Revelation 21:9-22:7 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:58 mins 48 secs

Doctrine of Imminency. Revelation 21:9 - 22:6-7


What begins in Revelation 22:6 is the conclusion to the book. It goes back and picks up the same themes that are introduced in the first chapter of Revelation. Cf. 1:1 with 22:6, NASB "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place … And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true"; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place."


In Revelation 1:3 is the first of seven blessing statements in the book NASB "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near." In 22:7, 10 NASB "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book…And he said to me, 'Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.'" What exactly does it mean that he is coming quickly and the time is near? Does that mean that Jesus should have come very close to the time that Revelation was written, or does it indicate something else?


Revelation 1:8 NASB "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God [The Father], "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." 1:17, Jesus is speaking, "…Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last…" So these are applied to both the Father and to the Son. Then in Revelation 22:13 it is the Son speaking, NASB "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."


The parallels here between the beginning and the end show us that we are coming to the conclusion where we can expect the writer to issue a challenge by way of application to those who read Revelation. What is interesting is that he also puts a curse in here for anyone who messes with the text or misapplies it.


Revelation 22:6 NASB "And he said to me, 'These words are faithful and true'; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place." This is just a summary taking us back to the initial statements in chapter one that God had given the revelation first to Jesus Christ—it is the revelation given to Him, He doesn't originate it—and then it is mediated to John through an angel. That fits a pattern that we see throughout the Old Testament: when God reveals Himself He doesn't just leave it up to us to try to figure out what it means in terms of these prophecies and dreams and visions, but there is an interpretation that is given along with the dream. For example, in Daniel chapter two Nebuchadnezzar has the dream but then God gives Daniel the interpretation. In Daniel chapters seven and eight Daniel has the dream/vision and then an interpreting angel explains what everything means. So we don't just go to those dreams and visions and just guess at what the symbolic value is of the various animals and features of the dream, and the same thing is true for John. All of these images that are seen in Revelation are explained. If they are not explained in Revelation then they are probably explained somewhere else, like in the Old Testament where that particular symbol originated, and so it is expected that the person who is reading Revelation would have a knowledge of these Old Testament precedents.


So in verse 6 this interpreting angel is now going to bring this to a conclusion and he reminds John that these words, the words of the Revelation disclosed to John, "are faithful and true." This is an interesting phrase and it is used in two or three other places in Revelation, notably in 21:5, "And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true'"; and 3:14 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness…" This is a description of the Lord Jesus Christ.


These two words "faithful" and "true" are important to understand, especially if we go back to an Old Testament context. They are based on two Hebrew words in the Old Testament. The first is emuna; the root is aman, the verb, from where we get our word "amen." It means to confirm something, it has the root idea of support, that which is stable, dependable, unshakeable, that which you put your faith in, that which you depend upon. And that is how it comes to mean various things related to belief or faith, because we put our faith in something that is dependable, something that is faithful—also true, because something is faithful, dependable, it is true. Those are all aspects of the same basic word group. Yet, when it comes over into Greek it picks up different Greek words that don't express that same idea but as in 3:14 the Lord Jesus Christ is depicted by these three adjectives—the amen, which means the faithful one, the dependable one, and then He is defined further as the faithful and true witness, indicating His testimony to the grace of God.


This leads us into the whole doctrine of inspiration and infallibility of Scripture. Revelation 22:6 NASB "And he said to me, 'These words are faithful and true'; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets…" This is the God who oversees or is the one in control of the spirits of the prophets. What does the word "spirits" refer to? The Greek word that is translated "spirit," pneuma [pneuma], as well as the Hebrew word ruach, are words that have a huge range of meaning. They can refer to the wind, to the immaterial part of man—in which case it would be a synonym for the soul. They can refer to a sub-part of the immaterial makeup of man which we sometimes refer to as the human spirit, the term which describes that component of a human being that was lost by Adam when Adam sinned and entered into spiritual death—separation from God, an inability to have fellowship or communion with God because of sin. One of the basic errors that people can make in dealing with languages is trying to make a word that is technical in one place technical in every place. That particularly has caused problems in trying to understand the basic components of the immaterial part of man.


