By: Ray Jewell
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. – Revelation 1:1-3
The prologue to this, what I consider to be the most interesting yet often misunderstood book of the New Testament, gives us some early clues we need to keep in mind. First, this letter is a revelation, that is, the purpose of this writing is to show people what is going to happen, and soon. From the get go, the author of the epistle makes it clear that the contents of all that lies within this message is ultimately from God the Father given through God the Son, Jesus.
The human author, John, comes across like a Christian mystic, (others in the New Testament who see visions are Paul and Peter) having all of these visions that is to communicate important things for people to know in the first century. That doesn’t mean that the book has no value for us today. In fact, the real value is gleaned only when we do the work to discover, as best we can, what the visions and writings would have meant to the first century believers.
The first beatitude, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near,” makes it clear that these words, the whole thing, are to be read in the gathered assembly. “The one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy” is, more than likely “the angel” of that particular assembly. “Angel” isn’t always a reference to heavenly beings. The Greek word translated angel simply means messenger, and, in this context, especially chapters 2 and 3, the “angels” mentioned refer to human messengers. More than likely the leader of the church, the one who is responsible for the well-being of the church, along with other leaders (known as elders), but also the one who was primarily responsible for the teaching whenever the people gathered.
The others who are blessed here are the ones who gather regularly to hear the message of the Lord. And the message is showing the people what is going to happen soon. As we get further into our study what is going to happen becomes apparent. Persecution is on the horizon for faithful followers of Jesus Christ. So these words serve as a warning of coming persecution. Yet these words are also meant as an encouragement to remain faithful because the events will surely be a test, but on the other side there are blessings that are more glorious than people can fathom.
What can we take from these opening words? First, God is God and He reveals Himself to us. He shows implicitly that he knows what’s up and His followers need to, well, follow Him by trusting in His Word, by being involved with His people, by having community with Him and His church.
Second, the emphasis on the time being soon, at least here, points to something that already happened in the first century, so for people to come up with fanciful correlations for us today is really a disservice to Him and to His people of the 21st century.
Lord, You know that I approach this study with some fear and trepidation. Help me to stay true to Your Word as I hope to help the readers of this blog see what’s up in this apocalyptic book. Ultimately, You win, and, in the end, that is all that really matters. In Your holy name. Amen.
Until next time,
TO THE GLORY OF GOD!