Listen to RevelationHebrew and Greek FontsDownload Commentary Previous SectionUpTable of ContentsNext Section

3.1.7 - Revelation 1:7 Open Bible at Rev. 1:7 Listen to Rev. 1:7

He is coming
The OT Scriptures predicted a “coming one” (Deu. 18:15-18; Ps. 2; 22; 118:26; Isa. 9:6; 48:16; 53; 61:1; Jer. 23:5-8; Dan. 9:25+; Mic. 5:2; Zec. 2:8-11; 6:12-15; etc.). This was the expectation of those among whom Jesus ministered (John 1:21; 1:45; 6:14; 7:40). John the Baptist knew of these predictions and sent his disciples to Jesus inquiring, “ ‘Are You the Coming One (ἐρχόμενος [erchomenos] ), or do we look for another?’ ” [emphasis added] (Mat. 11:3; Luke 7:19). Peter and Stephen explained it was Jesus who fulfilled these predictions (Acts 3:22; 7:37).

Yet this Coming One represented a Scriptural enigma. At times, He was said to be victorious king who would reign forever (Num. 24:17; Isa. 9:6-7). But He was also forsaken, despised, rejected, and crushed (Ps. 22; Isa. 53). How could these seeming contradictions be reconciled? Some chose to apply these passages to two different individuals, a “suffering Messiah” (Messiah ben-Joseph) and a “victorious Messiah” (Messiah ben-David).1 Others held that the fulfillments were mutually exclusive and which would eventuate depended upon the obedience of Israel.2

The key which unlocks this mystery is the resurrection of Messiah (Ps. 16:10; Isa. 53:10). He would come once, die for the sins of the world, be resurrected back to life, and come a second time in judgment. His First Coming, death, and resurrection are now past. All that remains is His reappearance as described to John here and elsewhere in the NT. “It has been estimated that one out of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament refers to the Second Coming.”3

Jesus came the first time in humiliation; He will return in exaltation. He came the first time to be killed; He will return to kill His enemies. 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.4

He is coming (present tense) and every eye will see Him (future tense). The grammar places the event on the edge between the present and the future—the futuristic present. It is ‘about to occur.’ It is imminent:

The verb form ἔρχεται [erchetai] is an example of the futuristic use of the present tense, the future connotation being provided by the word’s meaning. The idea is that Christ is already on His way, i.e., He is in the process of coming and hence will arrive. This use of the present tense enhances emphasis on the imminence of that coming (cf. ἔρχομαι [erchomai] , John 14:3).5

This same verb is used directly or indirectly eleven more times in this book in reference to the return of Christ (cf. Rev. 1+;4,8+; 2:5+, 16+; 3:11+; 4:8+; 16:15+; 22:7+, 12+, 20+ [twice]), seven coming from the lips of Christ Himself (Rev. 2:5+, 16+; 3:11+; 16:15+; 22:7+, 12+, 20+). The current verse obviously is the theme verse for the whole book.6

See Imminency.

with clouds
Clouds are often associated with the glory of the Lord. Clouds were often one aspect of the visible manifestation of the Lord’s presence (Ex. 16:10; 19:9, 16; 24:15-16; 34:5; 40:34; Deu. 5:22). Clouds indicated His presence over the mercy seat where He dwelt between the cherubim (Lev. 16:2). During Solomon’s prayer dedicating the Temple, he recognized God’s habitation as the dark cloud (2Chr. 6:1). In response, the glory of the Lord filled the Temple (2Chr. 7:1), no doubt including a manifestation of clouds. The psalmist understood dark clouds to be God’s canopy (Ps. 18:11; Ps. 97:2).

The manifestation of God by clouds indicates His localized presence on the earth, among men:

the Shechinah Glory is the visible manifestation of the presence of God. It is the majestic presence or manifestation of God in which He descends to dwell among men. Whenever the invisible God becomes visible, and whenever the omnipresence of God is localized, this is the Shechinah Glory. The usual title found in Scriptures for the Shechinah Glory is the glory of Jehovah, or the glory of the Lord. The Hebrew form is Kvod Adonai, which means “the glory of Jehovah” and describes what the Shechinah Glory is. The Greek title, Doxa Kurion, is translated as “the glory of the Lord.” Doxa means “brightness,” “brilliance,” or “splendor,” and it depicts how the Shechinah Glory appears. Other titles give it the sense of “dwelling,” which portrays what the Shechinah Glory does. The Hebrew word Shechinah, from the root shachan, means “to dwell.” The Greek word skeinei, which is similar in sound as the Hebrew Shechinah (Greek has no “sh” sound), means “to tabernacle” . . . In the Old Testament, most of these visible manifestations took the form of light, fire, or cloud, or a combination of these. A new form appears in the New Testament: the Incarnate Word.7

