He who testifies these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20—NKJV)

The imminency of our Lord’s return is a precious doctrine that has been fondly embraced by each generation of Christians throughout the church age. Imminence is defined as likely to happen without delay, impending, or threatening, as its Latin root means to “project over and overhang.” Of course, the unsaved world tends to guffaw and lampoon the idea of the imminence of Christ’s return (“repent, the end is near”). Their short-sightedness and small-mindedness was foretold by Peter in 2 Peter 3:3–4: “scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’” Peter clearly explains the apparent delinquency of our Lord’s return in verses 8–9, “But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Two thousand years after the last promise of the imminent return was uttered, we 21st-century Christians appear to fall into the same mindset as the scoffers, and tend to display laziness in our Christian experience compared to the intense obedience and testimony of our forebears in faith. We tend to downplay the immediate applicability of the imminency of Christ’s promised return, though the Scriptures place a keen emphasis on the reality of it. Notice that our text records the last thing God would have us to hear from Him at the end of the canon of Scripture. How are we to rightly handle this great doctrine?

It is first wise to investigate the word “quickly.” It translates the Greek word tachu, meaning “swift, quick.” The word has a sense to it that is illustrated in Mark 9:39 where it is translated “lightly” in the KJV: “But Jesus said, ‘Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in My Name, that can lightly (“soon afterward”—NKJV) speak evil of me.’” Mark used the word with the sense of alacrity, flippancy, and ease of complete reversal as opposed to ponderous, lethargic, and indecisive indifference. Imminence means that His return will be speedy and energetic, lightning fast! The storm has been rising for these two thousand years, the clouds of His return for His church are heavy in the sky, the atmosphere is alive with the anticipation of the impending flash, and its thunder will be felt over the whole earth!

Another thought for current day believers to digest is that Israel has been waiting their portion of the promise of the return of the Lord at His Second Coming for longer than the church has been waiting for the Rapture. Isaiah 40:10 states, “Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.” (Also seen in Isaiah 62:11) The difference for church age saints is that there is no other prophetic item to be fulfilled before the Lord will so come in the clouds as the disciples saw Him go! His return is indeed imminent.

The book of Revelation is peppered with reminders of the impending, speedy, lightning-like appearance of Christ. It begins with three promises and ends with three. To three of the local churches the imminent appearing of Christ is presented as either a healthy warning or a comforting promise to encourage enduring obedience (just as our parents gave us when they went out for a while with a promise of soon return). Verse 16:15 states, “Behold I am coming quickly, blessed is he who watches…;” 22:7 reads, “Behold I am coming quickly, blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book;” and 22:12 records, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” The last words from our Lord to us until we see Him are “Surely, I am coming quickly.” John gives voice to the echo that ought to be in all believers’ hearts, “Amen (so be it). Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Our desires function best when we reflect the heart of God. Christ is coming, His return will be quick—lightning fast. Live in readiness. Trust and obey.