Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Blessed is he that readeth. . . . prophecy.—Any declaration of the principles of the divine government, with indications of their exemplification in coming history, is a prophecy. Sometimes the history which exemplifies these principles is immediate, sometimes more remote; in other cases (as, I venture to believe, is the case with the predictions of this book) the events are both immediate and remote. The prophecy gives us the rule, with some typical application illustrative of its method of working; after-history affords us the working out of various examples. We, then, as living actors in the world, have not only to read and hear, but to keep—keep in mind and action those principles which preside over the development of all human history (James 1:22). The word “keep” is in itself a proof to me that the whole fulfilment of the Apocalypse could not have been exhausted in the earliest times, nor reserved to the latest times of the Church’s history, but that its predictions are applicable in all eras.
The time is at hand.—In the apostolic mind this was always true, though the restless idleness of the Thessalonians was blamed (2Thessalonians 2:2; 2Thessalonians 3:11-12). The spirit of vigilance and of ever readiness for both the providential advents and the final advent of the Christ was enjoined. (Comp. Romans 13:12; James 5:9; 2Peter 3:8-9.)Luke 4:16; Acts 13:27; Acts 15:21; 2 Corinthians 3:15); but as this book was sent abroad to be read by Christians, and not merely to be in the hands of the ministers of religion to be read by them to others, it is more natural to interpret the word in the usual sense.
And hear the words of this prophecy - As they shall be declared or repeated by others; or perhaps the word "hear" is used in a sense that is not uncommon, that of giving attention to; taking heed to. The general sense is, that they were to be regarded as highly favored who became acquainted in any way with what is here communicated. The writer does not say that they were blessed who understood it, or that they who read or heard it would fully understand it; but it is clearly implied, that there would be so far an understanding of its meaning as to make it a felicitous condition to have been made acquainted with it. An author could not be supposed to say that one should regard his condition as a favored one who merely heard words that he could not understand, or who had placed before him magnificent symbols that had to him no meaning. The word "prophecy" is used here in its more strict sense as denoting the disclosure of future events - a large portion of the book being of this nature. It is here synonymous with "Revelation" in Revelation 1:1.
And keep those things which are written therein - Keep in mind those things which relate to the future; and obey those things which arc required as truth and duty. The blessing which results from having in possession the revealed truth of God is not merely in reading it, or in hearing it: it results from the fact that the truth is properly regarded, and exerts a suitable influence over our lives. Compare Psalm 19:11; "And in keeping of them there is great reward."
For the time is at hand - See Revelation 1:1. The word used here - ἐγγύς engus - has the same signification substantially as the word "shortly" in Revelation 1:1. It would apply to any event whose beginning was soon to occur, though the end might be remote, for the series of events might stretch far into the future. It cannot be doubted, however, that the writer meant to press upon them the importance of attending to these things, from the fact that either entirely or in part these things were soon to happen. It may be inferred from this verse, that it is possible so to "understand" this book, as that it may convey useful instruction. This is the only book in the Bible of which a special blessing is pronounced on him who reads it; but assuredly a blessing would not be pronounced on the perusal of a book which is entirely unintelligible. While, therefore, there may be many obscurities in this book, it is also to be assumed that it may be so far understood as to be useful to Christians, in supporting their faith, and giving them elevated views of the final triumph of religion, and of the glory of the world to come. Anything is a blessing which enables us with well-founded hope and joy to look forward to the heavenly world.Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy: from hence is well concluded, that this is a portion of holy writ to be read publicly and privately, otherwise no blessing would have been pronounced to the readers or the hearers of it. It is also well from hence concluded, that this book is no history of things done, but a prediction of things to come to pass; for though prophecy in some scriptures signifieth more largely the revelation of the Divine will, yet here it must signify strictly.
And keep those things which are written therein; that keep it in memory, and live in view of it, and as persons that believe it; they are blessed, as they will from it be comforted, concerning all the sufferings of the church, and people of God.