The visible manifestation of God indicating the place where he dwelt has been called the “Shekinah” glory from the Hebrew verb שָׁכַן [šāḵan] meaning “dwell, live among, inhabit, abide, stay, remain, camp, i.e., to live or reside in a place, usually for a relatively long amount of time (Gen. 9:27).”8 See The Abiding Presence of God.

The cloud is probably not to be interpreted as a vapor cloud or as a storm cloud, but as a cloud of glory betokening the presence of God. . . . The “cloud,” then, may be the cloud of the Shekinah, which led the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the desert, and which overshadowed the Tabernacle and the Temple (Ex. 13:21-22; 40:34; Num. 9:15-16; 2Chr. 7:2-3).9

When Jesus revealed His glory to Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, the voice of the Father spoke from within a bright cloud saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Mat. 17:5). Jesus explained His appearance with the clouds to be the sign of His coming (Mat. 24:30) and His mention of “coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mat. 26:64) was understood by the high priest as a blasphemous claim (Mat. 26:64-65). He tore his garments in response, a clear indication of his understanding of what Jesus was claiming (Dan. 7:13+).

John’s mention here of Jesus coming with clouds is an allusion from the book of Daniel which records the presentation of the Son to the Father: “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.” (Dan. 7:13+). This presentation of the Son is to receive His kingdom (Dan. 7:14+) and does not take place until all of His enemies are made His footstool (Ps. 110:1). This includes His future enemy, Daniel’s “little horn” (Dan. 7:8+, 20-21+). At present, He is seated at the right hand of the Father awaiting that day. The Son began the period of sitting at the right hand and waiting for His enemies to be made His footstool at His ascension (Acts 2:32-35; Heb. 10:11-13). His earthly kingdom did not come at the time of His ascension, but occurs when He rises from His seat beside the Father and descends to take up His Davidic throne on earth (Mat. 25:31; Luke 1:32-33).10

At other times, the Lord is said to ride “on a swift cloud” (Isa. 19:1). It is such a passage which provides the basis for the preterist interpretation which holds that this verse is describing a “cloud coming” in judgment upon a nation. Such a judgment in the OT was not attended by a literally visible manifestation of God. Yet here, we are explicitly told that every eye will see Him. Not just the “clouds of judgment,” but Him! This return of Jesus will be with clouds, bodily, and visible as the angels informed His disciples at the time of His ascension (Acts 1:9-11). His return is the subject of the latter portion of Revelation 19+. If this were a “judgment coming” of Christ in A.D. 70 upon the Jews of Jerusalem as the preterists claim, what relevance would that have to the seven churches of Asia who were hundreds of miles away and virtually unaffected by the event?11

As our discussion regarding the Date the Revelation was written shows, the best evidence supports a late date near the end of Domitian’s reign when John had the vision (A.D. 95-96). That being the case, the “coming” described here cannot refer to the “cloud coming in judgment” to destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as the Preterist Interpretation holds.

every eye will see Him
This phrase would seem to be almost intentionally aimed at undercutting the claims of various cults and aberrations of Christianity which have taught non-visible fulfillments of the coming of Jesus in history past. His future coming will be visible to every eye. This simple fact destroys the claims of preterism that this “cloud coming” occurred spiritually in 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem and the ending of the Jewish state.12

While mild preterism is not a cult, it shares this aberrant teaching that the coming of Jesus here is not a visible coming. “The crucifiers would see Him coming in judgment—that is, they would understand that His coming would mean wrath on the land.”13 Notice the preterist sleight of hand. The verse states that every eye will see Him, whereas DeMar states that it is an understanding of His judgment that is being described. These are not the same thing. DeMar realizes the difference and attempts to overcome this liability: “Equating ‘seeing’ with ‘understanding’ is not Scripture twisting. It is a common biblical metaphor.”14 Yet there are fundamental differences between this passage and those DeMar offers in support of the preterist view. Here, the passage states that every eye will see. If the preterist interpretation is correct and the “seeing” is an “understanding of judgment,” then why didn’t the entire nation of Israel “understand” and turn to Christ at the destruction of Jerusalem? Apparently, the vast majority of Jews had no idea of the correlation between the destruction of Jerusalem and the “coming of Jesus” which the preterists maintain and which John states every eye would see. “Seeing” is describing literal visibility by every eye, not an abstract “understanding” by a few Jews.

even they
A subgroup from among every eye, establishing the global nature of the manifestation of Christ.

