Be Happy Readers of the Book of Revelation
“Happy is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and who observe the things written in it.”—REVELATION 1:3.
1. In what circumstances did the apostle John find himself when he wrote Revelation, and for what purpose were these visions put down in writing?
“I JOHN . . . came to be in the isle that is called Patmos for speaking about God and bearing witness to Jesus.” (Revelation 1:9) Such were the circumstances in which the apostle John wrote the book Apocalypse, or Revelation. It is thought that he was exiled to Patmos during the rule of Roman Emperor Domitian (81-96 C.E.), who enforced emperor worship and became a persecutor of Christians. While on Patmos, John received a series of visions that he put down in writing. He related them, not to scare the early Christians, but to strengthen, comfort, and encourage them in view of the trials they were undergoing and those that lay ahead.—Acts 28:22; Revelation 1:4; 2:3, 9, 10, 13.
2. Why is the situation in which John and his fellow Christians found themselves of interest to Christians living today?
2 The circumstances in which this Bible book was written are very significant for Christians living today. John was undergoing persecution because he was a witness for Jehovah and His Son, Christ Jesus. He and his fellow Christians were living in a climate of hostility because, while endeavoring to be good citizens, they could not practice emperor worship. (Luke 4:8) In some countries, true Christians today find themselves in a similar situation, where the State assumes the right to define what is “religiously correct.” How comforting, therefore, are the words found in the introduction to the book of Revelation: “Happy is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and who observe the things written in it; for the appointed time is near.” (Revelation 1:3) Yes, attentive and obedient readers of Revelation can find true happiness and many blessings.
3. Who is the Source of the Revelation made to John?
3 Who is the ultimate Source of the Revelation, and what channel is used to transmit it? The opening verse tells us: “A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place. And he sent forth his angel and presented it in signs through him to his slave John.” (Revelation 1:1) To put it simply, the actual Source of the Revelation is Jehovah God, who gave it to Jesus, and by means of an angel, Jesus communicated it to John. A little further scrutiny reveals that Jesus also used the holy spirit to convey messages to the congregations and to give John visions.—Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10; compare Acts 2:33.
4. What means does Jehovah still use today to lead his people on earth?
4 Jehovah still uses his Son, the “head of the congregation,” to teach his servants on earth. (Ephesians 5:23; Isaiah 54:13; John 6:45) Jehovah also uses his spirit to instruct his people. (John 15:26; 1 Corinthians 2:10) And just as Jesus used “his slave John” to communicate sustaining spiritual food to the first-century congregations, so today he uses “the faithful and discreet slave,” made up of his anointed “brothers” on earth, to give his domestics and their companions spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45-47; 25:40) Happy are those who recognize the Source of the ‘good gifts’ we receive in the way of spiritual food and the channel He is using.—James 1:17.
5. (a) To what are Christian congregations and their overseers likened? (b) In spite of human imperfection, what will contribute to our happiness?
5 In the opening chapters of Revelation, Christian congregations are likened to lampstands. Their overseers are likened to angels (messengers) and to stars. (Revelation 1:20)* Speaking of himself, Christ told John to write: “These are the things that he says who holds the seven stars in his right hand, he who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.” (Revelation 2:1) The seven messages sent to the seven Asian congregations show that in the first century C.E., the congregations and their elders had their strong points and their weak points. The same is true today. We will, therefore, be much happier if we never lose sight of the fact that Christ, our Head, is in the midst of the congregations. He knows exactly what is going on. The overseers are symbolically “in his right hand,” that is, under his control and direction and answerable to him for the way they shepherd the congregations.—Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17.
6. What shows that the overseers are not the only ones answerable to Christ?
6 We would, however, be deceiving ourselves if we thought that only the overseers are answerable to Christ for their deeds. In one of his messages, Christ said: “All the congregations will know that I am he who searches the kidneys and hearts, and I will give to you individually according to your deeds.” (Revelation 2:23) This is at once a warning and an encouragement—a warning that Christ knows our deep-seated motives, an encouragement because it assures us that Christ is aware of our efforts and will bless us if we do what we can.—Mark 14:6-9; Luke 21:3, 4.
