In the previous post, Revelation 22 (Part 1: Verses 1-5), we looked at the first five verses of Revelation 22, where John concluded his description of New Jerusalem, the city of God. We saw that a river of life runs through the city, proceeding from God’s throne and from the Lamb, with the tree of life on both sides of the river, whose leaves provide healing for the nations. We saw how John’s account parallels the account in Ezekiel 47. We saw that in New Jerusalem there is no curse and no night, but Jesus is there and He lights up the city. We also discussed how John’s descriptions, parallel to many others in the New Testament, concern this present age and the spiritual realities and the mandate given to the body of Christ. We now turn to the rest of the chapter.
Scripture text for this study: Revelation 22
Verse 6: John writes, “Then he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true.’ And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.”
The angel repeats what Jesus said in the previous chapter (Rev. 21:5), affirming that these words about New Jerusalem “are faithful and true.” God would carry out all that He promised to do.
Here John also repeats what he said at the beginning of the book: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place… 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. 1:1-3). John’s letter was distributed to seven first century churches concerning events that they were about to experience, and it pleased God to “show His servants” those things ahead of time. In our study of Revelation 1, we noted that “the Greek word used for “shortly” here is the same one Jesus used when He said His time to be crucified was ‘at hand‘ (Matthew 26:18), and when John said ‘the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand‘ (John 7:2), events that no doubt were literally near.”
Verse 7: John writes, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” It’s obvious that this statement comes directly from Jesus, which is a switch from verse 6 where John is the speaker reporting what the angel had said to him. Steve Gregg makes the following observation on page 500 of his book, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary)”: “In these closing paragraphs, the identity of the speakers of various statements becomes somewhat confusing. At times (e.g. vv. 6, 9-11), the words seem to be those of the angel-guide — still one of the seven who poured out the bowls (cf. 21:9) — and at others (e.g. vv. 7, 12, 16), the speaker is clearly Jesus.”
Jesus here repeats what He and John have already said several times in this book:
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen” (Rev. 1:7).
“Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you” (Rev. 3:3; see also Rev. 2:5, 16).
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Rev. 3:11).
“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. 16:15).
Before this chapter comes to a close, Jesus repeats this promise two more times (22:12, 22:20). Consistently, He says that His coming would take place quickly, and that His coming could take some of John’s readers by surprise. This language is consistent with other statements that John was prophesying of things which would soon take place, and of events that were near in their time. How would John’s readers have understood these statements?
Verses 8-9: John writes, “Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” John affirms that he was a firsthand witness to all that he reported. He also candidly admits his mistake and reveals that he was rebuked by the angel. John had made the same mistake before:
Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:9-10).
Verse 10: John writes, “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.'” Interestingly, Daniel, who was given similar visions to what John saw and heard, was given opposite instructions. He was told to seal his book (Daniel 12:4, 12:9) because what he saw was still far off (Daniel 8:26, 10:14). However, John was told that what he saw was soon to take place and therefore he should not seal his book. The contrasts between these two sets of instructions can be seen in this chart:
||SEAL or DON’T SEAL?
||FAR AWAY or AT HAND?
||Around 600 BC
||“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4)“And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end’” (Daniel 12:9).
||“And the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; Therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future” (Daniel 8:26).“Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come” (Daniel 10:14).
||Around 65 AD
||“And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book…’” (Rev. 22:10).
||“…for the time is at hand” (Rev. 22:10).
Around 600 BC, Daniel was told to seal his book and his words, but around 65 AD John was told not to seal his book or his words. Around 600 BC, Daniel was told that the time of the fulfillment of his book was still far away, but around 65 AD John was told that the time of the fulfillment of his book was near. This makes no sense if Daniel and/or John were prophesying about events in the 21st century or beyond, as both would be far away, but it does makes sense if both Daniel and John were prophesying of events in John’s time.
Daniel was told that his prophecies concerned “the time of the end” for his people in Israel. The end had come in John’s day, and therefore he wrote that “the time” was “at hand.” It was the end of the old covenant age, and the time for judgment upon faithless Israel which Jesus had so often predicted in the gospel accounts. That time came in the form of the Roman-Jewish War of 67-73 AD.
