Revelation 22:12-21 - COMMENTARY:
Chapter 21 begins with John's vision of "a new heaven and a new earth" (21:1a)-the first heaven and earth having passed away (21:1b). He "saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband" (21:2). God promised that "he will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more," (21:4) and "Behold, I am making all things new" (21:5). The faithful will receive water "from the spring of the water of life" (21:6-7), but the faithless will be "in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death" (21:8).
In Revelation 21:9-27, John provides a detailed description of the New Jerusalem "coming down out of heaven from God" (21:10). It glows with the glory of God (21:11)-and has a high walls with twelve gates and twelve foundations (21:12-14). It's length, breadth, and height are each 12,000 stadia, about 1,500 miles (21:16). The city is gold (21:18), as are the streets (21:21). The foundations of the wall are adorned with many kinds of jewels, and the gates are each a single pearl (21:19-21). There was no temple there, "for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple" (21:22). In like manner, there is no need of a sun there, for God and the Lamb provide its light (21:23). John records and unusual promise-that "the nations will walk in (God's) light" (21:24)-"the nations" being a code phrase meaning Gentiles.
In Revelation 22:1-11, John pictures a "river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" (22:1). Along the banks of the river stands "the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month" (22:2). "There will be no curse any more" (22:3)-meaning that the curse of the Garden of Eden has been removed. The faithful will see God's face (22:4)-unlike earlier times when God told Moses, "You cannot see my face, for man may not see me and live" (Exodus 33:20).
Overcome with this grand vision, John fell down in worship at the feet of the angel who had revealed these things. However, the angel replied, "See you don't do it! I am a fellow bondservant with you and with your brothers, the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God" (22:9).
It is sometimes difficult to know who is speaking in these verses:
• Verses 16 and the middle portion of verse 20 are clearly Christ's words.
• Verses 12-13 are almost certainly Christ's words.
• I have treated verses 14-15, 18-19 as John's words-but they could be Christ's.
• The beginning and ending of verse 20 are clearly the word of John, as is verse 21.
REVELATION 22:12-13. I AM COMING SOON
12"Behold, I come quickly (Greek: tachy). My reward (Greek: misthos) is with me, to repay to each man according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
"Behold, I come quickly" (tachy) (v. 12a). The idea behind Christ's Second Coming has its roots in the Old Testament understanding of "the Day of the Lord." It is to be a day of judgment in which the faithful will be rewarded and the unfaithful will be punished.
What does Jesus mean by "quickly"? The Greek word tachy can be translated either "soon" (within a short period of time) or "quickly" (swiftly or suddenly) (Price, 617-618).
If we take tachy to mean "soon" (within a short period of time) then we must acknowledge that this has not happened-not, at any rate, if we apply our usual time-standard. It has been more than two millennia, and we are still waiting for Christ's Second Coming. However, we need to remember that "a thousand years in (God's) sight are just like yesterday past, like a watch in the night" (Psalm 90:4). If we look at the word "soon" from God's perspective, it looks very different.
If we take tachy to mean "quickly", then Jesus is saying that he will come suddenly. This certainly accords with Jesus' pronouncements about the suddenness of his coming-and the surprise that people will experience (Matthew 24:36-44; 25:1-13; Mark 13:32-37). The emphasis in Jesus' pronouncements is that we must be always ready for an event of eternal significance that will come suddenly and without warning. Jesus warns, "Watch therefore, for you don't know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming" (Matthew 25:13).
"My reward (misthos) is with me, to repay to each man according to his work" (v. 12b). The wordmisthos is sometimes used to refer to wages-compensation due for work accomplished-quid pro quo. For instance, Paul says, "Now to him who works, the reward (misthos) is not counted as grace, but as something owed" (Romans 4:4). In 1 Timothy 5:18, he quotes Deuteronomy 25:4: "You shall not muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain"-and then adds, "The laborer is worthy of his wages" (misthos).
But more frequently in the New Testament, misthos refers to spiritual rewards received for faithful discipleship. For instance, Jesus says, "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward (misthos). He who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward" (misthos) (Matthew 10:41). Paul says that our spiritual work will be tested by fire on the Day of the Lord, and then adds, "If any man's work remains which he built on it, he will receive a reward" (misthos) (1 Corinthians 3:14).
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (v. 13). These three phrases are three ways of saying the same thing-that Christ is eternal-that he "was in the beginning with God" (John 1:2)-that he will bring history to its conclusion at the end-and that he will reign eternally with the Father.
"the Alpha and the Omega." Alpha and Omega, of course, are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Earlier in this book, the title "Alpha and Omega" was used for God (1:8; 21:6). Now Christ applies it to himself.
"the First and the Last." God used this title for himself in Isaiah 44:6 and Isaiah 48:12. Now Christ applies it to himself.
REVELATION 22:14. BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO DO HIS COMMANDMENTS
14 Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.
"Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city" (v. 14). This is the seventh and final beatitude to be pronounced in this book (see 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7). The number seven is highly significant in both Old and New Testaments, and conveys the idea of completeness or fulfillment. It is probably not accidental that this is the seventh and final blessing to be announced in this book.
"Blessed are those who do his commandments" (v. 14a). An alternate reading is "Blessed are those who wash their robes." One of my Greek texts has one wording and the other has the other wording. I consulted a number of commentaries, hoping for an explanation, but found none.