7. How had Christians in Philadelphia ‘kept the word about Jesus’ endurance’?
7 Christ’s message to the congregation in the Lydian city of Philadelphia contains no reproof, but it does make a promise that should be of the greatest interest to us. “Because you kept the word about my endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of test, which is to come upon the whole inhabited earth, to put a test upon those dwelling on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10) The Greek for “kept the word about my endurance” can also mean “kept what I said about endurance.” Verse 8 suggests that the Christians in Philadelphia not only had obeyed Christ’s commands but had followed his counsel to endure faithfully themselves.—Matthew 10:22; Luke 21:19.
8. (a) What promise did Jesus make to the Philadelphian Christians? (b) Who today are affected by “the hour of test”?
8 Jesus added that he would keep them from “the hour of test.” Just what that meant for those Christians back there, we do not know. Although there was a brief respite in the persecution after the death of Domitian in 96 C.E., a new wave of persecution began under Trajan (98-117 C.E.), doubtless bringing further trials. But the major “hour of test” occurs in “the Lord’s day” during “the time of the end,” where we now are. (Revelation 1:10; Daniel 12:4) Spirit-anointed Christians went through a particular time of testing during and immediately following World War I. Yet, “the hour of test” is still on. It affects “the whole inhabited earth,” including the millions making up the great crowd, who hope to survive the great tribulation. (Revelation 3:10; 7:9, 14) Happy we will be if we ‘keep what Jesus said about endurance,’ namely: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”—Matthew 24:13.
Happy Submission to Jehovah’s Sovereignty
9, 10. (a) In what ways should the vision of Jehovah’s throne affect us? (b) How can our reading of Revelation contribute to our happiness?
9 The vision of Jehovah’s throne and of his heavenly court given in chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation should fill us with awe. We should be impressed by the heartfelt expressions of praise uttered by the powerful heavenly creatures as they joyfully submit to Jehovah’s righteous sovereignty. (Revelation 4:8-11) Our voices should be heard among those that say: “To the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the might forever and ever.”—Revelation 5:13.
10 In a practical way, this means our being joyfully submissive to Jehovah’s will in all things. The apostle Paul wrote: “Whatever it is that you do in word or in work, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) Our reading of Revelation will make us truly happy if we in the innermost recesses of our minds and hearts recognize Jehovah’s sovereignty and take his will into account in every aspect of our lives.
11, 12. (a) How will Satan’s earthly system be shaken and destroyed? (b) According to Revelation chapter 7, who will be “able to stand” at that time?
11 Joyful submission to Jehovah’s sovereignty is the basis for happiness on a personal level and on a universal level. Soon a symbolic great earthquake will shake Satan’s world system to its very foundations and destroy it. There will be no place of refuge for humans who refuse to submit to Christ’s heavenly Kingdom government, representing God’s legitimate domination. The prophecy states: “The kings of the earth and the top-ranking ones and the military commanders and the rich and the strong ones and every slave and every free person hid themselves in the caves and in the rock-masses of the mountains. And they keep saying to the mountains and to the rock-masses: ‘Fall over us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’”—Revelation 6:12, 15-17.
12 With regard to that question, in the next chapter, the apostle John describes those making up the great crowd, who come out of the great tribulation, as “standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9, 14, 15) Their standing before the throne of God shows that they recognize that throne and fully submit to Jehovah’s sovereignty. They therefore stand approved.
13. (a) What do the majority of earth’s inhabitants worship, and what is symbolized by the mark on their forehead or on their hand? (b) So why will endurance be necessary?
