Every Eye Shall See Him, Even Those Who Pierced Him

Revelation 1:7 reads:

Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.

The implications of that verse for what the author of Revelation thought are noteworthy. One could perhaps suggest that the statement “every eye will see” Jesus could be a reference to the idea of a final judgment, at which all people will be present. But connected with the language of coming on clouds, and peoples mourning at his appearance (as will be depicted later in the book), it seems at least slightly more likely that it refers to the actual appearance of Jesus in the sky, the “second coming.” The similar language to Matthew 24:30 also suggests this. It reads, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”

The fact that the author of Revelation says that even those who pierced Jesus will see him can be problematic, for those reading today, since it seems to envisage Jesus returning while those responsible for his death were still alive.

Moreover, for everyone to see him, a spherical Earth inhabited all around is also a problem.

Some in the first century may have still thought the Earth was flat, but the Greeks had shown it to be spherical. But even that progress left many (such as famously Augustine) skeptical of the Earth being inhabited anywhere other than on the upper part, since gravity was not yet understood. And so whatever the author’s view, an Earth of the nature and spread of human habitation that is now known to us seems clearly not to have been in view, or at least was not recognized as a problem.

I remember in my teenage years hearing someone say how they thought that this would be accomplished: the second coming would be caught live on television, allowing everyone to see. I now see how silly it is to read contemporary technology into Revelation. But however ridiculous that suggestion might seem, it was at least noting an important detail in the text that many seem to gloss over.

None of what I have mentioned above is surprising in the context of the earliest Christians’ expectation of an imminent end to human history as known up until that point. The Book of Revelation shares that expectation, as many of us who’ve long read and studied it have come to take for granted. But I still felt that it is worth pointing this out here on the blog, since there are so many who consider themselves faithful interpreters of the Book of Revelation, yet who gloss over such details and their meaning to the author and earliest readers of the book.

What do others think? Does this verse reflect a particular view of the shape and habitation of the Earth that is no longer our own? Does it envisage the second coming occurring within the lifetime of those who had crucified Jesus? Does it perhaps do so even more clearly than other sayings that seem to have the same meaning, such as Mark 9:1, “And he said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power’”?

  • Brian P.

    One just has to believe “in” the “Ascension” and “Second Coming.”  No real specific meaning needs to be ascribed to those Credal terms in any non-theological way.  Just needs to be believed *that*, not any sort of belief of *what* it actually is materialistically or even how it works theologically.  If you go Trekkie about this and try thinking about the gravity and oxygen of the real world, these two Credal doctrines are even more mind-bending than the cellular remetabolization after 40 hours of clinical death of the credal doctrine of the Resurrection.  There’s also the matter that very few moderns today believe in the historic style of belief of the credal Resurrection of the Body.  Similarly if we get to the Credal Virgin Birth, there’s the parallel silly question about Jesus’ Y chromosome.  One just needs to believe *that* these are true.  No requirement (or consistency of hermeneutic tradition) for any specific belief *how* they work either materially or metaphysically.

  • Gary

    I may be way off, but I still think it’s total past history (written post-70AD, but made to look like it’s written pre-70AD – pious fraud) about the destruction of the temple.
    My RSV says Rev1:7 “all tribes of the earth will wail”, indicating tribes and Israel are the focus, which was their entire world, not the 2012 world. “Every eye” are the only eyes that count – Israel’s eyes (victims), plus the other players in the play, those that pieced him, the Romans.. “he is coming with the clouds” – doesn’t say he’s coming down to earth. And then, Rev 1:1, “what must soon take place”, not post 2000 AD. Mark 9:1 “they see the kingdom of God come with power”, is simply the establishment of the Christian church, for us good amillennialists.

  • Ivan

    If Revelation was written in the 90s and if Jesus was executed in the 30s, it is hardly likely that John could have meant the same Romans who crucified him would then see Jesus coming on the clouds some 60 years later.

    Perhaps some form of legal agency is in view. Those who persecute Christians legally persecute Jesus. Those who kill Christians also killed Jesus.

  • Paul D.

