This morning I reread the first three verses of Revelation with the aim of moving on into the next paragraph. As often happens, something new stood out to me and kept me from moving further into the book. I suddenly realized that the word “must” means something different from the word “will”. The book of Revelation is not Jesus telling us the things he knows “will” happen, but unveiling the things that “must” happen.
The word “must” makes this a prophecy of the things that are determined by the plans and purposes of God. This is not Jesus telling his persecuted children that he merely knows what will happen. This is Jesus telling his persecuted children that he is in full control of what happens. For all his plans to be fulfilled, these are the things that must soon take place.
This draws the attention of the reader and the hearers to the sovereign purposes of their God. He is not telling us that he only knows things will happen, as praiseworthy as that would be, but that he makes things happen. These beasts, and antichrists, and prostitutes, and Babylons, and armies of the earth that will persecute and martyr God’s people will carry out what must happen for the rebellion of man to be thoroughly witnessed and brought to an end, and the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ to be thoroughly witnessed and glorified.
What added to my blessing was realizing that this is the pattern of Scripture, to refer to prophecy as God’s declaration of what “must” happen because of his sovereign lordship over his creation. Here are some examples.
Jesus prepared his disciples for his death by telling them, “…that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
At the time of Jesus’ arrest, his disciples still did not understood what he had told them, so Peter took out his sword to try to defend his Messiah. Jesus responded by saying, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”
Afer his death he reminded them of what he had told them, that, “...everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
There are many other such references that bring out the clear picture that prophecy is not God’s claim to merely know what “will” happen in the coming times and seasons, but that he has determined what “must” happen. He is sovereign over everything the world, the flesh, and the devil attempt against him.
Peter spoke to this very thing on the day of Pentecost when he was explaining to the crowd the significance of the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus’ disciples. He declared:
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Peter’s point was that Jesus was delivered up to be crucified by the “definite plan” and the “foreknowledge of God”. God did not just foreknow that Jesus would die, but he had a definite plan to use the death of his Son to give life to his people. This is the same as Jesus saying that these things “must” happen because God had planned and purposed them.
Now that I have had time to meditate on this wonderful difference between “will” and “must” I am all the more attentive to see how the book of Revelation will show the definite plans and foreknowledge of God telling us what must soon take place no matter what the enemies of God are able to do during this short time.
Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, so everything must unfold according to his sovereign will. Jesus’ disciples must persevere in living by faith knowing that the darkest night is surrounded by the prophecies of victory that must be fulfilled. No matter what we see, faith knows that we can trust what Jesus says. What Jesus said must be fulfilled regarding his first coming was fulfilled just as he said. We will one day find the same to be true about all the things the book of Revelation says must soon take place.
© 2012 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org