Yom Shishi, 2 Iyar 5777 — יוֹם שִׁשִּׁי ב אִיָּר ה' תשעז Friday, 28 April 2017
Blessed Is He Who Reads
(Revelation 1:3)

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 3 again:

"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 Revelation 22:18-19,

"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 servant John,"

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 servant John,"

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)

Thus, 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 the reading."

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 9:24-27:

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 (lechalle.gif lechalle, to restrain), the transgression which was effected by the preaching of the Gospel, and pouring out of the Holy Ghost among men.

II. To make an end of sins; rather ulhatem_hataot.gif 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.gif 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.gif 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.gif 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, kodesh_kodashim.gif kodesh kodashim, "the Holy of holies." vlimshoach.gif [v'limsho-ach] mashach, to anoint, (from which comes mashiach.gif 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."

In Revelation 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 it.

Daniel 9:27,

"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."

"And he shall confirm the covenant with many..." - Daniel 9:27a was fulfilled at the last Passover Seder with His disciples. Emphasizing this, Yeshua said,

"For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matthew 26:28)

Again, from Daniel 9:27b,

"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."

Conclusion

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 time.

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 of Nazareth.

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 news."


1 Daniel 11:31; 12:112

2 Leviticus 25:8 "And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years."