    I think you’re right about the “those who pierced him” bit. I don’t think Ivan’s objection is a problem, since we can’t date Revelation with great precision, and John of Patmos himself may not have had a clear idea exactly when the crucifixion had occurred.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    James, do you think the line about those that piereced him is a hold over, a formulation developed when the people who did the crucifing were still alive and repated here without reflection on its meaning?

     Or is it possible that parts of Revelation were written earlier than the supposed CE 90 date?

    Then there is the possibility that John is lumbing the decendents of the people who did the crucifiing in with those who piereced him, that is that it wasn’t individuals but nations that did this, Romans and Judeans. What is your take?

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      There are different views on the date of Revelation, and I don’t have a definitive answer. But the author does refer to the temple as though it were still standing, and so the possibility that it was written soon after Nero died needs to be considered seriously. Whether it received further editing thereafter if it was composed at that time is hard to say. I’m really not sure. 

      It certainly is within the realm of possibility that the author meant nations rather than individuals, but the mention of every eye, including those that pierced him, still seems to me to fit better with the actual individuals being in view.

      • Sean Garrigan

        “It certainly is within the realm of possibility that the author meant
        nations rather than individuals, but the mention of every eye, including
        those that pierced him, still seems to me to fit better with the actual
        individuals being in view.”

        I wonder whether the animal-ification of nations has any bearing on this particular question?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          As in every eye of every animal-like beast that represents a nation in an apocalyptic vision?

  • http://digestofworms.blogspot.com/ admiralmattbar

    Isn’t Revelation dated to 90-100 CE?  Wouldn’t that be kind of late for the author to expect those who had a hand in persecuting Jesus to still be alive and kicking at his return even if it was imminent?

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      There are scholars who date the work earlier because of features such as the reference to the Temple being still standing. I have never focused so much attention on the matter as to feel confident one way or the other. One of the main problems with an early date is that the work seems to reflect the Nero redivivus panic that we only find predominating somewhat later. But it did start early (Tacitus, I believe, mentions an early lookalike from the late 60s), and so it is not impossible. The other reason for a later date is the view that Rome would not be compared to Babylon before it had destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple as the Babylonians had. But yes, I think most scholars date Revelation to the time of Domitian.

  • cannabanoid

    I always wondered how it could be possible for ALL eyes to see him and came up with television right away…but recently while wondering the same thing, Venus was making her transit across the Sun and it hit me…wouldn’t some celestial event like that be plausible for that to be true? And believe it or not not EVERYONE has a television and a computer so that wouldn’t be every eye. But some real big Celestial event would pretty much force everyone to see. Peace and Love

  • Yvonne

    Hi there,

    I’ve been pondering this lately, and as I was reading in Isaiah 66, there appears to be an allusion to the glory of Christ not being seen by the whole world at his return. The verses read:

    18 “And I, because of what they have planned and done, am about to come[a] and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory.

    19 “I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans[b] and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. 20 And they will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the Lord—on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,” says theLord. “They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the Lord in ceremonially clean vessels. 21 And I will select some of them also to be priestsand Levites,” says the Lord.

    Could this mean that the return of the Lord is visible in a more regional sense, and that many from other, more remote nations will not know he is reigning until others come to them to tell them about his ‘fame’ and his glory? Perhaps the Isaiah verses are referring to the nature of things in the millennium in a continual sense.

    I know that this is tied in with what one believes about the extent of the kingdom of the antichrist and the nations involved in Armageddon. I am inclined to a view which sees much of the events of the tribulation being directly applicable to the region encompassed by the kingdoms mentioned in Daniel’s prophecies (Middle East, Asia Minor, North Africa, part of Europe), but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were effects felt by the world as a whole. I’m not sure on this one, as the wrath of God surely would be directed towards all unbelieving mankind, yet it is clear that there will be survivors (based on Zechariah 14:16-19).

    Any thoughts?

