This past summer, a good
friend gave me a copy of the first book in the popular Left Behind
series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. You may have heard of
these books or read some of them yourselves. There are ten books
in the initial series, each about 400 pages in length.
It took me a little while to become interested in the first book, and
I found it moved a bit slowly up until around page 60. However,
my interest was peaked after that point, and I never looked back.
I am an avid reader and managed to finish the 10th book about
a month ago. If you had guessed that the story line was based
upon the end of time with the focus on the return to earth of
Yeshua, you would have been correct!
When I was asked to prepare a message for tonight, my inclination
was to speak about the time of the end, but my sense was to speak
about that time as being God's judgment.
Nevertheless, I prayed
about it many times, read much of the book of Revelation several
times, and also Daniel, Zechariah and others. What I have been
struck with centers upon verse 3 of Revelation 1, and there are
three themes I would like to analyze. First, I will read verse
"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)
The three themes I
want to examine are these:
1. Blessed is he who reads,
2. Blessed is he who hears AND keeps those things which are written in it
3. The time is near!
1. Blessed is he who reads
OK, what does it mean, blessed is he who reads?
Certainly, the most entertaining way
to view this is to assume that the readers are us! We are, after
all, reading this, are we not?
In the same way that the epistles
of Paul and other books of the Brit Hadashah (New Testament)
were written to specific congregations in time, and offer us
who have followed long afterwards much for our understanding,
edification and worship, I would not dispute that the book of
Revelation has much to offer us; but I would want to raise a
couple of questions, and you will see my conclusion in a minute.
First, I would caution myself, and then you, with the words from
"For I testify to everyone who hears the
words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to these things,
God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book.
And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy,
God will take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy
city, and from the things which are written in this book."
You may have heard about how "Scripture interprets Scripture". Well,
that is something I believe in and will try to demonstrate herein.
If we read Revelation 1:1,
"The Revelation of Yeshua ha Mashiach,
which God gave Him to show His servants-things which must shortly
take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His
Just briefly, two things come to my immediate attention:
1) "which God gave Him to show His servants--things which must
shortly take place." 2) "...signified it by His angel to His
There can be little doubt that there was a sense
of urgency there and the emphasis was that the time was short
(of note is that the writings of Paul also exhibit a sense of
immediacy as to the return of Yeshua). The other thing is that
it was 'to His servant John'. No doubt the plain sense is that
the prophecy was revealed to the Apostle John and it was intended
for his contemporaries.
Thus, I believe that it is reasonable
to assume that the "he who reads", in verse 3, is the "'angel'
to the particular congregation". That interpretation was revealed
to John directly by our Lord, in verse 20,
"The mystery of the
seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden
lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven congregations,
and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven congregations."
Because the text says, "The seven stars are the angels of the seven congregations",
it may be a little confusing to us. I am certain that the Apostle
John knew exactly what it meant as explained. Nevertheless, in
a hope to bring a right understanding of who these 'angels' are,
I would like to quote Matthew Henry, a famous Christian minister
who lived from 1662-1714, whose comments are shared by many.
In his comments on this passage and speaking of the seven stars,
he says, "He had in his right hand seven stars, that is, the
ministers of the seven churches, who are under his directions,
have all their light and influence from him, and are secured
and preserved by him."
If the seven stars are the ministers,
then Yeshua has already provided the clear interpretation of
the "hearers", with the phrase, "and the seven lampstands which
you saw are the seven congregations." (Revelation 1:20b)
we have observed who the immediate readers and the immediate
hearers were intended to be. But there is something more I would
like to infer regarding those readers.
Please observe that throughout
the book of Revelation, indeed the entire Brit Hadashah (New
Testament), there are numerous references to passages in the
Tenach (Hebrew Bible). Thus, it could be assumed that this prophecy
is intended to be read by learned men (the seven stars, i.e.
ministers/congregational leaders), and that these men were well
versed in the Hebrew Scriptures, either by study through interest
or they were Messianic Jews (Jewish followers of Yeshua, Jesus)
who were familiar with Hebrew Scriptures naturally. If the prophecy
was intended to be explained, as I believe it was, we have a
cogent example from Nehemiah 8:8,
"So they read in the book in
the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them
to understand the reading."
