Today, I was not absent in body but I was also there in mind and spirit. Some might say I was not all there are usual. Nevertheless, Pastor John preached on that wonderfully depressing book entitled “Ecclesiastes.” You know the one that says your life is meaningless dust and all of your accomplishments are insignificant chaff in the wind. Fortunately, Pastor John is a very good communicator of God’s word, which means his message was great and his punch line superb. My meager attempt to summarize his message is this: If nature reclaims everything, what’s the point of all of the stuff accumulated over the years? What’s the point of all the hard work and the grand or not so grand accomplishments? Most likely all of it will return to dust and be forgotten. His superb punch line goes something like this: Stuff is temporal but people are forever. A good meaningful life now and for eternity is achieved only through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. In other words, a life of endless enjoyment first experienced by Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden will one day be restored by Jesus Christ. That is the counter-point to the bleak reality portrayed in Ecclesiastes. (By the way, the garden may be located in Jerusalem.)
Although Pastor John’s message on Ecclesiastes was certainly inspiring, I think I will avoid delving into the dark mental space of the wise son of King David. Instead, I want to continue with last week’s discussion about the often confusing and image rich book of Revelation.
John, who wrote down this prophetic panorama of our future, was only one of at least seven persons who collaborated on the publication of Revelation. God was the primary source and Jesus was the divine intermediary showing John what would occur in human history. There were others. For example, Jesus’ angel, other angels, and ruling elders assisted Jesus in showing what God wants all of us to know and understand.
One of the things God’s want us all to comprehend is the benefits of this prophecy. Unlike many books of the Bible, there are specifically stated benefits in reading, hearing, remembering, doing, and living the content of God’s revelation through Jesus the Messiah. John states it this way:
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things that are written in it; for the time is near. (Rev. 1:3)
As mentioned last week, the time is near but how near is a matter of perspective. One day is as a thousand year and a thousand years is as one day to God. Adding to this perspective is the phrase often used by Jesus during his earthly ministry: The kingdom of God is at hand (or near). The eternal kingdom of God is as near as the ever present Spirit of God, and yet it seems too many that God is usually remote. Jesus, however, meant that because those who saw and heard what God had specially directed him to say and do they were also under a directive of God whose presence and rule had approached them. Also implied was the promise of God’s coming reign over Israel and world was approaching. It was time for its fulfillment. Like the Jews during Jesus earthly days, all of us are confronted by the revelation of Jesus with a decision whether to enter the kingdom rule of God and His Son Jesus. As the Psalmist sang,
The rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His
Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their
fetters apart and cast away there
bands from us!”
The Lord scoffs at them, saying,
“But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My Holy mountain.”
[And to His King,] You are My Son,
Today I have begotten you.”
Now therefore, worship the Lord with
reverence and … do homage to the Son….
(Ps. 2:2-4, 6, 7, 12)
In other words, the kingdom is still at hand and the time is even nearer than before. In order to benefit from entering God’s kingdom now under the lordship of Jesus, you must first know the laws of the kingdom, maintain good relations with the King, and continue doing God’s will, but I’m getting ahead of the subject at hand.
The benefits promised to those who read, hear, heed the words of Revelation are unique. You will find them listed in the messages to the 7 churches, in the rewards for overcoming mentioned in 6: 9-17; 7:9-8:5 (and beyond); 14:12-17; 20:4; 20:11-15; and 21-22. The key to overcoming is seen in chapter 12 and verse 11, which states:
They overcame … because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their love their loves even when faced with death.
In the Bible, blessed does not necessarily mean everything will be hunky dory. In the Sermon on the Mount, happy and blessed are synonyms for the same Greek word. (Mat. 5-7) Yet happy and blessed does not necessary mean happy, prosperous, tranquil, or life without problems. In most cases, blessed means the state of a right relationship with God in the present through past obedience to His laws and justice that will ultimate lead to future good including love, peace, joy, righteousness, wholeness, and prosperity for all eternity. Momentary pain, problems, or lack does not reflect on the present state of blessedness in the kingdom of Christ and God. This is even clearer in Luke’s gospel (6:20-46).
Some other scriptures that help clarify the meaning of the blessed life are Lk. 12:43; Jas. 1:12; Mat. 16:17; Rom. 4:8; Rev. 16:15. In these verses, we find a slave will be blessed (and not condemned) when his master returns from a trip and finds him doing what the master wanted. According to James, blessed is every man who perseveres under trial. Such trials prove one’s faith. Once approved, that man will receive the crown of life as promised by the Lord. A person is blessed while going through struggles with overcoming as the end goal. Remaining faithful to God is what overcoming means.
There are other aspects of the blessed state. For example, Paul declared a man blessed whose sins (moral crimes) are not held against him (Rom. 4:8). James also taught that the man who lives according to the perfect law of liberty of God is blessed (Jas.1:25). Simon Peter was blessed because God had revealed to him that Jesus was His Son, the Anointed One (Mat. 16:17). God wants the same for all people.
Here is a real puzzle: “Behold, I am coming like a thief in the night. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and others see his or her shame.” (Rev. 16:15)
Does this mean we must always go to bed with our clothes on lest Jesus returns and everyone see us naked? I think this refers to what Paul taught us and that was to put on the likeness of Christ like a garment. (Rom. 13:14; Eph. 4:20-24; Col. 3:10). This is the white garment mentioned in Revelation.
So, how do we obtain the benefits promised in Revelation?
-  : Read the book. What is written is meant to be understood. Like the Jews who read the book of the God’s law every Sabbath, they still did not understand God’s intentions and plan, according to Paul (2 Cor. 3:15; Ac.13:27; 15:27)
- Understand the book. Hear it words. Listen to the voice of God. Understanding is a gift of the Spirit of God (1 Jo. 2:20-21). Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom.10:17). The just shall live by faith (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). Righteousness is the fruit of faith in Jesus Christ.
- Heed or keep remembering and living the God-given directives of this prophecy. This is what Jesus meant when he told his disciples that they must remain in the vine (Jo. 15:1-6). “If my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (Jo. 15:7). Why? Because it means those who do keep God’s commandments and the faith and testimony of Jesus. (Jo. 15:10; Rev. 14:12; 12:17)