Once John heard the voice calling him to write what he would see to the seven churches in Asia Minor (Rev. 1:9–11), he turned to identify who was speaking to him. Today’s passage (vv. 12–16) tells us as much, but of course we already know that it is Jesus speaking (v. 1). However, at the moment he received the vision, John did not know this until he looked for the One who had summoned him.
Before describing the person who spoke to him, however, John notes that this individual was standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands (vv. 12–13). Revelation 1:20 identifies the seven golden lampstands as the seven churches addressed in this book. So, as many commentators note, we have an image of great comfort for the first readers of Revelation, many of whom were experiencing persecution. Jesus is not apart from His church, but He stands in its midst. He does not leave His people alone to make it on their own in this world, but He is with us. This is true even when He must speak hard words to us, even as He will speak such words to several of the seven churches in Revelation 2–3. Note also that the lampstand was a common symbol of Judaism in Asia Minor at the time. In having lampstands represent the churches, Jesus is probably showing that the church is the true people of God, made up of true Jews—those who trust in Christ alone no matter their ethnic origin (see Rom. 2:12–29).
John describes Jesus, whom he sees, as the “Son of Man,” who comes with the clouds in Daniel 7:13–14 and receives an eternal kingdom from the Ancient of Days—God Himself. But Jesus, the Son of Man whom John sees, looks just like the Ancient of Days in Daniel with His hair as white as wool (Rev. 1:14; see Dan. 7:9–12). John is showing us that the Son of Man, who is distinguished from the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7, is also the Ancient of Days. Jesus the Son of God is fully God and yet is distinct from His Father.
The Son of Man, Jesus Christ, in John’s vision wears a long robe and a sash (Rev. 1:13). This is the garb of the old covenant priests (Ex. 28:4), so Jesus reveals Himself to John as our High Priest. Jesus also reveals Himself in ways that recall the man or angel sent to bring messages to Daniel (Rev. 1:14–15; see Dan. 10). This highlights Jesus’ role as the final Prophet who brings to His people a message from God Most High.