One thing that is abundantly clear
to anyone who has a good knowledge of the entirety of scripture
is that the Brit Hadashah is replete with allusions and references
to passages in the Tenach (Hebrew Scriptures). Thus, at the time
of the Apostle John, as well as now, to read the Brit Hadashah
(New Testament) with good understanding requires a reasonable
familiarity with the Tenach. How forturnate we are to have Bibles
that have the Tenach's references in the margins!
The many references
to Daniel, Zechariah, Isaiah, etc. in the book of Revelation
alone clearly infer that the readers understood what they were
reading! To further illustrate my point, If the book of Revelation
was read by the congregational leaders to their congregations,
because of the allusions and Hebrew Bible references, just like
Nehemiah, they surely "gave the sense, and caused them to understand
2. Blessed is he who hears AND keeps those things
which are written in it
I am hopeful that I have covered the "Blessed
is he who hears" from the previous discussion of "Blessed is
he who reads". The one relates to the other, so further attention
to the hearers and the blessing on "those who keep the things
which are written" should provide extra clarity. To reiterate
from Revelation 1:20b,
"...and the seven lampstands which you
saw are the seven congregations."
More specifically, the seven
congregations are listed in verse 11,
"...I am the Alpha and the
Omega, the first and the Last," and, "What you see, write in
a book and send it to the seven congregations which are in Asia:
to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to
Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."
Please notice that, in verse 11,
John is expressly commanded to "write in a book and send it to
the seven congregations". Do you remember the "blessing" which
was spoken of in verse 3? As we look at these other passages,
is it not clear that this specific prophecy is to the congregational
leaders, the readers, and to the congregations, who are the hearers?
Moreover, in Chapters 2 and 3, the specific prophetic instructions,
or little letters, are detailed to each of the above named congregations.
Again, the blessing was given to those who hear and keep the
things which are written. Each little letter to the individual
congregations ends with a similar pronouncement, as in 3:13,
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the congregations."
If you do not agree with my conclusions herein, I am hopeful that
you can at least see where I draw them from. I would like to
turn our attention to the third theme, "The time is near!"
3. The time is near!
As in verse 1, speaking of "things which must
shortly take place", verse 3(c) expresses the sense of urgency
found throughout the Brit Hadashah. For instance, Yeshua speaks
of the end of the age in Matthew 24, when His disciples ask:
"Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign
of Your coming, and of the end of the age" (Matthew 24:3b). Moreover,
the relevance of the urgency we find in Revelation 1 may be understood
from what Yeshua instructed them later on in the 24th chapter
of Matthew, verses 15-18:
"Therefore when you see the 'abomination
of desolation,'1 spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in
the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), "then let
those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is
on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house.
And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes..."
With this expectation in mind, I would like to explore its root. Again,
I believe that it is safe to assume that the congregational leaders
(the readers) were familiar with 'Old Testament' Scripture, particularly
since Reveleation 1 has several references to Daniel, Zechariah
and Isaiah! Could there be any doubt that those same readers
would not also be familiar with the specific prophecy of Daniel
9 and the expectation of the time Messiah's appearing? Daniel
24"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon
thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end
of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring
in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy,
and to anoint the most Holy.
25 "Know therefore and understand,
that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to
build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks,
and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again,
and the wall, even in troublous times.
26 "And after threescore
and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself:
and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the
city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood,
and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in
the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation
to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall
make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined
shall be poured upon the desolate."
Adam Clarke, another bible
scholar, who lived from 1762 to 1832, provides the following
comments that reflect the prevailing views of the protestant
reformers about this passage:
Seventy weeks are determined - The
Jews had Sabbatic years, Lev_25:82, by which their years were
divided into weeks of years, as in this important prophecy, each
week containing seven years. The seventy weeks therefore here
spoken of amount to four hundred and ninety years.
In Dan 9:24
there are six events mentioned which should be the consequences
of the incarnation of our Lord: -
I. To finish (
to restrain), the transgression which was effected by the preaching
of the Gospel, and pouring out of the Holy Ghost among men.
To make an end of sins; rather ulehathem chataoth,
"to make an end of sin-offerings," which our Lord did when he
offered his spotless soul and body on the cross once for all.
III. To make reconciliation
ulechapper, "to make atonement or expiation") for iniquity; which he
did by the once offering up of himself.
IV. To bring in everlasting righteousness,
tsedek olamim, that is, "the righteousness, or righteous
One, of ages;" that person who had been the object of the faith
of mankind, and the subject of the predictions of the prophets
through all the ages of the world.
