“Behold, I am coming soon.” (Rev.22:7 & 12) “The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come!’ and let him who hears say ‘Come!'” (Rev.22:17)
The emphasis on the near return of the Lord in the last chapter of Revelation is very pronounced. One can hardly fail to miss the sense of excitement and anticipation expressed there. “And he said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent His angel to show His servants what must soon take place. And behold, I am coming soon!'” (Verses 6-7) “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Verses 12-13) He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Verse 20)
How then should we understand these words, seeing they were written some 2,000 years ago? Are we to think along the lines of Dispensationalists, who say that they were meaningful during the Acts period, but gave way to a different set of circumstances thereafter? Some would query that by saying that the Revelation was not written until near the end of the first century, way after Acts 28. We could well ask about Abraham and other patriarchs, who looked for a Heavenly City, but “died in faith, not having received the promise.” (Heb.11:13) Or we could ask the question posed to Peter by the scoffers, “Where is the promise of His coming? Everything has continued [without a break] since the beginning of creation.” (2 Pet.3:4) Even the Lord spoke about a certain “wicked servant who said to himself, ‘My Master has delayed [His coming'” (Matt.24:48) All these things have troubled the minds of men from olden times until the present day. What advice shall we give? How can we formulate an answer that is not a twisting of words to suit a personal fancy?
The only safe way to approach a problem of this kind is to listen to the words of the Master, and place our finger on the pulse of His rhetoric, sensing what He was trying to convey to His listeners, because those who heard were mainly His own followers, and they would have been most anxious not to misinterpret His words.
First of all we must record the Lord’s words in John 14:2-3. “I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Here is the Master’s promise, upon which hinge all other references to His return. Life would be very dull indeed, were we to be without the promise of Jesus’ return, and the setting up of His Kingdom. This “waiting for our blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ,” has been the mainstay of God’s children through the ages. (Titus 2:13) So much for the fact, now what about the timing?
“Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”(Matt.24:36) The disciples would have understood this in terms of their own lifetime, during which they expected their Master’s return. The “day and hour” would then have had a limited application within the first century AD. They would not have thought in their wildest imagination that 2,000 years could go by. But in fact those very words have been applicable throughout history, and are still applicable, and should prevent anyone from becoming a date-setter.
“As it was in the days of Noah . . .” (Matt.24:38) The Lord was speaking of the lack of readiness of people just before the Flood. It would be similar in the days prior to His return. “Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Verse 42) “You must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Verse 44)
The same truth was conveyed in the parable of the ten virgins. They were all waiting for the Bridegroom, but when the cry went out “Behold the Bridegroom comes! Go out to meet Him!” (Matt.25:6) five were not ready for the event, and missed out. Our Lord’s final words to this parable are the same as before, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Verse 13)
Or as the Lord conveyed a similar message on another occasion, “Let your loins be girded, and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their Master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to Him at once when He comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the Master finds awake when He comes. . . . You must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Luke 12:35-40)
Paul echoed the Master’s words and thoughts. “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. . . . So then, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” (1 Thess.5:2-6)
The 16th chapter of Revelation concerns the outpouring of the final seven bowls of wrath. We read about the first six, and then there is a brief parenthesis when the Lord interjects a warning – “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments, that he may not go naked, and be seen exposed.” (Rev.16:15) Then the seventh bowl is poured out, and there follows the cry from the Throne, “It is finished!” The whole sequence of God’s works encapsulated within the visions of Revelation is now complete. God has concluded His work, He has gathered His “special treasure”, and the Kingdom may begin. How pointed is the message – Watch! Wait! Pray! Be sober! Be ready! Be expecting! Such an attitude is carried alongside every day’s ordinary lifestyle. We are not expected to stop everything and twiddle our thumbs in restive impatience. “Blessed is the faithful and wise servant, whom his Master when He comes will find so doing.” (Matt.24:45) Doing what? “To give food to his household at the proper time.” Ordinary everyday tasks, but at the back of the mind is that constant question, “How long, O Lord, is Your chariot in coming?”
