How Does Jesus Come Soon?
At the end of Revelation, Jesus emphasizes he is coming soon (Rev. 22:7,12,20). Most readers have interpreted this to mean his “second” coming, his final coming. But there are reasons to interpret this coming soon as a different kind of coming.
In his message to the seven churches, Jesus sometimes warns disobedient churches that he will come soon with stronger words of judgment against them (through prophets like John) (Rev. 2:5,16). And in the case of one church, one of the two obedient churches, he says he will come soon–and reminds them to remain obedient so they will not lose their crown; if they conquer (by being faithful), they will become part of the heavenly new Jerusalem (Rev. 3:11-12). In this case, Jesus comes as the one who has the key of David, who can open what no one can shut (3:7), and sets before them an open door (in the near future) (3:8). Because much of 3:8-12 is about their future reward in heaven, this open door is the door to heaven (like the open door in 4:1).
The key of David links with the “keys” of death and hades in 1:18. Jesus’ keys open the door out of death and hades for those who have been faithful, and his key of David opens the door into heaven for them. So Jesus is encouraging them to continue to keep his word and hold fast what they have, and he will come soon (when they die) to welcome them into heaven.
Likewise, in Rev. 22, similar words surround Jesus’ assurance that he is coming soon. In 22:7, right after saying he comes soon, he encourages readers with a blessing: “Blessed is the one keeping the words of the prophecy of this book.” Compare 3:9–“you have kept my word.” In 22:11, Jesus encourages the righteous to continue to do right. Compare 3:11–“hold fast what you have.” In 22:12, after again saying he is coming soon, he says he will give to each a reward (or recompense) for his work. Compare 3:8–“I know your works and I have given an open door before you.” In 22:14 part of the blessing Jesus gives is that they may enter the city (the heavenly new Jerusalem) by the gates (the doors). Compare 3:12–“The one who conquers . . . I will write on him . . . the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem.” And in 22:16 Jesus says he is the root and offspring of David. Compare 3:7–“The words of the holy one . . . who has the key of David.”
Thus the similar content that surrounds the context of Jesus saying he is coming soon in Rev. 3 and Rev. 22 could lead the reader to interpret this coming as his coming soon to welcome those who remain faithful unto death into the wide open door of heaven, entering the gates of the new Jerusalem. If readers remain faithful unto death, holding fast what they have, they will receive the heavenly crown of life (Rev. 2:10; 3:11).
Think of Stephen, in Acts 7:55-56, facing death from stoning and seeing the heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, standing to welcome him into his heavenly home. As they stone Stephen, he prays, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” In Rev. 22:20, because Jesus says “Surely I am coming soon,” the proper response of the faithful is “Amen. Come. Lord Jesus.” We are ready, and anticipate this coming–whenever our faithful witness on earth is finished.