Sunday, 5 September 2021
Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. Revelation 22:6
With the vision of New Jerusalem complete, John returns to the words of the angel who has accompanied him, saying, “Then he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true.’” This is certainly referring to the entire received message that comprises the book of Revelation.
This seems apparent because it then follows the same pattern of the opening of Revelation where John was told to write, and what was written was directed to the churches as encouragement, admonition, and warning.
Likewise, John’s words from verse 22:6 until the end of the chapter comprise two separate parts. The first comprises verses 6-17, and which gives encouragement, admonition, and warning to the church – and by extension to any who will hear the words of Revelation. The second comprises verses 18-21, and they refer to the words of the book itself.
Concerning the words of the angel now speaking, he confirms what was stated in Revelation 3:14 which says, “These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness.” What God has revealed through Christ are the very words of God. They are faithful and true, and they will come to pass. John next says, “And the Lord God of the holy prophets.”
Here, some manuscripts contain a second article, and they substitute the word “holy” with “spirits” – “The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets.” Either way, this then means that the Lord (YHVH) of the Old Testament who inspired the prophets to put forth their words is the same Lord (Jesus) who has “sent His angel to show His servants” those things of the New Testament, including the faithful and true words of the book of Revelation.
This then is fully in accord with the words of Paul and Peter –
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17
“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:19-21
Of the things the Lord God has sent His angel to show to His servants, this verse now says that these are “the things which must shortly take place.” Rather than an adverb (shortly), a noun is given, “the things that must come to pass in quickness.” It is the same noun as in Luke 18:8 where there is an obvious long delay in what is spoken of. Thus, the context of the word there is not referring to something coming soon, but coming suddenly when it comes –
“Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. 7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily [lit: in quickness]. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’” Luke 18:6-8
As such, there is no reason to assume that the exact same words, ἐν τάχει, or “in quickness,” of Revelation 1:1 and Revelation 22:6 are necessarily referring to something happening shortly after they are received by John. Rather when they occur, they will occur in quickness. Hence, the words here are not necessarily suspect. Rather, they are reliable prophetic words that will be fulfilled in their own time.
Life application: There are several verses in Revelation that lead some scholars to adamantly claim that its contents were fulfilled already, back in AD70, with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the exile of the people of Israel. This is one of those verses and it speaks of “the things which must shortly take place.” However, this confused thinking rejects hundreds of prophecies from the Old Testament which had not taken place by that time. These were given to – and are promises for – the nation of Israel, not to the church.
In order to justify why those prophecies never came to pass, they were “spiritualized” by scholars and then applied to the church instead of Israel. This is a doctrine known as “replacement theology.” Just because the book of Revelation is coming to a close with the words “the things which must shortly take place,” it in no way means that it excludes a fulfillment in our future – two thousand years later.
There are several possibilities, both of which answer this claim. The first is that “the things which must shortly take place” began to occur after John received and penned the book. Assuming the word is rightly translated as “shortly” rather than “in quickness,” the church age was clearly described in chapters 2 & 3 and that age was already in its infancy at John’s time. Just because the things began to take place shortly after Revelation was penned doesn’t mean that they all had to occur shortly; no specific time for their completion was given. Only when the church age – which is of indeterminate time – ends, then the events of the tribulation period will begin.
Secondly, the words of Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 show that God isn’t working on our timetable. Those verses tell us that a day to the Lord is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. However long it takes to fulfill Revelation is a drop in the bucket compared to the things of eternity – which are already in the process of being described by John.
Therefore, it is a category mistake to assign Revelation’s words to a time which was close to John’s day from a human perspective. It is true that the Bible is given by God for man, and it is to be received from our perspective, but the words “How long” fill Scripture, thus indicating that what man thinks should happen quickly from his perspective is not always so.
Also, most scholars reasonably believe Revelation was written after AD70 and therefore that argument holds no water anyway. Words that are “faithful and true” will be accomplished exactly as God states, and there will be no doubt when they are fulfilled. Many of the OT passages concerning Israel and those in Revelation cannot be ascribed to any fulfillment at any time in history and therefore “faithful and true” cannot be assigned to their fulfillment yet.
Lastly, the God of the Old Testament prophets, who spoke about the future of Israel in the millennial kingdom, is also God of the apostles and prophets of the New Testament. The words of these people are joined together so that we can now see the entire panorama of biblical prophecy. Now we, as well as Israel, have a fuller knowledge of what is coming and how it will occur.
Have faith that God has a good plan for His people and that He has the future under His control. The Bible is fully reliable, and God is fully capable. Stand fast on that and hold fast to His promises without wavering. Be encouraged in the Lord always. Yes, be strengthened in JESUS.
Thank you, Lord! How wonderful it is to see past prophecies which have come true. These give us the assurance that all the other prophecies of Your wonderful, faithful, and true word will also come to pass – exactly as You have stated. Great are You, O God, and great is Your name. Hallelujah and Amen.