When our children were small, we used to sing a little chorus, “Please come today, Lord Jesus, Please come today Lord Jesus. I have a little light and I’ll always keep it bright. Please come today, dear Lord.” This is the essence of “waiting and watching.” Always in our thinking there must be the thought that today may be the day of His return. Am I ready? Am I like the Apostle Paul, and “all those who have loved His appearing”? (2 Tim.4:8) Do I have the urgency of John Newton, when he wrote,
Saviour, if of Zion’s city I, through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Thy name;
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
all his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion’s children know.
What therefore are we waiting for? Some magnificent aerial display as the Son of God appears in the clouds and every eye sees Him? I think not. I have explained why in the series on resurrection. No, I’ll tell you what I’m waiting for, watching, eagerly expecting. I’m waiting to be changed, to have my new immortal body, not whisked away into the clouds, but right here, on earth, where I am now. This will be a dimensional change, not a physical change. And when this happens, I’ll be able to “behold the most precious face ever known to man”, to quote Jim Reeves’ lovely song, “Across the Bridge.” Yes, all those who are “alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord” will likewise be changed, and will behold His face, as the eyes of immortality are opened to the glorious heavenly country, a country that has been there all along in that higher dimensional realm, but shut to earthly eyes. They will have remembered David’s words, “Let Your face shine upon Your servant,” (Ps.31:16) and longed for His presence. This will be the greatest joy of all His saints, and will usher in the millennial reign. Those on earth will wonder just what has happened as God’s tiny “mustard seed” grows rapidly to fill the earth.
What if we die before this happens? Why this long wait of 2000 years? Then, as with all those who have previously “died in faith, not having received the promises” we will be transported in spirit to join other members of the “church of the firstborn enrolled in heaven”. Where is this? In that heavenly country which is at present closed to our earthly eyes, in “Mount Zion, the City of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem,” (Heb.12:22-23) there to await the day when the Lord announces the completion of His Bride, and resurrection bodies are bestowed upon all His saints. Through the ages the Lord’s words, Watch, Wait, Pray, have been the sure expectancy of all His own. “Christ in you, the HOPE of glory.” (Col.1:27) The Lord intended it that way, not for His people to try working out some chronological scheme, but “setting their minds on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Col.3:1-2)
Dear friends, as we come to the end of this series, we find that we have been greatly moved by studying these last two chapters of Revelation in more detail, with all the multitude of amazing facts concerning the City of God, and have enjoyed sharing this with you. We do not claim absolute knowledge and understanding, but have presented our findings as they speak to our hearts. Yes, God looks upon our hearts, and not the breadth of our mental knowledge, and we are thankful for that. When He comes to make up His jewels, none of us will be worried any longer whether we have all the “correct theology.” We shall be so absorbed in the glorious presence of our Saviour and Lord, that all problems and disagreements will be left behind. “Now I know in part, then I shall understand fully even as I have been fully understood.” (1 Cor.13:12) What a Saviour we have! May His name be lifted up in praise and adoration.
Jesus, name above all others. Amen
Marvellous message we bring;
Glorious carol we sing,
Wonderful word of the King:
Jesus is coming again!
Coming again, coming again!
May be morning, may be noon,
May be evening and may be soon!
Coming again, coming again!
O what a wonderful day it will be-
Jesus is coming again!
Forest and flower exclaim,
Mountain and meadow the same,
All earth and heaven proclaim:
Jesus is coming again!
Standing before Him at last,
Trial and trouble all past,
Crowns at His feet we will cast.
Jesus is coming again!
(Song by John W. Peterson, 1921 – 2006, songwriter who had a major influence on evangelical Christian music in the 1950s through the 1970s. President and Editor of “Singspiration.” He wrote over 1,000 songs, and 35 cantatas. In addition to the above song, he is well remembered for such titles as “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,” and “Surely goodness and mercy.”)
