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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

Now we come to a very special promise about this prophecy. Of all of the 66 books in the Bible, this is the only one with a promise like this. It says that whoever reads this prophecy, or even hears it, since many people did not know how to read, will be "blessed." To be blessed (Greek makarios, "extended") means having the privilege of receiving God's favor or provisions. It is sometimes translated "made happy," but it is much more than that. It is an inner sense of well-being. Jesus started his famous "Sermon on the Mount" by giving The Beatitudes (Blessings) (Matthew 5:1-12).

If a person is to be "blessed" by reading or hearing this prophecy, it should be obvious that its contents should not cause him to be fearful or depressed. God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). In fact, "Fear not" is a recurring theme throughout the Bible. The Twenty-Third Psalm reminds us of this whenever we say,

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; - Psalm 23:4a,b

Fear is the opposite of faith. So we must determine at the beginning of our journey through this vital portion of God's Word that we will let it build our faith; not cause a spirit of fear.

The Revelation is meant to bring joy because of the outcome of its dramatic events. It predicts the triumph of good over evil, the restoration of the earth to perfection, salvation of those who believe in Jesus Christ, and their deliverance from a corrupted world into one of indescribable beauty and opportunity!

Of course, readers and listeners who do not yet know Christ will want to be sure they are in a right relationship with Him. The Gospel is found repeatedly in the pages of this matchless prophecy, especially in the message to the Church at Laodicea, the apostate church at the end of the Church Age. We will consider this in detail in chapters 2 and 3. But looking ahead, Jesus invited the people of that church, a church that had a formal religious experience, but no personal relationship with Him,

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. - Revelation 3:20

A couple of warnings are in order here about using Revelation to do evangelism. First, be careful not to give people the wrong impression about the book. When I was in Jr. High School, and a brand new Christian, I made this mistake in a big way. I wanted to show one of my friends the seriousness of his lack of interest in Jesus. I thought it would be a good idea to read to him from Revelation about the seven vials of God's wrath. He listened, and was terrified. He could hardly say anything, but when he did, he blurted out, "If that's what the Bible teaches, I don't want to have anything to do with it!" Unfortunately, he avoided me the rest of our time together in that school. I trust that The Lord eventually sent him a more sensitive person to share the Gospel.

Another caution about using the message of Revelation wisely is to not focus primarily on the glorious future that it portrays when talking to people who despair of this life. I have known some troubled souls who committed suicide to hasten their experience of heaven!

Now, notice that the blessing is not just for those who read or listen, but for those who "keep those things which are written in it." The word used in the original Greek scroll is the verb terero, meaning "to guard" or "to keep." This would be the very opposite of what some Bible teachers do today when they ignore it, or, as actually also the case for a growing number of fellow-evangelicals, to deny that the study of prophecy is of any benefit, and may even impede their progress in building the Kingdom.

The final thought in this key verse of the book is this, " for the time is near." This carries forward the expression from the first verse, "things which must shortly take place." As we noted before, New Testament writers and Christians of every age have been expecting Jesus to return at any time. This is known as the doctrine of "imminence," a belief that we should live our lives in the knowledge that Jesus' return will take place suddenly and unexpectedly, and we should be ready for that glorious event!

When Jesus ascended into heaven, an angel told the watching crowd of disciples,

"This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." - Acts 1:11

The Apostle Paul called this coming event "the blessed hope "(Titus 2:13). Some people like to read the end of a book before the rest to see if they even want to spend their time on it. Chapters 19 through 22 of Revelation are all about the fabulous ending of the story. It is all wrapped up in the return of Jesus. Here, in fact, are the last two verses of the Bible:

20 He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly."
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
- Revelation 22:20-21

Next: Revelation 1:4


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