Revelation 1:1-3 Part 5

Having pretty much finished with verse one (although we’ll no doubt refer back to it on numerous occasions), we now proceed to verses two and three of the title of John’s letter: Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Verse two says: “who did bear witness the Word of God and the witness of Jesus Christ all he saw”.

By using this particular verb form “who did bear witness”, John places himself at the moment of the reading of the letter to the Churches.  It is the written record of “all he saw”.  His commission from Jesus Christ was to “witness” all he saw.

It was the Word of God.  We saw in verse one that all John saw came directly from God the Father.  The Father gave it to Jesus Christ to show to his servants.  Therefore what John has written is no less than The Word of God; no less than the witness of Jesus Christ.

The third person singular, “all he saw” refers back to verse one where John (the apostle) the servant of Jesus Christ names himself.  He alone saw Revelation of Jesus Christ, and he alone received the commission from Jesus to witness all he saw.  And, as we heard before, he alone, by the language he uses, presents himself as the lone witness as  Revelation is read in the Churches.  As the letter is read, the Churches hear that John did bear witness to all he saw.  And what he saw was the Word of God and the witness of Jesus Christ.

There is no need whatever for John to say “all he saw and heard”.

The one verb suffices for the entirety of Revelation of Jesus Christ.

The last thing John writes in this title of the letter is (what we might call) a “beatitude”.  Verse three says, “Blessed the one reading and the ones hearing the words of the prophecy and keeping things having been written in it, for the time is near.”

I have another change in the text for you.  This will be the third one in three verses (a bit embarrassing!).   The older copies of the text that some of you may still have, read “the ones reading and hearing….”  Well, that’s not what the text says.  It says, “the one reading and the ones hearing….”

As I blanche at my oversight, let me just say that there is great value in not assuming anything; but going through the text word by word and line by line and concept by concept is undoubtedly a worthy task.  For who wishes to get God’s Word wrong?  Even one letter (like the article “A” at the beginning of verse one)  (even one letter) of that which God said shouldn’t be overlooked or misconstrued.

Anyway, how’s that for putting a positive spin on it?  Please make the change on your copies, and I’ll make more copies as we go along.  Looks like we’ll be using a lot of paper and ink before this is over!

But let’s look at “the one reading and the ones hearing” first.

The apostle John, the servant of Jesus Christ, wrote all that he saw.  And he made six copies (at least).  Maybe seven (one for himself).  Somehow he was able to have them sent to the mainland where they were distributed to the seven Churches, among which he had been pastor.

As the letter was received, there would have been no hesitation at any of them as to the author of the letter or its legitimacy.  This was the pastor, John.  The apostle of Jesus Christ.  He had already written The Gospel of Jesus Christ; and he had already sent three letters to all the Churches.  All of these were received as inspired, holy Scripture.

Jesus Christ Himself had given the “keys” of the Kingdom to His apostles.  It was the voice of The Christ in apostolic doctrine.  And any other doctrine was anathema.  Jesus had clearly intimated that His apostles were the New Covenant “scribes”.  And to “receive” an apostle of The Christ was to receive the word of Jesus Himself.  It, in fact, was the Word Himself.

So there would have been no irregularity in receiving the letter from John; and there certainly would have been no reluctance in believing that it had been received by John directly from Jesus Christ.  John had received the Word – witnessed by Jesus, given to Jesus by God the Father; and John witnessed the Revelation, naming its source.  It was Revelation of Jesus Christ, given to Jesus by the Father, revealed to John with the commission to write it and send it to the seven Churches.

The Churches, wracked with uncertainty, persecuted by Rome and Jerusalem, would have received this good news as a glorious treasure.  What they had heard and anticipated was “near”; God had said, witnessed by Jesus Himself, that all was necessary to be done “in quickness”.

The pastor (or elder, or lector) of each Church would have stood before the congregation and read the letter to them, and there would have been eager hearing of the Word of God.

As we’ll see when we get there, each of the Churches is addressed individually as to what “correction” was required of them in advance of the great events which were anticipated “in quickness”.  And those will be incredibly useful to us in judging the state of the Churches near and far (including ours).

But John pronounces “the one reading” (i.e. the pastor or lector) and “the ones hearing” (i.e. the congregation) “blessed”.  We’ve seen this word before, and we’ll spend some time on it.

But first let me engage in a bit of “necessary inference” here.  Last Lord’s Day we humbly, but with no insecurity or anxiety, recognized and identified when this letter was written.  There would have been only four or five years from the time John received Revelation of Jesus Christ that the “end-of-the-age/Parousia of Jesus Christ would transpire.

Jesus and His disciples had preached in Israel that “the Kingdom was at hand” or “near”.   “In this generation”, Jesus had said.  And here in the text of the Revelation, it was thirty-four or thirty-five years later when John, exiled on the island of Patmos, receives direction from the mouth of God “to show to His servants that which is necessary to be done in quickness”.

John has to write it all as he “saw” it.  And then make the copies and send them to the Churches on the mainland.  Then copies of the copies had to be made for those who wished to have them, and for distribution to all the other Churches in the civilized world.  In a world without UPS and the United States Post Office, it’s incalculable what kind of time frame was involved in all of this!

And pastors and elders in the Churches would excitedly go through the text of John’s letter word for word to glean every bit of information for their congregations, to show them what was necessary to be done in quickness… to show exactly what God had said, and what Jesus witnessed, and what John witnessed.  It’s going to take us years to go through it; they had to do it a lot faster.

I don’t think it speculation at all – but necessary inference – that there must have been a frenzy of activity among the first seven Churches that received The Revelation.  And then the same activity level occurring as other Churches in the nations received their copies.

