By Ps Lee Kok Wah
“Look, I am coming soon!” (Rev. 22:7)
“Look, I am coming soon!” (Rev. 22:12)
“Yes, I am coming soon!” (Rev. 22:20)
With his final words in the closing verses of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, our Lord Jesus Christ could have communicated many other thoughts but he chose to say – not once but three times – that he is coming back and soon. Well, it must have been puzzling for the seven churches to whom this letter was addressed, because Jesus did not come back “soon.” He did not return within a week, a month or a year. In fact, it has been almost two thousand years since Revelation was written and Jesus has not returned “in the same way (his disciples had) seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). So, how are we to understand the word “soon” in the context of Revelation 22? There are at least four ways that the New Testament (NT) is using this word.
First, “soon” is to be understood as “the time is near” and “the end is now.” The NT teaches that the “last days” began at the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The NT writers describe their days as “the culmination of the ages” (1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 9:26) and “the last hour” (1 John 2:18). They write that “the end of all things is near” (1 Peter 4:7), “the day is almost here” (Romans 13:12) and “the hour has already come” (Romans 13:11). The Apostles Paul and James both declare “the Lord is near” (Philippians 4;5; James 5:8). James adds that “the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9).
Second, “soon” can refer to something that will happen “quickly” or “suddenly.” We must remember that Jesus had told his disciples, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12:40). On this same theme of readiness, Jesus told them a parable of a master who, having gone on a journey, came back to his estate suddenly and found his servants asleep (Mark 13:36).
Third, “soon” refers not only to Jesus’ final appearing but also to all the spiritual manifestations that are associated with his second coming. In six of the seven short sections of Revelation 2 & 3 addressed to the individual churches, Jesus spoke explicitly about coming to their churches. For example, Jesus warned the church at Ephesus: “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:5). He uses similar language in Revelation 2:16, 2:25, 3:3, 3:11 and 3:20. All these spiritual manifestations or consequences are linked and pointing to the end.
Fourth, “soon” can be translated in the negative sense as “without delay.” Luke’s version of the travelling master focuses on one servant, who said to himself: “My master is taking a long time in coming.” This servant became negligent in his duties when he thought his master’s return was delayed. Jesus is telling us to be watchful and not to be misled into thinking that our master’s return will be delayed.
Jesus said, “Yes, I am coming soon!” This has eternal importance. Left to ourselves, we tend to forget the important when we are distracted by the urgent. Consider doing something to remind ourselves. Here are a few suggestions:
· Remind yourself. Next to a clock in your home or office, attach a home-made poster with these words: “God is patient, not slow.”
· Pick random future dates in your diary (paper or electronic) and write: “Today?”
· Read 2 Peter and memorize 2 Peter 3:13.
“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”
· Remind one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). If we live in the light of Jesus’ promise that he will be coming soon, we will build a culture in which our Lord’s return is a constant reference point rather than a constant embarrassment.