"Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book." Rev. 22:7
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. Rev. 22:11-12
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" Rev. 22:17
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon!" Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Rev. 22:20
We have now arrived at the close of our meditations on this deeply interesting, though mysterious and difficult portion of the Word of God. In accordance with what was stated at the outset, whatever is ambiguous and conjectural, has, as much as possible been avoided, and from the golden treasure-house, selection has been made only of those passages which are most practical, solemnizing, edifying, and comforting. It has been called by Wordsworth, who has grasped well its spiritual meaning and significance, "a manual of consolation to the Church in her pilgrimage through this world to the Heavenly Canaan of her rest. It cheers with the consolatory assurance, that Christ is mightier than His enemies; that they who die for Him, live; that they who suffer for Him, reign; that the course of the Church upon earth is like the course of Christ Himself; that she is here a Witness of the Truth; that her office is to teach the world; that she will be fed by the Divine Hand, like the ancient Church, with manna in the wilderness; that she will be borne on eagles' wings in her missionary career; and yet, that she must expect to suffer injuries from enemies and from friends; that she, too, must look to have her Gethsemane and her Calvary, but that she will also have her Olivet; that through the pains of agony and suffering, and through the darkness of the grave, she will rise to the glories of a triumphant ascension, and to the everlasting joys of the New Jerusalem; that she who has been for a time 'the Woman wandering in the Wilderness,' will be, forever and ever, the Bride glorified in heaven."
The great topic of the Second Coming of Christ, with which we are now so familiar, again challenges our consideration, standing out, as it does, more prominently in this concluding chapter than in any of the antecedent portions of the Apocalypse. We may appropriately liken these reiterated closing references to the ringing of the chimes with quickening peal, as the worshipers are gathering to take their places in the Heavenly Temple. Again, and again, and again, and yet again (four times in this one chapter), do these bells sound in the ears of a waiting expectant Church. First, in verse 7, "Behold, I come quickly." Second, in verse 12, "Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me." Third, in verse 17, where 'The Coming One' had beautifully announced Himself as "The Bright and Morning Star;" the response—the longing-prayer—rises in blended harmony from the Church on earth and the Church in Heaven, "And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come." Once more, in verse 20, the last audible voice of the Great Redeemer until that voice be heard on the Throne—gives too the assurance of His speedy coming. We close the Divine record with this "blessed hope," like a rainbow of promise spanning the sky of the future, "He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon!"
Has the Lord been slack concerning His promise? The hands of the clock of Time have moved slowly on, generation after generation since these declarations were uttered, and the Advent-hour has never yet struck. There is still no sign of the "Coming"—no sound of the Savior's footfall. We strain our eyes from the window of prophecy; and though, at times, prognosticators and solvers of chronological numbers would persuade us that they see the heralds of His approach—the indications of the Morning Star; new events transpire to demolish their theories—the world goes on as before, and 'the glorious appearing' is as far from us apparently as ever. Like the mother of Sisera looking through the lattice, the cry of deferred hope still is, "Why is His chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of His chariot?"
"The Church has waited long,
"Age after age has gone,
How is this? How are we to reconcile the repeated assertions of a Savior who is faithful in all His promises, with the fact that eighteen centuries have traveled onward in succession, and yet the great culminating promise of a speedy coming has not been fulfilled? In reply, we may begin by giving the words of another Apostle, "Beloved, do not be ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
Space and time are two relative terms. Is it space? a yard, even a mile, is a brief distance to us; it is a laborious pilgrimage to the tiny insect. To traverse a hemisphere would be for us a vast journey; it would be but a moment in the angel's flight. A planetary system would appear a wide expanse to the angel; it would be but a speck in the eye of God—one of the milestones of immensity, so to speak, in the journeyings of Omnipotence!
So also with regard to Time. Periods of time which seem great to some, may seem small to others. Look at the ephemera, with their apparently fugitive moments of conscious being. They were called into existence after the morning sun had risen, and before he sets again, they have perished. The same day witnesses their birth and their death. Their lifetime to us, is like the briefest of one day out of our threescore and ten years. All things are thus long or short, great or small, according to the standard by which we judge them. Hills that appear high to the peasant born in the plains, are nothing to the shepherd of the Alps and Apennines. The inland lake which appears large to the child who has never been beyond the mountains which enclose it, is nothing to the sailor who is familiar with the wide ocean. The swiftness of the railway train or of the cannon ball is great; but what is it to the man of science, who can compute the velocity of light—those golden arrows shot from the sun at the rate of 192,000 miles in a second?