V. To seal up (
velachtom, "to finish or complete") the vision and prophecy; that is, to
put an end to the necessity of any farther revelations, by completing
the canon of Scripture, and fulfilling the prophecies which related
to his person, sacrifice, and the glory that should follow.
VI. And to anoint the Most Holy,
"the Holy of holies."
[v'limsho-ach] mashach, to anoint,
(from which comes
mashiach, the Messiah, the anointed
one), signifies in general, to consecrate or appoint to some
special office. Here it means the consecration or appointment
of our blessed Lord, the Holy One of Israel, to be the Prophet,
Priest, and King of mankind.
If you paid attention to the Daniel
9 passage, you would have noticed that it said "And after threescore
and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off". Are we not all familiar
with Isaiah 53:4-6,
"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried
our sorrows, yet we considered him striken by God, smitten by
him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquites; the punishment that brought
us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."
1:2, speaking of John, the passage says, "who bore witness to
the word of God, and to the testimony of Yeshua ha Mashiach,
and to all things that he saw." Part and parcel to that testimony
surely had to have been that John bore witness to Yeshua, that
He died, that He rose from the dead after three days, that He
ascended again to the Father, where he makes intercession for
us! John spoke of that Yeshua as the same Messiah spoken about
as having been cut off in Daniel 9, as having been smitten by
God, pierced for our transgressions in Isaiah 53. The Scriptures
clearly spoke about the coming of the Messiah at a particular
point in time and that certain things would happen because of
"And he shall confirm the covenant with many for
one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice
and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations
he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that
determined shall be poured upon the desolate."
"And he shall confirm
the covenant with many..." - Daniel 9:27a was fulfilled at the
last Passover Seder with His disciples. Emphasizing this, Yeshua
"For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed
for many for the remission of sins." (Matthew 26:28)
"and in the midst of the week he shall cause the
sacrifice and the oblation to cease,"
At the moment of His death,
as noted in Matthew 27:51a,
"And behold, the curtain of the temple
was torn in two from the top to the bottom"
This signified that
the animal sacrifices were not longer efficacious, but had been
supplanted by a greater sacrifice, forever acceptable to God
(see Isaiah 53).
The prophecy of the 70 weeks of years (490 years)
in Daniel gives us a timetable to the ministry of the Messiah,
the Prince. Without belaboring the point here, suffice it say
that from the decree of Artaxerxes in 457 BC to rebuild Jerusalem
to the point when Yeshua was immersed, begining His public ministry,
entered the 70th week of Daniel's prophecy (483 years). This
means that Yeshua confirmed the covenant with many when He was
immersed, when God declared Him His Son and the Ruach HaKodesh
(Holy Spirit) descended upon Him. Matthew 3:16-17 reads,
"And Yeshua, when He had been immersed, came up immediately from the
water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw
the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved
Son, in whom I am well pleased."
When Yeshua began His ministry,
the people were already in expectation of the coming of the Messiah.
Mark 1:14-15 reads,
"Now after John was put in prison, Yeshua
came to Galilee, preaching the good news of the kingdom of God,
and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is
at hand. Repent and believe the good news."
I believe the book of Revelation was written for the seven congregations
in Asia Minor. As I tried to emphasize, its truths and teachings
are things that we also can uphold as our own. But, the immediate
readers of the book were the congregational leaders and the hearers
were the congregations. The urgency of the message was related
to known prophecies in the Tenach, with specific expectation
from Yeshua Himself (Matthew 24:15) concerning that point in
Although I understand that some may want to draw conclusions
not expressed herein, it has been my intent only to explore the
meaning of Revelation 1:3. It is beyond the scope of this message
to draw any conclusions beyond these things, other than the high
truths relating to the sure word of Prophecy regarding the time
of the appearing of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, Yeshua
Is there anyone else in history, other than Yeshua
(Jesus), who came at or near the appointed time according to
Daniel's prophecies, who confirmed the covenant with many, was
cut off (i.e. died), and who subsequently made such an impact
in the history of the world? Can someone please provide a more
cogent explanation of the Daniel 9 prophecy to the expectation
of the Messiah, the Prince? A fitting end, then, to this discussion
are the questions raised in Proverbs 30:4:
"Who has ascended into
heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all
the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son's
name, if you know?"
Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to hear
the words of Yeshua, again, from Mark 1:15,
"The time is fulfilled,
and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good