The Blessedness of the Vision


The Blessedness of the Vision

January 22nd, 1961 @ 8:15 AM

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 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.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 1:1-3

1-22-61       8:15 a.m.


On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Blessedness of the Vision.  And the reading is from the Book of the Revelation, the first chapter, the third verse: “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].  Possibly it would be better if for our remembrance I read the three verses; for the message this morning is based upon this introduction:

 The Revelation, the Apocalypse, the unveiling of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John:

Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.


and this is the first of seven beatitudes in the book—

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 1:1-3]

God says blessed is the one that reads it, blessed are they that hear it, and blessed are they which guard and treasure these things, the words of this prophecy, for the time is at hand [Revelation 1:3]—things which must shortly come to pass [Revelation 1:1].

There are two extreme attitudes regarding the study, the reading, the teaching, the preaching of the Book of the Revelation.  The first extreme is this: there are those who say that it ought to be abandoned by all serious students.  They look upon the Revelation as a farrago of baseless fantasies.  Some of them describe it as a compilation of Jewish apocalyptic fragments that some unknown Christian in the ages past put together and tried to give it a Christian turn and a Christian touch [ and a Christian heart.  They look upon it as being a puzzle, a mystery that no man could understand or fathom.  For example, even Martin Luther, at first, at one time, refused to include the Apocalypse in his canon of Scripture because, he said, no man could understand it.  And following in that vein, those who have that spirit and attitude concerning it have words of sarcasm and belittlement to those who would seriously attempt to study it.  They have a deep prejudice against the book, and would dissuade all of us from mentioning it, from referring to it, from teaching it, and from preaching it.  That is one extreme.

Now the other extreme is on the other side.  There are those who are persuaded that about the only book in the Bible that is really worth studying is the Apocalypse.  And they find in the Apocalypse a map in all of the details for all of the historical future, and they make chronologies that inevitably include the setting of a date for the time of the end of the age.  And when we come to those dates that they have set for the time of the end and their chronological prophecies are not fulfilled, then it makes the whole thing look silly and ridiculous.

Now to us, however those things may be or may not be, what we are interested in is this.  What has God done here and what has God said here?  So let’s take those two great fundamental interests on our part and look at the Revelation to see, first: what has God done here?  Now, God has done two things here.  First, God has given to Christ an incomparably, celestially ineffable reward for what Christ has done in His redemptive and reconciliatory ministry in this weary, sinful earth.  And that great reward that God has bestowed upon Christ for what He has done to save us from our sins, that ineffable honor is the unveiling, the apocalypse, the manifestation, the presentation of Jesus Christ as the Owner and Ruler and King of things in heaven and things in earth.  This is the first thing that God has done here: “the Apocalypse, the unveiling, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him” [Revelation 1:1].

What therefore is this marvelous thing, this celestial and heavenly thing, that I hold in my hands, that I read in the words of this prophecy, that God says is a fitting honor to bestow upon our infinitely worthy and precious Lord because of what He did to save us from our sins? [Revelation 5:12-13]. The Lord God raised Jesus from among the dead [Acts 2:24; Hebrews 13:20], and the Lord God received Him up into glory [Acts 1:9-10].  But these honors, great as they are, are not the end of what God hath given, hath bestowed upon, our exalted Lord.

And this honor, this reward, this enthronement, this apocalypse, this manifestation, this appearing, this Lord as Ruler over all creation and all things therein, God gave to Jesus in God’s judgment as a fitting reward for what our Lord has done.  And then Christ deemed that honor so great and so worthy that He sent an embassage down to the sons of men to make it known unto us.  And the holy angels of heaven counted it an honor to signify that unveiling which God hath given to our Lord.  And the apostle John, the disciple of love, conscientiously wrote it down for all of the Lord’s children to see, and to accept, and to believe, and in which greatly to rejoice.

Look at this: if we gain strength from the mystery of the incarnation, the humbling of our Savior, His birth in the nativity, the first Christmas, His life of humility and condescension, His prayers and temptations, His sorrows and His grief; if the veiling of His deity is a strength and an encouragement to us; if we are blessed by the message of His cross, the outpouring of His life, and the spilling of His blood; if all of these things work for our salvation and our encouragement and our strength, then with what vast, illimitable, indescribable appreciation should we look upon the great and ultimate and final reward that God hath bestowed upon Christ for what He has done for us?  And the record and the prophecy and the unveiling of that glorious honor is the Book of the Revelation.  That’s the first thing that God has done.  He has bestowed this great reward upon our Savior; the apocalypse, the presentation of our Savior as the Lord and King of glory.

