an answer—“What do You say? Should she be stoned or not? What do You say?” Jesus then stood up and said, “He who is without sin among you—let him be the one to throw the first stone.” Then He stooped down and continued His writing. By now He had their attention and curiosity got the better of them. The senior member of the party changed position so as to lean over Jesus’ shoulder and read what He was writing. Suddenly he jerked back, his eyes darting nervously about, and turning on his heel, he hurried away from the scene, still trying to preserve his dignity. The next senior member, now doubly curious, also checked out the mysterious writing, with a similar reaction. And so it went, until all were gone except the woman. What was going on?
I believe Jesus was writing their own sins in the dust. And they didn’t want the embarrassment of public exposure. Yet Jesus was gracious even to them—He could have publicly announced their specific sins with time, place, and names. Yet rather than take advantage of the opportunity to acknowledge their own sinfulness, their own need of Him, they all left.
As I write this, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina has been much in the news about his infidelity. An online news article pointed out that he was only one of a number of politicians who had criticized President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinski, only to later have their own affairs exposed. Human nature hasn’t changed much has it?
The scribes and Pharisees thought to bring the woman to face the execution of judgment, only to have the tables turned and find themselves judged by the One who knows all things. But there is the mercy side, also. When Jesus stood up again, His writing completed, He asked the woman where her accusers were. “Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she replied. “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.” What a merciful Savior! He did not condone her sin, even though she was probably just used by the religious leaders to get at Jesus. But He would die later on a cross to pay for her sins—and for the religious leaders’ sins as well—so He could extend mercy and forgiveness to her (and them if they would accept). Though it can’t be proved, many think this was the same woman known as Mary Magdalene. If so, she became a devoted follower of Jesus.
Justice and mercy—it’s hard to keep them in balance, but Jesus did it perfectly. The character of God has been much maligned, to say He is either only just—there is no mercy available—or that He is so merciful there will never be justice/punishment. Yet even in the Old Testament in Exodus 34:6, 7 God describes Himself this way: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgressions and sin, by no means clearing the guilty…” So He is merciful, yet not letting off the hook those who reject His offers. Revelation 22:11 tells of a day when mercy will cease to operate in this world and the destinies of everyone is fixed for eternity: “He who is unjust, le him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy let him be holy still.” That statement is also true for anyone who has died—their opportunity for salvation no longer exists . But in Revelation’s timetable, the probation for the world in general has not yet closed, even though it may not be far off. But fortunately for us, the doors of mercy are still open to us, as Hebrews 4:16 puts it so well: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

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