What Things Must Occur

The Book of Revelation’s first paragraph declares its purpose is to show God’s servants “what things must come to pass,” and it specifies the timing of those “things,” namely, “soon” and the “season is near.” The “things” referred to are detailed in John’s visions, including information about Satan’s war against Jesus and his “saints” that is waged through his earthly agents, the “Beast,” the “False Prophet,” and “Babylon, the Great Whore.”

Book open - Photo by Armando Arauz on Unsplash
[Photo by Armando Arauz on Unsplash]

God “
gave” the “revelation” that is now unveiled by Jesus, and he, in turn, “gave” it to his angel to show “his servants” what must 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 signs, sending 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.”

The Book’s recipients are called 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).

More explicit is John’s salutation to his audience - “to the Seven Assemblies in Asia.” Jesus commanded him to write down all that he saw, and to send the information to the congregations in “Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” They were seven first-century congregations located in key cities of the Roman proconsular province of Asia.

The “things” that must come to pass will occur “soon” from the perspective of the Book’s recipients. “Soon” is not a precise term, but these first-century congregations certainly would not have understood it to mean twenty centuries or more in the future.

IMMINENT EVENTS


The Book concerns the “things that must come to pass SOON.” This statement summarizes its contents. The phrase alludes to a passage in the Book of Daniel where the prophet interpreted the troubling dream of King Nebuchadnezzar about a “great image with a head of gold.” 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 relies on the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible. In it, the Greek clause in Daniel reads ‘ha dei genesthai,’ the exact same clause found in the Greek text of Revelation:

  • (Revelation 1:1) - “Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what things must come to pass (ha dei genesthai) soon.”

The same phrase is reiterated at key junctures of 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 WILL 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).

But Revelation is not simply quoting Daniel word-for-word. What was expected by Daniel in “LATER DAYS” is changed to “SOON” in Revelation. For John and his audience, the expected time of fulfillment was at hand. This understanding is confirmed in verse 3 of Chapter 1 where it states, the “SEASON IS NEAR” - (Daniel 12:4, Revelation 1:3, 22:7-10).

Thus, what for Daniel was expected “in later days” is now imminent for the “Seven Assemblies of Asia.” Similarly, Daniel was told to “seal the scroll 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 scroll, for the season is at hand” - (Compare - Daniel 12:4).

In the twelfth chapter of Daniel, the prophet was instructed to “seal the scroll until the SEASON OF THE END.” In contrast, John is instructed by the angel NOT to seal the Book because the “season” of fulfillment is imminent. Thus, what was “sealed” in Daniel is UNSEALED in Revelation.

The Book discloses “what things must come to pass soon,” and how they will impact the “servants” of Jesus, the “Seven Assemblies of Asia.” This does not mean its visions were only applicable to those seven churches in the first century, or that their experiences, both positive and negative, exhausted its predictions.

But it most certainly does mean the congregations of Asia were included in the Book’s warnings and promises, and any interpretation that makes them irrelevant to its visions goes awry.

In the visions of John, the things predicted by Daniel for a remote future and presented in veiled forms are disclosed and put into motion by Jesus on behalf of his saints. In his death and resurrection, the season of fulfillment dawned, and today, the period called the “Last Days” is well underway, a truth stressed in many passages elsewhere in the New Testament.


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