Salutation And Blessing - Rev. Herman Hoeksema
4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
6 And bath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to -him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
Most of the epistles of the New Testament begin with a salutation of the writer to the readers, a salutation which always assumes the form of a benediction. Such blessings or salutations are not mere pious wishes, but they are the Word of God in Christ actually blessing the people of God who hear and believe them. The blessings which they express and confer on them who so receive them by faith are always spiritual blessings of grace. They are merited by Christ and bestowed by Him, or rather by the Triune God through Christ, by His Spirit upon the church. This is also true of the Book of Revelation. The passage under discussion in this chapter may be considered John's dedication of, or introduction to, the entire book. By it the Book of Revelation is addressed to the "seven churches which are in Asia." About these we shall have something to say in a later connection. Further, our passage contains a most significant salutation, or blessing, in verses 4 and 5a; an ascription of praise by the church to Christ in verses 5b and 6; and, finally, a solemn assurance of Christ's coming, corroborated by a direct Word of the Lord, designating Himself as the Alpha and Omega, the Almighty. These three elements will be the subject material of the present chapter.
Grace And Peace
The blessing is expressed in the following words: "Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth."
The contents of this blessing are "grace and peace."
Grace, as we know, has a variety of connotations in Scripture. It may refer to a virtue of God: God is gracious. Or it may signify an attitude which God assumes toward the creature, an attitude of favor; or more specifically it may denote that same attitude of favor with respect to the guilty sinner, so that for him it is favor that is forfeited. This last attitude of God is based upon the righteousness of Christ attained through His perfect obedience even unto the death of the cross. But the word "gracealso frequently denotes a power, an operation of the Spirit of Christ within the elect, whereby they become partakers of all the benefits of salvation, and the fruits of this operation or blessings of salvation themselves. It is in this last sense that the word is used in this passage, so that we may paraphrase the meaning as follows: "May God through Christ by the Spirit operate with His grace in your hearts so that the gifts of grace, the benefits of salvation, may become yours."
Of this grace the church is continually in need. For grace is not a blessing which is bestowed upon the believers once for all, so that, having received it, they possess it in themselves. On the contrary, they live only through a constant influx of grace, which blesses them as an everrefreshing stream out of God, through Christ, in the fellowship of the Spirit. And on their part, they receive this grace of God by faith and through prayer.
One of the chief and first fruits of this grace is peace. Peace is peace with God. It always is. Apart from peace with God there is no peace. This is the fundamental reason why the quest of the ungodly world, outside of Christ, for peace on earth is a vain dream which must ever end in a cruel awakening in the reality of a world of war and unrest. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked," (Isaiah 57:2 1). But "being justified out of faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Romans 5: 1). This peace is, first of all, the blessed tranquility of heart and mind that results from the consciousness that God is at peace with us because our sins are blotted out and we are justified. Secondly, it is also the experience that in principle there is peace in our heart toward God: we are no longer motivated by enmity against I-Em. And, therefore, they that have this peace are also at peace with one another; they are peacemakers. And, finally, having peace with God, they have peace with all things. For they know that if God is for them, nothing can be against them: "All things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to his purpose," (Romans 8:28). This peace, then, is not another blessing in addition to grace, but is the fruit of the latter. It is the peace of grace.
What a wonderful blessing is here pronounced upon the seven churches of Asia and upon the entire church in the world! For the church of all ages is represented by the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. To realize the full significance of this benediction we must bear in mind that, according to the viewpoint of this book of Scripture, the church in the world is always in tribulation. With the church in tribulation we must take our stand. She is in the world. And that world is in darkness. The world in the Book of Revelation is not a world improved and ennobled by "common grace," a tolerably good place for the church to live in; but it is the world under judgment, whose condemnation is an accomplished fact, (John 12:31; Colossians 2:15). It is the anti-christian world, which sets itself against God and His Christ, persecutes His people, and always would force them to adopt the mark of the beast. It is the world of the wicked who "are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt," (Isaiah 57:20); the world as it is full of malice and envy, strife and war and bloodshed, terror and destruction, as we see it today, now the very foundations are shaken and the proud structure of modem civilization threatens to tumble about our heads into ruins! In that world this blessed Word of God in Christ is heard and realized: "Grace be unto You, and peace!"