There are two passages of Scripture that are very clear about the immaterial makeup of man, showing the distinctions between two aspects of man's makeup. The first is Hebrews 4:12 – "dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit." The Word is going to make a distinction between the soul and the spirit. Then 1 Thessalonians 5:23 NASB "… and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." In those two passages it is very clear that the Bible distinguishes at some level between the soul and the spirit.


But then there are other passages, such as in Genesis and Exodus which talk about the spirit of the Pharaoh. That is not talking about the spirit in the same sense that we see in Hebrews 4:12 where it is something distinct from the soul. The spirit is used as virtually a synonym for the soul because Pharaoh was not a believer, he was spiritually dead. Paul says in Ephesians 2:1 that we were all born dead in our trespasses and sins. So what part of us is dead? We are physically alive but there is some component of man's immaterial part that is dead, non-functioning and separated from God, and that is what we refer to as the human spirit. But every time we see the word "spirit" we can't just automatically think that means the Holy Spirit or the human spirit, when it can refer to wind or breath or it can be a synonym for the immaterial part of man, including both soul and spirit, even a synonym for soul, for emotion, and in some passages it can be a synonym for mind or thinking. We have to look at the context. In 1 Corinthians chapter three the word pneuma [pneuma] is used in about six verses with four different meanings.      


Here we have "the spirits of the prophets." If it was a singular spirit then we would be talking about the Spirit of God who is involved in the communication and transmission of God's revelation through the prophets. But since it is a plural word it is not talking about the singular Holy Spirit, it is talking about something in the individual makeup of these prophets. The best way to understand the meaning of the word "spirits" here isn't in the sense of the human spirit but is just a synonym for their immaterial makeup, probably focusing on their mentality because God does not disengage the mentality of these prophets when He reveals His Word to them. Support for that is found in 2 Peter 1:20, 21 (also 2 timothy 3:16, 17) where we have another description of how God's Word was revealed to the prophets.  

2 Peter 1:20 NASB "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is {a matter} of one's own interpretation." What he is talking about here is prophecy of Scripture and he is writing probably when about less than two thirds of the New Testament had been written, and he primarily has in mind the Old Testament canon. He is not thinking in terms of the New Testament canon because it hasn't been put together yet, and is incomplete. He is clear on the fact that Paul has written things that are clearly revealed by God, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, and are on the same level of authority as Old Testament Scripture. And Peter is speaking of aspects of the Old Testament that are written by the prophets. Prophecy has to do with not just the future aspect of Scripture but it is also understanding it in its rudimentary sense that the role of the prophet was as a representative of God. The role of the prophets was to challenge the people with their obedience or disobedience to God. The prophecy of Scripture has to do with everything that the prophets are writing, not just the historical, not just the challenge, but also the foretelling part. But it wasn't up to them; it wasn't something that originated from the prophet.    

2 Peter 1:21 NASB "for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." It was something that came to them from an external source (God). So there is the action of God the Holy Spirit, the Supervisor of revelation in the Old Testament and the New Testament, who then is communicating what God wants communicated to the soul of the prophet. It goes through the soul of the prophet, and the prophet then writes down what God intended for him to write down. It is not dictation.

Definition of Inspiration:  God so supernaturally directed the writers of scripture that without waving their human intelligence, their individuality, their literary style, their personal feelings, or any other human factor, his own complete and coherent message to man was recorded with perfect accuracy in the original languages of scripture, the very words bearing the authority of divine authorship.  

