SYNOPSIS: Christians do not need to wait until History’s final years to understand the message of Revelation. The understanding of its visions was made plain to the first-century churches of Asia.
Today, some voices claim that the correct understanding of many end-time prophecies will not be revealed until the “last generation” before the return of Jesus. Information still veiled will be decoded only in the last few years prior to the end of the age. Frequently, a key passage from the book of Daniel is cited to validate this claim.
This popular teaching is based on the commandment of an angel to the prophet Daniel to “seal the book until the time of the end.” This interpretation assumes this means that the predictions recorded in the book of Daniel will not be understood until the final generation before Jesus arrives in glory. Usually, precisely how this information will be disclosed is left unstated.
But this interpretation contradicts the declared purpose of the book of Revelation and ignores the New Testament understanding of the “last days.” Moreover, it overlooks the command to John by an angel NOT to “seal the prophecy of this book”:
(Daniel 12:4) – “But, thou, Daniel, close up the words and seal the book until the time of the end—many will run to and fro, and knowledge shall abound.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Revelation 1:1-3) – “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to point out unto his servants the things which must needs come to pass with speed—and he shewed them by signs, sending through his messenger unto his servant John; who bare witness as to the word of God and the witness of Jesus Christ—whatsoever things he saw. Happy! he that readeth, and they who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things therein written; for THE SEASON IS NEAR.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Revelation 22:10) – “And he saith unto me—DO NOT SEAL UP THE WORDS OF THE PROPHECY OF THIS SCROLL, FOR THE SEASON IS NEAR.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
In its very first verse, the book of Revelation is identified as an unveiling or apokaluypsis; that is, a “disclosure, an unveiling, an uncovering.” The book reveals things hidden previously. Its images and language are intended to disclose, not to mystify or conceal.
Its stated purpose is to “show God’s servants the things that must come to pass shortly.” The “servants” addressed are the seven churches of Asia. They would not have understood “shortly” to mean two thousand years in a very remote future. Those who “keep” the prophecy are declared “blessed.” The ability to “keep” necessitates the ability to understand. The imminence of the unveiled events is reiterated at the end of the opening paragraph – “The season is at hand,” and in the epilogue of the book.
None of this means that all the predictions in the book found their fulfillment in the first century. However, at a minimum, it does mean the process of fulfillment began by the time John received his first vision.
The book of Revelation often interprets its own symbolism. For example, the “seven golden lampstands” among which Christ is seen walking are stated to represent the seven churches of Asia. The visions received and recorded by John are intended to communicate information, not conceal it (Revelation 1:19-20).
The prophet Daniel was commanded to seal the book until the “time of the end.” In the New Testament, the “last days,” the “fulness of time,” began with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus:
(Hebrews 1:1-2) – “Whereas, in many parts and in many ways of old, God spake unto the fathers in the prophets, At the end of these days, He hath spoken unto us in his Son.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Acts 2:16-17) – “But this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel—And it shall be, in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Galatians 4:4) – “But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, who came to be of a woman, who came to be under law.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Colossians 1:26) – “The mystery which had been hidden away from the ages and from the generations, but, now, hath been made manifest unto his saints.”
God’s promise to pour out His Spirit on all flesh was actualized “in the last days.” He sent Jesus in “the fullness of time to redeem those under the Law.” His “mysteries” hidden in past generations are now revealed in Jesus. Thus, the promised season of fulfillment, the “last days,” the “fulness of time” began with the first advent of Jesus.
The sealed scroll is a key feature in John’s vision of the divine throne at the center of the Cosmos. It is sealed shut with seven seals until the Lamb is declared “worthy” to open it. This image portrays the victory of Jesus on Calvary and his subsequent elevation to God’s right hand, the basis for which he is authorized to open the scroll. This he does immediately upon his arrival before the throne when he begins to implement its contents by breaking open its seven seals. Thus, the contents of the scroll unfold progressively over the remainder of the book, and it is observed opened fully in Chapter 10.
The book of Revelation concludes by reiterating themes from its prologue. The Risen Christ sent his angel to show his servants the “things that must come to pass shortly.” He repeats the promise of blessing to them “who keep the words of the prophecy,” and the declaration, “the season is near” (Revelation 22:6-10).
The commandment to Daniel to seal the scroll provides the wording of the angel given to John at the conclusion of the Book of Revelation. Daniel was commanded to “seal the scroll until the time of the end,” whereas, John is now commanded, “not to seal the words of the prophecy of this scroll, for the season is near.”
Thus, the book of Revelation reveals to the churches of Asia what was hidden in past centuries from Daniel and the Jewish nation. The “last days” have arrived with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the time of revelation and fulfillment. We do not need to wait until History’s final years to understand the message of Revelation. The interpretation of its visions was intended to be understood by the churches of Asia and to be applicable to their real-life situations. The same holds true for the churches of today.
Unlike the visions seen and recorded by the prophet Daniel, Revelation is a fully opened book.