"Blessed are those who do his commandments" emphasizes obedience, while "Blessed are those who wash their robes" emphasizes holiness. At their root, both emphasize being in the will of God-living as God would have us live.
Earlier, Jesus spoke of "a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments." He said,"They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy" (3:4). Now 22:14 (in one of the alternatives) pronounces a blessing on "those who wash their robes"-those who keep themselves holy by receiving the grace open to them through Christ's sacrifice. It is significant that plynontes is present tense, which signifies an ongoing action. While we received forgiveness when we first availed ourselves of God's grace, we have continued to sin-and thus are in need of continuing forgiveness. God know of our ongoing need, of course, and so bestows grace on a continuing basis.
"that they may have the right to the tree of life" (v. 14b). This is the first of the two blessings accorded to those are living as God would have them live.
We first heard of the tree of life in Genesis, where it appeared alongside the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). God forbade the couple to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, warning, "for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die" (Genesis 2:17). When the couple succumbed to temptation and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:22). To prevent the man from eating from the tree of life and living forever, God drove the man out of the garden and placed cherubim and a sword to prevent his return (Genesis 3:23-24).
Earlier in the book of Revelation, Jesus said, "To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God" (2:7). Then, earlier in chapter 22, John told about the river of the water of life that flows through the New Jerusalem. He said, "On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" (22:2). Now we learn that, for those who obey God's commandments (or "who wash their robes"), the curse of Genesis 3 has been removed-that God will restore their access to the tree of life.
"and may enter in by the gates into the city " (v. 14c). This is the second of the two blessings bestowed on those "who wash their robes."
This is no small honor. The New Jerusalem is a beautiful and radiant city with high walls and great gates. Its foundations are adorned with jewels. Its gates are fashioned from great pearls-each gate fashioned from a single pearl. Its streets are paved with gold. John told us, "I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. The city has no need for the sun, neither of the moon, to shine, for the very glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb" (21:22-23). Who would not want to live there?
But, as we will see in verse 15, admission to the city is anything but automatic. Sorcerers will be forced to stay outside-as will fornicators, murderers, idolaters, and those who love and practice falsehoods.
Who would want it otherwise? While Christians would like to see everyone brought into the New Jerusalem, it would not be appropriate for unholy people with stained garments to bring their unholiness into God's holy presence. Nor would it be appropriate for those who have not availed themselves of the cleansing power offered by the crucified/risen Christ to corrupt the city where the inhabitants have washed their robes and thus are clean.
REVELATION 22:15. NOT IN THE LECTIONARY READING
15 Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
While this verse is not in the lectionary reading, the preacher should be aware of it. In verse 14, John pronounced a blessing on the faithful-those who keep God's commandments (or "who wash their robes"). Now, in this verse, he pronounces a woe on those who continue in their sins-"sorcerers and those who are sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters" and those who practice falsehood. John calls them "dogs"-a contemptuous label. It does a disservice to the text to eliminate verse 15, which is the second half of the two-step thought introduced by verse 14.
This list of sins is illustrative rather than exhaustive. People guilty of other sins will surely share in the fate of those guilty of the sins listed in this verse. However, we must not lose sight of grace. We are all sinners, dependent on God's grace for our salvation. The kind of people that John describes in this verse must be unrepentant sinners-people who have chosen not to avail themselves of God's grace.
REVELATION 22:16. THE ROOT AND DESCENDANT OF DAVID
16 "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify these things to you for the assemblies (Greek:ekklesiais-churches). I am the root and the offspring of David; the Bright and Morning Star."
"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify these things to you for the assemblies" (ekklesiais-churches) (v. 16a). Earlier, the angel who showed John the vision of the New Jerusalem said, "These words are faithful and true. The Lord God of the spirits of the prophets sent his angel to show to his bondservants the things which must happen soon" (22:6). Now Jesus identifies himself as the one who sent the angel. Jesus is the one identified as "the Lord" in verse 6.
"to testify these things to you for the assemblies" (ekklesiais-churches) (v. 16b). John is not to be the sole beneficiary of the vision of the New Jerusalem. Jesus sent the angel to show John this vision so that John could testify to the churches regarding what he had seen. John fulfills that requirement by writing this book.
"I am the root and the offspring of David" (v. 16c). Keep in mind that this is Jesus speaking.
Yahweh promised David, "When your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever" (2 Samuel 7:12-13)-a promise that Jews interpreted to be messianic.
The allusion in our present verse is to Isaiah 1:11, where Yahweh promised, "A shoot will come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit." Jesse was David's father, so that was a promise of the continuance of Jesse and David's lineage-another messianic promise.
Clearly, Jesus is emphasizing his Davidic lineage-and the messianic promise stemming from that lineage.
"the Bright and Morning star" (v. 16d). Some scholars see an allusion to Numbers 24:17, which says, "A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel."
I had not understood this reference to Jesus as the bright and morning star until recently-in part because I had not really seen the bright and morning star. In recent years, we moved to a house located several miles outside of town, where the sky is darker and clearer than when we lived in town. Our bedroom window faces east, and the view in that direction is lovely enough and our location private enough that we leave that window undraped. When I awaken in the middle of the night, I see stars-tiny specks of light scattered across the sky.