Both Jews and Gentiles are responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus (Acts 4:27-28). It was Jewish mouths (Mark 15:13; Luke 23:21; John 19:6, 14-16) together with Gentile hands (John 19:23) which crucified Jesus. Ultimately, it was the sin of all mankind which sent Jesus to the cross (Rom. 4:25). Yet this passage refers to the Jews who have a particular responsibility (Acts 3:12-15) because Jesus is their promised national Messiah (Rom. 9:4-5). The Jewish generation which witnessed the crucifixion of Messiah made the fearful mistake of pronouncing a curse upon themselves and their children: “And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood [be] on us and on our children.’ ” (Mat. 27:25). So it is Jews who will specially mourn when they realize their grave error and the historical destruction it has wrought. As Lightner observes: “You don’t put kings on crosses, you put them on thrones!”

even they who pierced Him
“Pierced” is ἐξεκέντησαν [exekentēsan] . John uses this identical Greek word in John 19:37 when quoting Zechariah 12:10. These are the only two places in the entire NT where this particular verb appears—another piece of evidence that the Apostle John was the writer of both books.15

The one who is coming is the one who they pierced—Jesus Christ. Yet Zechariah (Zec. 12:10) tells us that it is God who they pierced (Hebrew דָּקָרוּ [dāqārû] - “drive through, pierce, stab, run through, i.e., make physical impact with a sharp implement”16 ). “The weapon associated with [Hebrew] daqar is usually the sword, though a spear is the instrument in Num. 25:8.”17 Not only were spikes driven through Jesus’ hands and feet, but He was pierced with a spear (John 19:34). Comparing Zechariah 12:10 with this verse, we see once again that Jesus is identified as God! Isaiah prophesied that He would be “wounded” (“pierced,” NASB), Hebrew הָלַל [hālal] .18 “John is the only one of the Evangelists who records the piercing of Christ’s side. This allusion identifies him as the author of the Apocalypse.”19

Some hold that “every eye” describes all Israel whereas “even they that pierced” describes a subgroup from among the Jews who are more directly responsible for the crucifixion. But Zechariah defines those who pierced Him using terms which are synonymous with all Israel:

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. Zec. 12:10 [emphasis added]

Here, Zechariah identifies “they who pierced” (Revelation 1:7+) as being all Israel-not a subset specifically held responsible for the crucifixion of Messiah from among a larger group of Jews.

The recipients of the spiritual blessing [identical with those who mourn] will be (1) “the house of David,” through whom the promise of the Messianic-Davidic Kingdom was made (2S. 7:8-16), and through whom it will be realized (Luke 1:31-33); and (2) “the inhabitants of Jerusalem”—the whole saved remnant of Israel, by metonymy, the capital representing the whole nation (cf. 1K. 20:34, where “Samaria,” the capital, represents the nation).20

The fact that only the inhabitants of Jerusalem are named, and not those of Judah also, is explained correctly by the commentators from the custom of regarding the capital as the representative of the whole nation. And it follows . . . from this, that in v. 8 also the expression “inhabitants of Jerusalem” is simply an individualizing epithet for the whole of the covenant nation. But just as in v. 8 the house of David is mentioned emphatically along with these was the princely family and representative of the ruling class, so is it also in v. 10, for the purpose of expressing the thought that the same salvation is to be enjoyed by the whole nation, in all its ranks, from the first to the last.21

Also, if “they who pierced” is to be understood as a subgroup from among the Jewish nation, how does one establish the precise boundary between all the Jews living at the time of Christ versus those who contributed to His crucifixion? And what does contributing to His crucifixion entail? Direct persuasion, such as manifested by the Jewish religious leaders? Does incitement by the crowd count? What about Jews who were not present at Jerusalem at the crucifixion, but opposed Jesus’ ministry? And how does such a distinction between some Jews and not others square with the generational curse pronounced by and upon the Jews in general (Mat. 27:25)?

