Can you explain to me what this verse means? "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done" (Revelation 22:12). I was asked how this would be quick if the promise was made nearly 2,000 years ago.
The Greek word tachu is used for two different purposes depending on the context. It most often is used to state something is happening soon or immediately, but it can also be used to refer to something that happens suddenly or by surprise. "As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him" (John 11:29), is a clear example of the first meaning. "Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth" (Revelation 2:16) appears to be more on the order of the second meaning.
Since throughout the New Testament we are told that Jesus' return will be not be pre-announced, such as: "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (Matthew 24:44), it would be consistent with the Bible to read the three passages in Revelation 22 as referring to the sudden and unexpectedness of Christ's return since final judgment is the topic under discussion.
"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:7).
"And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work" (Revelation 22:12).
"He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20).
I noted in researching this that while the double meaning is widely acknowledged by Greek scholars when to use which meaning is often debated.
In addition, there are several places where Jesus hints that his return will not happen until after a long time:
"But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,' and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know" (Matthew 24:48-50; also Luke 12:45).
"Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep" (Matthew 25:5).
"Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them" (Matthew 25:19).
"And He began to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time"" (Luke 20:9).
Peter warned that the delay would be long enough that people would begin to believe it will never happen: "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation'" (II Peter 3:3-4). The reason for the continued existence of the world is God's desire to save as many as He can. "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (II Peter 3:8-9). Time doesn't have the same meaning to the eternal God as it does to mortal man. God will keep His promise, but He will execute it when He sees best.