REVELATION’S THEME COMPLETED

PMT 2013-037 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Jesus preachingThis is my third and final article on the theme of Revelation, which is found in Rev 1:7. I have been presenting evidence that it prophesies the AD 70 judgment on Jerusalem and the temple, even though it seems like it is speaking of Christ’s second coming. Let us consider the remaining evidence.

The Ultimate Focus of the Judgment

In addition to mentioning “those who pierced him,” Rev 1:7, which we saw refers to the Jews who are covenantally responsible for Christ’s death, it 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”?

To properly interpret this statement it is important to recognize that the Greek word translated “earth” (g ) can also be translated “land,” and may refer to “the Land,” i.e., the Promised Land of Israel. 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).

Now when we note that this “land” contains “tribes,” we begin uncovering more helpful evidence in this direction. The Greek word for “tribe” is phul , which in Scripture most frequently refers to the Jewish tribes. In fact, the New Testament often names particular “tribes” of Israel, such as Asher (Luke 2:36); Benjamin (Act 13:21; Rom. 11:1; Phil. 3:5); and Judah (Rev. 5:5; Heb. 7:14).

These “tribes” are located in the land of Israel. These are “the tribes of the earth” (i.e., “land”) that John mentions in Revelation 1:7. We find confirmation to this in Revelation 5:5, where John mentions the “tribe [phul ] of Judah.” This clearly points to one of the better known tribal divisions in ancient Israel.

As we read further in Revelation, we discover the term “tribe” again in Revelation 7:4–8. And there it once again has a racial import, where it is used of each of the specifically named Twelve Tribes. We also find it in Revelation 21:12 where John mentions “the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.” Who could deny that “tribe” speaks of the Jewish tribal divisions in these statements?


Revelation: Mentor Commentary
by Douglas Kelly
Practical, preterist, early-date commentary on Revelation.


Interestingly, some of the most literal translations of Revelation 1:7 push us in this direction:

“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!” (Young’s Literal Translation)

“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, amen.” (Marshal, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament)

This not only fits well with John’s near-term indicators stated just a few verses previously (Rev 1:1, 3), but also with Jesus’ warnings of Jerusalem’s approaching judgment. I will present three examples from Luke:

“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).

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:20-22).

“But Jesus turning to them said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us,” and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do these things in the green tree, what will happen in the dry?” (Luke 23:28-31).

That Revelation 1:7 refers to AD 70 rather than the second advents is virtually demanded by a careful consideration of this evidence. But I would like to present one more piece of evidence.

The Particular Parallel in the Gospels

As we look at this final evidence, we should recall that Revelation is ultimately “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” which was communicated “to His bond-servant John” (Rev 1:1). Therefore, we should expect that John’s theme might relate to the teaching of Christ which John himself heard. And so it does. Revelation 1:7 finds a remarkable parallel in the Lord’s teaching in the Olivet Discourse. Let us note the similarities between Revelation 1:7 and Matthew 24:30:

“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)

Significantly, these two verses are unique in all of Scripture. They are the only places in Scripture where we find Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10 merged into a single statement. John draws the “coming on the clouds” imagery from Daniel, and the “mourning of the tribes” from Zechariah. But there is more.

Both the Olivet Discourse and Revelation also speak of “the great tribulation” (Matt.24:21 and Rev. 7:14). In fact, 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)

Another significant point is that John’s Gospel lacks the Olivet Discourse which is found in the other three Gospels. If John is expanding on the Olivet Discourse in Revelation, this may explain why he does not include Olivet in his Gospel: he deals with it more fully in Revelation.

What is more, prophecies expressly declare that their events are near at hand. In a previous blog article I show that Revelation’s 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 is immediately preceded by Christ’s denouncing the Temple (Matt.23:38) and the disciples pointing out the beauty of the Temple’s massive stones (Matt.24:1). Jesus responds to their surprise: “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).

This sparks 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). This 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.

Conclusion

Virtually all commentators agree that Revelation 1:7 presents John’s theme for Revelation. I have surveyed several distinct lines of evidence that point to AD 70 as the event in John’s mind. Revelation does not deal with the conclusion of human history, but the beginning of Christian history: the destruction of the temple which finally closes the old covenant era.


Postmillennialism Made Easy
by Ken Gentry
Basic introduction to postmillennialism


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