For the time is at hand; the season for the accomplishment of these things is nigh, not past, but the time when they shall begin to happen is not very far off. Acts 13:15; and the rather this may be thought to be the sense of the words, since there is a change of number in the next clause,
and they that hear the words of this prophecy; that listen attentively to the reading and exposition of this book, and have ears to hear, so as to understand the prophecies contained in it: for the whole, when delivered to John, was a prophecy of things to come: but some versions read the number alike in both clauses; as either, "blessed is he that readeth, and he that heareth", as the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions; or "blessed are they that read, and they that hear", as the Arabic version:
and keep those things which are written therein; the last version adds, "concerning this frail world"; who not only read, and hear, but put in practice what they read and hear; for there are some things in this book which are of a practical nature, especially in the epistles to the seven churches; or the sense is, happy are those persons that observe, and take notice of what is written herein, and meditate upon them, and well weigh them in their minds, and retain them in their memories. Now, though eternal happiness does not depend upon, nor is procured by any of these means, as reading, hearing, and observing; yet there is a real happiness, a true pleasure, that does attend these things, which may stir up to a regard unto them; and for which purpose the following words are added:Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Revelation 1:3. Commendation of the book, which, to those who receive and keep it, may be a source of blessedness in the near impending and decisive time.
Μακάριος refers alone to the participation in the kingdom of glory, which follows the conflict and tribulation of the preceding judgments, but not at the same time, that the godly are to be preserved amid these judgments.
ὁ ἀναγινώσκων καὶ οἱ ἀκούοντεσ, κ.τ.λ. These are not, in spite of the change of singular and plural, to be regarded the same subject; but by the Ὁ ἈΝΑΓΙΝ. the public reader, and by the ΟἹ ἈΚΟΎΟΝΤΕς the hearing congregations, are designated. This exposition is not “more tasteless,” but is far more natural, than that according to which ἉΚΟΎΕΙΝ means, not simply “to hear,” but “to lend the ear of understanding.”
Τ. ΛΟΓ. Τ. ΠΡΟΦ. By this John names this book, because what he is to publish in the same in writing (ΤᾺ ΓΕΓΡ. ἘΝ ΑὐΤῆ) is a divine revelation, of which he as a prophet is the interpreter.
By the mere hearing, of course, nothing is accomplished: hence John adds to what is said elsewhere only in Revelation 22:7 : ΚΑῚ ΤΗΡΟῦΝΤΕΣ, Κ.Τ.Λ. The ΤΗΡΕῖΝ is properly explained in conformity with its meaning by supplying mentally, “in their hearts;” only, still further, that so far as what is written in the book contains, directly or indirectly, the commandments of fidelity, patience, etc., the additional relation which prevails in the combination ΤΗΡ. ΤᾺς ἘΝΤΟΛΆς results.
Ὁ ΓᾺΡ ΚΑΙΡῸς ἘΓΓΎς. Foundation for the commendation of the book which has just been expressed: the time which will bring blessedness to the faithful is at hand; blessed, therefore, he who takes to heart the instruction here offered. Notice here how in Revelation 11:18, Revelation 22:10, cf. Revelation 12:12; Revelation 12:14, the expression ὁ καιρός is used, i.e., the fixed, expected point of time; while ὁ χρόνος, on the other hand, is time in general, according to the conception of duration, and is otherwise more external and chronological.
 According to Revelation 19:9, Revelation 20:6, Revelation 22:14. Cf. with Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:26, Revelation 3:5; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 3:21 (Revelation 14:15).
 Hengstb., Ebrard.
 Wolf, Ebrard. The comparison of Revelation 1:7, πᾶς ὀφθ. and καὶ ὅιτινες, is inapplicable, since in the very conception πᾶς a plurality is presupposed.
 Beng., Ew., De Wette, Hengstb., Bleek, Stern [Beck].
