“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”
Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”
This text begins with a word from Jesus Himself in verse 7: He is coming soon Blessed is he who keeps the “words of this scroll”. Revelation has been full of references to the early return of Christ and the final judgment. Again here, Jesus emphasizes that He is coming soon. To the modern mind, after almost 2,000 years of waiting, this seems a little off, but I’d like to remind everyone of a small little detail concerning the “soonness” of His return. Nobody has been waiting for Him for 2,000 years. I sure haven’t been waiting that long, have you? There is always an urgency in the New Testament about Jesus’ return, and yet He hasn’t returned; so why all of the urgency? The answer is twofold and really quite obvious:
First, He might return at any moment for His Church; there isn’t anything keeping Him from returning today that any of us knows about. The second is simply this: we only get so much time to be ready, for He could come for any of us at any time, for nobody knows when they will die. In either case, we might want to be ready, don’t you think?
Next, John identifies himself as the author and eyewitness of these messages and visions, and vouches for the accuracy of this book. Then, perhaps caught up in the enormity of the moment, he seeks to venerate or worship the angel who has brought God’s message to him, much to the consternation of the angle, who tells him he should “Worship God”. Pretty solid advice I’d have to say, and I’m sure John would very much agree. We really should be worshipping God all the time, particularly in light of all we have seen in this book!
The angel continues, telling John not “to seal up the words of the prophecy”, which has a direct contrast to Daniel 12:1-4:
“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
Daniel had seen into the distant future, this present age, the return of the Christ, the judgment and the consummation, but he was told to seal it up, for the time had not yet come. With John’s scroll of prophecy, the time had now come for these events to play out, as they continue to do now, as the Last Age rolls on.
Then we come to a curious verse, 12:11: “Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy” This verse is parallel to another verse from Daniel 12, and that is verse 10:
Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
A second parallel can be found in Ezekiel 3:27:
But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people.
While I realize that interpretations of this rather odd verse will vary, it seems to me that the angel is telling John to spread the words of his prophecies; some will be wise and understand, others will scoff and laugh. So be it, for each will be rewarded according when the Day comes. This should not be understood as an endorsement for vileness or wickedness however, since the reward of the wicked is God’s Final Judgment.
The same principle applies to us when we share our message of God’s loving grace; some will listen and respond while others will call us idiots; so be it. We will have done what we could, and they made their choice freely. Does that sound a little too curt to you? It could be, but that is really the whole matter in a nutshell. I know that it can be heartbreaking when people we love and care about refuse to accept God’s loving grace, but in the end, we are called to share, we are not called to beat people into submission, for that is not the way of love.
When we get together next, we will have arrived at the thrill-packed conclusion of the book; see you then!