THE SEVEN BEATITUDES IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION
(Sunday, October 18, 2020)
We all know the Eight, or even Nine Beatitudes of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, recounted by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and the Four Beatitudes followed by the Four Woes in the Gospel of Luke. But we are probably less familiar with the Seven Beatitudes that we find in the Book of Revelation. The beatitudes in Matthew and those in Revelation are both intended for those who endure hardship but those in Revelation seem a bit more hopeful and triumphant even. Jesus was talking to Jews who did not yet understand the kingdom (the church), while John was writing to Christians who were in the kingdom and needed the encouragement to remain faithful. These beatitudes might all be summarized by the first one in Revelation 1:3 — read it, hear it, keep it.
The word “blessed” does not mean happy as most people think it means. Jesus uses this same term in the beatitudes (Matthew 5; Luke 6). John uses this word seven times in Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). Twice, Paul uses “blessed” of God (1 Timothy 1:11; 6:15). “Blessed” carries the idea of a state of being fortunate or privileged, the recipient of God’s favour. Blessedness is the state that is neither made nor influenced by outside circumstances but is intrinsic within. This state comes from God, not man. Blessedness is not happiness because happiness depends on circumstances. These are people independent from the world and its allurements. They need nothing but God. They are not dependent upon outside circumstances. This quality belongs intrinsically to God. No one can make God blessed, so the people who are in the state of blessedness are souls satisfied from the source of God.
2.0 THE SEVEN BEATITUDES
The term beatitude comes from the Latin noun ‘beatitudo’ which means “blessedness”, “benediction”, “grace” or “bliss”. They echo the highest ideals of the teachings Jesus on mercy spirituality and compassion. Each beatitude is an almost direct contradiction of Society’s typical way of life. The best example of each trait is found in Jesus Himself. If our goal is to become like Him, the beatitudes will challenge the way we live each day. The beatitudes in the book of Revelation should be better known. They form a golden chain of glorious promises, which run through this wonderful book, and these could be a source of comfort and inspiration to all believers. Let us briefly sketch these Revelation beatitudes.
2.1 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. (Revelation 1:3).
All are blessed in reading, hearing and keeping the words of God. The book of Revelation is the only book of the sixty-six in the Bible that contains a declaration of a special blessing to the readers, hearers and keepers, thereby indicating the extraordinary importance of its contents.
The Revelation 1:3 pronounces a blessing on those “who [read] and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it.” This verse is similar in form to the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-11, and in fact, it is the first of seven beatitudes in the book (Revelation 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14).
In James 1:22, the apostle admonishes us to be obedient doers, not just hearers, of the Word. One implication of James’ comment is clear: When it comes to prophecy, we are to obey the commands so often embedded in the prophetic word. James’ command to act, rather than just to hear, is frequently echoed in prophecy, as in Revelation 1:3: “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.”
The “and” in this verse is very important. God does not say that we are blessed simply if we hear and if we read. This is not to suggest that we should not study God’s prophetic word; of course, we should. All Scripture is given for our edification and our inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16). It is all inspired for that purpose. However, we are to read or hear and to keep.
What do we keep? Do we keep predictions about horsemen and beasts? How does one do that? What we are to keep are those commands that are liberally sprinkled throughout the word of prophecy—in the book of Revelation and in the prophetic sections of the gospels and epistles, as well as in the prophecies of the Old Testament. For instance, the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 contain several commands to repent and repeated commands to overcome.
The prophetic word is not just a collection of mind puzzles that we are somehow supposed to unravel. God’s prophecies are not that at all, but they are calls for change. They are calls for our growth. Remember, the blessing comes to those who keep, who do what God commands whether or not we understand the details of the prophecy.
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.
In Luke 11:27-28 we read, And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. Matthew 7:21 says, Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
In John 14:23 we read, Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
2.2 Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works follow them (Revelation 14:13).
