Priestly Kingdom; Preparation for the Mill. Rev. 1:7
In Revelation 1:7 we address one of the most wonderful doctrines in all of Scripture, and that is the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, that Jesus Christ is going to return, that he is coming back physically and bodily to this planet, and He is going to establish His kingdom and rule and reign. When we talk about the appearance of Christ we also have to recognize that there are two aspects to His coming. The first is the Rapture of the church which takes place before the Tribulation. This is not the subject of Revelation 1:7.
Revelation 1:7, "Behold, he is coming with clouds; and every eye will see him, even they who pierced him: and all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of him. Even so, Amen."
Both the KJV and the NKJV don't have an English article before the word "clouds." In the NASB and NIV there is an article there, and the Greek text does have an article. It should read, "Behold, he is coming with the clouds."
When is this coming with the clouds? The fact that He is coming in the clouds is mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. So is this a Rapture passage or is this a second coming passage? We also need to determine who is referred to here by "those who pierced him," and also identify all the tribes of the earth in the last sentence.
Another thing we need to note is that this is one of several verses that has become a battleground text in this war with the new interpretive school on prophecy that has come back from the dead in the last few years or so known as preterism.
The church age began on the day of Pentecost. There is no prophecy in the church age related to the church age. Furthermore, no prophecy must be fulfilled in the church age for the events that will transpire in the Tribulation. The next event the Scriptures makes clear that is on the prophetic horizon is the Rapture of the church, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. The Rapture is followed, maybe not immediately, by the Tribulation which ends with the second coming of Christ when Jesus Christ comes to the earth, destroys the Antichrist, the false prophet and all those who follow him, and then establishes His kingdom on the earth.
There are a lot of different terms that we use related to prophecy that sometimes confuse people. The first set of terms has to do with the relationship of the Rapture to the Tribulation. We just think of this in terms of before, during and after—pre, mid, and post-Tribulationism. Pre-Tribulation Rapture means that the Rapture comes pre-Trib, before the Tribulation. Mid-Tribulation is a position where the Rapture occurs about the middle point of the Tribulation. The church goes through the first three and a half years and is then raptured halfway through. We do not believe in that position. There is also a variant of that today called the pre-wrath Rapture position which puts the Rapture three quarters of the way through the Tribulation. Then there is the post-Tribulation view that the church is raptured as Jesus is on His way down at the second coming, and there is no judgment seat of Christ, no rewards in heaven. We believe in a pre-Tribulation Rapture, i.e. that Jesus Christ comes back before the Tribulation. As such we believe that all of the events described in the major prophetic passages of the New Testament are yet future, that many of the prophecies in the Old Testament are yet to be fulfilled—prophecies related to the establishment of the Millennial kingdom. Therefore we interpret these passages as futurist.
But there are some who think that this has already happened, and these people are called Preterists. What is preterism? Let them speak for themselves: "Preterism is based on the Latin word meaning "gone by" or "past." Preterism therefore holds that the Tribulation prophecies"—the passages in Matthew 24, otherwise known as the Olivet discourse, and most of Revelation—"occurred in the first century, thus in our past." What they are really saying is that this had to do with the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. That sounds like a very bizarre position to out ears. This position was virtually dead for half a century but it has come back and many more people are hearing this. Another preterist said: "The Olivet discourse is not about the second coming of Christ, it is a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD." So that is what they are focusing on, and that all of this is code language during the time of persecution in the church, just secret code language to prepare the Christians at that time for what would happen in 70 AD. David Shilton wrote: "The book of Revelation is not about the second coming of Christ, it is about the destruction of Israel and Christ's victory over His enemies in the establishment of the new covenant temple." What does he mean by new covenant temple? He means the new covenant is the church, the temple is your body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. So according to him this is not a literal temple in Jerusalem but the new covenant temple which is the church in the church age. He says, "In fact, the word "coming" as used in the book of revelation never refers to the second coming. The main focus in Revelation is upon events which were 'soon to take place.'"
The second approach to prophecy is called "historicism." This is the idea that all of Revelation and Matthew 24 basically map out the entire church age, so that we see fulfillment of those passages all through the church age up to the Tribulation and the Millennial kingdom. The result of that is that we can go through and identify where we are in Revelation. In historicism the popes are the Antichrist, the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments are fulfilled by the events in Europe during the last two thousand years; you can just lay Revelation over history.
However, we are futurists. Nothing is happening prophetically until the Rapture of the church occurs. All the events of Matthew 24 and Revelation 4-22 are yet future, they have not yet been fulfilled.
Revelation 1:7, "Behold, he is coming with clouds; and every eye will see him, even they who pierced him: and all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of him. Even so, Amen." The first word "behold" is the Greek word IDOU [i)dou], an idiomatic word that is derived from the aorist middle imperative of EIDON [e)idon] which means to see, and it is a word that is used to draw attention to something. John wants us to draw attention to what he is about to say.
