I have listed statements of Jesus and the apostles in two other short studies (When did Jesus say, he would come?and What NT scriptures say about when Jesus would come) where we can read time references about the coming of the Lord.
In this study, I would like to study statements in the book of Revelation where the apostle John makes reference to the time of the coming of the Lord. It is this particular book of the Bible that is often mentioned when people speak about the return of Christ, the end of the world, the last judgement, and future eternal glory, etc. What does the book of Revelation actually say concerning the timing of the coming of the Lord? When is it supposed to happen? When are those things mentioned in the book supposed to come to pass?
John was "in the spirit on the day of the Lord", as we are told in Rev 1:10. This does not mean that he received this revelation vision via the spirit on a Sunday (the reference of "day of the Lord" for "Sunday" was introduced at a much later time); John is rather informing us that he was receiving "in the spirit" (that is, in form of a revelation, vision) things which pertained to the coming "day of the Lord", a day which already the prophets of old have prophesied about also. This "day of the Lord" is the time of the coming of the Lord in his final judgement, when Jesus as the God appointed judge carries out the judgement and rewards every man according to his work, when the old heaven and earth are coming to an end and a new heaven and earth are established.
I think it to be rather remarkable how the book of Revelation provides very clear time related statements both at the beginning as well as at the end of the book. These statements at the opening and closing of the book of Revelation establish when the prophesied events were to take place ... whether relatively soon after the time of writing of the book or at an undetermined and possibly far distant future.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
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.
First, it is established that the things written in this book are not just the thoughts and ideas and words of John, but that the recorded ideas and thoughts are revealed knowledge, revelation, which God has given His Son Jesus Christ and which Christ then made known to his servant John. We have reliable information, what is stated has its origin with God Himself and it was passed on by Jesus Christ to John.
Next, we learn what this book is about: "things which must shortly come to pass"! John was shown things, and he writes that these things must come to pass "shortly", that is soon, in the near future. What John saw MUST shortly come to pass. At the end of these introductory words, John then emphasizes again that "the time is at hand"! Do we read, "things that might shortly come to pass"? or perhaps "the time could perhaps be at hand"? Absolutely not! John#s words are clear and plain! What God has revealed to him via Jesus Christ and what he wrote down is simple and unmistakable: These things MUST SHORTLY come to pass for the time is AT HAND!
Now, what do we read at the end of the book?
And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
There is no doubt that these words are true and not just some "imagination". "These sayings are faithful and true" ... But then, IF that is the case, how can it be that almost all of Christendom speaks about and believes that the things written in the book did NOT happen "shortly" after the writing of the book and are still -- after almost 2000 years -- in our future and are awaiting their fulfillment? Something is obviously not right somewhere with such ideas.
John learns that these words are true, and that the things he is shown, MUST come to pass SHORTLY! There is not "could perhaps" happen shortly, but rather a "MUST SHORTLY come to pass"! The words are unmistakable. Furthermore, the Lord adds, "Behold, I come quickly"! The Lord declares to John that he will come soon, come shortly, come quickly. This is not the only time when Jesus tells John this same truth. We can read the same statement of Jesus two more times in the remaining section of the book.
And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
Again, we read that the time is at hand. The book is not about things in a far distant and undetermined future. What John saw and wrote was imminent and the time for their fulfillment was near.
There is an interesting passage in the book of Daniel where Daniel was told by a messenger from God that he should seal the words of the prophecy he had received because the time for their fulfillemnent was yet far ... what Daniel saw by revelation were things which came to pass about 4 centuries later. A time period of about 400 years was long enough for God to tell the prophet to seal the prophecy. However, here we read that John was explicitly told not to seal his prophecy because the time for its fulfillment was near. We should carefully and logically consider this: 400 years were long enough to seal the prophecy, but almost 2000 years are supposedly "near" enough to not seal this prophecy? No, something cannot be right with the assumptions that are wide spread today and which place the fulfillment of John's prophecy in the yet future ...
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Once again we read that Jesus confirms that he will come QUICKLY (soon, shortly). We are told three times in this closing section of the book in Revelation 22 that the Lord would come soon, shortly, quickly! And those statements are not even indirectly related by John, but rather are direct quotes from what the Lord himself has said! Jesus himself has declared that he would come soon!
What are we to make of these words? It is obvious that there is a contradiction between these words in the book of Revelation and their clear and simple meaning on one side and the currently popular interpretation and so-called Christian doctrine that Jesus has not come (even after almost 2000 years have passed)! Did Jesus not come quickly as we read three times? If he has not come yet, then there is a problem (either in the text or with the understanding) with all the passages and statements of Jesus and the writers of the NT scriptures. Is the simple understanding of the "soon" and "shortly" terminology in those passages correct? Then these things must have in fact come to pass "shortly", exactly as stated, and Jesus must have already come! Or are there some other solutions?
May these studies be a help to all readers for seeing for themselves and evaluating for themselves what the passages do say. I am not offering "final answers" or a "finished interpretation", seeing that I myself am still evaluating a number of matters relating to this topic where I have yet unanswered questions. I do invite the readers to take part in my search and I welcome any comments and insights concerning the material covered in this study ... simply write an e-mail to the BibelCenter editor.