But, if I awaken at the right time, about five a.m., I see the bright and morning star arise in the east. It isn't really a star, but is instead the planet Venus. No matter the name, it dominates the eastern sky. While the stars are tiny specks of light, the morning star is like the landing light of an airliner-a great, bright, lamp that shines as bright as all the other stars put together. It is a brilliant diamond on a black field, surrounded by specks of diamond dust. Venus is what we call the Morning Star.
Jesus says, "I am the root and the offspring of David; the Bright and Morning Star"(Revelation 22:16). He is the great light in the sky-the "light of the world" (John 8:12; 9:5)-the one whose presence heralds the coming of a new day.
REVELATION 22:17. LET EVERYONE WHO HEARS SAY, "COME"
17 The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" He (Greek: ho-the one, anyone) who hears, let him say, "Come!" He (Greek: ho) who is thirsty, let him come. He who desires, let him take the water of life freely.
"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' He (ho-the one, anyone) who hears, let him say, 'Come!'" (v. 17a). This is an example of parallelism, where the same thought is expressed in two different ways.
The Spirit is the Holy Spirit, and the bride is the church (see 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23-25; Revelation 19:7; 21:2, 9).
Is this an evangelistic invitation to the world-at-large to come to Christ and find salvation-or a plea to Christ to come soon? There is no scholarly consensus on this point. The fact that the word, "Come" is singular in both instances lends weight to the possibility that this is a plea to Christ to come soon. That would also accord with the plea in verse 20: "Come, Lord Jesus!"
"He (Greek: ho) who is thirsty, let him come. He who desires, let him take the water of life freely" (v. 17). This is another example of parallelism.
This part of the verse is an invitation to the world-at-large. The word "come" is singular in this part of the verse too, but it corresponds to the singular ho, which could be translated "the one" or "anyone."
This invitation brings to mind two passages from the Gospel of John, as well as one from the prophet Isaiah:
• In the first passage, Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman. He told her that, if she had asked him, he would have given her living water. Then he said, "Everyone who drinks of this water (meaning water from the well at their feet) will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life" (John 4:13b-14).
• In the second passage, Jesus said, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink! He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, from within him will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38).
• In the book of Isaiah, God (through the prophet) said, "Come, everyone who thirsts, to the waters! Come, he who has no money, buy, and eat! Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Isaiah 55:1).
Our present verse, then, is an invitation to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness to come and be filled (see Matthew 5:6).
REVELATION 22:18-19. IF ANYONE ADDS OR SUBTRACTS FROM THESE WORDS
18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book, if anyone adds to them, may God add to him the plagues which are written in this book. 19 If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, may God take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.
These verses pronounce judgment on anyone who would add to or subtract from "this book" (v. 18)-"this prophecy" (v. 19). Reddish likens these verses to a copyright symbol that puts people on notice that infringements won't be tolerated.
It is clear that those who formulated the lectionary have left out verses 15, 18, and 19, because those verses seem harsh and judgmental. However, those verses are part of the canon. We therefore have a responsibility to proclaim unpopular Biblical truth, just as a physician has a responsibility to tell patients the unhappy truth about their condition, even at the risk of offending them. The physician's challenge is to find a way to present unpleasant news in a kind and caring way. The preacher's challenge is much the same.
It seems especially brazen to leave out verse 19, which pronounces judgment on "anyone (who) takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy."
REVELATION 22:20. AMEN! COME, LORD JESUS!
20 He who testifies these things says, "Yes, I come quickly" (Greek: tachy).
Amen! Yes, come, Lord Jesus.
"He who testifies these things says, "Yes, I come quickly" (v. 20a). This is the third time in this chapter that Jesus says he is coming soon (see 22:7, 12). For the double-meaning of "quickly" (tachy) see the comments above on verse 12a.
"Amen" (v. 20b). This word is Hebrew, and in the New Testament is transliterated into Greek. In other words, Greek letters are used to make the sound of the Hebrew word. In the Old Testament, amen means "to confirm; to support; to be faithful... (and) is also used in response to worship and praise.... The English word amen comes from this word and means, 'I agree; may it be so'" (Baker and Carpenter, 70).
In this verse, the speaker uses Amen to show his approval of Christ's promise to come soon.
But who is speaking? That isn't clear. Perhaps it is the Spirit and the bride/church, as in verse 17c.
"Yes, come, Lord Jesus" (v. 20c). In 1 Corinthians 16:22, Paul uses transliterated Aramaic to say,"Maranatha"-"Lord, come!" Here the words are Greek-"erchou kyrie Iesou"-"Come, Lord Jesus!"-but the plea is the same.
Why would anyone want to pray, "Come, Lord Jesus"? Wouldn't it just cut our lives short if Christ were to come again today?
No! When Christ comes again, it will be to set things right-to restore the Eden in which God intended us to live. Consider what life will be like when God's kingdom is fully come. In that kingdom, there will be no need for armies-or prisons-or locks on the door. No police force will be required to enforce proper behavior. People will look for ways to give rather than to grab. There will be no false or deceptive advertising-no manipulation. God will depose all dictators and tyrants. Wouldn't you like to live in such a peaceable place! Pray for Christ to come again!
REVELATION 22:21. A BENEDICTION
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints. Amen.
This would be a typical benediction for an epistle, but is unusual in an apocalypse.
An alternative reading is, "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all of you." The word "saints" is not found in the original (at least not in the two Greek texts that I consulted).
See the comments on verse 20b above for the meaning of "Amen."
