Over the many years of the history of Christendom, the descriptions that people have come to regarding the appearance of our Lord has varied with the age. Whether the “kingly”, as appearing as what seems to resemble a medieval king, or the more modern revolutionary (read “hippie”), artist’s attempts to picture Him have more or less stayed in our imaginations as the standard. Most of us have our mind’s eye colored to movies, and the actors that have portrayed Him.
When we turn to the Holy Scriptures, our instinct is to turn to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to get the description of His appearance. We will find, however, that these “4 Gospels” do not take much effort to describe His appearance. They are dedicated to describing Him by His words and actions. While the majority in Christendom seek “Christ after the flesh” and a “Christ after the flesh” religion, Scripture’s most vivid descriptions of Him are not as the Man of Nazareth, but as the Lord of Glory.
The following are passages that Scripture uses to describe our Lord, and should be the basis of our thoughts of His appearance:
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. [Isa 6:1-5]
That this is a description of the Lord Jesus is brought to light by the following passage in John:
Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him. [Jhn 12:39-41]
Notice also that Isaiah saw Him with His train filling the temple, and the whole earth filled with His glory. This is a description of Him in glory on the earth. Isaiah was given a future vision of the glory of our Lord in His kingdom on earth.
Isaiah also does give a description of Him in His sojourn on the earth as the suffering Servant:
As many were astonied at Thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men: [Isa 52:14]
This description shares the excessive brutality of the scourging that our Lord endured. We might say that He was beaten to a pulp, as Isaiah describes this beating as a worse beating than any man endured, so that He stopped appearing to look like a man. In the following chapter, Isaiah described the look of the Man as He walked the earth:
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. [Isa 53:2-3]
The prophet Daniel also saw a vision of the Lord, but His vision was as the glorified Son of Man. This picture of the Son of Man should ever be in our mind’s eye when we read of the Son of Man in the 4 Gospels as this was our Lord’s most used name of Himself. The days of the Son of Man and the coming of the Son of Man should always be related to this, and this should guide us to the realization that these refer to His coming in glory to establish His kingdom.
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. [Dan 7:13-14]
In Matthew, the gospel of fulfilled prophecy and Kingdom promise, the Lord gives three of His Apostles a glimpse of His future Kingdom glory as this glorified Son of Man. They saw this glory on the earth, and we should always remember that their hope was, and that of the nation of Israel has always been a hope of the earthly Kingdom.
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. [Mat 17:1-2]
When the Lord Jesus was rejected even after His resurrection and ascension, and still persecuted in the person of His Apostles, He appeared in glory from Heaven to His chief persecutor who would be raised up as His minister of reconciliation.
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art Thou, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. [Act 26:13-15]
Paul speaks as having been the witness of the Lord’s revelation from heaven, and declares in one passage the vastness of the gap between His majesty as God of the universe and the humility which He clothed Himself with as He came to be our Savior.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. [Phl 2:5-8]
Paul makes the following declaration of the appearance of God, and the appearance of Christ in one sentence.
Who is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of every creature: [Col 1:15]
Paul again declares the majesty of Christ as the image of God, the Savior from sin, and the glorified and exalted Savior:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, Whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, by Whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; [Heb 1:1-3]
The passages should give us a clear indication as to why God would not allow an image to be made of Himself. Jesus Christ our Lord is the only image of Himself that He will accept. The works of our hands will never declare His glory. The appearance that Paul always alludes to is that of light, for that is the appearance that he saw first, and that blinded him.
Which in His times He shall shew, Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; Whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen. [1Ti 6:15-16]
The Apostle John, who leaned up against Him as they partook of the Passover, saw this later vision of His glory:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. [Rev 1:10-18]
This appearance is quite similar to that which Daniel saw in chapter 10 of his prophecy. I have not included that because I have not reached a conclusion as to whether it is an actual appearance of the Lord, or of the angel later described in the same chapter.
John later saw the Lord Himself coming in glory and conquest:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself. And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His Name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. [Rev 19:11-16]
The scripture has given us these passages as description of our Lord and must be the guide to our thoughts about His appearance. Let us keep from us all imaginations to create Him in our image and likeness, and keep to what the Word of God says about Him as our guide. Living under grace and not under law does not give us license to create our own image, but rather we are to rejoice in the Image that He has given us.
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. [2Co 5:16]