Blessed Is The One Who Reads (rev.1:3) – Dr. Eli Lizorkin-eyzenberg And Peter Shirokov

Rev. 1:3 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.

As we continue to slowly walk through the book of Revelation, we will repeatedly see that the book is not a sporadically and feverishly written version of what John saw happening in heaven. Instead, the Book of Revelation has a very carefully nuanced literary structure characteristic of biblical literary traditions in general, and of the Jewish apocalyptic genre/tradition in particular, mixed together with epistolary (letter-writing) and prophetic genres.

When we come to verse 3, we are introduced for the first time to a carefully written series of seven blessings that are interspersed throughout the book. It is too early in our exploration to see the rhythmic pattern of John’s presentation and how these seven blessings serve as literary devices that help to organize and communicate John’s vision. However, a part of the pattern can be discerned even now.

It is clear that the number seven is a crucial number throughout the book and constitutes the base numeric structure of the book’s composition. The word Messiah (anointed one) or “Christ” is used seven times (1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 11.15, 12.10, 20.4, 20.6), John announces Messiah’s coming seven times (2:5, 2:16, 3:21, 16:15, 22:6, 22:12, 22:20), seven times the form “Lord God Almighty/Lord of Hosts” is used (1:8, 4:8, 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, 19:6, 21:22). Moreover, there are seven “amens” in the book (1:6, 1:7, 3:14, 5:14, 7:12, 19:4, 22:20), the word “prophets” is referred to seven times (10:7, 11:18, 16:6, 18:20, 18:24, 22:6, 22:9) and the phrase “the one who sits on the throne” is used seven times (4:9, 5:1, 5:7, 5:13, 6:16, 7:15, 21:5). (1)

It, therefore, becomes obvious to any reader that John is very fond of the number seven and uses it intentionally. There are other ways that the number seven is used, usually in multiples (the name of Jesus is used fourteen times and the Lamb is mentioned twenty eight times.) At this point in our study it is important that we survey all the seven blessings and see how the first one (Rev.1:3) is related to the other six blessings. Please, allow us to give a brief explanation about the literary method that ancient Jewish (Biblical and non-biblical) authors frequently used as they composed their works.

In modern biblical studies, this literary structure is called chiastic, after the Greek Letter Chai (X). Essentially this is the way Semitic thought patterns came to be represented in literary studies. In addition, Jewish poetic style is based on parallelism, on repetition, on analogy as typically the second line or idea repeats the content of the first line, sometimes taking it further, sometimes elaborating or clarifying it. It is easier to first show a diagram of how chiastic structure looks before I attempt to explain it. The literary unit when analyzed has the following structure:

CHAISMThe sentence, either word-by-word, or at the very least, thought-by-thought is repeated in the beginning and at the end of the literary unit. It is as if the original author goes from A1 to B1, from B1 to C1, from C1 to D1. Then he suddenly switches gears and moves backwards in the same order (D2, C2, B2, A2).

We suggest that the first blessing (Rev.1:3) stands outside of the chiastic structure that follows it. Its purpose is to summarize or set the stage for the rest of the 6 blessings that are in fact organized in the chiastic form. Once one looks at the entire set, the parallelism of meaning is very hard to deny. Here is how we see it.

Summary statement: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things, which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Rev. 1:3) Each summary statement is connected to Rev. 1:1-2 where we are told that this apocalypse/unveiling concerns events that are soon to come (in vs.3 “for the time is near”).

Chiastic structure

A1. ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” (Rev. 14:13)

B1. “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” (Rev. 14:13)

C1. Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! (Rev. 16:15)

C2. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. (Rev. 20:6)

B2. “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev. 22:7)

A2. ‘Blessed are those who obey His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (Rev. 22:14)

Notice that A1 and A2 speak of the death of the believer and one’s eternal destiny (dying in the Lord, having the right to the tree of life, and entering through the gate into the city of the New Jerusalem). John paints a picture for his readers and hearers of the gates of the city with the names of tribes inscribed on them.

Both B1 and B2 are without a doubt connected by the desperate need for vigilance (I am coming as a thief and I am coming quickly). Moreover, the idea of keeping is also a connecting factor (keeping the garments from being stolen, keeping the words of the prophecy). (2)

The blessings of C1 and C2 are no exception – both speak of the blessed future for the believers (being called to the wedding (3) of the Lamb and deserving of taking part in the first resurrection).

The idea of being “blessed” sometimes gets lost in translation. The Greek word translated as “blessed” is μακάριος (makarios) which is an equivalent of the Hebrew word אַשְׁרֵי (ashrey) which means happy, joyful, blessed, and found in a favorable circumstance. This noun expresses a passive idea of being on the receiving end of favor and is most often found in the book of Psalms. In fact the book opens with this word, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked (Ps 1:1).

