The Time Element in Revelation

MOTT’S NOTES  (Second In A Series of Five)

by L.A. Mott Jr.

According to the first verse of the book, the subject of the Revelation is “the things which must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:1). “For the time is at hand” (v. 3). “Behold, he cometh with the clouds” (v. 7).

The closing section contains the same references to time. The message of Revelation is again said to be “the things which must shortly come to pass. And behold, l come quickly” (22:6-7). Daniel had been told, “but shut thou up the vision; for it belongeth to many days to come” (Daniel 8:26; cf. 10:14; 12:4,9). But John is forbidden to seal up the Revelation, for it does not deal with the distant future—”the time is at hand” (Revelation 22:10). That statement is immediately followed by another indicating that the time is near at hand when character will be finally settled and it will be too late to change (v. 11), The next verse has the Lord saying, “Behold, l come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is” (v. 12). Then for the third time in v. 20, “He who testitfeth these things saith, Yea; I come quickly.”

The conclusion is inescapable that the millenia away but executed speedily once the time came. The time was so near the book was not even to be sealed. On the other hand, the reference cannot be to the coming of Christ at the end of the world. One might say that is obvious from history, but more importantly, the book of Revelation itself makes it obvious that the end of the world was not at hand, for one of John’s visions puts it at least a thousand years in the future (Revelation 20).

What, then, is meant by “the things which must shortly come to pass?” What coming of Christ was near? The answer to these questions must be determined by the evidence of the book of Revelation itself: That evidence is found in four passages;

(1) The martyrs who had already been slain were told “that they should rest yet for a little time” and their blood would be avenged (6:9-11).

(2) From the time of Satan’s defeat by means of the cross, symbolically portrayed in Revelation 12:7-12, he has “great wrath” against the church (explaining the persecutions), “knowing that he hath but a short time” (v. 12)—only “a short time” and he would be bound (20:1-3).

(3) The chief instrument of Satan’s wrath was the beast, a persecuting monster, who was not far in the future at the time of Revelation (17:7-11), and

(4) when he came he would continue for only forty-two months (13:5). After that “short time” Babylon would fall (chs. 17-18), the beast and the false prophet would be defeated (ch. 19), and Satan would be bound for a thousand years (20:1-3). Thus “the things which must shortly come to pass,” which were “at hand,” are identified with the conflict between the church and the persecuting monster (which was not far off), ending with the defeat of the persecutor and the binding of Satan after only a short time. However the “millenium” may be explained, the book of Revelation certainly leaves no doubt where it begins namely, not long after Revelation was written. I will not try to play historian, but will insist that this is what John has said in the book he wrote,

CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE  FEBRUARY, 1984