• Matthew L. Tinkham Jr.

A Threefold Apocalyptic Blessing



"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, ESV).

The time indeed is near! Christ is soon to come! The earth is crying out that Jesus is coming again and that his παρουσία (parousia) or "appearing" is imminent. All one has to do is open his or her eyes and take a quick look at the surrounding world to realize immediately that the end is near. Reflect on these examples.

  • As we turn our eyes to the religious sphere, we notice an explosion of interest in the occult and spiritualism. False prophets and antichrists are rising up in various places outside of and, sadly, within the church (Matt 24:5, 11). However, on a more positive note, the gospel and the three angels' messages are rapidly and widely spreading, like an unquenchable wildfire, all throughout the world (Matt 24:14).

  • When looking at the political sphere, disturbing global conflicts come into view. Wars and threats of war are commonplace in Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Palestine, Israel, etc. This list continues seemingly ad infinitum (Matt 24:6–7). Nations are indeed rising up against other nations. Not only this, some nations are imploding from the inside. Our own nation is extremely polarized along warring political party lines. It seems that democrats and republicans will never be able to cooperate again.

  • Surveying the social sphere of our world and witnessing its immorality, hundreds of thousands of criminal acts, broken homes, mistreatment of women, racism and prejudices, and the like confirms once again that Jesus must be on his way by now (Matt 24:12; 2 Tim 3:1–5).

  • The financial sphere also provides signs of the second advent. Perhaps, even you yourself have experienced some of these signs—the high unemployment rates, the lack of job availability, crashing national economies, the ever-growing gap between the upper class and the lower class and the crushing out of the middle class, and the greed that pervades much of the decisions that are made around the world (2 Tim 3:2; Jas 5:1–6).

  • The natural sphere is also shouting that Jesus is "just around the corner." The news headlines are full of stories about massive earthquakes, tornado devastation, hurricanes and typhoons ransacking entire areas of the globe, famines starving millions, droughts creating deep cries for water, landslides, destructive storms, floods, etc. (Matt 24:7). In addition to these, empirical scientific research is revealing that the earth's climate is changing from centuries of environmental mismanagement (especially in the last several years since the industrial revolution). As a result of this global shift, glaciers are disappearing, entire coral reefs are dying, and a mass extinction of animal life is occurring (Rev 11:18).

  • When we examine the healthcare/medical sphere we are made aware of the many diseases, illnesses, and other epidemics that are killing millions of people worldwide (Matt 24:7). Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, varieties of the flu, major depression, HIV/AIDS, and STDs are all taking their toll all over the world. Many of today's diseases are still without a cure. Maybe you are suffering right now with one of these "pestilences."

