Revealing Revelation – Chapter One Part 2

06Mar11

I have chosen to follow up part one of this discussion rather “quickly” because of how those first few verses are attached to each other in theme, timing and purpose. So, we will pick up where we left off starting at verse seven of chapter 1.

But first it should be pointed out that much of the theme of these passages had been dealt with in much more detail in previous posts and what we are doing here is primarily an overview of revelation and how those themes fit into particular passages. So, the emphasis here will be on those portions below that have posted in bold.

Rev. 1:7-8 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. [8] “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The picture of coming with the clouds is a consistent theme of judgment found throughout the entire Bible. God’s coming in judgement is nearly always seen as coming on our with the clouds. This is also the same expression that Jesus told both His disciples in the Olivet Discourse – an event that has promised to be fulfilled within a generation –  and the High Priest that they would “see” as well.

First to the disciples…

Matt 24:30 30 “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky (Heaven), and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory

Note how the NASB uses the capitalization of the phrase “coming on the clouds.” This is done in the NASB to represent the use of passages from the Old Testament. The passage in question is the Daniel 7 passage where Jesus comes UP to the Ancient of Days to receive His reward; an everlasting kingdom with power, glory and dominion.

Matt 26:64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

This also quite points to His fulfilling the role of the Son of Man found in Daniel 7, which we know for certain was how the High Priest took the statement as it caused him to rip his clothes and claim blasphemy. This is on account of Jesus proclaiming He was that Son of Man in Daniel 7.

We also note that Jesus states that there were some alive in His hearing that would “see” the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom.

Matt 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

This coming of the Son of Man had to be far enough away from that moment that many in his midst would have dies, but not too far away that all would dies. It states that only “some” would “see” this event. Again we have the word “see” used here, Matt 24, Matt 26 and in the Revelation verse in question. How did the High Priest, the disciples and those in Jesus’ midst and those alive within the generation of Christ “see” Him coming?

This is most likely to be understood as perceive or understand than physically see as those represented by the passages about did not physically see Jesus but rather perceived and understood the reality of who He was and is. The High Priest understood this remark undoubtedly!

This “seeing” would lead the “tribes” to mourn. The events described would clearly display His Lordship and rule over all the earth and that He was that promised Messiah! They would also encompass His recompense against His enemies and the enemies of His Church. He promised to destroy the Temple (Matt 24), punish the Jews (Matt 23), take the Kingdom away from them (Matt 21) and leave their house desolate (Matt 23). This was all accomplished with the destruction of the city and Temple and within the time restrictions of “soon,” “near” and “this generation.”

But just as important is the understanding that the type of coming described as one with the clouds represents judgement, not a physical Second Coming we most often associate with the term. Jesus also restates the purpose of this coming in the final chapter of revelation when He refers to this coming as with that bring with it His recompense.

So what makes us so certain this coming with the clouds is one of judgment? Here are just a short list of samples…

Isaiah 19:1 (ESV) An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.

Psalm 104:3 (ESV) He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind;

Ezekiel 30:3 (ESV) For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.

Joel 2:2 (ESV) a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!

Nahum 1:3 (ESV) The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

Note especially the first passage above how it states that God “comes” to Egypt and is seen doing so on a cloud. Did God actually ride a literal cloud in the sky to “come” to Egypt? Hardly. This very common expression represents the presence of God in judgement against a nation or nation. Take note even of the Ezekiel 30 passage. It defines what it means for God to come on the clouds…

day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.

God’s arrival on the clouds meant certain calamity and destruction. Did they “see” Him in the sense we so often place upon the term? Obviously not, but did they “realize” or “perceive” or “understand” they had been visited by the Lord on a cloud coming in judgment?

Most definitely!

A couple final comments on the passage in question. They will be brief as they have been discussed before.

The first is the time limiting factor that those who see Him will include those that pierced Him and the those related to the “tribes” of the earth or land. the word translated earth can also be translated land, which most definitely represents Israel as a common expression for Israel was the “tribes.” This expression is rarely, if ever, used to represent another nation.

The expression of those who pierced Him is even more limiting. One can try and make a case that “everyone” has sinned and therefore everyone is responsible for the piercing of His side. But John here is not trying to make some universal symbolic gesture or theological point, but rather quite the opposite by limiting the expression to those who will “see” the results of their actions John is designating a certain group.

It was the Jews who cried out that the blood of Christ be on their hands and on their children’s as well!

This makes perfect sense in line with Matthew 23 where we are told that all of the blood of all of the saints would be held up against this generation. And why was that generation so special in the negative sense of the word? Because that is the generation that pierced His side (had Him killed). No other generation is quite as unique and, as the book of Matthew attest, that generation would receive a special, unique and specific punishment for their actions (Matt 21-23).

This mourning is also represented in the Matt 24 Olivet Discourse passage, using nearly identical words.

Matt 24:30 30 “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky (Heaven), and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn

This is simply another inescapable comparison between the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation. One that proclaimed the events would be fulfilled within a generation and the other, spoken almost a generation later, that the events were soon, at hand and near.

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