There are four elements in this verse we need to address in order to understand what the Holy Spirit is communicating to us. First of all we have to identify the nature of the coming. Is it the Rapture or the second advent? As part of that we have to understand the meaning of the little word "and," the Greek word KAI [kai], which occurs in "and every eye shall see him," and also is the word translated "even" in "even those who pierced him." This is all part of understanding which coming this is. Secondly we have to understand the concept of clouds. What clouds? Is that literal or figurative? Or is it s literal use of the word "clouds" but it is not referring to the normal every-day clouds that we see looking out of the window? Then we have to answer the question concerning "every eye will see him." Who is the "every"?
The phrase "he is coming with the clouds" uses the Greek verb ERCHOMAI [e)rxomai] in its present middle indicative form. He is coming, not He will come. Often in Greek you will have a prophetic or futuristic use of a present tense. That means the event is so certain in its taking place that the writer uses a present tense when he is talking about an event that is yet future. So it is a future event that is so certain that it is spoken of as if it is happening right now in the present. The question is when this is going to take place? In order to answer that we have to look at the key interpretive phrase in this whole verse, "even they who pierced him." If we understand that phrase, and understand the use of KAI there, then that helps us to interpret and understand the whole passage. The Old Testament tells us how these things are to be understood. It is a quote from Zechariah 12:10, "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for him, as one grieves for his firstborn." The Old Testament tells us how these things are to be understood. The phrase "the spirit of grace" is sometimes erroneously translated with an upper case S in the word "spirit" here. God is pouring out grace on the Jews that survive the Tribulation. That what this is talking about: an attitude or disposition of grace and supplication, God's grace in helping them to survive at the end of the Tribulation. As a result of God's grace they respond in gratitude and will call upon the name of the Lord and respond. That is what is meant by the next phrase, "then they shall look on me whom they have pierced."
This is a clear identification in prophecy that God is going to be pierced, and that the speaker here must be the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ. So this is an anticipation of the crucifixion. But looking on Him is not simply the physical act of looking at Jesus Christ, it is looking with faith. For example, the looking on the brass serpents in the wilderness by the children of Israel who had been bitten by the "fiery serpents." The idea here is that at this time as a result of God's pouring out grace and deliverance on the people they will respond. This is the background for understanding Revelation 1:7.
Zechariah 12:10 goes on to read, "and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for him, as one grieves for his firstborn." So there is going to be a mourning because they recognize what they have done. They realize with all of its severity that they crucified the second person of the Trinity, that when their savior the Messiah came they rejected Him and they killed Him. Verse 11, "In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon." Hadadrimmon is a village near Jezreel in the plain of Megiddo, and it was at that place that King Josiah, a mature believer and great leader of Israel, was killed in a battle with Pharaoh Necho II. As a result of his death there was tremendous mourning in Jerusalem. So there is an analogy here that when they recognize that they have killed the Messiah they will mourn as deeply and profoundly as they did when Josiah was killed. Verse 12, "And the land shall mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves." The "by themselves" emphasizes personal, individual volition, and as each individual responds to the savior and trusts in Christ at His return there will be consequent grief for what happened historically at the cross.
In Revelation 1:7, who are the "even they who pierced him"? These are the Jews. The word "even" here is the Greek word KAI. KAI can be used as a simple conjunction, "and," or it can be used in an ascensive use which indicates a subset of a larger group. There is a large group—"every eye shall see him." That is every human being; "even," i.e. a special sub-set of that group of humanity is going to be singled out here—"even they who pierced him." The emphasis fro John is that the Jews will finally respond to Jesus as their savior.
When we looked at the phrase, "even they who pierced him" what we saw is that that is a quote from Zechariah 12:10. If we look at the context of the chapter we would know that this is a second coming passage. This is when the Messiah comes and establishes His kingdom in Israel. So that tells us that the coming of Revelation 1:7 when this group looks on the one they pierced, that that coming is the second coming and not the Rapture. The Rapture is not a visible event to every eye and to the Jews. The Rapture is an invisible event when Jesus returns in the clouds for His church. Those who are not believers are not going to see Him or behold Him, they are simply going to be aware of the fact that a certain segment of humanity has instantly disappeared. By analyzing the phrase, "even they who pierced him," we understand that the phrase "he is coming with the clouds" is a reference to the second coming of Christ which takes place at the end of the Tribulation. It is when he comes to the earth and establishes His kingdom on the earth.
He comes with the clouds. The preposition used here is META [meta], which means "with." It is the preposition of accompaniment, it marks association in a general sense denoting the company within which something takes place. This is not the preposition that is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, "with them in the clouds." In the clouds is different from with the clouds. "In the clouds" uses the preposition EN [e)n] plus the noun NEPHELAIS [nefelaij] which is the feminine dative plural. Clouds in the dative is either means or instrumental, that is, He comes by means of the clouds, or location. Location is the idea here, EN plus the dative. He is coming in the clouds at the Rapture. That is a different idea than Revelation 1:7 where He is coming with the clouds.
