An Apocalypse given by and about Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His enslaved ones the things which must take place quickly, and He indicated with signs, having sent forth through His angel to His enslaved one, John, who testified the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all that he saw.”
Blessed is the one publicly reading this aloud, and the ones hearing the words of this prophecy and keeping the things having been written in it,
for the time is at hand.
John: to the seven assemblies that are in Asia, grace to you and peace from
[God the Father] the one who is and the one who was and the one who is coming,
[God the Holy Spirit] and from the seven spirits that are before His throne,
[God the Son] and from Jesus Christ,
1) the faithful and trustworthy witness,
2) the First-Born out of the dead,
3) and the ruler of the kings of earth.
To the one loving us and having released us from our sins by His blood—and He made us a kingdom, priests to God and His Father—to him the glory and the power into the eons of the eons, amen.
BEHOLD! He comes with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him, and they will beat their breasts with grief over Him, all the peoples of the earth. Yes! Amen!
“I AM the Alpha and the Omega,” the Lord is saying, “The God Who is, and Who was and Who is now coming, the Omnipotent.”Revelation 1:1-8
Theme of the Book of Revelation
But the question is, is this a fulfillment of prophecy that has happened and is now happening, or does this declaration contain a future physical, literal, concrete fulfillment?
He comes with the clouds
If any of the original one hundred and twenty women and men who comprised Jesus’s original close followers read John’s revelation, their minds would have instantly returned to the Mount of Olives when last they had seen Jesus, decades before. He had just finished giving them their final instructions, but they had not perceived this would be their last moment with Him on earth, until suddenly He was being lifted up before their very eyes on what seemed like clouds. As they stared gape-mouthed in stunned astonishment, out of nowhere it seemed, two figures appeared among them in robes gleaming with an impossible haze of white light.
“Men of Galilee,” they had said to the crowd. And all heads must have turned from gazing up at Jesus to the two figures suddenly standing before them. It was the custom of Greek, in their day, to address groups of women and men as men. Even a group of all women yet with one man would have been addressed as men. So, the women knew they, too, were being called out.
“Why have you stood staring into the sky?” All the disciples’ eyes must have blinked as they tried to process that insane question. Why? WHY???
Considering their culture, I image many of them made a classically Mediterranean move, which is to thrust both hands in the air one on each side, shoulder-height with a slight shake of the head that means, “How could ask?!” Perhaps others stabbed pointedly up to Jesus’s rapidly receding form. But the two radiant messengers were not finished.
“This Jesus Who was being raised up from you all, into the sky, thus will come back in the manner you all saw Him go into the sky.”
They had to have all been dumbfounded at that point. Jesus was rising up, farther and farther, clouds roiling around him. Though none had ever seen God’s Shekinah, they certainly had heard countless times of how the Pillar of Cloud had protected their ancestors from the Egyptian army, then led their people through the parted waters of the Red Sea and across the wilderness, fire by night, cloud by day. God’s Shekinah, of voluminous, billowing, glowing appearance, reaching from heaven to earth, resting in glory upon the tabernacle, enveloping Mount Sinai, receiving and sustaining Moses. And now, lifting up their Savior into heaven.
Not a one of them would have left that spot, their necks craning farther and farther back, their eyes straining to see the last small speck of their beloved rabbi and Lord, the last wisp of resplendent cloud.
But He would return! That was the promise of God’s shining messengers, Jesus would return just as gloriously as He had gone away.
That is the kind of experience a person never forgets, but rather speaks of often for the rest of their lives. Later, the Apostle Paul would describe more of what Jesus’s magnificent reappearance would be like.
This we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.
For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven,
and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will be with the Lord forever.Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (NRSV)
There is no doubt that first generation of believers considered this to be the kind of prophecy that would be fulfilled in a concrete and physical way.
. . . and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him, and they will beat their breasts with grief over Him,
This, however, was some thing new added to the prophecy, yet it was also something past, and something ancient. One of their prophets, Zechariah, had long ago given an oracle from God saying,
And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem
so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly over him as one weeps over a firstborn.
On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.Zechariah 12:10-11 (NRSV)
The people who had received Zechariah’s oracle understood it to be a time that would come after a devastating war.
When the Beloved Disciple stood with Jesus’s mother Mary and watched Jesus die, some soldiers came bustling through at the behest of the Jewish religious rulers. It was the Day of Preparation for the Passover Feast, and the Sabbath would begin in just a few hours.
the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the Sabbath, especially because that Sabbath was a day of great solemnity.
So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.
Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth, so that you also may continue to believe.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.”
And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”John 19:31-36 (NRSV)
Another partial fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy happened on the Day of Pentecost,
Now when they heard [Peter’s message], they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”Acts 2:37-38 (NRSV)
So were these words pointing backwards . . . or forwards?