What Was, Is and Is to Come

What Was, Is and Is to Come

INTRODUCTION – “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” (Revelation 1:19)

Revelation, the last book in the New Testament is considered by Bible scholars to be the consummation of all previous Bible prophecy. In this one book, all Scripture is tied together: what was, what is, and what is to come.

What You Have Seen – The Old Testament Law and prophets (what was) looked forward to Jesus as the Messiah to come. They are full of prophecies of His first advent.

What Is Now – The Gospels recorded His coming in the flesh. The Book of Acts recorded His coming in the Spirit. The Epistles are commentaries on His life, message and completed work. These are the predominant writings that govern this present Church age (what is).

What Will Take Place Later – Revelation once again looks forward, but this time to His second advent and the events preceding to it.(1) In Revelation, the Holy Spirit pulls back the curtain and gives us the privilege of seeing the glorified Christ in Heaven and the coming fulfillment of His sovereign purposes in the world (what is to come).(2)

Revelation is intended to be an open book in which God reveals His plans and purposes to His Church. When Daniel finished writing his prophecy, he was instructed to “roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4). John was given opposite instructions “do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near” (Revelation 22:10).

With Calvary, the Resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, God ushered in the “last days” (Hebrews 1:1–2) and is fulfilling His purposes that had previously been a mystery.(3) Yet Revelation is perhaps the most puzzling and mysterious book in the Bible to study. The surreal images, vivid accounts of terror on the earth and cataclysmic disasters in the universe beyond are hard to comprehend, and even harder to interpret.

For generations readers and scholars have pondered whether the book is an outline of future history that will actually happen (futurist). Or perhaps it pictures of past history, using vivid imagery to describe persecutions under pagan emperors (preterist/historicist). Maybe they are not actual events (past or future) at all. But rather they are symbolic representations of experiences believers may undergo now and that will finally be seen to be elements in God’s final judgment (idealist/allegorical).

It is easy to construct pet theories and fanciful interpretations as one explores the final book of the New Testament. This often leads people to get caught up in heated debates about how current events might be fitting into God’s prophetic program, while arguing against another person’s point of view. The problem is that we can become so bogged down in the debate over the details that we miss the fundamental point of this great book (“we strain out a gnat, while swallowing a camel”), the certainty of Christ’s victorious return.(4)

In studies to come, we will attempt to explore the various views with a mind that is open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, while attempting to maintain our focus on the underlying theme – Jesus is coming back someday. Are we ready or will we be caught off guard?

Up Next – The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1-4a)

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  1. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 550). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  2. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 566). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 566). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  4. Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (p. 1071). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.