Throughout the journey of Revelation 1 so far, we have begun to see John’s purposeful use of allusions to the Old Testament that shape the way we hear and see the book of Revelation. In Revelation 1:3 he wrote, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” Throughout the book of Revelation it is impossible to escape John’s intentional use of the number seven. The book is divided into seven sections, it is written to seven churches (1:4), and the letter is a byproduct of the seven spirits who are before the throne (1:4). Although I did an introduction on the way John uses Old Testament illusions throughout this blessed book, I also thought it would be helpful to take a break here and there to highlight a structural issue that might encourage us and help us better grasp Revelation.
THE SEVEN BEATITUDES
Most Christians are familiar with the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:2-12), but how many of us are familiar with the seven Beatitudes in the book of Revelation? Where the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount can be seen as a way of kingdom living for those already converted by God, the Beatitudes in Revelation are from God’s perspective given as an encouragement to persevere in the midst of suffering. The vision John is giving the seven churches, and us today, is a glimpse into God’s vantage point of us from Heaven and his promise to bless his people who trust in him. Here they are:
- “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Rev. 1:3)
- “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!'” (Rev. 14:13)
- “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” (Rev. 16:15)
- “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.‘” (Rev. 19:9)
- “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:6)
- “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev. 22:7)
- “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” (Rev. 22:14)
WHY THIS MATTERS?
When one reads through these blessings in their proper contexts in the book of Revelation, it is clear that God plans to bless his people in numerous ways. Whether it is the blessing of hearing his voice in Scripture, resting from the violent onslaught of the world, or the blessing of forgiveness and access to the tree of life forever, we can be sure of God’s heart towards his people. Yes, this life can be hard at times, often at most times. But we have a God whose heart beats for his people and longs to shower us with his endless grace and mercy. For the first century believer to those being persecuted in Syria, these Beatitudes are meant to bolster our faith by giving us a glimpse into the love God desires to lavish on his people.
Here and there we will take a break from illusions to look into other structural gems in the book of Revelation. For now, here are some other “sevens” for future thought:
- seven times the word “Christ” is used.
- seven times Christ announces his coming.
- seven times the form “the Lord God Almighty” appears.
- there are seven “amens” in the book.
- “prophets” are referred to seven times.
- the form “the one who sits on the throne” is used seven times.
- the Spirit is referred to fourteen times.
- the name of Jesus occurs fourteen times.
- the “Lamb” is mentioned twenty-eight times. (Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy)