Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book
Do not seal is μὴ σφραγίσῃς [mē sphragisēs] , you should not seal. Daniel was told to shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase (Dan. Dan. 12:4).
In the context, the search for knowledge seems to be the main idea. . . . John Calvin translated it, Many shall investigate, and knowledge shall increase. Leupold interprets the verse to mean, Many shall diligently peruse it, and knowledge shall be increased. In the Hebrew, the word for knowledge is haddaʿat , literally, the knowledge, that is, understanding of this long prophecy. Some consider the sentence as referring to the eyes of a reader running to and fro in reading the Word of God (cf. 2Chr. 2Chr. 16:9). . . . As Young goes on to explain, what the angel is saying to Daniel is that for the immediate future, attempts to understand these prophecies will be in vain, but in the time of the end, when these prophecies will become especially pertinent, additional understanding will be given.1Unlike Daniel, John is told not to seal the words. What is the primary difference between that which Daniel recorded and the revelation now given to John? In a word, timing! When Daniel was given his vision, he was told to seal up the vision for it refers to many days in the future (Dan. Dan. 8:26). Much of what was revealed to Daniel could not possibly take place for at least 500 years, for it concerned the time of the end and could not transpire until after the First Coming of Jesus when He died on the cross to accomplish redemption. Johns vision is given after the cross, when no more preconditions remain for the fulfillment of what he is shown. The Second Coming of Christ was not imminent in Daniels day, now it is. There is also the matter of progressive revelation. As we have seen, the book of Revelation is very heavily dependent upon the book of Daniel. In a very real sense, the book of Revelation completes the revelation which was originally given to Daniel:
The revelation given to Daniel covered so much territory and expanded over such a long period of time that he was unable to understand much of what he wrote. Daniel was told to seal his book [Dan. Dan. 12:4, Dan. 12:8-9] until the time when many of the prophecies would be explained and clarified by later revelation. With the book of Revelation, much of the Book of Daniel has been clarified, expanded, detailed, and explained. So John, in contrast to Daniel, was told not to seal up his book, for all prophecy can now be understood and its fulfillment could begin at any time.2Since it is not a sealed book, it is then obvious that it is meant to be understood and not shrouded in undecipherable mystery and allusion:
What a rebuke to the negligence, the neglect, the sneering, ignorant arrogance, shown by most of Christendom toward The Revelation! Our Lord Jesus may declare it an open, unsealed, understandable book; men say it is filled with unintelligible language and mystic symbols. Christ says: Blessed is he that readeth; men say: Let it alone, you cannot understand it.3
Dare we suppose that the merciful Jesus would hang his benedictions so high as to be beyond the reach of those to whom they are so graciously proposed? Would he mock us by suspending his offered blessings on terms beyond our power? Yet this is the charge men bring against their Redeemer when they think to plead the incomprehensibility of this Book for their neglect and practical rejection of it. The very propounding of these blessings and rewards is Gods own seal to the possibility of understanding this Book equally with any other part of Scripture. Would he, the God of truth. lie to us? Would he, the God of mercy, mock us? Would he who gave his life for us, and ever lives and ministers in heaven and earth for our enlightenment and salvation, give us a Book to tell us of the outcome of all his gracious operations, command us to note its words, to believe and treasure its contents, and promise us a special blessedness in so doing, if what he has thus put into our hands is not at all within the limits of our comprehension and successful mastery? . . . Therefore these very benedictions pronounce against the common notion that this Book is too difficult for ordinary Christians, and rebuke all who despise and avoid it.4for the time is at hand.
At hand is ἐγγύς ἐστιν [engys estin] : near it is . The almost identical phrase occurs at Revelation Rev. 1:3+. See commentary on Revelation 1:3.
The reason the prophecy is not to be sealed is because the time had arrived in which the contents of the prophecy were relevant to those living even in the time of John. The expectation of Christs imminent return for the Church is evident throughout the NT and continues among healthy congregations even to our own time.
A natural reading of the New Testament yields the truth that to the early church Jesus coming was imminent; that is, that it could happen at any time. They believed that He could come back for them in their lifetime. For the early church, imminence contained elements both of certainty and uncertainty. They were certain that Jesus would one day return, but (unlike numerous modern date setters) were uncertain when. Not knowing when He might return, they wisely lived prepared for and hoping for Jesus to return at any moment.5According to Scripture, Christ could return for the Church before we finish writing the commentary for this chapter! The contents of the book of Revelation concern themes which are vital for the Church to understand. They serve as a motivator for godly living, for evangelization, and guard us from deceiving ourselves into thinking that the world will, by and large, convert to Christ. The exact opposite is shown to be true here. As Paul said, Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition (2Th. 2Th. 2:3).
4 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 514.
5 John MacArthur, Revelation 12-22 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2000), Rev. 22:6.