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)
Reading, Hearing, And Keeping
The revelation granted to the apostle John was marvelous imagery of divine knowledge declaring the glorious victory of righteousness against the forces of unrighteousness. His book the Revelation is the message of the Lord to persecuted saints giving them hope and promise that all tears shed on earth and pain endured in life will be taken away by the power of God in the final day. There will always be controversy swirling around John’s revelation and many will misinterpret and abuse the apocalyptic language of this final message to mankind. The problem is found in forgetting to read the opening statement of John’s book when he exhorts his readers to do three things: read the revelation, hear the message of the revelation and obey what it says. If the Revelation is too hard to understand then no man can read it, hear it, and obey it. On the contrary, John says it must be received as a book that can be read, understood, and obeyed.
What John is asking of his readers is not unlike the task before every student of the completed word of God. The Bible contains sixty-six books of divine knowledge set forth over thousands of years by different men living in different times and cultures. It is a book that needs to be read. God will bless the heart that will open the book of books and read its message. From time beginning, the will of God has been revealed to the hearts of men who need the word to save them. In the last days, the Holy Spirit has made ready the printed book containing all the will of the Lord. There are no more revelations given to humanity than found in the Bible. The faith has been once delivered to the saints with no more declarations to be given. Until a man reads the word of God, he will not know how to be saved.
John writes to the seven churches which are in Asia to read the revelation given to him. Knowledge is power and through the avenue of reading the message of God the faithful child of God will know things no man can know apart from divine revelation. Reading the Revelation is an incredible journey of imagery, beauty, fear, hope, and promise. Without reading the book, the message is lost. Why is it that a man knows so much about the Bible and yet never reads the Bible? Reading the Bible is that same voyage of imagery, beauty, fear, hope, and promise. There are so many wonderful passages found in the Bible and there are many terrible stories told. All of these point to the nature of God and the promised coming of His Son, Jesus Christ. To know God and to know His word, reading is the first requirement.
Reading the word is not all God wants of His people. Many will say the Revelation is impossible to understand. John says that it is a revelation that can be understood as he exhorts his readers to listen to the message. The trouble with the Revelation is the same challenge found in all of the Bible: it takes study, examination, discernment, thoughtful prayer, and asking for the wisdom of God. John’s message of the revelation is no different than the other books of the Bible that must be read and listened to know the plan of redemption. Hearing the word of God is to dive deep into the word and search out the scriptures to see what eternal gems are found on its pages. It does not require a college degree to know the word of God. Paul told the saints at Ephesus they could understand what he wrote down concerning the mystery long hidden. The Bible is a book ripe for the eager mind to hear the word of God and to know the will of the Father. Reading and hearing the word is how knowledge grows.
The final part of John’s three-point sermon is to obey the word. Keeping the word is the action of a heart open to the reading of God’s will and listening to the message of grace in God’s word. Without obeying the word men become hearers only and not doers as James says. Faith is incomplete without works. The Lord has always required men to obey His word. This obedience cannot come without the knowledge to know what to obey. Reading the word directs the affairs of men to know what to hear and upon that hearing act in obedience to God’s will. If there is no obedience there will be no salvation. John wants his readers to obey the revelation given to him by the Lord. The book of Revelation is a message expected to be followed by the will of God.
God will bless all those who read His word and listen to His message. The Bible is the way the heavenly Father has spoken to His children. He expects His children to obey His word. They cannot do that if they have not read the words of His will. Reading, hearing, and keeping are the requirements of knowing God. John said it can be done with the Revelation and that same formula can be used with the other revelations of God. Take the time to read the word. Listen to the voice of God as the word fills the heart. Remember that obedience is the fruit of reading and hearing the word of God.