From Him Which Is
Is it possible that the church in the world may really possess this peace? Indeed it is; and the elaborate and detailed description of the source whence this peace of grace is derived is designed to assure us of the reality of it. The author might simply have written: "Grace unto you, and peace, from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ." But he would assure us of the absolute certainty of this blessing. Hence, he writes: "from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth."
The words "who is, and who was, and who is to come" refer to God, the Triune. The three-fold description of the Author of the blessing of grace and peace must not be interpreted as if the first part ("which is, and which was, and which is to come") refers to the First Person of the Holy Trinity, the last part ("and from Jesus Christ," etc.) to the Second Person, and the second part ("and from the seven Spirits," etc.) to the Third Person. For although it is, of course, true that Jesus Christ is the very Son of God according to His divine nature, yet here He does not appear as such, but as the Mediator. And although, as we shall see presently, "the seven Spirits which are before his throne" certainly are the Holy Spirit of God, He does not appear here as the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, but as the Spirit of Christ. Hence, the first part, "which is, and which was, and which is to come," does not refer to the Father as the First Person, but to God, the Triune, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This Triune God is revealed here as the One "which is." This has all the emphasis, as is especially evident from the form used in the original. It denotes God, not as existing in the present, but as the absolute Being, the One Who eternally is, the Self-existent, the Uncaused, the ground of Whose Being is in Himself alone, in Whom there is no change nor shadow of turning. The reference is probably to His name Jehovah. But this eternal God, Whose Being cannot be measured or limited by time, revealed Himself in time. To this revelation of Himself in time refer the other two expressions, "who was" and "who is to come," (or: "the coming one," ho erchomenos). He was, He did come in the past. He came in creation; and, in the fulness of time, He came in Christ. He is the same God Who made all things in the beginning and Who revealed Himself in His Son. And when He created all things, He did so with a view to His coming in Christ. AN His works are known to Him from the beginning. They all are and develop according to His determinate counsel. According to that counsel He is coming, always coming, coming ever since He first came in the beginning.
And still He is the coming One, coming to us as the God of our salvation; and He will not cease to come until He is eternally present with us and His tabernacle shall be with men. This cannot fail. Whatever powers of darkness may rise against Him, the Eternal One is coming in Christ Jesus our Lord. And it is He Who causes His Word of blessing to proceed to His church: "Grace be unto you, and peace!" Surely, in spite of all hell this peace is ours!
And From The Seven Spirits
But, you say, how can this peace from the eternal God be our possession even now? The answer is that it is instilled into our hearts by "the seven Spirits which are before his throne.---These seven Spirits must not be degraded into created spirits, or angels, as is done by some, nor abstractly generalized into "seven modes" of God's existence, as others would explain the words. Let it suffice to object against these and similar interpretations that these "seven Spirits" are here presented to us as belonging to the source of the blessings of grace and peace, and that, therefore, they are divine and denote a personal agent. They certainly refer to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person in the blessed Trinity.
