Saturday, 15 August 2020
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. Revelation 1:3
Here we have a description of how the church was initially set up to transmit and receive the word of God. It is something that is all but lost to the church today, with very few following the model laid out here. The verse begins with, “Blessed is he who reads.”
In the church, there was a Reader of the word. Someone would take the scroll or book, and he would read out loud to the congregation. At the time that Revelation was received, and even until very recent times in relation to the overall church age, owning a copy of the Bible, or even of a single book of the Bible, was a rare thing. They were expensive, time-consuming to make copies, and thus not widely available.
For most of this age, there may have been one copy in a town or village. This is where the term “chained to the pulpit” comes from. Bibles were so precious that they were carefully guarded. Unfortunately, this led to its own problems concerning doctrine and the like. However, for those churches who had a copy of the Bible, or even just copies of various books of the Bible, they were read aloud. Here we are told that the one who read the word was blessed.
John continues with, “and those who hear.” This is the congregation. The implication is that there is an open and public reading of the word. Those who have gathered to hear the word read are also promised a blessing. Of the words thus far, Vincent’s Word Studies makes the following comment –
“The passage is of some weight in determining the date of this book. The stated reading of the Apostolical writings did not exist as a received form before the destruction of Jerusalem, a.d. 70.”
As this is so, then the idea of the prophecies of Revelation being fulfilled in the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem is incorrect. In this, the preterist view of eschatology is found incorrect. Preterism is a flawed system which is not at all supported by the overall content of Scripture.
With this understanding, John continues with, “the words of this prophecy.” Here we are shown the main content of the book of Revelation. It is a book of prophecy. However, some of the prophecies are tied in with events that are written about in the present tense. This is particularly true concerning the seven letters to the seven churches that will be conveyed early in the book.
What is said in those verses details things that are actually occurring in individual churches at the time John recorded them. However, they are also events which continue to occur throughout the entire church age. Thus, the warnings given to those seven churches continue to apply to those in the church at all times – prophetically anticipating that the same problems will arise until the Lord comes for His church. This is why John continues with, “and keep.”
These words are directed to both the reader and the hearer. Just because someone is a reader, it does not give him a position where he can ignore what is read. In this, to hear implies not only the physical act of hearing, but of attentively listening and assimilating what is heard.
To “keep” is to then observe what has been assimilated. The idea of “keeping” goes back to the Hebrew word shamar. It signifies to be circumspect, keep, observe, and so on. It comes from a primitive root signifying to hedge about (as with thorns) and thus to guard. Moses uses the word when speaking to Israel, telling them to both hear and keep what he presented to them.
As an active example concerning this, when one keeps the sheep, he observes, guards, protects, and so on. The idea is beautifully expressed in the 121st Psalm when referring to the Lord –
“He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121:3, 4
Just as the Lord attentively keeps Israel, so we are to not only “hear” the word, but we are to “keep” the word. Further, the verb is given as a present participle, active voice – “keeping.” When hearing the word, we are then to constantly keep, from moment to moment. The active voice says that we are to apply our keeping as the agent of the action.
With this understanding, the word “blessed” can be explained. In its most basic sense, it means “happy.” From that, one can think of fortunate, or well off. One should simply consider that in reading and keeping the words of Revelation, they will remain happy even in a world that is troubling, filled with terrifying events, and so on. The final pages of the book show what life will be like for the Lord’s redeemed in the eternal state. In “keeping” that in one’s heart, one can be happy through the most difficult of all human trials.
John then says what is to be kept with the words, “those things which are written in it.” The verb translated as “which are written” is a perfect participle. They have been written, nothing more will be coming, and the word stands as such. What has been received is all that will be coming.
Because Revelation is the last book of the Christian canon, it shows us that no further prophetic word is to be expected. Anyone who claims prophetic revelation is to be ignored. God’s word is complete and no “prophecy,” or “word from the Lord” is to be expected after the reception of this final book. It is a simple note which should, if understood and accepted as such, keep those in the church free from being duped by people who claim visions and prophecies. Unfortunately, this precept is widely ignored, and many are led down unhealthy avenues of deceit.
Lastly, John gives an explicit reason for hearing and keeping. He says, “for the time is near.” The word translated as “time” is kairos. It signifies “the opportune time.” It is a particular moment, rather than an ongoing chronology of time. The word signifying “near” means at hand, or ready. Thus, in the sense of time, it speaks of that which is imminent. However, it does not necessarily mean that it is expected to happen and be fulfilled within any given timeframe.
The words to the seven churches are spoken as of “right now.” And yet, those types which are given can be reapplied at any time and to any church. Therefore, the time of such events is always near. As this is so, then what can be anticipated for those things after the church is removed can be (and so far, have been) thousands of years later. Christians are always expected to watch for events that will usher in the anticipated next age.
Life application: As noted, there is a blessing promised to those who (in context of the time this was written):
- Read – the one who recites the words of the book of prophecy aloud to others.
- Hear – those who listen to the reader as it is read aloud.
Both of these categories will receive their blessing if they keep what they have heard. In other words, we can refer to the words of James 1:22-25 –
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
Anyone can sit and read the Bible or listen to it being read and then go on with their life, completely unaffected by its message. But it takes a discerning soul to hear the words, believe them, and apply them to their lives. This then is where the blessing comes from.
As far as the church age, it is of indeterminate length. Just because John wrote this almost 2000 years ago, that has no bearing on the nearness of the moment from God’s perspective. It is a mistake in thinking that because the amount of time has been lengthy from our perspective that the admonition here is somehow faulty. We don’t know the times and seasons which are at God’s authority. We are to live our lives as if Jesus’ return could come at any time.
Lord God, as the words of the Bible unfold before us as we hear it read, or read it ourselves, help us to take them to heart and apply them to our lives. May we be changed by the words, renewing our hearts and minds, and growing more like You every day. May this be so, and may it be to Your glory. Amen.