We may apply this to the saying of Christ in these verses. The period elapsing between His first and second Coming is great to us, but nothing to Him. To us, during these indefinite ages, generations have already come and gone; revolutions of empires have taken place; kingdoms have risen and fallen, and new dynasties have sprung from their ashes. But what is that to the everlasting God, with whom a thousand years are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night? Our standard to measure periods and events is 'Time.' His standard to measure periods and events is 'Eternity.'
ETERNITY—it is the lifetime—the biography of the Almighty—each epoch and era a page in the vast volume! If we compute from the birth of creation, when the first pillar of the earth was laid, to the period when the angel shall proclaim 'time to be no more,' it may appear a long lapse of ages—eras on eras—millenniums on millenniums; yet in His sight, compared with Eternity, what is it all? as the beat of a pulse, or the swing of a pendulum. When, therefore, we may be inclined to wonder at the apparent non-fulfillment of Christ's assertion, let us remember who says it! It is He to whom past, present, future, are alike the same. What to Him is that span of years, be what it may, which bridges the period between His first and second coming? It is as nothing! As He is leaving with His servant and Evangelist His last inspired utterance, and the clouds which screen Him from mortal vision are once more gathering around Him, He exclaims, taking all time in at a glance, "Surely I come quickly!"
Again, it is worthy of remark, that in the apparent delay of the second Coming, God is only acting in conformity with His own uniform procedure and with the principles of His government, alike in nature and providence. In accordance with the analogy of nature, the Divine purposes are slowly matured. The full light of day is not ushered in all at once. There is first the glimmering dawn, then sunrise; gradually the fiery chariot is driven up the steeps of heaven. The development of vegetation follows the same progressive law, from the incipient bud of early spring, through the green leaves and blossoms of summer, to the golden glories and ripe fruits of autumn. Our world might have been created by a word—the fiat of the Almighty might have formed and finished it in the twinkling of an eye—but He purposely took six periods of time to elaborate His own handiwork before pronouncing it very good. In the physical and mental development of man—the High Priest of this creation—we have to note the same thing—he reaches his natural stature and his intellectual maturity, not at once—but after the lapse of many years.
And so it is in greater things. There is a plan in all God's dealings and providential arrangements. There was a preparation of a thousand years before the first advent of Christ. He, the promised Seed of the woman, might have come at once—in the very hour of the Fall. He might have come (as Eve expected Him) when she hailed her firstborn child with the words "I have gotten a man—the Lord!" That Lord might have glorified Eden with His presence, and restored its blighted, withered bowers. But such was not God's way. A long ritual of blood and sacrifice had to intervene. Prophecy upon prophecy had to be uttered and fulfilled. Many an old pious Hebrew "looked" anxiously; but, like Simeon and Anna, they had to "wait" for the Consolation of Israel. There was an era set apart and appointed, called "the fullness of time," when the Incarnation would take place, and no sooner.
Christ seems to have anticipated with holy ardor that appointed period. When it arrived He came "quickly." "Lo I come!" were His words, "I delight to do Your will, O my God." Moreover, even after His advent to the manger of Bethlehem, many years elapsed before the great Offering took place. He would not—could not anticipate. He would not leave Galilee for Judea until "the hour had come." But no sooner had the appointed season elapsed, than His reserve and reluctance are set aside: then He waited not a moment—again He came "quickly." "When the time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem." "There is a terrible baptism ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished."
So also is it with regard to His future Coming. Certain great transactions have to take place in the world; certain great events have to be evolved, before the grand climax of His advent in glory. He Himself tells us that His gospel must be "preached as a witness to all nations, and then shall the end come." It is remarkable that even His apostles, though their language at times seems to indicate that they expected the Advent in their own day—specially note some great antecedent occurrences, which leave the period not only indeterminate, but connect it with a distant future. Paul speaks of a great "apostasy" preceding it, "That day shall not come unless there be the apostasy (or falling away) first, and that Man of Sin be revealed." James exhorts to patient endurance and waiting; and gives the comparison of the husbandman having patience for the maturity of his seed; as if he looked far onwards to the Great event which was to signalize the world's harvest-home. Peter, while in one breath he speaks of the end of all things being at hand, and this as a motive to sobriety, watchfulness, and prayer, guards in the next, against the unwarrantable inference of a coming of Christ in the generation then living.
