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870Re: [revelation-list] Re: Rev 2:9; 3:9

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  • KennethGentry@cs.com
    Oct 13, 2006
      In a message dated 10/13/2006 3:10:33 AM Eastern Standard Time,
      ottoerlend@... writes:

      > "I have a brief paper on 1:7 from this perspective that I could post
      > on revelation-list if anyone would like for me to."
      > I would very much like you to post this paper. Thanks!


      Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D.

      Revelation is the most difficult book to interpret in all of Scripture.
      And it becomes even more difficult when would-be exegetes overlook its stated
      theme. Anytime we endeavor to understand a work, we must seek to do so on the
      basis of the original author's theme. This is especially true when the author
      states his theme — as the Apostle John does in Revelation.

      As with the temporal indicators provided in Revelation 1:1 and 3, John
      places his thematic statement early in his prophecy. In fact, it appears in his
      seventh verse (in our modern versions):

      "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.
      Even so. Amen" (Rev. 1:7).

      The initial impression this verse leaves on us today is the conviction
      that John is speaking of the Second Advent. It certainly does involve language
      quite applicable to the future, glorious, history-ending Second Coming of
      Christ. The Scriptures speak often of his Second Coming, and even with this sort of
      cloud-coming judgment language (cp. Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thess. 4:16-17; 2 Thess.
      1:7-10). And the historic, universal Christian Church has always affirmed that
      majestic event.

      Yet looks are deceiving. Despite this reasonable first impression, strong
      evidence compels us to interpret Revelation 1:7 differently. I believe this
      verse presents us with a judgment prophecy against first century Jerusalem,
      whose destruction occurs in AD 70. John's theme looks to the approaching
      devastation of the Temple and Jerusalem under the Roman generals Vespasian and Titus.
      In that this interpretation of John's theme is not immediately obvious and is
      quite unfamiliar to most modern Christians, I will need to defend it in some

      Several compelling reasons move us away from a Second Advent
      interpretation to an AD 70 one. I will prsent eight lines of evidence supporting a first
      century interpretation.

      The Preceding Context of the Theme
      Perhaps the leading interpretive principle for understanding any document
      can be summarized in three words: "Context. Context. Context." Before we
      arrive at Revelation 1:7 upon opening John's book, we must pass through verses 1
      and 3. These two verses emphatically declare that the events expected in
      Revelation "must shortly take place" (Rev. 1:1) because "the time is near" (Rev.
      We must carefully note that not only does John declare the events of his
      book near, but in those nearness declarations he relates his purpose, applying
      it to his first century audience. Revelation 1:1 informs the original
      recipients that he is writing about "the things which must shortly take place" (Rev.
      1:1). One would think that if he is writing about "the things which must
      shortly take place" this would involve his very theme. It would be strikingly odd
      if John were to declare temporal nearness for the very purpose of his writing,
      then give a theme which reached thousands of years beyond his day. After all,
      does not he declare the nearness of "the time" as reason why his first century
      readers must read, hear, and "heed the things which are written in it" (Rev.
      1:3)? Why would he urge their heeding the things written, if his thematic
      purpose lies untold centuries in the future?
      So then, just four verses before John states the theme of Revelation, he
      declares the events near and applies them to us original audience.

      The Following Context of the Theme

      Not only does John introduce his theme in a way demanding its fast
      approaching fulfillment, but just two verses after stating it he applies it to the
      grueling circumstances of his original readers: "I, John, your brother and
      fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in
      Jesus, was on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the
      testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 1:9).

      John is ministering to a persecuted minority: God's concern with those
      suffering for the faith in the first century is a major, recurring theme running
      throughout Revelation (Rev. 2:9-10; 3:9-10; 6:9-12; 13:5-7; 14:13; 20:4).
      Surely he is not telling these persecuted saints that the time is near, that they
      must heed that which he is writing, that God is concerned with theirr
      persecution — but he will avenge his people thousands of years in the future?
      Revelation 1:7 must apply to the first century circumstances.

