For many Christians, the book of Revelation might be a terrifying book. Objectively, all this talk of serpents, battles, and judgement might be enough to send a chill down anyone’s spine. Paradoxically, this letter was actually written to be a blessing to its hearers.

The following article was adapted from the Reformed Expository Commentary.

A Means of Blessing

Revelation is a means of divine blessing for those who read, hear, and keep its message. John concludes his prologue with this invitation:

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3).

Since the God who originated this book is still the God who reigns over all with wisdom and power, those who read and believe Revelation will be supernaturally blessed even today.

To the reader

John specifies blessing, first, on “the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy” (Rev. 1:3). The order of the churches listed in Revelation 2–3 follows the path that a messenger would take from city to city. This suggests that John intended the letter to go from one to the next so that it could be read aloud in each congregation. In a time of persecution, this action required courage and a strong devotion to Jesus, for which the reader was sure to be blessed by God. Moreover, just as many of Revelation’s visions take place largely amid the worship of heaven, so was its reading an act of worship on earth.

By showing us how God’s will is done in heavenly worship, St. John reveals how the Church is to perform His will on earth.” — David Chilton

To the hearer

God’s blessing was furthermore given to “those who hear,” and specifically to those “who keep what is written in it” (Rev. 1:3). To keep the book of Revelation is to treasure its message and obey the commands of Christ given in it. This connects with John’s description of his readers as God’s “servants” (1:1). Literally, the word doulos means “slave.” The point is that true believers are those who accept the obligation of obeying God’s commands, and who not only give outward agreement to the Bible but also confirm it in the faithfulness of their lives. These servants, and these alone, are blessed by God through the grace that comes through his Word.

Are you ready?

The urgency of receiving Revelation is made clear by the final words of John’s prologue: “for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3). One of the lamentable tendencies in the study of Revelation is to believe that it focuses only on the return of Christ to end history. Under this reasoning, many if not most sermons on Revelation conclude with the question, “Are you ready for Jesus’ coming?” It is true that Revelation foretells a great event that Christians must face. But that great event is not the second coming, at least not first of all.

Rather, the event that in Revelation’s view is soon to arrive is the persecution of the Christian church by the bloodthirsty world. To be sure, Christ’s coming is near—either through the help he gives us now or in his final coming to end all history; John’s appeal to the urgency of his writing pertains to his church’s obedience to the commands and promises of Christ in the face of violent worldly persecution.

Blessing then and now

Every Christian can be blessed now, John promises, though facing persecution and beset with weakness and sin, by hearing and keeping the saving testimony of the Bible. We are blessed in our trials by God’s Word. I earlier compared Revelation to fairy tales, such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, which lift up the hearts of crying children. For this same reason, God gave the revelation of Jesus Christ to his servant John for the churches of Asia.

In this respect, Revelation presents the same message as given by Paul at the end of Romans 8. It is true, Paul notes, that Christians in this life are “as sheep to be slaughtered”. Yet when through faith we enter the glorious kingdom of Christ’s resurrection power, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”.

Receiving in Revelation the good news that “The Lamb Wins,” we are blessed above all other blessings to be persuaded that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:36–39).

Keep Reading

Did you find this excerpt compelling? We didn’t have the space to including the section’s previous entries on Revelation as apocalyptic prophecy, as historical letter, and as gospel testimony. With the Reformed Expository Commentary, you get an attentive and detailed exposition of the whole Bible. Get your copy today!

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