Works are very important to the book of Revelation—seven times in chapters 2 and 3, and four or five other times in the rest of the book. Christ’s concern is that His people are working. The main purpose of the book of Revelation is not merely to give us insight into what is coming. It is also to convince the Christian that his loyalty, his devotion, his steadfastness, his suffering, and perhaps even martyrdom, is not in vain—that he is assured of a wonderful future. The reason for the stress on works is that character is not formed merely by knowing something but by knowledge combined with putting it to work until it becomes a habit. Over time, habit becomes character, and character follows the person right through the grave!
Hebrews 6:10-11 says, For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
If we are not working, emphasizing loyalty to the Person of God and to His way, making every effort to overcome Satan, the world, and the self-centeredness within us. We are resisting with all of our being the temptations to do what is natural, carnal—if we are not expending our energy, and spending our time working out our own salvation with fear and trembling. It is very likely, then, that we are not going to have the character necessary to go through the grave. The wrong works will follow us, and we will not be prepared for the Kingdom of God. Thus, what a person has done, that is, what he has worked on in this lifetime, follows him through the grave—either into the Lake of Fire or the Kingdom of God.
In 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 we read, Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
The book is designed to focus attention on what is of greatest concern to Christ for His people. He wants to ensure that they do not give up or become weary due to the great pressure of the times, and that they instead endure, persevere, and be loyal and steadfast to the very end.
Hebrews 4:9-11 says, There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
2.3 Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame (Revelation 16:15).
To keep persistently awake is the message here. In John’s day the Roman guard met with disgrace if found asleep. The inspector would remove the sleeper’s cloak, leaving the man exposed to the jests and scoffs of his fellow guards. There should be no lack of alertness, no desire for ease and softness of situation. We must be always vigilant lest we succumb to spiritual drowsiness. The blessing is for the watchful.
Here is an explicit warning: that Christ will come as a thief. In the midst of disaster upon disaster and global war, some in God’s church will be surprised by it. It seems ironic how that could happen, but it is apparently going to happen that way.
Here also is a conditional promise: Those who watch and keep their garments will be blessed.
Revelation 16 does not just reveal prophetic information about the future like some type of crystal ball. No, the prophecy is capped with a command to act: to “watch” and to “keep.” Choosing not to remain vigilant, choosing not to guard our spiritual condition from atrophy, we can become complacent. We can become neglectful. Our obedience to the commands to watch and to keep is what is truly important to this particular scripture—not a full understanding of every nuance of this chapter.
In Zechariah 3:1-8 we read, And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord stood by. And the angel of the Lord protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the Branch.
In fact, what God wants to see—and in fact, expects to see—is our obedience in faith to the commands of this passage notwithstanding our lack of understanding of the details. In this sense, the blessing promised in Revelation 16:15 comes in spite of our full understanding of this prophecy, or lack thereof. Knowledge is not a prerequisite to receiving the blessing. Obedience is. In Isaiah 61:10 we read, I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
We believe God’s word of prophecy, though we may not always necessarily understand it. Nevertheless, God wants the prophecy to motivate us to obedience, and our obedience will bring a blessing with it. The Revelation 19:8 says, And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
2.4 Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! (Revelation 19:9).
What an honour and privilege! What unspeakable joy in having a part in that glorious event! The greatest chorus of praise this universe can provide will then be heard. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians. 2:9).
It will be one of eternity’s supreme blessings to be called to this Marriage Supper. But who are these blessed ones? Who will be called to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb? Who will be there?
Of course, God the Father and Jesus Christ will be there. They will be doing the inviting—the calling. God’s angels, archangels, twenty-four elders, and four living creatures will all be there.
And it cannot be a wedding without a bride—the Bride of Christ will be there, collectively made up of the resurrected and changed members of God’s true church from throughout the generations. But who will not be there? The church members who make up the five foolish virgins will not be there, because they will have not adequately prepared (Matthew 25:1-13). Satan and his demons will not be there. They will have been banned from even visiting heaven, as they had been able to do before (Revelation 12:8).
Moreover in Matthew 22:1-14 we read, And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, the wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.
2.5 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).
