Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Every eye shall see him"

“Everyone will see Jesus descend from the sky. Such an event would only be possible on a flat earth.”


There’s a sense in which many apostates position themselves for apostasy. They begin with a Sunday school understanding of Scripture. They then lose their faith in Scripture during their first year of college–because what they’re taught conflicts with their Sunday school understanding of Scripture.

Of course, even in that respect, all they’ve done is to trade one form of childish credulity for another. Their college profs inherit the mantle of infallibility which they used to ascribe to their Sunday school teachers.

So what about this objection to Rev 1:7?

1.Suppose the verse does, indeed, conjure up the image of a flat earth? So what? Language is full of dead metaphors. We ourselves use flat-earth metaphors whenever we speak of sunrise/sunup or sunset/sundown.

2.For that matter, the imagery could just as well be hyperbolic. To suggest this isn’t special pleading. It’s easy to document hyperbole in Scripture. What is more, hyperbolic depictons are characteristic of eschatological imagery.

3.Moreover, “sight” is frequently an abstract metaphor for knowledge. And it’s just as easy to document that fact from Scriptural usage.

On that construal, the verse is simply saying, in a vivid way, that when Christ comes back, everybody will both know and acknowledge, willingly or unwillingly, who Jesus really is.

4.But suppose, for the sake of argument, that we take this literally. How would that depiction presume a flat earth?

For instance, suppose we said, “Every eye shall see the moon.”

Would such a phenomenon only be possible on a flat earth? Hardly!

You see, our skeptic has smuggled a suppressed premise into his conclusion. He tacitly rephrases the verse to say, “Every eye shall see him all at once.”

So he’s assuming the event must be instantaneous. Of course, the verse doesn’t say that. For that matter, the verse doesn’t even say anything about Jesus “descending.” You might be able to get that from other passages, but not from Rev 1:7.

If the “atmospheric effects” of the Parousia were sufficient large and distant, and if they hovered in one place for 24 hours, then, of course, everyone around the world would be able to see it.

So even if you construe the verse with crass literality, it’s quite possible for earthlings on a rotating planet to see the same atmospheric phenomenon. It would be a worldwide spectacle.


  1. This is what happens when people fail to read the Bible using the proper understanding of language, context, culture, etc. They think that by "literal" interpretation that we Christians believe that the earth is flat, etc. Poor thinking leads to poor excuses for dismissing Christ and His Word.

  2. This was (IMHO) an excellent response, Steve. Clear, concise and effectively defeats the "hidden premise." I'll certainly be saving this for future consultation.

  3. Speaking of "crass literality," look at this recent post by C. Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen titled "Inerrancy and the Problem of Matthew 4:8."

  4. I think you're right here, Steve. I remember hearing Frank Zindler use this to prove that Scripture supports a flat-earth view in his debate versus William Lane Craig. Just a bad argument.

  5. This could get me into trouble... If I remember correctly Jesus goes out into the wilderness to pray for 40 days (Matthew says Jesus was Famished). During this time he doesn't eat, which would seem to lead to visionary states. Wouldn't this fact tip us off to the visionary aspect of the event?

    (visionary does not exclude the event happening)? Just a thought...

  6. what happend to Paul Manata?

  7. The Thinking Carnie,

    I've always thought it was a vision. It fits the mold of many of the prophetic visions that God has given His prophets (see Jeremiah 1:11-13 for example).

    Further, I think it is important to understand what the "kingdoms" are in Matthew 4. If you do a simple word search of Scripture for the word "kingdom" and look at the results you get, you'll see that it is far more often used to refer to spiritual powers than political powers. Hence Christ's constant claim: "My kingdom is not of this earth." We also see Paul talk about the ruler of the "kingdom of the air" (Ephesians 2:2) and how Christ will deliver "the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power (1 Corinthians 15:24). Further, you have the addition of "glory" in Matthew 4--that is, Christ saw the kingdoms and their glory--and you can see a similar construct in 1 Thessalonians 2:12, namely: "...walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory."

    Thus, I don't believe Satan was offering Christ political kingdoms at all, but rather spiritual kingdoms. Of course, I think the two are linked, but the emphasis is on the spiritual aspects, as far as I can tell.

  8. Yes, I think a visionary interpretation is quite plausible. However, I wouldn't attribute that to malnutrition. That would reduce the vision to a hallucination.

    As for Manata, he's moving up in the world.

  9. Now that I'm at lunch and I re-read this, I thought I should probably put forth a little clarification on why I put the Jeremiah reference out there, especially since if you read the link TUAD provides you'll see the issue is one of inerrancy.

    With Jeremiah, after God made him a prophet, God asked: "What do you see?" (1:11). Jeremiah responds in the same verse with "I see an almond branch." And God concludes: "You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it" (verse 12).