 Cf. Revelation 22:13.
 Cf. Introduction, sec. 2.
 Pricäus, Grot., Ewald, De Wette, etc.
 Cf. Revelation 14:12.
 Cf. in general my commentary on 1 John 2:3.
 Revelation 11:18.
 Cf. Revelation 1:1, ἐν τάχει.
 Cf. 1 Peter 4:7; 1 Peter 4:17; Romans 13:11.
 Revelation 6:11, Revelation 10:6, Revelation 20:3. Cf. Lünemann on 1 Thessalonians 5:1.Revelation 1:3. The first of the seven beatitudes in the Apocalypse (Revelation 14:13, Revelation 16:15, Revelation 19:9, Revelation 20:6, Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:14), endorsing the book as a whole. In the worship of the Christian communities one member read aloud, originally from the O.T. as in the synagogues, and afterwards from Christian literature as well (apostolic epistles, Colossians 4:16, and sub-apostolic epistles), while the rest of the audience listened (Eus. H. E. iv. 23). In its present form the Apocalypse was composed with this object in view. Cf. Justin’s description of the Christinn assemblies on Sunday, when, as the first business, τὰ ἀπομνημονεύματα τῶν ἀποστόλων ἢ τὰ συγγράμματα τῶν προφητῶν ἀναγινώσκεται (Apol. i. 67). The art of reading was not a general accomplishment in the circles from which the Christian societies were for the most part recruited, and this office of reader (ἀναγνώστης), as distinct from that of the president, soon became one of the regular minor positions in the worship of the church. Here the reader’s function resembles that of Baruch (cf. Jeremiah 22:5-6). τηροῦντες τὰ, κ.τ.λ., carefully heeding the warnings of the book, observing its injunctions, and expecting the fulfilment of its predictions, instead of losing heart and faith (Luke 18:8). Cf. Hipp. De Antich. 2 and En. civ. 12, “books will be given to the righteous and the wise to become a cause of joy and uprightness and much wisdom”. The content of the Apocalypse is not merely prediction; moral counsel and religious instruction are the primary burden of its pages. The bliss of the obedient and attentive, however, is bound up with the certainty that the crisis at which the predictions of the book are to be realised is imminent; they have not to wait long for the fulfilment of their hopes. This, with the assurance of God’s interest and intervention, represented the ethical content of early Christian prediction, which would have been otherwise a mere satisfaction of curiosity; see on Revelation 1:19.
[Note on Revelation 1:1-3. If this inscription (absent from no MS.) is due to the author, it must have been added (so Bruston, Jülicher, Hirscht, Holtzm., Bs.), like the προοίμιον of Thucydides, after he had finished the book as a whole. But possibly it was inserted by the later hand of an editor or redactor (Völter, Erbes, Briggs, Hilg., Forbes, Wellhausen, J. Weiss, Simcox = elders of Ephesus, John 21:24) rather than of a copyist (Spitta, Sabatier, Schön), who reproduced the Johannine style of the Apocalypse proper. At the same time, the change from the third to the first person (Revelation 1:9) is not unexampled (cf. Jeremiah 1:1-4 f.; Ezekiel 1:1-4; Enoch repeatedly), and forms no sure proof of an original text overlaid with editorial touches; nor is a certain sententious objectivity (cf. Herod, Revelation 1:1, Revelation 2:23, etc.) unnatural at the commencement of a book, when the writer has occasion to introduce himself. The real introduction begins at Revelation 1:4 (cf. Revelation 22:21).]3. he that readeth, and they that hear] Plainly the author of the Book, or of this endorsement of it, contemplates its being read publicly in the Church. The apostolic Epistles were thus read, first by the Churches to which they were addressed, then by others in the neighbourhood (Colossians 4:16): even the sub-apostolic Epistles of Clement and Polycarp, and the decidedly post-apostolic one of Soter, Bishop of Rome, were in like manner read in the churches that originally received them, or to which their authors belonged. In the course of the second century, both the Gospels and the apostolic Epistles came to be read in churches generally, as the Law and the Prophets had been read in the synagogues. In the time of Justin Martyr (Apol. I. 67), not to insist on 1 Timothy 5:18, 2 Peter 3:16, it is plain that the New Testament Scriptures were thus recognised as sharing the authority and sanctity of the Old.
