Old Testament Allusions and The Apocalypse of John (Revelation) 1:7

After the resounding “Amen” of 1:6 proclaiming the priesthood of believers shaped by Jesus’ exodus of his people from slavery into freedom, Revelation 1:7 stands as another “Amen” statement. The Apostle John writes, “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.” 


For the first century Jewish hearer or readers of Revelation 1:6, the allusions found here would have been easy to spot. The first allusion is from a very important Old Testament text from the book of Daniel. In Daniel chapter 7, there is a vision of these horrific beasts rising out of the sea, which symbolize succession of world governments from Babylon to Rome. At the pinnacle of this terrifying vision that shows the power of world governments comes a vision that shows God’s sovereign power over all nations (7:9-11). Despite the good news that God rules over evil nations, which would be a comfort in John’s day as well, Daniel is given another vision of a Messiah-type figure that would rule and reign over all things.

This is where we see our first Old Testament allusion. Daniel 7:13-14 says, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Now, before I help understand the brevity of this allusion it must be noted that John highly relies on Daniel throughout the book of Revelation. Why would he try to make a book that is 500+ years removed become a driving force for the churches in first century Asia? John sees the circumstances of the suffering churches as very similar to Daniel and the suffering exiles. Both audiences are enduring suffering. Both audiences are to see this world as a bridge leading to their true home in heaven. Both audiences are being called to trust their God in the midst of a seemingly powerful world government. The same applies to us today. As Iain Duguid writes, “Our challenge is to live our lives with our eyes firmly fixed on the heavenly throne room. Instead of being terrified by the beasts we must daily live remembering the one who will deliver the fine and decisive judgment (Duguid, Daniel, Reformed Expository Commentary, 119).

If one looks at the context of Daniel 7, it seems abundantly clear that the kingdom and dominion of the world is handed to this “Son of man” who will also come visibly on the clouds (See also Ex. 19:16-19; 1 Kin. 8:10-11; Ps. 104:3). This is meant to show the churches in Asia that despite their suffering, the Almighty Messiah will one day come on the clouds to exercise judgment on all evil and rescue his people. The question for Daniel’s generation, Revelation’s generation, and our generation is, “Are we eagerly awaiting the coming of Jesus on the clouds in a way that changes the way we live in the present?”


The second part of Revelation is an allusion to Zechariah 12:10, with a little change in the language. Revelation 1:7 says, “even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.” G.K. Beale notes that John adds the two phrases “every eye”(πᾶς ὀφθαλμὸς) and “of the earth”(τῆς γῆς), signifying that what was once seen as not merely for Israel but for all nations (Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, 196-197). The way that John is using Zechariah though is not meant only to show that there will be worldwide judgment, but that the Judge himself is none other than the One crucified, or pierced, for those who he came to save. This idea of judgment and salvation is the context for Zechariah’s listeners as well as the churches in Revelation. The same Messiah that’s side was pierced as a fountain of mercy to cleanse people from their sins (Zech. 13:1) is the same Messiah that will come to demand the blood of all not found in him (Rev. 19:13).


As we have seen in the context of Daniel, and even more so in Revelation, Jesus cares about his people. When suffering comes, we are to have two major compass points: 1) Christ was pierced for us 2) He is coming back soon to make all things right. This allows the suffering believer to press on and strive towards his true home because Jesus loved him enough to die in his place, but he also has promised to judge all evil and make all things new. As Donald Barnhouse wrote, “At his first coming, Jesus dealt with sin; at his second coming, he will deal with sinners. We must live either in verses five and six, or in verse seven under His coming judgment…If you will not let Him deal with you in love, He must come to you as your Judge (Barnhouse, Revelation: An Expositional Commentary, 24-25).


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