Some thoughts on the opening verses of the book of The Revelation, Part Two

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I issued the first part of this article from the bedside of my wife Ann, after she was admitted to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen two weeks ago.

One week later she was welcomed into heaven by her beloved Redeemer. And now, a further week later, I send out the second part of the article.

She and I loved to study and discuss those things related to the Saviour’s return and watch world events in the light of Holy Scripture. What a knowledge she must have now! Yet she has learned nothing upon going to heaven that was not set forth in the Bible.

Dear Christian, God would have us understand what lies ahead that we might be assured that the devil and his allies will be utterly defeated and that the Saviour will have the victory.

“And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh,” Revelation 19:19-21.

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Ivan Foster


(Part Two)

“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,” Revelation 1:1-3.


We will be concentrating our thoughts on verse three.

“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.”


“Blessed is he that readeth.”

1. Here is a blessing promised to any individual who ‘reads’ this book. The Bible was written to be read. It was not intended that it gather dust on a shelf somewhere. Rather, the purpose of giving the books of the Bible was that we might read. The Book of the Revelation was very obviously meant to be read, given its title – ‘Revelation’ – and the blessing here promised to the reader. What a contradiction in terms this would all be if, as all too many ministers have told their flock, it is a book to be avoided since it is very complicated!

This a blatant falsehood. If we read it, taking what is obviously figurative as such and what is literal as literal, it is indeed a “Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass”!

2. The Saviour indicated that the Word given is to be diligently perused. “But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it,” Luke 11:28. Many who even take the time to read God’s Word (and there are few of those today) are quite content to ‘skim’ through its pages retaining nothing of what wisdom is set before them. Food which is ‘gulped’ down without due chewing, does more harm than good. We are required to ‘masticate’ in order to rightly absorb the good within our food that our bodies need.

So it is with reading our Bibles.

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success,” Joshua 1:8. Reading it aloud in order to fully comprehend and take in what it is the Lord has said, is what is required.

How often when eating we come on a piece of food that is more solid, more firm, than the rest of that which is in our mouth. We do not discard it, or spit it out but rather we crush it with our teeth in order to prepare it for swallowing.

So it is with God’s Word. We will encounter ‘hard’ bits which require ‘rumination’ in order to come to an understanding of the Word. Peter spoke of such ‘hard’ bits.

“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction,” 2 Peter 3:15-16.

Just as babies may choke on some solid food so those who are ‘babes in knowledge’ may choke on some things in the Bible if they are not properly chewed and broken up under the Spirit’s guidance and instruction. Even wise Daniel required heavenly aid in order to understand the vision given him.

“And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision,” Daniel 8:16-17.

I repeat, it is God’s WILL that we understand ALL of the Bible and it is by READING and BELIEVING that understanding is granted.

3. The Bible, like road signs, is to be heeded. If we are to arrive at the glorious destination which the Lord would have sinners reach then we must obey the Bible. We are to ‘keep’ those things which are written!

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death,” John 8:51. Here is the saving power of the gospel when it is read, believed and ‘kept’! When praying for His people the Saviour said: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word,” John 17:6.

Many read the Bible only to cast away what they read or carelessly allow the ‘birds of the air’, the devil, to steal the saving truths set forth there.

What eternal regrets such will face after they die in their sins!


The manner of our reading is expanded upon in the verse. “They that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.”  Note that as we read this book we are hearing “the words of this prophecy”. We look into the future through the pages of this book.

1. The word ‘prophecy’ carries the meaning of ‘a discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God.’ This book declares what shall indisputably take place in the future, a future 2000 years nearer than when this book was given by divine inspiration. I believe that we can see the beginning of the signs which mark the end of this age, as set forth in this book, taking place before our eyes in the world scene but especially in and around the Holy Land, the stage upon which the chief events of God’s eternal purpose have and will take place.

2. Today, there a few who ‘hear’ what God says in this, indeed in all of His prophecies. What this Book contains has already been the subject of prophetic utterances by God’s servants since the days of Adam. Adam lived to likely see and hear the prophet Enoch. He spoke of the return of Christ and the apostasy of the last days. Jude, in his book, deals with the ‘creepers’ who had invaded the ‘Church’ back in the first century and who have never been successfully cast out, even as the ‘tares’ continued alongside the ‘wheat’ in the Saviour’s parable, right up to the harvest (Matthew 13:24-30).

Jude reveals what Enoch preached back in the days of Adam.

“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him,” verses 14-15.

