One of the themes that you cannot get away from when you read the book of Revelation is the theme of the “soon-ness” of Christ’s glorious return. Yet, for many, this has been a stumbling block. They say that if John expected that Jesus’ return would be soon, and if Jesus himself said that his coming would be soon, how is it that nearly 2000 years have gone by? Were they wrong?
Some have sought to answer this by going to 2 Peter 3:9, to point out that God’s sense of time is different than our sense of time. This answer is not overly satisfying, though. In context, Peter is speaking of God’s patience in bringing the elect to himself, and reminding the readers that God will endure great spans of time to accomplish his plans. Peter quotes this statement from Psalm 90:4, where the psalmist (Moses in this case) speaks of God’s eternality.
So how should we understand this language of Jesus coming “soon.” Christians are to be a people of anticipation. Indeed, we look back at all that God has done to learn, but we also look forward with expectation to what God is going to do—namely that Jesus will return, bring sin into final judgment, and then remake heaven and earth in glorious perfection. We look forward to that day when we too will join with the saints in singing that “New Song” before Christ’s glorious presence (Revelation 5:9). We eagerly anticipate when we will experience that same bodily resurrection that Jesus experienced and will dwell eternally with our Lord, free from sickness, heart-ache, and the effects of sin.
As John writes this, he is seeking to keep this sense of anticipation before us. As believers, we are to live every day as if Christ were coming any moment. Think of the busy anticipation that you feel as you await the arrival of a special guest at your home. There is the business of rushing around putting everything in its place and finishing all of the preparations. Yet, there are also those excited looks out the window, wondering when that special guest will arrive. Friends, as believers, this is how we are to live our lives. Christ will come—we can be assured of that—we just don’t know the timing. We should be hard at work, making sure our spiritual houses are in order, yet always look to the sky, asking the question: “Could this day be the day when Christ returns?” The language of the “soon-ness” of the second coming is meant to help engender that sense of anticipation.