Even so, come, Lord Jesus
Important end note.
This prophecy, (referred to on page 210), was received by Arthur at 2 pm on Friday 2nd November 1973, shortly after the Yom Kippur War between Egypt and Israel (October 6th) and by the Lord’s direction sent to the Chief of the Rabbis in Tel Aviv on 7th November, posted from Nairobi, Kenya. I reproduce it in this book because of the amazing parallels with the exposition in chapter 14, The Conversion of Saul, page 205.
“Thus saith the Lord, the High and Mighty One, who made heaven and earth and all that therein is, who in days long past chose out a people to be His own inheritance from amongst the nations, a people who were repeatedly obstinate and unfaithful to their God, like the unfaithful wife who despises her husband. Have I forgotten you in the years between?
Therefore hear O Israel, give ear to the One who neither sleeps nor forgets, for though these many years you have been the taunt and playtoy of many nations and peoples, though you have suffered multitudes of indignities, a people to whom security has been an unknown factor, yet from the trodden earth of this downcast people I have fashioned and formed the elements of strong character, resistance, individuality, independence, and mental capability. Though silent, I have kept my eye upon you for good; though apparently unconcerned, I have preserved you as a distinct race through the centuries, and now in these latter days I am once again bringing my hammer to the anvil, once again bringing the air blast to the forge, as I tread the bellows in the face of all mankind.
Jerusalem has become a burden to all people, but woe to those who deal unrighteously with her, because in the moment of their greatest boasting, at the time of their greatest rejoicing, they shall find themselves fighting against an impregnable fortress to their utter ruin.
I have brought you out of your graves, O remnant of my people; I have called for wine and oil upon the mountains of Israel; I have prospered you in these latter years, even though ungodliness still abounds in Jacob. But pure water is yet to be sprinkled upon you in accordance with my word which stands and abides forever. Just now your abode is in the valley of decision, and all peoples are enraged with you, and this has been my way, my own design, and I have created it thus. But out of the fires of these latter years shall come forth gold of the finest quality, and those same fires shall remove all that is offensive in my sight, whether it be the stain of Israel or the filth of the nations who burden themselves against you.
Once again the nations shall see that I have chosen Israel, but they shall also observe that I am not doing it because it is a people more righteous than other peoples, but because of the everlasting promises I made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They shall see that the great God of all men faithfully insists that His word is fulfilled, even though from the human standpoint the years have uneventfully rolled past with little to observe. They shall see that I have chosen you to perform the task that your forefathers signally failed to do, in other words to act as my witness to the nations of the world, and bring them the light of the glory of the true knowledge of God.
Therefore, hear my word to you at this time, O people of the past, who are now my people of the present and the future; fear not the oppression of those around you who seek your extinction, and who resort to lies at the United Nations assemblies; be not dismayed at the way in which nation after nation is disowning you and treating you as contemptible, for I have chosen you and I will come to you as the Deliverer out of Zion, in the spirit of David, Moses, and Elijah, and you shall see my glory in your midst as in days of old when I went before my people, and you shall bow your faces to the earth and acknowledge once again that Adonai Elohim is in your midst when you see the Messenger of the Covenant revealed to your eyes.
At that time, O my people, there shall be a great wailing in Jerusalem, a wailing of revelation, the revealing of the sins of my people and out of it shall come my elect, my special treasure, small but precious, which shall glorify my name in the earth. For the pure water shall be as fountains of cleansing in Jerusalem, and the river of life shall begin to flow freely to the wilderness around, and there shall be life where once there was only death.
Therefore, look upwards at this time, and do not lean so heavily towards the setting of the sun. Let your minds and your hearts rest upon me, the Holy One of Israel, that you may have hope and strength in these last dark hours before the dawn, saith the Lord, El Shaddai.”