When you flip all the pages to the back of your Bible, when you take a deep breath and begin to excavate the words of John’s Revelation, what exactly are you looking for? Are you hoping for an end times road map? A winning slam dunk in your next theological argument?
How about blessing? Have you ever gone head and heart first into the book of Revelation in search of a blessing? If not, you may be surprised to discover that the Revelation begins and ends with a blessing upon those who “hear and keep” its words.
“Blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it… Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”Revelation 1:3; 22:7
If this is all news to you, Nancy Guthrie has created a resource to set you on a path toward blessing. In Blessed, you will learn that John the Apostle did not write his Revelation to be a book about the future. It was, in fact, written to encourage seven first-century churches in their very real context of persecution.
In our own divided time, John’s message may invite us to view our world through the perspective of heaven. He also assists in what may be our most crucial task in the 21st century: correcting our assumptions about what the “blessed” life looks like.
Guthrie offers big picture guidance for anyone who wants to do a comprehensive read through of John’s letter: Notice numbers. Understand that Revelation is not intended as a chronological record. Instead, it’s a repeated rehearsal of events between the first and second coming of Christ, each from a different angle.
Beatitudes, Part 2
Because of the weird mindset I have carried into my reading of the Revelation, I failed to notice that it reads like a second set of Beatitudes with its seven embedded “blessed” statements (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14). And since every single word of the book is livable, we would be wise to bring a new and improved set of questions to our reading:
- What will it mean today for me to “hear and keep” the message of the Revelation?
- What changes will this bring to my priorities? My passions?
John’s Revelation is not meant to scare us. “It is meant to instill confidence and hope so we will not have to face the future gripped by fear.” @NancyGuth3 #Blessed via @crosswayTweet
Two More Resources
Two additional resources have helped me in my understanding of and appreciation for John’s letters to “the seven churches that are in Asia” (Revelation 1:4).
Rachel Schmoyer’s heart for helping readers “read the hard parts” of scripture has resulted in a new devotional workbook that takes readers through Revelation in thirty days. Take It To Heart demystifies John’s writing, making it clear that, first and foremost, the Revelation was written by a pastor. We also forget that the letter was intended for actual communities of believers that existed in a certain geographic, economic, and cultural context.
Read the Hard Parts of Scripture with @schmoyer_rachel! #TakeIttoHeart demystifies Revelation, making it clear, first and foremost, that it was written by a pastor.Tweet
Far from a mere catalog of future events, John’s role is to interpret what is to come in light of today’s challenges, to throw in a dash of what has already been, and to help the flock know how to live in the present.
Listening Can Be a Spiritual Act.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”Revelation 2:7
The rhythm of this phrase thrums through the messages to the seven churches no matter what their circumstances or individual besetting sins, causing me to wonder if selective hearing could also be the root of my own failings?
According to Annie Dillard, the greatest theological question of all times is this: “What in the Sam Hill is going on here anyway?” If she is correct, I may find the answer to that momentous question by opening my ears to what the Spirit is saying — through the Word, in response to my prayers, in the whisper-voice of my circumstances.
Worship is the Ultimate Goal
A second and much older resource comes from the heart and the pen of Eugene Peterson. Reversed Thunder gently insists that worship is the ultimate goal when God reveals himself to humanity. Twice, John is rebuked for falling at the feet of a heavenly being in worship (19:10; 22:9). We, too, fall on our faces — easily and in the wrong direction.
Every journey through the Revelation reminds me that Jesus is the beginning and the ending, not only because He says so, but because the book puts his magnificence on display for twenty-two chapters, from beginning to end. When the letter is used as a reference book for our quibbling-matches about signs of the time and who’s right about the rapture, we become more of what we already are: a distracted people. Truly a hymnal in its own way, the Revelation reminds me that whenever I find my way into worship, I am joining with and adding to the praise that goes on continually in heavenly places.
The best news we can ever hear with our fallen ears is this: The God of Revelation invites. The word is “come,” and the invitation goes out to all the thirsty. Through desert times of the soul, there is an invitation to drink freely. Here is comfort for the one who is tired of insincere offers; weary of eyes that scan the crowd in search of another more interesting companion; fed up with promises made but not fulfilled.
Join me in taking a step back from the traditional approach to John’s Revelation. Perk up your ears and sharpen your worship as you read the text with new eyes and take in the message with confidence and understanding.
Holding You in the Light,
The best news we can ever hear with our fallen ears is this: The God of Revelation invites. The word is “come,” and the invitation goes out to all the thirsty.Tweet
Are You a Subscriber?
Every month I send a newsletter with biblical encouragement straight to my subscribers’ email inboxes. I’m committed to the truth that women can become confident followers of God and students of his word, and it’s my goal to provide resources to help you along that path. “Half a Dozen Biblical Questions for Entering (and Enduring) Hard Times” is my most recent free resource, and new subscribers receive it automatically.
To receive your copy simply enter your email and then click on the button below…
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and an affiliate of The Joyful Life Magazine, two advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books or products I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to the seller. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Many thanks to Crossway for providing a copy of Blessed to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.