And yet we must say more than this. The term does not denote the Holy Spirit as He is in God. Why should He then be called the "seven Spirits?" The Holy Spirit in the Trinity is one. And why should it be said of these seven Spirits that they are "before his throne?" The Holy Spirit as Third Person of the Holy Trinity is very God, co-equal with the Father and with the Son. He is not "before the throne" of God; but He is on the throne, the sovereign ruler of heaven and earth. The words, therefore, must be applied to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the exalted Christ and as He is poured out into the church, to make us partakers of the covenant blessings of grace and salvation. We must remember that our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was humiliated and obediently humbled Himself even to the death of the cross, and Who by His perfect obedience obtained for us eternal righteousness and life, was raised from the dead and by the power of God was made exceedingly great and glorious, being exalted to the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. That glorious Lord and Mediator also receives from the Father the power to apply all the blessings of salvation which He merited to those whom the Father gave Him before the foundation of the world. This saving power He possesses through the Spirit that is given Him as Mediator and Head of the church at His exaltation,
and Whom He poured forth into the church, that He may dwell in her forever. For He, the Lord Jesus Christ, "being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear," (Acts 2:33). This Spirit is "the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you," (John 14:17). He is the Comforter, through Whom the Lord Himself came again to His church, and Who abides with us forever, John 14:16, 18. He is the "Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father," and the Spirit that "beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God," (Romans 8:15, 16). He is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, by Whom we are liberated from the law of sin and death, Romans 8:2. He is the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead, Who will also quicken our mortal bodies by that same Spirit, Romans 8:11.
He is called "the seven Spirits," for the number seven denotes the fulness of God's covenant grace, and the fulness of the church in which He dwells is also indicated by the same number. For there are seven churches in Asia, and there are seven candlesticks and seven stars, Revelation 1: 11, 12, 16, 20. And the Lamb, Whose Spirit He is, has seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, Revelation 5:6. He, the exalted Christ, is said to have the seven Spirits of God, Revelation 3: 1. And these seven Spirits, or the Spirit of Christ as He dwells in the church with His seven-fold fulness of life and grace, are "before the throne" as "seven lamps of fire burning" to the glory of God, Revelation 4:5. And before the throne is the church, serving God day and night in His temple, and He that sitteth on the throne dwells among them, Revelation 7: 15. There can be no question, therefore, that "the seven Spirits which are before his throne" refers to the Holy Spirit as He is given to the exalted Christ and poured out into the church. And it is that Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of life and of truth, the Spirit of adoption and of the fulness of His seven-fold grace, the Spirit Who is given us, dwells in us, never leaves us, Who is the divine agent of this blessing of grace and peace. Can there be any doubt that this peace is and forever will remain ours?
And From Jesus Christ
Again, you may probably complain that you are wholly unworthy of this blessing and that, therefore, you cannot apprehend this word of benediction as addressed to you personally. You lie in the midst of death, and sin cleaves to you and marks your every step on the way you walk. How then can this divine grace and peace be intended for you? But the text removes also this objection when it fastens the eye of faith upon Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, prince of the kings of the earth. He is the faithful witness. Witness He is, for as the Servant of Jehovah He is God's prophet, Who always bears testimony of the truth of God. He did so during His sojourn on earth, for as He said before Pilate: "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth," (John 18:37). He still does so in the church, for it is He Who gave us the Scriptures and Who leads us into all the truth by His Spirit. And He is the witness also in this book, Whose Word is quite sufficient for your faith to trust in, when He says, "Grace to you, and peace." For He is the faithful witness. For His doctrine is not His, but the Father's which sent Him, John 7:16; and He speaks that which He has seen with His Father, John 8:38. He always acts and speaks in harmony with His position as witness of God: for He does nothing of Himself, but as His Father hath taught Him, He speaks in the world, John 8:28. The Lord God hath opened His ear, and given Him the tongue of the learned that He should know how to speak a word in season, Isaiah 50:4, 5. And no matter what men may do unto Him, though they smite Him and pluck out His beard in their fury, and cover Him with shame and reproach, He never changes His testimony and does not compromise the truth, Isaiah 50:5, 6. He was faithful unto death, even the death of the cross. In life and in death you may rely on His Word: "Grace and peace unto you."
