The conclusion or epilogue of Revelation begins in verse six of the last chapter. John writes, "Then he [the angel] said to me, 'These words are faithful and true.' And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place" (Rev. 22:6). John attests that he personally heard and saw all the things he wrote down in Revelation (verse 8). He stakes his authority as God's apostle on the truthfulness of what we read in the Apocalypse. The conclusion stresses two important themes. First, the book is a genuine, legitimate and truthful account of what is to happen. It is not a humanly devised book. The rulers of the universe, God and Jesus Christ, have inspired its contents. Second, the pivotal "end time" prophecies of Revelation are about to occur. They should be considered "imminent" or near by each reader in his or her lifetime. Why so? By the time Revelation was written, Jesus had lived a perfect life and had paid for the sins of humanity with his death. He had been resurrected from the dead and had started his Church. The pivotal events of human history were accomplished facts. God's plan had, in a sense, turned toward home. The "time of the end" was — at least from God's vantage point — just around the corner for each passing generation awaiting the resurrection (II Peter 3:8).
Opening Up the Future
The nearness of the end time is underscored by this command to John: "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand" (Rev. 22:10). Daniel had been given the opposite instruction: "Shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end" (Daniel 12:4). Daniel personally sought to understand what the prophecies given to him meant. He was told, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (Daniel 12:9). That's because not even "the wise" would understand until the "time of the end" (verse 10). The Apocalypse is the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is meant to enlighten his servants — "the wise" — so they can know what is to occur shortly on this earth (Rev. 1:1). The book of Revelation speaks about the actual "end time" when the plan and purpose of God begins its final stage. In principle, however, its message is for people living in all ages. That's because "the end" can come at any time to a person, wherever and whenever he or she might live. The third of all the Europeans who died in the Black Death of 1348-50, found "the end" had come upon them. Many even put it in these terms. They felt everyone was going to eventually die of disease, and that the end of the world was around the corner. Surely, God's servants living in those years must have eagerly looked to the hope given them in Revelation. In a sense. we all find ourselves victims of "the end" in our own lifetime. Every human being faces "the end" of his own life. To one and all, the end is rarely more than 70, 80 or 90 years away from the day of birth. Jesus — the real author of the book of Revelation — told a story that illustrated this important point. It concerned a certain wealthy man who lacked nothing. He had just harvested a great agricultural yield. So large was his crop output, he didn't know where to store all he had garnered. Jesus repeated the rich man's words: "This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, 'You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.'" But God saw the rich man's death was imminent. He said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" Jesus concluded: "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21, New International Version).
Revelation and the Reader
This rich man had not lived through the literal fulfillment of the end time of which Revelation speaks. Its symbolic effect had occurred to him, however. He lived and died without being rich toward God. That's why Jesus tells his own people — yes, and all who will listen in each age of human existence — to be on guard. He says: "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.... Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him" (Matthew 24:42, 44). Revelation is meant to wake up God's people to the trials that have plagued man throughout history — persecution, war, famine, disease and death. Unless God protects his own people, they too will fall victims to the world's woes. Revelation's special emphasis is to alert God's people to the enormity of the final holocaust of what is yet ahead.
The book of Revelation contains an urgent message of repentance for people living in all ages.
Revelation's intended audience is God's "Church" or congregation — his spiritual nation (I Peter 2:9-10). That's to whom the book is addressed and for whom it is meant. In the epilogue Jesus says: "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches.... Surely I am coming quickly" (Rev. 22:16, 20). John uses such code words as "he who has an ear, let him hear" (Rev. 2:7) and "here is wisdom" (Rev. 13:18). Daniel was told the "wise" would understand. The wise are the saints of God. They are his people in every age of human history. Are you, the reader, among the wise? What characterizes these wise "saints" or holy ones belonging to God? The Apocalypse tells us, "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12). Revelation offers vital information about how we may be protected from the tribulation and wrath yet to come on this world. It speaks to all those who desire to change their lives and bring their thoughts and actions into harmony with the Creator God of this universe.