Blessed is he that readeth - That is, it is to be regarded as a privilege attended with many blessings, to be permitted to mark the disclosures to be made in this book; the important revelations respecting future times. Prof. Stuart supposes that this refers to a public reading, and that the phrase "those who hear the words of this prophecy," refers to those who listened to the public reader, and that both the reader and hearer should regard themselves as highly favored. It is, however, more in accordance with the usual meaning of the word rendered "read," to suppose that it refers to the act of one' s reading for himself; to learn by reading. So Robinson (Lexicon) understands it. The Greek word, indeed, would bear the other interpretation (see Luke 4:16; Acts 13:27; Acts 15:21; II Corinthians 3:15); but as this book was sent abroad to be read by Christians, and not merely to be in the hands of the ministers of religion to be read by them to others, it is more natural to interpret the word in the usual sense.
And hear the words of this prophecy - As they shall be declared or repeated by others; or perhaps the word "hear" is used in a sense that is not uncommon, that of giving attention to; taking heed to. The general sense is, that they were to be regarded as highly favored who became acquainted in any way with what is here communicated. The writer does not say that they were blessed who understood it, or that they who read or heard it would fully understand it; but it is clearly implied, that there would be so far an understanding of its meaning as to make it a felicitous condition to have been made acquainted with it. An author could not be supposed to say that one should regard his condition as a favored one who merely heard words that he could not understand, or who had placed before him magnificent symbols that had to him no meaning. The word "prophecy" is used here in its more strict sense as denoting the disclosure of future events - a large portion of the book being of this nature. It is here synonymous with "Revelation" in Revelation 1:1.
And keep those things which are written therein - Keep in mind those things which relate to the future; and obey those things which arc required as truth and duty. The blessing which results from having in possession the revealed truth of God is not merely in reading it, or in hearing it: it results from the fact that the truth is properly regarded, and exerts a suitable influence over our lives. Compare Psalms 19:11; "And in keeping of them there is great reward."
For the time is at hand - See Revelation 1:1. The word used here - ̓́ engus - has the same signification substantially as the word "shortly" in Revelation 1:1. It would apply to any event whose beginning was soon to occur, though the end might be remote, for the series of events might stretch far into the future. It cannot be doubted, however, that the writer meant to press upon them the importance of attending to these things, from the fact that either entirely or in part these things were soon to happen. It may be inferred from this verse, that it is possible so to "understand" this book, as that it may convey useful instruction. This is the only book in the Bible of which a special blessing is pronounced on him who reads it; but assuredly a blessing would not be pronounced on the perusal of a book which is entirely unintelligible. While, therefore, there may be many obscurities in this book, it is also to be assumed that it may be so far understood as to be useful to Christians, in supporting their faith, and giving them elevated views of the final triumph of religion, and of the glory of the world to come. Anything is a blessing which enables us with well-founded hope and joy to look forward to the heavenly world.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Revelation 1:3:
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