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Behold, I Come Quickly!

Behold, I Come Quickly!

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 22 March 2013


“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12).

We have been considering the theme of the Great and Precious Promises found in the Bible. We have come a long way. We looked at one promise from each book of the Bible beginning at the first gospel promise, even Genesis 3:15. But now we have come to the last book of the Bible. This book is full of promises, but what better promise to consider for our purpose than the last gospel promise of the triumphant return of Christ as our Judge and King.

But before we look at the promise, it is instructive for us to consider the book of Revelation ever so briefly. There are four common approaches to the book of Revelation.

·   First, there is the Historicist View. This is a view held by many of the Reformers and Puritans. This view regards the book as setting forth in one broad continuous sweep, a panoramic view of the entire course of Christian history from the 1st Century to the Second Coming of Christ. Thus for example, the falling star in Rev 9:1 is seen by some as referring to Pope Boniface III, other as referring to Mohammed, and yet others to a monk Sergius.

·   The second view is known as the Futurist View. This view maintains that from Revelation 4 onwards, the book deals with events that will take place in connection with the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. This view is held mostly by Dispensationalists and is promoted through Study Bibles such as the Scofield Study Bible and the Ryrie Study Bible. Almost all modern Christian cults— Christadephians, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, hold to some form of futuristic interpretation.

·   Thirdly, there is the Preterist View. This view sees the book as describing the events and conditions of the churches in Asia and the Roman Empire culminating in AD 70. In this view, Babylon and the Beasts refer to the Roman State while the woman of chapter 12 refers to the persecuted church. This view was held in various forms in the early 16th century and have seen some form of revival in recent days.

The final view is the Idealist View. This is also known as the Spiritual or Poetic View. This view insists that for the most part the book does not deal with actual events but with ideas or principles. The theme of the book is the victory of Christ and His church over Satan and the unbelieving world. One convincing treatment of Revelation based on this approach is More than Conquerors (Baker Book House, 1982 [1942]) by William Hendriksen.

I am personally most inclined to this view though I think that elements of the historicist view and the preterist pertaining are worthy of acceptance.

In any case, upon this view, we may look at Revelation as having 7 overlapping symbolic cycles representing progress and victories of the Church Militant led by the King of kings. The seven sections, with his subtitles are: (1) The Seven Lampstands (1-3); (2) The Seven Seals (4-7); (3) The Seven Trumpets (8-11); (4) Seven Symbolic Histories (12-14); (5) The Seven Vials (15-16); (6) Seven Voices against Apostasy (17-19:10); and (7) Seven Final Words (19:11-22:6).

Our text, for our study, falls outside these seven summaries. It is part of the conclusion of this magnificent book. It is a promise that is repeated thrice to assure us of its certainty.

·   v. 7—Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.

·   v. 12—And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

·   v. 20— He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

For our purpose, let us consider verse 12. Here we see a twofold promise of our Lord. First, He assures us that He will come quickly. Secondly, He assures us that He will reward every man according as His work shall be. Let’s study what He is saying.

1. Christ Will Come Quickly

Behold, I come quickly.” These are, no doubt, the words of our Saviour, “the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (v. 13).

What does He mean by saying, “I come quickly”?

If someone tells you “I come quickly”, what would you expect to happen? You will expect him to come as you are waiting for him, wouldn’t you? So suppose you are camping in the mountains with a friend and something happens. You friend tells you, wait for me, I’ll go get help and come quickly. What do you expect to happen? You would expect him to come soon, wouldn’t you?

Well, since the Lord said those words, almost two thousand years have gone by. Many have died waiting for the Lord to come. Was the Lord wrong? Of course not! What then is the problem? The problem must lie in our interpretation or expectation of what the Lord is saying.

So what does the Lord mean? Well, to understand what He is saying, we must understand that when the Lord speaks about His coming, He does not only refer to His Second Coming.

Some suggest that the Lord was referring to the judgement of AD 70 spoken of in His Olivet Discourse. This is recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Turn, for example, to Matthew 24. Many commentators, including Hendriksen, believe that the Lord Jesus is referring to AD 70 from verses 5-35. Only from verse 36, beginning from the words “of that day and hour knoweth no man…” does he begin to talk about the end of the world.

If this is correct, then the prophecy of the coming of the Son of man in verse 27 and 30 refers to His coming in judgement at AD 70, not to His second coming.

Is the Lord Jesus referring then to AD 70 when he says, “Behold, I come quickly”? Well, only liberal full-preterists believe that. These believe that Christ has already come and is not coming again. The problem is that the promise in our text emphasises reward more than judgement, whereas AD 70 is predominantly judgement.