BIBLE.ORG - Krell - Rev. 22:6-21
The famous last words in Revelation 22:6-21 can also lead to death...eternal death. Yet, these famous last words can also lead to life...eternal life. In these final verses, John concludes his book by giving us the bottom line. He states that we must trust Christ's words and expect Christ's return. These two themes run throughout these 16 verses.2 Interestingly, the book of Revelation could have ended with 22:3-5. In these three verses, John explained that the curse is over and believers will reign forever. This seemed like the perfect conclusion to the Revelation. However, like any good preacher, John wanted to reiterate a few critical exhortations.3
1. Trust Christ's words (22:6-7, 8-9, 16, 18-19). In 22:6, one of the angels who had the seven bowls continues to speak to John (cf. 21:9, 15; 22:1). He says, "'These words are faithful and true.'" The phrase "these words" is referring to the entire book of Revelation. Revelation is "faithful and true" because Jesus Christ Himself is "faithful and true."4 Since Jesus never goes back on His Word, we can believe the words of Revelation. God's promises always depend on God's character.
John goes on to record, "and the Lord, the God of the spirits (i.e., the "hearts" or "inner being")5 of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place." This statement reinforces a futuristic interpretation of Revelation. The book deals with events yet future. It also indicates that God intends the reader to understand this book. It is a revelation (i.e., an unveiling), not an incomprehensible mystery, even though much of the revelation is symbolic and difficult to understand. It is ironic that people have neglected and avoided this book even though it contains more promises of blessing than any other book in the Bible. All of us should continue to study it long after this sermon series is over.
[The second great exhortation is found in 22:7].
2. Expect Christ's return (22:7, 10, 12, 20). In 22:7a, the speaker here is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself rather than the angel or John. Jesus states, "And behold, I am coming quickly." This is the first of three times that Jesus declares, "I am coming quickly." In 22:7 and 12, the promise is preceded by the word "behold." "Behold" (idou) is a term intended to grab our attention. Jesus is saying, "Give this your undivided attention!" In 22:20, Jesus used the word "yes" (nai) to convey solemn assurance. The word translated "yes" serves as an exclamation point of assurance. By using the words "behold" and "yes," Jesus intended to do two things: arouse the attention of Christians to the fact that His coming could happen at any moment; and give believers solemn assurance of the fulfillments of His promise of His imminent return.6
The word translated "quickly" (tachu) means "at once or suddenly" (cf. 2:16; 3:11; 11:14).7 The point is that our Lord is coming, and when He comes, He is coming suddenly, without warning, as a thief who comes without announcement.8 These words of our Lord are in the present tense-not the future tense. Jesus is saying, "I am coming now!" Not, "I will be coming later." There must be a sense of urgency. That sense of urgency must urge us to rise above the crisis. If we believe that Jesus Christ is coming back today-quickly, imminently, shortly-it will decisively mark the way we live our lives.
How should these words mark our lives? They should motivate us to obey God's Word. Jesus finished 22:7b by saying, "Blessed9 is he who heeds the words10 of the prophecy of this book." If we read, study, and apply the book of Revelation to our lives, God assures us that He will bless us. The book closes as it opened, with a special blessing for those who pay attention to what it teaches (1:3; cf. 16:5).
The word "heeds" or "keeps" means to guard the words of Revelation by applying it to our lives.11 We can
"heed" the word of Revelation by (a) Observing the warnings of chapters 2 and 3 to the church, warnings against dead, cold orthodoxy, apostasy, immorality, materialism, etc. (b) Living constantly in light of Christ's presence and imminent return. (c) Carrying on a vital witness, having an open door to the unbelieving world in view of the coming tribulation and the lake of fire, that we might see men snatched from hell (Jude 23). (d) Living as sojourners who refuse to become bogged down with materialism and who live with a view to the Eternal City. (e) Enduring the trials of this life, during this age of darkness, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the glory that is to follow. (f) Remembering that God's plan is being accomplished, that He is sovereign and still on the throne as we see this old world moving farther and farther away from the Lord and the absolutes of His Word.12 As we heed the words of Revelation in this fashion, the Bible promises that we will be "blessed."
In 22:8-9, John records: "I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. But he said to me, 'Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.'" John resumed addressing the reader, which he had not done since 1:1, 4, and 9.13 John confessed that when he had heard and seen these things he reacted by worshipping the angel who revealed them to him (cf. 19:10). It was the revelation of the new creation that evidently moved John to respond this way a second time.14 Again, this angel rebuked John for worshipping him (cf. 19:10). He then redirects John's worship toward God. Notice though, the angel does not say, "This is not the time for worship." Nor does he say, "Worship is an inappropriate response to the visions of heaven." Rather he says, "Keep on worshipping! Just worship God." In other words, "This is an entirely proper activity-just redirect it toward God." The word "worship" (proskuneo) means to kiss toward, to show affection to, to bow down before a superior and give him the respect, reverence, awe, and adoration due him.15 To worship God means to ascribe the greatness due His name from a heart of love that is humbled and bowed down before His throne (Ps 2:11-12).16 Yet, people should worship God, not His servants.
