The return of Christ will be both glorious and terrifying. It will be glorious in that all of creation will see Him as He is and will clearly recognize Him as the Son of God. More importantly, Israel will at last see Jesus as her Messiah and it will lead to national repentance. In all this, God will be glorified. But this will be a terrifying day as well because in the returning of Christ, the unrepentant will see their judgment.
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. (Revelation 1:7)
Clouds are a symbolic of God’s presence. It was by a literal pillar of cloud that God guided His people out of Egypt. It was by that pillar of cloud that God protected His people from the Egyptian army, and by that cloud that He led His people through the wilderness and told them where to camp and when to move (Exodus 13:21-22; 16:10; Numbers 10:34). When He spoke to Moses upon Mount Sinai it was by a “thick cloud upon the mountain” that He signified His divine presence (Exodus 19:16; 20:21; 24:15-18). At the dedication of the temple, God filled it with a cloud to declare His blessing and His presence, and now it is in the clouds that His Son returns (Daniel 7:13; Matthew 24:30). His appearing will be both glorious and terrifying.
And every eye shall see Him…
“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.” Unlike the Rapture, where Jesus returns and only believers will see Him and answer His call to come home to glory (see Acts 1:11), in this phase of His Second Coming He will be glorified for all the world to see. They shall see Him for Who He is. None shall be exempt, and no one will have an excuse to say they do not know Him. “They…which pierced Him” applies specifically to the Jews whose false charges had Him nailed to the cross:
And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)
“All kindreds of the earth” is a reference to the entire Gentile world.
Both groups will mourn at the sight of Jesus’ return. For the Jews, that mourning will result in national repentance. At last, they will recognize Jesus as their Messiah. For the Gentiles, the mourning is much different. For most, it will not lead to repentance because their mourning is not a result of shame regarding the Savior they rejected, but a result of fear and terror over their impending doom. In fact, Revelation 9:21 says that they will remain largely unrepentant:
Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries [drug additions], nor of their fornication [sexual sins], nor of their thefts. (Revelation 9:21)
The mourning of the world at large will not be tears brought on by conviction of sin, but more of tears over being caught and being forced from their sins.
John’s response to all of this is clear: “Even so, Amen.” In that statement he uses both Greek and Hebrew phrases of affirmation: the Greek nai “so it is to be,” and the Hebrew amen “so let it be.” His affirmation is not meant as approval of the world’s condemnation, but the expression of a believer’s desire to see His Lord return.
At the beginning of this study I said that prophecy – especially in the New Testament – is given for comfort, but this passage speaks so much of judgment. Where is the comfort in that? For the believer, the comfort is in the fact that Christ spares us from God’s wrath. As in the days of Noah, we have the comfort of knowing that we will be in the “ark” of God’s salvation. But like Noah, this comfort should give us grave concern for those who do not have it. God would have been pleased to have saved more than just eight souls from the Flood, and for 200 years Noah preached salvation to the lost. Today, God wants many more to know His Son. Like Noah, who knew the judgment to come, we must be highly motivated to spread the message of God’s hope to a lost and dying world.