      The Apocalyptic Language in the Prophecy
      John frames his thematic statement in apocalyptic imagery by speaking of
      Christ "coming with the clouds" (Rev. 1:7). And though this sounds like the
      Second Advent, and though that glorious event will be literally "with the
      clouds," we find this type of language can be used symbolically of divine historical
      judgments other than the Second Coming. Anyone reading Revelation quickly
      recognizes that he is in a work with strange imagery. And that imagery must often
      be understood symbolically. I believe such is true here in our theme verse as
      well. Let us note just two examples of apocalyptic imagery used of historical
      In Isaiah 19 we find a warning to Old Testament Egypt. In that prophecy
      God threatens judgment upon that ancient nation, a judgment which transpires
      when the Assyrian king Esarhaddon conquered Egypt in 671 B.C. Yet notice the
      language Isaiah employs: "The oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the Lord is riding
      on a swift cloud, and is about to come to Egypt; the idols of Egypt will
      tremble at His presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them"
      (Isa. 19:1). Clearly the prophecy applies to Egypt. And just as clearly it claims
      the Lord "is about to come" to Egypt. Yet no interpreter believes the
      Egyptians saw God Almighty sitting on a cloud and descending among them in judgment.
      In Matthew 26 the Lord Jesus himself uses this language in speaking of
      his judgment against Israel in AD 70:
      "And the high priest stood up and said to Him, 'Do You make no
      answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?' But Jesus kept
      silent. And the high priest said to Him, 'I adjure You by the living God, that You
      tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.' Jesus said to him, 'You
      have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son
      of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of
      Verse 64 is similar to Revelation 1:7: "you shall see the Son of Man sitting
      at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." And note that
      he is speaking to the high priest and those gathered around him: "you shall
      see." This must refer to the AD 70 judgment, which is prophesied in several
      places by Christ (see particularly Matt. 21:33-34; 22:1-7; 24:1-34), and which
      would be witnessed by many of those who stood against Christ on that day.
      So then, Revelation 1:7 can be applied to the historical judgment
      befalling Israel in AD 70. Nothing in Scripture prohibits such an apocalyptic
      rendering. As the evidence mounts, we will be driven to that very conclusion.

      The Lord's Prior Teaching on the Subject
      In the preceding evidence I mentioned as an aside that Christ himself
      employs apocalyptic judgment-coming language when referring to the approaching
      destruction of the Temple. Let us look a little more closely at this phenomenon
      as we unpack the meaning of Revelation 1:7.
      In Matthew 21:33-48 Jesus presents the Parable of the Vineyard Owner. In
      that parable we have a picture of God's loving blessings upon Israel over the
      centuries (21:33-34). But God's providential care of Israel is portrayed
      against the backdrop of her stubborn disobedience leading her to kill the prophets
      whom God sent to her (21:35-36). Finally God sends his very son, only to have
      Israel kill him (21:37-40). Based on this parable Jesus asks the religious
      leaders of Israel: "Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he
      do to those vine-growers?" (21:40).
      Israel's leaders unwittingly respond to his query: "They said to Him, 'He
      will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard
      to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons'"
      (21:41). He shocks them by catching them in their own words: "Therefore I say to
      you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation
      producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to
      pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust" (21:43-44).
      They then understand his point: "And when the chief priests and the Pharisees
      heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them" (21:45).
      This parable and its consequent discussion look to the AD 70 destruction
      of the Temple, speaking of the AD 70 judgment as a "coming" of the Lord: "when
      the owner of the vineyard comes" (21:40). In the following context another
      parable speaks more literally: "But the king was enraged and sent his armies,
      and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire" (Matt. 22:7).
      Clearly then, Revelation 1:7 can at least theoretically be applied to AD
      70. And given its contextual setting (and other matters I will rehearse
      below), this is the preferred understanding of John's theme.

      The Specific Cause of the Judgment

      Having established the context and the possibilities, we must now focus
      on the express wording of Revelation 1:7. John applies the prophecy
      particularly against "those who pierced him": "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. Even so. Amen" (Rev. 1:7). This provides a clue for
      the proper interpretation of the theme which is as overlooked as the clues
      regarding John's temporal expectations.

      We are all aware that the Roman soldiers were the direct, physical
      instruments of Christ's crucifixion. The Bible, however, strongly and repeatedly
      emphasizes Israel's covenantal responsibility for the whole terrible event. I
      will list several verses that point directly to Israel as the cause of Christ's
      crucifixion (in a later chapter we will see how relevant this is to the message
      of Israel).

      "And all the people answered and said, 'His blood be on us and on our
      children!'" (Matt. 27:25).

      "They therefore cried out, 'Away with Him, away with Him, crucify
      Him!' Pilate said to them, 'Shall I crucify your King?' The chief priests
      answered, 'We have no king but Caesar'" (John 19:15).

      "This Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge
      of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death"
      (Acts 2:23).

      "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by
      hanging Him on a cross" (Acts 5:30).

      See also: Acts 7:52; 10:39; 13:13-15; 1 Thess. 2:14-16.

      The unrelenting testimony of the New Testament blames Israel for Christ's
      death. She is covenantally responsible; she should have known better (Matt.
      23:37; John 1:11). So then, Revelation 1:7 promises judgment upon "those who
      pierced him," which demands that that judgment fall in the first century while
      "those who pierced him" were still alive — especially given the near-term
      temporal indicators in the very context of this statement (Rev. 1, 3). The events
      of AD 70 present us with a most perfect, relevant, and compelling fit.