and keep those things] Attend to them, mind them. He who reads and they who hear are only blessed if they do this; John 13:17; Matthew 7:25 sq. The word is constantly used of ‘keeping’ the Law, the Commandments, &c., throughout the N. T.: but is commoner in all St John’s writings than in any other.Revelation 1:3. Μακάριος, blessed) There are some who wretchedly handle this most sacred book with restless curiosity. And from this it comes to pass that others, running into the contrary extreme, are unwilling to hear even the name of the Apocalypse, by which they ought to be stirred up: and on account of the singular multitude of unfortunate interpretations and conjectures which are without accomplishment, they distrust the book itself. Thence, whereas they wish to know all things, they reject the only method of knowing those things which the Lord shews as about to happen. Hence they esteem the endeavour to investigate the truth in this book as useless labour; they consider sloth as moderation, silence as prudence, and they regard and inquire about anything in preference to this, just as though it had been written: Blessed is he who does not read, and they who do not hear, etc. Let them see that they do not, in devising every pretext for refusing the heavenly gift, show weariness towards God (Isaiah 7:12-13), and that they be not found UNGRATEFUL towards Christ. But rather, Blessed is he who reads, and they who hear and keep; especially in our times, which are not far distant from a great change of affairs, as we shall see. It is better, in inquiring into the times, if only faith, hope, and love have the chief place in our heart, to attempt as much as possible, and to incur ridicule (Genesis 37:19), than, with the brave spirits of the world, to despise admonitions which appear paradoxical, and to be crushed with the accomplishment of the events, Daniel 2:34; Daniel 2:45, compared with Matthew 22:44, at the end; or, after the manner of the Jews, to be repeatedly expecting events already long accomplished. The Jews curse those who reckon the times of the Messiah: the Apocalypse blesses the good hearers of prophecy, which comprises the near approach of the time and the calculation of the intermediate times. The mournful variety of interpretations, it is true, increases daily: whence it happens that a kind of cloud is spread over the eyes of many, so that, although the truth is clearly placed before them, they admit it either less, or certainly not more, than they do specious inventions. And yet there are not wanting aids to understanding, in the case of all who rightly employ them, without throwing away the hope of understanding them.
I. The foundation of all is a pure text, restored from the best copies.
II. This book is most closely jointed: it arranges a multiplicity of subjects by means of seven epistles, seals, trumpets, and vials; it divides each of these sets of seven into a set of four, and of three; it interprets many things of itself, and declares what are the seven stars; the seven candlesticks; the Lamb, and His seven horns and seven eyes; the incense; the dragon; the three spirits, like frogs; the heads and horns of the beast; the waters, where the whore sits; the fine linen; the testimony of Jesus; the second death; the Lamb’s wife. It supplies us with most convenient formulæ: the first woe is past, etc.; the number of a man, the measure of a man, which is that of an angel, etc.
III. The comparing of the ancient prophets is of service; and the evidence of the predictions of Jesus and the Apostles in the other books of the New Testament, and especially the evidence of the letter of the Apocalypse itself, and its own peculiar character, attempered with prophetic tropes. We will explain this particular point somewhat more fully.
