John wrote the book of Revelation near the end of the first century AD, and the book begins its conclusion with Jesus’ admonition, “Behold I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:7, ESV). The New King James Version reads, “Behold I am coming quickly.” Nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus made this proclamation, and He still hasn’t come back yet. It is fair to ask what Jesus meant when He said, “Behold I am coming soon.” The Greek word translated “soon” here is tachus, a word that denotes immediacy and suddenness.
To understand the immediacy and suddenness of Jesus’ coming, even though it has been delayed for two millennia, consider Jesus’ exhortation that His listeners should make friends “quickly” (tachus) with their opponents at law “while you are still together on the way” (Matthew 5:25). The speed of the action itself is to be set in motion when the conditions are in place—“when you are on the way to court,” (NLT).
After the resurrection of Jesus, an angel spoke to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, telling them to come see the place where Jesus had been lying and to go “quickly” (tachus) and tell the disciples (Matthew 28:6–7). Per the angel’s instructions, before the women could go “quickly,” they had to see the place where Jesus had been. When they left, they did so “quickly” (Matthew 28:8), but, even then, they encountered Jesus and talked with Him (Matthew 28:9–10). So, they moved with haste, but there were several circumstances that delayed their arrival to tell the disciples the good news. In the same way, the book of Revelation presents a series of events that will precede Jesus’ return to earth. He says, “Behold I am coming quickly” (NKJV), but He doesn’t say is coming right away. Jesus’ coming will be sudden and hasty, but there are many prophetic fulfillments that will happen before He comes.
Paul illustrates the idea of suddenness coupled with delay in 1 Corinthians 15 when he unveils the mystery that we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51). In a moment so sudden that it can be compared to a twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52), that transformation will occur. The event will happen “quickly,” but it might not happen soon (though imminent, the rapture has been delayed for two millennia). When it happens, it will happen suddenly and completely. Even though Paul doesn’t use the word tachus in this context, he shows that an event can happen quickly even if it is preceded by a lengthy delay.
Jesus says, “Behold I am coming quickly!” When He comes, He will judge and reward. The prophecy about His sudden coming is given to encourage believers that they can trust Him, that the time is short, and that they should make the most of the time they are given (see Ephesians 5:16).