'Soon' is a wonderful word when you are expecting a loved one, a new baby or a gift to arrive. But it is a terrible word for those who fear an earthquake or separation from loved ones. Both joyful and dread-filled anticipation should mark believers and unbelievers as the return of Jesus Christ is declared to be 'soon'. Those who love Him will rejoice in His welcome (John 3:29), and those who despise Him will weep when He comes (Revelation 1:7). But, alas, most people have little expectation of the Second Coming. Many believers do not think Jesus will come in their lifetime and live without the priority of getting ready for Him (Romans 13:11). Unbelievers do not believe Christ's return will ever happen (2 Peter 3:3-4). That is why Revelation is 'bookended' by Jesus saying, "I am coming soon" (Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20). Unless the church has confidence that Jesus will return to reward and judge, believers will not stand firm in the heat of persecution or the divine foreshock of judgement on this sinful world.
John is commanded to remember all he has seen in the visions, especially the glorious marriage procession of the Lamb and His Bride, the church (Revelation 21:1-5). All the persecutions, the plagues heralded by trumpets and the bowls of wrath are a thing of the past - as John was allowed to see God's Holy City without any blemish or people who love to sin (Revelation 21:22-27). The reward - spoken about by Old Testament prophets in Isaiah 62:11 and Jeremiah 32:19, and by Jesus (Luke 6:35), Paul (Colossians 3:24), and John (2 John 1:8) - is being accepted by the Lord of the universe and receiving His accolade for faithful, loving obedience (Luke 19:17).
Jesus has the right to reward people according to what they have done (Ephesians 6:8). It is not a subtle call to get people to exhaust themselves in good works to earn their salvation – good works can never save us … we are only saved as we believe the gospel and receive God's grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). But it is a call not to throw away our confidence in Jesus (Hebrews 10:35). In times of stress and personal pain, it is easy to throw away what is precious. But the preciousness of Jesus is beyond doubt. Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, symbolise Jesus who is the Creator at the beginning and the Judge at the end of this world's history. If we stand firm to the end we will be saved – even if everybody else is against us (Matthew 10:22; 1 Corinthians 15:2).
Most of us have enough difficulty doing all we should each day and relating well with others alongside us. We can be excited by good things and kind comments, and depressed by bad events and malicious talking. If we only look at the ground, we will see mud or dust; but if we look up we will see a little of the glory of a God whose creation is so much bigger than us. In the same way, believers without an eternal horizon will only live with worldly objectives and not for the Lord (Hebrews 12:1-3). When the pressure builds, how will you stand unless you are confident that the One who has called you is faithful and He will reward you (1 Thessalonians 5:24)?
© Dr Paul Adams