And He is the first begotten of the dead! Let this especially be the object of your contemplation, the ground of your assurance: Jesus Christ is the first begotten of the dead! The resurrection, but then emphatically the resurrection of Jesus Christ, should be the ground of your hope, the object of that faith that fills you with joy and peace. Peace, if ever it is to be ours, cannot be of this world: it must come from the other side of death. Here we lie in the midst of death. How than can we have peace? But hark! this voice that speaks of grace and peace is not of this world. It does not sound from somewhere among the deep death-shadows in which here we grope and find no way out. It is the resurrection-voice! He that speaks stands at the other side of death and the grave as the Risen One! That means that He was dead and is alive again and lives forevermore. He is alive
with a new life, a glorious, a victorious life. He was in death, and went through death, and He now lives as never one lived before. And what is more, as He passed through death, He left the way open! By faith we behold Him there, on the other side of death; and looking at His glory from our present darkness, we know by that very token that there is a way out! As a man groping in the black and fearful darkness of a deep cave beholds in the distance the glimmer of glorious sunlight and takes courage to continue his way in the one direction of that light-spot in the distance, assured that there lies his deliverance, so the believer groping in the darkness of the shadow of his present death, beholding by faith the glory of the Risen Lord, knows that there is a way out of death into the glorious liberty of the children of God! For, mark you well, He is not merely risen: He is the first begotten of the dead! And the firstborn is he that "openeth the womb" and prepares the way for all his brethren. Thus Christ was in the womb of death, was born from death, opened the womb of death for all those whom the Father gave Him. And it is He, standing in that spot of glorious light, Whom you see from your present darkness, Who calls to you: "Grace and peace to you!"
No power is able to deprive God's people of that blessing or to prevent the ultimate realization of the peace which is promised them in the day of Christ. For He is Lord. He is Prince, too, of the kings of the earth. This does not mean that Jesus Christ is King also of the state in the sense that worldly magistrates rule by His grace. For in the Book of Revelation the kings of the earth are the antichristian world rulers. They acknowledge not the Christ of the Scriptures as their Lord. They do not delight in doing His will and ruling in harmony with it. On the contrary, they are the rulers that are pictured in the Second Psalm, who set themselves, and take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying: "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us," (verses 2, 3). But He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh and have them in derision. For He hath anointed His King and set Him upon His holy hill of Zion. And this King shall rule the antichristian powers with a rod of iron and break them in pieces like a potter's vessel, Psalm 2:7-9, Revelation 2:27. Christ is the Prince of the rulers of the earth! Though they may rave against Him, yet must they do His will. Even the Neros and Caligulas and Domitians, the Hitlers and Mussolinis and Khrushchevs are His servants in spite of themselves. The church is perfectly safe; her salvation and final victory are sure. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world," (John 16:33). "Grace unto you, and peace!"
Already the church receives this blessing of grace and peace. And she responds in joyful adoration to the pronouncement of this benediction. She confesses this Christ even now, even in the midst of this world and its antichristian rulers; and to Him alone she ascribes all glory and dominion forever and ever. This is the meaning of the doxology which now follows in the text: "Unto him that loved us (or: "loveth us," ARV), and washed us (or: "loosed us," ARV) from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests (or: "a kingdom and priests," ARV) unto God and his father (or: "unto his God and Father," ARV); to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
Jesus loved us; or, if the reading of the American Revised Version is the more correct, He loveth us. Essentially there is no difference between these two readings. If we read the past tense, the emphasis falls on the historic fact of the death of Christ on the cross, where He manifested His love once for all; if the present tense is taken as the better reading, the thought of His present and enduring love for us is stressed. But if He loved us on the cross, will He not love us still and forever? And if He loves us now, is it not because He loved us on the accursed tree? The same may be said of the two readings "washed" and "loosed" us from our sins in His own blood. Principally there is no difference between the two. They imply that the blood of Jesus is atoning blood because by His death He fully satisfied for all our sins. They mean that He not merely shed His blood for us on the accursed tree, but that He also applies its atoning power to us. They signify that by the application of that atoning blood to us we are liberated not only from the guilt of sin, but also from its dominion and corruption: the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made us free from the law of sin and death. And thus He made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, or a kingdom and priests unto His God and Father. Christ makes us a royal priesthood, or a priestly kingdom.
