“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
People all around the world are wanting to know what the future holds for them, especially during this global pandemic. They turn to astrology, clairvoyants, fortune cookies, crystals, doctors, mediums, meteorologists, palm readers, political analysts, prophets, psychics, religious leaders, scientists, statisticians, or tarot cards, tabloid newspapers, etc. Sometimes these forecasters do get it right. But more often their predictions are way off. Forecasts about the future are only as reliable as their sources. 1
“When the source of information is our limited human perspectives on the past and present, the most intelligent ‘expert’ can only offer an educated guess. On the other hand, if the source is the all-knowing sovereign God, we can be certain that what He speaks will surely come to pass.” 2
Before God gives us some amazing descriptions about the future in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, He wants to assure us that the Source of these predictions is very reliable. These visions of the future do not come from some fanatical religious zealot or psychic who is trying to make a living. The Source of these incredible predictions comes from God Himself.
The apostle John, the same human author of the gospel of John, 1, 2, and 3 John, writes, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 1:1a). John immediately alerts his readers to the Source of this book’s information when he writes, “The Revelation of [about or from] Jesus Christ.” The Greek wordfor “Revelation” (apokálypsis) means “disclosure,” 3 “uncover,” 4 or “unveiling.” 5 “It means bringing something to light that was formerly hidden or kept secret. Today the term ‘apocalypse’ conveys the idea of a cosmic cataclysm or disaster. Though the apocalypse of John includes some of these elements, the term’s meaning is much broader. It refers to any kind of unveiling. In this case, God revealed the future to John in order to inform His people what would take place.” 6
Jesus Christ is the Giver of this revelation, and He is its main subject. 7 There is no author more trustworthy than God Himself. In the book of Revelation, as the events unfold leading up to the return of Jesus Christ to earth to set up His kingdom, we are going to learn more and more about Him. Our view of Christ will become clearer as He discloses more of Himself and His redemptive plan in this book. Our lives can be forever changed as we encounter the glorified Lord Jesus Christ in this book!
When John writes, “which God gave Him to show His servants,” he is referring to “God” the Father giving Jesus (“Him”) this revelation “to show His servants,” one of whom is “John” the apostle (Revelation 1:1b). If we are struggling to accept what God says in this last book of the New Testament, it may be time for us to surrender ourselves to Jesus Christ as “His servants.” Being Jesus’ servant means being dependent upon and yielded to God which is the best way to hear God’s voice. 8
Did you ever wonder why the Lord Jesus chose John to receive this amazing revelation about the future? I think the main reason is because John was trustworthy. John wrote in his gospel, “23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” (John 2:23-25). During the week-long feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus did many miracles. As a result, many people believed in Christ for eternal life. But John informs us that “Jesus did not commit (or entrust) Himself to them, because He knew all men.” Jesus “knew” that these new believers were not ready to obey Him yet. Why do I say this?
Because Jesus later says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21). Christ “manifests” or discloses more of Himself to the believer who “has… and keeps” His commandments. Friendship with Christ is conditioned upon obeying Him. Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). This friendship refers to Jesus disclosing His thoughts to those who obey Him. Thus, Jesus’ friends are those to whom He entrusts Himself.
John had one of the most intimate relationships with Jesus among all the disciples. The Bible says of John, “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23). John was not only physically close to Jesus’ heart (“leaning on Jesus’ bosom”) the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He was also spiritually close to the heart of our Lord (“whom Jesus loved”). Christ trusted John so much that He even assigned him to provide and care for His own mother, Mary (John 19:26-27). John had proven his faithfulness to Jesus through his obedience to Him. As a result, Jesus gave John the privilege of providing and caring for His own mother.
About sixty years later, “John, then in his nineties, had been exiled for his faith by the emperor Domitian to a penal colony on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, about forty miles from Ephesus.” 9 It was there (Revelation 1:9) that the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ entrusted John with this incredible revelation in the last book of the Bible because John had proven himself to be trustworthy to Christ through his obedience. Jesus could count on John to write down exactly what he was told.
What about us? Are we a trustworthy friend of Jesus’? Have we demonstrated our love for Him by keeping His commandments (John 15:14)? For some of us, we don’t know Jesus any better today than the day we became a Christian, even though that may have been years ago. Christ will not disclose Himself to us if we are not willing to go on and obey Him. He refuses fellowship with Christians who are not ready to obey Him.
