Are We In “the Last Days”? The Last Days of What?

1. When did the Biblical “last days” begin? Before Jesus began His 3.5 year ministry? On the Day of Pentecost? In 1948? In the late 20th century? 

2. What time period or age are we referring to when we speak of the last days? World history? The old covenant age? The new covenant age? Something else?

3. When were the first days? Billions or millions of years ago? 6000 years ago? Around 1200 BC? The 1950’s?

4. When were the middle days of this time period or age? Logically, we should expect this to be the longest period, with the greatest number of days.

Amidst all the rhetoric about “the last days” being here upon us now in 2014, it’s evident that many have done very little to analyze these types of questions. Consider the following two examples, before comparing their ideas to what the Bible says about “the last days.”

1. A poll was conducted in 2006 by McLaughlin & Associates, asking “1,000 randomly selected American adults” the following question: 

“Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘Events such as the rebirth of the State of Israel, wars and instability in the Middle East, recent earthquakes, and the tsunami in Asia are evidence that we are living in what the Bible calls the last days.'”

They found that 42% of Americans agreed with this statement, and 58% of evangelical/born-again Christians agreed. See here for the rest of the results. From this survey, a majority of evangelical Christians in the US believe that events in the last 65 years or so prove that the Biblical last days are here now. The suggestion is that the last days arrived in recent decades, not a couple thousand years ago.

2. In 1990 the Christian rock band, Petra, produced a song called “Last Daze” (a play on “last days”) – from their album “Beyond Belief.” I was a Petra fan during the 90’s (I still respect them), and this was one of my favorites. From the lyrics to this song, it’s clear that they believed “the last days” are here now, and that spiritual delusion will intensify until the time of “the blaze”:

…In the last daze, the final haze
There was strong delusion to believe a lie
In the last daze before the blaze
They couldn’t see beyond their misty trance
To grab the truth and have a fighting chance
In the last daze…

Some say it’s a certainty
A sign of the times I am told
But I weep for the souls of those
Who will never return to the fold…

What does the New Testament have to say about “the last days” (and other equivalent expressions) and their timing? Here are a few examples:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

“He [Jesus] indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (I Peter 1:20).

“He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (I Corinthians 10:11).

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-12).

“But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (I Peter 4:7).

“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (I John 2:18).

According to these and other Scriptures, Jesus lived and ministered in the last days. Notice the distinction in Hebrews 1 between God speaking throughout the old covenant period by the prophets, and God speaking by His Son at the onset of the new covenant period. The last days were linked to the transition period from one covenant to the other. 

We also see that Peter, Paul, and John wrote to believers living at the end of the age(s). John even said it was “the last hour.” This dispels the idea that “the last days” began in the 20th century, and it also dispels the idea that “the last days” began about 2000 years ago and continue until today. How could “the last days” still be here if “the last hour” of the last days arrived almost 2000 years ago? Consider, however, the real possibility that John wrote his epistle around 65 AD. Then it would make sense for John to say it was “the last hour” (of the old covenant age) just a few short years before it came to a dramatic end in 70 AD.

The old covenant age began in roughly 1300 BC during the days of Moses. It was made obsolete by Jesus’ work on the cross (30 AD), but was still “becoming obsolete and growing old” and “ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). This was its state for one generation – about 40 years. In 70 AD it did vanish away when the Roman armies came and burned the city (Jerusalem) of those who rejected Jesus’ wedding invitation (Matthew 22:7; Revelation 17:16, 18:8-10, 17-20). I believe “the last days” covered this transition period. I agree with Model 3 in the chart below (models 1 and 2 represent other popular ideas about “the last days”:

Duration of old covenant Last Days Began Duration of Last Days
Model 1 1300 years Pentecost 1984 years (and counting)
Model 2 1300 years 1948 66 years (and counting)
Model 3 1300 years Time of Jesus’ ministry 27 – 70 AD (Ended)

The new covenant age has already outlasted the old covenant age by 700 years (i.e. 2000 years and counting, compared to 1300 years):

Last Days Timeline

To answer the four questions at the beginning of this post then, I believe Scripture reveals that [1] the Biblical last days began at (or before) the time of the 3.5 year ministry of Jesus (27-30 AD); [2] they were the last days of the old covenant age; [3] “the first days” were in the days of Moses, around 1300 BC, when the old covenant was established, and [4] “the middle days” were the next 1200 or so years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, covering the time of the judges, the kings, and the prophets. In light of what Scripture says about “the last days,” how would you answer these questions? 

