Study Notes: Revelation 1:7-8

Here are my study notes for Revelation 1:7-8.  Only two verses, but a lot of interesting and worthwhile components here to examine. I hope you profit from these short notes.

PJW

1:7 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.

I’ve said in recent conversations with friends that Revelation is a study in the character of God. The multifaceted character of God is projected with an illuminocity that is enough to protract our time in the book for a great many months if we are not careful.

Verses seven and eight are just one such example. It’s an important reminder that though the Bible is written for us, it’s primarily about God.

Let’s examine how this is so beginning in verse seven…

The context of the verse is speaking of Jesus, and there are a few OT passages used to describe what we read here. It is a combination of Daniels 7:13, Zechariah 12:10 and perhaps also Genesis 22:18.

First, there is a clear allusion to Daniel 7 where we read about the “son of man” who is “coming in the clouds” (Daniels 7:13).

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. [14] And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

Johnson says, “Jesus uses Daniel’s wording in the same way, to speak of his resurrection and ascension ‘with the clouds’ to the Father’s right hand, to be invested with universal authority as the victorious Messiah (Mark 8:38, 14:32; Matthew 16:27, 26:64; Luke 9:26; cf. Acts 1:9).”[i]

How would John’s original early church audience have thought about these things? Johnson and Beale are saying that when John’s audience heard certain phrases like “with the clouds” their minds would have thought immediately of Daniel’s prophecy. John knows this, and uses those terms to describe what he’s seeing. Similarly, Jesus knows this (because they are his words in the first place) and uses them to convey his thoughts in a way that would bring certain ideas into the minds of the new testament church.

In modern terms, think of it this way. If I were to begin telling you a story with the words, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” you would immediately think: Star Wars! Your context and background and framework for understanding everything that proceeded from that point onward would be Star Wars related. Similarly, John uses words that snap us into the mindset of OT prophecy – Daniel, Zechariah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and so on.

Therefore, understanding these foundation, it seems that this passage is speaking about the second coming of Jesus, which is still future. It speaks of Him coming back in the clouds – we know that He left in the clouds, and the apostles were told He would return the same way:

And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

Johnson summarizes well:

Revelation affirms that Jesus has come to the Ancient of Days and been given all authority. His right to open the scroll shows this (Revelation 5). But the statement in Revelation 1:7, “He is coming with the clouds,” is a promise for the future, as the future tense of the verbs (“they will see…they will mourn”) makes clear.

Second, John says that every eye will see this son of man – “even those who pierced him.” We know that to be our Lord, who was pierced for our transgressions (Zech. 12:10 and John 19:37). Zechariah is the key OT passage here:

Him Whom They Have Pierced [10] “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. [11] On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. (Zechariah 12:10-11)

Hendriksen is right to say, “The Bible knows nothing about an invisible or secret second coming. Nowhere is this taught. On the contrary, ‘every eye shall see him.’”[ii]

Of course this means that the Jews who crucified Jesus will see that He indeed was and is the Christ. But I don’t think we can limit the awareness to simply the Jews, for the verse is much broader than that – which leads to our third possible reference.

The third reference is a possible allusion to Genesis 22:18. When the text says that, “every eye” will see Him and that “all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him”, it is possible that there is a reference to the Abrahamic promise:

and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:18)

In other words, the universal nature of what God is planning to do is clearly marked out in Revelation 1:7, and finds its roots deep in the OT story. God will not withdraw His promises, and He will bring to completion that which He began so long ago.

So to sum it up here, it seems that this verse is speaking of the second coming of Jesus in the heavenly clouds of glory. What we learn is that when He returns it will be made known not only to the Jews, not only to His elect, but to every man, woman and beast on the earth. His resplendent glory will be known to all.

There will be two reactions on that day. The first will be one of fear and “mourning”, as we’ve just read. This mourning is not out of repentance.

Contra Beale (in this case), I’m apt to agree with George Ladd who says this, “However, there is in the book of Revelation no indication of the repentance of the wicked. On the contrary, the judgments of God only serve to confirm the wicked in their wickedness (9:20, 16:9, 11). Probably, we are to understand that Christ is not the object but the occasion of their grief; they wail on account of him because of the terrible judgment which he is to inflict upon them.”

The second reaction will be one of exuberant joy and adoration. It will be a great “YES!” from the souls and hearts and mouths of all His children left on earth.

John takes these truths in, digests them, and says “Even so. Amen.” It is as if with a heavy heart – the heart of an evangelist – that he takes a deep sigh, and says, even though all this will happen, Amen. The “Amen” is the agreement with what he has written, it is the stamp of veracity upon all he has said. Therefore he is agreeing with the Lord in his “amen.” He is saying that despite the millions upon millions who will be headed for Hell, yet he will not question the sovereign plan of the Lord – far from it, in all things he will agree with the Lord, and does so by stating “amen.” May we also respond to our Lord in this way.

1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

In verse eight we have again another incredible statement about the character of the Lord Jesus. He calls Himself the “Alpha and the Omega” and then, as if to make clear what He was getting at, He says He is, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The words “Alpha” and “Omega” are the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet. This is a slightly tweaked version of what we find in verse 17, which says, “I am the first and the last.”

