Saturday, July 3, 2021

10. The Revelation: The Preview of Christ's Second Coming (Revelation 1:7-8)

The book of Revelation is the ultimate action thriller. Anyone who loves a great novel will certainly love this book. It contains drama, suspense, mystery, and horror. It tells of rebellion, unprecedented economic collapse, and the ultimate war of human history. Revelation is a book of astounding drama and horror, but also of hope and joy. It culminates with a happy ending, as sin and death are banished forever (Rev. 21:4; Rev. 22:3).

In Rev. 1:7–8, John provides his readers with a preview of what will come later in the Revelation. In doing so, he reveals the theme of the book as the second coming of Christ. Five truths about His second coming are communicated for our understanding:

1. The Necessity of the Second Coming

"...Behold, He is coming" (Rev. 1:7a)

Verse 7 begins the first great prophetic oracle of Revelation. “Behold” is intended to arouse the mind and heart to consider what follows. This is the first of its twenty-five uses in Revelation—a book filled with startling truths that demand careful attention.

The “Coming One” was a title for Christ. This Greek word (Erchomai) is used nine times in Revelation to refer to Jesus Christ; seven times by our Lord in reference to Himself. Thus, the theme of the book of Revelation is the Coming One, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Despite the scoffers who deny the second coming (2 Peter 3:3–4), the Bible repeatedly affirms that Jesus will return. That truth appears in more than five hundred verses throughout the Bible. It has been estimated that one out of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament refers to the second coming. Jesus repeatedly spoke of His return (Matthew 16:27; 24–25; 26:64; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26) and warned believers to be ready for it (Mathew 24:42, 44; 25:13; Luke 12:40; 21:34–36). The return of the Lord Jesus Christ to this earth is a central theme in Scripture.

The hope that Christ will one day return and take believers to heaven to live forever in His presence provides hope and comfort for those who know Him (John 14:1–3; 1 Thessalonians 4:17–18).

2. The Glory of the Second Coming

"...with the clouds..." (Rev. 1:7b)

Clouds in Scripture frequently symbolize God’s presence. A cloud was used as the visible manifestation of God’s presence with Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21–22; 16:10; Numbers 10:34). At Mount Sinai, “a thick cloud upon the mountain” symbolized God’s presence (Exodus 19:16). When the Lord communicated with Moses at the Tent of Meeting, “the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses” (Exodus 33:9). Both the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34–38) and the temple (1 Kings 8:10–12) were filled with a cloud symbolizing God’s glory at their dedications. Jesus ascended to heaven on a cloud (Acts 1:9). Believers will ascend with clouds at the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17), and Christ will return with clouds (cf. Daniel 7:13; Matthew 24:30).

The clouds picture Christ’s descent from heaven. More significant, they symbolize the brilliant light that accompanies God’s presence. The appearance of the Christ and the brilliance of innumerable angels and the redeemed who accompany Him will be both an indescribable and terrifying event.

3. The Scope of the Second Coming

"...and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him." (Rev. 1:7c)

During the incarnation, Christ’s glory was hidden. Only Peter, James, and John caught a glimpse of it at the transfiguration. At His second coming, every eye will see Him. His glory will be obvious to all humanity.

John divides those who will see the second coming into two groups. “Those who pierced Him” does not refer to the Roman soldiers involved in Christ’s crucifixion but to the unbelieving Jews who instigated His death. In Zechariah 12:10 God says, “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, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.” Peter affirmed that the Jewish people were responsible for Christ’s execution, boldly declaring:

Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over 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 2:22–23; cf. 3:14–15)

Israel’s mourning, noted in Zechariah 12:10, will be that of genuine repentance. Many Jews will be saved during the tribulation, both the 144,000 and their converts. But for many others, the second coming will be the time of their salvation. It will be “in that day [that] a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity” (Zechariah 13:1).

John describes the second group as “all the tribes of the earth,” a reference to the unbelieving Gentile nations. Like the Jewish people, they will also mourn over Christ. Some of that mourning may relate to the repentance of those who are saved at that time (7:9–10, 14). But unlike the Jewish nation, the Gentiles’ mourning will not generally result from genuine repentance. “Mourn” is from koptō, which literally means “to cut.” The word became associated with mourning due to the pagans’ practice of cutting themselves when in extreme grief or despair. First Kings 18:28 records that the frenzied, panicked prophets of Baal “cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them” in a desperate attempt to get their god’s attention. The Israelites were strictly forbidden to engage in such pagan rituals (Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1).

The Gentiles’ mourning will mostly be prompted by terror, not repentance. They will mourn not for the Christ they rejected, but over their doom. (9:21).

4. The Response to the Second Coming

"...So it is to be. Amen." (Rev. 1:7d)

Experiencing the response of both believers and unbelievers to Christ’s second coming, John includes his own response. Using the strongest words of affirmation both in Greek and Hebrew, John pleads for the Lord Jesus Christ to return before noting words from Christ’s own voice.

5. The Certainty of the Second Coming

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

In this verse the Lord God puts His signature on the prophecy of the second coming recorded in the previous verse. He calls Himself “the Alpha and the Omega,” emphasizing His perfect knowledge. Alpha and Omega are the first and final letters in the Greek alphabet. Second, as the one “who is and who was and who is to come,” God is forever present; He is not confined by time or space. His promise that He will come settles the issue. Third, “the Almighty” affirms His perfect power. Nothing can stop Him from carrying out His will.

These terms also imply that He is the creator and consummation of all history. He is the Beginning and the End (cf. 22:13).

It has been noted that: 

  • Jesus came the first time in humiliation. He will return in exaltation.
  • He came the first time to serve. He will return to be served. 
  • He came the first time as the suffering servant. He will return as the conquering king.

The challenge the book of Revelation makes to every person is to be ready for His return. Only those “who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8), who love Him and acknowledge Him as the rightful king, will enjoy the blessings of His kingdom.