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16 September 2020

Call to Action - Seven Beatitudes of Revelation

SYNOPSIS:  Through a series of seven “beatitudes,” the book of Revelation summons believers to faithfulness despite hostility and persecution - Revelation 1:3.
The primary purpose of the book of Revelation is not to be a tool of divination by which one may peer into the future or to provide a detailed chronology of history in advance. Instead, it summons the people of God to vigilance, right living, and faithful witness while living in a hostile society. It is not so much about when certain events will occur, but how churches must “overcome” in their present situations and, in the end, arrive at New Jerusalem.

A primary method by which the book calls believers to action is the exhortation to “overcomers” included at the end of each of the seven letters to the churches in the province of Asia (chapters 2 - 3). A second technique is to exhort Christians through the seven “beatitudes” threaded throughout the book.

The figurative use of key numbers in the book of Revelation is widely recognized, especially, the numbers seven, four, ten, and twelve (e.g., the seven seals, the four corners of the earth, the twelve apostles of the Lamb). Also used are multiples of these numbers; for example, twenty-eight (4 x 7), one thousand (10 x 10 x 10), and 144,000 (12 x 12,000).

Not as readily apparent are the several series of things not explicitly numbered. For example, the name 'Jesus' occurs fourteen times (2 x 7), “Christ” seven times, and “lamb” twenty-eight times (4 x 7).

One unnumbered series is the seven “beatitudes,” that is, pronouncements of “blessing” on faithful believers when certain conditions are met (Greek: Makarios – Strong’s - #G3107). Considering the extensive use of the number seven, this cannot be coincidental.
  • (Revelation 1:3) - “Blessed is he who reads and they who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep what is written in it, for the season is near.”
The first beatitude pronounces a blessing on “he who reads and they who hear the words of the prophecy and keep what is written in it.” The declaration reflects the historical context; “He who reads,” singular, and “they who hear,” plural. In the first century, books were expensive and large segments of the population were barely literate. The common practice was to have one person read a book or letter aloud to the assembly.

The following is a complete list of the seven beatitudes: 
  1. (Revelation 1:3) - “Blessed is the one who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”
  2. (Revelation 14:13) - “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on! Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
  3. (Revelation 16:15) - “Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.”
  4. (Revelation 19:9) - “And he said to me, Write, Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he said to me, These are true words of God.”
  5. (Revelation 20:6) - “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”
  6. (Revelation 22:7) - “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is the one who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”
  7. (Revelation 22:14) - “Blessed are those who wash their robes that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter by the gates into the city.”
The second beatitude is a call for faithful endurance through persecution and temptation, even to the point of death. This is how one “keeps the commandments of God and faith in Jesus” (Revelation 14:13).

The third one calls for vigilance and watchfulness in view of the coming of the Lord, and of the believer’s inability to know or compute the time of his arrival. Vigilant saints “keep their garments” pure because Jesus could appear at any moment. Watchfulness is necessary because no one except God knows when that day will occur, just as a homeowner cannot know when a thief will strike in the night (Revelation 16:15).

The fourth beatitude pronounces blessings on “those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” The fifth declares all who participate in the first resurrection, “Blessed and holy.” The “second death” will have no authority over them. Instead, they become “priests of God and of Christ, and reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 19:9, 20:6).

The sixth beatitude reiterates the promise of the first one: “Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” It stands at the end of the book’s visions and the start of the its epilogue. Believers prepare for the coming of the Lord and keep their garments unsoiled by heeding the words of the book (Revelation 22:7).

The seventh and final beatitude pronounces a blessing on all who “wash their robes.” They will have access to the tree of life and enter New Jerusalem freely by its gates. The image of washing robes also occurs in the vision of an innumerable multitude from every nation when John saw a large group coming out of the great tribulation, “having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-17, 22:14).

Collectively, the seven beatitudes constitute a call to action for the congregations of Asia and highlight the key themes of the book. Revelation opens with a summons to heed the “words of the book of the prophecy.” This includes its exhortations to bear witness even in the face of death, to remain vigilant at all times, to keep one’s “garments” pure from stain, to strive to attain the “first resurrection,” to keep the words of the prophecy, and to wash one’s robes in the blood of the Lamb.

Finally, the call to action by the book of Revelation is best summarized by the declaration of victory over the Dragon:
  • (Revelation 12:11) - “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives even unto the death."

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