Those in the first resurrection will reign and work with Christ through the Millennium as kings and priests. We can have a part in the first resurrection if we have been obedient and faithful to the Eternal with the help of the Holy Spirit imparted from God through Jesus Christ. In our duties as kings, we will have the power to correct many of the problems of society and lead the people in God’s way of life. As priests of God, among other things like teaching and counselling, we will be responsible for offering sacrifices.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 we read, For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The resurrection of the body is a blessed biblical truth, that is often overlooked or misunderstood. Man is a tripartite being, made up of spirit, soul and body. We are born dead in trespasses and sins… but our human spirit is resurrected… or made alive at the point of our salvation. However, throughout our entire Christian life, our soul is being made new, through a process of practical sanctification… as day by day our soul-life is gradually being conformed into the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus – as we grow in grace and mature in the faith. And one day we will be fully like Him… reflecting His beautiful, eternal, righteous life – in every way. But our bodies are also going to be changed, in the twinkling of an eye – at the last trump. The dead in Christ will be raised incorruptible and the living will be caught up together with them in the clouds. We are saved… spirit (at salvation), soul (through the process of sanctification) and body (at the resurrection/rapture). However, there are not three salvations – but one. When we are born again, we have God’s assurance that we are saved spirit, soul and body. Our justification, sanctification and glorification is ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ – in Christ Jesus, our Saviour.
Although there is one salvation, which embraces us spirit, soul and body, the Bible mentions two resurrections’ 1) the resurrection of the just and 2) the resurrection of the wicked. Both saved and unsaved men are resurrected… but their eternal destinies are very different. The destiny of the believer is eternal life, which was decided at the cross of Calvary by faith. But the destiny of the unsaved is finalised at the great white throne judgement seat… where the works of the wicked will be tried – and found wanting. The first resurrection identifies those that are ‘blessed and holy’, who are resurrected unto everlasting life. The second resurrection identifies the unsaved, who rejected God’s offer of salvation, by grace through faith. They are raised unto shame and everlasting contempt and condemnation. There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus, but the result of unbelief is everlasting contempt and eternal condemnation – because they did not believe on the only begotten Son of God, for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.
The Bible also identifies two “deaths.’ Every man experiences the first death, which is a physical death, but only those that are part of the second resurrection – the resurrection of the wicked, will experience the second death. It is unbelievers who did not trust in Christ for their salvation who are part of the second resurrection… and they will experience the second death. Jesus by His death on cross destroyed the power of the second death over all who would believe on His name. Having shed His precious blood on our account He was resurrected from the dead, in a body of flesh and bone. Jesus was the first-fruit from the dead and all who trust in Him will partake in first resurrection, with a body of flesh and bone – and will not be hurt by the second death.
2 Timothy 2:12 says, If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
2.6 Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book (Revelation 22:7).
At the conclusion of the book of Revelation, John receives ratification of the certainty of Christ’s coming – “These words are faithful and true.” God is not in the business of bewildering believers. He is in the business of faithfully keeping His promises. He makes sure that John knows that His promises of prophecy have God’s own veracity to back them. This is reminiscent of Isaiah 55:11: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void [margin: empty, without fruit], but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” When God speaks a prophecy, it will be fulfilled because He will bring it to pass! God’s promises always depend on God’s character. God Himself guarantees that we can believe the words of the book of Revelation. God’s Word depends on God’s character. God never goes back on His Word. God gives a special blessing for those who keep “the words of the prophecy of this book.” More promises of blessing occur in this book than any other book of the Bible. This is the sixth declaration of blessing in Revelation. If we read, study and apply the book of Revelation to our lives, God assures us that He will bless us by it.
Let’s read those blessed words of our Lord Jesus in Revelation 22:7, “Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” Now let’s read Revelation 1:3, “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.” We see that the book of Revelation begins and ends with a promise of blessings to those who keep its words. The verse in question begins with such a wonderful promise to us, “Behold, I come quickly…” What joy, comfort, and strength these words give to the believer. Our saviour is coming again, and He is coming quickly! This is what the Apostle Paul calls the ‘blessed hope’ in Titus 2:13-14, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” When will the Lord return to take us to be with Himself in Glory? The Lord doesn’t tell us, but we read in Romans 13:11, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” The Lord’s return is certainly nearer than it was yesterday and draws nearer with each passing day.
