Really, really white. I’m a big sports nut and I find myself thinking about Andre Agassi here. Up until the 1990’s, it was traditional in professional tennis for the competitors to wear white.
Then, along came Andre Agassi: A talented, charismatic young player who wore (gasp) colorful outfits on the court when he competed. He actually turned down invitations to play at Wimbledon because there, wearing white was actually a rule.
In 1991, he finally accepted an invitation to Wimbledon. For two weeks all anyone could talk about was whether Agassi would acquiesce to wearing white, or would the defiant young American challenge the imperious regulation. When he finally arrived for the tournament, his outfit was beyond white. His clothes made the other competitor’s outfits look dingy. It was so dazzling white as to make you wonder if it was powered by batteries.
John was trying to describe what he saw in the only terms he knew. I figured, having not seen Andre Agassi at Wimbledon, wool and snow were the best he could come up with.
Daniel, likewise was confronted with describing the white hair of God. Daniel 7:9 - I watched till thrones were put in place ,And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool .His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire. While John didn’t tell us what color the garment was that the person in his vision was wearing, this verse leads me to believe it was probably white. Really, really white.
Some commentaries take the white hair as being a sign of age. “Ancient of Days”, and all that. Then, incredibly, they go into a discussion about decay and the weakness associated with age, along with the wisdom and authority that comes with experience.
Where do these people come from?
White is the color of purity. Of absolute innocence. Isaiah 1:18 - "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.”
God is not old. God is timeless. He exists in Eternity, which is outside the realms of time. God created time, therefore He cannot age, He cannot learn, He has never changed at all. Ever.
I am fascinated at the thought that white, while representing purity, is actually every color in the spectrum blended together. There is a tremendous philosophical point there somewhere.
and His eyes like a flame of fire;
If the whiteness of His hair makes me think of Andre Agassi, this phrase makes me think of my wife. Be honest, if you are married, you’ve seen eyes like a flame of fire.
Again, I am looking at this as John describing what he actually saw. But eyes like a flame of fire makes me wonder if John is talking about actual flames swirling around in this figure’s eye sockets, or if we are talking about an intensity in His gaze that can only be described in terms of a burning.
When Jesus shows up in the second half of chapter 19, He is clothed a little different, but His eyes are the same: Revelation 19:12 - His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
In His appearance in chapter 19, He is clearly out for vengeance. So are those eyes showing righteous anger, like my wife when I (never mind...I don’t want to talk about that), or is it really like looking into a furnace?
Once again, I am directed to the Book of Daniel for help: Daniel 10:6 - His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude. The problem here is that while the descriptions match up pretty well, the story in Daniel makes it clear that he was talking about an angel that was sent to him (and had trouble getting to him); while the person John is describing (Spoiler alert!) is clearly identified as God in verses 17 and 18. But if you take the description of both sets of eyes, it does seem we are talking about eyes that didn’t look natural, but actually looked like fire burning within the eye sockets.
Then we have 1Corinthians 3:13 - Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
Is it this fire, described here in the eyes of God, that will reveal and test the work of every man? Hebrews 4:13 - Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. In the New King James version, it says “to whom we must give account.”
One translation that I read (EasyEnglish from the MySword app - you can get it here), had a particularly chilling rendering of this verse: “...And we will have to explain to Him everything that we have done during our lives.”
I have no doubt about the truth of this statement, but it is something I try not to think about. Then, during a Bible study, when I am confronted with statements like this, I just freeze. I am not looking forward to this interview at all, and it seems the longer I live, the more uncomfortable I get. This is going to be a long, miserable conversation. There will be lots of stuttering involved, I’m sure.
Here’s a prayer for you:
O Lord, help me to learn to do something that I can show You that I did for You. Something pure that didn’t have my own selfish motives behind it.
Don’t laugh. I cried as I wrote this prayer.