He Is Coming!
Brad Mills / General
Revelation / %SecondComing / Revelation 1:7–11
John’s reliance upon Daniel is consistent in this opening section and throughout Revelation. He seems to have seen a similar situation between Israelites who had been exiled to Babylon during Daniel’s time, and first century believers living in Asia Minor and experiencing an escalating Roman persecution. In both ages, believers needed to be encouraged to persevere. They would’ve been feeling anxious about what the future held. And there were good reasons for them to be worried. Persecution was about to intensify, and history has yet to see the worst of it.
However, there was also a message of hope in the victory that Christ achieves.
We got through most of the greeting last week, but I wanted to be sure we paid adequate attention to verse seven. This is an important thematic verse regarding the return of Christ. However, we won’t need the entire time for this verse, so we will begin looking at the next section as well.
We will read verses nine through eleven which introduces John’s whereabouts and his initial vision regarding the son of man. It might be preferable to cover the entire section from 9-20 together because it depicts a single episode in John’s vision, but verse eleven serves as a good break since it contains John’s commission to write. We will look at his lengthy theophanic description of the son of man next week.
Read Rev. 1:7-11.
I. The Return of Christ (7)
The final idea that describes Jesus is a reference to his return (7). We now expect Jesus to return in the same way that he ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11).
1. “he is coming with the clouds” – The clouds are oftentimes associated with divine travel in ancient literature, even outside of Scripture. This passage combines a reference to the “Son of Man” coming on clouds to the throne of the “Ancient of Days” at his ascension (Dan. 7:13) with another passage of from Zechariah which we will consider shortly. Both passages are dealing with different contexts, but they combine to portray Christ’s return from the glory of heaven with the reaction from the people. This first phrase helps us to see Christ’s return as a glorious event that displays his divine attributes.
2. “every eye will see him” – There is no possibility of finding a reference to a secret rapture of the Church in this text. And yet, it is consistent with what we read in 1 Thes. 4:16, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.” The idea in both passages is that Christ’s return will not be a secret. His return is a single event that every eye will see and every ear will hear. The return of Christ is never portrayed as a secret in Scripture.
3. “all tribes of the earth will wail” – This alludes to Zechariah 12:10 where “the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” will look “on him whom they have pierced” and “they shall mourn for him.”
Notice how this promise was specifically given to “the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem”. But how does John apply it? He speaks of the wailing of “all tribes of the earth.” This is an example of the universalization principle we discussed several weeks ago. John frequently broadens the application of Old Testament promises and judgments given to Israel so that they apply to the world. He is not using some rogue hermeneutic. Jesus himself linked these same two texts with his second coming in Matt. 24:30 and applies it universally to the mourning of “all the tribes of the earth” as well.
Once the nations recognize Jesus coming in his sovereign glory and power, they will wail at their own rebellion against him in unbelief. Some believe this to be a mourning of repentance since Zechariah 12:10 refers to the salvation of Israel. Plus, they are wailing “on account of him” as opposed to their own actions. However, as we’ve already seen, John is combining phrases from two completely different contexts (one of Christ’s past ascension and one of a future salvation for Israel) in order to point to a third context in the future regarding Christ’s return. It is not possible or necessary to read all three passages as having the same context. John’s primary point is to emphasize a future public return of Christ that is universally significant.
In light of that, this verse also poses a challenge to preterists who interpret a spiritual (invisible) “return” of Christ to bring judgment upon Israel in 70 AD. Not only do they limit “every eye” and “all tribes of the earth” to Israel, but they also see the judgment that followed as locally limited to the region of Jerusalem. It requires a creative reading of the text to make this verse fit into a local and limited judgment.
This truth regarding Christ’s future coming in judgment leads John to a statement of agreement. “Even so” is “Yes”. He writes “Yes. Amen.” This doesn’t mean that John is gleefully delighting in the judgment of the nations, but he is acknowledging his agreement with the justice that Christ will bring at his return.
Christ’s return means final victory over sin and evil and believers should be unashamed when declaring it. If we have been humbled to repent and believe in Christ, we will be unashamed to declare “Amen” upon his return. To say “Amen” to the second coming of Christ requires a Spirit-empowered humility that sees even our best deeds as requiring the cleansing blood of Christ.
Daniel Webster was a skilled orator. He was recognized as one of the finest attorneys in the nation while also an increasingly influential politician. He served eight years in congress, twenty years in the senate, and four years as the Secretary of State. On his deathbed his doctor read to him one of his favorite hymns by William Cowper, “There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood”. The final stanza reads: “Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing thy power to save. When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.”
Then, although his tongue was one of the least feeble and stammering of human tongues, Webster in a clear, strong voice replied. “Amen! Amen! Amen!”
May we be so humble and bold to declare the same about our Savior’s return.
› We covered verse eight last week, so we will jump ahead to consider…
II. The Apostle of Christ (9)
John designated himself as the author without any need to distinguish himself from other Johns, because his apostleship was well known.
