The revelation of Jesus the Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must be absolutely fulfilled soon. Christ signified it through visions by sending his divine messenger to his servant John, who bears witness to the word: the revelation given by God and borne witness to by Jesus the Christ, whatever things he saw. Blessed is the one who publicly reads, and those hearing the words of the prophecy, and obeying the things in it having been written; for the time is near.
To answer the first question, “What version is that?” It is my own interpretation of the Greek.
In these first three verses, we find that it is divided into three sets of three:
- 1) Author:
- God revealed to Christ
- Christ revealed to John
- John bares witness to everything he saw
- 2) Contents:
- Word of God
- Truth attested by Christ
- Embodied in John’s visions
- 3) Blessedness:
- To those that read it
- To those that hear it
- To those that observe it
1) The first statement tells us that this is the revelation of Jesus Christ. This is crucial for multiple reasons. This isn’t something that we can just claim John wrote, or saw. It is indeed the very word of Christ Jesus, the very revelation given from Him to man. From that, we can draw several conclusions, all of which are less important than necessary to write out.
The one writing is John. Who is this John? Some have claimed that because the language is so vastly different and distinct from John the apostle that someone else has written it. It might be that a man named John wrote it, but it wasn’t John the apostle. Others have claimed that John the elder is different than John the apostle, and John the elder wrote the Gospel and epistles of John, but the author of Revelations is the apostle. Personally, I think it is defensible to claim that the one who wrote the Gospel and epistles is the same John that wrote Revelations.
First, the language is stretched. What do I mean by that? The nature of this vision is too large and comprehensive for language to contain. What John sees, he is doing his best to communicate through human language. But his vision is too fantastic to speak or communicate through natural language. Therefore, the language is being stretched beyond the ability of language.
Second, there are certain concepts found in Revelations that are only elsewhere found in John. For example, Jesus is called the Lamb. The Greek word is different; this is true. But the concept isn’t found elsewhere except in 1 Peter 1:19. Indeed, the Greek word is only native in Revelations. Also, we find the same writing style. John is notorious for explaining through contrast.
2) We find that in this first discourse (1:1-8) and at the end of the Book (22:8-21) are the only places that are not vision. It is important to note that this is all one vision. John is not seeing multiple visions brought together, like in Zechariah. Instead, this is all one vision with many parts and components. What is mentioned, and where it is mentioned, is vital to notice, because we find that John will bring up concepts and not explain it until later in the Book. He does this for a couple reasons. First, he is making statements with what he mentions where. Second, he is writing like one who would explain a panorama. John is explaining the vision from the start to the finish of the timeline, and therefore concluding each piece of the vision with the same event. This is different than if John were to explain each piece of the vision (that is, each image) in a systematic way. John focuses upon chronology and not systematics. Therefore, he puts pieces together to draw out the logical outcome of each progression, but doesn’t put the pieces together to draw out the logical interpretation of each image. It is up to the reader to perceive the Scripture that is being quoted and referenced, and to therefore examine the context of these quoted passages, and to therefore get the larger picture from those references.
3) John writes seven different beatitudes interspersed throughout the Book. This first one speaks of the blessedness that we receive when we read, hear, and take to heart what is written.
From the very first verse we already have a quotation. The apostle John is using a phrase that we find in Daniel 2:28-29: “There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come…” “…your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen.” That revealer of mysteries is Christ Jesus, according to our very first verse.
ἐν ταχει would not simply be “soon”, as many translations have it, but rather “in their order”. We have an advantage over the first century saints that read this. We know that it is not “soon”, as in before the end of the age of the apostles. Instead, the word that John uses fits with the previous statement. The whole statement comes together as “necessary things to come in their order”. No doubt the author did expect soon, and indeed he does say soon later in Revelation. Yet, because John uses the words ἐν ταχει, we know that this does not simply mean “soon”, but “in their order”. That it would “come soon” has always been the expectancy of the prophetic utterance. Compare Deuteronomy 9:3, Ezekiel 29:5, Luke 18:8, and Romans 16:20.
In verse three we have the first of the seven beatitudes in Revelations. For the other six, see Revelations 16:15, 14:13, 19:9, 22:14, 20:6, and 22:7. Also compare this to Luke 11:28. “Blessed are those who hear…” The verse in Luke gives emphasis, rightly, that we are to hear the word and to obey it. Also compare John 12:47. However, φυλασσειν is replaced with τερειν, a familiar Johannan word. For the concept that is being communicated, see Psalm 1 where the righteous both read faithfully and also live accordingly.
As for the blessing upon the reader, αναγινωσκον is not simply the student that studies, but the man who publicly reads. We find this concept in Exodus 24:7, Nehemiah 8:2-3, Luke 4:16, Acts 13:15, and 2 Corinthians 3:15.
To make comment on the first beatitude, the question arises as to how we can obey the words contained within the prophecy of this book if it is future. I have a couple things to say. First, Peter addresses this in his second epistle: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” Clearly the connection between eschatology and ecclesiology are quite impossible to ignore. Because we know the things that are coming, we are to live in a manner that overcomes the world. This leads me to my second point: John does give us clear instruction. There is clear teaching within the book of Revelation of how we’re to live. We’re to overcome, we’re to be patient and long suffering, and we’re to keep ourselves pure from the guile of this world. This doesn’t need to be something in the past in order for those statements to apply to today. In the view of what is coming, we prepare in both lifestyle and character for the coming time of Tribulation. Blessed is he who does take seriously the things written in this prophecy, and who live accordingly to it. I see no reason for us to claim that this prophecy has to be fulfilled back in the first century in order for it to apply.