Here is what the great preacher, John Owen (1616-1683), once said:

“Most expositors suppose that this expression [In Hebrews 1:2], ‘The last days,’ is a periphrasis [euphemism] for the times of the gospel. But it doth not appear that they are anywhere so called; nor were they ever known by that name among the Jews, upon whose principles the apostle proceeds… It is the last days of the Judaical church and state, which were then drawing to their period and abolition, that are here and elsewhere called ‘The last days,’ or ‘The latter days,’ or ‘The last hour,’ 2 Peter 3:31 John 2:18Jude 1:18… This phrase of speech is signally used in the Old Testament to denote the last days of the Judaical church” (The Works of John Owen, Volume 19, pp.12 – 13).

For a more extensive study of the topic of “this age and the age to come,” please see this post.

80 Years Ago: False Date Setting In Zion, Illinois

A few weeks ago, someone (Brad Herman) posted a very interesting photo in a Facebook group I belong to (photo shown below). This photo captures the front page of a newspaper, published in October 1934 in Zion, Illinois by Wilbur Glenn Vilova. A few decades earlier, this newspaper had been titled “Leaves of Healing,” but in 1934 it was called “The Final Warning.” This particular edition reveals a lot about some of the dispensationalist/Christian Zionist thinking of the time:

  • Signs from Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) were supposedly fulfilled in 1922-1923 (earthquakes and famines).
  • The fig tree (Matthew 24:32) supposedly began to bud in 1922 with “the restoration of the Jewish nation.” (This was when the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was accepted into the Palestine Mandate).
  • Luke 21:25 (the “distress of nations“) was supposedly being fulfilled in 1934, the time of this publication.
  • The year 1943 was supposedly the absolute deadline for the “complete destruction” of “the Gentile nations.”

In 1906 Wilbur had taken over the leadership of the city of Zion, founded by John Alexander Dowie, who began to proclaim in 1901 that he was “Elijah the Restorer.” Dowie died in 1907 and Wilbur filled in as Zion’s leader until close to his death from cancer in 1942. A few years prior to his death, Wilbur put out this publication, sprinkled with some bold and false date-setting:

The Final Warning

Brad says he picked up this newspaper at a garage sale. Isn’t it interesting? I was especially struck by the deep pessimism about world affairs (they were in the midst of the Great Depression at the time), the emphasis on coming destruction for all non-Jewish nations, and the idea that “the fig tree” began to bud in 1922.

On this last point, it’s well known that numerous Bible prophecy teachers have taught that “the fig tree” began budding in 1948 when Israel became a nation, and that “God’s prophetic time clock was then restarted” after many centuries of prophetic postponement. The restarting of the clock in 1948, they said, left mankind with a maximum of one generation until the Olivet Discourse would be completely fulfilled. Hal Lindsey and others were, at one time, adamant that a Biblical generation is 40 years. When “the Rapture” and the Great Tribulation didn’t take place by 1988, some pushed the idea that a Biblical generation is 70 years, and more recently that it might even be 100 years long.

Others said that 1948 was “the wrong time marker” for the budding of “the fig tree,” and that the correct time marker was the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan. Now, based on this newspaper from 1934, there is evidence that speculation on the budding “of the fig tree” goes back to at least 1922. This chart shows the range of speculation discussed here, and how it has evolved over the last few decades as end-times prophecies continue to fail:

When did the fig tree start to bud? How long is a Biblical generation?
1922 40 years
1948 70 years
1967 100 years

Of course, I believe far differently about the Olivet Discourse, i.e. that it was entirely fulfilled in Jesus’ own generation in the first century. 

I also observe, from this newspaper, that Wilbur noted the rapidly increasing number of Jews in Palestine (57,000 in 1919 and 250,000 just 15 years later in 1934), without acknowledging the Arabs (Muslims and Christians alike) who also lived there. I also observe Wilbur’s expectation that “a Jewish nation” would be created there.

