How long, O Lord?
If you haven’t uttered those words as a Christian in 2020, you’ve likely thought them. The question of when God will say “amen” and end these current trials is not answered for the biblical authors. Indeed, this is one place where the contextual bridge from Bible reading to application is not hard to cross.
On the one hand, we ought to beware of becoming like the disciples who inquired about the timing of God’s providential plan. We too want to ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time . . . ?” But he will likely say to us what he said to them: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:6–7).
On the other hand, we navigate this current life in anticipation of the one to come. As the biblical authors summon us to do, we wait for the city yet to come (Heb 13:14). “How long, O Lord?” is a healthy question for Christians to ask.
The book of Revelation, closing out the canon of Scripture, has been a platform for chronological conjecture since it was written. Whether the inauguration of a new political leader, the turn of a crucial page on the calendar, or the invention of a technological device, many have found clear and obvious signs from complex or obscure verses. “How long, O Lord?” quickly becomes “How ‘bout now?”
But throughout Revelation, John employs one word to help us as we ask questions about God’s timeline: soon.
Here’s how the book begins: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place” (Rev. 1:1).
Throughout Revelation, John employs one word to help us as we ask questions about God’s timeline: soon.
John is not like the parent avoiding a questioning child or finding a way to delay an answer. He’s a fellow sufferer longing for God’s kingdom to come in full and for his own exile to end. As John yearns for the removal of evil and the presence of Christ, the word soon is not said with a distracted eye toward something better, but with eager anticipation fixed on the coming Christ.
In addition to John’s opening, he records the resurrected Christ’s promise—“I am coming soon”—no less than three times in the final chapter:
- “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Rev. 22:7).
- “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” (Rev. 22:12).
- “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon’” (Rev. 22:20).
King Jesus is coming soon. This promise has helped Christians endure throughout the ages. This foundation motivates obedience to God’s revealed Word. This warning spurs repentance. This declaration strengthens our weary knees and emboldens hope.
His return is near. And with his beloved disciple we say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).