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Eschatology 101: The Olivet Discourse and Revelation (Part 1)

After furthering our understanding of the Olivet Discourse, it is time to glance briefly at the relationship between the book of Revelation and Jesus' prophetic statements in the gospels. As I have mentioned previously, it is important to note that John does not include any version of the Olivet Discourse in his gospel. Why do you think John would leave this out? The prevailing theory in preterist camps is that the book of Revelation is the apocalyptic version of the Olivet Discourse.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, ""hold on, I thought Jesus spoke in apocalyptic language?" Jesus did speak in apocalyptic language. But He spoke as a prophet borrowing apocalyptic language. John is actually writing apocalyptic literature. This kind of literature is unique from other literary type for many reasons but for the sake of brevity I will mention only one in passing. Apocalyptic literature always involves a transporting of the vision seer via angels and the giving of explanation by the angel. This is seen in Daniel (8:15; 9:21, etc), the apocryphal Shepard of Hermas (1:3; 5:1, etc) and the book of Revelation (4:1, etc).

Now that we've gone through a reasonable introduction to an introduction, let us take look at Revelation 1:7 and how it relates to the Olivet Discourse. We'll also enjoy some words of teaching from the Kenneth Gentry.

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

Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. - Matthew 24:30

The correlation between these two verses is staggering. If it is true that they speak of the same event, then we now have a clear "time text" at the start of Revelation that can be applied judicially to the whole of the book. Now there are objections and as always there are Bible based. I'm going to let Kenneth Gentry address these objections from his article

Even Those Who Pierced Him.

The first objection is that "every eye will see Him". Surely this means that the whole entire world will see the coming of Jesus Christ right? Right? Let us hear what Mr Gentry has to say,

They argue that this phrase demands a global occurrence that will be visibly seen by all inhabitants on earth, rather than a rather localized event witnessed only by those present in the area. Two problems disable this objection:

First, “every eye shall see him” simply means that this will be a public event, not hidden in a corner. The Bible frequently uses “all” or “every” in a limited sense for short of global universality. Surely the “whole congregation” of Israel (including infants, the aged, and infirm?) did not go out to war (Josh. 22:12). Who holds that rebellious Israel sinned against  God literally “on every hill” and “under every green tree” (Jer. 2:20)? No one believes that literally “all Judea” (including infants, the aged, and infirm?) went out to hear John Baptist (Matt. 3:5). Did absolutely “all men” in the world know the Corinthians as followers of Christ (2 Cor. 3:2)?

Second, John qualifies the phrase “every eye will see him” by the following clause “even those who pierced him.” The “even” (Gk., kai) statement in Greek can be understood as an explicative, being translated: “every eye will see him, that is, those who pierced him.” And “those who pierced him” have been dead for over 1900 years. We must remember that Jesus told the High Priest in the first century that “hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64).

This is crucial to see. In both views, one of the two phrases needs to be taken "non-literal" for the verse to make sense. It is fitting to allow the descriptive portion of the verse to remain "literal" and permit the literary elements of the day to be read as they would in that day. 

The second object is equally obvious in the English. How can John and Matthew say the "earth" will see this coming. Clearly the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was not seen by the whole earth and any "coming of Jesus" was certainly not seen. Again I am going to let Mr Gentry respond,

The reader must understand that the Greek word translated “earth” (ge) can also be translated “land.” In fact, it often refers to “the land of Israel,” i.e., “the Promised Land.” In a number of places in the New Testament this word speaks either of the Promised Land as a whole, or some portion of it. In those places we find it in such phrases as “the land of Judah” (Matt. 2:6), “the land of Judea” (John 3:22), “the land of Israel” (Matt. 2:20, 21), “the land of Zebulun” (Matt. 4:15), “the land of Naphtali” (Matt. 4:15), and “the land of the Jews” (Acts 10:39). Thus, upon purely lexical considerations, the term can be understood as designating the Promised Land.

When we note that this “land” contains “tribes,” we move even closer to the proper interpretation. The Greek word for “tribe” is phule, which in Scripture most frequently refers to the Jewish tribes. The New Testament often names particular “tribes” of Israel: Asher (Luke 2:36); Benjamin (Act 13:21; Rom 11:1; Phil 3:5); Judah (Rev. 5:5; Heb 7:14). The “tribes” found their home in Palestine; these are “the tribes of the land” Revelation 1:7 mentions. John’s reference to the “tribe of Judah” in Revelation 5:5 clearly points to the tribal division among racial Jews. The term “tribe” obviously has that racial import in Revelation 7:4-8 (where it is used of each of the specifically named Twelve Tribes) and in Revelation 21:12 (where John refers to “the twelve tribes of the children of Israel”).

As a matter or fact, literal translations of the Scripture lean in this direction:

“Lo, he doth come with the clouds, and see him shall every eye, even those who did pierce him, and wail because of him shall all the tribes of the land. Yes! Amen!”
“Behold he comes with the clouds, and will see him every eye and [those] who him pierced, and will wail over him all the tribes of the land. Yes, amen.”

This not only fits nicely with the near-term temporal indicators, but also Jesus’ warnings of impending judgment upon Israel. 

So there you go. Far from disproving the preterist view of these two passages, an analysis of the Greek seems to reaffirm that the preterist opinion is still viable and maybe even strong than any futurist view on these passages. In future posts will look at more similarities between the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation.

Edified: Discipleship & Manhood w/ Ray Rhodes

Gospel Presence I: The Resurrection of the World (Douglas Wilson)