In 22:10, the angel said to John, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near." This is the opposite command given to Daniel in Daniel 8:26 and 12:4. The reason John was not to seal up the prophecy of this book was that the time is near. The return of Christ is imminent; therefore, the book of Revelation is to be proclaimed. This means that we can understand the book of Revelation. God wants the book of Revelation to be an open book for all to understand. Revelation is no abstruse, esoteric book that is beyond the ability of people to understand. There is nothing nebulous about it. Believers must live in the light of Jesus' coming. They cannot do that if Revelation is confusing to them. As an artist covers his work when it is under construction, until it is complete, so God covered His picture of the future until He finished it.17
In 22:11, we come upon a very unusual verse. The angel says to John, "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy." This verse teaches that whatever a person's nature, that person will be locked into it for all eternity.18 There is no moral improvement in hell because hell is not restorative punishment. It will be too late for that. Hell is retributive punishment. Along with the absence of God's goodness, hell will be torment because sinners will have all of their same evil cravings with no capacity to satisfy them. Picture an alcoholic who can't get a drink, an addict who can't get a fix, a greedy person whose greed will never be satisfied, and you have a picture of the torment of hell. The angry person who could not control his anger on earth will be an eternally angry person in hell, and with a far greater degree of anger. A sexually immoral person will burn for sex, but there will be none. A jealous person will burn with jealousy, but there will be no way to fulfill those jealous longings. Sinners will be confined to their evil character and their lostness.19
You may wonder why it matters what people will be like in hell. It matters because the Bible is giving us the real deal so no one in his right mind would refuse Christ for eternity in hell. This is a strong warning not to put off becoming a believer in Jesus Christ. When Christ comes, people will not be able to change their destiny. What they are then, they will remain forever. People should not expect some second chance in the future but should make the decision about worshipping God now in the light of what they have read in this book.
Hurricane Charley has destroyed portions of Florida. It has also taken a number of lives. Hurricanes can be devastating. Many native Floridians have what's called "hurricane parties." They will stay inside, in the safest place possible, and wait for the hurricane to pass. As the hurricane blows through it will wreak deadly havoc...but then things will grow deathly quiet. You can even begin to hear birds chirp. It's natural to think that the hurricane has passed. But in reality, you're in the eye of the storm. The native Floridians will stay put because they know the hurricane is merely changing course and will be coming back the other way. But the tourist from Olympia, Washington may be foolish enough to go outside. If so, he may be struck by a flying garbage can or something far worse.
Almost 2,000 years ago, God's entire wrath was poured out on the crucifixion. Right now we're in the eye of the hurricane. You can take His name in vain. You can shake your fist at God. You can tear the Bible apart. You can persecute Christians. God's judgment is not instantaneous. But one day the winds will be reversed. It will not be in kindness or patience. It will be in wrath. We're in the eye of the hurricane. But don't go wandering out into it.20
In 22:12, we move to one of the most motivating statements in all of Scripture. Jesus says, "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done." Jesus Christ repeated His promise to return soon (22:7, cf. 1:3; 22:20). However, instead of promising a blessing, as He did earlier (22:7; 16:5), this time He promised to judge.21 He will reward both the good and the bad. This prospect strengthens the warning in 22:11. Jesus Christ will judge all people finally, on the basis of their works.22 Whereas salvation is of grace, rewards are according to works. God gives us His salvation, but He pays us for our good works. In view of Jesus Christ's soon return, Christians should be diligent to lay up treasure in heaven, while we have the time (Matt 6:19-21).
Jesus Christ offered three titles for Himself that give assurance that He can and will fulfill His former promise to reward. He states, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." Jesus describes Himself with three pairs of titles. All three of these titles are also used of God the Father in Revelation.23 Jesus Christ is "the Alpha and Omega" (cf. 1:8; 21:6). This title stresses His eternality and sovereignty. "The first and the last" is also a title for Christ (1:17; 2:8) and the Father (Isa 44:6; 48:12). It emphasizes that God is the cause and goal of history. "The beginning and the end" describes God in 21:6 and Christ in Hebrews 12:2. It means that He finishes what He starts. All three sets of titles affirm the same thing: that Jesus is eternal (1:4, 8, 17; 2:8; 21:6). The assertion of His eternity means that we can count on Him fulfilling His promise. He will deliver on what He promises. Jesus consummates and concludes all things. He is God Almighty. Jesus is God's last word to us.
In 22:14, John writes, "Blessed24 are those who wash their robes,25 so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city." This final blessing in Revelation announces God's favor on those who cleanse themselves by confessing their sins. The word "wash" is in the present tense and is referring to daily confession for the purpose of experiencing intimate fellowship with Christ (cf. John 13:1-10; 1 John 1:9). The robe one wears is a figure for one's works, which others see (19:8). People who wash their robes will have access to the Tree of Life (i.e., they will live forever in the new creation). They will also enter the New Jerusalem by its gates (i.e., they will be able to enjoy intimate fellowship with God).
Is there any sin between you and the Lord? Are you keeping short accounts with God? When you sin in word, thought, or deed, do you immediately confess? (Confess: "To say the same thing as, to agree with God"). If you regularly confess your sins, you will experience rich fellowship with Christ on earth and you will be blessed with a rich kingdom entrance (2 Pet 1:10-11).
This blessing is contrasted with the curse of 22:15: "Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying." Jesus described the people who will not enter the city by the works that mark their lives of unbelief. "Dogs"26 is a metaphor for the morally impure, as well as for those who distorted the Gospel.27 The other types of individuals named here appear in other lists of wicked unbelievers (cf. 21:8). Their fate should warn believers not to fall into apostasy and its associated vices.
