In the previous entry, I explored the nature of the first resurrection and the second death and their relationship to the fifth beatitude. Now it is time to turn our attention to the second to the last of the beatitudes in the book of Revelation. Here is today’s text:
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7, ESV).
Right away this verse should be setting off bells and lights. This beatitude is a repeat of the first one covered in this series (Rev. 1:3, ESV). In fact, it is the only beatitude in the book of Revelation that makes more than one appearance. It functions like bookends on a bookshelf with one in the beginning and the other at the end. This structure suggests to me that the Lord assigns spiritual significance with respect to his words in the book of Revelation and to the one who keeps or obeys them. The only way to obey them is to know them; however, the only way to know them is to read them. It seems to me that God’s call to his people is to immerse themselves in the book of Revelation for the express purpose of receiving his blessing through the words of his prophecy.
Is the repetition of the first and sixth beatitudes only significant from a structural standpoint as in my bookend analogy? No. I think there is something else bubbling underneath the repetition. There is a sense of urgency from the Lord about obeying his commands. The reason pertains to Christ’s second coming. For example, twice in the book of Revelation, the Lord refers to his return as unexpected and unknown with the simile, “I come like a thief” (Rev. 3:3; 16:15, ESV). There are eight references in this book about the Lord’s return as either near or soon (Rev. 1:3, 3:11, 22:6-7, 10, 12, 20, ESV). Let me add another layer to these observations. I mentioned earlier that the sixth beatitude and the first one function like bookends. The same is true with the references to the Lord’s return as coming soon where the first one occurs in Rev. 1:3 and the last in Rev. 22:20.
The point to all of this is that Christ may return any day, which raises the stakes for obeying his commands. How do we know this within the book of Revelation? Those who disobey God and his commands end up facing eternal punishment in the lake of fire, which is the second death (Rev. 14:9-11; 19:1-3, 19-20; 20:9-10, 14-15, ESV). It is a horrible fate that many deny in our day including those within the church. The lake of fire stands in stark contrast to the destiny of the righteous, who will reign forever and ever in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21:1-4; 22:1-5, ESV). Torment defines the second death, but joy characterizes the New Jerusalem; consequently, God the Father extends the offer to all who are thirsty (Rev. 14:10b-11a; 20:10, 14-15; 21:6b-7, ESV). Of course, this means that the thirsty must recognize their need for God to satisfy it. The thirsty recognize their need by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel.
If there is one big takeaway from the sixth beatitude, it is the absolute necessity for reading and obeying God’s word. There are some today who attempt to create a false dichotomy between God and his word. These individuals envision God’s love lived out as more palpable than his love revealed in scripture. What is ironic about this type of argument is that it employs scripture itself as the basis for it (1 John 4:8, ESV). In the age to come, this type of sophistry will no longer have a place in the New Jerusalem. God the father declares this fact in Revelation twenty-one and the eighth verse: “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8, ESV). At some point, all who claim to be in Christ must demonstrate that they are either hot or cold toward him; otherwise, not choosing either one is making a choice to be cold (Rev. 3:15-16, ESV).