Some have taken this to mean that the prophecies of the book of Revelation have all taken place. One would then have to conclude that even the Second Coming of the Messiah would have taken place, because similar phrases occur in the 22nd chapter after the Second Coming has occurred and the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth is past.
Concerning the phrase, “must shortly take place”, it is also used in Revelation 22:6 after the Second Coming and the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth. This word, shortly, is translated ‘quickly’ in Acts 12:7 and 22:18. In Luke 18:8 it is translated speedily. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the meaning of this phrase in Revelation 1:1 and 22:6 is most likely ‘with speed.’ In other words, when the events of the book of Revelation begin to unfold they will do so rapidly.
In addition, the book of James sheds light on the phrase, “is at hand (near).” He wrote that the “coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:8) That was more than 1900 years ago. He obviously did not mean that it would take place soon. What he did mean is that the return of the Messiah was imminent. In other words, it could happen at any time. For in the following verse he wrote, “Behold the Judge is standing at the door!” The image is of one who has left and is about to return. He is standing on the other side of the door. All that is necessary is for Him to open the door. As mere creatures, we do not know when that will be. However, Scripture exhorts us to be ready and to be looking for “the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)
Both these phrases indicate the certainty and the immanency of the events. Jesus is coming again and it can happen at any time! This is not to put us in panic mode, but it should motivate us to become productive servants focused on opportunities that will have an impact for eternity. For “the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (I John 2:17)