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“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” This quote concerning prophecy is from the book of Revelation, chapter one and verse three. Although this book of prophecy was written to the seven churches in the province of Asia nearly two thousand years ago, the majority of those who author prophecy books are so focused on the rapture of the modern church that they have disregarded the historical context of this letter written by the Apostle John and the focus of the message for the church today!
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.” Revelation 1:1
The very first verse of the Book of Revelation declared to the churches of the first century that something “must soon take place.” As this letter was first read aloud to each of the churches before it was copied and passed along, a blessing is promised to the one who reads the words of this prophecy and a blessing is promised to those who listen and take it to heart. Why are those who heed this message promised a blessing? Because the time was near for “what” must soon take place, and they had to be prepared for it spiritually and emotionally.
“What” was to soon take place was not the Fall of Jerusalem. With the exception of the western wall (Wailing Wall), the outer walls of the city were broken down and the Temple was destroyed in AD 70 by the Roman legions. In the AD 95, John the Apostle was apprehended by the proconsul of Asia and sent to Rome. Emperor Domitian banished John to the isle of Patmos. The tyrant Domitian was slain in September of AD 96. All of his edicts and public acts were declared void by a decree of the Roman Senate on account of his excessive cruelty; and his successor, Nerva, recalled all those whom he had banished. The Apostle John returned to Ephesus in AD 97 where he became bishop. Since this book of prophecy was penned a quarter of a century after Jerusalem fell, its prophetic message was not fulfilled in a past event. “What” was soon to take place was not the Fall of Jerusalem. It concerns today's Christian as much as the Christians of the first century.
“I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Revelation 1:9
John declared to the Christians who read this letter (the Book of Revelation), that he shared in suffering for the kingdom's sake. John encourages the church by reminding us that patient endurance, a fruit of the Spirit, is available to those in Jesus who suffer because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. “What” was soon to take place was intense persecution. Historically, the Romans regarded the Jewish Christians as another sect of Judaism called the Way (Acts 9;2; 19:9,23) or the Nazarene sect (Acts 24:4,14; 28:22). During the siege of Jerusalem, there was an opportunity for the Jewish Christians to heed the words of Jesus and flee to the mountains to escape (Mark 13:14; Luke 21:21). After the Fall of Jerusalem, Jews who did not follow Jesus became even more hostile to those of The Way for deserting them during the first revolt against Rome.
The Jewish religion was officially recognized by Rome. This meant that a practicing Jew was exempted from kneeling before images of the emperor. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple was gone and Jewish people could only worship in synagogues. The leaders and members of the synagogues were exempted from emperor worship. The non-believing Jews were angered because the Jewish Christians deserted during the siege of Jerusalem. They had the members of the Way removed from the synagogue rolls and the names of those who followed Christ were given to the Roman authorities. When Christianity was no longer considered a sect of Judaism, the Christians were required to show their allegiance to the state and the state religion by bowing down to the emperor's image. Many Christians refused to bow and became martyrs for the faith. The synagogues where this practice flourished were called “synagogues of Satan” (Revelation 2:9, 3:9).
"To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:8-10
The Book of Revelation is a letter to all Christians. It is a call for patient endurance and exhorts us to stand firm until the end. We can take heart because Jesus has assured us of final victory.
John is commanded to “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later” (Revelation 1:19). What he first saw was a message to the churches of his day (Revelation chapters 2 -3).
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." Revelation 4:1
The heavenly voice announces in Chapter four of Revelation that He will reveal to John “what” must take place after this. The apocalyptic images that John recorded reveal that there will be Great Tribulation before the return of Christ.
If you desire to understand Old and New Testament prophetic passages of Scripture interpreted in the light of its original historical Jewish context, then read - THE LAST DAYS CALENDAR: Understanding God's Appointed Times.
If you desire the blessing promised to those who hear and take to heart (understand and apply) the message of the Book of Revelation then read a verse by verse teaching through the Apocalypse, THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST: Understanding the Apocalypse.