Assessment of one’s faithfulness (both individual and congregation); and confession and repentance; identifying wolves and false prophets; congregational excitement and public worship; fervent preaching of the Lordship of Jesus and His Kingdom; individual and family preparedness, emotionally and physically, for the astonishing things that were “near”, for in all of history there had been nothing like it.  The wrath of The King of Kings toward God’s adulterous, covenant nation would be fierce and decisive.  Those unprepared would be overwhelmed and terrified.

The letter that John wrote was from God, witnessed by Jesus Christ, sent to the Churches for comforting.  It was to prepare them for that which was to take place “in quickness”… in order that they not be overwhelmed.  And in order that they “faith” in the One Who came to seek them, and to find them, and to save them.  It was He Who would justify them before God, and Who would execute the wrath of God upon all of those who had ravaged them and persecuted them and killed their prophets. 

And now were fiendishly and mercilessly pursuing them and Christ’s apostles to all the Churches in the nations.  And for that they would suffer the retribution for all the blood of the righteous in history.

Again, the inference is that there wasn’t much time; and the anticipation and activity level must have risen sharply as a result of receiving John’s letter.  So much to do; and, maybe, so little time to do it.

Let’s go further now with John’s language here in the third verse.

“Blessed the one reading and the ones hearing….”  The elder, or the pastor, or the lector who read Revelation of Jesus Christ is pronounced “blessed”.  The ones hearing the reading of Revelation of Jesus Christ are pronounced “blessed”.

This is called a “beatitude” mainly because theologians have recognized that John’s word here is the same word that Jesus uses, again and again, as recorded by Matthew in chapter five of his Gospel.

“Blessed the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed the ones that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

“Blessed the meek ones, for they shall inherit the earth.”

“Blessed the ones who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

“Blessed the merciful ones, for they shall obtain mercy.”

“Blessed the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

“Blessed the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

“Blessed the ones who have been persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are you when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.”

And here in the title of John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ, “blessed the one reading and the ones hearing the words of the prophecy, and keeping things having been written in it……..”

Matthew writes these things as Jesus spoke them; and John writes it as he received it.  Men are “blessed” because they are pronounced blessed!  The state of being blessed occurs naturally in no man!  One who has a naturally meek character, or is lowly in spirit, doesn’t make him blessed.

Being reviled or persecuted; being poor or beggarly; or acting in the role of a peacemaker doesn’t make one blessed.  A man or woman or child in mourning over his own state in life is naturally driven from the Christ into his own sin and degradation rather than driven to the Christ.

There is nothing in man’s natural tendencies to cause Jesus to bless him.  Both of these apostles have written this word “blessed” in such a way as to make it known that Jesus Christ pronounces men blessed.  It is a pronouncement upon the subjects of the King.

One who has been declared blessed will exhibit the “meekness“ of the Christ with regard to the sovereignty of God.   One who has been declared “blessed” will experience poverty of spirit with regard to his sin against God.  One who is declared “blessed” will receive the role of peacemaker; for peace with God comes through the work of the Christ.

Same with John:  the one who reads and the ones who hear have been declared blessed.  The pronouncement has been made.  Reading the prophecy, or hearing the prophecy, doesn’t merit the state of being blessed!   The state of blessedness is declared by The Witness – Jesus Christ, in Revelation of Jesus Christ.  They’re blessed by the Witness as Revelation is received; they’re blessed by the Witness as Revelation is read; they’re blessed by the Witness as Revelation is heard.

John continues:  “Blessed the one reading and the ones hearing the words of the prophecy and keeping things having been written in it, for the time is near.”

John writes the perfect active plural participle – “keeping”.  And it’s the same word that Jesus Christ used in His great commission to His disciples just before His ascension to the Father.  “Teaching them………to keep all that I commanded you…. and, lo, I Am with you to the end of the age.”

John the apostle of Jesus Christ was very aware of what the Lord had spoken on that day before His ascension.  After all, he was there.  And there is great meaning in the use of the term that Jesus Himself used at that time.

And please remember that God the Son is the Word of God.  The Scripture doesn’t “contain” the Word; it is the Word.  It is the very “voice” of Jesus.  It is ‘O Logos….. The Word – from the self-determining One Who is absolute authority.

Jesus had said, recorded by Matthew; “……teaching them to keep all that I did command to you”.  It’s obvious from the rest of Scripture that the word “keep” has two distinct, but similar, meanings.

His voice is heard in the instruction and teaching of the apostles; and He is Possessor of all authority.  Therefore He is the “source of” and “focus for” all obedience.  The peoples of the nations of earth are to “obey” the Word of God made flesh.  So the first Biblical meaning of “to keep” is “to obey”.

Then the other (similar) meaning of “to keep” is equally powerful; for the people of all the nations of the earth are to “keep” all His Word inviolate!

It is the prophet Daniel (the recipient of the vision of the five kingdoms of history) who, in his prayer of national repentance, uses the same words and phrases that our Lord uses – and that John writes in Revelation.  He wrote: “And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said ‘O Lord, great and awesome God, Who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him and keep His commands.’”

Our Lord commissions His disciples concerning the Word.  And that Word must be kept and transmitted intact!  Watch over it!  Safeguard it!  For by it the nations are confronted and brought into conscious obedience to His Kingship.

And that’s the word that John uses here in the title of his Revelation of Jesus Christ.  Keep it – obey it; and keep it intact!  It is the very voice of Jesus Christ – the light and life of the world.  Obey it and keep it intact, for the time is near.