As we continue to move from verse to verse, and from chapter to chapter we can already see early glimpses of the level of authorial design in the composition of the Book of Revelation within the traditional contours of the genre of Jewish apocalyptic literature.

[divider]

1 Bauckham Richard, The Climax of Prophecy, (Bloomsbury Publishing Edinburgh, 1993), pp.1-38.

2 Jesus spoke of coming as a thief in the night in his apocalyptic discourse in Mat. 24. In his parables, he also used wedding imagery of expectation of God’s Kingdom – as the bride waits for the groom. Weddings are accompanied by a grand feast and one needs “wedding garments” to enter feasts (Mat 22:11-14).

3 In the first century, Jewish wedding feasts presented two opportunities to join the celebration. One was a general admission as one simply was ready and followed the bridal processional in the courtyard of the groom’s house. The other was by individual invitation, which was dispatched well ahead of time to family and friends.

About the author

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-EyzenbergTo secure your spot in our new course “The Jewish Background of New Testament” - CLICK HERE NOW

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  1. Premkumar Samuel

    Thanks for the wonderful insight Dr.Eli

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Welcome to the forum, Premkumar!

  2. Xiaohui Yang

    They also say that there is no Holy Spirit on earth for about 1900 years since the churches fall away and lamp stands have been removed. And Holy Spirit came back 40 years ago and dwell on their leader Elbert Eugene Spriggs, a.k.a. “Yoneq”, founder and prophet, Twelve Tribes of Israel. So no one is saved during that 1900 years period.

    1. Prof. Peter Shirokov

      Xiaohui Yang, I would stay away from this group, personally. Sounds like they are right and every one else are the children of the devil. They can call themselves the tribes of Israel or Antarctica if they want. I would bet they have no relation to Israel. Just a word of advice from a fellow seeker.

      1. Xiaohui Yang

        Thank you for the advice. I did. There are things I am puzzling about. They talk about three eternal destinies : saved, righteous, unjust and filthy. Saved and righteous go to heaven, the unjust and filthy go to hell. They used a lot of bible verses to prove that. They also show a very good fruit, as in Matthew 12:33. How can Satan bear good fruit?

        1. Catrina Crawford

          “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

        2. Catrina Crawford

          “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such th

          1. Catrina Crawford

            They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lust Galatians 5:19-24

  3. Xiaohui Yang

    What do early churches look like? Do the believers all live together as a community and share everything together ? What does lamp stands mean in the book of Revelation ? Who is the great harlot? What is the definition of “apostle “? Since Twelve Tribes’s leader is considered an “apostle “.
    Sincerely,
    Xiaohui Yang

  4. Xiaohui Yang

    I recently had an encounter of a group called Twelve Tribes. They believe the early churches all dwell as Acts2:44 model and saved ones have to live and share everything together like that. Their community is the body of messiah. No one is saved outside the community. And the churches nowadays is the great harlot mentioned in revelation 17.

  5. Raimund Semper

    Dear Dr. Eli or Shirokov
    I whant to tell you, that I am so gratefull, that you sent me the invitation to this course “Biblical Hebrew for Christians”. It is exactly what I was looking for since long. To know the Hebrew meanings behind the words written, is opening a knew feeld and level of Bibel studieng for me. Thank you and best greetings.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Glad to hear that. Many blessings and hope that many will find this website and our courses helpful.

  6. James Kieser

    Hi To understand the Book of Revelation- understand the message-
    First read – John I – ‘..the word is the light’— Also read – Daniel 11:40 –
    The main point of Revelation – is the good news of the Messiah’s return – Wars & Rumors of War-
    there will be no peace – ‘not one stone will stand on anther- ‘the fall of Jerusalem- the bloodiest city

  7. Minka Leeser

    Sonia,

    Interesting thought, but others believe differently.

  8. Birdie Cutair

    Thank you Dr. Eli, especially for explaining the Hebrew word for “blessing.” To me the Hebrew definition means so much more that the Greek, perhaps because I have studied Biblical Hebrew.

  9. ZhangRu

    I believe that GOD must be so happy to see many people want to know more about him, and I’m one of them, I seek him, and I want to make him happy.I will try my best. GOD BLESS YOU! :)

  10. José Hélder Saraiva Bacurau

    Shalom,esses estudos são uma benção.
    O livro do apocalipse é uma revelação da eternidade; por isso o SENHOR diz a João:escreve as coisas que viste(passado),as que são(presente) e as que devem acontecer(futuro),essa ordem se repete em todo o livro .passado,presente e futuro.
    PAZ SOBRE ISRAEL!

    1. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza

      BS”D

      Shalom José!

      Obrigado pelo tuo comentário. Invito a seguir o post em português pra tua major comodidade…
      http://iibsblogs.wpengine.com/pt-br/o-livro-apocalipse-contexto-judaico-ap-1-3-dr-eli-lizorkin-eyzenberg-e-peter-shirokov/