How then should we understand our Lord’s coming again? To understand what He is saying, we must realise that the Lord has spoken about His coming again in a much wider context.

We think of His words in His letters to the churches.

·   He says to the Church at Ephesus:

“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Rev 2:5).

·   He says to the Church at Pergamos:

“Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev 2:16).

·   Again, He says to the Laodiceans:

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).

It is clear that the Lord does speak of His coming in a spiritual way for judgement and fellowship prior to His Second Coming. Indeed, the Lord speaks of coming for every one of us who are His children.

This is what He says to His disciples in the night He was betrayed, John 14:3—

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Now, this may refer to Christ returning to His disciples after He ascended to the Father. But note how He adds the words “and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” It appears, then, that the Lord is not speaking only to His disciples but to all believers. He will come again and receive us unto Himself that where He is, there we may be also.

When does that happen? It happens, no doubt, at the point of our death when we step out of this present world. Thus we may apply all the parables that refer to the Lord’s coming again such as the parable of the Talents, of the Pounds or of the Ten Virgins,—with a view of judgment at death and not just at the Second Coming.

Thus, when our Lord says: “Behold, I come quickly,” we must know that it will truly be soon that the Lord will come for us.

Of course, this does not mean that we should think of the Second Coming of Christ as something that will not happen soon. The fact is we don’t know. What we do know is that Christ will come for us soon—it may be at the point of our death, or it may be at the Last Day which is really not too distant in the future when compared to eternity. Whatever it is, the Lord expects us to watch and wait and to prepare. We must be prepared like the Five Wise Virgins. The Wise Virgins do not complain like the scoffers of the last days whom Peter refers to in 2 Peter 3:3-4. The Lord had said that He is coming quickly, so He expects us to be waiting for Him rather than slacking like the foolish virgins.

Time is short, the day to the coming of our Lord for us—whether at our death or at the Second Coming is drawing nigh. Compared to eternity, it is only a little while more. May the Lord grant us that we may be prepared; for when our Lord comes, He will come with His reward, “to give every man according as his work shall be.

2. Christ Will Rewards

The Lord says earlier:

“The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Mt 16:27).

He normally speaks of judgement and reward in terms of His Second Coming. But let us understand that our reward would already be appointed when the Lord comes again for us at our death. The apostle to the Hebrew says: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27).

The Personal Judgement at the point of our death is like finishing our last examination and receiving the result slip. The General Judgement on the Last Day is like the convocation.

But let us remember that the reward that our Lord speaks about is not only positive rewards. Paul says:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).

All sinners will be punished in that day. There is none righteous, and there is no righteousness among unbelievers. These will be judged and will be punished according to the severity of their sin. God will not be mocked. What a man sows, that he will reap. 

Believers on the other hand are justified in Christ. Our sins have been paid for. Therefore, we will not be punished for our sin. We may be chastised for our good during our earthly sojourn, but as soon as the Lord comes for us, the days of our sorrows are over.

All that remains for us are rewards of grace. We call them rewards of grace because none of us deserve any reward from the Lord. Anything that we do that is pleasing to God can be traced to the operation of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. And yet, the Lord graciously rewards us.

Our reward can hardly be described adequately to our current level of understanding. So the Word of God speaks of the crown of righteousness (2Tim 4:8); the crown of life (Jas 1:12); the crown of glory (1Pt 5:4); and the crowns of gold (Rev 4:4).

Christ himself suggests that He will commend His faithful servants with the words—

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Mt 25:21; cf. v. 23).

I don’t know about you. But this would be reward enough for me. Yet the Lord will give us much more than that. He will give us fullness of joy, love, and peace in our body and soul (Ps 16:11). And His reward will be commensurate with how we suffered and laboured for Him in this life. Every cup will be full, but some cups will be bigger and some will be smaller.

Therefore, beloved brethren, do not weary in well-doing for the Lord “is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb 6:10).

The days of our sorrows, frustrations and indignation are almost over. Soon our Lord will come for us. “And God shall wipe away all tears from [our] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev 21:4).

Therefore, lift up your head, look unto Jesus the author and finisher of your faith, and press on. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18).

Conclusion

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

This is the firm promise of our Lord and Saviour who laid down His life for us that our life may be worth living. And what a beautiful promise to end our series on the great and precious promises of God! May He in whom all the promises of God are yea and Amen (2 Cor 1:20) be greatly magnified as we seek to walk by faith and hope upon His promises to the Celestial City. Amen.

—JJ Lim



 

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