    This interchange doesn't make much sense if the almond branch is a physical almond branch. Jeremiah is not a blind man, so it's difficult to see the significance of him being able to see a physical object that anyone else could have seen. But if this refers to a spiritual object, then of course it does become important--and God's response "You have seen well" is equally important.

    Secondly, the fact that God connects Jeremiah's sight with the reason "I am watching over my word to perform it" indicates a prophetic view distinct from the typical physical view. (Note that this connection is made all the stronger by the fact that the Hebrew word for "almond" sounds like the Hebrew word for "watching", and thus you have a play on words. If it occured in English, it may have gone something like: "What do you see?" "A cooking wok." "You've seen well, for I shall walk with you...")

    Thus, the plain meaning of the passage seems to rule out a physical almond branch in Jeremiah. But he did see a literal almond branch; it just happened to be an immaterial (spiritual) almond branch.

    After that, Jeremiah was shown a boiling pot, and the image he saw was connected to a specific meaning. This is typically the way that prophetic visions work.

    Moving back to Christ in the wilderness, first I have to heartily agree with Steve--this was NOT a hallucination brough on by malnutrition. It was closer to a vision, although in this case the vision seems to have originated with Satan instead of a prophetic message from God. Regardless, you have the same bit of images linked to specific interpretations.

    Thus, Jesus is put in Jerusalem on the pinnacle of the temple. He's in the "holy city" at the highest point of the temple that bears God's Name.

    While I wouldn't put too much stock into this interpretation (mainly because it's a bit speculative) it seems at this point that Satan is actually tempting Christ to fall in the same way that he (Satan) fell originally. Thus, Jesus throwing Himself from the top of the temple is similar to Satan being cast out of heaven.

    After that, Satan moves to "a very high mountain." Mountains are prominent features in Biblical imagery. The Law was given on Sinai. Zion is on a mountain (see Obadiah 1:21, for example). Isaiah 2:3 and Micah 4:2 both say the exact clause: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD". Zechariah 8:3 tells us "Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain."

    There are many more examples.

    But once more, the imagery seems complete, that Satan is tempting Christ to follow the path Satan took. To defile God's Name by defiling His holy city, His temple, and His mountain.

    In other words, both locations mentioned in Matthew 4 are stock locations referred to in MANY prophecies throughout the Old Testament. (I've already mentioned the issue of kingdoms earlier, so won't recap that here.)

    Again, I believe Matthew 4 details a spiritual vision, and that it's full of references to apocalyptic Jewish beliefs. The spiritual vision does not become "figurative" in any sense--it is a literal spiritual vision. Christ's interaction here is not in any manner out of place with any of the prophets' experiences in the Old Testament.

  10. Another problem with the flat-earth interpretation of Mt 4:8 is that surely there were many mountain-climbers in the ANE. Adventurous boys who, on a hot summer day, wanted to see the view from the top of the local mountain. Irrepressible human curiosity. In their experience, did any of them see all the towns and cities and hills and valleys and lakes and rivers and oceans from their perch? Obviously not.

  11. Well Steve, with a mind like mine, a flat earth makes it easier for me to believe I will see Him when He comes! :)

    But, However, In any event, I want to die all alone, not all alone in that all alone by myself, but, with my family, wife and children and grandchildren gathered around as I breathe my last breath as a redeemed soul from Adam's race and before any number of other souls depart this globe in an instant as the Lord breaks the sound barrier and all eyes see Him.


    Because I figure, if there is a moment of time from the last departing Saints to the next in line, I get to depart, one and only, then I get Him all to myself for however long it is until the next soul or souls are dispatched to Glory! :)

    I do believe it is ok to be zealous for my God when I die, or no?

  12. (Note that this connection is made all the stronger by the fact that the Hebrew word for "almond" sounds like the Hebrew word for "watching", and thus you have a play on words. If it occured in English, it may have gone something like: "What do you see?" "A cooking wok." "You've seen well, for I shall walk with you...")

    Cut to Gabriel on percussion. *budoomp bsssshhhh*

  13. Peter,

    just a digression and a side comment after reading yours.

    I am now prepared to say, "there were no angels dancing on the head of the pin".

    They were dancing inside the pen and I believe it was only 72,000 of them based on this verse:::>

    Mat 26:51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.
    Mat 26:52 Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
    Mat 26:53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?


  14. i think you should research and write about islam and muslim. ım sure that it will be interesting for your reflections..

    i believe god and ı know jesus is a prophet like prophet muhammed.

  15. Yasmin,

    Muhammad was not a prophet: see here and here

  16. I AM a spectacle in the making. What leads anyone to believe that GOD doesn't use technology to make an entrance? TEXT - TWEET - EMAIL - SHOUT - BROADCAST - MILSTAR - TRANSLATE - http://bit.ly/GOD_AT_WORK
    However long it takes to make you happy ... I've waited longer than you know ... I have all the time I need