all the tribes
In many places, tribes (φυλαι [phylai] ) specifically denotes the Jewish tribes (e.g., Mat. 19:28; Luke 2:36; 22:30; Acts 13:21; Rom. 11:1; Heb. 7:13; Php. 3:5; Jas. 1:1; Rev. 5:5+; 7:4-9+; 21:12+). Elsewhere, especially when appearing in the phrase all the tribes, it has a more global meaning (e.g., Mat. 24:30; Rev. 1:7+) over against the twelve [Jewish] tribes (Mat. 19:28; Luke 22:30; Acts 26:7; Jas. 1:1; Rev. 21:12+). Φυλαι [Phylai] is differentiated from nation (ἔθνος [ethnos] ), people (λαός [laos] ), and tongue (γλῶσσα [glōssa] ) in Rev. 7:9+; 11:9+; 13:7+.

of the earth
The closely-related phrase “all the families of the earth” appears in several places in the OT (Gen. 12:3; 28:14; Amos 3:2; Zec. 14:17). In all of these contexts, the phrase clearly refers to the global community (not just the tribes of Israel).22 It is through Abraham’s seed that “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:3; 28:14) will be blessed.23 God says to Israel, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” (Amos 3:2) Whichever “of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King” (Zec. 14:17) during the Millennium will not receive rain. These families include “the family of Egypt” (Zec. 14:18). In each of these OT passages, the Septuagint renders the phrase using the same Greek term (φυλαι [phylai] ) found here.24 25

There is a close connection between this passage and Zechariah 12. Preterists make the same mistake in both passages of trying to limit the scope to Israel and Jerusalem. But the Zechariah passage is clearly describing a time “when all nations of the earth are gathered against [Jerusalem]” (Zec. 12:3). And the outcome of the battle is entirely different than the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70: “In that Day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem. . . I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” (Zec. 12:8-9). But nothing of the kind happened in A.D. 70. In the preterist “fulfillment” of these related passages, a single nation (Rome), unopposed by God, attacked Jerusalem completely destroying both the city and the Temple, resulting in the death of over 1 million Jews.26

[preterists conclude] that “earth” means the land of Israel, as in Zec. 12:12 and that the “tribes” in Rev. 1:7+ must be the literal Israelite tribes, who are being judged in 70 A.D. in fulfillment of the Zechariah 12 prophecy. But there are difficulties with this perspective. First, Zechariah 12 does not prophesy Israel’s judgment but Israel’s redemption. Furthermore, the Zechariah citation is combined with Dan. 7:13+, which also refers to the eschatological deliverance, not judgment of Israel.27

The global context is also evident because John has just said that Jesus is “the ruler over the kings of the earth” [emphasis added] (Rev. 1:5+). The plural kings indicates a wider area than just the land of Israel argued by preterists. There were not multiple kings over the Jews at the time of John’s vision.

The weightiest consideration of all appears to be the worldwide scope of the book. “Those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 3:10+; 6:10+; 8:13+; 11:10+ [twice]; 13:8+, 12+, 14+ [twice]; 17:2+, 8+) are the objects of the wrath that is pictured in its pages, and evidence points to the multi-ethnic nature of this group. The scope of the judgments of the book is also worldwide, not localized (e.g., Rev. 14:6+; 15:4+). Besides this, the people on whom these judgments fall do not respond by repenting.28

Further evidence against the preterist attempt to interpret Revelation as concerning the A.D. 70 judgment of Israel is found in a comparison of Ezekiel 3 with Revelation 10+. Both prophets, Ezekiel and John, are given books to eat. Both books are sweet to the taste, but bitter once digested. Both books contain prophecy. However, one significant difference occurs between what Ezekiel and John ingest: Ezekiel eats a message intended for Israel but John eats a message for all nations. Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the “house of Israel, not to many people of unfamiliar speech” (Eze. 3:6) whereas John “must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” (Rev. 10:11+). The message of John is about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. What more could God say to make its global extent clearer? See commentary on Revelation 10:11.29 .

mourn
The word κόψονται [kopsontai] refers to the act of beating one’s breast as an act of mourning.30 Jesus refers to this event when all the tribes of the earth will mourn (κόψονται [kopsontai] , Mat. 24:30). There it is said to be in response to “The sign of the Son of Man” which will “appear in heaven.” This sign appears in heaven—visible worldwide and cannot be restricted to the region of Israel as preterists maintain.