Verse 11: John writes, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” The idea of imminence is clearly found in these words. Steve Gregg comments (p. 501):
Verse 11 underscores the nearness of the events just mentioned, as if so little time remains that one could hardly hope to repent before the judgment falls… Alford writes: “The saying has solemn irony in it (compare Matt. 26:45), the idea being that the time is so short that there is hardly any room for any change, but down in its depths the lesson conveyed is, ‘Change while yet there is time.'” …Farrer, on the other hand, suggests that it constitutes a prayer “that the world may come out black and white, so as to be ripe for judgment.”
Kurt Simmons gives his view:
“These words are given to punctuate the imminence of Christ’s return. His coming would be like a thief and would take men as it found them, to give to every man according as his works should be (cf. Matt. 16:27, 28).”
Kurt Simmons, “Exposition of Revelation 20-22,” source
Verse 12: John writes, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” These are again words spoken directly by Jesus, and they are virtually identical to the words He spoke to His disciples:
“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:27-28).
In John’s account, Jesus said He would come quickly. In Matthew’s account, Jesus said He would come while some of His disciples were still alive. In both accounts He said He would reward everyone according to their works at His coming.
In Matthew’s account, Jesus said He would come with His angels. As my friend, Mark Church, points out, all throughout the book of Revelation we see God’s angels pouring out judgment upon “the great city” where the Lord was crucified (Revelation 11:8) – that is, Jerusalem, the same city which was marked as a harlot because of its shedding of the blood of the saints and martyrs (Rev. 17:1-6), apostles, and prophets (Rev. 18:20-24). For a deeper study of Jesus’ statement that He would come [a] in His kingdom [b] with His angels [c] in the glory of His Father and [d] in judgment, see our studies on Matthew 24:3 and on Matthew 24:30.
Verse 13: John writes, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” These are also direct words from Jesus, and He repeats titles that He had given Himself in Rev. 1:8 and Rev. 21:6, and which an angel ascribed to Him in Rev. 2:8. The Father spoke similarly of Himself through the prophet Isaiah (41:4, 43:10, 44:6, 48:12). Jesus is everything and all-sufficient.
Verses 14-15: John writes, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” John reiterates what he had already said earlier, making a contrast between who could reside in the city of God (new Jerusalem), and who would always remain outside of its gates:
“Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Rev. 21:25-27).
Steve Gregg discusses (p. 502) the significance of the first type of person mentioned by John, who would remain outside of the gates, i.e. “dogs”:
Those excluded from the City of God are characterized as dogs (a term the Jews used to characterize Gentiles, but which Paul applied to the Judaizers — Phil. 3:2), and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie (v. 15). That such behavior effectively bars one’s entrance into the kingdom of God is also clearly declared by Paul (cf. I Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21).
A number of translations render Rev. 22:14 as, “Blessed are those who wash their robes…” My Facebook friend, Robert Woodrow, noted that Rev. 22:14-15 and I Corinthians 6:9-11 form a chiastic structure, where the two passages are patterned after one another in a reverse layout:
A – Blessed are those who wash their robes (Rev. 22:14)
B – that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city (Rev. 22:14)
C – Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral…etc. (Rev. 22:15)
C – Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers…etc. will inherit the kingdom of God. (I Cor. 6:9-10)
B – you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (I Cor. 6:11)
A – But you were washed (I Cor. 6:11)
I Corinthians 6 is a present reality, as are these parallel truths in Revelation 22. Paul speaks of inheriting the kingdom, but doesn’t mention a city, while John speaks of entrance into the city, but doesn’t mention a kingdom. Hebrews 12 equates both ideas in one passage: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (verse 22)… “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…” (verse 28).
Verse 16: John writes, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” Here Jesus repeats what John had said in the very first verse of Revelation: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John…” (Rev. 1:1). Jesus intended for the message of the entire book to be distributed “in the churches.” The church in Sardis, for example, didn’t only receive the message specifically addressed to that church in Revelation 3:1-6. They were to take heed to the entire book, chapters 1-22. This underscores the truth that Revelation was not written first and foremost for believers in the 21st century, but that it was written for a first century audience, concerning things they were about to experience at that time.