For any relationship to grow deeper, there must be mutual trust. I am not going to be transparent with you until I develop a certain level of trust with you. Likewise, you are not going to be transparent with me until you have cultivated more trust in our relationship. The same is true of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus knows our hearts. And He knows if we are ready to obey Him and grow deeper in our relationship with Him or not. He knows if we are still trying to be in control of our lives instead of Him.
The content of this revelation Jesus gave to John has to do with “things which must shortly take place” (Revelation 1:1b). The words translated “shortly” (en tachai) mean that from God’s point of view (cf. 2 Peter 3:8) these future events will take place very soon (cf. James 5:8-9). 10
“A major thrust of Revelation is its emphasis upon the shortness of time before the fulfillment. In the midst of persecution God’s people do not have long to wait for relief to come. To say that the relief will come ‘suddenly’ offers no encouragement, but to say that it will come ‘soon’ does. . . .
“The presence of en tachei in 1:1 shows that for the first time the events predicted by Daniel and foreseen by Christ stood in readiness to be fulfilled cf. Dan. 2:28-29, 45]. Therefore, John could speak of them as imminent, but earlier prophets could not.” 11
The fact is, not only will these future events laid out in the book of Revelation begin to take place at any moment, but they also “must” take place (cf. Luke 21:9). “Not one word of God, including the prophecy and promises of Revelation, will fail to come to pass!” 12
The events recorded in the book of Revelation are designed to show the triumph of Jesus Christ as He subjects all enemies to Himself and then reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 6:1-20:15). As far as the world is concerned, Jesus Christ was rejected. The book of Revelation picks up where the Cross leaves off. It reveals Jesus Christ to the world as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
The importance of the book of Revelation can be seen in the way God gave it to humankind. “God” the Father “gave Him [Jesus]” this revelation “to show His servants… And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.” (Revelation 1:1). The chain of communication was from “God” the Father to Jesus (“Him”) to “His angel” to the apostle “John,” and finally to the “servants” of Christ.
Equally striking is the signification of the book. The glorified Lord Jesus “sent and signified” this revelation “by His angel.” The Greek word translated “signified” (esēmanen) “refers to speech that gives a vague indication of what is to happen. John uses this word three times in his Gospel (cf. John 12:33; 18:32; 21:19) and in each case what is being said is not immediately or easily discerned and yet it is not so unintelligible that its meaning is impossible to determine. While the Book of Revelation is full of symbolism and signs that can be difficult to understand, it is a book that can be understood. Just as many of Christ’s parables were intended to be confusing so that His disciples would come to Him for an explanation (cf. Matt 13:10-17), the Revelation of Jesus Christ might be intentionally confusing so that readers dig deeper, longer, and more prayerfully into the text of Scripture.” 13
The apostle John “bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.” (Revelation 1:2). The book of Revelation is “the word of God” and “the testimony of [from or about] Jesus Christ.” John was faithful to bear “witness” or share “all [the] things he saw” from “Jesus Christ” with the churches of Asia Minor. It is important to recognize that the book of Revelation is just as divinely inspired and authoritative as the rest of the Bible. It is “the word of God.” It is not the apostle John’s opinions. It is from the mouth of God.
John now presents the first of seven blessings mentioned in the book of Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). “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). “This is the only book in the Bible that contains this specific, unique promise. For this reason, the book of Revelation has often been called the ‘Blessing Book.’ The inclusion of this blessing seems to anticipate that many would be tempted to neglect the study of Bible prophecy, especially the book of Revelation.” 14
This one verse underscores that the book of Revelation was meant to be a very practical book. Let’s look at three significant elements in this one special blessing: 15
1. “He who reads” – In the early church, few people had a personal copy of the Scriptures, so someone would read them aloud to the congregation. Today this blessing extends to all who read the book of Revelation, including you and me. I pray that this will encourage everyone reading this article to pick up their Bible and begin reading this life-changing book. If you do not have a Bible, please go to www.youversion.com and download a free digital Bible.
2. “those who hear the words of this prophecy” – Just to hear the book of Revelation read can be a tremendous source of blessing during these troubling times in our modern world. Knowing what is going to happen in the future is intended to bless us. But knowing Bible prophecy is not enough to experience the fullness of this blessing.