13 On the other hand, chapter 13 depicts the rest of earth’s inhabitants as worshiping Satan’s political system, symbolized by a wild beast. They receive a mark on their “forehead” or on their “hand,” showing their mental and physical support for that system. (Revelation 13:1-8, 16, 17) Then, chapter 14 adds: “If anyone worships the wild beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he will also drink of the wine of the anger of God that is poured out undiluted into the cup of his wrath . . . Here is where it means endurance for the holy ones, those who observe the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14:9, 10, 12) As time goes on, the question will increasingly be: Whom do you support? Jehovah and his sovereignty or the ungodly political system symbolized by the wild beast? Happy will those be who avoid receiving the mark of the beast and who endure faithfully in submission to Jehovah’s sovereignty.
14, 15. What message interrupts Revelation’s description of Armageddon, with what meaning for us?
14 The rulers of “the entire inhabited earth” are on a collision course, heading for a confrontation with Jehovah over the issue of sovereignty. The showdown will be Armageddon, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Revelation 16:14, 16) An intriguing parenthesis appears right in the midst of the description of the gathering of earth’s rulers for war with Jehovah. Jesus himself breaks into the vision to say: “Look! I am coming as a thief. Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his shamefulness.” (Revelation 16:15) This may allude to Levite temple guards who were stripped of their garments and publicly disgraced if they were found sleeping during their guard duty.
15 The message is clear: If we want to survive Armageddon, we must remain spiritually alert and keep the symbolic garments that identify us as faithful Witnesses of Jehovah God. Happy we will be if we avoid spiritual lethargy and continue without letup, sharing zealously in spreading the “everlasting good news” of God’s established Kingdom.—Revelation 14:6.
‘Happy Is Anyone Observing These Words’
16. Why are the closing chapters of Revelation a particular cause for happiness?
16 Happy readers of the book of Revelation can only thrill with joy as they read the closing chapters that describe our glorious hope—a new heaven and a new earth, that is, a righteous heavenly Kingdom government ruling over a new, cleansed human society, all to the praise of “Jehovah God the Almighty.” (Revelation 21:22) As the wonderful series of visions closed, the angelic messenger said to John: “These words are faithful and true; yes, Jehovah the God of the inspired expressions of the prophets sent his angel forth to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place. And, look! I am coming quickly. Happy is anyone observing the words of the prophecy of this scroll.”—Revelation 22:6, 7.
17. (a) What assurance is given at Revelation 22:6? (b) What should we be alert to avoid?
17 Revelation’s happy readers will remember that words similar to these occur at the beginning of the “scroll.” (Revelation 1:1, 3) These words assure us that all “the things” prophesied in this final book of the Bible will “shortly take place.” We are living so deep in the time of the end that relevant events foretold in Revelation must surely soon occur in quick succession. Any seeming stability in Satan’s system should not, therefore, lull us to sleep. The alert reader will remember the warnings given in the messages sent to the seven Asian congregations and will avoid the traps of materialism, idolatry, immorality, lukewarmness, and apostate sectarianism.
18, 19. (a) Why must Jesus yet come, and in what hope expressed by John do we share? (b) For what purpose is Jehovah yet to “come”?
18 In the book of Revelation, Jesus announces several times: “I am coming quickly.” (Revelation 2:16; 3:11; 22:7, 20a) He must yet come to execute judgment on Babylon the Great, Satan’s political system, and on all humans who refuse to submit to Jehovah’s sovereignty, as now expressed by the Messianic Kingdom. We join our voices with that of the apostle John, who exclaimed: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”—Revelation 22:20b.
19 Jehovah himself states: “Look! I am coming quickly, and the reward I give is with me, to render to each one as his work is.” (Revelation 22:12) While awaiting the glorious reward of life without end as a part of either the promised “new heaven” or the “new earth,” may we zealously join in extending the invitation to all honesthearted people: “‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” (Revelation 22:17) May they also become happy readers of the inspired and inspiring book of Revelation!
See Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand!, pages 28-9, 136 (footnote).
Points for Review
□ What channel did Jehovah use to transmit the Revelation, and what can we learn from this?
□ Why should we be happy to read the messages sent to the seven congregations in Asia?
□ How can we be kept safe during “the hour of test”?
□ What happiness will be ours if we observe the words of the scroll containing the Revelation?
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Happy are those who recognize the Source of the glad tidings
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Happy is the one that stays awake