In 22:16, Jesus says, "I, Jesus,28 have sent My angel29 to testify to you these things for the churches." Jesus Himself is giving witness, through His angel, of who He is. He is speaking these words to all the churches that will hear or read these words.30 He says, "I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."31 Jesus was the ancestor of David as well as His descendant, the root as well as the offspring of David.32 Consequently, He fulfills all the prophecies concerning David's family. Jesus also called Himself "the bright morning star" prophesied to come the second time (cf. 2:28).33 The bright morning star appears only when night is almost over. Jesus is saying the fulfillment is at hand! Jesus is the One that will burst upon the scene of human history at its darkest hour. Are you ready for His arrival?
In 22:17, "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.'34 And let the one who hears35 say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost."36 Three times the word "come" occurs in this verse (cf. Isa 55:1; John 7:37-39). The first two references from the Spirit and the bride are commands for Jesus to return. Again, there is a sense of urgency and longing. Now Jesus turns the invitation around. He invites the thirsty to come to Him and take the water of life freely.37 Unbelievers obviously need to take their first drink of this living water, which represents Christ, but believers also need to keep their thirst quenched by coming to Him again and again.
The one who is thirsty is the person who senses his or her need (cf. Matt 5:6; John 4:10). "The one who wishes" is broad enough to include every single individual.38 Notice that the Water of Life costs the one who comes for it nothing. It costs us nothing, but it cost Jesus Christ greatly to give Himself for us. Why do people "come" to Christ? It's because they are thirsty. Something is lacking in their lives; they are parched because everything else seems so dry and empty. It's not a coincidence that the Bible calls Christians the salt of the world.39 [Ask for a volunteer and use peanuts and water to illustrate]. One simple word describes the heart of Jesus' invitation: "Come." In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Again in John 6:37, Jesus says, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." Every person that has ever lived or is living must come.
A certain preacher and an atheistic barber were walking through city slums. The barber said, "This is why I can't believe in your God of love. If he was as kind as you say, he wouldn't permit all this poverty, disease, and immorality. He wouldn't allow these poor street people to get addicted. No, I cannot believe in a God who permits these things." The minister was silent until they met a man who was especially unkempt. His hair was hanging down his neck, and he had a half-inch of stubble on his face. The preacher said to his friend: "You can't be a good barber, or you wouldn't permit a man like this to continue living here without a haircut and a shave." Indignant, the barber answered: "Why blame me for that man's condition? He has never come in my shop. If he had, I could've fixed him up and made him look like a gentleman!" The preacher said, "Then don't blame God for allowing people to continue in their evil ways. He invites them to come and be saved."40
In 22:18-19, we have a warning that contrasts with the invitation that the Lord just extended.41 John writes, "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book." Adding material to, or deleting sections from, the prophecies contained in this book, will result in punishment from God.42 "If anyone adds to" the words of Revelation,43 God will visit the offender with the tribulation plagues written in this book (Rev 6-16). This does not imply that anyone who does this will lose his or her salvation. But he/she may lose his/her life. How important it is to understand and communicate God's truth accurately, especially the truths God revealed in this book. "If anyone takes away from" the words of Revelation, God will "take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city." Again, this does not mean he will lose his salvation. If the person who corrupts Revelation is an unbeliever, he or she will have no part (share) in the blessings of the new creation. If he or she is a believer, the part (share) lost must be some special privilege in the eternal state.44 In other words, a believer who perverts the teaching of this book may lose part of his or her eternal reward.
So how does one add to the Bible or Revelation? One way is by claiming new revelation, that the Bible and the book of Revelation are not enough (as with the Book of Mormon or any other religious writing that claims to be from God). Another way is by claiming advanced knowledge in spiritual matters and that the Bible is not the answer or is simply wrong (2 John 9). Liberal humanists are grossly guilty of this. No one is to add to or take away from this book. The various world religions and cults will tell you that there is a need for another holy book. The Bible is a closed book. There will be no further revelation. God's Word has "a divine copyright."45 Don't tamper with it or God will tamper with you.
The book of Revelation closes with these words: "He who testifies to these things [Jesus] says, 'Yes, I am coming quickly.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen" (22:20-21). Evidently, John now quoted Jesus' promise to come soon.46 The things in view are all of the words of Revelation (cf. 1:2). This is the third and final time in this passage that we read that Jesus Christ promised to come quickly (cf. 22:7, 12). How can we doubt His word (see Jas 5:8-9)? Jesus is coming! John testifies that Jesus is ready. He says, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus"47 (22:20b). John added his "amen" affirming his belief that Jesus would come soon, and he voiced his personal petition that He would do so, as He promised.
Jonathan Edwards, called American's greatest theologian had a set of resolutions. One of them is this: "Resolved: Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life." We should always live every moment of every day as if Christ were coming now! That's the only way to live. Are you ready for Jesus' return? Do you need to share your faith with someone? Do it now! Do you need to be reconciled to someone? Do it now! Do you need to serve the Lord and His people? Do it now! Do you need to be faithful in your financial stewardship? Do it now!
The last words of the Bible are soaked with grace. John exclaims, "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen" (22:21). God wants to make absolutely sure that "grace" (charis) shall have the last word! Grace is God's unconditional kindness offered to someone who doesn't deserve it. God's grace provides faith for the unbelieving reader and faithfulness for the believing reader (cf. 1:4). Grace...don't live on earth without it.