As these pieces of evidence stack up together, it becomes clear that our planet knows that the time is near; the question is, do we? The "labor pains" are operating in full force. Are we ready for Jesus to come? Are we prepared for the consummation of all things? In addition to all of these signs scattered throughout the New Testament, the final book of the canonical Scriptures, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, urgently stresses the reality that Jesus is coming quickly. But its importance for our time surpasses a simple knowledge of the prophetic events surrounding Christ's return. While the book of Revelation is a book of apocalyptic prophecies, it is also a book of practical instruction. It tells us how we, who are living in these very last days of earth's history, should conduct our lives so that we may be ready to meet our heavenly King when he arrives. This special book is so relevant for our day that we should study it regularly as we get closer and closer to the eschaton, the end-time. Not only is it special for its message, but also for what its message offers. Uniquely, the book of Revelation offers a threefold blessing to those who engage its prophetic content! No other book of Scripture promises a threefold blessing as Revelation does, particularly for those who read it in the final days of this earth's history. According to Rev 1:3, here's how a believer is to receive its blessing: "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" (ESV). First, in order to receive this threefold blessing, we have to read it. Now, that seems pretty obvious. Sadly, though, not many of us get even that far. Many find the book hard to read because of its mysterious symbols. Others are afraid to read it because of its terrifying images—the beasts, the seven-headed dragon, the violent end-time conflicts (such as the final battle of Armageddon), the seven last plagues, and the other terrifying images. These certainly are horrific characters and events in the narrative of Revelation, but we should not let them deter us from reading it. Despite the scariness of some of the book's content, Revelation is first and foremost the "revelation of Jesus Christ" (Rev 1:1, ESV), that is to say that it is (1) a revelation given from him to John (Rev 1:1–2), and (2) it is a revelation all about him.1 In fact, the very first vision recorded on its pages is a vision of "one like a son of man,"—Jesus (Rev 1:12–20). Therefore, one must look beyond the fearful images to find the savior, Jesus Christ. Discovering Jesus, even in the scary moments of Revelation's storyline will give the courage that is needed to keep on reading it. If we want God's special blessing in Revelation, then we must read it for ourselves. Interestingly, the ESV translates ἀναγινώσκων (anaginōskōn) as "the one who reads aloud."2 That is because all reading was done aloud in the ancient Greco-Roman world. Reading silently in one's mind is a relatively "new" phenomenon in light of the span of world history.3 I am sure that reading silently is worthy of blessing, but it may provide even more benefit to read Revelation aloud to yourself and/or to others. Communal reading of Scripture can especially be a great blessing. So, read it; read it in your secret place and read it aloud with others. Do not let the mystery of its symbols and the horror of some of its depictions prevent you from receiving its blessing. Remember, in the end, it is a revelation from and about Jesus Christ, our gracious and loving savior, and he has a blessing to give you as you read his Revelation. Second, John said in Rev 1:3 that one has to "hear" Revelation if he or she wishes to receive its threefold blessing. This could simply mean that the reader must exercise the faculty of hearing while reading Revelation's content. In this case, the first and second parts of this blessing would be two sides of the same coin. However, elsewhere in Revelation (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 13:9), ἀκούω (akouō) or "to hear/listen" is used in the sense of "to understand." Revelation's blessing comes to those who do more than only read its words. It comes to those who deeply study its messages and prophecies for comprehension. Thus, our reading of Revelation cannot be mere reading but will require fervent study. This study needs to be of such an intensity that we achieve understanding. In this way, John called for profound engagement with the content of Revelation. Those who seek its blessing will take the time to study its symbols with vigor in order to comprehend them, reaching the meaning that lies behind them. Such reading will necessitate wrestling with its symbols in fervent prayer to discover the underlying message they seek to communicate. Sure, that's a pretty tall order, seeing how difficult apocalyptic symbolism can be to interpret accurately. We just are not used to reading this kind of literature. The apocalyptic genre of prophetic writing is quite uncommon in our postmodern era. I am positive that at some time or another you have become frustrated with your search for understanding Revelation's symbols. Perhaps, the meanings of some of its symbols appear hidden. But be reminded that the book is called "Revelation"—from the Greek word ἀποκάλυψις (apokalupsis)—because its writer intended to disclose and not obscure its message. The related verb ἀποκαλύπτω (apokaluptō) means "to reveal," "to disclose," "to bring to light," and "to make fully known."4 Thus, God does not want to hide its message from us; he wants us to apprehend it fully. Equipped with prayer, the illuminating presence of the Holy Spirit, and proper exegetical and historicist interpretative principles, one can more easily discern Revelation's intended meaning and achieve an understanding of its mysteries. Third, Revelation's threefold blessing comes to the one who follows up his or her reading and hearing with keeping. The Greek verb τηρέω (tēreō) is a call to obedience. To "keep" is to "observe" or to "obey." In other words, John the Revelator stressed the importance of not only reading and hearing (i.e., understanding) the prophecies he had received on Patmos but also applying their meaning to daily life. The pages of Revelation may be saturated with symbols and prophecies but it is also composed of concrete, practical instruction. Specifically, Revelation calls us to a particular style of living, end-time living. In obeying its exhortations and warning, we become better prepared for the end. So, the question for you as we approach the eschaton is do you want Revelation's threefold blessing in your life? If so, then I encourage you to devote some time to the regular study of this special end-time book. To receive this threefold blessing you must (1) read it, (2) hear (i.e., understand) it, and (3) keep (i.e., obey) it. Remember to ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you as you do so. After all, the Holy Spirit authored it (Rev 1:9–10; cf. 2 Tim 3:16–17; 2 Pet 1:20–21), and he will illuminate your mind to help you understand it (John 14:16–17, 26; 16:13). May you allow him to bring Revelation's teachings and instruction into your life so that you may be ready to meet your Savior when he comes again. The "time is near"!

Notes 1 The genitive Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Iēsou Christou) that modifies the head noun ἀποκάλυψις (apokalupsis) is a plenary genitive, meaning that it is both subjective and objective. Thus, it means that the revelation is both from and about Jesus Christ, respectively. See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 119–121. 2 Emphasis added. 3 See this interesting article, Thu-Huong Ha, "The Beginning of Silent Reading Changed Westerners’ Interior Life," Quartzy, November 19, 2017, https://qz.com/quartzy/1118580/the-beginning-of-silent-reading-was-also-the-beginning-of-an-interior-life/. 4 "Ἀποκαλύπτω," BDAG, 112.

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