1) The Lord Jesus has comprised in the Apocalypse the Remainder [Supplement] of the old prophecy, which belongs to the times subsequent to His Ascension and the coming of the Comforter, and the end of the Jewish system. And thus the book reaches from the old Jerusalem to the new Jerusalem, all things being reduced to one sum and to harmonious order; and it has great similarity to the ancient prophets. The beginning and the conclusion agree with Daniel; the description of the male child, and the promises given to Sion, agree with Isaiah; the judgment of Babylon, with Jeremiah; the fixing of the times, again, with Daniel, who followed Jeremiah; the architecture of the holy city, with Ezekiel, who followed Isaiah; the emblems of horses, of candlesticks, etc., with Zechariah. From these prophets many things more fully described by them are now repeated in a summary manner, and often in the same words. Therefore reference must be had to them. Nevertheless the Apocalypse has a kind of αὐτάρκειαν (self-completeness), and is of itself sufficient for its own interpretation, although you may not yet understand the old prophets, where they speak of the same things: in fact, this often supplies a clue for the understanding of those. Often also, under the agreement which there is between the Apocalypse and the old prophets, there lies concealed a certain difference; and the Apocalypse derives its stock from some ancient prophet, on which it inserts a new scion. Thus, for instance, Zechariah mentions two olive trees; John also has the same, but in a different meaning. Daniel has a beast with ten horns; John also has the same, but not altogether in the same sense. Here the difference in the words, the emblems, the circumstances, the times, ought studiously to be observed. But the plan of the Tabernacle erected and described by Moses is also of great value. For those heavenly things, unto the example and shadow of which the Levitical priests served, are accurately exhibited in the Apocalypse: Hebrews 8:5.
2) The Lord foretold many things before His passion; for instance, Matthew 13:22, and those which follow; John 14:15; but He did not foretell all things: for it was not yet the befitting time. Many things predicted by the Spirit of Christ are contained, in a scattered form, in the Epistles of John and the other apostles; namely, according as the necessity of those primitive times required. Now the Lord comprises all in one short book, having reference to the earlier ones, presupposing them, explaining, continuing, and interweaving them. It is altogether right, therefore, that we should compare them; but not to bring into comparison the fulness of these with the brevity of those.
In the Evangelists Christ predicted the things which were about to happen before the dictation of the Apocalypse to John, and added a description of the Last things: in the Apocalypse he also mentioned intermediate events. From both, one whole as it were is made up.
3) In this book there is set forth to view, not only a summary and key of prophecy, both that which has long preceded and that which is recent, but also a supplement, the seals having been before closed. Therefore it cannot but contain many things now for the first time revealed, and not found in the remaining books of Scripture, as Gomarus and Cluverus admit. They therefore show little gratitude towards a revelation of such dignity as this, and reserved too for Christ’s exalted state, who, if anything is for the first time revealed in it, or is described in more exact and definite terms, are on that account more slow to value it, and more cautious in receiving, or more bold in rejecting it. The importance of the argument, and the shortness of the book, prove that every word is of the greatest significance.
—ὁ ἀναγινώσκων καὶ οἱ ἀκούοντες, he who reads and they who hear) One person, and, in the first instance, he, by whom John sent the book from Patmos into Asia, used to read publicly in the churches and many used to hear. Scripture highly commends the public reading of itself: Deuteronomy 31:11; Nehemiah 8:8; Jeremiah 36:6; Luke 4:16; Acts 15:21; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 1 Timothy 4:13. There would be more edification, if teachers would speak less of themselves, or, at any rate, if Scripture were more fully read to the multitude who are unlearned.