Revelation 1:5-9 – Coming with Clouds

(5)  and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 

                   Thirdly, this book is from Jesus. The unity and oneness of God is impressed upon us in this book as it is in every book of the Bible. The message of this book is not to be taken lightly, nor should our interpretation be loose; for we have the greatest responsibility to honor the words of this book as the message from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As in all other words of scripture, we must recognize the authority behind these words and not twist them, or remove them from the original context, or create a disharmony between these words and other scriptures.


(6)  and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 

                   The Christians are a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). Royal, because we are sons of God and heirs to an eternal inheritance (Galatians 4:7); and priests, because we are in the daily service of God in his holy temple (Hebrews 10:19-21; 13:15-16). Such a destination as priests in a kingdom cannot be possible except by the power and work of Christ.


(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. 

                   Hearing that Jesus is coming with clouds should not cause us to jump to the final judgment in our minds. We are involved in a very specific context of “the things that must soon take place” (1:1), so this must be his coming that would soon take place in John’s day. Jesus also addressed this event, saying, “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30); following this, he said, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:34). So again, we are restricted to understand this text to be in reference to a first century coming of the Lord. Not that it would be the last time that he comes in judgment (look around today, there is still much left to judge), nor was it the first time either. God rules (as verse five already told us), and a ruler will constantly make judgments. As long as God reigns, he will also judge. Even in the days of the Old Testament, God used this language of coming in the clouds to refer to regional judgments he makes against wicked people (Psalm 97:2; Isaiah 19:1; Daniel 7:13; Nahum 1:3). It would be unnatural to consider Revelation 1:7 as a reference to the final judgment.

                   The picture of Christ “coming with the clouds” should not give us visions of beautiful fluffy clouds, white as snow, glistening with the brightness of glory. Rather, this is a picture of judgment, with dark and stormy clouds causing a mournful moan from the Jewish tribes.

“Every eye will see Him.” God’s judgments are always seen by every eye, even if it is a judgment upon a particular people. Ezekiel 39:21-24 is a great reference to this point:

“I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. The house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God, from that day forward. And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.”

“Even those who pierced Him.” This judgment would be seen in the generation of those who crucified Christ. Once again, we see that this is a first century event because “they who pierced him” would be alive to “see” him coming. Who are they who pierced him? They are the “congregation of the wicked” according to Psalm 22:16. Sure, it was a Roman soldier who literally pierced his side (John 19:34), but it was the congregation of the Jews who were behind the actions of the Romans. Whether we consider those who pierced him to be Roman or Jew, it doesn’t matter, for both parties would see the Lord’s coming.

                   “And all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him.” All the tribes mourning because of his coming is referring to the Jewish people. For all the scriptures refer to the Jews as the tribes. Further this statement, “tribes of the earth,” is a little tricky, for the word “earth” is ge in the Greek language, and ge is the word for land, nor the world (kosmos). So, a tighter translation from the Greek, and one befitting the context of Revelation, would be: all the tribes of the land will mourn. Zechariah also spoke on this point, and he also specified that the mourners would be “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:10-14); and “on that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great.” Jesus, speaking of the fall of Jerusalem and the conflict of Judea, spoke in this language as well: “then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds” (Matthew 24:30). Seeing Jesus speak of this same event in a context restricted to the land of Judea is important evidence for a proper understanding of Revelation 1:7. This verse, therefore, is critical evidence that the book was written before the fall of Jerusalem.

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

                   This verse repeats a continuous theme in the book: the completeness, the greatness, the eternity of God. He is A to Z, the beginning and the end, the first and the last (1:11). This statement, “who is and who was and who is to come,” is repeated from verse four, where it was applied to the Father; here, it appears to be applied to the Christ (as the other parts of this verse are elsewhere applied to Christ: 1:11, 17; 22:13). There is also a connection between these words and the words of Christ later in the chapter, “the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore” (1:18). The threefold concept (is, was, and is to come) is in direct contrast to the identity of the beast, who “was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction.” (17:8, see also 17:11). The threefold idea of the beast is that he has not been able to continue in the past and will not continue in the future; while Christ’s threefold statement is that he continues forever just as he always has!


(9)  I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 

                   John was less than forty miles away from the original recipients of this letter! But what was he doing on the island of Patmos. He said that he was there for the sake of the “word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” This can mean one of two things; either he was there to preach the gospel to the inhabitants of Patmos (yes, people lived there) as he passed through that region; or he was there because he had been banished by Rome for his faith in Jesus. Most assume the latter because he also spoke of the “tribulation” in this verse. But that is not a sure interpretation, for a tribulation would not cause John to cease preaching and traveling “for the word of God.” Ultimately, there is not enough detail to come to a confident conclusion, but we can be assured that the seven churches in Asia would have understood his reasoning for being on Patmos at that time.

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