Revelation 1:3, “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.”
This morning, we frail mortals fail to consider what great blessings are afforded to us. Man’s nature consistently desires more than he currently possesses, and as a result, fails to be thankful for the plentitude that he has. Many years ago, I heard a minister comment on the “unseen thanks” through what we are thankful for. One of his examples hit me squarely, “We hear about people being thankful for a good night’s rest, and we should be. But, when was the last time you thanked God for a bed to get that good night’s rest in?” Though we should be thankful for daily bread, do we thank Him for a table to eat it on? Having a good job to provide for our families, do we thank Him for a comfortable vehicle to drive to and from said employment? So, often we thank God for salvation and redemption, but how often are we contemplative to thank Him for our “place” in knowing that?
In opening the book of Revelation, John sets many foundational principles in place, and one of them is a blessed condition to those who have the opportunity to employ it. This opportunity has been afforded to me, and if it applies to you, dear reader, then we have every reason for supreme thanks to God for His untold goodness to us. The condition that John describes is such that not every heir of grace will have such opportunity to be so blessed. While their salvation and redemption is secure in Jesus Christ, their condition here on earth could be more blessed with the description that John gives.
The first principle of this condition is “Blessed is he that readeth.” Following the sentence structure of the verse, the reading under consideration is the words of this prophecy. Someone who has access to these words to read is blessed beyond the condition of someone who does not. The words of the book have the ability to transform our lives through the gleaned information within the pages. Years ago, I remember my natural father saying, “I’m really glad we’re blessed to read, for if it took full understanding, then I would be left out. But friends, I can be blessed in the reading, whether I fully understand everything or not.” Consider our state today. Currently, I have a Bible in just about every room of my house. Of my four children, the two oldest are already in possession of their own copy of Holy Writ. How blessed we are!
Looking through the accounts of church history, many of the saints of old were forbidden from owning Scriptures or even had to share them due to their poor and destitute condition. Today we have ready access to the blessed word, and by opening and reading, we are blessed to grow in knowledge of the workings of our Lord for and to us. Notice for a moment what it does not say. Not only does it not say that blessedness comes from understanding, it also does not say that blessedness comes from possessing the words. Though I have a Bible in most rooms of my house, that ownership does not transform me into the blessed condition without the actual reading of it.
The next phrase “they that hear the words of this prophecy” shows one of those subtle shifts of focus in Scripture. The first phrase focused on the individual, but the second phrase focuses on a group. We can read and learn while by ourselves, but John furthers the discussion on the blessed condition by describing a group activity of hearing the words of this prophecy declared. As Paul said about this activity in I Corinthians 1:18, it is the “power of God” for those that are saved. For the child of God, nothing in this world compares to hearing the words of this prophecy declared with gospel authority for the comfort and edification of the soul.
The setting of the preaching of the gospel or declaring of these words occurs within the context of the “they” rather than the “he.” However, notice the order, which I do not believe is arbitrary. The reading precedes the hearing, and the benefit of the gospel always expands when we have been putting forth due diligence beforehand as individuals. A fervent brother told me recently, “Every sermon you’re preaching lately is touching on things that I’ve been reading.” My reply was rather obvious, “The more you read, the more likely that is to happen.” While my reply is a statistical probability, the reality is that the more prepared we are for the heralding of the gospel, the more we will rejoice and get out of it.
Just like I have possession of so many Bibles, I was brought up all my life going to church and listening to the truth of the gospel declared. Sometimes I feel rather ashamed that I had to work so little to find the church and hunt for the truth as it was laid before me over and over. However, I try now to be thankful that God has been so good to me to present such an opportunity as I have had in my life to be so blessed. I could not number up the amount of gospel sermons that I have heard, nor could I begin to fathom the depths of benefit that it has given me that I would not have otherwise. Truly, I have been supremely favored to have these opportunities that so very many in the family of Almighty God have not ever been exposed to.
Lastly, John finishes by showing the end product of reading as individuals and hearing as congregations with “keep those things which are written therein.” So often, we get shortsighted about the impact of our reading and hearing. The goal is not to say, “Well, I have read my Bible, and I went to church this week. Check!” The goal in our reading and hearing is to then keep those things which we are exposed to. It starts with David’s declaration in Psalm 119:11. We keep these commands when we hide the Lord’s word in our heart. The end result? So that we would not sin against Him. With our reading, we should treasure and keep those things close, and by so doing, we will find ourselves better informed to deal with the situations that life throws at us. By keeping in memory what is preached, we will save (deliver) ourselves from a myriad of problems. (I Corinthians 15:4)
Coupled with this last condition of blessedness is the statement about the time being at hand. Without getting bogged down about what the time at hand is not about, what is John describing in the context? John’s thrust at the outset of the book is to declare that this book is about Jesus Christ, and what John saw pertains to Him. In conjunction with the book being about Christ, we are blessed if we have been exposed to these things through reading, preaching, and keeping – particularly keeping. Part of the zeal we experience in keeping these things is that the time is at hand. Notice how the statements of John line up Paul and Hosea. In Romans 13:11 and Hosea 10:12, both writers encourage their readers in much the same way that John does.
The time we have before us is to seek the Lord. Do we know how to do that? If we have read, heard, and strive to keep, then yes we do know how to do that. Is that blessed? Absolutely! Not only does our conscience bear witness to these things, but we have a plethora of knowledge to corroborate what our conscience tells us between right and wrong. Have we read or heard lately? It is time! Have we been keeping? It is time! So much of my life mirrors the old songwriter of that wonderful hymn “Thus Far the Lord Has Led Me On.” He said, “Much of my time has run to waste, and I perhaps am near my home. But He forgives my follies past and gives me strength for days to come.” The fact that we still have breath and life means that we should seek to redeem what we have rather than consistently throw it to waste. Others have not the opportunity to read the words of this prophecy. Let us who own these words read them faithfully and regularly. Others have not the opportunity to assemble with the saints to hear the gospel proclaimed. Let us who know the joyful sound be instant to appear in His courts when the doors are open. And, let us who have been blessed with these truths of knowledge seek the Lord in the keeping of His word. Shall we seize these opportunities? It is time…