—τῆς προφητείας, of the prophecy) In relation to Jesus Christ, it is a revelation; it is a prophecy in relation to John; and it is not until he is mentioned that the word prophecy is introduced. Prophecies support their claims by their own, and therefore by Divine authority; this is especially the case with the Apocalypse, which, on this account, does not quote the old prophecies, unless in a summary way, and that once only: ch. Revelation 10:7. In the other books of the New Testament the prophecies of the Old Testament are quoted, and for this reason, that their fulfilment may be proved; in the Apocalypse they are not quoted. Hence it came to pass, that when Surenhusius, for instance, had deduced quotations from the Old Testament, through each of the Evangelists, through the Acts of the Apostles, through the Pauline and General Epistles, he had nothing to bring forward as a quotation in the Apocalypse. In like manner Franc. Junius brought his Parallels to an end, thus writing at the conclusion: There are indeed innumerable words, many sentiments, and not a few arguments throughout the whole book of the Apocalypse, which, with the greatest dignity, savour of the Old Testament; but their interpretation does not appear to belong to the present subject; both because the passages of Scripture ARE NOT ADDUCED BY NAME (expressly), or is any particular authority alleged, from which they are drawn, but, for the most part, two, three, or more passages are most skilfully and elegantly joined together; and also because, if any one should attempt this, he must of necessity undertake the interpretation of the whole book of the Apocalypse.Verse 3. - He that readeth this book publicly in the church, and they that hear the book read, are equally blessed. There is grace promised to both minister and congregation who live up to the spirit of the Scriptures. St. John here suggests that a usage common in the Jewish Church (Luke 4:16; Acts 15:21; 2 Corinthians 3:15) may be adopted in the Christian Church. Probably this verse is the earliest authority for the public reading of the New Testament Scripture. It is very precarious to argue that "the Apocalypse, which points to this custom, cannot have been composed in the year 68," because this Christian custom is of later origin than 68. The official communications of apostles were sure to be read publicly in the churches (see Lightfoot on Colossians 4:16). Until the new lectionary came into use, the blessing here promised to the liturgical use of the Apocalypse was sadly neglected in the English Church. One might almost have supposed that a blessing had been pronounced on those who do not read and do not hear the prophecy. The words of this prophecy; literally, of the prophecy; i.e. "the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:7, 18). That which is a revelation in reference to Christ is a prophecy in reference to John. "Prophecy" must not be narrowed down to the vulgar meaning of foretelling future events; it is the forthtelling of the mind of God. Prophecy, in the narrow sense of prediction, cannot well be kept. It is God's call to repentance, obedience, steadfastness, and prayer that must be kept by both reader and hearers in order to bring a blessing. And if the words are to be kept, they can be understood. We have no right to set aside the Revelation as an insoluble puzzle (comp. Luke 11:28, where, however, we have φυλάσσειν, not τηρεῖν). The time is at hand. The appointed time, the season foreordained of God (καιρός, not χρόνος), is near. We may ask, with F.D. Maurice, "Did not the original writer use words in their simple, natural sense? If he told the hearers and readers of his day that the time was at hand, did he not mean them to understand that it was at hand?" No doubt. But that does not preclude us from interpreting the inspired words as referring, not only to events near St. John's time, but also to other events of which they were the foretastes and figures. To us the meaning is that the type of the end has been foretold and has come, and the end itself, which has been equally foretold, must be watched for in all seriousness.
See on Matthew 5:3.
He that readeth (ὁ ἀναγινώσκων)
See on Luke 4:16. The Reader in the Church. See 2 Corinthians 3:14. They that hear, the congregation. The words imply a public, official reading, in full religious assembly for worship. The passage is of some weight in determining the date of this book. The stated reading of the Apostolical writings did not exist as a received form before the destruction of Jerusalem, a.d. 70.
And keep (καὶ τηροῦντες)
The absence of the article from τηροῦντες keeping (compare οἱ ἀκούντες they that hear), shows that the hearers and the keepers form one class. Τηρεῖν to keep, is a peculiarly Johannine word, and is characteristic of Revelation as of the other writings in its own peculiar sense of "keeping" in the exercise of active and strenuous care, rather than of watching over to preserve. See on reserved, 1 Peter 1:4.
See on prophet, Luke 7:26.
Which are written (τὰ γεγραμμένα)
Perfect participle, have been written, and therefore stand written.
The time (ὁ καιρὸς)
See on Matthew 12:1.
At hand (ἐγγύς)
Lit., near. See on shortly, Revelation 1:1.
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