"Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”
Revelation 1:3 KJV
The apostle John receives a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him (Rev 1:1-2).
The fact that this message is from God means that this is the Word of God to us, and nothing less. John declares a blessing at the opening of Revelation. He says that there is a blessing in reading this text, as is always true of reading God’s Word. God speaks to us in order that we might know Him, and there is no greater blessing in the entire world than knowing the living God. We should not allow this to become a trivial phrase in our Christianity.
The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Christians will do nothing less for all of eternity. God is the source of all that is good, all that is true, and all that is beautiful. The most awe-inspiring things you’ve seen in this world are simply the work of his hands. You’re in awe of creation, which is not bad. But you have to realize that the creation is just that, creation. It came from somewhere. God actually brought it into existence.
How glorious must God be to be able to bring about a pink-clouded sunset, a snowstorm, to give us the blessings of friends, laughter, and good food? God made the rhino, the giraffe, the ladybug, and the human body. These things offer a vulgar comparison with God, for he is incomparable, but the point is that God is better than all of this combined. It all has come from his hand and is upheld by Him. Don’t get caught up in the gifts in and of themselves, but instead be thoroughly marked by gratitude in recognition that they are all gifts from the Giver of all things, for the end of the gifts is meant to be His praise.
With that, I hope we agree that it is the greatest of blessings to be a reader of the Almighty God’s Word to His creatures. The privilege is high.
THE CENTRALITY OF WORSHIP
John says the blessing is also for those who hear. John here is showing us that this book was not meant simply for private devotional reading by individuals but for reading to be heard, that is public reading, which was done typically within churches. The book of Revelation was given to be read publicly in the churches. Revelation is, in fact, liturgical in nature.
Worship is a central theme of Revelation, and should always be a central theme of our lives. God demands all worship be unto Him in all the earth. And may it be so. May God receive all glory and honor and praise in all the earth! That is a good battle cry. But it has to start with the church. Until the church is unapologetic and consistent in seeking to obey Jesus and apply His commands to all of their lives, the world will continue to worship many false gods.
HUMBLE CONFIDENCE AND DECLARATION
Why do we go out to the abortion clinic and preach? Babies are being slaughtered, and God hates murder. The reason babies are murdered is because mothers and fathers of these children are worshipping false gods. God’s of convenience, vocation, vanity, sex. We have to be the people who call out these idols. We need to kill these idols in our own hearts by taking them to God in repentant prayer, and from there cry out against these idols on the streets as well as in the little conversations God gives us with work and other relationships.
And this dynamic of having to repent of our sin before going out to preach to others is a grace that keeps us from self-righteousness. Think about the book of Acts. You have Paul himself blinded by the Lord, only later to boldly bring about the blinding of a sorcerer opposed to the gospel. Peter requires a vision from God that repeats itself three times before he understands that all things are clean and the gospel is for the Gentiles, but then in chapter 15 he is the one boldly teaching that salvation is for all simply through faith in Christ rather than circumcision and adherence to the law of Moses.
Preaching boldly in light of that which is right is the call of the Christian, and God has designed it in such a way that we do so with the utmost humility, knowing we have nothing apart from the blood of Jesus.
DON'T LOWER THE STANDARD
With that, do not do what we all often do and find a way to shirk good, biblical responsibilities. Kill remaining sin, go evangelize, because Jesus wants the victory, and he wants it through You. And since Revelation asserts that Jesus will bring that victory, Your obedience is crucial.
Please do not hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that you need to work yourself up into obedience. God does everything. He gifts us faith to believe, and he gifts us with the grace to obey. It’s all Him. But, in light of the knowledge that God is working through us, we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. And in our sin, we want a low bar for the working out. Well guess what, it’s not a low bar at all! The bar is perfection, which never changes. God demands perfection. Perfect worship, perfect thought life, perfect outward obedience each and every moment.
We don’t have hope in a low bar of obedience we can attain to. We have hope in God, who sent His Son, the God man, Jesus Christ, to live a life in complete alignment with God’s perfect, holy standard. No shortcuts, not a lower bar. He perfectly fulfilled all of the law, and the Bible is clear that He did that to be a propitiation for our sins. So we have hope because God crushed Jesus instead of us. Jesus took the curse for our sin and we were freely given his righteousness. Jesus has been raised from the dead, which the Bible says is the seal of our justification. He ascended and now reigns in heaven from the right hand of God Almighty.
So strive to be like Jesus, don’t seek to lower the bar. God will not be mocked. He hates the self-righteousness that comes about through our lowering of His call to perfection. Strive to be like Jesus while simultaneously resting in Him. You won’t earn God’s favor. You literally can’t. But you can freely have it through faith in Christ.
God cares deeply about our worship unto Him. And God promises to bless our hearing of God’s Word to us if, as the text goes on to say, we keep those things which are written therein.
God wants not just hearers of His Word but doers. Let’s hold each other accountable to not grow in knowledge that puffs up. We want to be doers of God’s Word who seek to obey Him because we love Him. He has loved us with an incomparable love that is only believable because God has declared it to be so and given us eyes to see such a glorious reality. The Holy God gave His Son for You. He died for you, how could you do any less than live for him.
HEAR AND KEEP
Lastly, we see John conclude with a statement thematic to Revelation. For the second time in the first three verses, John addresses the timing of this prophecy.
John is very clear at the start of his letter to the seven churches. He essentially says, it’s about to go down. Hear what I’m saying, because the time is near. You will be blessed to listen, because this is what is coming.
We need to hear and keep God’s Word as Christians. That is a broad principle that always applies. But these seven churches are about to be told prophecies that will radically change the world around them in tangible ways. John takes the time to emphasize out the gate that the time is surely at hand. John will tell these churches of things that must shortly take place, for the time is near.