The Apocalypse ~ Symbols of the Vision ~ His countenance was as the Sun
“…. and his countenance was as the sun shineth in its strength ….”
With this phrase the prophet delineates the seventh and final attribute of the Son of Man, a description of his visage or appearance that should be taken as a summary of the vision itself. Notice the escalation in the symbols of illumination – from the lamps to the stars to the fiery sun of the summer solstice. The selection of the sun as the final, culminating image in the vision indicates both the importance and the richness of the symbol.
In the theogonies of the world the sun represents the all surpassing moment when the heroic principle shines at its brightest. As a direct result of this illumination knowledge is born, hence the identification of the eye with the sun in the ancient, old-world symbology of India, Persia, Egypt and Greece. Many primitive tribes all over the world hold that the eyes of heaven are the sun and the moon, which are located on either side of’ the world axis.
In the mythology of’ the nations there exists a veritable plethora of what are known as “sun heroes”. From the Egyptian Osiris to the Teutonic Balder we find these symbolic figures portrayed as personifications of the sun. The sacred mounds, pyramids and ziggurats of Asia, Egypt, Babylonia, Briton, and America testify to the universality of the sun cult. A careful analysis of the religious systems of paganism will persuade the discerning student that its priests served the solar energy and that their Deity was the Divine Light personified.
Because of the confusion which surrounds these “Suffering Saviors” of antiquity, many theologians, philosophers and historians have associated them with Jesus Christ, and several of the symbols that are closely identified with these figures have, in fact, been assimilated into the fabric of Christianity. Let me illustrate. Although no portrait, either verbal or artistic, was ever made of Jesus, he exists in the minds of millions as the beautiful, blue-eyed Son of God, with golden hair hanging to his shoulders, robed in a spotless white garment, and carrying in his arms a lamb. In reality this picture is a composite of the sun heroes – Apollo, Osiris, Orpheus, Mithras and Bacchus. The association of the birth of Christ with the 25th day of December is another example of this pagan infiltration. They considered the day to be the birthday of the glorious son of light, who, by his return to the northern hemisphere, had triumphed over the evil darkness of’ winter. More significantly, it is the season when the Celestial Virgin, the constellation Virgo, rose over the horizon, and the sun proceeded, or was “born,” from her side. The following inscription to Isis appeared upon the Egyptian temple of Sais: “The fruit which I have brought forth is the Sun”.
Many theologians think that the symbol we have before us is nothing more than another solar personification, and, in a narrow sense, they are correct. Like the sun, Jesus is also the source of life and of the ultimate wholeness of man. But this is in no sense the primary meaning of the text before us. The Son of Man of John’s vision, as all of his various symbolic attributes clearly indicate, is a figure of judgment. The nature of this judgment, and its association with sun symbolism, was foreseen long ago by the Jewish prophet Malachi.
“For behold, the day comes that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud and arrogant, yes, and all that do wickedly and are lawless shall he stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you who revere My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings and His beams, and you shall go forth and gambol like calves released from the stall and leap for joy…” [Malachi 4. The Amplified Bible].