For some, the notion that the book of Revelation has beatitudes, let alone seven of them, might sound a little surprising. Normally, most readers of the New Testament associate that sort of thing with Jesus’ sermon on the mount as recorded by the apostle Matthew (Matt. 5:1-12, cf Luke 6:20-23, ESV). Like I mentioned in my introductory post, the beatitudes in Revelation are one of the things that the Holy Spirit showed me and refused to let me forget. There is so much in the last book of the bible that garners attention. All the beasts, dragons, demons, and angels take center stage along with the prophetic symbolism regarding the events depicted in this unusual book. These things distracted my heart and mind from seeing the seven beatitudes. The fact that there are seven of them in the book of Revelation indicates theological significance. If seven is symbolic for perfection, then it suggests a perfect offer of blessing from God through the person of Christ as administered by the Holy Spirit.
What do I mean by the phrase, “a perfect offer of blessing from God?” Before I supply an answer, I do not want to suggest that the spiritual blessings in Christ have a strict expiration date for either this present age or the age to come (Ephesians 1:3-6, 2:4-7, ESV). It is true that those who remain outside of Christ (or the unjust) will never experience these blessings in this life or in the next. In fact, God’s offer of Christ terminates for the unjust at either their death or at the close of this age. The reality for those in Christ is the opposite as the spiritual blessings begin breaking into their lives in this life. At the dawn of the new day, the spiritual blessings bloom into such fullness that “no eye has seen, no ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9; cf Isaiah 64:4, ESV).
Now, here is my answer to the meaning of the phrase a perfect offer of blessing. It refers to Jesus, the Son of God. This is the same reason that the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian churches in his second letter: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ]. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Cor. 1:20, ESV). Every promise of blessing from God the Father finds its ultimate fulfillment in union with Christ. There is no other way for anyone to enjoy them. It is essential to keep Jesus at the center for these spiritual blessings. This helps to maintain balance and perspective over the course of one’s life. In keeping with this line of thought, here is the first beatitude from Revelation:
“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” (Revelation 1:3, ESV).
If I identify with Christ, then this beatitude illustrates how to demonstrate it. The apostle John records in this passage that reading, hearing, and keeping the words (obeying it) of Revelation bless those who engage in these activities. Let me take this one step further. There is a blessing for reading aloud the book of Revelation that is separate from hearing it and from keeping it. If I sit back and chew on this statement, then it stirs up many questions. How does reading the last book of the New Testament bless the reader? How does it bless the hearer or the keeper of it? What is it about the book of Revelation that causes the Spirit of God to pronounce a blessing through the apostle John to those who read it, hear it, and keep it? I want to stress this point because this beatitude occurs before any of the exhortations, warnings, visions and prophecies. It seems to me that this emphasizes something unique or precious about the book of Revelation.
Allow me to venture into some uncharted territory as I offer some answers to the above questions. At this point, it is essential to introduce the context that precedes the beatitude under consideration. The first words of the book of Revelation state the following: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place…” (Rev. 1:1a, ESV). This means that the book of Revelation is about Jesus, the Son of God, who received this revelation from God the Father. It is the second part of that sentence, which blows my mind. Everything in the book of Revelation flows from the Father heart of God toward the Son, who discloses this revelation to an angel, who makes it known to the apostle John (Rev. 1:1, ESV). This is the unbroken chain of communication, which starts with the Father.
When the apostle John writes in the third person about how he bears witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, he certifies the trustworthiness of the contents within the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:2, ESV). John identifies the words that follow as having their origin in God the Father, which testify about Jesus or God the Son. From this, I glean two key points: first, the Father aims to bear witness about the Son; and second, the content of the Father’s revelation given to the Son has a direct impact upon the lives of their servants and the entire created order (Rev. 1:1b, 7, ESV). This shows the Father’s love and concern for those proclaiming and serving his Son, Jesus Christ; however, it also reveals the Son’s love and concern for those who become his disciples. Later on in the book of Revelation, the heavenly host surrounding the throne of God worships the Son for his actions in redeeming a people for God (Rev. 5:9, ESV).
Because the first beatitude in Revelation declares a blessing upon the reader, the hearer, and the keeper, this places God and his word in the preeminent position. What this demonstrates is an old exhortation to the people of the old covenant that the Spirit of God applies to the new covenant people. For example, the following words spoken by God through Moses echoes the beatitude in Revelation: “…If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians…” (Exodus 15:26, ESV). Thousands of years separate Moses from John, and the apostle from God’s people living today; however, the commands to listen to God’s voice, to keep his word, and to obey it transcend all eras while they apply to God’s people from all ages. I think the important lesson in all of this is that the Father offers blessing and cursing through his word.
Jesus is the Father’s supreme offer of blessing to his people. It is also the case that rejecting the Son places one under the severest judgment. This notion finds expression in the Penteteuch with respect to the prophecy of a future prophet. God reveals to Moses that he will raise up a prophet similar to him who will speak God’s words and in his name; consequently, the Lord states without equivocation that the one who refuses to listen to this prophet will be judged personally by him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19, ESV). Both Peter and Stephen apply this prophecy to the person of Jesus Christ in the book of Acts; although, it is the former who makes mention of the judgment for rejecting the person of Christ (Acts 3:22-23, 7:37, ESV). It seems to me that the Holy Spirit is quite clear in his exhortation to read, to hear, and to keep the words of the prophecy of the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:3, ESV). The call is to sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary in order to choose the better part (Luke 10:39 & 42, ESV).