      The Ultimate Focus of the Judgment
      But there is more! Revelation 1:7 also states that: "all the tribes of
      the earth will mourn over him." Who are these "tribes of the earth"? And why do
      they "mourn"?
      The reader must understand that the Greek word translated "earth" (ge)
      can also be translated "land." In fact, it often refers to "the land of Israel,"
      i.e., "the Promised Land." In a number of places in the New Testament this
      word speaks either of the Promised Land as a whole, or some portion of it. In
      those places we find it in such phrases as "the land of Judah" (Matt. 2:6), "the
      land of Judea" (John 3:22), "the land of Israel" (Matt. 2:20, 21), "the land
      of Zebulun" (Matt. 4:15), "the land of Naphtali" (Matt. 4:15), and "the land
      of the Jews" (Acts 10:39). Thus, upon purely lexical considerations, the term
      can be understood as designating the Promised Land.
      When we note that this "land" contains "tribes," we move even closer to
      the proper interpretation. The Greek word for "tribe" is phule, which in
      Scripture most frequently refers to the Jewish tribes. The New Testament often names
      particular "tribes" of Israel: Asher (Luke 2:36); Benjamin (Act 13:21; Rom
      11:1; Phil 3:5); Judah (Rev. 5:5; Heb 7:14). The "tribes" found their home in
      Palestine; these are "the tribes of the land" Revelation 1:7 mentions. John's
      reference to the "tribe of Judah" in Revelation 5:5 clearly points to the
      tribal division among racial Jews. The term "tribe" obviously has that racial
      import in Revelation 7:4-8 (where it is used of each of the specifically named
      Twelve Tribes) and in Revelation 21:12 (where John refers to "the twelve tribes of
      the children of Israel").
      As a matter or fact, literal translations of the Scripture lean in this
      "Lo, he doth come with the clouds, and see him shall every eye, even
      those who did pierce him, and wail because of him shall all the tribes of the
      land. Yes! Amen!"
      "Behold he comes with the clouds, and will see him every eye and
      [those] who him pierced, and will wail over him all the tribes of the land. Yes,
      This not only fits nicely with the near-term temporal indicators, but
      also Jesus' warnings of impending judgment upon Israel. Notice three examples
      from Luke (in addition to the parables mentioned previously in Matthew):
      "And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying,
      'If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But
      now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when
      your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in
      on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you,
      and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not
      recognize the time of your visitation'" (Luke 19:41-44).

      See also: Luke 21:20-22 and 23:28-31.
      The evidence for an AD 70 meaning of Revelation 1:7 is becoming
      insurmountable. John's theme in Revelation is Israel's judgment for rejecting the Lord
      Jesus Christ.

      The Particular Parallel in the Gospels

      Interestingly, Revelation 1:7 finds a remarkable parallel in the Lord's
      teaching in the Olivet Discourse. Observe the similarities between Revelation
      1:7 and Matthew 24:30, noting particularly the italicized words:

      "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." (Matt. 24:30)

      "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.
      Even so. Amen." (Rev. 1:7)

      Both of these verses are unique in Scripture in merging portions of
      Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10. John draws the "coming on the clouds" imagery from
      Daniel, and the "mourning of the tribes" from Zechariah. No other passage in
      Scripture merges these two verses.

      Furthermore, both of the prophetic discourses in which we find these
      verses speak of "the great tribulation" (Matt. 24:21 and Rev. 7:14). And most
      commentators note the parallel between Matthew 24:6-11 and the first four seals in
      Revelation 6:1-8. And both prophecies are associated somehow with the Temple
      of God (Matt. 24:1-3, 15 and Rev. 11:1-2). In fact, we should note that Luke's
      version of the Lord's teaching appears to be the source of John's language in
      Revelation 11 (note especially the italicized portions):

      "They will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive
      into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles
      until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (Luke 21:24)

      "And leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not
      measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot
      the holy city for forty-two months." (Rev. 11:2)

      Interestingly, John's Gospel lacks the Olivet Discourse which is found in the
      other three Gospels — perhaps because John covers the same material in
      another work, Revelation.

      Now remarkably for our purposes, both prophecies also expressly focus on
      near-term events. I show above that John insists his Revelation prophecies
      "must shortly come to pass" (Rev. 1:1; 22:6) "for the time is near" (Rev. 1:3;
      22:10). In Matthew, the Olivet Discourse opens with Christ's denouncing the
      Temple (Matt. 23:38) and the disciples pointing out the current Temple's beauty
      (Matt. 24:1). Jesus responds to their wonder by stating: "Do you not see all
      these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another,
      which will not be torn down" (Matt. 24:2), to which the disciples reply: "Tell
      us, when will these things be?" (Matt. 24:3). After providing them with
      precursory signs, he finally answers their question: "Truly I say to you, this
      generation will not pass away until all these things take place" (Matt. 24:34),
      which happens to match very nicely with John's assertion that these things "must
      shortly take place." And we know from history that that very Temple was
      destroyed in AD 70, just forty years after Jesus spoke.

      Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.M., Th.D.
      <A HREF="www.KennethGentry.Com">KennethGentry.Com</A>
      "Serious Studies for Serious Christians"

      Revelation Commentary Project
      If you would like to give toward funding my research on
      Revelation please go to <A HREF="www.KennethGentry.Com">KennethGentry.Com</A> then click
      on "Revelation Commentary Project."

      New releases
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      (reprint of Second Edition) (600+ pp; paperback)

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