There are also parallel passages in the epilogue:

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. [7] The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. [8] But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:6-8)

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13)

Furthermore, Hendriksen points out something really neat, “Notice that the same phrase which in verse 4 described the Father here designates the Son. ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30).”[iii]

And Johnson rightly points out that when God uses this self-designation He does so to 1. Remind us that He is the Lord of history, and that apart from Him there is no God and 2. To remind us that He is powerful (and in control) enough to deliver us from our present tribulation. This OT understanding fits well with His closing words, “the Almighty” – which Ladd likes to say can be translated, “the All-Ruler.”[iv]

We find a few examples of this first way God uses this eternal name in the OT book of Isaiah:

Who stirred up one from the east whom victory meets at every step? He gives up nations before him, so that he tramples kings underfoot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow. [3] He pursues them and passes on safely, by paths his feet have not trod. [4] Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he. [5] The coastlands have seen and are afraid; the ends of the earth tremble; they have drawn near and come. [6] Everyone helps his neighbor and says to his brother, “Be strong!” [7] The craftsman strengthens the goldsmith, and he who smooths with the hammer him who strikes the anvil, saying of the soldering, “It is good”; and they strengthen it with nails so that it cannot be moved. (Isaiah 41:2-7)

“Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. [13] My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together. (Isaiah 48:12-13)

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. [7] Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. [8] Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” The Folly of Idolatry [9] All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. [10] Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? [11] Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together. (Isaiah 44:6-11)

Johnson says, “All three pairs – Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, first and last – proclaim God’s eternal and invincible rule over history. The idols were not there at the beginning, nor will they last to the end. They did not give the universe its existence, nor can they manipulate its destiny. They cannot be trusted and need not be feared. The Lord is God from start to finish.”[v]

This is also seen in God’s self-disclosure in Exodus 3:14, and in the “I AM” statements of Jesus throughout the Gospel of John. The name, “I AM” sums up the idea we have been discussing here, and tells us that He is eternal and unchanging. Again, Jesus and the Father are One God with the Spirit. They are all One, the great I AM.

This leads to what I mentioned earlier, the second point about this title is that it implies God’s powerful work to save us now and in the end of history. Note what He said to Moses in Exodus 3:

And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. (Exodus 3:9)

When He calls Himself the “Almighty” it is not simply to show off His power and strength and reign, though it does this as well, but it is also meant as our comfort. This is what we saw in the Isaiah passages – and it is implied here – namely that God is able to save us now and will save us finally at the consummation of history.

I say save us “now” because if you note in his title He says that He is the Alpha and Omega, and then gives more details, He says He is the one “who is and who was and who is to come.” It is interesting that He begins be saying He is the one “who is.” This seems to be as if to call attention to the fact that He is not simply a transcendent Being who wound up the clock of the universe at the Alpha, and will finally come back at the Omega at the teleos of history.

This is important because He is stating that, “He is” because He is actively involved in history, in our affairs, and is working out His will in and through history until its consummation – so has it always been. He doesn’t say that He is the beginning and the end simply to say He is eternal – but He is also the one “who is” because He “is” involved in the in-between times.

And the nature of His involvement is characterized by His power and His love.

This is eminently practical to us. When we look at these things we cannot help but worship and find great comfort in these words. The same God who spoke to Moses on Horeb is the God who writes to us here saying that He will be with us. And, as if we needed more examples of the amazing consistency of the Godhead and of Scripture, we read the same thing from Jesus in Matthew 28:20 when He says, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

To Sum Up

When you add these things together – the Daniel, Zechariah, Genesis passages and the OT roots behind God’s name and everlasting person – you get this overwhelming sense of eternal kingship, lordship, and sovereignty, but also this interment, condescension and providential hand that guides history, events, and the small details of our lives toward a final teleos.

He is the ruler – He is the One who is and was and is to come. He is Lord of history and of the planets and of this planet, but He is also Lord of the details. And that includes the details of your life, and my life. Amen.

Therefore Revelation is a study in the character of the Almighty God. How that character fashions us, our history, and our future. We find comfort in the fact that because He is eternal He knows the future. We find comfort that because He is almighty, He controls the future. We find comfort in that because He “is love”, His eternal control and plan is merciful, and because He is righteous we find comfort that at the end of the day justice will be done and our God’s name will be honored and glorified.

Side Note: I am disappointed to find that the more I talk to laymen about the book of Revelation the more I am impressed with a general ignorance of the book’s purpose. This book is not merely a guide to unraveling the mysteries of the future. Not many specifics are given as to the future that are not somehow general or symbolic, as we shall see. Those whose wrongful desire is to try and ascertain specifics about the coming of this or that sign have misplaced their desires, and their diligence is wasted (in my opinion). I’m not saying there aren’t mysteries to be solved with study and maturity. But what I am saying is that the primary focus of this book is that it provides us an avenue toward understanding that our God is Lord of all. It is an avenue, not of fruitless and vain speculation, but of reverential worship and great comfort to all who believe. Man seems to have a natural proclivity toward trying to “figure it all out.” I would seek for clarity on every single verse, but I would not presume that we’ll ever have it all figured out, and I hope to humbly proceed with God’s help and the wisdom of scholars who’ve gone before me. God help me in this endeavor. Amen.

 

Footnotes

[i] Johnson, Pg. 51.

[ii] Hendriksen, Pg. 54.

[iii] Hendriksen, Pg. 55.

[iv] George Eldon Ladd, ‘A Commentary on the Revelation of John’, Pg. 29.

[v] Johnson, Pg. 54.

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