And what have we seen in this Book of Revelation, in which the same topic is so constantly introduced, but the record of a series of providential dispensations, which must all occur before Christ can take to Himself His great power and reign? These repeated statements in this chapter regarding the Second Advent, are inserted in the form of a postscript to the Book. Might they not be equivalent to the declaration, "When all these preceding visions are accomplished, when all these seals are broken, these vials exhausted; when the power of the false Prophet is crushed, and Romanism trodden underfoot, the great Dragon cast out, Apollyon the deceiver vanquished; when the mission angel shall have sped his way amid the world's benighted millions; when every nation shall have heard the joyful sound; when the Jews, My own outcast people, shall have caught up the universal hymn, and mingled with the Gentile Hosanna their Hebrew 'Alleluia'—then (immediately after) I shall Come QUICKLY! I am only waiting the signal that the mystery of God on earth is finished, and the gates and everlasting doors of Heaven which lifted up their heads that I might enter in, shall be once more opened, that I may come forth to pour My benediction on My redeemed Church."
Zecharias of old "tarried in the temple;" the people waited for him. It is so with our Great High Priest. He has said, "I come quickly." He seems to tarry. But there is work to do before the celestial veil can be withdrawn, and we can see Him as He is. "From henceforth," we read, (after His ascension), "He is waiting until His enemies be made His footstool." But whenever these preliminary conquests over His enemies are complete; whenever the final intercessory prayer ascends, "Father, I will that they also whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am;" then with joy ('quickly') will He appear, to utter the last and most gladsome of all His invitations, "Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!"
And, in addition to what has already been said, it may be yet further added, that when Christ says, "Behold I come quickly," and has not come, the delay may be to give the world space for repentance. This is one of the views which the apostle Peter emphatically sets forth: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise (of His second Coming), as some men count slackness; but is patient toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." There was a reprieve of 120 years, in the case of the dwellers on the old earth, before the flood came and destroyed them all; and now, again, before the deluge of fire sweep, He would give space—"He would command all men everywhere, to repent." His not coming quickly, is a gracious token of His marvelous forbearance. He will give this prodigal world an opportunity, before He closes the gates of home and welcome, to arise and go to its Father.
There is a merciful pause and parenthesis before the final doom is uttered. Like that emphatic pause and ellipsis in the words of Micah, He says, "And because I will do this to you, 'Prepare to meet your God!'" The patience of God waited in the days of Noah before the reservoirs were unsealed. The patience of God waited in the days of Abraham before the bolts of fire leapt from the brimstone-cloud, and laid Sodom and Gomorrah in ashes; and His patience is now again manifested in this last dispensation, that sinners may yet embrace the call to repent and be saved, and that every living member of His living Church throughout the world may be gathered in.
But without dwelling on these and other possible reasons for the delay of the Coming, the word is sure, "He that shall come, will come and will not tarry." "SURELY I come quickly." In other things we may have varied experiences. Some may never know what sickness is. Some may never know what the loss of worldly substance is; what it is to confront chill poverty, or to hear orphans crying for food which they have not to give. Some may never know what bereavement is; to have stripped houses, vacant chairs, and desolate and aching hearts. But "every eye shall see HIM!" "We must all appear before the Judgment-seat of Christ." The Second Advent is to the believer a glorious, to the wicked a dreadful certainty.
How strange that this magnificent truth should exercise so little practical influence over us. Everything else in the world is uncertain. The ordinary business of life (trade and merchandise) is built on contingencies. The soldier goes forth to field and fame; but fever strikes him down before he plants his foot on the enemy's shores—before he has opportunity to wreath his brow with laurel. The voyager goes forth on his ocean-highway, anticipating the fond welcome of friends in the distant harbor; but rocket and lifeboat and heroic effort all fail to save, when the fatal reef is struck. The merchant sends forth his vessel, borne along with propitious breezes, but when in sight of port it founders or a mighty cyclone comes, as if the very spirits of the deep were stirred—its moorings are snapped as string—its timbers are tossed on the wild waves, and its owner is a ruined man. The farmer has his fields filled with a golden harvest—in one night the rains have descended on the mountains—down sweeps the torrent, and his waving crops are a mass of desolation. You can say "Surely," of nothing here; all is 'Perhaps'. But the Lord is "not a man that He should lie." "He SHALL come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all those who believe." "SURELY," He says, "I come quickly!"
Believer, be it yours to be living in the habitual anticipation of this day. This prospect put music of old into the lips of Patriarchs and Psalmists and Apostles and Prophets. "Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad . . . before the Lord; for He comes, for He comes to judge the earth." "The Lord, my God, shall come, and all the saints with You." The Apostle Peter, like a watcher on cliff or tower, eager to catch the earliest beam of sunrise, speaks of "looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God."
