Rev. Steven Key, emeritus minister of the Protestant Reformed Churches and member of Loveland PRC in Loveland, Colorado

And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. Revelation 22:6, 7

Immediately following our consideration of Christ’s coming in His incarnation, we are brought face to face with the passing of another year and the entrance of a new year. It is a good reminder for us that the coming of our Savior in the incarnation was an event that set in motion His work which continues even now. It is a work that we observe with awe, as Christ’s work continues in His church and in us as members of that church. But it is a work that also affects the whole creation and all history. For in that work Christ is preparing the way for His second coming.

As we come to the end of another calendar year, we must not get caught up in looking back at the many dis­couragements and trials we faced and that we continue to experience; but we must trust that all things are serv­ing a purpose, namely, to usher in our Lord’s return. We do not have to understand how; but we must believe the words of our Savior, “Behold, I come quickly.”

The book of Revelation was written in order that the church might not be forgetful of that fact, and might not grow weary and despondent in the face of all the trou­bles she must endure. We must see and discern the Lord’s coming in all the events of the world and in all the trials that we might face as Christ’s bride, awaiting His return.

The nearness of Christ’s coming

“Behold, I come quickly.” The coming of Christ is revealed and explained by God in what is called “the prophecy of this book.” The same God who inspired the holy prophets from the beginning is the God who inspired John and gave him to see the “revelation” that he in turn recorded. That emphasizes that all prophecy is essentially one and the same. All prophecy proclaims the coming of the Lord. That was the great promise spoken by the prophets throughout history: The Messiah, the Christ, is coming.

That promised Messiah came too. When Enoch and Noah preached that the Lord was coming, He came—in the Flood. He came to bring salvation to His church. But that was not the final coming. The Lord came again at the Red Sea, in the destruction of Pharaoh and all his hosts. He came in the Babylonian captivity and in the deliverance from that captivity. But those events were steps, as it were, in His coming. So His prophets con­tinued to preach, as did the apostles. “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” God has set a day when Christ shall be revealed from heaven. Christ is coming!

But notice, the word of Christ is, “Behold, I come quickly.” It is this aspect of the promise of Christ’s com­ing that causes many to question the promise. These words, after all, were written almost 2,000 years ago! And so there are those who deny this promise of Christ’s coming, or put it entirely in the past. Preterism, a grow­ing movement in Reformed and conservative Presbyte­rian circles, teaches that this promise of Christ was ful­filled in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. All that remains, therefore, is for the church to be busy building the kingdom of heaven on this earth, Christianizing the nations and all aspects of society. But that view is a serious error, and in fact robs God’s children of their hope. We must not be led astray by that teaching. John, after all, recorded this testimony of Jesus some 20 years after the destruction of Jerusalem. Others look at this promise of Christ’s speedy coming and scoff at it (II Pet. 3:3-4). Because it does not fit with their understanding of what quickly means, they reject it.

What does Christ mean, therefore, when He promis­es us, “Behold, I come quickly”?

In the first place, quickly does not mean immediate­ly. It does not mean that He can come at any moment. There are events that must take place before Christ returns, things which in fact set the stage for Christ’s sudden coming. Among those things, as Paul spells out, are a great falling away, the church becoming worldly, and the appearance of the man of sin, the Antichrist, “whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,” and who will de­ceive those who love not the truth.

That said, we note, secondly, that when we stand be­fore this promise, we must realize that the speedy com­ing of Christ is near, and was near at the time this was written. That is even emphasized in the context, when we read that John is instructed in verse 10, “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.” This present age is the last hour (I John 2:18).

In the third place, that expression, “Behold, I come quickly,” means that our Lord is coming as fast as He can in harmony with God’s counsel. He is not sim­ply waiting. He is actively coming, rushing toward us. Peter ties this to the Lord’s longsuffering toward His people (II Pet. 3:9). Christ’s return cannot be a mo­ment too soon, lest some of His people perish. Every last elect must be brought to repentance and faith be­fore Christ returns. But He is coming, speedily com­ing. He is coming in and through everything that takes place in this present age—actively and speedily com­ing. In the gathering of His church, He is coming. In the birth and raising of covenant children, Christ is at work, speedily coming for the salvation of His church. In the various catastrophes that happen throughout the whole world, we see that Christ is coming. In the horrific wickedness and violence that even plagues our own land, we must understand that Christ is coming. In the tragic departure from the truth by many, and the fierce opposition to the rule of Christ, we must re­alize that Christ is working His sovereign purpose and is busy in His return to redeem Zion. In all the po­litical developments worldwide, Christ is turning the hearts of the kings as the rivers of waters (Prov. 21:1), guiding them for His speedy return. All these events are taking place with speed, as God’s time clock ticks steadily and persistently toward the final moment.

