“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” Revelation 1:3
The book of Revelation is most-likely the least read book in the New Testament. This is most likely because of the many disagreements surrounding the different interpretations held today and throughout the generations. But at the very beginning of this book, Jesus Christ’s Revelation to John (Rev 1.2), we are told that there is a particular blessing for those who read or hear the words of this prophecy. No other single book of the Bible begins with such an audacious claim.
I must admit that I am somewhat new to the study of this book. I was taught in younger years that we—the church—would be gone from the earth when the foretold events took place and that the message contained in the vast majority of the book was for and about the nation of Israel. So if the message is for other people in a future time in which I will not even be present, why would I spend time and energy studying it? Thankfully, I have grown in my understanding and now greatly enjoy this book.
The fact of the matter is that the book of Revelation was written to seven specific churches in the first century and contains truths meant to benefit all generations following. It was never meant for someone else, it was always meant your for you and me.
We who follow Jesus are unique in that we are meant to live in the presence of the future. The famous verse in John’s gospel tells us that “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but [is having] eternal life.” Eternal life is not a destination to which we are headed, it is a condition or state of being which we are in now. We live today in the presence of eternity. Or to put it another way, we live in such a way that we pull the future into today. For example, we know that Christ’s coming kingdom is one of peace and love. So knowing that, we live lives of peace and love today. There is no place for violence, greed, perversion and pride in his kingdom, so we refuse to allow those into our lives today.
Revelation is a book of redemption. We see what happens when God removes his restraining hand and allows the earth to experience the full fury of mankind’s wrong choices. But when the world is at its worst, we see that Jesus will come and rescue his people and redeem this world and are willing to join Him. That’s good news!
But the fascinating part about Revelation is that it has more to it than just stories of what will happen in the future, it teaches us truth about today. The Old Testament prophecies were meant to teach as well as foretell events and in the same way the book of Revelation is meant to teach us today about our lives. For example, in times of trouble and persecution we take comfort knowing that Jesus is on our side and is coming to redeem us and this world. Also, when we spend our money on certain brands of clothing or other products we must consider what we are investing in, knowing that in wearing or using those products we could in fact be taking on the mark of the beast whose spirit is alive and well today (1 John 4.3).
The book of Revelation is not meant to conceal truth, but to reveal it to those with willing hearts hungry for truth and open to the work of God in their lives. We can and we should read this book so we will understand God’s ultimate plan for us today and into the future. God loves us and wants to reveal to us his life-changing truth. With that in mind, we are able understand why God specifically pointed out that our lives would be blessed by reading and hearing the words of this marvelous prophecy.