BLB Study Guide for Revelation 22 - Come, Lord Jesus
A. The interior of the New Jerusalem.
· (Rev 22:1) A river flowing from the throne of God.
· (Rev 22:2) The tree of life.
(Rev 22:3-5) What it will be like and what the saints will do.
B. Parting words.
· (Rev 22:6-7) The angel and Jesus add words of verification
(Rev 22:8-9) John is corrected for worshipping an angel a second time.
· (Rev 22:12-13) Jesus declares: I am coming quickly.
12 "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
a. And behold, I am coming quickly: We can never miss the note of urgency and warning in all what Jesus tells us about His coming. His message is always be ready! (Matthew 24:44)
b. My reward is with Me: If Jesus will give to everyone according to his work, does that mean we are saved by our works? No, but it does show that living faith will have works with it (James 2:20, Titus 3:8). i. "It is the quality of a man's life which provides the ultimate indication of what he really believes." Mounce)
c. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last: As an added incentive for us to do and be what is right, being ready for Jesus' return, He reminds us just who He is. If we really know and understood who Jesus is, we will not have any trouble being ready for His return. i. The term Alpha and Omega is "Applied to God in 1:8; 21:6; and here alone to Christ, crowning proof in this book of Christ's deity." (Robertson) ii. The title the First and the Last is also irrefutable proof that Jesus is Yahweh, the LORD: I, the LORD, am the first; and with the last I am He.'" (Isaiah 41:4) iii. These terms together mean that Jesus is the beginning, middle, and end for the Christian. "Preach orthodoxy, or any form of doxy; if you have left out Christ, there is no manna from heaven, no water from the rock, no refuge from the storm, no healing for the sick, no life for the dead. If you leave out Christ, you have left the sun out of the day, and the moon out of the night, you have left the waters out of the sea, and the foods out of the river, you have left the harvest out of the year, the soul out of the body, you have left joy out of heaven, yea, you have robbed all of its all. There is no gospel worth thinking of, much less worth proclaiming in Jehovah's name, if Jesus be forgotten." (Spurgeon)
5. (Rev 22:14-15) A blessing and a curse pronounced by someone (John, the angel, or Jesus Himself?).
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
a. Blessed are those who do His commandments: Doing His commandments does not earn us eternal life, but it is evidence that we have been granted eternal life. Besides, there is an inherent blessing in doing His commandments, because they are good and right for us. i. Regarding the phrase those who do His commandments some translations have those who have washed their robes instead. The difference is between two ancient Greek words:
HOIPLUNONTESTASSTOLAS (washed their robes) or HOIPOIOUNTESTASENTOLAS (do His commandments)
ii. This is a good example of how a copyist's error can cloud a text in rather minor ways, without effecting the essential meaning of the context.
b. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers: What about those outside? We shouldn't think that outside the walls of heaven multitudes will throng, longing to get in. "The verse does not intend to teach that in the eternal state all manner of wicked men will be living just outside the heavenly city. It simply describes the future with the imagery of the present." (Mounce) i. Why does it say that all dogs will be outside? Is this is a refutation of the idea of "doggie heaven"? No, what is meant here is "Not literal dogs, but the morally impure ... Dogs in the Oriental cities are scavengers and excite unspeakable contempt (Matthew 7:6; Philippians 3:2)." (Robertson)
6. (Rev 22:16) Jesus brings a word of verification.
16 "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."
a. I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you: With these solemn words, Jesus authenticates the entire book. Much of the Book of Revelation is either fantastic or seems too good to be true, but it is all true. i. "Thus the very God of all inspiration, and of all inspired men, reiterates and affirms the highest authority for all that is herein written. Either, then, this Book is nothing but a base and blasphemous forgery, unworthy of the slightest respect of men, and specially unworthy of a place in the Sacred Canon; or it is one of the most directly inspired and authoritative writings ever given." (Seiss)
b. To testify to you these things in the churches: The Book of Revelation is written to the churches. This book is not a private affair, knowable only by an elite - it is for all believers. It's also worth noting that this is the first reference to the church since the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.
c. The Root and offspring of David: This is a precious Messianic title (Isaiah 11:1). It shows that Jesus is both the Creator of King David and His descendent. Jesus spoke to this same idea in Matthew 22:41-46.
d. Bright and Morning Star: This is another Messianic title from the Old Testament (Numbers 24:17) and the New Testament (Revelation 2:28). Just as the Morning Star (generally held to be the planet Venus) shines and welcomes the new day, so does Jesus. i. "Christ, as the morning star, heralds the coming day in His role as the One who comes for he church in the rapture." (Walvoord)
7. (Rev 22:17) The Spirit and the Bride say to all: Come!