Let’s pause on the significance of this first statement. John considers himself to be a “brother” to the believers in Asia Minor. This is a tremendous advancement within a single generation. No longer does John see Gentiles as a separate group, always to be distinguished from Jews such as himself. He can acknowledge, without hesitation, that these Gentile believers are his true spiritual brothers. That means he sees their equal access to the inheritance that awaits. They are not assigned a lesser role in the kingdom, but they have in fact become partners in all of it…
1. “partner in the tribulation” – There is solidarity among those who are suffering for the sake of Christ. After the Apostle Paul was stoned and left for dead at Lystra he went on the preach the gospel in Derbe. After meeting success in Derbe, he and Barnabas returned to Lystra…
Acts 14:22 ESV
strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
That is the gospel pattern; suffering and kingdom. John considers himself a partner in both, following the example of Jesus.
2. “partner in…the kingdom” – Last week, we discussed the priestly role that believers have received (6), but the emphasis here is the kingly role that we have received in this present age. If Christ was given dominion and authority over the nations upon his ascension (Dan 7:13-14; 1 Pt 3:22), that kingdom is also “given to the people of the saints of the Most High” as their possession (Dan 7:22, 27).
We have become partners with Christ and one another in the kingdom of God that Jesus ushered in at his first coming. However, Christ’s kingdom is also promised in the future to all believers who persevere in their faith.
Revelation 3:21 ESV
The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
So there is a present and future component to our kingdom partnership. We are in the kingdom of God by virtue of our submission to Jesus as Lord, but a future and fuller kingdom participation awaits. This is consistent with the “already…not yet” theme of prophetic revelation.
3. “partner in…the patient endurance that are in Jesus” – We can see this endurance in terms of its relation to the persecution they already received from the world (Rev 2:2-3, 19; 3:10) as well as what they were about to undergo (Rev 13:10; 14:12). Just as tribulation and kingdom go together, so do enduring and reigning (2 Tim 2:12).
Those who suffer with Christ in tribulation will reign with Christ in glory.
Church history informs us that just prior to his exile John was ministering in Ephesus. As the resident apostle, he was likely seen as a mentor to all the pastors, and a resource for all believers, in this influential and growing region. Think about how precious this verse would have been for all these believers. They missed their partnership with John, who was likely over eighty years old when he was exiled to the Island of Patmos (Rev 1:9b).
During the reign of Domitian, it is was not uncommon for Rome to punish socially disruptive individuals by sending them to Patmos to work in stone quarries. John was likely being punished for denouncing emperor worship. Church historian Eusebius states that after Domitian’s death his successor, Nerva, annulled his sentences allowing John to return to Ephesus.
› These are the challenges that lead to the wonderful opportunities we have by belonging to…
III. The Church of Christ (10-11)
John is “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day,” which is Sunday. The early church began to call the first day of the week the Lord’s day. This was the day they gathered regularly for worship and communion (Acts 20:7). Every Sunday they broke bread together and took an offering for the needs of the church (1 Co 16:2). Maybe John was spending his Lord’s Day in prayer, remembering the saints to whom he ministered to in Ephesus, when he received this vision.
Now, from Patmos, John is writing to seven churches that are in Asia. We will consider their situation in more detail when we get to chapters two and three.
The gospel first came to this region at Ephesus, during Paul’s third missionary journey 53-57 AD. For three of those years Paul planted the church in Ephesus and eventually passed the leadership on to Timothy. That would make John Timothy’s successor.
Note the rough circular route these churches form. It’s possible that they served as centers of distribution to the whole region.
The New Bible Commentary 1:9–20 The Call of John to Prophesy
The cities were both postal and administrative centres. It has been reckoned that at the time of John’s writing this area had the greatest concentration of Christians in the world. In addressing these churches John could reach not only others in Asia Minor, but those scattered through the world.
As I’ve already pointed out, there were other churches in Asia, and each one of them was promised a blessing for reading, hearing, and keeping the Revelation (3). This prophecy would’ve quickly multiplied beyond these initial seven congregations, which was always the intent. No congregation is mentioned again after chapter three, because the subject is the worldwide judgment and the blessings received by the universal Church.
Those who suffer with Christ in tribulation will reign with Christ in glory.
This is a wonderful promise for us too! Those who repent and believe in Jesus have been united to him in his suffering and exaltation. It is because of Christ that we can face tribulation with great hope. But this unity with Christ also brings us into a community of believers.
The solidarity John felt with his fellow believers was not forced. He thought of them as family. They were his brothers and sisters. And as partners, they actively pursued one another to form deeper friendships which prepared them to endure significant trials.
We should see a parallel pattern in our own relationships with one another. Are we partners in one another’s trials? We ought to be less and less interested in discovering the latest gossip, but more and more seeking to genuinely know each another.
Do we partner together for kingdom ministry with a unified goal of glorifying God and enjoying him forever? Or do we avoid ministry opportunities because we can’t get along with a particular person who might be present?
Let us pray for the patient endurance that is in Jesus Christ so that we might truly experience the kind of fellowship and partnership that we are called to have.