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[Rev 1:7 KJV] 7 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.

mGNT Rev 1:7 ἰδοὺ ἔρχεται μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν καὶ ὄψεται αὐτὸν πᾶς ὀφθαλμὸς καὶ οἵτινες αὐτὸν ἐξεκέντησαν καὶ κόψονται ἐπ’ αὐτὸν πᾶσαι αἱ φυλαὶ τῆς γῆς ναί ἀμήν

The word "tribes" (αἱ φυλαὶ) is an awkward word choice if he intends "the nations of the earth". Shouldn't this be rendered:

[Rev 1:7 modified KJV] 7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they [also] which pierced him: and all tribes of the land shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

John is writing about current events (or soon to be current events):

[Rev 1:3 KJV] 3 Blessed [is] he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time [is] at hand.

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If we keep in mind the perspective of the 1st audience then we will find it easier to discover the meanings of the prophesies of Revelation. Rev. 1:1 stated the time, "things which must shortly come to pass..." Rev. 1:7 said that those who pierced Him would see His coming. Those who pierced Him were those who crucified Him, and those caused Him to be crucified who lived in the 1st century AD (BCE).

The temple was still standing when the Revelation was given to John (Rev. 11:1-2), and when Christ told him that he would prophesy again to many people (Rev. 10:11). Revelation was shown to John to take the message to the first century churches. They were told Christ was coming quickly. The book opens with that message, and closes with it five times in chap. 22 (vs. 6, 7, 10, 12, & 20).

As it is a book of prophesy then we must consider the usage of prophetic metaphors established from the OT judgment language. A coming of the Lord was always used for the presence of God coming in judgment against the wicked.

"For, lo, Jehovah is coming out of His place, To charge the iniquity of the inhabitant of the earth upon him, And revealed hath the earth her blood, Nor doth she cover any more her slain!'" (Isa. 26:21, YLT)

"And caused to be heard hath Jehovah The honour of His voice, And the coming down of His arm He doth shew with the raging of anger, And the flame of a consuming fire, Scattering, and inundation, and hailstone." (Isa. 30:30, YLT)

The "earth" was used for the land or occupied territory / region of the people who were being warned of the coming judgment. As the prophet of Revelation was Jesus (Rev. 1:1), and as Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24), and as John was being sent again to prophesy to the seven churches in Asia, then the "earth" was the lands of Judah and those nations / people of the Roman empire which existed in the 1st century A.D.

The "earth" then in Rev. 1:7 were all the tribes / peoples of all of the nations which the Roman empire had conquered, but specifically that of Judah, the remnant of Israel which God had maintained for the manifestation of the Messiah, the savior. Those were the tribes / people who wailed because of Him.

Jer. 9:11-19 -

"11 And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant.

12 Who is the wise man, that may understand this? and who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord hath spoken, that he may declare it, for what the land perisheth and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passeth through?

13 And the Lord saith, Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein;

14 But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:

15 Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.

16 I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them.

17 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women, that they may come:

18 And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters.

19 For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, How are we spoiled! we are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the land, because our dwellings have cast us out." (KJV)

The first fulfillment of this prophesy was the destruction of Jerusalem (Zion) approx. 539 BC in the Babylonian captivity. The double or second fulfillment was in the destruction of Jerusalem and the 2nd temple in A.D. 70 and the people of the land (the earth) of Jerusalem and all Judea wailed because of Him. They saw His coming in the results of that destruction and in the Roman army which laid that city waste / desolate.

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An interesting idea. BDAG lists two primary meanings for "phyle" as 91) tribe; and (2) "a relatively large people group that forms a sociopolitical subgroup of the human race, nation, people." eg, Matt 24:30, Rev 1:7.

Thus, the usual translation is certainly allowable, namely, "every nation of the earth".

This leaves the other question - to what is John referring? Is it an event sometime in the late 1st or 2nd century or does it refer to the time of Jesus' second advent? I note that the prophecy is quite specific about three phrases:

  • The coming of the Son of Man
  • Coming in the clouds
  • very eye will see him, and/or all tribes of the earth will see him.

This idea occurs in a number of places:

  • It first appears in Dan 7:13 as the beginning of the reign of Messiah when all nations worship Him
  • It next appears in the Synoptic apocalypse Matt 24:30, Mark 13:26, after the sun and moon are darkened and as a prelude to Jesus gathering the elect from the four corners of the earth at the last trumpet (cf 1 Thess 4:16, 17)
  • It also appears in Jesus' defence before the High priest Matt 26:64, Mark 14:62
  • Lastly, it appears in Rev 1:7, apparently as a reminder of what is to come at some future time.

Thus, it appears that these all refer to the second advent of Messiah when we see Him coming in the clouds to harvest (gather the elect from) the earth.

  • If you do a search for "all the tribes" it is always speaking of Israel: blueletterbible.org/search/… Ditto for the term "elect". It sets "the Lord's day" of Revelation 1:1 in the first century Israel when God is judging Israel in 70ad. [Jos 23:4 KJV] 4 Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward. – Ruminator Dec 22 '18 at 11:51
  • Then they have not seen Matt 24:30 and Rev 1:7 which say all the tribes of the EARTH not Israel. So I would beg to differ on the basis of facts. – user25930 Dec 22 '18 at 13:03
  • In both Hebrew and Greek, the word "earth" sometimes refers to "all the dry land" but in the scriptures in most often refers to "the land of Israel" or other "country". – Ruminator Dec 22 '18 at 13:05
  • True but still not relevant because all the tribes of the Land/Earth is different from all the tribes of ISRAEL!! – user25930 Dec 22 '18 at 13:07

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