Now I said that God has done two things here; first, this great reward, this apocalypse that God hath given to Christ.  The second thing God hath done here is this.  He has given to us an unsealed book.  “John bare record of what God said, and what God did, of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw” [Revelation 1:2].

John conscientiously, faithfully, minutely wrote all of these things down that God sent through the angel to this apostle [Revelation 1:1].  And the angel guide said, “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand” [Revelation 22:10].  The second thing that God has done, after He had given this glorious apocalypse to Jesus [Revelation 1:1], the second thing He did was this.  He caused the apostle John to write it down [Revelation 1:2], that all of us might look upon it, and might behold it, and might be encouraged and strengthened by it to the end and the consummation of the age.  “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand [Revelation 22:10] … And I John bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that I saw” [Revelation 1:2].

Now, the great prophetic revelations that were given to Daniel, some of them were closed up.  They were sealed.  They were veiled.  Daniel 12:4: “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end.”  And what God had revealed to Daniel, Daniel was not allowed to write out, that these who came after him might see the revelation, and read it, and understand, and see, and know it.

But the Apocalypse of John is altogether different.  What was sealed in Daniel [Daniel 12:4] is unsealed in the Apocalypse [Revelation 22:10].  What was not made known in Daniel is made known in the Revelation.  What was hidden and covered away in Daniel is open to view in the Revelation.  And this Book of the Apocalypse is an open, unsealed book for the eyes of God’s people to look upon [Revelation 22:10].  And it has been from that day when that first breathless messenger came from Patmos and had in his hand this glorious Apocalypse and delivered it first to the church at Ephesus, then to Smyrna, then to Pergamos, then to Thyatira, then to Sardis, then to Philadelphia, then to Laodicea [Revelation 2:1 – 3:22]; and from that day until this, this great apocalyptic vision has been kept open before the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some of those messages in the Revelation were especially pertinent for those seven churches in Asia.  Some of this message is especially pertinent for us in this day and in this hour.  Some of the messages of that Apocalypse are especially pertinent for an accepted and elected time in the future.  But all of it, from beginning to end, is pertinent and profitable to all of us in all ages and in all times in the churches of Jesus Christ.  You see, God has given to us, not a mystery, not an enigma, not a dark scene, but God has given to us an open, unveiled revelation!  “Seal not the things that are written in the book: for the time is at hand” [Revelation 22:10].

Did you know that there is a word that sounds kind of like “apocalypse,” that if you study the Bible—often you will find there are books that are accepted by the Roman church which to us are just human productions, and sometimes you will find them in a big family Bible, between the Old and the New Testaments, and they bear the name apocrypha.  Apocrypha means “hidden.”  It means “covered over.”  It ultimately bears the meaning “not authentic, not real, not true”; apocrypha, hidden.  Now, apocalypse is the Greek word that means exactly the opposite of the Greek word apocrypha.  Apocrypha, hidden, apokruptō, hidden, concealed, but apocalypse, the Greek word for taking away the covering, unveiling, presenting to view.  And what I have here in the last book of the Scriptures is not an apocrypha, a covering up, a sealing, a hiding away, but what I have is an unveiling, an apocalypse, an unsealed revelation upon which the eyes of the church may always look [Revelation 1:1].

You see, there are many people who would seal up what God has unsealed.  There are those who would not only take away from the words of the prophecy, but they would take away the prophecy itself.  That’s the second thing that God has done for us.  He has given to us an open book [Revelation 22:10], and we may read it and look upon it and see what God proposes for His Son and for us who trust in Him.

Now I’m going to speak on what God has said.  I have spoken first what God has done.  He has given to Christ this great apocalypse, this unveiling, this manifestation as King of the universe, our rightful and only Lord [Revelation 1:1].  And God has given to us this unsealed book [Revelation 22:10], and our eyes may look full upon it, and our hearts may be strengthened and encouraged by it.  Now God has said something; not only done something, but said something.  What has God said?  This is what our Lord has said: “Blessed, blessed, blessed is he that reads; blessed, blessed are they that hear the words of this prophecy; and blessed are they that guard and treasure and keep the words of this prophecy in their hearts; for the time is at hand” [Revelation 1:3].