We have already adverted to the remarkable contrast between the way the inspired writers speak of Death and of Christ's Second Coming. Death! it is ever described as an enemy—a terrible foe armed with a sting—a destroyer, a usurper. But the Second Coming of the Redeemer is the topic of joyous expectation. Believers are represented as servants, cheerfully working on during their Master's absence; but all alert for the sound of His footsteps, that "when He comes and knocks, they may be ready to open unto Him immediately." We know well, that this most glorious yet dreadful of truths has been despised by the scoffer, and made the subject of unholy derision. The challenge is presumptuously made, 'Where is this speedy coming which is spoken of? It is a tale of superstitious terror—a lie for which you have no authority, save the ambiguous words of an antiquated Book.'
Because the Lord delays His coming; because nature maintains her unvarying sequences; because she has no sign of age or decay on her majestic brow; he cannot credit the amazing truth that all these visible things shall one day be dissolved. So thought men, "filthy dreamers," before the flood. They would not believe the tremendous catastrophe, until the waters were sweeping down their refuges of lies; and they found, when it was too late, that the door of the ark and of mercy was shut against them! May it not be so with us? There may be in our case, as with them, a time of reprieve—a merciful period of grace and forbearance—when from the true Ark there is a voice heard saying, "Come unto Me and I will give you rest."
If the eye of one such unhappy scorner should fall on these pages, let him avail himself of this "the day of merciful visitation." Forbid that when the deluge is heaving, the trumpet sounding, the world passing away, he should come to find, but find too late, that "neither is there salvation in any other;" to bewail wasted years, lost opportunities, misspent Sabbaths, niggardly and selfish deeds, unrighteous and unjust practices, his work all undone when his time is done! For, let such observe, that there are warning sounds which mingle in this closing chapter with other joyous advent chimes.
Among these, none is more solemn than that verse which asserts the permanence and perpetuation of moral character—that as men live, so do men die; that present principles, habits, tastes, are shaping, molding, consolidating, our eternal destinies. "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still. Behold, I come quickly, and," it is added, "My reward is with Me to give" (or literally, "to give back") "each one as his work is." "To give back!" solemn, truthful, equitable definition of a limitless future of bliss or of woe! It is a 'giving back' to each one of the present—a paying back of contracted debt, whether of good or of evil—a reaping corresponding to the sowing—the awards of eternity scrupulously regulated by the transactions of time.
Is it not a comfort, also, to those who may be mourning their "loved and lost," that while the unjust will be unjust still, and the filthy will be filthy still; the holy will be holy still, the meek and gentle will be the meek and gentle still; those known for lowly and unostentatious deeds of love, will continue these ministries of holy activity through eternity. Yes! the flower we think nipped in the bud, will there unfold and expand its blossoms, shedding unfading fragrance, and decked with unfading beauty.
God grant we may not be in darkness, that that day should overtake us as a thief! Rather, as we now listen to the latest voice of the Great 'Testifier,' the last toll of the advent-bell, the last 'Memory of Patmos,' let it sound to us like strains of seraphic music floating on a midnight sea. Let it ring in our ears blended comfort and warning; tempering prosperity, mitigating adversity, moderating the world's ambitions, stimulating to holiness, preparing for heaven.
Whatever may be the antecedent or intervening events to which we have alluded, let the Second Coming itself tower above them all, in the glorious distance, like some colossal Alp, with plain and valley and lowlier mountain between, but rising peerless in the blue horizon, its gleaming top golden with heavenly sunlight, and from its eternal snows and hidden fountains sending forth ten thousand streams of hope and joy, to refresh the dwellers in the Valley of tears! Bright and Morning Star! Harbinger of eternal day! who will not bid You welcome!
"The SPIRIT says come!" The Divine Agent, whose own "coming," as the Paraclete or Comforter, was declared by the departing Savior to more than compensate the Church for her Redeemer's absence, hails the advent which is to crown and consummate His own work as the Glorifier of Christ.
"The BRIDE says come!" The ransomed Church on earth, longing for the bridal day of perfected bliss—the ransomed Church in heaven, saints, martyrs, departed friends who have fallen asleep in Jesus—take up the antiphonal strain, and cry COME!
A groaning CREATION, weary of the bondage of sin and sorrow, and longing to go forth from its leper-couch, walking and leaping and praising God, cries COME!
Can WE take up one of the multiplying echoes, and, blending our prayer with the sons of God, give willing response to the Apostle's closing invocation, "And let him that hears say COME?" In lowly rejoicing confidence, can we include ourselves in the sublime words of another faithful 'Watcher' for this glorious Day-spring, "For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words." 1 Thes. 4:16-18
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen. Rev. 22:20-21
"Christ is coming! let creation
"Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book." Rev. 22:7