The First Key to Revelation: The Overlooked Blessings
When most people hear the name of the New Testament book, “Revelation,” what initially comes to mind are the intense prophetic images, the stern warnings to repent, fiery judgments, and the question of when all those events described will come to pass. One of the least likely things people think about in connection with Revelation is the concept of blessing. However, promised blessings are exactly how the book begins! Someone pointed out that Revelation has seven verses that contain blessings (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). Years ago a friend of mine explained that he believes Rev. 1:3 to be one of the initial keys to understanding the epistle. Let’s focus on the blessings mentioned in this passage and unpack these promises.
“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).
1. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy…”
According to one commentator, “In John’s day, the vast majority of people could not read and therefore learned aurally. The responsibility of those who heard it read in a church is clear from the final instructions in 22:18–19 (NICNT).”
There is a blessing placed on the person who served his church family by reading aloud the words of Christ to his brothers and sisters. There was an expectation of faithfulness to the task, to accurately communicate John’s vision to those who listened. The same is true of those today who
teach and preach. If they faithfully speak the truth of the gospel in love, they will be blessed.
2. “Blessed are those who hear…”
A second blessing was promised to those who received the vision. It would not do those Christians any good to be in the same room as Revelation was read aloud. They needed to have a heart ready to accept what was being said.
The theme of listening is emphasized in each letter addressed to the seven churches of Asia. Jesus calls on those saints to “have an ear to hear” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Just as he used the phrase during his earthly ministry, Jesus called on people to have hearts willing to receive the truths he taught. To take his words deep into themselves and allow it to work on them.
As Tim Chester recently wrote in his commentary on Revelation, “…if we ‘take to heart’ this message, then it will bless us (v 3). (So if someone’s interpretation of Revelation doesn’t bless its hearers, then something is wrong.)” (Revelation For You).
3. “Blessed are those who keep what is written in it…”
The last blessing mentioned in this verse lets us know that the message of Revelation is not primarily a message designed to intrigue or entertain; it is a message meant to motivate and change the daily lives of the hearer. It gives us things to DO. Revelation calls its hearers to endure (1:9; 2:2, 3; 3:10), to hold fast (2:13, 2:2:25; 3:11) to repent (2:5, 16, 22; 3:3, 19) and to overcome (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:5, 12, 21).
If, after reading Revelation, we are indifferent to our victorious Lord’s call to faithful endurance or callously ignore his call to repent, we have missed the point and will fail to be blessed!
On the other hand, if we are filled with awe and wonder at our conquering savior and are moved by gratitude at the love shown to us by the sacrificed blood of the lamb, then we will be able to endure whatever temporary trials we will face. We will enjoy the blessings of belonging to his kingdom (Matt. 5:1-12) and wait for his second coming and final judgment.