Revelation 1:7 – Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.
When I tell people that I believe Jesus has already come in judgement, one of the first things they bring up is the argument, “But the Bible says that the whole world will see Jesus when He comes. Surely that didn’t happen, did it?” Most people don’t know where the quote comes from, let alone understand what it means.
For this reason, I would like to present a thorough study of this verse. Because it is in John’s Revelation, people assume it has therefore to be all about Jesus’ second coming and all that Revelation stuff…
The context of the verse
It is significant that Revelation 1:7 is part of the introduction to John’s prophesy rather than part of the prophesy, even before John relates the circumstances in which he saw his vision (verse 9).
Verses 1,2 – The things which must soon take place…
Verse 3 – Hear it and take heed, for the time is near.
Verses 4 – 6 – To the seven churches in Asia, grace and peace from God in heaven and from Jesus Christ, first-born of the dead, ruler of the kings of the earth… To Him be glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Verse 7 – Behold, He is coming with the clouds…
Verse 8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” said the Lord God…
Then begins the revelation itself:
Verse 9 – A funny thing happened to me on the island of Patmos…
The words of verse 7 are not part of the prophesy revealed to John. They were not dictated by Jesus or an angel. They are John’s way of setting the tone for what is to come, by drawing on more ancient images from Old Testament prophesies. That is, they draw from Scripture as it was available at the time. John affirms this as he did in the previous verse, with the solemn “Amen.”
Verse 6: To Him be glory and dominion for ever. Amen.
Verse 7: Behold, He is coming with the clouds… Even so, Amen.
In verses 5 and 6, he states who and what Jesus is: The faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, the prince of kings; He loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God, His Father.
In verse 7, he links Jesus to the Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah.
The elements of the verse
In verse 7, John applies three images or prophesies that apply to the theme of the revelation foreshadowed in verses 1 to 3:
- Jesus would be coming on the clouds of heaven.
- He would be visible.
- There would be mourning at His coming.
Not only did John use these identifying images, but the Lord Himself used them to link His own prophesies of judgement and tribulation back to the familiar Scriptures:
Matthew 24:30 – “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, 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.”
Again, Jesus portrays the same image to the High Priest, Caiaphas:
Matthew 26:64 – “… I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
A closer look at the Old Testament scriptures cited by Jesus and John will answer the following important questions:
- Where was Jesus going to, on the clouds of heaven?
- To whom would He be visible?
- Who would be mourning at His coming?
The scriptures cited are two prophesies, the first being Daniel and the second Zechariah.
Behold, He is coming with the clouds.
Daniel 7:13 – I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.
Notice that the Son of Man was seen coming, or going, not to earth, but to the Ancient of Days. The word ‘coming’ (erchomai, Strong’s ref 2064) can also mean ‘going’ or appearing (as in to appear before someone or come before the public). It does not mean that He would actually necessarily be coming onto the earth, in the sense of walking around as He did before. He was coming to His Father to receive dominion, glory, and a kingdom in which the all nations would be subject to Him (Daniel 7:14). This was to occur at or toward the end of the war of the Beast and the days of tribulation.
From an earthly perspective, Jesus was coming in the sense that He would appear in the sky as a sign of His receiving the kingdom, and therefore be ‘coming’ with power and great glory to judge the world. There is no need to insist that Jesus’ coming involved His placing a foot on the earth as He once did.
Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him.
This comes from Zechariah:
Zechariah 12:10 – I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him… (11) In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem…
If you follow the use of ‘In that day’, it is clear that in that same day (which in this case is not a 24 hour period, but a period of time), the following prophesy finds fulfillment:
Zechariah 13:7 – “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the man, My Associate,” declares the Lord of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; and I will turn My hand against the little ones.”
So, the striking of the Shepherd was on the same day, or at the same time, as the judgement against Jerusalem detailed in Zechariah 12-13, including the event during which ‘they’ would look on Him whom they had pierced.
Now, the striking of the Lord’s Shepherd and the scattering of the sheep would refer to the death of Jesus Christ and the period of night that followed. As for seeing Him whom they pierced, this was, according to John’s gospel, fulfilled once when the soldier’s spear pierced Jesus’ side:
John 19:34-37 – But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear… (36) For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “Not a bone of His shall be broken.” (37) And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”
The soldier was presumably a Roman sent by Pilate at the Jews’ request to ensure that the victims of the crucifixions were dead before the Sabbath (John 19:31:33).
So who pierced Him, the Romans or the Jews?
In the sense that the Jews had called for Jesus’ crucifixion, it was the Jews primarily who had pierced Him. They accepted responsibility, and they were given it!
Matthew 27:25 – And the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
Acts 2:23 – (to Jews) This man… you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
So, John, in his gospel, states that Zechariah’s prophesy is fulfilled when the Roman soldier pierces Christ’s flesh. And yet, he also suggests at a future fulfillment when He appears in the clouds!
How can an event in the future already have been fulfilled?
Simple: They were the same eyes that beheld Him. The ones who pierced Him saw Him when it happened, and those same eyes would behold Him again when He appeared in the clouds.
In the original Zechariah prophesy, they was the direct subject of not only the looking, but also the piercing. “They will look on Him (Me) whom they pierced”.
They will look on Him. They pierced Him. Same people.
In Revelation, John says ‘every eye’, however I do not believe we can take that to mean ‘every eye on the planet’. The reasons for this are as follows:
Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. (NASB) The word ‘even’ is a good translation of the word kai (=and), even though it might give the impression that those who pierced Him are a small subset of the eyes that will see Him. Other translations include: …and also those who pierced Him. This makes it sound like there are two groups: every eye, and those who pierced Him. This does not make sense.
