Mental Sight

 Every Eye Shall See Him

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.
—Revelation 1:7

Gilbert Rice

This promise of Revelation is both well known and authoritative. But Christian people hold divergent opinions about the manner of its intended fulfillment. Are we to understand from it that Jesus will be revealed to the literal sight of people in the earth, or that he will be “seen” in a figurative sense by mental perception?

Strong’s Definition

The Greek word represented by “see” in Revelation 1:7 is listed in Strong’s Concordance as 3700, optomai, which (for its grammatical use in this passage) is spelled opsetai. Strong defines it as “to gaze (i.e., with wide open eyes, as at something remarkable),” and proceeds to distinguish its shade of meaning from other words listed as 991, 1492, 2300, 2334, and 4648. Since this definition does not explicitly include a figurative sense, one might suppose it requires Jesus would be seen with literal sight. However, that would be an incorrect conclusion for two reasons:

1. Before Strong’s definition, he says it is used as an “alternate of 3708,” horaw,, which he defines as “properly to stare at … (by implication) to discern clearly (physically or mentally)” (bold emphasis supplied). This augments the definition of optomai to include a figurative sense.

2. For the five other words which Strong’s mentions, explaining their subtle contrast with optomai, he specifically includes a figurative sense in his definitions, yet he never stipulates this feature as a matter of contrast with optomai. Here is the remainder of Strong’s comments on optomai, followed by his definitions of the other five words:

“… thus differing from 991, which denotes simply voluntary observation; and from 1492, which expresses merely mechanical, passive or casual vision; while 2300, and still more emphatically its intensive 2334, signifies an earnest but more continued inspection; and 4648 a watching from a distance.”

991—blepw—“to look at (literally or figuratively)”

1492—eidw—“properly to see (literally or figurativly)

2300—theaomai—“to look closely at … to perceive (literally or figuratively) …”

2334—theorew—“to be a spectator of, i.e., discern (literally or figuratively) …”

4648—skopew—“to take aim at (spy), i.e., (fig.) regard

Clearly Strong is correct in allowing a figurative sense to each of these, as shown by the following texts, which all require it:

991—Luke 8:10; Romans 7:23; 2 Corinthians 7:8; Hebrews 2:9; 10:25

1492—Acts 15:6; 28:26; 1 Corinthians 13:2

2300—John 4:35

2334—John 4:19; 12:19; Acts 17:22; 27:10; Hebrews 7:4

3708—Acts 8:23; James 2:24

4648—Luke 11:35; Romans 16:17; 2 Corinthians 4:18; Galatians 6:1, Philippians 2:4, 3:17

The Figurative Use of “Optomai”

The figurative sense of optomai is explicitly affirmed in Vine’s Expository Dictionary.Optomai, to see (from ops, the eye; compare English optical, etc.) … (b) subjectively, with reference to an inward impression or a spiritual experience” (page 65, “appear,” item 6). This is particularly appropriate for optomai in Revelation 1:7. Its figurative sense is also used in the following texts1:

w    John 1:51—“Hereafter ye shall see (opsesthe) heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” Surely Jesus did not intend that Nathaniel would literally see actual angels moving up and down between heaven and earth.


w    Mark 14:61, 62—“Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see (opsesthe) the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Jesus would not have meant that the hostile and unbelieving high priest to whom he spoke would literally see the glorified Jesus in heaven, exercising power and authority.


w    Luke 3:6—“And all flesh shall see (opsetai) the salvation of God.” Salvation is something that is felt, experienced, and thus discerned mentally. Isaiah 40:3-5 is the source of this expression: “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see (opsetai in the Septuagint) it together …” (The Hebrew word for “see” in Isaiah 40:5 is ra’ah, Strong’s 7200, “a primitive root, to see, literal or figurative, (in numerous applications).” Discern and perceive are two of many English words used to translate this Hebrew word.)


w    John 3:36—“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see (opsetai) life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” In the present time this life is discerned mentally, not visibly. It is the portion believers share now by faith, in contrast to the wrath of God which continues upon unbelievers.


w    Acts 18:15—“But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look (opsesthe) ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.” Here it is used of a mental occupation, not of literal seeing.


w    Matthew 27:4, 24—“What is that to us? See (opse) thou to that.” “I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see (opsesthe) ye to it.” The word “see” (like look, above) throws responsibility on others. Literal seeing is not implied.

Naturally the view that supposes Revelation 1:7 refers to a visible descent of a fleshly figure in the sky is besieged with a variety of imponderables, not the least of which is the incongruity of billions of humans simultaneously observing a normal sized human figure on a cloudy day descending from a prominent height.