The ideas of priesthood and royalty belong together and are inseparable. One who is not a priest unto God can never be a king: the antichristian rulers of this world are mere usurpers and will surely be dethroned. For the deepest notion of priesthood is that of perfect consecration to and love of God, manifested in perfect obedience and willing service. A priest consecrates himself and all things to God. And the idea of the kingly office is that of reign and dominion. A priestly king is a servant-king; a kingdom of priests is a kingdom in which all submit themselves to the living God and reign in His name and under Him over all the works of His hands. Such a royal priesthood Christ makes us through the marvellous power of His grace. By the power of sin we became slaves of the devil, rebel kings, who proposed to rule over God's works apart from Him, against Him. Such is the awful folly of sin. But through the atoning blood of the cross we have been forgiven that folly, we have been perfectly justified, we have obtained the right to be delivered from the slavery of sin and the dominion of the devil, the right to be received into the blessed service of God once more, and in that service to reign over all things. And through the grace of the Lord Jesus, by His indwelling Spirit, we are actually delivered, translated out of darkness into the marvellous light of God, and formed into a kingdom of priests. For indeed, God's people are a kingdom, and not merely a multitude of kings. They are a unity, a kingdom over which Christ rules as the chief Servant of Jehovah, the High Priest according to the order of Melchisedec, Who has a name above all names, and in which His brethren reign with Him, each in his own position and all serving the purpose of the whole, that all may be to the glory of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Such a kingdom of priests the church is even now: for by faith they partake of the victory and royal dominion of their Lord. But not until the day of Christ, when the eternal kingdom of glory shall be ushered in, when all the elect shall have been gathered and the body of the Lord shall be complete, when also our humiliated bodies shall be made like unto His most glorious body, and when all things shall be made new and the tabernacle of God shall be with men in the new heavens and the new earth, shall this kingdom of priests be fully realized.
In the consciousness, then, of this great love wherewith the Lord loved and still loves us, and of the marvellous grace whereby He hath liberated them from the power of sin and death and formed them into a royal priesthood, the believers ascribe glory unto their Lord: "to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
Glory is the radiation of infinite, divine goodness and perfection. God alone is glorious. The creature can only reflect His glory, can never possess any glory of its own. Whatever glory may be seen in creation has its source in God. The highest and fullest revelation of that glory is in Christ. All the divine perfections shine forth through and in Him. For it was the Father's good pleasure that in Him all the fulness should dwell, Colossians 1: 19. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature, Colossians 1:15. And in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, Colossians 2:9. In the days of His flesh this glory was hid by His humiliated body; only occasionally it flashed through when He spoke with authority or revealed His power in the miracles which He performed. And on the mount of transfiguration the apostles beheld His glory for a moment. But through His resurrection and exaltation at the right hand of God, Christ is glorified with the glory which He had with the Father before the world was, John 17:5. All the divine goodness shines forth through Him, radiates from Him. This is possible, of course, only because He is the very Son of God in human nature. No mere man could possess this glory; and to ascribe this glory to any other than the exalted Christ would be idolatry and blasphemy. But the church knows that He is the Son of God, the final and highest revelation of God the Father, worthy of all glory and honor. She ascribes gory to Him in this doxology.
And she also is taught here to acknowledge Him as the One Who has dominion. Of course, He has dominion, that is, authority and power to reign, to declare His will and to demand obedience, to judge and to execute judgment, in the absolute sense of the word as the Son of God. As God He is sovereign. But the reference in the text is to the dominion, the power and authority, which He received from God as the glorified Christ, in His human nature. All power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth. Christ stands at the pinnacle of all created things. He has received a name which is above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, Philippians 19-11. He has dominion over the church, whose King He is; and He has dominion over all things, even over the powers of darkness, which He has overcome and which cannot move against His will. In the church this dominion is a reign by grace through His Spirit and Word: His people are gladly His, and it is their delight to acknowledge His authority and to do His will. Hence, in the words of our text they ascribe this dominion to Him. And in the world and over the powers of darkness He rules by His might, in spite of themselves. And also these, when they shall have been put down finally, and cast into outer darkness, shall acknowledge this dominion; and every tongue shall have to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! Not Satan, not the servant of the devil, but the Servant of Jehovah alone is Lord forever, that God may be all in all!
