What Must Come to Pass

From the beginning, Revelation states that its purpose is to show God’s servants “what things must soon come to pass”Revelation 1:1-3

Olympic Dawn - Photo by Nicklas Bajema on Unsplash
The first paragraph of Revelation details its purpose, themes, and main characters, and that purpose is to show God’s servants “
what things must come to pass,” and it establishes their timing as “soon.” And the imminence of these events is emphasized by stating the “season is near” - [Photo by Nicklas Bajema on Unsplash].

God “gave” the “revelation” to Jesus, who then “gave” it to his angel to show “his servants” what would occur.
  • (Revelation 1:1-3) – “Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him to show his servants the things which must come to pass soon, and he showed them by signs, sending through his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, whatsoever things he saw. Happy is he that reads, and they who hear, the words of the prophecy, and keep the things written in it, for the season is near.”
The recipients of the book are the “servants” of Jesus (doulos), a term applied to the followers of Jesus elsewhere in the book, and described variously as the “saints,” those who have the “testimony of Jesus,” the “brethren,” and those who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” - (Revelation 2:20, 7:3, 12:17, 13:7).

Even more explicit is John’s salutation to his audience – “to the seven churches in Asia.” At the outset of his first vision, Jesus commanded him to write down all that he saw, and then to send it to the churches at “Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea,” seven first-century congregations located in the key cities of the Roman proconsular province of Asia.

The things that must come to pass would occur “soon,” and that meant from the perspective of the book’s recipients, the “seven churches of Asia.” “Soon” is not a very precise term, but these first-century congregations certainly did not understand it to mean twenty centuries or more in the future.

The book presents the “things that must come to pass soon,” and this summarizes its contents. The phrase alludes to the book of Daniel when the prophet interpreted the troubling dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. As Daniel proclaimed to the Babylonian ruler:
  • (Daniel 2:28) - “There is a God in heaven that reveals mysteries and made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what things must come to pass (ha dei genesthai) in later days.”
When alluding to Old Testament passages, John used the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible, and in it, the Greek clause from Daniel reads ‘ha dei genesthai,’ which is the exact same clause found in the Greek text of the first verse of Revelation:
  • (Revelation 1:1) - “Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what things must come to pass (ha dei genesthaisoon.”
The same phrase is reiterated at key points in Revelation. For example, when John saw the glorified “son of man” he heard Jesus command him to write down all that he saw, the “things that are, and what things shall come to pass after these things.” At the start of his second vision, he was summoned to “come up here,” where he saw “what things must come to pass after these things.” *(Revelation 1:19, 4:1, 17:1, 21:9).

But John was not simply quoting Daniel word-for-word, for what was expected previously in “later days,” in Revelation, was changed to “soon.” In other words, the expected time of fulfillment was at hand. This understanding is confirmed in verse 3, which states that the “season is near” - (Daniel 12:4, Revelation 1:3, 22:7-10).

What for Daniel was expected “in later days” was now imminent for the “churches of Asia.” Similarly, Daniel was told to “seal the book until the season of the end,” yet in Revelation, Jesus declared a “blessing” on all who read and heeded the book because the “season is at hand.” This understanding is confirmed by the book’s epilogue:
  • (Revelation 22:7) - “Seal not the words of the prophecy of this book, for the season is at hand” - (Compare - Daniel 12:4).
In the twelfth chapter of Daniel, the prophet was instructed to “seal the book until the season of the end.” In contrast, John was instructed NOT to seal the book because the “season” was imminent. Thus, what was “sealed” in Daniel is unsealed in Revelation.

Revelation discloses “what things must come to pass soon,” and how they will affect the “servants” of Jesus, which certainly includes the “churches of Asia.” This does not mean its visions were only applicable to those seven churches in the first century, or that their experiences exhausted its predictions. But it most certainly does mean that these congregations were (and are) included in its warnings and promises, and any interpretation that makes them irrelevant to the visions and predictions of Revelation has gone awry.

Thus, in the visions of John, the things that Daniel predicted for a remote future, and presented in a veiled form, are disclosed and put into motion by Jesus on behalf of his saints. In his death and resurrection, the season of fulfillment has dawned and is now well underway.




Comments

POPULAR POSTS

Destruction of Babylon

Kings of the East