‘Even those’, meaning ‘including those’, does make sense, particularly for people who believe that the whole planet and people of all times will see Him.
However, the use of ‘even’ can, instead, imply more of a specification rather than an inclusion: ‘that is’, rather than ‘as well as’. The following examples use the same word kai that is translated elsewhere as ‘and’. In each case, ‘that is’ can be used instead of ‘even’:
John 8:41 – We have one Father, even (kai) God. (not ‘including God’, or ‘and also God’)
Acts 9:17 – (KJV) The Lord, even (kai) Jesus, hath appeared… (not ‘including Jesus’, or ‘and also Jesus’)
Acts 10:41 – to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is (NASB) (KJV ‘even’) to us, who ate and drank with Him…
1 Corinthians 15:24 – the kingdom of God, even (KJV) (NASB ‘and’) the Father…
2 Thessalonians 2:16 – (KJV) and God, even (kai) our Father…
This clearly shows that a possible translation is:
Every eye will see Him, that is, those who pierced Him.
So is this just applying a possible translation to suit a particular need in interpretation? Not at all! This translation is the only one that is consistent with “they will look on Him (Me) whom they have pierced.”
In fact, it does not take much of a cynic to suspect that the translation “every eye will see Him, and also those who pierced Him” was rendered simply to make it (Jesus’ appearance) appear global…
So, John 1:7 is saying that it would be a sign specifically for the ones who pierced Jesus – not just the soldier, of course, but the ones who were responsible for Jesus’ death.
And all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.
So how would all the tribes of the earth mourn for Him?
Go back to Zechariah.
Zechariah 12:10 – I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him…
Who will look upon Him? The house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This defines who ‘they’ are: They will look upon Me, whom they pierced.
It is the same ‘they’ who will mourn.
So who will mourn? According to Zechariah, Israel and Jerusalem.
Looking at the verses following this, from 11 to 14, Zechariah outlines the families that would mourn. There would be mourning in Jerusalem, and ‘the land’, every family (of Israel).
So all the tribes of the earth are simply Israel?
Remember, the use of the word ‘earth’ is virtually never used to describe the globe or entire human race, but is defined by the context. Ghay (Strong’s ref 1093), soil, region, ground, country, land, world. Global Flood adherents (of which I am one) recognize that earth can mean the planet, however just saying that the flood covered the earth does not mean it was global.
Matthew 2:6 – Bethlehem in the land (ghay) of Judah… (not the planet Earth)
Matthew 2:20 – go into the land (ghay) of Israel… (not the planet Earth)
Matthew 27:45 – there was darkness over all the land (ghay). (not the planet Earth)
Luke 4:25 – famine was throughout all the land (ghay)… (not the planet Earth)
‘All the tribes of the land’ in Revelation 1:7, in order to be consistent with Zechariah 12, would therefore refer to all the tribes of Israel. In other words, Israel in its entirety. We know this is what Zechariah means, and we know this is what happened in reality when Jesus came in judgement against those who pierced Him.
Referring to Israel in terms of its tribes was a common enough in the Scriptures, and therefore easy enough for the hearers of the prophesy to understand, particularly if they already knew Zechariah’s own prophesy.
Psalm 122:4 – [Jerusalem,] To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord.
Luke 22:30 – “… and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
So, what John is saying, is that Jesus’ murderers would see His sign or appearance or His coming or His going, and all of Israel would mourn. This now becomes consistent with the rest of Zechariah’s prophesy, which is all about the judgement of Israel, the attack and siege of Jerusalem.
Zechariah 12:2 – And when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah.
It was the same generation that killed Him that would see and would be judged, just as they themselves had said:
Matthew 27:25 – And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
So did they see Him?
The problem is, of course, that the ones who would see Him and who would have experienced all of the signs of the absolute end of the age would be the ones who would not be in much of a position to report on it afterwards. The signs of the end were to be a warning to the faithful, so that those who would witness them, with understanding, would escape the wrath to come. The ones who were left would either be killed, or would (by the very reason for their being there) be unlikely to give God the glory because of it.
However, there were some witnesses who reported their experiences. The most famous is Josephus. He was a Jew who was captured by the Romans, and who after the war recorded the events leading up to and during the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple.
If you read his War of the Jews, you might just find it very easy to believe that all of the prophesies of the Old and New Testaments have been fulfilled.
The following quote is a small portion of his works, and relates to strange signs witnessed by the inhabitants of Jerusalem. For myself, although I understand that ‘seeing Jesus’ can mean a number of things other than a literal eyeballing of His physical body, can see that this physical, yet supernatural fulfillment might well have occurred, just as promised:
(Relevant part in bold for quicker perusal)
Josephus, The War of the Jews
Book VI, Chapter 5, Section 3 (excerpts)
The Signs That Preceded The Destruction
Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year. Thus also, before the Jews’ rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eight day of the month Xanthicus, [Nisan,] and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day-time; which light lasted for half an hour. This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it.
At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple. Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner, [court of the temple,] which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night. Now, those that kept watch in the temple came thereupon running to the captain of the temple, and told him of it; who then came up thither, and not without great difficulty was able to shut the gate again. This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy, as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness. But the men of learning understood it, that the security of their holy house was dissolved of its own accord, and that the gate was opened for the advantage of their enemies. So these publicly declared, that this signal forshewed the desolation that was coming upon them.
Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one-and-twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence.”
Revelation 1:7 is part of John’s introduction to the revelation given to him. In it, he cites two other prophesies, summarize what Jesus would accomplish in a short time, “for the time is near.” (verse 3) Jesus would come, or appear, as a sign against those who had pierced Him, that is, those who had Him killed, and cause a mourning among all of Israel – all except the elect, that is, who were blessed with such a forewarning:
Revelation 1:3 – Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near (at hand).