…His eyes were as a flame of fire.
— Revelation 1:14
In several previous Sparkling Gems, we studied the revelation of Jesus that John wrote while imprisoned on the island of Patmos (see January 27,28; March 15; August 22,31; September 6,8,21; November 10,11). Today I want us to focus on another important part of this supernatural vision. As John tried to focus his eyes on the brilliant image before him, one can only imagine how he might have strained to see through the bright light to the Person behind it. In Revelation 1:14, the apostle described the powerful moment when he finally gazed into the eyes of the risen Lord, declaring, “…His eyes were as a flame of fire.”
The words “his eyes” are a translation of the Greek phrase ophthalmoi autou. The word ophthalmoi is the plural Greek word for eyes, and it is where we get the word ophthalmology. The word autou simply means of him. When the two words are used together as one phrase, they carry a sense of wonder, as if to mean there was something about Jesus’ eyes that was unique and different from the eyes of all others. The Greek structure should literally be translated “the eyes of him” — emphasizing the fact that Jesus’ eyes were unequaled, unsurpassed, unmatched, and unlike anyone else’s eyes.
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
John says that when he looked into those eyes, they were “as a flame of fire.” The Greek word for “flame” is phloz, which describes swirling, whirling, flickering flames that bend, twist, turn, and arch upward. The word translated “fire” is puros, the Greek word for a burning fire. Thus, the phrase “flame of fire” depicts a brightly burning fire with flames swirling, whirling, flickering, twisting, turning, and arching upward toward the sky. This, then, is not a depiction of heat but of the character of fire.
Many readers misread this phrase and conclude that Jesus had real fire in His eyes. But John didn’t say that. He said that Jesus’ eyes were “as” a flame of fire. That word “as” means like, similar to, or with the same effect as fire. To understand what John was trying to communicate here, it is necessary to stop and think about the effect that a campfire or a fire in a fireplace has upon a person who stares at it for any length of time. The longer a person looks into a fire, the more the flickering flames have a magnetic, mesmerizing effect on his eyes, mind, and senses. Soon the person gazing into the fire gets lost in the swirling, turning, twisting flames that flicker back and forth as the wood crackles and pops and the flames reach upward and disappear out of sight. The fire has its own character, both captivating and sedating, drawing people near to watch the dance of its flames as it gives out its warmth.
These seem to be the qualities of fire that John thought of when he peered into Jesus’ eyes and became transfixed by what he saw. Although he had looked into those eyes thousands of times nearly 60 years earlier, something was different about these eyes. In the vision, Jesus’ eyes were compelling, irresistible, riveting, and gripping. They exuded intelligence and magnetism.
Like the flickering flames of a fire, those eyes drew John closer and captivated him completely. John must have been drawn by the warmth and love pouring forth from Jesus’ eyes. Yet that wasn’t all John saw, for Jesus’ eyes also burned with a searching gaze, looking intently into the seven churches in the book of Revelation to see and address their specific needs and problems.
“Fire” is an important symbol in Scripture and frequently represents purification and judgment. Which effect of divine fire we experience depends wholly on our response to God. If we as individuals, or as the Church at large, submit to the pleadings of the Holy Spirit and “hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches,” we will experience the first type of fire — a holy fire intended to purify and to make us more like Christ. The first fire is unavoidable for a Church that is submitted to the Lordship of Christ and to the dealings of the Holy Spirit; however, cooperating with this fire does not result in severe discipline.
On the other hand, if we resist the pleadings of the Holy Spirit and stubbornly continue to act in ways that are contrary to Christ’s character, there is a second type of fire that burns up chaff and consumes everything that stands opposed to God. Of course, God is merciful, and even this kind of fire is an act of His love and mercy. Consuming everything that is wrong and displeasing to Christ, this fire clears the way for genuine repentance so individuals or churches can rebuild with proper methods and behaviors that are compatible with Jesus’ nature.
Jesus’ intense, searching eyes, which seemed “as” a flame of fire, captivated John’s attention and signaled to the apostle that the Head of the Church had examined the seven churches in Asia and was preparing to deliver a potent message. Some of these churches were about to be encouraged by the words of Christ — such as the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia, which received no correction at all. The other five churches — Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea — were about to be warned of impending judgment if they didn’t repent. As King and Head of the Church, Christ had every right to search the churches and require them to change.
This may explain why Jesus appeared to the apostle John first as King (see Revelation 1:5) and second as the Great High Priest (see Revelation 1:13). Five of the seven churches were on the verge of judgment, and Jesus, their Great High Priest, was interceding for them. The very fact that He came to warn them meant He did not want to judge them. If they were willing to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and repent, they could avoid the fires that bring judgment. What happened next would depend on whether or not the churches chose to hear the Savior’s pleading and submit to His commands. The type of fire these churches experienced would depend on their response — but the fire of God was coming.
How we respond to the dealings of God determines which kind of fire we will experience. Will it be a fire that purifies and takes us to a higher level in the Lord, or will it be a fire that burns up the chaff in our lives that we haven’t been willing to surrender on our own? The choice is ours, but the fact is, that divine fire will come, whether we like it or not.
So today I urge you to willfully examine your heart. If you find that you have chaff that is destined to be burned, get rid of it yourself so that you can avoid the fire that burns up chaff — and prepare yourself to accept the holy fire that comes to purify and to take you higher in your walk with the Lord. I know that this is the deepest desire of your heart!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I thank You that Your love for me is so intense that You want to burn up the chaff in my life. Your highest will is for me to surrender these problem areas to You so I do not have to experience that chaff-burning fire. Instead I would experience the holy fire that comes to purify me and take me higher in my walk in the Spirit. So today, Holy Spirit, I ask You to help me examine my heart and willfully surrender those chaff-areas of my life that do not reflect Your character or Your purpose for my life. Open my heart to Your holy, purifying fire, oh God, that I may be cleansed to ascend into the high places of Your glory!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I purpose in my heart to respond humbly to the dealing of God so that His fire that kindles upon me will ignite me into a burning flame for His glory. Daily I choose to walk before the Lord in a way that His holy fire will purify and take me to a higher level in Him. I know that the fire of God will burn up the chaff of self-willed works and ways that I wasn’t willing to surrender on my own. The choice is mine, and I choose to yield to the refining fire because I know that, whether I like it or not, divine fire will come. And when its fires try the metal of my life, I want all that remains of me through the flames to be found before Him as pure gold.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever had a time when the fire of God came to burn “chaff” out of your life? Can you describe what that experience was like? When did that happen? Is it something that you are going through right now?
- The holy purifying fire of God comes to make us ready for higher realms of God’s glory. Have you experienced that type of divine fire? Have you ever been in a church service where it felt like the holy, purifying, sanctifying fire of God fell upon the congregation?
- When you think of Jesus’ eyes being “as” a flame of fire, what does that mean to you?