Revelation 22:6 NASB "… sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place." This is where we start getting into some of the really important aspects of understanding these two verses. There is the word "soon," which is the Greek word engus  [e)gguj], and then another word, "quickly," a translation of the Greek word tachus [taxuj] which means quickly, at a rapid rate, or sometimes it can mean soon. It can indicate that once something starts the progress is going to take place very rapidly. It can also means that it is going to happen very soon in close temporal proximity to the present. It doesn't always say which; we have to look at the context. When Jesus says He is coming back quickly He doesn't necessarily mean that there is not much time to elapse before He comes back. What He can also means by the use of tachus is that when the process begins, when the dominoes start to collapse they are going collapse quickly. Once we come to the end times and things begin to happen they will all happen very rapidly, and that is what we see really in the book of Revelation. 

This language in verse 6 comes right out of the Old Testament. In Daniel 2:29 NASB "…and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place." "What will take place" is a general term for the future. Daniel is talking about interpreting the image in the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had that traces out the history from Babylon to the revived Roman empire. Verse 45 uses the same phrase, "at will take place in the future." Jesus used this terminology in talking about future things in Matthew 24:2-6. Revelation 4:1, "…I will show you what must take place after these things." Revelation 22:6 concludes by saying that this was the purpose of this revelation to John and that God was showing to His bondservants the things which must soon take place.

The doctrine of imminency simply means that something is hanging over the head and it could drop at any moment. This has been a major doctrine in Christianity since the earliest days of the church, i.e. that nothing has to happen before Jesus comes back; there is no prophecy that has to be fulfilled before Jesus returns. We see this in various statements from the early church fathers. For example, Clement of Rome said: "Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished as the Scripture also bears witness, saying, "Speedily will He come [tachus] and will not tarry. The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, even the holy one for whom you look." So there is this sense that it could happen at any moment. Irenaeus in Against Heresies says, "And therefore when in the end the church shall suddenly be caught up from this it is said there shall be Tribulation such as has not been since the beginning and neither shall be." So there was a sense of imminency that Jesus could come at any moment. The next major event that we see in God's timetable is Jesus coming at the Rapture, and we don't look for anything else—not the Antichrist, not the seven seal judgments, or any of those things. Imminency means that Jesus Christ can return at any moment.

It is important to understand the pre-Tribulation return of Jesus Christ at the Rapture. The Rapture is the return of Jesus Christ in the air for all church age believers. Nothing precedes that, it could happen at any moment. The post-Tribulation Rapture view contends that all believers go through the entire Tribulation. That would mean that a lot of things have to happen before Jesus came back, so it can't be imminent at all.

The purpose of the doctrine of imminency is to keep each believer in a constant state of expectancy. We are to be ready, not just sitting around getting distracted in whatever other things we might want to do but to be looking, waiting, watching, hoping for the return of Christ that we might be ready and prepared and that we might not be ashamed at His coming, 1 John 2:28. This has to be a reality for us. Believers are challenged to look for the blessed hope. We are to watch for the Savior, 1 Thessalonians 5:6; Luke 12:37; and we are to wait for the Savior, 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:10.

Luke 12:36-42 NASB "Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open {the door} to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself {to serve,} and have them recline {at the table,} and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds {them} so, blessed are those {slaves.} But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect. Peter said, 'Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone {else} as well?' And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?'"

The point is, the person who is put in a position of responsibility and fulfils his responsibility without immediate oversight is someone who has matured and learned to handle responsibility, and are able to handle responsibility and leadership in the future kingdom.

Luke 12:43-46 NASB "Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, {both} men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect {him} and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces [language indicating judgment], and assign him a place with the unbelievers." Matthew 24:36ff also indicates the same doctrine. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."

No prophecy, then, must be fulfilled between the baptism of the Spirit and the Rapture; this means that the Rapture is imminent. That doesn't mean that as we get to the end of the church age some things happen that are either fulfilment of prophecy related to the next stage, or begin to set the stage for the next stage. While the Rapture is imminent, the Second Advent is not. Before the second advent occurs there are many prophecies which must occur. 

Revelation 22:7 NASB "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book." This is the sixth blessing statement in Revelation, it is a parenthetical statement reminding John that Jesus said when He comes He will come rapidly and so it is important to read the words of the prophecy of this book.