17 The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
a. The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" Is this an invitation to Jesus, asking Him to return? Or is it an invitation to those with a spiritual thirst to come to Jesus? Either sense is certainly true.
b. Who can come? Him who hears can come to Jesus, but they can't come unless they hear. Him who thirsts can come to Jesus, but they can't come unless they feel their thirst. Whoever desires can come, but they can't come unless God works in their heart to desire Him. i. So how do you know if God has worked in your heart? Go through a little checklist. Have you heard? Are you thirsty for God and eternal life? Do you want Him? Then come!
c. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely: This is an open invitation to receive salvation from Jesus. He will not exclude anyone who comes to Him. An invitation is both an opportunity and a responsibility. If we decline an invitation, we have only ourselves to blame. i. "A similar invitation is extended in Isaiah 55:1. The invitation to come is an urgent command, for the day will arrive when it is too late to come. Now is the day of grace. The hour of judgment is impending." (Walvoord)
d. Glory in the greatness of the invitation: whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely! Anyone who desires salvation in Jesus Christ can come to Him and take the water of life freely. i. "I don't understand all the Christian doctrine and theology" - come anyway, because it doesn't say whoever understands, let him take the water of life freely. ii. "I can't repent the way that I should. My heart is hard and I can't even weep over my sins or feel bad over them as I should" - come anyway, because it doesn't say whoever feels, let him take the water of life freely. iii. "I don't know if I can live the Christian life the way that I should" - come anyway, because it doesn't say whoever can, let him take the water of life freely. iv. "I don't know if I am worthy to live the Christian life" - come anyway, because it doesn't say whoever is worthy, let him take the water of life freely. v. "But mark thee, sinner, it says, 'whosoever.' What a big word that is! Whosoever! There is no standard height here. It is of any height and any size. Little sinners, big sinners, black sinners, fair sinners, sinners double dyed, old sinners, aggravated sinners, sinners who have committed every crime in the whole catalogue, - whosoever." (Spurgeon) vi. It is really this simple: do you desire Jesus and His salvation? Then come. Can you say, "Now, Lord, I desire to be saved, give me a new heart; I desire to give up my sins; I desire to be a Christian; I desire to believe and desire to obey. But I have no strength to do this. I have the desire, give me the power." If this is your desire, then you are freely invited to come, if you are only willing. There is no barrier between you and Jesus except your stubborn will.
e. Let him take the water of life freely: When you desire, when you come, then you must take. All of this world's religion can be summed up in the idea that you must bring something to give unto the gods. The essence of Christianity is summed up in the idea that God invites us to take the water of life freely. You can't bring anything to save or justify or commend yourself before God, but you can take the salvation He offers.
f. It is fitting that this great invitation closes the Book of Revelation and the Bible. "All the prophets of the Bible, all the apostles of the Bible, all the threatenings of the Bible, all the promises of the Bible, gather themselves up, and focus themselves into this one burning ray, 'Come to Jesus. Come, and take the water of life freely.'" (Spurgeon)
8. (Rev 22:18-19) Someone brings a warning - either Jesus, or an angel, or John.
18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.
a. If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book: This is another section at the end of the Book of Revelation where it is hard to tell exactly who speaks. In most red-letter editions, these words are in black, indicating that the translators believe that these are not the words of Jesus. But there may be good reason to believe Jesus gave this warning. i. "The solemnity of the injunction suggests that the speaker is Christ Himself." (Mounce)
b. If anyone adds ... if anyone takes away: This means that there is a high price to pay for tampering with the Book of Revelation specifically, and the Scriptures in general. i. "What a solemn warning this is to critics who have tampered with this book and other portions of Scripture in arrogant self-confidence that they are equipped intellectually and spiritually to determine what is true and what is not true in the Word of God." (Walvoord) ii. This solemn promise also implies that the Book of Revelation can be understood. Why would God assign such a strong rebuke for the addition to or subtraction from a book that just painted big ideas in wild pictures, or if no one could really understand the book anyway? iii. "Divines generally do further extend the sense of these two verses, considering this as the last portion of holy writ, not only placed last in our Bibles, but revealed and written last. They conceive these verses the seal of all canonical Scripture, and that God here denounces a curse to those who shall pretend any new revelations of his will ... as also against all those who shall deny, corrupt, or deprave any part of them." (Poole)
9. (Rev 22:20-21) Last words.
20 He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
a. Surely I am coming quickly: To the very end, the Book of Revelation emphasizes readiness and watchfulness. If we miss this practical lesson from the Book of Revelation - the lesson of readiness - then we miss the essential message of the book. i. If the statement "I am coming quickly" were not enough, Jesus puts emphasis on both sides - surely before and amen after. He wants us to be ready.
b. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! With this phrase, John uses an Aramaic expression that was well known in the ancient church: Maranatha! i. The Book of Revelation concerns many prophetic events, but the book closes with John's longing for the return of Jesus for His people - he wants the rapture of the church. ii. "If the whole creation groans and travails together in pain for the manifestation of the sons of God, how much more those sons of God themselves!" (Seiss) iii. "At the very close of the book is the confession that the answers to the problems of life do not lie in man's ability to create a better world but in the return of the One whose sovereign power controls the course of human affairs." (Mounce)
c. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen: The book (and the Bible) ends with a word of grace, and grace for all. Paul also used this phrase as a final word in some of his letters (1 Corinthians 16:23, 2 Corinthians 13:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:28, 2 Thessalonians 3:18). In 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18, Paul even indicated that this signature - no doubt written with his own hand - was a mark that the letter was genuinely from him. i. "It is a good word for the close of this marvelous picture of God's gracious provision for his people in earth and heaven." (Robertson) ii. "Whatever you may miss, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be always with you. In whatsoever points you or any of us may fail, may we never come short of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Spurgeon) iii. The last verse of the Old Testament contains a curse: Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse (Malachi 4:6). Fittingly, the last words of the New Testament speak of grace, because grace describes God's dealing with man on the basis of the New Covenant.