But let us reverently look a little closer that we may understand yet better. There are certain characteristics of this Man of Fire that are allowed to stand sharply out here. We are meant to look at them. This is part of the purpose in the heart of Christ in letting us see Him as He is here.
The sense of purity is intenser than can be put into words. Fire is pure. There is nothing so pure. It resists impurity. It burns it up. It is most significant that this is the one thing familiar to us that always accompanies the presence of God as He appears to men. It is always in fire whether to speak His message of peace and love or to remove the impurity of evil.
Our God is a consuming fire. Yet fire only consumes what can't stand its flame. The fire reveals purity and makes pure. God is pure. The presence within the man looked out in eyes of flame, in a countenance like the sun, and feet like molten brass glowing in a furnace. There could be no stronger statement of purity than this.
Then there is an overwhelming sense of authority. That seems the human word to use, though the word seems to tell so much less than John felt. John feels it more than he can tell it. He cannot tell it in words. His limp figure lying flat on the earth tells what words never can. He had seen the glory outshining in the Transfiguration Mount, but this is unspeakably beyond that.
There was a voice like a trumpet. It commanded John to write. It says: "I became dead, and, behold! I am alive forever more." It is an authority over life to yield it up, and over death to put it to death, and call life back, never again to be touched by the finger of death. No such authority is known among men to-day. And this is further emphasized in the quiet words: "I have the keys—the control—of death and of the whole spirit world."
But immensely more than all this to John was the intense feeling of majesty which completely overpowered him. The sense of authority was overwhelming. The items in the description can thus be catalogued, but it is impossible to get the overwhelming sense of majestic authority that came to John, except as he got it,—by a sight, something of a sight of this great crowned Christ.
But who is this? Is this not merely Ezekiel's vision repeated? [Note: Eze_1:26-28.] He saw just such a vision, one in the likeness of a man, enveloped in fire, and sitting on a throne. And the effect was the same as Ezekiel lies flat on his face. Is it not the same as Daniel saw? [Note: Dan_10:5-9.] A man clothed in linen, aflame with inner fire, and the same authoritative voice, and Daniel in a deep sleep of awe-stricken stupor with face on the ground? He does indeed seem to be the same. The descriptions tally remarkably.
But listen. He speaks. And the sense of terrifying authority in the voice that spake is gentled to John's tense ear in the quiet words that come. Like the loving words that came to Daniel's quaking heart is the personal message that came to John,—"Fear not." And with the words, as ever, come the new sense of stilling peace within. "I am the First and the Last, and the Living One."
Still it may be Ezekiel's Man even yet, or Daniel's. But listen: "and I became dead." Ah! this identifies Him. Now we know for the first time that this Man of Flame is Jesus our Brother-man. The cross becomes the mark of identification. The form of the words as spoken fits in with the sense of authority. With great strength of heart in carrying out a great purpose He "became dead."
This is Ezekiel's Man and Daniel's and more, unspeakably more. The Man they saw has lived amongst us for a generation of time, and then given His life clear out for us. He has be come more in coming as Jesus. He has taken human experience and suffering up into Himself. He was Creator. He has become more—Saviour.
There is the same purity and authority speaking out here as there. But here is love speaking out as never was spoken out before. Here is love lived out; aye, here love is died out, and never living so much as when dying. Here is love putting death to death for us. Purity and authority fastened on a cross! This is love such as man had never known, and God never shown before. Calvary lets us see the love that burned in the purity and controlled in the authority.
John's Man is Ezekiel's and Daniel's, but with the love shining out through purity and authority, and outshining both. Yet that love is the purity and authority combined in action. We don't know love only as we know God. And we don't know God only as we know Jesus not living merely but pouring out His life for men. This is love—that Man, that God-man, but with the God-glory hidden within, using all His authority over His life to fasten His purity on a cross with the thorns of our sin, and then throttling death and bringing up a new sort of deathless life for us. This—He—is love.