SEVEN BEATUTUDES OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Long ago, Jesus recognized that His followers down through the ages would need some signposts along the way to guide and encourage them through the minefields of everyday human nature-and even more so the prophesied comings of false teachers, warring beast-like worldly kingdoms, famines, epidemics and natural disasters. So He offers us seven jewels of challenge and responsibility wrapped in encouragement.
Seven is often considered the biblical number that symbolizes completion, so let's go through a thumbnail sketch of what God says we need to do to be complete as we look forward to that day when He grants us His "pennies."
1. "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 God's Word or hearing it spoken by another person is much different from deeply embedding it within our hearts and allowing it to be our life's compass. The "things which are written in it" are about the very real return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of God's Kingdom. Knowing this and believing this with all your heart will draw you closer to God and change everything about your life.
Psalms 119:9-11 speaks of a wholeheartedness in which we hide God's Word in our heart that we might not turn away. When the book of Revelation was initially written, the Roman Emperor Domitian was persecuting the Church- the hour was indeed near! But whatever age we live in, as mortal men and women, we are but one breath away from the ultimate establishment of God's everlasting Kingdom. As Christians, God has offered us a head start, but we need a heart-set to match the revelation we have been granted.
2. "Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, 'Write: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.' " (Revelation 14:13).
Hearing a voice from heaven amid the roar of self and the distractions of this world is a constant challenge. And yet when we do hear it, we are reminded this life is not an end in itself. Death, whether due to our mortal actions or as martyrs for Jesus Christ, is not a stranger to the Christian experience. But understanding that is central to Christianity.
Jesus' own death paved the way for this understanding. Even so, if this is required of us, we are promised that what we have done will not be forgotten. The pharaohs of Egypt tried in vain to take their earthly possessions with them to the next world. The truth is when we give our world to Jesus Christ, He promises to remember and give us something so much richer and more meaningful that we could not possibly store up in this lifetime.
He is the One who declared Himself to be "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). He jolts
us into His understanding that life and death are not two different worlds, but one world in His hands-and that on the other side of this life we will be repaid for what we did for Him!
3. "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame" (Revelation 16:15).
It's important to realize that Christ never stated that the end is here, but rather that the end is near. His followers in every age have felt the tension between their present world and the end of the age. Most had a sense that Christ's return in their lifetime was imminent. So they watched for it and prayed about it, but Christ says no one knows when-just as when a thief bursts into a home in the middle of the night (Matthew 24:42-44).
While we observe the times and events around us, Christ reminds His followers that it's equally important to look inside of ourselves and be sure that our inward person reflects the values brought at His second coming. Otherwise, all of our efforts in proclaiming His Kingdom lie bare before the weighty evidence of the fact that we are not striving to incorporate the first set of beatitudes found in Matthew 5.
4. "Then he said to me, 'Write: "Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!"' And he said to me, 'These are the true sayings of God.' " (Revelation 19:9)
God never said it would be easy, but He did promise it would be worth it. He likens His second coming to a festive wedding supper. In ancient times this high point of village life would go on for days. It was deeply anticipated, diligently prepared for in every detail, and enjoyed to the full.
Likewise this invitation does not come without forethought from God or counting the cost by the recipient. The apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:2: "For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." At our resurrection at His second coming, Christ intends to consummate this engagement by not only offering us His hand, but granting us entrance into His Kingdom, which will indeed be an incredible time of joy and celebration!
5. "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." (Revelation 20:6)
When this was first written, many Christians were being slain under Domitian's persecution. Since then, many others of Christ's followers have been slain and the words of Revelation suggest more will join them (Revelation 6:9-11).
But here Christ provides a measurable contrast to let His followers know that, if they were true to Him through those painful moments, they could match those excruciating minutes, hours, and days with an amazing, joyful stretch of time (1,000 years) plus eternity beyond it (no second death). Yes, He promises a reward extending far beyond their greatest moment of human trial!
6. "Behold I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." (Revelation 22:7)
This beatitude completely mirrors the first at the beginning of the book. But what is noteworthy in the text is that it appears as a personal interruption by none other than Jesus Christ-and His own messenger angel is put on hold. Christ wants to make a personal emphatic point.
While that proverbial "second" of God may seem like forever, it really isn't! Now, at the closing chapter, the informed reader of Revelation recognizes nothing stands in the way of Christ-be it death, beasts, false prophets, Satan or time. Why would he not want to "keep the words of this prophecy"central to his life? The God who owns eternity-past, present and future-always operates in the immediacy of now when it comes to His followers. Now is the time to surrender to Him. Now is the time to treat your fellow man differently. Now is the time to prepare for eternity- quickly, not tomorrow!
7. "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14)
The end of God's Word returns to where it began at the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1-3. God desires to plant something incredible in our lives, but we have to reach for the right source. We have to reach for the tree of life grounded in God's commandments and with the reality of "waiting on the Lord" rather than following Adam and Eve's example of seizing for ourselves counterfeit treasures that can only follow us to the grave and come to an end.
How many have succumbed to that moment by holding on to as much as they can in this life rather than waiting on one of God's pennies? Don't you be one!
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).