The Jews will mourn because of the awful realization of the truth of the crucifixion of their own Messiah and the subsequent record of history triggered by this most colossal mistake of all history:

Israel must, indeed, be dumb if one asks them today: Tell me, pray: How can it be that the Eternal sent the fathers out of their land into captivity in Babylon for only seventy years, on account of all the abominations and idolatry by which they for centuries defiled the Holy Land:—and now Israel has been dispersed among all peoples for over eighteen hundred years, and Jerusalem, the city of the great King, is trodden down by the nations until this day? What, then, is the great and terrible blood-guiltiness which perpetually prevents you from dwelling in peace in the land of your fathers?—But Israel is not willing to know! And yet it is precisely its sin against its Messiah that is indeed the root of Israel’s misery.31

The Gentiles too will mourn as they realize the truth of Christianity which they have steadfastly rejected, and the inescapable fact of their impending judgment. John records the astonishing hardness of heart of the “earth dwellers” at the time of the end. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence of God’s existence, sovereignty, and power, they will not repent (Rev. 16:9+, 11+, 21+). It is our belief that this is one reason Paul says, “now is the day of salvation” (2Cor. 6:2). For every day, every hour, every minute that a person continues to reject the knowledge of God makes it more likely they will never turn to accept the free offer of salvation.32

Brethren, I do not wonder that worldlings and half-Christians have no love of this doctrine, or that they hate to hear about Christ’s speedy coming. It is the death knell of their gaieties and pleasures—the turning of their confidence to consternation—the conversion of their songs to shrieks of horror and despair. There is a day coming, when “the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of man shall be made low;” [Isa. 2:11, 17]33


Notes

1 “The first messiah, ‘Messiah son of Joseph,’ who suffered in Egypt would come to suffer and die to fulfill the servant passages [Isa. 49:1-26; 53]. The second messiah, ‘Messiah son of David,’ would then come and raise the first Messiah back to life. He would then establish His Kingdom to rule and to reign.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 57.

2 “As described in Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a): ‘Rabbi Joseph the son of Levi objects that it is written in one place “Behold one like the son of man comes with the clouds of heaven,” but in another place it is written “lowly and riding upon an ass.” The solution is, if they be righteous he shall come with the clouds of heaven, but if they not be righteous he shall come lowly riding upon an ass.’ ’ ”—Ibid., 66.

3 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 1:7.

4 Ibid.

5 A. T. Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Six Volumes (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group, 2003), s.v. “The verb form .”

6 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 76.

7 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 500.

8 James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), Rev. 1:7.

9 Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1957), 121.

10 See Revelation 3:11+ which clarifies the distinction between the throne of the Father versus the throne of the Son.

11 Even preterists admit that some cloud coming passages relate to the Second Coming. “Preterists such as Gentry do see some passages that have ‘cloud language’ as referring to the Second Coming (Acts 1:9-11; 1Th. 4:13-17)”—Thomas Ice, “Hermeneutics and Bible Prophecy,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 79. “Another hermeneutical shortcoming of preterism relates to the limiting of the promised coming of Christ in Rev. 1:7+ to Judea [the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD]. What does a localized judgment hundreds of miles away have to do with the seven churches of Asia? John uses two long chapters in addressing those churches regarding the implications of the coming of Christ for them. For instance, the promise to shield the Philadelphian church from judgment (Rev. 3:10-11+) is meaningless if that judgment occurs far beyond the borders of that city.”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 225.

12 An awkward reality for preterists is the reestablishment of the Jewish state in the Promised Land. If it were to have been finally destroyed in A.D. 70 by the wrath of God as preterists maintain, evidently God did an incomplete job.

13 Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1994), 162.

14 Ibid.

15 “The choice of ἐκκεντέω [ekkenteō] to render the Hebrew דָּקַר [dāqar] of Zec. 12:10 in John 19:37 and Rev. 1:7+ adds strength to the case that the two books had the same author. Both uses differ from the LXX’s obviously erroneous choice of κατορχέω [katorcheō] to render the same Hebrew word.”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 82.

16 Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament), Rev. 1:7.

