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Was Jesus Black? Looking At Revelation 1:14-15

 

By Steven Bancarz| It is sometimes suggested that the book of Revelation describes a black-skinned Jesus.  This argument is usually put forth by the Black Hebrew Israelites as an apologetic for black people being the real Jews and the white man being evil, and the verses used to support this idea are in Revelation 1:14-15 where it says:

“The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire,his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.”

Before we look at this verse in detail, it’s important to note that as a first-century middle eastern man, Jesus would have most likely had an olive-colored tan.  Black skin was simply not the complexion of middle eastern men in the first century, anthropologically speaking.

But anthropology aside, let’s take a look at this verse and see if the Black Hebrew Israelite movement is justified in claiming that the Messiah is actually a black man from this passage in Revelation.  It’s not that there would be anything wrong with Jesus being black (though history/anthropology don’t support this), but when cults begin to use the Bible to push their heretical, racist, divisive beliefs, it’s good to get into the habit of cross-checking these claims against the word of God.  We shouldn’t need Jesus to be either black or white, but we should need the word of God to be represented accurately, which the Black Hebrew Israelites fail to do with their racial supremacy.

Hair like wool?

The verse says his hair was white like wool, not that it was textured like wool, or that it appeared as wool.  If I said that someone’s hair was red like an apple, does that mean we should envision them with a bunch of apples on their head?  Or if someone’s hair is brown like chocolate, that we should imagine their head has a bunch of chocolate on it?

Jesus is not said to have hair like wool, but to have hair the color of wool.  It actually says in verse 14 that it was white like snow as well, and obviously, Jesus doesn’t have hair that was shaped or textured like snowflakes.  White like wool, not textured like wool or in the likeness of wool.

Why was it white like wool? This may be because Jesus was in a glorified/heavenly state, and just as we see from verse 16 that his face was shining like the sun, the hair of Jesus was also radiating and illuminating the glory and holiness of God Himself.  The fullness of the glory of Christ was seen by some of the disciples in Matthew 17during the transfiguration on the mount, where it says:

AND HE WAS TRANSFIGURED BEFORE THEM, AND HIS FACE SHONE LIKE THE SUN, AND HIS CLOTHES BECAME WHITE AS LIGHT. –MATTHEW 17:2

The clothes he was wearing became white as a result of the glorification, implying that they weren’t originally white.  “Became” implies a process of change.  They used to be a color other than white, and then they became white from the glory.  It is most probable that the hair of Jesus was white in the same context that his clothes were white, being totally and completely lit up from the glory of God emanating from him.

Feet like burnished bronze?

His feet were like “burnished bronze” as it says in the ESV, or “refined brass” as it says in the KJV.  If we are going to look at the English translation only and assume this is a reference to skin color, we could at most say this is a dark tan and may have been closer to a gold/light-brown if we are going to go with the KJV says (which Black Hebrew Israelites will often use as their primary translation). 

Polished brass and fine brass are not black or dark brown.  It is golden/tanned.  However, burnished bronze is closer to a dark brown.  Doesn’t this mean Jesus had the skin color of a black man? Not necessarily, for two primary reasons. 

1. The Greek word used for “bronze” and “brass” is ambiguous. 

Difficulties arise when we look at the original word that is used here.  The word used here in Greek is χαλκολίβανον or “chalkolibanon” which can mean bronze, refined brass, golden ore, or even white/shining copper:

However, we cannot be certain of which alloy his feet are said to be like as this word in Greek is used not anywhere else in Scripture prior to this verse, or anywhere else in ancient Greek literature:

“The feet are likened to chalkolibanon. This word is not found anywhere before this book, and neither here nor in its other occurrence (2:18) does the context make clear what it means. Bronze glowing in a furnace may be right but we have no way of knowing. The chalko-points to an alloy of copper (chalkos = copper), but the evidence does not permit us to say with any certainty which alloy. The reference to the furnace strengthens the conviction that something metallic is in mind.” – Morris, L. (1987). Revelation: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 20, p. 58). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Fine brass. This may stand as a translation of χαλκολίβανος, a word which occurs here and in ch. 2:18 only, and the second half of which has never been satisfactorily explained. It may have been a local technical term in use among the metalworkers of Ephesus” – Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Revelation (p. 7). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

“The difficult compound word χαλκολιβάνῳ, “bronze,” is found just twice in Revelation (here and 2:18) and nowhere else in ancient Greek literature.” – Aune, D. E. (1998). Revelation 1–5 (Vol. 52A, p. 96). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

2. Feet-like burnished bronze may be a symbolic simile for attributes of Christ, not a reference to skin color.

Furthermore, the reference to the bronze-colored feet may be a simile for divinity and divine judgment:

“Among the lampstands, John saw Someone “like a Son of Man,” an expression used in Daniel 7:13 to refer to Christ. The description was that of a priest dressed in a long robe … with a golden sash around his chest. The whiteness of His hair corresponded to that of the Ancient of Days (cf. Dan. 7:9), a reference to God the Father. God the Son has the same purity and eternity as God the Father, as signified by the whiteness of His head and hair. The eyes like blazing fire described His piercing judgment of sin (cf. Rev. 2:18). This concept is further enhanced by His feet which were like bronze glowing in a furnace (cf. 2:18). The bronze altar in the temple was related to sacrifice for sin and divine judgment on it.” – Walvoord, J. F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 930–931). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

“Christ’s feet are described as “like bronze as having been fired in a furnace,” which suggests his moral purity and will become the basis for his demand that those among whom he walks must reflect this purity in the midst of moral turpitude (cf. 3:18, were “fired” is used in this manner).” Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 209–210). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

Figures in the early church understood his bronze feet could mean a variety of things including a metaphor for the apostles themselves, for the two natures of Christ, for the human nature of Christ, and for the church itself.

