JESUS IS COMING
“…to show his servants what must soon take place” (v. 6).
The book of Revelation begins with the following words: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place” (1:1). The word “revelation” (apokalypsis) means “unveiling.” Revelation reveals that there is coming a day when Jesus Christ will be revealed to the world. “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him” (1:7).
Probably some of you heard that Steve Jobs resigned on Wednesday as CEO of Apple (the company responsible for the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad). This week I came across a video of Steve Jobs unveiling the Macintosh computer in 1984 (see below). The audience was very impressed with the Macintosh, but I doubt most of them understood how the Macintosh worked. How did all the parts of the computer work together to do what it did?
Like Steve Jobs unveiled the Macintosh, God has unveiled for us the future in the book of Revelation. It reveals that Christ will one day return to earth, there will be a judgment day for both the believer and the unbeliever, and there is a heaven and a hell. There is much in Revelation that we don’t understand, but that shouldn’t trouble us. (Just like I’m not troubled by not understanding how a computer works.)
Why must these things take place?
First, these things must take place because God is sovereign. God is in control. He has a plan. And He will accomplish that plan.
Second, these things must take place because God is faithful. “These words are trustworthy and true” (v. 6). God will always do what He says.
In the introduction of Revelation, there is a promise of blessing to all who obey its words (1:3). In the conclusion, there is a warning of judgment to all who twist its words (22:18-19; cf. Deut. 4:2).
BUT IS JESUS COMING SOON?
“And behold, I am coming soon” (v. 7).
“Behold, I am coming soon” (v. 12).
“Surely I am coming soon” (v. 20).
“The appointed time has grown very short” (1 Cor. 9:29). “The Day is drawing near” (Heb. 10:25). “The coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8). “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7). “The time is near” (Rev. 1:3).
About two thousand years have passed since Jesus said, “I am coming soon.” Did He break His promise? In 2 Peter 3:1-13, Peter tells us how we can answer “scoffers” who ask, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (v. 4).
First, God has a different perspective on time (v. 8). To God, 1000 years are like one day.
Second, God is patient (vv. 9-10). He is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (v. 9). The “delay” in Christ’s return allows people more time to turn to faith in God. Jesus declared, “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).
Third, God allows us to speed up or delay Christ’s coming (vv. 11-13). Does this violate the sovereignty of God? No. God is able and willing to use our actions in His sovereign plan.
The return of Christ is imminent. It is the next big event in God’s plan of salvation (incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, Pentecost, second coming). We are living in the “last days.”
Unlike Daniel (Dan. 12:9), John was told, “Do not seal up the works of the prophecy of this book” (v. 10). Why? “For the time is near.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (v. 20).
What should we do until Christ’s return?
First, we should long for Christ above the world’s attractions. Paul ended 1 Corinthians with the words, “Our Lord, come!” (1 Cor. 16:22). In Aramaic, this phrase is marana tha. It was probably an early Christian prayer for the return of Jesus. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10).
Second, we should live for Him for Christ despite the world’s adversity. “Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (v. 7). (Much of the imagery of the epilogue reflects the warnings and promises given to the seven churches in chapters 2-3. They would be reminded that Jesus expected them to be faithful no matter what.) The NT passages that address the return of Christ often end with an appeal for Christians to live godly lives. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:9; cf. Rev. 22:12). (We are saved by grace and judged by works.) “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (2 Thess. 2:15). We should obey not only because we “ought to” but also because we “want to.”