“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give everyone according to his work.”
When one slows down and puts themselves back into the time of both this verse, and then also when Christ first spoke this promise, they both become alive with imminent power. Do you realize Jesus is quoting Himself here?
Jesus first spoke this promise 32 years earlier, but look at the difference in what He says in Matthew 16:27-28, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to His works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
Here in Matthew 16 back in AD 30 Christ said that some of those living people standing right in front of Him hearing Him speak will not die until they see Him coming back again in His Kingdom with His angels to reward each according to his works. Now, let’s look at the power of what He says 32 years later here in Rev. 22:12 –> we are now near the end of that 40 year generation and most likely most of those who had heard His original promise had already died, but as He had promised, not all of them would have, and He now says, I am coming quickly –> with My reward –> to give to everyone according to his work. Christ is quoting Himself 32 year later and He is now saying that His promise to come is “quickly” (verse 10 says the fulfillment of the Revelation is “at hand“).
Jesus Christ, “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13) is coming in judgment bringing His reward, or recompense, with Him. Isaiah writes:
“Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth, say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Lo, your salvation comes; behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him’” (Isa. 62:11).
REVELATION 22:20 – SURELY I AM COMING QUICKLY
In an attempt to offset the objective imminence of Jesus’ soon return, It is sometimes offered by futurists that He only meant that He was certain to return, and was not actually meaning “soon.” Thus, instead of conveying the idea of time, “I come quickly” comes to mean, “I come certainly.” Ladd succinctly responds to such a suggestion, however, “How does imminence express certainty?” (George Eldon Ladd, The Presence of the Future, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1974) 313).
We might also ask: How can certainty be expressed by the language of imminence, if the prediction does not come to pass when the time statements indicate it would? How can certainty be expressed by telling a falsehood?
Notice Jesus’ words in Revelation 22:20, “Surely, I come quickly.” Here is both surety and imminence combined. Jesus was not saying, “Surely, I come surely.” The Greek word for surely is nai, meaning, “Yes” as a strong assertion. The word for certainty is one word, the word for imminence is another.
Many different Greek words express certainty but the words translated as, “at hand,” “shortly,” and “quickly” etc., are not some of them. Kittel’s Theological Dictionary does not list “certainty” as one of the possibilities for defining eggus (Strong’s 1451 ) (as in Rev. 22:10). (Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1964, Vol. II) 330+). Nor does Arndt and Gingrich, Thayer’s, nor Balz and Schneider. No lexicon that we are aware of does so. Why? It is simple, “at hand” does not mean certainty.
In reality, to change “at hand” from a time word to an assertion of certainty creates confusion. Man, in his normal communication, does not use words of imminence to express certainty. If God was altering the normal use without telling man of the change, then God can be properly accused of “mental reservation” in His communication.
If man hears the words “at hand” without knowing of a change in the meaning of those words, he automatically and properly thinks in time. If, therefore, the promise does not come to pass within the parameters of “shortly,” disappointment and discouragement are the natural result. Thus, the “certainty” supposedly expressed by the words (by the futurist and partial Preterist) has now become the actual source of uncertainty, and loss of confidence in the promises of God. You cannot create trust in God by saying He used words that mean one thing, when He actually meant something else entirely.
** Let me close this verse with this question: how could Jesus Christ more clearly express to His 1st century saints that “in a very little while” (Heb. 10:37 NASB) that He was going to come literally and in finality than He did with all of the words He used to describe His Parousia:
Soon (Rom. 16:20), at hand (Jam. 5:8; 1 Pet. 4:7, Rev. 22:10, Matt. 3:2, 4:17, 10:7), do not seal the Revelation (Rev. 22:10), I am coming quickly (Rev. 1:1, 3:11, 22:7, 12, 20), hold fast until I come (Rev. 2:25), must shortly take place (Rev. 1:1, 22:6), the time is near (Rev. 1:3), the Lord is near (Phil. 4:5), the judge is standing at the door (Jam. 5:9), ready to judge the living and dead (1 Pet. 4:5), it is the last hour (1 John 2:18), about to (Greek Mello: Matt. 3:7, 12:32; Acts 17:31, 24:15; Rom. 8:18; Eph. 1:21; Col. 2:16-17; 1 Tim. 4:8; 2 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 1:14, 2:5, 6:5, 9:11, 13:14; Rev. 3:10, 12:5), the time is now…the night is far spent…the day is at hand (Rom. 13:11-12), these last days/times (Heb. 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:20), the ends of the ages has come (1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 9:26), we shall not all die before the time of the rapture and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:51; 1 Thess. 4:15-17), the OC and Jerusalem temple is obsolete and ready to disappear (Heb. 8:13, 8-9), Christ will return with His angels to reward before all standing before Him had died (Matt. 16:27-28; Rev. 22:12)!
See also related “Topic Studies & Terms”:
Related full “Study Series” (available upon request if not hyperlinked):
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 16 Lesson 10 Rev. Chapter 22”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 7 Lesson 3b”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 15 Lesson 2”]