The message of the Book of Revelation came from God to Jesus. It then went from Jesus to an angel. The angel brought it to the Apostle John on the Island of Patmos, and John, taking the stand, gives us an eyewitness account of the vision along with its significance. There are 22 chapters in this book, and it’s filled with images and metaphors as well as figures of speech. Scholars have struggled to understand this book since the very beginning. Since it is most likely the most difficult book in the Bible to read and the most difficult to understand, some argue it’s not worth the effort. But in Revelation 1:3, John makes sure right from the beginning of his testimony to assure us that reading this book will be of great value. He says, “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.”

Hearing and reading the Book of Revelation is accompanied by a blessing. It has to be the content of this book that will bring a blessing to all those exposed to it. It is the story of the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death. The prophecy that John brings here was to a people being persecuted in any number of ways for their faith. If they renounce their faith, they would be released from prison. If they “kept” the faith, they would be executed. John, himself, survived being boiled in oil, according to ancient church history. It might be said that the book of Revelation was addressed to losers. Professing faith in Jesus tattooed a big “L” on their foreheads as far as the rest of society was concerned. It’s like that today in some ways as well. Those who profess faith in Christ end up being losers in Hollywood, in the business world, in education, and in Politics. One must not be “too religious” in any of society’s endeavors if success is to be desired. We, indeed, are a nation of people consumed with winning! John is going to refer to the “winners” as the “overcomers” in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation, and he adds to each of the seven churches that he addresses the “blessing” for those who “overcome.” Patterson says this more eloquently, “The ‘blessedness,’ which is to benefit both readers and hearers alike, arises from the fact that they are hearing the words of God, the testimony of Jesus. They are thus made privy to the continuing plan and purpose of God for the future, which would otherwise have remained hidden in the providences of God. Further, the readers, as they encounter anticipated tribulations, are blessed by the reassurance that Christ not only reigns supreme but also guides history to his designed climax, at which time good conquers forevermore.”[1]

The ”overcomers” are the ones who “keep” what is written in the Book of Revelation. I found an 1890 Indian Head Penny twenty years ago when I was metal detecting near my church in Blair, Nebraska. I still have that penny. I “kept it.” Many of the commentators have argued that to “keep” the prophecies of the Book of Revelation is to obey the moral dictates of the law. Keener says, “In biblical idiom, ‘hearing’ also often meant ‘heeding,’ i.e., obedience, but John allows no ambiguity… one used this language for observing commandments. Though Revelation is not a collection of laws, its message provides us demands no less serious.”[2] I agree that the exhortation to “keep” is very serious, but it means not to let the current opposition to your faith cause you to denounce it. Many did denounce their faith during the times of early persecution, and the church struggled mightily with what to do with those denouncers who wanted to come back into the church when the persecution ended. My Indian head penny is important to me, and it’s not for sale. But there are circumstances under which I might be rid of it. That’s not the case with my faith in Jesus. Not only is it not for sale, but there is also nothing one can do to cause me to renounce it. I will “keep” it because Jesus will win in the end, and that’s what the Book of Revelation is about. I’m blessed because I know now that victory in Jesus is mine!

[1] Patterson, Paige. 2012. Revelation. Edited by E. Ray Clendenen. Vol. 39. The New American Commentary. Nashville, TN: B&H.

[2] Keener, Craig S. 1999. Revelation. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.