In Rev. 5:5, Jesus was also given the title “the Root of David,” along with the title “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” See Genesis 49:9; Isaiah 11:1, 10; Mark 12:35-37; and Acts 13:23. Here Jesus is also called “the Bright and Morning Star.” In Rev. 2, the church at Thyatira was told that those who would hold fast until He came, and who would overcome and keep His works “until the end,” would be given power over the nations and also be given “the morning star” (verses 24-27; see also Numbers 24:17, Daniel 12:3, Malachi 4:2, Ephesians 5:8, Colossians 1:12-13). In speaking about the gospel and Jesus’ first coming, Peter wrote:
“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (II Peter 1:19).
As we have seen in our study of Revelation and of Isaiah 60, this appears to be covenantal language, referring to the fading of the darkness of the old covenant age, and the dawning of the light of the new covenant age (established at the cross, and standing alone at the fall of the old covenant system in 70 AD; see Hebrews 8:13). This was also the understanding of John Gill (1746):
Christ is compared to a “star”, as in Numbers 24:17 for its light, the light of nature, and of grace, and of the new Jerusalem state being from him; and for its glory, his glory being the glory of the only begotten of the Father, and he having a glory, as Mediator, which his saints will ever behold, and be delighted with; and for its influence, all the blessings of grace, life, and righteousness, being from him; and to a “bright” star, because he is the brightness of his Father’s glory, and so splendid, shining, and illustrious, that he is light itself, and in him is no darkness at all; and to a bright “morning” star, which shows the night is going off and the day is coming on, and is the phosphorus, or bringer of light; as Christ by his first coming, who was then the dayspring from on high, put an end to the night of Jewish darkness, and sprung the great Gospel day, so often spoken of by the prophets, and brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel, and showed the way to eternal life by himself…
Verse 17: John writes, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” This cry of the Spirit and the bride appears to be in response to Jesus’ promise that He would come quickly (verse 12). The second half of this verse echoes the offer made by Jesus in Rev. 21:6 (“I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts“). It also reflects what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:10-14) and what He cried out at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37-39).
“…Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life…”
“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive…”
Verses 18-19: John writes, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
Different opinions have been given concerning this warning. Clearly it was important that “the words of the prophecy of this book” be delivered with accuracy and without tampering to the seven churches. The plagues took place soon after this was written, so the danger of being targeted by those plagues also passed at that time. Steve Gregg (pp. 503-504) offers these thoughts:
“The severe curse…has been invoked by some expositors against those who differ from them in the interpretation of the apocalyptic vision, though it is hard to believe that any sincere attempt to interpret the symbols of the book would incur such wrath from God as these words suggest. It is possible that the strict safeguards are intended less for the interpreter of the book than the integrity of its transmission by copyists… There are similar warnings not to add to God’s word all the way back to Deuteronomy and in Proverbs.”
David Lowman, a Presbyterian pastor, agrees:
“Most likely this was written to the scribes who would be responsible for transcribing the letter as it was passed around the Christian church community. Be careful! That’s what is being said.”
Verses 20-21: John concludes, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Jesus again repeats His promise to come quickly, and John is clearly eager, as he closes his book, to see that promise come to pass. It was a promise that Jesus kept. Eusebius, the father of church history (263-339 AD), confirmed the same in his commentary on Matthew 24:
“And when those that believed in Christ had come thither [out] from Jerusalem [in obedience to Matthew 24:15-16], then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men (Proof of the Gospel, Book III, Ch. 5)… [When] the lamentation and wailing that was predicted for the Jews, and the burning of the Temple and its utter desolation, can also be seen even now to have occurred according to the prediction, surely we must also agree that the King who was prophesied, the Christ of God, has come, since the signs of His coming have been shewn in each instance I have treated to have been clearly fulfilled” (Proof of the Gospel, Book VIII).
John ends his book with the same blessing that Paul and others spoke over the church in their epistles, demonstrating that God’s grace was of great importance to the early church: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”
All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.