Preterists claim that clouds associated with God in the Old Testament indicate something negative, there are the dark foreboding clouds of His righteous judgment. It portrays Him coming in judgment. So their claim is that Revelation 1:7 is Jesus coming in judgment. The preterist position is that Jesus came in a non-personal way in 70 AD in judgment. That is ridiculous.
In Revelation 10:1 we read of a mighty angel coming down from heaven "clothed with the clouds." And, "a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire." There is debate as to whether this is the Lord Jesus Christ and there is some indication that it could be. Cf. Revelation 1:15, "And his feet like unto fine brass, as if refined in a furnace." The second thing is that rainbow is associated with the presence of God. Cf. Isaiah 6. Ezekiel and Isaiah both have visions of the throne of God, and various other passages like Revelation four and five what John sees is the throne of God surrounded by a rainbow. There is something about the presence of God that gives off a rainbow. But this clothing with the clouds has something to do with the presence of God. We often see clouds associated with His presence not merely in judgment. Revelation 11:12, "And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, Come up here. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them." The two witnesses who are killed and who are resurrected three days later ascend to heaven in a cloud. Who else ascended in a cloud? Jesus, Acts chapter one. Revelation 14:14, "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and on the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle." The cloud is a white cloud, not a dark foreboding cloud of judgment, although the sickle indicates judgment; but this cloud is associated simply with the presence of God. Verse 15, "And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud…" This is Jesus, He is associated with a cloud in His presence again and again. Matthew 24:30, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." The Olivet discourse is an answer to the question of the disciples: "What shall be the sign of your coming?" So this is second coming material, not Rapture material.
Daniel 7:13, "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." Often clouds are related to the angels. So here the word "clouds" could be used figuratively to refer to the hosts of heaven.
Matthew 26:64, "Jesus said to him, You have said: nevertheless I say to you, Hereafter shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." So again and again we see this same imagery related to the second coming event.
Acts 1:9, "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight." Once again, cloud is associated with the presence of God. In Acts 1:11 two angels appear: "…this same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven." So this is talking about a visible return. He will not be seen at the Rapture. There is this cloud association at the second coming. The Rapture passage in 1 Thess. 4:17 has "in the clouds," indicating in the atmosphere which is where the church age believers will meet the Lord in the air. Scripture interprets Scripture.
Genesis 9:13 is the first mention of the word "cloud" in the Old Testament. "I do set my rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth." In the cloud! In Ezekiel we see God's presence surrounded by clouds and rainbows. This isn't something that just happens, it isn't just an interesting meteorological phenomena. When we see rainbows in the clouds it is to remind us of what it is like to look at the throne of God.
Exodus 13:21, "And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light." This is evidence of the Shekinah, the presence of God, the glory of God.
Exodus 24:15, 16, when Moses goes up into the mountain to be with God a cloud covered the mountain. Is this judgment? No, it is the presence of God. "And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud." Cf. verse 18.
Matthew 17:5, "While he was yet speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him."
Joel 2:2 has to do with the end of the Tribulation, so this has to do with Jesus Christ's coming. "A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations."
The day of the Lord is described in Zephaniah 1:15, "That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness." This is when Jesus Christ returns at the second coming.
Back to Revelation 1:7. Every eye will see Him. Who are those referred to? Every human being on the earth will see Him at the second advent. His return is visible. "All the tribes of the earth will mourn" is a technical phrase and is used many times in the Old Testament. It is usually translated "all the families of the earth" in the Old Testament, but this is the phrase that refers to Gentiles. It is not a phrase that is used to refer to the Jews. Zechariah 14:17, "And it shall be, that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts …" This is talking about Gentiles, all of humanity. So when we look at this phrase we see that this refers to the second coming.
1) The Rapture is for believers only; believers are translated to heaven. At the second coming there is no translation at all, Jesus is coming back to the earth.
2) At the Rapture the translated saints go to heaven; at the second advent translated saints come to the earth. John 14:1-3.
3) At the Rapture the earth is not judged, but at the second coming the earth is judged and righteousness is established.
4) The Rapture can occur at any moment, there is no sign related to the Rapture. Some things may happen. Two thousand years have gone by since Jesus Christ ascended to heaven. It is very possible that at the end of the church age certain things will happen on the world scene related to Israel that set the stage for what happens. For example, we are told prophetically that the Jews will return to the land twice. There will be a return in belief and a return in unbelief. They have returned to the land now in unbelief. That is the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy. However, it is not a sign related to the Rapture, it is simply preparation for what will happen after the Rapture. It seems to suggest that the Rapture may be near, but the Rapture is imminent. That means that nothing has to happen before the Rapture occurs, but the second coming follows definite predicted signs.
5) The Rapture is not predicted in the Old Testament because it is related to the church. The church isn't in the Old Testament, but the second coming is predicted frequently in the Old Testament.
6) The Rapture is for believers only, but the second coming affects all of humanity.
7) The Rapture occurs before the day of wrath, the second coming concludes the day of wrath.
8) There is no reference to Satan at the time of the Rapture; at the second coming Satan will be bound for a thousand years.