Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
1:1-3 This book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ; the whole Bible is so; for all revelation comes through Christ, and all relates to him. Its principal subject is to discover the purposes of God concerning the affairs of the church, and of the nations as connected therewith, to the end of the world. These events would surely come to pass; and they would begin to come to pass very shortly. Though Christ is himself God, and has light and life in himself, yet, as Mediator between God and man, he receives instructions from the Father. To him we owe the knowledge of what we are to expect from God, and what he expects from us. The subject of this revelation was, the things that must shortly come to pass. On all who read or hear the words of the prophecy, a blessing is pronounced. Those are well employed who search the Bible. It is not enough that we read and hear, but we must keep the things that are written, in our memories, in our minds, in our affections, and in practice, and we shall be blessed in the deed. Even the mysteries and difficulties of this book are united with discoveries of God, suited to impress the mind with awe, and to purify the soul of the reader, though he may not discern the prophetic meaning. No part of Scripture more fully states the gospel, and warns against the evil of sin.
Blessed is he that readeth - That is, it is to be regarded as a privilege attended with many blessings, to be permitted to mark the disclosures to be made in this book; the important revelations respecting future times. Prof. Stuart supposes that this refers to a public reading, and that the phrase "those who hear the words of this prophecy," refers to those who listened to the public reader, and that both the reader and hearer should regard themselves as highly favored. It is, however, more in accordance with the usual meaning of the word rendered "read," to suppose that it refers to the act of one's reading for himself; to learn by reading. So Robinson (Lexicon) understands it. The Greek word, indeed, would bear the other interpretation (see Luke 4:16
; Acts 13:27
; Acts 15:21
; 2 Corinthians 3:15
); but as this book was sent abroad to be read by Christians, and not merely to be in the hands of the ministers of religion to be read by them to others, it is more natural to interpret the word in the usual sense.
And hear the words of this prophecy - As they shall be declared or repeated by others; or perhaps the word "hear" is used in a sense that is not uncommon, that of giving attention to; taking heed to. The general sense is, that they were to be regarded as highly favored who became acquainted in any way with what is here communicated. The writer does not say that they were blessed who understood it, or that they who read or heard it would fully understand it; but it is clearly implied, that there would be so far an understanding of its meaning as to make it a felicitous condition to have been made acquainted with it. An author could not be supposed to say that one should regard his condition as a favored one who merely heard words that he could not understand, or who had placed before him magnificent symbols that had to him no meaning. The word "prophecy" is used here in its more strict sense as denoting the disclosure of future events - a large portion of the book being of this nature. It is here synonymous with "Revelation" in Revelation 1:1.
And keep those things which are written therein - Keep in mind those things which relate to the future; and obey those things which arc required as truth and duty. The blessing which results from having in possession the revealed truth of God is not merely in reading it, or in hearing it: it results from the fact that the truth is properly regarded, and exerts a suitable influence over our lives. Compare Psalm 19:11; "And in keeping of them there is great reward."
For the time is at hand - See Revelation 1:1. The word used here - ἐγγύς engus - has the same signification substantially as the word "shortly" in Revelation 1:1. It would apply to any event whose beginning was soon to occur, though the end might be remote, for the series of events might stretch far into the future. It cannot be doubted, however, that the writer meant to press upon them the importance of attending to these things, from the fact that either entirely or in part these things were soon to happen. It may be inferred from this verse, that it is possible so to "understand" this book, as that it may convey useful instruction. This is the only book in the Bible of which a special blessing is pronounced on him who reads it; but assuredly a blessing would not be pronounced on the perusal of a book which is entirely unintelligible. While, therefore, there may be many obscurities in this book, it is also to be assumed that it may be so far understood as to be useful to Christians, in supporting their faith, and giving them elevated views of the final triumph of religion, and of the glory of the world to come. Anything is a blessing which enables us with well-founded hope and joy to look forward to the heavenly world.
Blessed is he that readeth,.... This book the Revelation, privately, in his closet or family, carefully and diligently, with a desire of understanding it; or publicly in the church of God, and endeavours open and explain it to others; and may allude to the reading of the law and the prophets in the synagogues, which were not barely read, but expounded; see Acts 13:15
; and the rather this may be thought to be the sense of the words, since there is a change of number in the next clause,
and they that hear the words of this prophecy; that listen attentively to the reading and exposition of this book, and have ears to hear, so as to understand the prophecies contained in it: for the whole, when delivered to John, was a prophecy of things to come: but some versions read the number alike in both clauses; as either, "blessed is he that readeth, and he that heareth", as the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions; or "blessed are they that read, and they that hear", as the Arabic version:
and keep those things which are written therein; the last version adds, "concerning this frail world"; who not only read, and hear, but put in practice what they read and hear; for there are some things in this book which are of a practical nature, especially in the epistles to the seven churches; or the sense is, happy are those persons that observe, and take notice of what is written herein, and meditate upon them, and well weigh them in their minds, and retain them in their memories. Now, though eternal happiness does not depend upon, nor is procured by any of these means, as reading, hearing, and observing; yet there is a real happiness, a true pleasure, that does attend these things, which may stir up to a regard unto them; and for which purpose the following words are added:
for the time is at hand; when thee things should begin to be fulfilled. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
See on Matthew 5:3.
He that readeth (ὁ ἀναγινώσκων)
See on Luke 4:16. The Reader in the Church. See 2 Corinthians 3:14. They that hear, the congregation. The words imply a public, official reading, in full religious assembly for worship. The passage is of some weight in determining the date of this book. The stated reading of the Apostolical writings did not exist as a received form before the destruction of Jerusalem, a.d. 70.