It says in verse 14 that his eyes were as a flame of fire the end of verse 15 that his voice is like a roar of many waters.  Does this mean Jesus had orange eyes?  Did Jesus’ voice actually sound like water, or is this a simile for power and authority of speech?  In 16 it says that he was holding stars and that a sword was coming out of his mouth.  Was Jesus actually holding literal stars and was a literal sword coming out of his mouth, or is this metaphorical imagery for the attributes and functions of Jesus?

A very strong argument can be made that the literary genre this book is written in (Apocalypse) permits us to adopt the view that this is metaphorical, poetic imagery attempting to portray some aspect of the person of Jesus, just as the surrounding verses in 14 and 16 do.

Conclusion

Jesus did not have hair like wool.  His hair was white like wool and like snow, but the hair itself is not said to be like wool.  Just like saying someone has hair that is orange like carrots does not mean that their hair looks like a bunch of carrots. 

But what about his feet?  To call Jesus black based on this text is not only going above and beyond the certainty of the original Greek word used here (chalkolibanon) which can also refer to brass, gold, copper, and any kind of alloy, it is to ignore the metaphorical imagery that contextualizes and surrounds these specific verses.  It is far too ambiguous and can just as equally mean fine brass (which is golden).

Furthermore, it says in verse 16 that Jesus’s face was like the sun shining in full strength, which means his face isn’t described as being bronze like his feet are.  We all know this is a reference to Jesus being the light of the world and being lit up in glory, which is the whole point.  We know Jesus here doesn’t actually have yellow-white skin on his face but simply a face that shines in glory like the sun.  Likewise, we need not assume Jesus had bronze-colored feet (with a yellow-white face) but feet that were sanctified, purified, purified with fire, and divine.

 

(https://reasonsforjesus.com/was-jesus-black-looking-at-revelation-114-15/)

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How Concerned Should We Be About Supply-Chain Shortages?

From computer chips to basic commodities, it seems the economy is facing shortages in nearly everything. Why has this happened, and will it get worse?

The Port of Savannah in Georgia has a backlog of almost 80,000 shipping containers due to a shortage of truck drivers (AP Photo/Paul Hennessy). 

It seems like it happened overnight. In seemingly an instant, so many of the items we just assume will always be there . . . are not there! What happened? Why are the shelves in many stores half empty today? And how concerned should we be about these shortages? Is it a short-term problem, or will it get worse?

Does the Bible have anything to say about shortages?

What caused the present supply shortages?

Most economists agree that the COVID-19 pandemic fueled the condition we find ourselves in today. As workers began to stay home, manufacturing and transportation decreased.

With intentions of making things better, billions of dollars in stimulus payments were given to American families to help them meet their financial obligations while they were not working. But instead of using that money to pay their bills, many spent it on goods and home improvements. So the stimulus payments actually ended up contributing to the supply-chain situation.

At first, there was still a supply of these goods in warehouses, so there didn’t seem to be a problem. But as the demand continued to increase, supplies began to dwindle, and transportation hubs began to get clogged up. And it didn’t take long for demand to exceed supply.

That is where we find ourselves today.

Supply shortages worldwide

Shortages are not just a problem in America. They have become a global problem.

China, which produces nearly a third of the world’s goods, is facing severe coal shortages. Since coal produces more than half of its electricity, China’s factories cannot keep up with the demand.

Coal also supplies much of India’s energy, so its economy is adversely affected because of coal shortages too.

There are not enough workers to produce the goods or provide the services needed, and not enough workers to deliver the goods that are produced. Brazil, the largest producer, and exporter of coffee has been hit hard by the worst drought it has experienced in 91 years. The lack of water has taken its toll not only on coffee production but also on other industries since most of Brazil’s electricity comes from hydroelectric power.

Germany is the largest economy in the European Union and relies heavily on its exports. But much of Germany’s raw materials for manufacturing come from other countries. There is now a shortage of those materials, which is dramatically affecting the nation’s manufacturing.

And one of Germany’s hardest-hit exports has been its most valuable industry—automobile manufacturing. Germany is home to Volkswagen, the largest automobile company in the world. With the shortage of computer chips, its automobile production has dropped dramatically.

Computer chips, games, and phones

Seemingly overnight, computer chips used in automobiles became in short supply. And this shortage is affecting not only German car manufacturers but also those in America, India, Japan, Sweden and South Korea.

The COVID-19 pandemic also contributed to this computer chip shortage. Early in the pandemic, automobile sales began to slow down, and manufacturers canceled many of their orders for computer chips.

