Have you ever heard the question, “Where did the Christmas colors come from?” Sometimes children will ask why red, green and white are used at this time of the year to celebrate Christmas. People might say Christmas trees, holly plants or berries and snow are the origin of the colors because those are the colors found in nature, brightly adorning the creation. I have also heard that green comes from the evergreen, which is symbolic of Christ’s triumph over the grave, giving us eternal life, red is a reminder of the blood He shed to give us that life and white reminds us of the righteousness, purity and holiness that He has granted us because He has overcome the world. This is a far more accurate description –and even if the traditions are derived from traditions that came from pre-Christian cultures, God still created all things and the colors and the things found in creation that bear those colors still originate from Him. But the colors red, green and white have another connection, found in Scripture, and I’m sure it’s not a coincidence, for God’s wisdom and foresight certainly is far above anything we might think.
When John heard the last message to the last of the seven churches, there was a remarkable change in what he saw. John said “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven…” After what? After the Message to the seven churches? Or are we meant to understand that “after this” might actually mean something that will take place after the time of the seven churches? In other words, the seven churches might actually represent seven ages of the church, and when that era is over, something else happens. This seems to be the case, because the next words that John hears are, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” It is also very interesting that when the vision of the seven churches was finished, John is then caught up in the Spirit and sent through a door, open in heaven. John was caught up in the Spirit to heaven at this time. Though this was a vision, it marks the prophetic promise of Jesus to the Church, His bride, that He will come to get His Church when the Father gives the word. Then John saw God the Father, sitting on His throne. This scene in Revelation, found in chapters four and five, are also recorded in Daniel, chapter seven. We are about to find out why the court has been established. The Ancient of Days, God the Father, is about to do something remarkable. And the twenty four elders surrounding the throne, along with all the host of heaven acknowledge that God as the right to pronounce judgment. And John watches this scene with a sense of awe, amazed at what he is seeing. Radiating from the Father are amazing, brilliant colors, and John said that He “had the appearance of jasper and carnelian.” John used two brilliant, shimmering stones to explain the colors that he saw. He also stated, “A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.” I can’t even begin to imagine what John was seeing, but it must have been breath-taking!
The “jasper” that John mentioned is not our modern-day variety of jasper. It wasn’t a multi-colored, semi-precious, opaque stone –which would not shimmer. The word John uses is (Gk.) iaspis. It is the direct transliteration of the Hebrew word yashpheh. Whatever this stone was, what we do know is that it wasn’t what we call “jasper” today. This is clearly seen in Revelation 21:11 when John describes the New Jerusalem by saying, “It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” In the first place, John describes this stone as “a very precious jewel,” (meaning that it was a very valuable stone), and secondly, he said that it was “clear as crystal.” In other words, whatever this stone was, both in ancient Greek and Hebrew, it was clear and very valuable, very rare. The likely candidate for this stone might be a diamond, because a diamond is very valuable and it is clear as crystal. The second stone that John mentioned was a “carnelian,” or, as the King James says, “sardine.” The stone being described is a “sard,” or a more common name that we use now: “Ruby.” Imagine what John saw… God on His throne, the origin and brilliant reflection of red and white. Amazing, breathtaking. He also saw a rainbow, like an emerald. A rainbow, in the Word of God, is a sign of a promise. God promised that He would not wipe out all life on earth with a flood again and the sign of this promise that He made with the earth is a rainbow. There will never again be a worldwide flood. But this rainbow is unusual. Instead of reflecting the seven colors that God placed in a usual rainbow, this rainbow has a solitary color, green. So, there you have it, heaven’s throne room was flooded with brilliant, shimmering, sparkling white, red and green. But this holds an even deeper significance. After all, why these colors? God always has a reason for giving the information that is contained in His Word. He chose these three colors to reflect His glory for a reason. To unlock the mystery of the colors, we need to look for another place in the Bible that speaks of these brilliant stones.
Precious stones are mentioned together like this at the end of the Bible, when the Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem is established on the purged (by fire) and recreated (that God’s dwelling place and man’s dwelling place might be one-and-the-same place). This event is also recorded in Ezekiel 28. But the primary place we need to look to unlock the mystery of these colors is Exodus 28 and 39. Here we have recorded how the breastplate of the high priest was to be constructed. Each of the twelve tribes of Israel were to be represented by twelve precious stones. Each stone was to have the name of the corresponding tribe inscribed upon it. This has amazing significance, because the first stone, the stone of Reuben, the oldest son of Israel, was a ruby. The stone of Benjamin, the youngest son of Israel, was the same stone that John saw (often translated, “jasper,” but more likely, “diamond”). In heaven, the color of the last son is mentioned first and the first son is mentioned last. The fourth stone of the breastplate should be translated “emerald” (not “turquoise”). The fourth stone represents Judah. What John saw is truly remarkable and has very, very deep meaning: God’s throne reflects brilliant light: White (the last son), red (the first son) and green (the son of the Promise). It gets even more exciting when you connect the meanings of the names of the three sons of Israel: Reuben means “Behold my son.” Benjamin means, “Son of my right hand.” And Judah means, “Praise (by my hand).” It’s amazing, that in His very Nature, in His very existence in this vision, the Father is the origin of the Light, the Light who has come into the world.
I hope the colors of Christmas will have an even deeper and more glorious connection for you as you learn these things. When you look at your tree, behold a pale reflection of the vastly-surpassing glories of heaven. For the Son, the Holy Lamb of God, has given us life by cleansing us by His own righteousness, by laying His life down, by humbling Himself and being found in the likeness of a man; He has overcome, giving us life –eternal life. This is His promise. And just as there has never been another worldwide flood, we can be certain that the Son will complete the good work that He started in each and every one of us who call on His Name. What did John see? A remarkable glimpse of what is yet to come because of what Jesus has done for us. He will soon take His rightful place as Ruler of all creation. He is the One who is worthy to reveal the judgment of God to all who exist. He is the first man, whose side was wounded. From His side flowed red and white –the water and the blood, which now testify to us that His promises are true. And from His wounded side the Last Adam was given a Bride by the Father -purchased by Jesus’ own blood. He is the Promised Son from the tribe of Judah, the Son of David, the Branch who has come to make all things new.