Friday, July 6, 2012

Every Eye Will See Him

Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be.  Revelation 1:7 NASB
What a summary statement for all that will follow! If one wants to know what the Apocalypse is about, he need look no further than this verse. The Revelation of Jesus Christ is not about Roman persecution, the destruction of Jerusalem, or even the first century in particular, any more than it is just about the last seven years of time just prior to his return. It is about the return of Christ in all it's particulars: what leads up to it, what will happen when it occurs, and what will occur afterwards. So much for the apparent scholarship of Gordon Fee!

For some, a passage like the one above cast doubts upon the dispensational notion of a "Secret Rapture" of the Church. Nothing in the text seems to present anything secretive about the return of Christ or makes its experience exclusive to the Church. One must remember, however, that the catching away of the church (Rapture) is not precisely synonymous with the visible return of Christ to earth.

It is possible to have somewhat coherent schemas of interpretation that equate the two, but I don't see them as biblically accurate. That the two are not the same seems to me well enough evidenced by Matthew 24:36-42, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-5:9, and Revelation 7:9-17. From any of these accounts, I think it can be clearly seen that the beginning of the end (i.e. the catching away) is not the same thing as the end of the end (i.e. the completion of destruction).

There is process to it. The Return of Christ is never presented as an instantaneous event in the Word. There is a beginning, a middle and an end to it. The Apocalypse took twenty-two chapters to unpack what it unpacked about it! It's nature in time requires a story, not a headline to communicate.

At the beginning of his return, Jesus is in the air and the righteous are evacuated or sealed in protection before the outpouring of wrath is uncorked. At the end, Jesus stands victorious on earth, large and in charge. In between, obviously I would think, there is a process that unfolds. How long does that process take? If a day is like 1000 years, and 1000 years like a day to the Lord, how long would 7 years be perceived to be?

At some point during his return, it will be evident that he is passing through clouds and coming to the earth. That aspect of the event will be obvious to all its beholders on the earth--even (or maybe, especially) the Jews whose ancestors missed him in the days of Pontius Pilate. All those witnesses will mourn, the Jews to very good effect. At that point in the unfolding of things there is certainly nothing secretive about it at all.

But given that, what kind of secret is millions upon millions of folk disappearing in the first place?