Question: "What does it mean that Jesus' feet were like burnished bronze (Revelation 1:15)?"
Answer: In Revelation 1, John describes the person who was speaking to him and who commissioned him to write down what he saw. One of the descriptions John wrote of this person was that His feet were like fine brass “as if they burned in a furnace” (Revelation 1:15, KJV) or, in the NIV, “his feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace.” For this and many other reasons evident in John’s description, this was an unusual person.
John describes the person he heard as like a son of man (Revelation 1:13), so He at least appeared to be human. He was clothed in a long robe that reached down to His feet and had a golden sash across His chest (Revelation 1:13). Notice that, when John describes what this person was wearing, he doesn’t use the literary device of simile (describing something by likening it to something similar). Rather, he simply describes what he sees. But when describing the person Himself, John has to use the word like because he is describing an incredible person who has incredible traits. This person’s head and his hair were white like wool or snow (Revelation 1:14)—they were very bright and pure white. His eyes were like flaming fire (Revelation 1:14). His feet were like fine brass burned in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of many waters (Revelation 1:15). In His right hand He held seven stars (asteras), and from His mouth came a sharp, double-edged sword, and His face was very bright, like the sun (Revelation 1:16).
This person that John is describing is Jesus. He calls Himself the first and the last, connecting His identity to Isaiah 48:12, where He refers to Himself as the one who named Israel (which the preincarnate Christ did in Genesis 32:28–30), as Yahweh (the Lord) the Redeemer (Isaiah 48:17). This One also refers to Himself as the eternal, living One who was dead and as the one who has the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1:18). In Revelation 2:18 He describes Himself as “the Son of God who has eyes like a flame of fire and His feet are like burnished bronze.” These descriptions are not merely coincidental; they help confirm the identity of this One as the first and the last—this is not a new character introduced to the story at this late juncture, rather He is—as He claimed—the eternal One.
Many of the descriptions John records are directly related to accounts and prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures, as is the description of His feet as like fine brass burning in a furnace (Revelation 1:15). In Daniel 10, Daniel records an appearance of this One to him personally. Daniel describes this One as a certain man dressed in linen with a gold belt (Daniel 10:5). His face was bright like lightning, and His eyes like flaming torches, and His arms and feet gleamed like polished bronze, and the sound of His words was like a roaring (Daniel 10:6). The parallels between John’s description of Jesus and Daniel’s description of the “certain man” are virtually identical. That Jesus identifies Himself with some of those descriptions also makes evident that He wanted to be recognized as the one whom Daniel saw. He was the Revealer in Daniel’s day, and the Revealer in John’s as well. This is the same Revealer, the One who proclaimed that He would come suddenly and promised blessing for those who would heed the words of the prophecy of the book that John was told to write (Revelation 22:7).
The fact that the feet of Christ appeared to John as if they were white-hot, burning metal points to the glory of the risen Lord. The feet like fine brass as if burning in a furnace may speak of the work of Christ, as our High Priest, ministering on our behalf in the heavenly temple. Or the vision could speak of Christ’s victory over His enemies: in holy judgment, the Lord will trample His enemies in the “great winepress of God’s wrath” (Revelation 14:19–20), and “He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25).