So the Asian companies that make the computer chips found two other markets to take the place of those canceled orders: cell phones and video game consoles. Instead of manufacturing computer chips for automobiles, they began producing more chips for games and phones since the markets for those products increased substantially during the pandemic as people spent more time at home.

When automobile manufacturers found ways to sell cars and trucks online, they wanted to increase production. But they soon found that the companies that produced these chips could not meet their orders soon enough because their production lines were tied up producing chips for phones and gaming systems. With demand increasing in all three industries, there is now a computer chip shortage for automobiles, video game consoles, and phones!

The broken link in the supply chain

And manufacturers are running into supply-chain problems. In other words, the goods are arriving at the ports, but they cannot leave the ports quickly enough.

As of this writing, there are more than 100 cargo ships waiting outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, to be unloaded. Some estimate a half-million containers are waiting to be unloaded and then delivered to warehouses, stores and factories.

But there is a shortage of workers to unload these containers, as well as a shortage of truck drivers to deliver the goods. The American Trucking Association estimated that the U.S. had a shortage of 60,000 truck drivers before the pandemic. That number has only increased.

As workers began to stay home, the American government began providing financial assistance through stimulus checks and unemployment checks. Some discovered that they were making more money by staying home than working. So, when businesses began to open back up, some workers did not immediately return to work.

Another factor is that younger people are not going into the trucking profession in large numbers, so when older and middle-aged drivers retire, there is a lack of people to replace them. The average age of truckers is 55, and there is a real concern that if more Millennials don’t start pursuing a career in this field, which is a crucial industry for the economy, there will be even worse shortages in the future.

This lack of skilled and unskilled labor has become a broken link in the supply chain. There are not enough workers to produce the goods or provide the services needed, and not enough workers to deliver the goods that are produced.

Will this shortage ever end?

Most economists agree that this shortage will worsen during the holiday season as demand increases even more. Yet many analysts believe that these shortages are only temporary, and workers will eventually return to the labor force. Time will tell.

But will having adequate goods be a problem for the United States and Great Britain in the future?

Notice what the Bible says will happen to the modern descendants of ancient Israel, which include the United States and Great Britain: “Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: ‘Because you [Israel] despise this word, and trust in oppression and perversity, and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach ready to fall, a bulge in a high wall, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant” (Isaiah 30:12-13).

As we have emphasized over the years, a careful study of prophecy and history shows that the United States, Great Britain and the nations of the Commonwealth represent an important portion of the descendants of ancient Israel today. To learn more about their prophetic identity, read “Who Are the United States and Britain in Prophecy?

These two nations continue to move further and further from God and His standards. Instead of just tolerating immorality, these nations are now actively celebrating it.

The blessings these people have enjoyed came from God. But the continuance of these blessings is conditional. When people totally reject God’s ways and celebrate evil, their blessings will be taken away. And, like a collapsing wall, it can happen suddenly!

The shortages we see today are only a foretaste of a far worse calamity that is coming.

In Leviticus 26 God told ancient Israel not only about the blessings they would receive if they obeyed Him, but also about the curses they would receive if they rejected Him. Notice one of the things that will happen if we choose not to follow God: “When I have cut off your supply of bread” (verse 26).

Food shortages are one of the prophesied punishments for sin. For most of history, with a few exceptions during wartime, these nations have had plentiful supplies of food available. But that is going to change. And the lack of food won’t be the only serious problem the modern descendants of Israel will face.

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In Ezekiel 5:11-12, God says that because of the continuing immorality of these nations, famine and pestilence will eventually take the lives of a third of their populations.

The shelves are not completely empty of food now, but in the future, they will be. That should get our attention!

Other prophecies indicate the modern descendants of Israel will be taken into captivity by a coming European power called the beast (Jeremiah 30:3, 8-11). In prophecy, this future time is referred to as the time of Jacob’s Trouble and the Great Tribulation (Jeremiah 30:6-7; Matthew 24:21).

In the end time, this beast power will be the world’s superpower (having replaced the United States) and will control the flow of commerce (Revelation 13:17). There will be abundance for some, but shortages for others under this coming power from Europe.

To learn more about these topics, read the “Mark of the Beast” and “What Is the Great Tribulation?

What is the solution to the shortages?

The modern nations descended from Israel will have their blessings of abundance taken away because they have chosen to reject God and His ways, and instead yield to Satan’s influence.

It will take the return of Jesus Christ to save these nations and the rest of the world from the difficult days that lie ahead. Things will get so bad that, unless He intervenes, humanity will destroy itself (Matthew 24:21-22).

But for you and me personally, we need to stay close to God now. While it can be wise to keep a supply of food on hand for a short-term disaster, our safety net is not hoarding food and other basic commodities. No, our safety should be based on turning to and staying close to God. He promises to take care of our needs if we look to Him and strive to obey His commandments (Matthew 6:30-34). While those around us drift further and further from God and His ways, you can draw closer and closer to Him (James 4:8).

Today the most alarming shortage is not of food and computer chips—but of faithfulness and obedience to God.

That’s a shortage you can do something about!