Forever shall this dominion be.
Glory and dominion are His even now, and the church acknowledges this in her doxology, according to the text. She means to say: "Glory and dominion are Thine now; let them be ascribed to Thee." But this glory and also this dominion will be His forever. Christ will never abdicate. By some it is argued that the royal power and dominion which Christ now has at the right hand of God will terminate when He shall have finished His work and when His kingdom shall have been completed. The present power and dominion He possesses in order that He may be able to perfect His kingdom. When that shall have been accomplished, He shall reign no more, but be in subjection to the Father. The eternal and sovereign God will then reign directly, without being represented by Christ. This conception is based chiefly on the statement in I Corinthians 15:25, 28: "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet... And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." But with this view we cannot agree. The text just quoted from I Corinthians 15 does not teach that Christ shall ever cease to reign. That He now reigns until He hath put all enemies under His feet merely expresses that this complete subjection of all enemies under His feet is the purpose of His reign, the end that must be attained. And that, when this end shall have been attained and all things shall have been subdued under Him, He Himself will also be subject unto the Father does not mean that He will reign no more, but merely that He will reign as the Servant of God forever, reign under Him. All things shall forever be subject to Christ; with all things Christ shall be subject to the Father; and thus God will be all in all! For all Scripture teaches that Christ's dominion will never cease, that He will reign forever. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, Daniel 7:14. And the doxology which is put into the mouth of the church in the text under discussion ascribes glory and dominion to Him forever!
Behold, He Cometh
The passage closes with a solemn assurance of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty."
We say that this is a solemn assurance, in the first place, because special attention is called to the fact of Christ's coming by the introductory word "behold." It is as if the Word of God here would have the church conceive of this coming as a present fact: always the church must have the eyes of hope fixed upon that final event. Constantly she must stand in the attitude of expectancy and longing, the attitude of the bride looking for the coming of the Bridegroom, with the prayer on her lips: "Come, Lord Jesus!" And, secondly, this is a solemn assurance because of the double corroboration, "Even so, Amen!" The word "amen" is a Hebrew word. It means "it is firm, established, immovable; it shall surely be." Let the church never doubt, never grow faint: the Lord will surely come! The time may seem long, but He cometh. The suffering of the waiting church may be severe, and it may seem sometimes as if the Lord were slack concerning His promise; but He is surely coming. The promise is sealed with a double oath: "Even so, Amen!"
The words refer to the final coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, His literal and personal and visible return, the parousia, which will mark the end of all history and usher in the eternal state of heavenly glory in the new creation. For the history of this world will not reach its consummation by way of a gradual process of development, but by a catastrophe, a final wonder: the appearance in glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. To this final coming the text refers. It is true that the Bible does speak of His coming with the clouds of heaven all through the ages of this dispensation. Did not the Lord Himself thus testify before the high priest in the hour of His condemnation: "Henceforth (ARV) ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven?" All through the ages He is coming. Ever since His exaltation at the right hand of God He has been coming. For He reigns supreme and so directs all the events of this present time that they must lead up to and end in His final coming. He is coming in the sense that He is on the way. And He is hastening! The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. Nevertheless, in the text here the reference is definitely to His final and visible appearance, when "every eye shall see him."