17 Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999, c1980), s.v. “449a.”

18 “In the messianic passage Isa. 53:5, ‘wounded’ (KJV margin ‘tormented’; jb ‘pierced through’) follows the divine smiting (Isa. 53:4). The Poel form used . . . is similar to that in Isa. 51:9; cf. ‘pierced by the sword’ (Pual, Eze. 32:26). The quotation in John 19:12 (‘they shall look on him whom they have pierced’) is from Zec. 12:10 but this Isa. 53:5 uses another verb (דָקַר [ḏāqar] ) ‘pierced through fatally’ (usually in retribution). In Jer. 51:4 and Lam. 4:9 דָקַר [ḏāqar] is used as a synonym of הָלַל [hālal] .”—Ibid., #660.

19 A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 1:7.

20 Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 2040.

21 Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), 10:609.

22 “The problem with interpreting Revelation 1:7+ to refer to the land of Israel is that all the other uses of the exact phrase ‘all the tribes of the earth’ in the original language always has a universal nuance (Gen. 12:3; 28:14; Ps. 72:17; Zec. 14:17).”—Thomas Ice, “Preterist ‘Time Texts’,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 99.

23 The distinction between Abraham’s seed and all the families of the earth makes plain that the families are a superset beyond the physical seed. Where Gen. 12:3 is cited in Acts 3:25, the word for “families” is πατριαὶ [patriai] .

24 “ ‘all the tribes of the earth’ refers to all nations in every one of its Septuagint occurrences (πα̃σαι αἱ φυλαὶ τῆς γῆς [pasai hai phylai tēs gēs] , Gen. 12:3; 28:14; Ps. 71:17; Zec. 14:17).”—Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 26.

25 Preterists respond to this evidence from the Septuagint by noting that where the Septuagint renders “tribes” as φυλαι [phylai] , the underlying Hebrew is מִשְׁפְּחֹת [mišpeḥōṯ] - a different Hebrew word from the more frequently encountered word for “tribe” which describes Israel: שֵׁבֶת [šēḇeṯ] . They claim that by rendering both שֵׁבֶת [šēḇeṯ] and מִשְׁפְּחֹת [mišpeḥōṯ] as “tribes,” the Septuagint loses the precision of the underlying Hebrew text. We agree, but what does it have to do with the evidence before us? The observation that the Septuagint renders both shebet and מִשְׁפְּחֹת [mišpeḥōṯ] by φυλαι [phylai] (“tribes”) provides further evidence against the preterist contention that φυλαι [phylai] is a technical term which always denotes Israelite tribes. This response of the preterists is simply a smoke screen, which when considered carefully, actually supports the opposite conclusion.

The fact is that the Septuagint, translated by Hebrew rabbinical scholars familiar with the use of Greek in times much nearer to the NT than our own, renders two different Hebrew words-denoting both Jewish tribes and non-Jewish tribes or families-as φυλαι [phylai] This leads us to conclude that φυλαι [phylai] is not a technical term denoting only Jewish tribes. It can have different meanings which are dependent upon the context. This is also obvious from the numerous qualifiers which appear in conjunction with φυλαι [phylai] : “tribes of the earth,” “the twelve tribes,” “every tribe,” etc. Why would these additional qualifiers be necessary if φυλαι [phylai] always referred to Israelite tribes as preterists claim?

26 [Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 638]. If one seeks evidence for how far astray interpretation can go where the meaning of a passage is entirely reversed from its intended meaning, one can do no better than the preterist interpretation of Zechariah 12 through 14.

27 Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 26.

28 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 79.

29 See [Tony Garland, “Revelation 1:7 - Past or Future?,” (n.p. 2004) in The Conservative Theological Journal, vol. 9 no. 27 (Fort Worth, TX: Tyndale Theological Seminary, August 2005)]

30 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

31 Erich Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1951, c1964), 118-119.

32 Having personally sat with those in their dying days who continue to reject God’s free and gracious offer of salvation when they have nothing to lose and everything to gain, we have gained a genuine appreciation regarding the fearful consequences of the continual rejection of the gospel offer.

33 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 81.


Listen to RevelationHebrew and Greek FontsDownload Commentary Previous SectionUpTable of ContentsNext Section

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Tony Garland
(Content generated on Fri Jan 10 13:02:05 2014)
contact@SpiritAndTruth.org