What does “for the time is at hand” mean in Revelations 1:3?
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3, ESV)
The book of Revelation is by far one of the hardest books to interpret. It may discourage many from even cracking its pages. And yet John points out that there is a great blessing for anyone who reads Revelation.
Eschatology, the study of the end times, is also one of the most difficult studies to undergo. There is a lot we don’t understand. We should not be discouraged in discussing these matters or trying to understand them.
We are called as Christians to read the words of the prophecy of Revelation. It is first and foremost a prophetic book about our future. Most of what occurs in Revelation has yet to happen. We are expected to read the book, hear its words, and to keep the prophecies written there.
To keep the prophecy we must observe it and guard against people trying to hide it away. Even though we don’t completely understand it, it needs to be on our minds. We need to do our best to understand it.
Then John gives the reason for why we must read it, listen to it, and keep it. The time is at hand, or near. The word for “at hand” or “near” is a word used by Jesus when he talks about the kingdom of God being near you.
Jesus represented the kingdom of God and he was among the people when he said this. But he was also about to inaugurate God’s kingdom with his death, and so it was near them as far as the timing of it. It was about to happen in the near future.
This is probably the best way to understand the words of this prophecy of Revelation. Even 2000 years ago when John wrote this prophecy it was close to happening. So any time after Revelation was written, the prophecy is near us.
It is about to happen. It is a close future for us. This is why we must read and attempt to understand the prophecy. Many, especially those who have a futuristic view of the book, have attempted to interpret the book in lieu of current events.
Others saw the prophecy of Revelation happening during John the apostle’s time. Some saw it happening as soon after this time. And they’re still others who take a spiritualist approach to the book, seeing it as more symbolic and figurative than literal.
Some people may argue that this phrase “for the time is near” doesn’t refer to time, since we have been waiting for 2000 years for the prophecies to begin happening. But we must also remember that God takes a long view of time.
When he told John to record these prophecies, nobody knows how long it will take for them to begin happening. But for God, who is outside of time, the time is short and these prophecies are near to happening.
God has a completely different perspective of time that humans do. Because our lifespan is not very long, we become impatient for the events prophesied to happen now. We do not know when these prophecies will begin to happen.
This is why we must be ever vigilant and prepared for the end times events to begin. For us, the prophecies of Revelation and end times events should always be “near.” We must live as though they are about to happen.