We are told that we are blessed if we hear and keep the words of Revelation. These words will challenge the norms of the culture that shape us, which means that we must be open to ways that we don’t know we are deceived. But even more than hearing, we must practice keeping these words, internalizing them in such a way that they become part of us.
In this current age when our attention spans have shrunk to that of a fruit fly, few of us are inclined to slow down and think and pray. It’s easy for the church to follow along with the ways of the culture and entertain ourselves. We are lured by what we feel, see, and acquire. John calls this the desire of the flesh, desire of the eyes, and the pride of riches. This leaves little to no time to seek God, meditate on Scripture, or to “hear what the Spirit is saying to the seven churches” (Revelation 2-3). Therefore we miss the words and fail to hear them.
“Blessed is the one who reads…those who hear and keep.” This book is intended to be a blessing. If it is not a blessing to us, then we are reading it wrong. It is not a snapshot about what is going to occur at the end of history. It applies to all ages of the church, including us here and now.
What we hear from this book will likely challenge the assumptions we have gleaned from our culture. We often believe how we already think is the right way of thinking, and therefore, we close ourselves off from anything that challenges our established ways. We never give room for the idea that way we think might actually be shaped by deception. If we are being deceived, we don’t know we are being deceived. Revelation is a wake-up call to open our eyes to the ways that we have been coopted by the broader culture, what the book of Revelation figuratively calls Babylon.
We are also called to “keep” these words that we hear. To keep the words of Revelation means we don’t just hear them. We are to take them to heart, to internalize them, and to vigilantly preserve and protect them. This implies that it is something that can quite easily slip away if we don’t do the work of keeping.
We live in the midst of a war zone, and therefore, there is no coasting in the Kingdom of God. If we are not progressing, we are falling backward, even when we don’t see it. We are being deceived when we can’t see how we are missing the point. We merely blend in with the broader culture, where our way of life looks no different than those who are part of Babylon. We must make intentional effort to keep it.
This point is made throughout the New Testament. For instance:
“Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps (têreô) my word will never see death.” (John 8:51)
Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep (têreô) my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words, and the word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me.” (John 14:23-24)
“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept (têreô) your word.” (John 17:6)
The disciples obviously didn’t “keep” the word perfectly. They were far from perfect. Jesus declares that his disciples have kept his word because, as immature as their character could sometimes could be and as messed up as some of their theological ideas could be, they internalized these teachings. With each inconsistent and imperfect step, they were expressing their love for Jesus. They were moving in the right direction.
One way of thinking about “keeping” is the practice of making covenant. To conclude this sermon Greg read a basic covenant and asked us to listen to it and make the covenant when we are ready.
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