God has said a remarkable thing.  Why should God have said that the study and the understanding and the meditation upon the words of this prophecy are profitable and blessed?  Well first, because it is the revelation of Jesus Christ Himself [Revelation 1:1], and the great, all-inclusive hope of the churches of our Lord lies in our coming and reigning and victorious King [Revelation 19:16].  And God says that to meditate upon that appearance and to look and to watch and to wait for that glorious triumph, the second coming of our Lord [Acts 1:11], is blessed above all things in this earth.  “Blessed are they who read, and who hear, and who treasure the words of this prophecy” [Revelation 1:3].

The study of any Scripture is profitable.  Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  All Scripture is profitable [2 Timothy 3:16], but some Scriptures are more significantly meaningful than other Scriptures, and some Scriptures are more preciously dear than others [Jeremiah 15:16], and thus it is with the Revelation.  God says that these words are especially dear and precious and profitable [Revelation 1:3].  When we look upon the Revelation in great puzzlement and bewilderment, that is just the more reason why we are carefully to examine it.  These words were not written in order that they might mystify the church, but in order that we might be encouraged by them.  And the author who wrote them down did not do so in order that we might be confused and bewildered, but in order that we might understand.  And lest the reader hesitates God writes at the very door of the book this marvelous beatitude:  “Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear and treasure the words of this prophecy” [Revelation 1:3].

It’s the same kind of a thing as Mary, the peasant girl and maiden mother of our Lord.  She did not understand the things that were spoken by the angel and the things that were coming to pass [Luke 1:28-38], but the Scriptures say “She treasured them, she kept them, and pondered upon them in her heart” [Luke 2:19].  And as the days passed, the meaning of those words came to full fruition and understanding.

When Simeon in the temple said, “And this Child shall be a sign that shall be spoken against, yea, and the sword shall pierce through thine own soul also” [Luke 2:34-35], she had no idea what that meant until the day when she stood by the cross and looked upon the Son of God, her Child of promise, nailed and lifted up between the earth and the sky [John 19:25].  But she, though not understanding the word at the time, treasured it, and kept it, and pondered it in her heart [Luke 2:19].  With a like humility of faith and of acceptance, we also can listen to the words of the prophecy, and what we cannot understand, we can treasure and examine.  And the darker the mystery, the deeper the cause for examination and careful study, and according to the Word of God, the greater the blessing.  “Blessed is he that reads, and hears, and treasures, guards the words of this prophecy” [Revelation 1:3].

According to John 16:13 the Holy Spirit stands ready to guide us and to help us.  John 16:13 says, “And He, when He the Holy Spirit comes, He will guide you into all truth … for He shall show thee things to come.”  So it’s a blessed thing, God says, to read the words of the prophecy, and to meditate upon them, and to treasure them in our hearts [Revelation 1:3].

It is a profitable and a precious thing because it is the only prophetic book in all of the New Testament; just this one [Revelation 1:1-22:21].  There are many small apocalypses in the New Testament, like Matthew 24 [Matthew 24:1-51], Mark 13 [Mark 13:1-37], Luke 17 [Luke 17:1-37], a part of 1 and 2 Thessalonians [1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11;  2 Thessalonians 2:1-12], the third chapter of 2 Peter [2 Peter 3:1-14]; apocalypses, small apocalypses in the New Testament.  But there is only one prophetic book, and that is the Book of the Revelation.  This is the last writing of inspiration.  This closes the canon.  This is our Lord’s last message to His churches after He has ascended into glory.  And what God has done here for us is to pull aside the veil, and to invite with uncommon urgency God’s people to look through the vistas of the future [Revelation 1:3].

