Prologue and Blessings Part 3 of 3 (Rev. series)
by John Lowe
The angel sent by God is unnamed. He is simply referred to as “His angel.” The order of the Revelation is from God, to Christ—then by Christ’s angel to John, and then to us . . . to all believers, servants, bondsman . . . all who are born again.
2 Who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
John, while in the Spirit, saw a vision and then faithfully reported . . . everything he saw. John saw what will literally take place upon this earth and in heaven at the culmination of all things. He saw the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Revelation, according to John, is God’s Word—not simply John’s narration of what he saw. It is an eternal message. The expression “the testimony of Jesus Christ” underlines how uniform this communication was, for while the revelation of prophecy is often radical, it is always uniform. God never contradicts Himself. The book of Revelation builds on the testimony of Jesus Christ. It expands and explains many of the things He taught in the Olivet Discourse, which in turn were based on statements in the book of Daniel and elsewhere in the Old Testament. The testimony “of” Jesus Christ could also be translated “from” Jesus Christ. The words of this book describe the promises and actions of God that have come true through Jesus. Revelation, as difficult as it may be to understand, should not be neglected. It should be read and studied, for it is the Word of God and the testimony of Christ to all believers, from the first century to today. We must keep an eye on things in the light of what the book has to say.
When a so-called Christian says that he does not understand the Book of Revelation, it makes me wonder, because this book was given to us in order that we might understand these mysteries of the kingdom of God.
3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
The book of Revelation promises a blessing—and warns of a curse. The blessing stated here and again in Revelation 22:7 is for those who read the book and keep the things that are written in it. The curse is described in Revelation 22:18-19, and will happen to those who tamper with the message of this prophecy. Some preachers today declare that this book is a frightening book, a book to be ignored, however, the Holy Spirit at the very beginning declares that it is a blessed book, and that it brings joy and eternal pleasure to the soul that reads it—those who read Revelation—whether in public or in private, whether they read it aloud or silently, may rest assured of the Lord's blessing because it is promised here, and God cannot break His promise. However, God have mercy on some of the men who tamper with the book of Revelation in this day of liberalism and lying prophets!
“Blessed” means “God blesses those who” or “God’s blessing is upon.” This promise sets John’s writings apart from other Jewish apocalyptic literature and points out that these words were inspired by God. This is the first of seven beatitudes in Revelation (see also 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14).
Who is it that is blessed? The one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy. The public reading of Scripture was common in Jewish heritage (see, for example, Nehemiah 8:2-3; Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15). Christians also read Scripture aloud in public because copies of the Gospels and the letters of the apostles were not available to every believer. Someone—usually a scribe or someone trained in writing and reading text—would be chosen to read aloud portions of the text. Later, the office of “reader” became a position in the church.
Scripture reading was an important event. In addition to the reader, blessed also are those who hear and keep what is written. This echoes Jesus’ words in Luke 11:28: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God2 and keep it” (NKJV). “Hear” and “keep” (take to heart) are important terms and major themes in the book. Used together, they mean “to persevere in faithful obedience.” The man who hears these words is blessed. We do well to remember how great a privilege it is to hear the word of God in our own language, a privilege which was dearly bought. Men died to give it to us; and the professional clergy sought for a long time to keep it to themselves. The man who takes these words to heart is blessed. To hear God’s word is a privilege; to obey it is a duty. There is no real Christianity in the man who hears and forgets or deliberately disregards God’s word. The blessed ones are those who come to church to hear God’s Word and then keep (obey) it so that it changes their lives—“until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
Revelation is a book of prophesy that is both prediction (foretelling future events) and proclamation (preaching about who God is and what He will do). Prophesy is more than telling the future, for in a sense it is God’s truth communicated to humankind. Behind the predictions are important principles about God’s character and promises. These words will bless the hearers because through them they can get to know God better and be able to trust Him more completely. The words are more than just predictions of the future; they include moral instruction that the listeners were to “hear” and “keep.”
The phrase “the time is near” is like the phrase “what must soon take place” in 1:1 and refers to imminence. Believers must be ready for Christ’s second coming. The Last Judgment and the establishment of God’s kingdom are certainly near. No one knows when these events will occur, so all believers must be prepared. They will happen quickly, with no second chance to change minds or sides. At any time in history, God could have ordered events to precipitate the return of Christ.
Someone may be saying, “The writer John must have been mistaken, or he must have misunderstood, because it has been 2000 years since those words were dictated to John the Beloved.” But again—let me remind you that ever since Jesus came to this earth, was crucified, buried and rose again, and ascended back to the Father where He is now seated at the right hand of the Father to mediate for us (1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 1:3), we had been living in the last days. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath IN THESE LAST DAYS spoken unto us by His Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1, 2). Here the Holy Spirit clearly testifies that these are the LAST DAYS. I emphasize the statement: Since the Church began, we had been living in the last days. Jesus came to this earth literally in the “end time,” or—the end of the world. Since Jesus came and died on the cross, we have been living in the closing days of time. Therefore, these things will soon come to pass,” and truthfully, the time is near!”
1 This book is the revelation of Jesus Christ, but it is also true that the whole Bible is too, for all revelation comes through Christ, and all of it relates to Him.
2 The “word of God” refers, I believe, to both Christ and the contents of this book. He is the living Word, and when the written Word reveals Him to us he is the living Word, you may be sure of that.