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That which is first 'revealed' in the visions given to John the apostle in Patmos, is the vision of one 'like unto the Son of man', Revelation 1:12-16. Then, the characteristics of that vision are applied, in postcripts, to the individual churches.

John is first instructed to write what he has seen, Revelation 1:19, and the things which are. And, up to that point, what he has seen is the vision of one like unto the Son of man. And when he is instructed in detail what he is to write, the instructions include reference to that vision in application to the state of each particular church of the seven being addressed.

Yet, in coming to address the fourth church, Thyatira, when the features being taken out of the vision to apply to that particular assembly are :

who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; [Revelation 2:18 KJV],

the person who possesses these characteristics is referred to not as the 'Son of man' (as in the first account of the vision) but is referred to as 'the Son of God'.

What is the reason for this change of title in this particular place ?

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  • +1 - excellent question!!
    – Dottard
    Sep 17 at 23:33
  • See John 1:12-13.
    – Lucian
    Sep 18 at 7:08
  • @Lucian I do not see any relevance. Feel free to compose an answer.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 18 at 7:16
  • @NigelJ: Christianity's core message is that of helping sons of men, by physical birth, become sons of God, by spiritual rebirth; see also John 3:3-8.
    – Lucian
    Sep 18 at 7:20
  • @Lucian Still don't see the relevance. Feel free to compose a substantial and explanatory answer.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 18 at 7:22
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Perhaps it's significant that the last time John had seen his Lord, Jesus Christ, it was as he ascended bodily up into the clouds, to then disappear from sight. Now, decades later, John sees Christ in his ascended glory. He is initially described as the Son of Man, and John recognises him as such. He testifies to this Son of Man as being "the first begotten of the dead", whose love, and cleansing from his sins John has personally experienced (1:5). This assures John at the outset as to whose revelation he is receiving - God's revelation given to Jesus Christ, the Son of Man who he spent years with, when on earth.

But the revelation shows John the unimaginable glory of the risen Christ. First, he hears an immense sound as of a trumpet, but it is a great voice (vs. 10). He has to turn and look behind him, from where the sound emanated. He sees in vision seven golden candlesticks, in the midst of which is "one like unto the Son of man" (vs. 13). But this Son of man is unlike anything he saw Jesus as, when on earth. Not even the transfiguration appears to equal this risen Christ! Language used to describe God himself is applied to Christ (vss. 14-16). The sight of this glorified Christ, as Son of Man, causes John to fall at his feet as dead (vs. 17).

This means that John has been swiftly prepared to enlarge his understanding of Christ, to see him in terms of the First and the Last, who has the keys of hell and of death (vs. 18). Then comes instructions regarding the seven churches. Christ is not mentioned as being the Son of Man at any point in that entire section where the seven churches are being addressed. And note, too, that this is all what "the Spirit says unto the churches" (relayed via an angel).

Only regarding the church at Thyatira is Christ designated. Verse 18 says, "These things saith the Son of God..." and then REPEATS the description of him having eyes like flame of fire, and feet like burning brass, which was first stated in 1:14-15. Just as John needed that vision of the awesome glory of the risen Christ at the outset, so Thyatira in particular needs to be reminded. They would have received the first verses of that vision of glory as well as the letter to them. Perhaps Thyatira was prone to forgetting the glory of their Lord, and needed to be reminded that the Son of God saw right through them, so that he could expose "that woman Jezebel" as well as commend those who did not tolerate her prophecies, fornications, and idolatries. Christ referred to that as "the depths of Satan (vs. 24). The rest of the vision exposed the full monstrous horror of the depth Satan goes to to corrupt Christ's church, and the faithful ones in it. But this church had allowed satanic depths to come right inside! So we see Christ speaking as Son of God, who will judge such satanic evil inside his own Church. "For judgment begins with the household of God" (1 Peter 4:17).

Yet Thyatira is assured that the faithful ones will not be so treated as the 'Jezebel' element trying to corrupt the rest. This church needs to look around and to see above them the Son of God, who is also the Son of Man. The other churches do, too, but it seems as if Thyatira could be more corrupted than the rest (indeed, some of them are not corrupted at all, and are commended.) But the point of significance is that the Son of Man in chapter 1 is described the same as is the Son of God in chapter 2. This proves that Christ is both Son of Man and Son of God.

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I am not sure that this will answer the question but it may help a little.

In this opening message to Thyatira, John effectively combines three Ot passages into a single description of Jesus namely,

  • Daniel 7:13 - "Son of Man"
  • Ps 2:7 - "Son of God"
  • Dan 10:6ff - "eyes of blazing fire and feet like burnished bronze"

All these are clearly descriptions of Jesus in various functions and at various times all amalgamate in the right characteristics of Jesus in the message to Thyatira. Indeed, Meyer has observed the same thing:

Revelation 2:18. ὁ ὑιὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. The Lord, who in Revelation 1:13 appears like a son of man, is, as the entire description (Revelation 1:13 sqq.) shows, the Son of God, although he does not there receive that precise name. But in the present epistle he expressly designates himself as such, because, especially in Revelation 2:27, this glory of his is asserted in accordance with Psalms 2. The two other designations, derived from Revelation 1:14-15, have their significance in the fact that the Lord with his eyes of flame penetrates[1216] all, and with his feet like brass treads down every thing impure and malevolent.[1217]

Gill is more specific -

These things saith the Son of God; he who is truly, properly, naturally, and essentially the Son of God: this character Christ makes use of to assert his proper deity, as being of the same nature, and having the same perfections with his Father, as well as to command the greater regard to what he ordered to be written to the churches;

Therefore, it appears that in this context, "Son of God" was a natural development or progression from the description in Rev 1 and did not require any further apology nor explanation.

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Jesus is commonly addressed in scripture as:

  • Christ or Messiah
  • son of David (related to the above)
  • son of man
  • son of God
  • lord
  • teacher or rabbi
  • master (related to the two above)
  • etc.

Notice that three of these share a similar structure, based on the Hebraism son of; thus, after using son of man in 1:18, the text employs son of God in 2:18, and then goes on to mention that He also has the key of David in 3:7. When it comes to professional writers or public speakers, avoiding tiresome repetitions is a common tool of the trade; recall, for instance, the very first verse of the very first psalm, where the same idea is expressed thrice, with a different wording each time.

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