A recent radio series asked "where is God today"? First-century Christians in Asia Minor facing tough times may well have asked the same question. John wrote Revelation in part to answer them. From exile he described the churches' tough challenges: evil men, false apostles (2:2), tribulation, poverty, blasphemy, imprisonment, death (2:9-10, 13), dwelling where Satan's throne is (2:13), false teachers of Balaam, Barak, the Nicolaitans, Jezebel and Satan's deep things (2:14, 15, 20, 24), immorality, idolatry (2:20), apathy and materialism (3:16-17). He gave his readers what they needed: guidance, correction and encouragement that God is present, active and victorious.
While Revelation's visions can seem strange and scary the book opens and ends with promises of blessings amidst difficulties. Jesus opens His first sermon in Matthew and closes Revelation with blessings. Makarios (blessed) appears in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount nine times and in His Revelation seven times (the most in the New Testament outside the Gospels). It means favoured, blessed, fortunate, happy, privileged (it is a different term than eulogia [cf. eulogy] the praise blessings to God in 5:12, 13 and 7:12). These blessings are often referred to as "beatitudes." Some Revelation blessings are immediate, some we look forward to. Revelation's seven "beatitudes" are:
Blessed Are Those Who
Read, Hear and Heed
"Blessed is he 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" (1:3). We often pray and say "God bless" without knowing exactly how God will bless people. One way God blesses us is in the reading, hearing and heeding of the Revelation. The prophecy forth-tells how God resolves all things and creates a new heaven and earth.
Reading is a compound word, to "know again." Heeding is keeping and guarding which in turn leads to encouragement and obedient action. First-century Christians often read the Scriptures together (Colossians 4:16). We are blessed as we read and obey them together and individually. Reading through the Scriptures regularly is a constant blessing. "The time is near": a lively expectancy of God's fulfilment of His promises is a blessing in itself.
Die in the Lord
"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, 'so that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow with them'" (14:13). In contrast to the unrest and futility of those worshiping the beast instead of God and so harvesting His wrath, Christians live and die with purpose, fruitful labour and the promise of rest. Their deeds take on a life of their own that testifies of their faith and God's glory (cf. 1 Timothy 5:24-25).
Stay Awake and Keep Their Clothes
"Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame" (16:15). Between the sixth and seventh angels' bowls of wrath and the gathering for Armageddon, Jesus exhorts us. In difficult times and the fatigue that comes with spiritual battles it's tempting to give up and seek escape in sleep and other diversions. Jesus promises blessings in staying spiritually alert and clothed in honour vs. selfish shame (cf. 3:17-18).
Are Invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
"Then he said to me, ‘Write, "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb"'" (19:9a). This blessing comes amidst the victorious multitude praising God and the revelation of Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As at weddings on earth, a supper celebrates the final union of Christ with His people. Jesus came to purchase His bride, prepare her and a place for her and be with her forever.
Have a Part in the First Resurrection
"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" (20:6). This blessing comes between God's commendation of Christ's martyrs and spiritual victors and His promise to banish their adversary forever. Christians should draw courage from the spiritual victories of their ancestors and the knowledge that Christ's rule is supreme. Though we do not see it all today we will in the end.
Heed the Words of the Prophecy
"And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book" (22:7). Following the beautiful visions of God's new heaven and earth, Revelation draws to a close reinforcing the blessing with which it opens: keep and guard the Word which reveals God's consummation of all things.
Wash Their Robes
"Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city" (22:14). A right is a powerful thing, here an authority (exousia) on the basis of Jesus' blood. It authorizes Christians access to the tree of life which right was lost in the Garden of Eden. It provides free entry to the eternal city of God. Our robes are put on clean at baptism and kept clean by the Word and sanctification by Jesus' blood.
Conclusion: Revelation Blessings Now and to Come
Where is God today? Right here. His Revelation blessings are available now through reading, hearing and guarding His words in a lively expectation of His ultimate victory. Though world affairs overwhelm us, God wins in the end! Read His Revelation once a year or more. It will bless you.
Revelation promises rich blessings in doing the Word, in good deeds. Though often unappreciated now, they bring eternal rewards. Your labour is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Being faithful until death in the Lord brings rich rewards and rest.
Looking forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb is a blessing. Blessings come in staying alert and living in honour of God and those who gave their lives for Jesus. As we wait to join them there are blessings in washing and keeping our spiritual clothes of love and holiness on and sparkling. Then we too may have the right to the tree of life and enter by the gates into the eternal city where we may praise God for His blessings forever!