Jesus appears with fiery eyes, more specifically with eyes that are “flame(s) of fire” (Gr. hos phlox/phloga puros, 1:15; 2:18). 

The phrase has Old Testament roots. Moses sees the angel of the Lord en phlogi puros on Sinai (Exodus 3:2; LXX), and in the plague of hail fire is seen flashing (phlogizon) within the hail (Exodus 9:24). Yahweh’s voice splits fire into flame, phloga puros (Psalm 28:7 [29:7]), and Love flashes with puros phloges (Song of Songs 8:6).When Yahweh shows up in His chariots, His rebuke is like flashes of fire (en phlogi puros, Isaiah 66:15).

A number of these translate the Hebrew lebanah ‘esh (Exodus 2:3; Psalm 29:7; the two words are linked without being part of a phrase in Psalm 105:32; 106:18; Isaiah 10:17), where lebanah highlights both the shape and the glitter of a flame, which is like the sparkle and shape of a sword point (cf. lebanah in 1 Samuel 17:7, referring to the head of Goliath’s spear).

The notion seems to be that when fire “flames,” it becomes a weapon that can be pointed at a specific target. Yahweh appears with flames of fire in the burning bush because He is going on the warpath against Pharaoh and Egypt. His love flashes with fire because it burns jealously, to protect His beloved.

And now Jesus shows up with eyes that are flames, two spear-points of fire that peer into the kidneys and hearts of His people. With His fiery eyes, Jesus sees and judges, sees and acts, all at a stroke, for His gaze strikes home like a spear point. With His eyes of flame, Jesus is the just king, who “disperses all evil with his eyes” (Proverbs 20:8).

More on: Revelation, Eyes, Fire

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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