We have cringed at attempts to predict the date of Christ’s return. Without making predictions, news of wars and increasing wickedness draw remarks like, “It really seems as though the time is soon.” Yes, we ought to be looking for Christ’s return, but remember also that believers in every age since the Ascension, have made similar remarks. What does Jesus say about his return in Revelation 22:6–11? What should you be doing? How should you live?
Worship God! See the wonder of John’s revelation. John has witnessed and recorded for you truly unique events. He has portrayed God’s fierce anger against those who have rebelled against him and who have harmed his people. He has shown you the struggle in heaven between the dragon and Michael and the angels. You have seen, through John’s eyes, the fall of Babylon and the punishment of the dragon, the beast, and their followers. You have seen the splendid beauty of the bride of the Lamb, the new Jerusalem, the wonder of the new heavens and earth. What John writes is faithful and true. It is true because it is God’s revelation. Daniel 2:45 assures king Nebuchadnezzar that the interpretation is sure. Likewise, John has not simply been writing his thoughts, but has been recording what God has revealed to him—for the church. John has been in the company of powerful angels. It is perhaps understandable that he seems to mistake one of the angels for the Lord himself, and falls at the angel’s feet to worship. John had done something similar in Revelation 19:10.
Worship God alone. Of course the angel stops John. The angel is much greater than John. He reflects the glory of heaven. He is powerful and terrifying. But as great as is the distance between John and the angel, even greater is the distance between them and the Lord. Both the angel and John are creatures. The Lord is their creator. The angel commands John, “Worship God!” Those words are a warning for John and for you to resist any kind of idolatry. Don’t let anything, even something good, even something as wonderful as a heavenly messenger, take the place that belongs to God alone. The angel, along with the rest of the Book of Revelation, has been revealing what the life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ mean. As you grasp that, your response has to be one of grateful worship. “In the truest and deepest perspective, you are safe and secure, protected by the Lord God Almighty and defended by the Lamb who has overcome. You are the sealed people of God, marked with his name. Whatever may occur between today and the great day of the wrath of God and the Lamb, you know that on the last day you will be able to stand without terror and with expectant joy.” (Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, p. 335).
Remember that the time is near. John’s prophesy is not sealed. In Daniel 12:4 the prophet was commanded to seal the scroll of his prophesy. He was writing some five centuries before the coming of the Messiah, and while the Lord revealed to him some detailed events that would happen, the heart of what Daniel was writing about was far in the future. His understanding of the coming of the Messiah was shrouded in mystery. John, on the other hand, is reminded that what he has seen will soon take place, Revelation 22:6; see also 1:1. The time is near, Revelation 22:10. Jesus repeats that he is coming soon, Revelation 22:7, 12. Thus John’s book is not sealed. Nearly 2,000 years may seem like a long time, but remember that the eternal God is not counting time in years, as Peter reminds you. Rather, than focusing on years and centuries, focus on the great events of redemptive history. You have the world as God created it, very good, up to the fall. You have the time of the promised Messiah from then until the coming of Christ. But now he has come. He has established his kingdom, and his return is carrying out and completing what he began with his death and resurrection. Remember Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. You live, not in the time of the powerful kingdoms, but in the time when the stone, not cut by human hands, has pulverized the empires of mankind. Daniel’s Son of Man is on the throne. John’s unsealed prophecy tells you that, like the readers of Hebrews 1:1–2, you are in the last days.
In light of the end live a holy life. In Revelation 22:11, John hears a strange exhortation. You are not surprised at the call for the one who does right to continue to do right, for the one who is holy to continue to be holy. But the other part of the command is jarring: let him who does wrong continue to do wrong, let him who is vile continue to be vile. Look back at Daniel 12:10 and Ezekiel 3:27. There are those who, despite the patience of God and the clarity of his call to repentance, continue in sin. On them judgment comes. Read Romans 1. Sin is not only the reason for God’s judgment, it is part of God’s punishment. Like Pharaoh, who hardened his own heart, and whose heart was hardened, God eventually turns people over to sin. That is a terrible warning. Take heed! “The change from prediction in Daniel to imperatives in Rev. 22:11 expresses awareness that Daniel’s prophecy is beginning to be be fulfilled in John’s own time and that genuine believers should discern this revelation and respond positively to it.” (G. K Beale, The Book of Revelation, p. 1133). Some have suggested that the reference in Revelation 22:15 to those excluded from the holy city are not the open followers of the beast, but are those who have claimed to be part of the church, but have compromised the faith. You cannot cover rebellion with a cloak of piety. God’s Word never returns to him void. The Book of Revelation will change your life. Continue in rebellion, and the warnings of the book will bring greater judgment on you. But heed those warnings, see what the Lamb has done, flee to him, and you are part of the glorious bride, made beautiful by the Lamb. You are the new Jerusalem. Take the Book of Revelation to heart, and it will change the way that a child speaks to her parents. It will affect how you do your school work, how you treat your wife or your husband, how you conduct yourself at work. In short, it will make you worship God and serve him!
The Lord is coming soon. The time is near. Live that way!