Rev. 22:16 – “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to attest these things to you for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star.” (HCSB)
I, Jesus, have sent My angel
In verse 16 Jesus plainly identifies Himself by name, as if to place a final stamp of approval on everything that has been revealed. He also restates what was first revealed in Rev. 1:1 – that He has sent His angel to deliver the message. While the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit often are quoted as speaking directly throughout scripture, God often uses angels as the vehicles through which divine truths are communicated to people.
Here, Christ says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to attest these things to you for the churches.” The “you” in Greek is plural, confirming that Christ’s revelation is not for John alone. Most likely it includes believers in the seven churches through whom the message of Christ is shared with Christians of all times and places.
Jesus then says, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star.” Here He affirms both His divine and human natures, brought together through the miracle of the virgin birth and resulting in the sinless life of the God-Man. As God, He is the Root or Originator of King David. He fashions the king in his mother’s womb, makes him a man after God’s own heart, anoints Him for service, and exalts him to the throne. As man, He is descended from David, to whom His lineage may be traced (Matt. 1:1ff).
Whose Son is He?
In Matt. 22:41-45 Jesus silences the religious leaders by asking them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?” The word “Son” is used in ancient Greek and Hebrew to describe any male descendent. Based on several Old Testament prophecies, the Messiah is expected to be descended from David. The Pharisees respond, “David’s.” Jesus then says, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Him Lord.” Jesus then quotes from Ps. 110:1, “The Lord declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand until I put Your enemies under Your feet.’” Jesus asks, “If David calls Him ‘Lord,’ how then can the Messiah be his Son?”
As the HCSB Study Bible explains, “Psalm 110:1 describes Yahweh’s command to David’s Lord [Gr kurios; Hb adon]. ‘Lord’ was a title of authority and/or deity that portrayed Messiah as David’s divine superior, not just his descendant. Psalm 110:1-4 is quoted more often in the NT than any other OT passage” (p. 1657).
Incidentally, there are many allusions to the Davidic line of the Messiah in the Old and New Testaments, among them 2 Sam. 7:12–16; Isa. 11:1, 10; Matt. 1:1; 9:17; 15:22; 21:9; Rom. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:8; and Rev. 5:5. Jesus is the fulfillment of all Old Testament Messianic prophecies. To summarize, by identifying Himself as the Root and Offspring of David, Jesus is affirming both His deity and humanity. He is the God of Israel’s great king as well as his promised descendent who surpasses David in greatness and sits for all eternity on his exalted throne.
Root and Offspring
It should be noted that some commentators see the Root and Offspring in purely spiritual terms. For example, Craig Bluemel in Bibleanswerstand.org argues that “Root” is who David initially envisioned when he was given Yahweh’s promising concerning his descendent, and “Offspring” is “not as flesh and blood relation, but Jesus the man, once resurrected, then glorified, as glorified man becomes the first and the authoritative ‘shoot’ or ‘offspring’ of David’s spiritual descendants.” While this view has merit, it seems to minimize the importance of Jesus’ earthly heritage, which Matthew traces back to Abraham and Luke traces back to Adam.
Paige Patterson summarizes well: “As the Root of David, he is the One from whom David himself came and to whom David owes his existence and purpose. As the offspring of David, Jesus became a man in the incarnation and was born to the line of David as promised by the prophets” (The New American Commentary: Revelation, p. 383).
After calling Himself the Root and Offspring of David, Jesus declares Himself the “Bright Morning Star,” which takes its imagery either from Venus, which sometimes is visible in the morning and is called the “morning star” by ancients, or from the sun. Prophetically, His coming is like the morning star, the dawning of a new day. This is a Messianic title as we see in earlier passages of scripture:
- In Balaam’s fourth oracle he proclaims, “I see him, but not now; I perceive him, but not near. A star will come from Jacob, and a scepter will arise from Israel. He will smash the forehead of Moab and strike down all the Shethites” (Num. 24:17). David fulfills this prophecy by defeating both Moab and Edom (2 Sam. 8:1-12), but this passage also comes to be interpreted messianically to refer to a glorious coming King.
- After the birth of Jesus, magi arrive in Jerusalem, seeking the King of the Jews because, they say, “we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matt. 2:2).
- Peter writes to believers, “So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 2:19). The metaphor of the prophetic scriptures as “a lamp shining in a dismal place” means God’s word exposes the sinfulness of a dark and evil world. We are to trust and obey the scriptures as we eagerly anticipate the return of the “morning star,” who is coming in power and great glory to set things right.
- Jesus promises the church in Thyatira that the one who is victorious and keeps His works to the end will be given “the morning star,” or the very presence of the Son of God (Rev. 2:28).
- Some have even suggested that Jesus’ self-reference to the “the Bright Morning Star” is a play on Isa. 14:12, where these commentators say the “Shining morning star” is another name for Satan. Throughout Revelation Satan and his minions often parody the Triune Godhead, and perhaps this is a form of rebuke for the evil one. However, it seems a stretch to identify the “Shining morning star” in Isaiah 14 with Satan. Rather, a more reasonable interpretation is that this passage refers to a Babylonian king. The poetic theme of the passage possibly is modeled after a Canaanite account of a lesser god that tried to usurp the position of the high God, thus making the “Shining morning star” a Canaanite deity, not Satan.
Lastly, we may be wise to see this as a reminder of our ultimate glorification. One day believers are resurrected and conformed to the image of Christ. John encourages us, “Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
Meanwhile, we may take comfort in knowing that while we wait, the Lord is working in our “inner man” to transform us into His likeness. Paul writes, “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Next: The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” – Revelation 22:17