He Looked Like Jasper and Sardius (Rev.4:3): Firstness and Lastness of Christ


And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance (Rev 4:3 NKJ)

Precious stones are mentioned many times in the Bible. But, with respect to the presence of God, an exclusive instance are the instructions to embed precious stones in the breastplate of the High Priest (Ex. 28:17-20). In the instruction in Exodus, there were to be four lines of embedded gems, each line having three gems; thus, the total twelve gems would each represent a tribe of Israel.

Comparing the appearance of God, who is a Spirit, with these stones does certainly convey some message. William Barclay noted:
The jasper is nowadays a dull opaque stone, but in the ancient world it seems to have been a translucent rock crystal, through which the light would come with an almost unbearable scintillation. Some think that here it means a diamond, and this is not impossible. The sardian, so called because it was said to be found mainly near Sardis, was blood-red; it was a gem which was frequently used to have engravings incised on it and may correspond to the modern carnelian. The emerald is most likely the green emerald which we know.

The picture of the presence of God which John saw was like the blinding flash of a diamond in the sun, with the dazzling blood-red of the sardian; and there flashed through both the more restful green of the emerald, for in that way alone could the eye bear to look upon the sight.

It may well be that the jasper stands for the unbearable brightness of the purity of God; that the blood-red sardian stands for his avenging wrath; and that the gentle green of the emerald stands for his mercy by which alone we can meet his purity and his justice.
Interestingly, jasper and sardius appear to be the last and the first stone on the breastplate of the High Priest. John Gill notes:
And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper,.... For the brightness, glory, and majesty of his countenance, and for his being light itself, clothed with it, and dwelling in it; see Re 21:11; and for the various perfections of his nature, as eternity, infinity, immutability, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, wisdom, power, goodness, truth, love, grace, and mercy; for the jasper, at least one sort of them, is of various colours, and spotted with divers spots; that which is most valued is the green, spotted with red or purple {h}: hence this stone, which is the twelfth in the high priest's breastplate, and on which the name of "Benjamin" was written, is called, by the Chaldee paraphrase of Onkelos on Ex 28:20, "Pantere", and of ben Uzziel, on the same place, "Apanturin", and on So 5:14, "Apantor", because some are variegated and spotted like panthers.

And a sardine stone; the same with the "Sardius": and so read here the Alexandrian copy, the Syriac and Arabic versions, as in Re 21:20, and in Ex 28:17 on which Reuben's name was written; this is of a red, or blood colour as its name אדם, in Hebrew, shows, and the same that is called a cornelian; and is expressive of the fiery indignation of God whose fury is poured out like fire, and who nakedly and absolutely considered, is a consuming fire to the wicked, his enemies, and the enemies of his church and people. Some jaspers being white and sky coloured and the white colour being most agreeable to deity, as Cicero says, and the sardine being red, and a gem of the ruby kind make up the description of the church's beloved; So 5:10; and may denote in general his purity, glory, and excellency, and in particular good will to his people, and wrath to his enemies. And to the comfort of the former it is added,

and [there was] a rainbow round about the throne;
which signifies the covenant of grace; see Ge 9:12.
The mention of specifically these two gems, jasper and sardius, if seen in apposition to the gems on the High Priest's breastplate, should at least indicate to us the following Truths about God in Christ:

Jesus is:

1. The First and the Last (Rev.1:11,17; 2:8)

He is the Beginner and Consummator of History. The title is used of God in the Old Testament too (Isa.44:6).. Of course, there were many who tried to change history; Nimrod, Nebuchadnezzar, and Alexander to mention few. There were also attempts to change calendars and times (Dan.7:25; also see French Republican Calendar). However, no matter what humans do, the fact that God is the First and the Last of History remains unchangeable. He is the Cosmological and Teleological Answer of History.

He is the One who holds both ends together. For humans with limited vision, things that don't make immediate sense seem to look absurd and nonsensical. But, He knows all things, things that are and things that are to come (Rev.2:9,10). And, He holds both the ends together. History is in His hands. He is the Existential Answer of life and is the One who defines Meaningfulness.

He is the One who is in Control. He not only provides purpose and meaning, but He can do that because He is in control of all things. Daniel, in the midst of all evidence of Babylonian powers, knew that God was in control (Dan.4:17).

2. The First As the Last

The First and the Last stones not only tell us that He is the First and the Last, but also that as First He became the Last.

Sardius, signifying Reuben, is mentioned second to Jasper, signifying Benjamin.

This speaks of the Firstness of Christ and also of His Lastness through the Incarnation.
Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Phi 2:5-8 NKJ)
Christ's oneness with God was:
- Oneness in Essence (Phil.2:5; Heb.1:3)
- Oneness in Community (Jn.1:1; 10:30; 17:11)
- Oneness in Glory (Jn.17:5)

But, His self-emptying speaks of His
- Incarnation as Humiliation (Phil.2:7)
- Incarnation as Identification (Heb.2:14)
- Incarnation as Embracement (Heb.2:11)
- Incarnation as Sin-Bearing (the Lamb that... By His stripes, Jn.1:29; Mark 8:16,17)

Reuben means "See a Son!" (Isa.9:6); but, Benjamin had two names; his mother Rachel called him Ben-Oni ("the son of my sorrow", Gen.35:18). Ben-Oni speaks of Christ as the Suffering Messiah.
But, Jacob chose to call him Benjamin ("the son of my right hand"). The name signifies Christ as the Son of God's Right Hand.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name... (Phi 2:8-9 NKJ)

3. The Last As the First

Finally, in Christ the declaration, "The first will be last and the last will be first" is also figuratively fulfilled. Because, He was certainly the "Stone that the builders rejected", but whom God made the "Cornerstone." (Lk.20:17).

This speaks of the Exaltation of Christ.
- Exaltation as Second Man (1Cor.15:47)
- Exaltation as Lord (Phil.2:9,10)
- Exaltation as the Sign of Salvation (Jn.3:14,15)