And keep (καὶ τηροῦντες)
The absence of the article from τηροῦντες keeping (compare οἱ ἀκούντες they that hear), shows that the hearers and the keepers form one class. Τηρεῖν to keep, is a peculiarly Johannine word, and is characteristic of Revelation as of the other writings in its own peculiar sense of "keeping" in the exercise of active and strenuous care, rather than of watching over to preserve. See on reserved, 1 Peter 1:4.
See on prophet, Luke 7:26.
Which are written (τὰ γεγραμμένα)
Perfect participle, have been written, and therefore stand written.
The time (ὁ καιρὸς)
See on Matthew 12:1.
At hand (ἐγγύς)
Lit., near. See on shortly, Revelation 1:1.
3. he that readeth, and they that hear—namely, the public reader in Church assemblies, and his hearers. In the first instance, he by whom John sent the book from Patmos to the seven churches, read it publicly: a usage most scriptural and profitable. A special blessing attends him who reads or hears the apocalyptic "prophecy" with a view to keeping the things therein (as there is but one article to "they that hear and keep those things," not two classes, but only one is meant: "they who not only hear, but also keep those things," Ro 2:13); even though he find not the key to its interpretation, he finds a stimulus to faith, hope, and patient waiting for Christ. Note: the term "prophecy" has relation to the human medium or prophet inspired, here John: "Revelation" to the Divine Being who reveals His will, here Jesus Christ. God gave the revelation to Jesus: He by His angel revealed it to John, who was to make it known to the Church.
Blessed is he that readeth - This is to be understood of the happiness or security of the persons who, reading and hearing the prophecies of those things which were to come to pass shortly, took proper measures to escape from the impending evils.
The time is at hand - Either in which they shall be all fulfilled, or begin to be fulfilled. See the note on Revelation 1:1.
These three verses contain the introduction; now the dedication to the seven Churches commences.
1:3 Happy is he that readeth, and they that hear, the words of this prophecy - Some have miserably handled this book. Hence others are afraid to touch it; and, while they desire to know all things else, reject only the knowledge of those which God hath shown. They inquire after anything rather than this; as if it were written, Happy is he that doth not read this prophecy. Nay, but happy is he that readeth, and they that hear, and keep the words thereof - Especially at this time, when so considerable a part of them is on the point of being fulfilled. Nor are helps wanting whereby any sincere and diligent inquirer may understand what he reads therein. The book itself is written in the most accurate manner possible. It distinguishes the several things whereof it treats by seven epistles, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven phials; each of which sevens is divided into four and three. Many things the book itself explains; as the seven stars; the seven candlesticks; the lamb, his seven horns and seven eyes; the incense; the dragon; the heads and horns of the beasts; the fine linen; the testimony of Jesus: and much light arises from comparing it with the ancient prophecies, and the predictions in the other books of the New Testament. In this book our Lord has comprised what was wanting in those prophecies touching the time which followed his ascension and the end of the Jewish polity. Accordingly, it reaches from the old Jerusalem to the new, reducing all things into one sum, in the exactest order, and with a near resemblance to the ancient prophets. The introduction and conclusion agree with Daniel; the description of the man child, and the promises to Sion, with Isaiah; the judgment of Babylon, with Jeremiah; again, the determination of times, with Daniel; the architecture of the holy city, with Ezekiel; the emblems of the horses, candlesticks, and c., with Zechariah. Many things largely described by the prophets are here summarily repeated; and frequently in the same words. To them we may then usefully have recourse. Yet the Revelation suffices for the explaining itself, even if we do not yet understand those prophecies; yea, it casts much light upon them. Frequently, likewise, where there is a resemblance between them, there is a difference also; the Revelation, as it were, taking a stock from one of the old prophets, and inserting a new graft into it. Thus Zechariah speaks of two olive trees; and so does St. John; but with a different meaning. Daniel has a beast with ten horns; so has St. John; but not with quite the same signification. And here the difference of words, emblems, things, times, ought studiously to be observed. Our Lord foretold many things before his passion; but not all things; for it was not yet seasonable. Many things, likewise, his Spirit foretold in the writings of the apostles, so far as the necessities of those times required: now he comprises them all in one short book; therein presupposing all the other prophecies, and at the same time explaining, continuing, and perfecting them in one thread. It is right therefore to compare them; but not to measure the fulness of these by the scantiness of those preceding. Christ, when on earth, foretold what would come to pass in a short time; adding a brief description of the last things. Here he foretells the intermediate things; so that both put together constitute one complete chain of prophecy. This book is therefore not only the sum and the key of all the prophecies which preceded, but likewise a supplement to all; the seals being closed before. Of consequence, it contains many particulars not revealed in any other part of scripture. They have therefore little gratitude to God for such a revelation, reserved for the exaltation of Christ, who boldly reject whatever they find here which was not revealed, or not so clearly, in other parts of scripture. He that readeth and they that hear - St. John probably sent this book by a single person into Asia, who read it in the churches, while many heard. But this, likewise, in a secondary sense, refers to all that shall duly read or hear it in all ages. The words of this prophecy - It is a revelation with regard to Christ who gives it; a prophecy, with regard to John who delivers it to the churches. And keep the things which are written therein - In such a manner as the nature of them requires; namely, with repentance, faith, patience, prayer, obedience, watchfulness, constancy. It behoves every Christian, at all opportunities, to read what is written in the oracles of God; and to read this precious book in particular, frequently, reverently, and attentively. For the time - Of its beginning to be accomplished. Is near - Even when St. John wrote. How much nearer to us is even the full accomplishment of this weighty prophecy!
1:3 Blessed is he that readeth.
There is a reference to the custom that had already grown up, at the close of the first century, of reading the apostolic writings publicly in the churches. The benediction is pronounced on the public reader; on those that hear, and lastly upon those that keep the words contained in this prophecy.
The time is at hand. The period to which the prophecy relates is near.