3. This is hearing accompanied by obedience. Prophecy is not given by God to be the subject of exciting ‘conference’ subjects! It is not revealed to titillate and tantalise! No, like all of Holy Scripture it is given to be obeyed! We have already considered the meaning of the word ‘keep’. We must take the words of this book into our hearts and live out what they require of us. The book ends with the Saviour’s exhortation.

“And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book,” Revelation 22:6-7.

How few give proper consideration of these, the blessed Saviour’s final inspired words to us!

We are to note also the instructions given to John regarding what it was he was to write. “And he (the angel) saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand,” Revelation 22:10.

This contrasts with the instructions given to Daniel some 600 years earlier.

“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end,” Daniel 12:4.

We live in an age of the ‘opening’, the ‘unsealing’ of the prophecies of God regarding the end times.

As is ever the case, the devil seeks to frustrate the purpose of God and for this reason we repeatedly hear the cry, ‘Prophecy is too hard to be understood, don’t study it!”

That is the devil’s lie today, sadly often sounding forth from the lips of professing ministers!


There are two incentives. “Blessed is he that readeth . . . for the time is at hand.”

1. I have preached my way through this book to my congregation in Kilskeery back at the beginning of the 1990s and then again with the boys and girls in Kilskeery Independent Christian School. I found no difficulty serving up studies that could be understood by little one from this marvellous book. Both of these studies took place before recordings of such messages were mounted on the internet. But I have referred to this book on numerous occasions in such studies as ‘The Return of Christ’, conducted with Kilskeery Independent Christian School in 2014 and 2015.

2. I have heard pupils who heard those studies say, after they had left school, how they were blessed by them.

Yes, there is a blessing  for the one that reads and studies this book. You know that the word ‘blessing’ means ‘happy’. What is revealed in this book, when it is believed, make us happy! We can rejoice with those in heaven as we see, before hand, the victory that Christ will have over all His enemies.

“And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever,” Revelation 19:1-3.

As we read, we rejoice in anticipation of that glorious victory and we will rejoice in actuality one day soon!

3. We must note by way of a further incentive to read and believe this book that ‘the time is at hand’! At the end of the book, the Saviour says: “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star,” Revelation 22:16.

I will quote from the book I wrote which was born out on my series of messages on the Book of the Revelation.

“How relevant this book is! It reveals things which must shortly come to pass for the time is at hand. Each passing year since John wrote this book has made it all the more relevant. Living as we do, within the confines of a lifespan of some seventy years, a century is to us a much longer period than it is to Him with Whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day, 2 Peter 3:8.

These phrases are not intended to suggest that John or the early church generally expected the return of Christ to take place within their lifetime. Rather, it refers to the duration of the intervening period of time before the prophecies begin to be fulfilled, as it was perceived by the Lord. To Him the time was at hand.

The phrase, ‘must shortly come to pass’, is to be interpreted as a reference, not to the nearness of the events, but to the shortness of the time taken for the events to occur once they begin. The words of Christ, in Matthew 24:15-22, bear out this interpretation. There Christ warns of the swiftness with which events will take place, when once the abomination of desolation is displayed in the temple in Jerusalem. He urges immediate flight for the believers in Jerusalem with no delaying, not even for the packing of a few items of clothing. So great is going to be the persecution unleashed by this event that there would be little hope of the survival of any of the elect, if God did not shorten those days. Christ has promised, however, that for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened, verse 22. It is not a matter of the days having less hours but rather of events happening swiftly and coming to a climax in a short time.

In a special way, I believe the book of the Revelation is a means whereby God’s people may put their hands upon that weapon that is so much needed today. That weapon was wielded very successfully by the Issacharites in the days of David. “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do,” 1 Chronicles 12:32. The knowledge these men possessed did much to confirm David upon his throne and so establish his kingdom.

Such knowledge is needed today. Daniel sought to understand those revelations that were given to him regarding the last times. He was refused such knowledge for it was not for his day. God operates the need to know rule. If you do not need to know a matter, then you will not be given knowledge of that matter. So Daniel’s plea was rejected.

“And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand,” Daniel 12:8-10.

There is a need today for the discretion of Joseph, who in his day guided Pharaoh aright. In reply to Joseph’s advice for Pharaoh to seek out a man discreet and wise, Pharaoh said, “Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art,” Genesis 41:39. The word discreet is the same Hebrew word as is translated understand in Daniel 12:10.

As we face the perilous times spoken of by Paul, we surely need such wisdom and understanding of the times.”

We can, by ‘reading’ and ‘hearing’ the words of this wonderful book, obtain that ‘wisdom and understanding of the times’.

Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)

Saturday, 15th June, 2024