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What the Bible says about Unfolding of Prophetic Events
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 24:36

Just a few verses later, He tells His disciples, "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect" (verse 44, emphasis ours throughout). This is a massive hint that our understanding of biblical prophecy—as much as it has expanded over the last few decades—will still not be enough to remove the element of surprise from Christ's return!

Paul also warns us in I Corinthians 13:9, 12, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part. . . . For now we see in a mirror, dimly." This principle suggests that we will not know for certain how things will work out as the end approaches. We understand in part, meaning we have a vague-to-rough idea of the course of events because of our insight into God's plan, but we cannot honestly be dogmatic about any speculative scenarios we devise. Every interpretation of end-time biblical prophecy should be accompanied with a proviso such as, "This is how things seem to be headed from what we understand right now."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy's Place

Revelation 1:1

The margin says shortly means "quickly" or "swiftly." This must be understood in terms of what the book of Revelation was designed to reveal. Verse 10 tells us that the book was designed for the Day of the Lord. "Shortly" has to be seen in light of verse 10.

When was the apostle John on the island of Patmos? All indications are that he received this vision somewhere in the AD 90s—somewhere between AD 90 and 100. The Temple in Jerusalem had already been destroyed by the Romans under Titus.

Think about this word "shortly" in reference to the time in which the prophecy was given. Did Jesus Christ mean shortly after He gave it? What happened historically quickly or shortly after Christ gave this prophecy to the apostle John? Nothing. Nothing happened. By and large, almost 20 centuries later, very little in Revelation has yet happened.

What does this say about the design of the book of Revelation? It says that its primary intent is for the time we are living in right now! When Christ said that these things must shortly come to pass, what He meant was that once the things in Revelation begin to occur, they will happen very quickly in historical terms. They will begin unfolding so fast, it will take our breath away!

To whom was this book written? Verse 11 says that it was written to the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. If the book was written to the end-time people, then we have to conclude that the message as delivered to the actual churches in Asia Minor was only secondary. The attitudes, the conduct, the events occuring in those seven congregations were only models of what was going to happen later.

However, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea are somewhere extant on earth today. Not just in the form of attitudes, but maybe also in the form of true-church organizations. All seven churches must be in existence at the end. This only makes sense because the book is concerned primarily with the end-time.

Does it not seem reasonable and logical that, if Christ wanted to get a message to each of the churches, and He only had a moment to spend with each one, He would be extremely selective in what He had to say? He would carefully design His message to contain the nucleus of what He wanted to get across. It would be quick, concise, and hit the nail right on the head. What He said would be of the utmost importance to them in regard to their responsibilities at the end time.

If His church were to be in existence at the end—and surely it is because He says that the gates of the grave would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18)—then He would give His church what it needed most of all to survive and endure that period of time. He would not waste His opportunity speaking on trivial matters!

He would get to things that are essential to His people to get them through the trouble and into the Kingdom with as much growth as possible! This is the essence of those seven messages. It is the reason why they were written.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works

Revelation 5:1-5

This scroll is unique in that it is sealed with seven seals. They did not write many books in those days. Most long correspondence was written on a scroll. And a scroll was a long sheet of parchment that was rolled up like paper towels.

As one read the message, the document had to be unrolled. This document was sealed with a heavy, sticky wax that was heated to a liquid and then dropped on the end of the document, sealing it. No one could then read the document until the seal was broken. In addition, the seal was usually impressed with some kind of identifying sign or mark to confirm who had written the document—to identify the sender.

This particular scroll had seven seals binding it—that is, the document was completely written and then it began to be rolled. Part way into the rolling, a seal was put on. The wax solidified, then it was rolled some more, and a second seal was put on it. It was rolled some more, then the third seal and so on until seven seals were affixed to it.

Verse 2 asks who would be able to open up and read what was written. John is heartbroken until he finds out that the Lamb is worthy to open it. Then we begin to find that the seals could be broken and the revelation could commence.

The last seal put on must be the first seal to be broken. This indicates the progression of time. It takes time to break the seal and to reveal what the seal's message is. In actual history, it means that a seal is broken, and then the seal begins to be fulfilled. Another seal is broken, and it too begins to unfold in history; and then a third one, and it begins to unfold. So time moves along. It begins with the first one, the second is joined to it, and then the third one is joined to them.

When the first seal is opened, it continues until all the seals are broken. The intensity is increased by adding the next seal to it. We have two fulfillments occurring at once. Then the third one is opened, and now we have three being fulfilled, etc.

As we approach a specific point in time, the intensity of the unfolding of the seals' event becomes greater and greater. By the time we get to the end, the intensity is so great that the people on earth are barely able to stand it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 




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