The Third Beatitude in Revelation

My previous post dealt with the beatitude for believers who die in the Lord for their profession of faith as stated in Revelation 14:13.  The next beatitude occurs within the seven bowl judgments recorded in the sixteenth chapter of Revelation.  John, the apostle, records it as a parenthetical statement:

(“Behold, I am coming like a thief!  Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” {Rev. 16:15, ESV}) 

When one skims over the sixteenth chapter, this third beatitude sticks out like a sore thumb in the midst of the seven bowl judgments.  It might cause some to scratch their heads while others may blow right past it.  The former posture offers the most hope as it presents the most potential for the Holy Spirit to bring understanding to God’s word.  If one heeds the command to rightly divide the word of truth, then rushing past or skirting around difficult passages like this one does not build character or faith that perseveres (Acts 17:10-11; 20:27; 2 Timothy 2:15, ESV).  Much of this begs the obvious question as to how this beatitude fits with the surrounding context of severe judgment in addition to teaching today’s church a tried and true spiritual lesson.

Regardless of the bible translation, the words of the third beatitude appear in red (Rev. 16:15, ESV).  This indicates that Jesus proclaims these words, which confirms the certainty of them.  Of course, this contrasts nicely with the certainty of judgment upon the wicked.  All throughout the book of Revelation, the apostle John illustrates the sharp distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous.  He develops this contrast to its fullest extent with their corresponding destinies of either eternal life or eternal damnation toward the end of the book: the New Jerusalem or the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15; 21:1-4, ESV).  Before the end of this age occurs, this beatitude warns both the just and the unjust about the Lord’s second coming as exemplified by the first clause, “Behold, I come like a thief” (Rev. 16:15a, ESV)!

From my perspective, the effect of this warning upon God’s people functions as an exhortation to watch or to be ready for Christ’s return. This is in perfect harmony with the Lord’s teaching known as the Olivet Discourse.  During his earthly ministry, Jesus warns his disciples that his second coming will be like a thief coming in the night (Matthew 24:42-44, ESV).  The point of this thief illustration is to emphasize the suddenness and the unexpectedness of his return.  Both Peter and Jude had been present for Jesus’ Olivet Discourse; consequently, they allude to their Savior’s words in their respective New Testament letters by warning the early Christians that there will be people scoffing at or questioning the notion of Christ’s second advent (2 Peter 3:3-4; Jude 1:18, ESV).  When God’s judgments intensify upon the wicked of the earth, when the persecution of God’s people also intensifies, many will doubt the second coming of the Lord.  It is precisely this state of things that Jesus comes against with this beatitude.

When it comes to the unjust, this warning by Christ about his coming like a thief traps them like a snare.  Rather than being awake spiritually, the unjust will be asleep or unaware of his coming and their naked condition in his presence.  It seems to me that the Lord’s language alludes to his own parable of the wedding feast, which he gave during his earthly ministry (Matt. 22:1-14, ESV).  In this parable, the wedding clothes signify the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in the believer’s life.  The only way the wedding guests acquire these garments (or Christ’s righteousness) is through justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27, ESV).  Nowhere in the parable of the wedding banquet does it explicitly state that the Master gave his guests their clothes.  It does imply that such a transaction took place as depicted during the Master’s interaction with a guest, who entered the feast without wedding clothes (Matt. 22:11-12, ESV).  The final destiny of this beleaguered guest is the same as the wicked depicted in Revelation (Matt. 22:13; cross ref., Rev. 20:15, ESV).

How does one watch or get ready for the forthcoming advent of Christ?  The best answer to that question is to get right with him during this life.  Today is the day of salvation not tomorrow, next week, next month, ad infinitum (2 Corinthians 6:1-2, ESV).  To those who do not know Christ, make today the day you know him.  He extends his hands to you with an offer of eternal life in the Son.  For those who do know Christ, it is incumbent upon us to confess and repent of sin and to walk in obedience after him.  Until the Lord calls me home or he returns, I must walk this life by faith in the Spirit in order to put to death the deeds of the flesh in addition to doing those good works prepared for me by the Lord (Romans 8:13-14; Ephesians 2:10, ESV).  When I reflect on the third beatitude and the surrounding context, I realize that it is a call to realign my heart, my mind, and my gaze onto Christ and his second coming rather than the raging seas and the howling winds (Matt. 14:29-30; Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV).

 

 

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One thought on “The Third Beatitude in Revelation

  1. […] Previously, I wrote about the Revelation beatitude that promises blessing for those who stay awake (or are ready) for the coming of the Lord.  Today, we turn our attention to one of the most glorious beatitudes in the last book of the New Testament (NT).  Here is the passage: […]

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