Rev. 22:10 – He also said to me, “Don’t seal the prophetic words of this book, because the time is near. 11 Let the unrighteous go on in unrighteousness; let the filthy go on being made filthy; let the righteous go on in righteousness; and let the holy go on being made holy.” (HCSB)
Don’t seal the prophetic words
The angel has another command for John in verse 10: “Don’t seal the prophetic words of this book, because the time is near.” Looking back to the Old Testament, we see that at least three times Daniel is prohibited from sharing what has been revealed to him because those things are for “many days in the future,” or “the time of the end” (see Dan. 8:26; 12:4, 9). In stark contrast, and in light of the return of Christ in the last days, John is instructed not to seal these prophetic words because the time of their fulfillment is at hand. Perhaps in Revelation we are witnessing the unsealing of the visions Daniel was instructed to hold fast.
But other commentators suggest that a better way to understand the angel’s command here is to compare it with the voice from heaven in Revelation 10, which booms, “Seal up what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down!” John has been faithfully recording what he sees and hears, but in the middle of his visions he is told that this particular message is to remain hidden.
We should not assume that the message from the seven thunders is finally unveiled at the end of the book, because we receive no indication of what that message might be. Perhaps there simply are some things God determines should not be shared.
The apostle Paul has a unique experience in 2 Corinthians 12 in which he is taken up into the third heaven – presumably where the throne of God resides – and hears “inexpressible words, which a man is not allowed to speak” (v. 4). Is it possible that the words of the seven thunders are so awe-inspiring, so wonderful, so frightening that there is no earthly way to express them?
Does God draw a line in the sand when it comes to sin? That is, can unbelievers rebel against God so grievously, and reject His grace so persistently, that ultimately they pass a point beyond which they can never be saved?
It appears the answer is yes. Consider the following passages of Scripture.
Gen. 15:16 – “for the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” The Lord tells Abraham that his descendants are to be enslaved and oppressed for 400 years (in Egypt), after which God delivers them from bondage and brings them into the Promised Land.
Why the delay in fulfilling His promise to Abraham? Because the Amorites’ measure of sin is not yet full. The Amorites are engaged in degrading sin. God has determined to destroy them and to give their land to His chosen people.
In a similar manner, Noah proclaims judgment upon the wicked for 120 years, but God determines the day in which He closes the door of the ark and opens the floodgates of heaven.
In 1 Samuel 15:3 God commands King Saul: “Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.”
Bible stories like this are fodder for atheists like Richard Dawkins, who writes in The God Delusion, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Though less strident than Dawkins, other cynics struggle to see God as loving and merciful in light of such scriptures. So we must ask, “Is God a genocidal maniac?”