The first scene in the book of Revelation has John claiming that his message comes from a visionary experience that he had while he was “in the Spirit” (Rev. 1:10) and being told to, “Write what you see in a book” (1:11). The first thing that John sees and hears is a divine figure whose appearance was difficult to describe in human language.
The repeated use of the words “as” and “like” (1:14-16) indicates that John was describing something that did not fit within the confines of ordinary speech and belongs to the divine realm. The Old Testament (Isa. 11:4; 44:6; 48:12; 49:2; Ezek. 1:24; 43:2; Dan. 7:9, 13-14; 10:5-6; Zech. 4:2) and cultural symbols provided the language through which John conveyed his vision. These images tell the reader that Jesus is really Lord. Christ is powerful, priestly, and present (this is a present and not a future reality). Christ is not an absentee landlord.
The presence of this Lord Jesus among the churches is a message that the churches are not alone, but have Christ in their midst, both as Savior and judge. This disclosure of the presence of Christ may be reassuring or unsettling depending upon the position of the reader. The depiction of Christ of chapter one provides the basis for the two functions of comforting and confronting the congregations.
Why is this picture so important to the seven letters? To comfort in the midst of harsh conditions. To confront spiritual assimilation. This is not the time for Jesus meek and mild. This is not the time for Jesus on the cross (there is more to Jesus than the cross). It is a sign of security. It is a sign of hope, the one who was killed is now living, and permits the church to participate in His victory over empire and over death. The vision is a call to discipleship. The one who speaks the word of God summons the church to obedience.
Revelation does not simply convey information but confronts readers with the presence of a living being.