And there we find recorded the story of this present age of the church [Revelation 2:1-3:22].  And then we find recorded and revealed the inexorable apocalyptic judgments that God shall visit upon a denying and unbelieving and blaspheming world [Revelation 5:1-20:15].  And there we see the frightful and terrible rise and fall of the Antichrist [Revelation 13:1-18, 19:20].  And then we see the unveiling of the Lord in glory and in power [Revelation 19:11-16], and the establishment of His kingdom in the earth [Revelation 20:4-6], and the ultimate victory of our Christ over sin and over death and over the grave [Revelation 20:11-15].  And there we see God’s glorified saints, reigning with our Lord forever and ever and ever [Revelation 22:3-5].  This book is the only book in the New Testament that pulls aside the veil that we might see into the vistas of the future that are yet to come.

And a third reason why it is blessed to study this prophecy: Christ is not going to be glorified alone.  We shall be glorified with Him; it concerns us.  In these things that are revealed in the Revelation, we shall have a glorious and rewarding and triumphant part.  “Unto Him that loved us, and loosed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father” [Revelation 1:5-6]; we share in the glory.  And when we read of the exaltation of our Lord, we are looking upon the exaltation of God’s sainted children, those who have trusted in Him [Romans 10:9-10].  And not the least of those who place their faith in our Savior but shall be remembered, and rewarded, and glorified, and exalted in that incomparably precious and glorious day.  “For the time is at hand” [Revelation 1:3]: what does that mean?  “For the time is at hand,” the revelation which God gave to Christ, “to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; for the time is at hand” [Revelation 1:1, 3].  And that is repeated so much.  “Seal not the things of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand” [Revelation 22:10].  Those two Greek words, en tachei, which is translated here in the first verse “shortly”: “to show unto His servants things which must shortly, en tachei, in speed, in brevity, en tachei, which must immediately come to pass” [Revelation 1:1].

And then the word eggus, translated “at hand,” for the time is at hand [Revelation 1:3].  What does that mean?  Well, again we haven’t opportunity to expatiate upon it.  There are those who object to any kind of a persuasion that these words apply to anything except just to those people who lived in the days of the seven churches of Asia [Revelation 2:1-3:22]; that all of it was fulfilled back there in that day, and it concerns us not at all.

For example, one of the authorities on the Revelation, who is a present teacher and professor, writes that it is inconsistent with the statement made by John—that the events predicted were to come to pass soon [Revelation 1:1]—to believe that they are still in the future, for he uses the Greek word dei: these things must come to pass immediately [Revelation 1:1].  Then he goes on with the second Greek term, en tachei, and says, “The second Greek term we are interested in is the phrase en tachei, which is translated quickly or shortly [Revelation 1:1].  The futurists,” those who believe that it applies to us and to all the age, of which I am one, “the futurists hold that this is a term which means certainty rather than having any temporal idea connected [Revelation 1:1].  Paul hardly,” now I want you to look at this, “Paul hardly uses it,” I’m quoting from the professor, “Paul hardly uses it this way when he says to Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4:9, ‘Be diligent to come unto me tacheōs.’”  That’s an adverbial form of tachos: “be diligent to come unto me, tacheōs, quickly.”  We can almost hear him say, according to the futurists—people who believe that the prophecy is yet to come—“Timothy, I want you to come to me here in Rome; bring the coat I left with Carpus [2 Timothy 4:13].  I am cold and need it, but there’s no hurry, just so you get here in the next two or three thousand years.  I need those Scripture scrolls I left there.  Bring them so I can read them.  There are some passages I want to brush up on in the next millennium or two.  I want to see you.  I don’t know how long I can hold out, so come in the next few thousand years, tacheôs; anytime will be all right.”  “Mirabile dictu,” he writes.  Then he continues:

But this is no more absurd than to take the position that the phrase in Revelation 1:1 means “certainty of fulfillment” rather than a speedy fulfillment.  Here John is saying to the suffering, persecuted Christians of Asia Minor, ‘That’s all right; don’t be disturbed.  After a few thousand years, the nations will gather together for a great battle in the valley of Megiddo, and when it is all over, God will set up an earthly kingdom and reign with His saints, and all the followers of Antichrist will be destroyed.’  Such a message would have little meaning and less comfort to those in need.

That’s what the professor writes about the meaning of that word en tachei, “shortly,” and eggus, “for the time is at hand” [Revelation 1:1, 3].

