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
Revelation’s first paragraph lists 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.” The imminence of these events is emphasized further by stating that the “season is near.” - [Olympic Dawn photo by Nicklas Bajema on Unsplash].

God “gave” the “revelation” to Jesus, and he then “gave” it to his angel to show “his servants” what was to occur “soon.
  • (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 signssending 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.”

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The book’s recipients are the “servants” of Jesus (doulos), a term applied to his followers elsewhere in the book. They are also described 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 own 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. “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.

IMMINENT EVENTS

The book presents the “things that must come to pass soon,” and this summarizes its contents. The phrase alludes to a passage from 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, Revelation uses the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible, and in it, the Greek clause from Daniel reads ‘ha dei genesthai,’ the exact same clause found in the Greek text of Revelation’s first verse:
  • (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 the book. 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, John 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).

Stopwatch - Photo by Agê Barros on Unsplash
[Photo by Agê Barros on Unsplash]

But John was not simply quoting 
Daniel word-for-word. What was expected previously in “later days,” is changed to “soon” in Revelation. For John and his audience, the expected time of fulfillment was now at hand. This understanding is confirmed in verse 3 when it states that the “season is near” - (Daniel 12:4, Revelation 1:3, 22:7-10).

Thus, 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 declares a “blessing” on all who read and heed the book because the “season is at hand.” This understanding is confirmed in 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).

THE SCROLL IS UNSEALED

In the twelfth chapter of Daniel, the prophet was instructed to “seal the book until the season of the end.” In contrast, John is instructed NOT to seal the book because the “season” of fulfillment is 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, and that 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.



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