    Yvonne

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I think it is wrong to project such texts into the future as predictions still to be fulfilled. Daniel, for instance, is about the persecutions the Jewish people faced during the rule of the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes. I think the main reason interpreters today keep interpreting it as about their future is that they either are unfamiliar with the events alluded to in the text, or have never actually consulted an academic commentary on the book.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/12/selective-supernaturalism.html

      • HimiH

        I disagree with your “I think it is wrong to project such texts into the future as predictions still to be fulfilled” as history has a way of repeating itself in the bible as well as what we call “real-life.” So, future manifestations may be ongoing even as we “speak.”

  • matt

    Jesus describes that some here will not taste death before they see the son of man coming in his His Glory happened before the mount of transfiguration where Jesus did appear in his Glory…. The bible says ( read john 6) that in the LAST day at the trumpet call the dead will rise , This will be a worldwide event he will appear in the clouds with thousands of Angels All eyes will see. the world will all know what is happen , we will meet him in the air ,, changed in the twinkling of an eye. Some raised to eternal like ,, some to destruction.. all to face the judgment thrown of christ read revelation, theselonians matt 24.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I am inclined to think that this is a spoof comment, given all the spelling mistakes, which seem to be too many to all be accidental. But just in case, look at Matthew’s version of the prediction about “some standing here” and you will see that Mark’s earliest interpreter understood the reference to be to the Son of Man coming in his kingdom, and not to the Transfiguration.

    • HimiH

      don’t blame matt for this, james; this is somewhat common teaching available these days to this interp of the glory vs the transfiguration seen by peter, james & john. may I suggest u read the greek & Hebrew (available on biblos.com) with H>S> leading/counseling/understanding (not yours or anyone else’s). then, come back & share what H>S> tells/shows u; the room, I promise will be very attentive/spellbound!!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        The fact that you talk about reading the “Greek and Hebrew” in reference to Revelation shows that you don’t even know what language this text was written in. When scholars discuss texts, it is in the original language that we study them. Looking at the text online when you don’t even have the ability to recognize which is the relevant language is not going to help anyone.

  • HimiH

    could it be that in light of all the near-death-experiences (NDE’s) that have been documented, that all (since Jesus’ crucifixion) “eyes” have seen Him; be they able to return to report it or not?? read the Hebrew and Greek translations available people (avail on biblos.com), with H>S> help u’ll be surprised what gets revealed to u.

  • HimiH

    most folks problem is they think too literal, for the bible interprets bible and u’ll soon learn the the “eye” mentioned is singular and is referred to often in OT/NT scriptures as each persons “inner man” spirit-sight, if u will. ask H>S> to teach u; don’t rely on your own understanding(s).

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Please stop posting the same thing over and over, especially if it is only to say the equivalent of “ask the Holy Spirit and he’ll tell you that the text means what I think it means, irrespective of considerations of language.”

  • Disciple72

    “And every eye shall see him” makes me think of the current advances in internet video streaming and access. Soon all nations will be connected to worldwide video streams. And now with of Google Glass, you can see what another sees, live! Indeed, every eye will see Yahushua (Jesus) coming in the clouds with great power and glory. Those that pierced Jesus and those that contend with him today, will mourn. Because the end has come. The judgment has come and they who do not turn from their wickedness will be cast into the lake of burning fire.

    Please note, John is not the author of Revelation. The Revelation was given to him by the Father, the most high God to reveal to those that believed in the coming kingdom of God. What he says will be, will be. Continue to watch and be amazed as scripture is fulfilled.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      What makes you think that this piece of apocalyptic literature, unlike others, was not the product of its human author? And what makes you think that its author wrote words that refer to current technology, when its author did not even know that the world was inhabited all around its sphere and that everyone seeing Jesus would require such a simulcast?

  • Disciple72

    Those that pierced Jesus and their descendents that contend with him today

  • Anne

    It means that everyone born on this earth will come back to life and see Jesus for their second chance of going to Heaven, If you are not caught up in the Rapture, you could be standing next to someone who was born in Moses days and it will be complete and utter chaos! The mark of the beast will come into play. Remember…once Jesus returns to this earth, things as we know it will no longer be. Just be ready to go when He does come and you won’t have to worry anymore!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Does it bother you that what you depict is not something found in the Bible, but something created relatively recently by piecing together disparate verses taken out of context to create something new?


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