Well, what is this thing that God has said?  For those words were written a thousand, eight hundred and some odd years ago, and yet these great prophetic revelations have not yet been fulfilled.  Well, what does that mean then, en tachei, translated “shortly” [Revelation 1:1], and eggus, “for the time is at hand”? [Revelation 1:3]. It is near, eggus—near?  Well, first of all, may I say a word about what the professor said?

He says that it would have been no comfort at all if these apocalyptic revelations were future, if they were prophetic, for in order for them to be of comfort they had to come to pass immediately.  Well, let’s see if God says so.  For example, in James 5:8, James, encouraging the church, says, “Be ye patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is eggus, draweth nigh.”  Here, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem is encouraging the people of the church by the promised return of Jesus, and yet it’s been two thousand years and He hasn’t come.  And yet the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, James the Lord’s brother, is encouraging the people in the church by the promise of the coming of the Jesus.

All right, look again.  The apostle Paul, in Romans 16:20, in encouraging the persecuted church at Rome, says, “And God shall bruise Satan under your feet en tachei,” that exact verse translated here “shortly” [Revelation 1:1].  Satan isn’t bruised under God’s feet yet, and that was two thousand years ago when Paul wrote that.  Yet Paul says, “God shall bruise Satan” [Romans 16:20], that’s a fulfillment of the promise in Eden [Genesis 3:15], “God shall bruise Satan under your feet en tachei, shortly” [Romans 16:20].  Just one other instance: “Hear what the unjust judge saith” [Luke 18:6], Jesus in the parable in Luke 18, and then in the verse 7, “And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? [Luke 18:7]. I tell you that He shall avenge them en tachei,” translated here “speedily!  Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” [Luke 18:8].  And plainly our Lord indicates there that it’s going to be a long delay [Luke 18:7].  “I tell you shall not God avenge His elect?  He will avenge them en tachei, speedily.  But when He cometh, shall He still find faith on the earth?” [Luke 18:8].  And there it is implied a long delay, so long until the people will begin to believe He is not going to keep His word [2 Peter 3:4].

Well, what does that mean then, here in the Book of the Revelation where it says, “To show unto us things which must shortly come to pass” [Revelation 1:1], and “these things are nigh at hand”? [Revelation 1:3].  Well, it’s very plain what he means.  First, that word has in it the element of certainty; dei, they must come to pass [Revelation 1:1].  Yes, sir, and certainly, not a syllable of this will fall to the ground.  It will assuredly come.  It may delay, it may be in time, but every prophecy of God will come to pass, assuredly and certainly.  That’s one meaning.  Second, it has in it the idea of speed.  Some of these things are already coming to pass, and some of these things, and most of them, when they begin to come to pass will come to pass tacheōs, speedily!  The thing will be done like Babylon will be destroyed in an hour [Revelation 18:19].  Speedily these things will come when they come [Revelation 1:3].

And then there is no set time for the consummation in the Revelation.  You can study it and study it; there’s no date in it.  God’s clock is not like our clock.  And God doesn’t compute time as we compute time.  “A thousand years in His sight are but as a day, and a day as a thousand years” [2 Peter 3:8].  Well, then what does God mean when He says, “shortly” [Revelation 1:1], and when He says “at hand” [Revelation 1:3].  And in the last chapter of the Revelation, look at these times:

 Blessed is he that keeps the sayings … for the time is at hand …

Behold, I come quickly. Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this Book: for the time is at hand …

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly.

[Revelation 22:7, 10, 20]

What does God mean by that?  My dear and precious and beloved fellow Christians, God means by that this: that the return of our Lord is always imminent, always.  It could be today, it could be at twilight, it may be at midnight or in the morning, and what God wills for His children through all of the church age is that we be watchful, and waiting, and prayerful, and expectant [Matthew 24:42].  It could be today.  And it pleases God for His children to read the words of the prophecy [Revelation 1:1-3] and to say in their hearts, “It may be today,” and to live our lives and to minister in the name of our Savior expecting that some day, some hour, soon, we shall see that beloved and holy face, our Lord in glory [Revelation 22:3-4]: “Quickly I come” [Revelation 22:20].  Wait, pray, and expect it [Titus 2:13].

Now in the moment that we sing, somebody to give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], somebody to put his life with us in the fellowship of the church, while we sing this stanza, would you come?  Would you make it now?  Would you make it this morning?  Here’s a family, or one somebody you, while we stand and while we sing.