“God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and He blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.”
Revelation 1:3 NLT
Right at the beginning of his book, the Apostle John, the writer, said it was a prophecy. It is common for Christians to expect a prophecy to tell of some future event that has not yet happened. A revelatory glimpse of the future granted to a chosen person from God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Well, this book is full of such events, portrayed in graphic and pictorial, even apocalyptic, language that is both fascinating to read but difficult to understand and relate to in our world today, particularly our physical world. But a prophecy can be more than that. Our “revelatory glimpses” can apply to the here and now, as God unfolds a situation or problem that has somehow eluded the attention it should have had through personal or pastoral care, bringing admonishment and exhortation as part of a prophecy. Such matters are in this book as well.
John spoke out a blessing, to be bestowed on those who read this book to the church. A blessing direct from God. But when did we last hear a passage from Revelations dispensed from the pulpit? It is not a book commonly read because it needs a sharp mind to discern its meaning. In other places in the book it makes for uncomfortable reading and listening. But the blessing continues to those who listen to this book being read. There is much in John’s writings to bring a blessing, if we only take the time to read and study, listen and apply, the truths within.
John finishes this verse by introducing a sense of urgency. He said “the time is near“. Other translations use different phrases such as “the time of fulfilment is near” (AMP), or “the time is almost near” (CEV). The KJV uses the phrase “the time is at hand“. But all these translations bring across the impression that what is contained in this book will soon happen. But it begs the question – if John said the time is near 2000 years ago why hasn’t what he wrote about happened yet? How near is near? There will be several answers to this question, just as there are several different events and situations mentioned in the book. “Near” started before the ink dried on John’s parchment and will continue until the end of time. This book did not describe a single point in time but set out a series of events that will encompass time as we know it but also might even push the boundaries of eternity. To start getting our affairs in order is probably a bit premature if all we take from Revelation is a picture of the end of the world. Jesus told us in Matthew 24:36, “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows”. So we need to trust our Heavenly Father with this. Sadly, there is always someone who pops up with a pronouncement that the world will end on such and such a time, only to find that the time comes and goes, with no end in sight.
There is much more in Revelation, however, that does apply to the hear and now. Timeless parts of the prophecy that we do well to take note of and apply in our own lives and the lives of our churches. So we pilgrims tramp on, studying the words of John, allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what God wants us to read and hear. The Book of Revelation is an amazing book. Yet again, God used a man incarcerated in a prison cell, set apart from every day life, to hear and record His Word. A man in a special place at a special time in history. And John faithfully wrote down what he was told.
Dear Lord. We thank You for Your servant John and his faithfulness. We pray that the legacy of his words helps us to grow in our pilgrimage to become more like You. Amen.