3. “those who… keep those things which are written in it” – Not only is it essential to “read” and “hear” Bible prophecy, but we must also “keep” or obey what is written. God has given us the book of Revelation not only to make us knowledgeable of things to come, but to help us prepare for them so we are ready to face the glorified Lord Jesus Christ.
The reason God has given this special blessing is because “the time is near” for the prophecy’s fulfillment. The future events recorded in the book of Revelation could begin to unfold at any moment. So many things are happening in our modern world that indicate the nearness of Christ’s return for His church – global movement toward immorality/lawlessness, global movement toward Israel standing all alone, an increase in the frequency and intensity of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, an increase in weather anomalies around the world, the rise of church apostasies, etc. 16 This should give us all a sense of urgency to prepare for Jesus’ coming.
The fact of the matter is all people must face God as their Judge (Hebrews 9:27). It does not matter how hard we exercise or what kind of diet we are on, we are going to face God as our Judge in the future.
Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life will face God as their Judge to determine the degree of their punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Those who do believe in Christ, will face Him as their Judge at the Judgment Seat of Christ to determine the degree of their rewards in heaven (Revelation 4:4; 22:12).
If you are not a Christian, then hear and believe the final invitation from God near the end of the book of Revelation. “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17). If you thirst for eternal life, Jesus Christ promises to give you “the water of life” or eternal life (John 4:13-14) “freely” (John 4:10; Romans 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 21:6b; 22:17) if you will “come” to Him in faith. Eternal life is free to you and me because Jesus Christ paid for it all when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Christ does not give eternal life to you because you earned it by living a good moral life. He gives eternal life as a gift to you when you believe in Him alone for it (John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26). Friends, believe or trust in Jesus alone and He will give you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29).
If you are already a Christian, you can prepare for the Jesus’ return by living for the Lord Jesus Christ now to receive eternal rewards from Him at the Judgment Seat (Revelation 2:7, 10-11, 17, 25-28; 3:5, 11-12, 21; 4:4; 22:7, 14; cf. Matthew 25:19-23; Luke 19:15-19; Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). If you are not living the way Jesus wants you to live, He instructs you to confess your sin to Him and He guarantees to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). Then surrender your life to Jesus and begin to follow Him as a disciple (Matthew 4:19). Get involved in a local church where you can hear the Word of God faithfully taught and fellowship with other committed Christians who can help you to grow in Christlikeness (Hebrews 10:24-25). And share the gospel of grace with as many lost people as possible while we still have time (Mark 16:15)!
Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You so much for giving us the book of Revelation. During this time of uncertainty, we need a sure Word from our great God and Savior. Many of us often think of Revelation as being filled with nothing but judgments resulting in death or suffering. Thank You for reminding us that this incredible book also contains blessings intended to give us hope and encouragement during these troubling times in our modern world. May Your Holy Spirit lead each of us to prepare for Your soon return. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 33.
3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 112.
4. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 211318.
5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 11; John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.
6. Swindoll, pg. 14.
7. Constable, pg. 11; Swindoll, pg. 33. The words “of Jesus Christ” in the Greek text (Iēsoús Christou) can be taken as a genitive of subjectivity (Christ is the Giver of the revelation) and objectivity (Christ is the Subject of the Revelation).
8. Tony Evans, pg. 2368.
9. Swindoll, pg. 14.
10. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1495; see also Robertson, Kindle Locations 211356-211373).
11. Constable, pg. 12 cites, Robert Thomas, Revelation 1—7: An Exegetical Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 55-56. Cf. 22:6; Deut. 9:3; Ezek. 29:5 (LXX); Luke 18:8; Rom. 16:20. See Mark L. Hitchcock, “A Critique of the Preterist View of ‘Soon’ and ‘Near’ in Revelation,” Bibliotheca Sacra 163:652 (October-December 2006):467-78.
12. Vacendak, pg. 1495.
14. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 6. Constable, pg. 13 cites, David E. Aune, Revelation 1—5 (Word Biblical Commentary series, Dallas: Word Books, 1997), pg. 20.
15. The following discussion of these three points is adapted from Mark Hitchcock, pg. 6.
16. Retrieved from an interview by Nathan Jones with Pablo Frascini on September 20, 2021, entitled, “Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs” at www.christinprophecyblog.org .