Its divine certainty

“These sayings,” said the angel, “are faithful and true.” These sayings do not belong to a mythological dream. They come to us from the Lord Jesus and are exactly according to the counsel of God. God, who is faithful, shall certainly bring them to pass. But these sayings are faithful because they are true. These are the things that God has decreed, and that His exalted Son is even now bringing to pass.

But the divine certainty of these things is also con­firmed by the instruction given, that these are “the things which must shortly be done.” That Jesus returns is the culmination of all God’s counsel. The must spo­ken of here is the must of God’s eternal and sovereign good pleasure, the must of His eternal will. That is a fundamental truth concerning God—He always does what He says and what He purposes.

Christ’s speedy coming happens with divine certain­ty because He comes for His Bride, the church. That also explains the urgency with which this promise is proclaimed, “Behold, I come quickly.” Especially the previous chapters, Revelation 19-21, set the scene of this blessed relationship that is waiting for its full real­ization. The Bride is presently being prepared, adorned for her Husband. John is given to see the beauty of the Bride, the Lamb’s wife. The marriage feast of the Lamb is waiting! And not only does the Bride await it with eager expectation, but the Bridegroom is coming as speedily as possible. His Bride is most dear to Him. He laid down His life, in fact, in order to purchase her as His Bride. So great is His love for her! From heaven He has given her His Word, His love letters, if you will, in the Holy Bible. He has sent to her His messengers to encourage her, to urge her to remain faithful, and to live in watchfulness for His coming. He is coming for her. That coming cannot fail. After all, His Father ordained this marriage in His eternal counsel of election. It is, therefore, a divine certainty. “Behold, I come quickly,” is His promise.

The response it demands

The nearness of Christ’s return and the divine certainty of His speedy coming demand a particular response from you and me to whom this Word is given—a response summarized in verse 7 by these words: “Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”

The sayings of the prophecy may be defined within three categories.

1. There is the category of exhortation, including instruction and admonition.
2. There is also the category of the judgments that are proclaimed, especially the judgments of God’s wrath upon the disobedient and unbelieving.
3. But there is also the category defined by the beautiful promises to the Bride, Christ’s beloved people.

With that in mind, we may say that to keep the say­ings of the prophecy of this book implies three things.

In the first place, in means that we take notice of the judgments pronounced by God, and that we take a stand. In all that takes place in the world today there is nothing that falls outside God’s sovereign purpose and the fulfillment of His will. There are some astounding happenings, to be sure. There are events that shock the senses and that cause even the ungodly to ask questions. But in the light of God’s Word and His pronouncements of judgment, there is nothing strange. For the fact is, the sayings of this Book are being realized before our very eyes. Let us humble ourselves before the judgments of the Lord.

In the second place, to keep these sayings means that we heed the exhortations that God speaks to us in His Word. Sometimes, we like quickly to cast off the exhor­tations that are preached to us. Sometimes we live like those admonitions of Scripture are for anyone but our­selves. But hear the Word of the Lord: “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are writ­ten in this book” (v. 19). The hypocrisy of one who only puts on an appearance of being one with Christ’s Bride shall be exposed. To keep the sayings of the prophecy of this book is to recognize in all humility that the ex­hortations God gives us are needful for us, and to walk in obedience to Him.

But then, finally, to keep these sayings is also to em­brace by faith the promises proclaimed to us who are in Christ Jesus. Blessed are you who embrace the promis­es. We cannot have the promises without also receiving the judgments and the exhortations. But blessed are you who, walking in the way of God’s Word, also embrace His promises. For then you live in hope and receive with faith His judgments and exhortations. And then you have peace.

Outside these promises, there is nothing but despair. But lay hold of them by faith, and you, together with the Bride, will say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” He who alone is our Savior says, even now, “Surely I come quickly.”