That His coming will be "with clouds" may have a literal fulfillment, so that He shall appear in the clouds of the sky. However, the symbolical significance of these clouds must not be overlooked. Clouds in Scripture are symbols of majesty and judgment. Thus we read in Psalm 18:6-12: "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. There went up smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire." And in Psalm 97:2 we read: "Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne." On the mount of transfiguration "there was a cloud that overshadowed them," (Mark 9:7). And when He was taken up from the earth, "a cloud received him out of their sight," (Acts 1:9). He cometh with clouds, not again as the suffering Servant of Jehovah, but in all the glory which the Father hath given Him, in royal majesty and to judge the world in righteousness!
In His coming He will be visible to all. "Every eye shall see him."
His own, who looked for Him with longing, shall see Him; but also the enemies shall see Him. The latter even has the emphasis in the text. They that pierced Him are mentioned particularly. The prophet Zechariah had prophesied that "the, house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem" would "look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." And, no doubt, that prophecy refers to the crucifixion of the Lord, when the Jews literally pierced the Son of God in human nature, though also there the words have a wider significance and may be applied to all the sin and rebellion of the people of Israel throughout their history. This rebellion only culminated in the crucifixion of the Servant of Jehovah. But the looking upon Him and the mourning for Him of which the text in Zechariah. speaks are not the same as in the words of our passage from Revelation. There, in Zechariah, they cast upon Him a saving look and mourn for Him in true repentance, as they did, indeed, on the day of Pentecost and ever since, whenever the Spirit of grace touched the hearts of sinful men. For the looking upon Him and the mourning for Him in the prophecy of Zechariah. are presented as the result of Jehovah's pouring upon His people the Spirit of grace and of supplications, Zechariah. 12:10. Here, however, in Revelation 1:7, they look upon Him in His final coming. They that pierced Him, no doubt, are literally the Jews, and particularly those who crucified Him. But this does not mean that the expression "they that pierced him- is limited to them. it has a wider significance. It includes not only all the Jews who rejected Him, but also all who ever came into contact with Him, despised Him, and crucified the Son of God afresh. They shall be from "all the tribes of the earth." And therefore, seeing Him, all the tribes of the earth shall mourn. They are the hostile tribes, the antichristian forces of the world. They mourn and wail because of Him, or literally, according to the original, "towards" Him. Seeing Him Whom they despised and hated and opposed in His glory and power, they are filled with consternation, realizing that I-Us fierce wrath will strike them down and consume them. But for the church it will be the hour of complete and eternal redemption and deliverance, the realization of all their hope and longing.
All this is steadfast and sure. For it is God Who here speaks, the "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending." He is the "Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." His counsel shall stand, and He will do all His good pleasure. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters respectively of the Greek alphabet. The meaning of these symbols is explained in "the beginning and the ending." Vie is the Lord, the Lord God (ARV). He is the beginning of all things, and therefore also the ending. He is their sovereign Creator, the Fount out of which are all things. And in Him all things have their purpose. Even as all things are out of Him, so they are also unto Him. From the beginning He made all things with a view to the end: the alpha is connected with the omega, the one must inevitably lead to the other. And whatever lies between the alpha and the omega is through Him. He controls all things in such a way that His counsel is accomplished, His design is fulfilled, His end is reached. And that end is the "revelation of Jesus Christ," the firstborn of every creature and the first begotten of the dead, as the One in Whom all things in heaven and on earth are to be united forever. Then, in the new creation, the tabernacle of God shall be with men; and God shall be all in all, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And nothing can prevent this Omega. For God is Lord, and He is the Almighty. He is not merely supreme in power, more powerful than all other powers combined; but His is all the power, oven the power of the creature, the power also of the forces of darkness. They have no power but from Him. And He uses them, willingly or in spite of themselves, for His sovereign purpose. He is coming, therefore, surely and irresistibly, always coming through the ages of history, coming from the alpha to the omega, from glory to glory, His own glory, until all His glory shall forever shine forth in the perfect revelation of Jesus Christ!
Peace, therefore, unto you who look for the coming of the Lord: the peace of grace, peace in the midst of the conflict and sufferings of this present time!
For behold, He cometh with clouds!
Faith is the victory!