In the previous post, we looked at several passages from the Book of Revelation that address the return of Jesus. In this post, we complete our study by examining passages from the last chapter of Revelation. In addition, we offer a brief summary of posts from November and December regarding the second coming of Jesus.
Revelation 22:7 – “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
Three times in the epilogue of Revelation, Jesus declares, “I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20). This accentuates the urgency of Christ’s return and affirms his previous promises in the Gospels and the Book of Revelation. His repeated statement also validates what John has seen and heard on Patmos, and what the apostles have written about in their eyewitness accounts and epistles.
Jesus attaches a blessing to the promise of his imminent return: “Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” This is the sixth of seven blessing statements, or beatitudes, in Revelation. [The seven beatitudes of Revelation may be found at Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14.] While we wait expectantly for the Lord’s return, our lives should reflect the truth of Scripture. When we conduct ourselves in this way, we find ourselves happy.
We may not fully understand the details surrounding the Day of the Lord, but the New Testament writers make several truths plain: (1) Jesus is returning one day – physically, visibly, in power and great glory; (2) we do not know the day or the hour of his return; (3) we should live in view of his imminent return; (4) when he comes, all people will know it; (5) Jesus will judge all people personally, rewarding believers according to their faithfulness and punishing unbelievers in varying degrees according to their evil deeds; (6) he will create new heavens and a new earth, setting everything right; and (7) the glory of eternity with Christ will cause the “former things” of this world to fade away.
Eternity may seem far off to us. Yet if we keep the prophecies of Revelation in front of us, we learn to live more comfortably in the tension between the already and not-yet.
Revelation 22:12-13 – “Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to repay each person according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Again, Jesus warns of his imminent return. This time, however, he reminds us that the Alpha and the Omega is coming in judgment “to repay each person according to his work.” This echoes Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew 16:27: “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each according to what he has done.”
This does not even begin to suggest that forgiveness of sins and eternal life are earned through good behavior. As Jesus and the New Testament writers make abundantly clear, salvation is by the grace of God alone through faith in Jesus alone (e.g., John 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5-7). To advocate a works-based path to eternal life is to trample the blood of the crucified, buried, and risen Lord. So then, why does Jesus say his reward is with him to “repay” each person?
The word translated “repay” is misthos in the Greek and appears twenty-nine times in the New Testament, most often as “reward,” but also as “wages,” “payment,” or “profit.” The Greek noun means “pay for service” and can be used to describe compensation for good or bad service. It appears Jesus has in mind the final judgment of believers before the judgment seat of Christ and of unbelievers before the great white throne. The focus in each of these final judgments is not where a person spends eternity, but how.
There are, no doubt, degrees of punishment in hell just as there are varying rewards in heaven. Eternity in hell is not the same for the mass murderer and the law-abiding citizen, but it is outer darkness nonetheless.
It is a common expression at funerals that the deceased have gone on to their eternal reward. Meant to comfort mourners that their loved ones are “in a better place,” the statement glosses over the deeper truth that indeed all people ultimately are repaid for their lives on earth. The reward may be our Savior’s greeting, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). Or, the reward may be the words of the one seated on the great white throne: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!” (Matt. 25:41).
Ultimately, everyone gets the eternal destiny they choose, based on their acceptance or rejection of Christ. In addition, everyone spends eternity as close to, or as far away from, their creator as they desire based on how they have lived out their response to Christ. Jesus reminds us in the Book of Revelation that when he returns, he will set things right. This should prompt all people to search their hearts and take stock of their lives.
Revelation 22:20 – He who testifies about these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Jesus offers one final assurance of his personal return. He testifies to the truth of what John has witnessed and written in the Book of Revelation. He affirms what the angels we encounter in Revelation have declared. And he places a divine exclamation point at the end of it all with the promise, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
John can only reply with affirmation, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (v. 20).
In closing this post, we should note the repeated emphasis on the word “soon” in Revelation 22. It appears four times (vv. 6, 7, 12, 20). The Greek tachy may mean shortly, quickly, without delay, suddenly, by surprise, or readily. As followers of Jesus, we should not entertain thoughts that Jesus is being coy with us, or vague, or even disingenuous with respect to the nearness of his return. It appears that Jesus is not telling us the prophecies of Revelation are to be fulfilled within a few months or years. Rather, they happen certainly and quickly when the Day of the Lord comes.
Joseph Seiss shares this insight:
The impending Advent is the theme which pervades [Revelation] from its commencement to its close. And just in proportion as he who is awake to the great truth of the Saviour’s speedy coming, and is engaged in waiting and preparing himself accordingly, is a better man, and in a safer condition, and really more happy, than the half-christian and the lukewarm; in that same proportion is he who reads, hears and keeps the words of this prophecy blessed beyond all other people. This book, at least its subject-matter, thus becomes to him an instrument of security and attainment to save him from surprise when his Lord cometh, and from the tribulations which shall try the indifferent; as well as a passport to admit him to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and to the highest awards of eternity. [The Apocalypse: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation(Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1987; originally published by C.C. Cook, 1900), 23.]
Jesus is certain of his return, and he tells us so. Having completed the first campaign in God’s two-part mission to redeem fallen humans and restore the cosmos to sinless perfection, Jesus returns temporarily to heaven, where he is seated at the Father’s right hand. There, he serves as our mediator and intercessor. And from his place in heaven, he rules over a kingdom that is largely invisible today but is going to be revealed in blazing glory for everyone to see.
Today, Jesus is in heaven preparing a bridal chamber for us. He also intercedes for us at the Father’s right hand. He advocates for us, serves as our great high priest who is always – not just once a year – in the presence of the Almighty. He has left his kingdom in our hands, having empowered us with the Holy Spirit. One day, he is returning to fulfill all things: to sit on the throne of David; to resurrect and judge all people; to cast Satan demons, and all unbelievers into the lake of fire; and to create new heavens and a new earth.
His delay in coming may give scoffers an opportunity to impugn the Son of Man, but what they refuse to see is that his delay is for their benefit. It’s an opportunity to repent and trust the risen Savior and returning King (2 Pet. 3:3-9). Jesus most certainly is returning. He has given us his word, and we may take comfort in that assurance.
Copyright 2021 by Rob Phillips