How is it that we ‘keep’ these words? The blessings that come from possessing the revealed truth of God’s Word are not just from reading it, or from hearing it, although that is necessary. It comes from the fact that the truth is properly received, and causes an influence over the way we live our lives. We read of David’s thoughts concerning the words of the Lord in Psalms 19:10-11, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” So, we keep these words by acknowledging that they are the words of God and we seek to walk in the truth of what the Lord has given us in this book, as we should in each book. In James 1:23-24 we read, For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. The reading and keeping of these words will change our lives. In this book we see the culmination of all things. We see the Lord’s final triumph over Satan and his being cast into the lake of fire for all eternity, along with all those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ as their saviour.
2.7 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).
Our blessing does not derive from merely knowing the things of God, but from doing them (John 13:15; Revelation 12:17; 14:12). Jesus said that if we love Him, then we will keep His commandments (John 14:15; John 14:21-23). When we neglect to keep His commandments, we demonstrate our lack of love for Him. Our motivation to keep His commandments is also found in our desire to purify ourselves in preparation for His appearing (1 John 3:2-3). The power to keep His commandments is derived from the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 John 3:24). If we call him “Lord,” but do not keep His commandments, we are schizophrenic. How can He be Lord when we will not obey Him (Luke 6:46)? Worse than that, we are found to be liars concerning our relationship with Him: Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:3-4)
Therefore, lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. (James 1:21-24)
They may have the right to the tree of life: it will be the authority of them over the tree of life. The right to the tree of life is universal to all believers. We first heard of the tree of life in Genesis, where it appeared alongside the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). God forbade the couple to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, warning, “for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). When the couple succumbed to temptation and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:22). To prevent the man from eating from the tree of life and living forever, God drove the man out of the garden and placed cherubim and a sword to prevent his return (Genesis 3:23-24).
Earlier in the book of Revelation, Jesus said, “To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God” (Revelation 2:7). Then, earlier in Chapter 22, John was revealed about the river of the water of life that flows through the New Jerusalem. He said, “On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). Now we learn that, for those who obey God’s commandments (or “who wash their robes”), the curse of Genesis 3 has been removed—that God will restore their access to the tree of life.
Those who are born-again are the overcomers. Through the power of the Holy Spirit they will also be those who do the commands of the Lord. They are among the redeemed who are written in the Book of Life and therefore avoid the second death which is being cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 21:15). They have full access to the New Jerusalem whose gates are never closed (Revelation 21:24-26). All the redeemed have access through the gates. Access through the gates is equivalent with rights to the tree of life because the tree is within the city. To access the tree, one must first go through the gates.
3.0 OTHER SIMILAR BLESSINGS PROMISED FOR OVERCOMERS
Similar to the “blessed are those” types of beatitudes, there are also blessings promised to those who overcome. The first part of the book of Revelation was written to the seven churches of Asia and the author speaks of what happens as a result of faithfulness in the midst of distress.
3.1 Revelation 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of My God.
3.2 Revelation 2:11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall in no way be harmed by the second death.
3.3 Revelation 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to him some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except he who receives it.
3.4 Revelation 2:26 And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.
3.5 Revelation 3:5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and by no means shall I erase his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
3.6 Revelation 3:12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and by no means shall he go out any longer. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from heaven from My God. And My new name.
We all want to experience the blessings of God, but the question for us today is, “Are we the kind of people God blesses?” “Are we the blessed?” You see, God has innumerable blessings reserved for those who long for His word, remain faithful to His will, wait for His coming, and have their sins washed away in the blood of Christ. Do those things describe your life? If so, you’re blessed. But, if there is anything that needs to be changed, do it today. The blessings of God are too good to miss, and the alternative is too horrible to imagine.