The inauguration of Donald Trump has been accompanied by a whole cadre of angry events: reactions of fear, sadness, anxiety. The awareness of his actually being President, the rejection of this and the lamenting people have expressed provide an interesting foil to Revelation 1:7-8, and especially the 7th verse. In those two verses the return of Jesus Christ and the world’s reactions have a number of parallels to the recent events surrounding the installation of the American President. I am not making an effort to draw Messianic parallels to President Trump. The reaction of people to him, though, has parallels to the second coming of Jesus. The reactions we have seen against Trump can be extrapolated to the future reaction of people against Jesus Christ.
7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him,
and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Revelation 1:7–ESV)
Some versions of the Bible start verse 7 with the word Look. Behold is a better word though. In the Greek the word John used was not the word for visual sight nor the word for look as one would look at a stop sign or to see if the mail has come. Rather it is a word that speaks of an announcement.
“Be aware,” John is saying, “Jesus is coming in the sky.” The people of the seven churches and now us are to take this to heart. At some point after the rapture of the church Jesus will arrive as judge. John already said that awareness of the arrival will be a blessed thing for those who believe (see verse 3). In this verse, though, we will see an alternate more ominous response.
Clarity beyond words
Let’s look at two pieces of John’s next phrase. First he says every eye which means all peoples, all tribes. Don’t get entangled into rigid categories of every single person, or every single eye of every person, or of every eye seeing simultaneously. Those specifics were not divulged so don’t wander off on those dead ends. Rather, look at this passage with your own eye to understand what John was sharing: all people groups. In Mark 13:10 Jesus spoke of a similar message when he told his disciples that the gospel will be preached to all nations, and then the end will come.
Those who “pierced” Christ refers to the Jewish nation, and they will also get a dose of awareness. Jesus, whom their nation crucified and whose well attested resurrection they denied will arrive in the clouds.
Second is the word see. The word John used was not the Greek blépō: visual sight, but horáō: perception. It is a seeing + a reaction. Think of seeing a beautiful sunset, dark clouds on the horizon or maybe even a coming storm on your weather app. These things are seen and experienced not like stop sign or your glasses on the counter. Rather, they are observation + wonder. The thing wondered is: How will such and such effect me and the things I value?
So what is the big picture here? All the people groups on the earth will see, understand and react to Christ’s return.
John said in verse 3 that we are to read this Revelation to the point of understanding. We are to hear and to take these words to heart. It is important that every person hear the message that God offers and take it to heart, accept it. Why? Well a time is coming when Jesus himself will arrive. They will gain an instant awareness, and that awareness will have a clarity beyond words. Having missed the rapture their opportunity to be saved will be greatly diminished if not eliminated.
The people respond
So all the nations of the earth, Gentiles and Jews, will see the return of Christ immediately grasping certain global and personal implications. The last line of 7 tells us what the reaction will be: weeping, wailing, mourning. Some people will grasp the meaning of Christ’s return more quickly than others, but all will be caught and troubled to the point of great sorrow. Some will probably mourn over lost opportunity. Others will see the future implications and be greatly troubled. The inner recognition of the world’s people groups will be expressed openly, poignantly and with great distress.
(Some of) America (and the world) responds
Let us diverge to a recent American experience. On Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 Donald Trump was elected as President of the United States. The Wall Street Journal reported colleges offering counseling to students in shock over Trump’s election. I have forgotten which of the networks we were watching on election night, but my wife commented upon the anchors. Some were rattled nearly to the point of tears. They fumbled for words as the results steadily revealed a coming loss for Hillary Clinton.
On Friday, January 20th, 2017 in response to Trump’s inauguration it was reported that there were anti-Trump marches on all 7 continents. Many women’s groups degraded themselves in various personal displays of protest over his inauguration. John Lewis, of Martin Luther King, Jr’s. era said, “I don’t see Trump as a legitimate President.” He can say what he likes or believes even, but the electoral college is the constitutional fixture which made Trump’s election legitimate. Lewis’ inner teeth-gnashing doesn’t place him above the constitution, nor do the opinions many hold regarding a thing they don’t like hold jurisdiction.
What we were able to see was a global anxiety, a global mourning. Leaders of various countries had their things to say. Pundits, conservative to liberal, had their things to say. Writing this lesson 6 days after that event Trump has continued to aggressively press forward on his agenda items. “Trump makes good on campaign promises” go the headlines, and the tenor is one of veiled surprise. Trump apparently has the audacity to act on his campaign platforms and promises.
Trump was elected; Trump was inaugurated. It was a thing that came; a thing beyond the control of those who did not like or want it. Protests are an American right, but protests change neither the constitution nor reality.