I’m very curious as to why he taught that “Gentile nations” had a “Lease to Life” of precisely 2520 years. Since he prophesied their “Complete Destruction” by 1943 at the very latest, he apparently believed the lease began in 577 BC. I’m not sure what is significant about that date, although it’s fairly close to 586 BC, when Babylon destroyed Judah and Jerusalem. Approximately 2520 years had transpired from 586 BC to 1934, when Wilbur wrote this (586 + 1934 = 2520), so maybe that’s what he had in mind.

What are your thoughts when you see this newspaper from 1934?

The Early Church Fathers and the Last Days of the Jewish Age

The following resource was compiled by Bishop George Kouri, an author and the pastor of The King’s Church in Jacksonville, Florida. He references the stated beliefs of Barnabas, Clement of Alexandrea, Origen, Tertullian, Athanasius, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus concerning “the last days”, “the end of the age,” and Daniel’s 70th Week (Daniel 9). This is not exhaustive, and there’s no doubt that leaders in church history have held quite a variety of views about these and related topics in the field of eschatology. When researching their beliefs, though, it’s easy to see that many did not view the Biblical “last days” as being about the (alleged) end of world history, but rather as the last days of the old covenant age. Here are just a few examples, as provided by George Kouri (all emphasis in the original):


Written anonymously around 100 AD, the “Epistle of Barnabas” is the earliest extra-Canonical source we have. Although not included in the Canon of the New Testament, it is an incredibly early documentation of the early Church’s beliefs about the last days. The Apostle John was probably alive when it was written. And although the authorship is disputed, we will refer to Barnabas as the author.

The Epistle of Barnabas sets forth the common view held by the early Church that the seventieth week of Daniel ended with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, as Messiah’s Day dawned and Christ’s Church was born. Barnabas writes, “For it is written, ‘And it shall come to pass, when the week is completed, the temple of God shall be built…in the name of the Lord.’ I find…that a temple does exist. Having received the forgiveness of sins…in our habitation God dwells in us….This is the spiritual temple built for the Lord.” (EOB, 16:6)

Barnabas uses the expression “the week,” but does not mention Daniel. Yet scholars agree from the context that this is definitely a reference to Daniel’s 70th week. And it is assumed by many scholars that the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks was so well known and so widely expounded in the early Church that it needed no further explanation. The early Church did not avoid Daniel’s prophecy.

This early Christian writer connects Daniel’s vision of seventy weeks with the prophecy of Haggai 2:7-9 and the building of a “spiritual temple,” the Church. The author of the Epistle of Barnabas obviously believed that Daniel’s 70th week was fulfilled with Christ’s first advent. This was when the Old Temple was destroyed and the new “spiritual temple” was initially established. Writing in 100 AD he clearly believed the 70th week of Daniel was already completed.

It seems clear from this passage in the Epistle of Barnabas that less than a century after Christ’s passion (remember that according to Daniel the Messiah would be cut off in the middle of the 70th week), it was the widespread belief of the Church that the 70th week of Daniel was completed. It is certain that Barnabas placed the end of the 70th week no later than 70 AD. His mention of the building of the Church (which was able to grow largely unimpeded after 70AD) makes it probable that Barnabas saw 67 to 70 AD and the destruction of Herod’s Temple as the end of the Jewish or Old Covenant Age and the dawning of Messiah’s Day. As David B. Currie writes in his book, Rapture, The End-Times Error That Leaves The Bible Behind, “He (Barnabas) assumes his readers will agree that the events of ‘the week’ led to the building of the Church”  (Page 422).


Within a century of Barnabas, Clement became bishop of Alexandria until his death in 215 AD. Clement taught that the blessings of the New Covenant required the end of biblical Judaism within the 70 weeks of Daniel. Clement writes of the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD in the prophetic language of Daniel’s seventy weeks, “Vespasian rose to the supreme power (Emperor of Rome) and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the holy place”  (STO, XXI, 142-143).

Clement of Alexandrea believed the Jewish Age, the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel and the great tribulation were behind, not ahead of the Church.

ORIGEN (185-254 AD)

A student of Clement of Alexandrea, Origen agreed that the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD marked the end of the Jewish Age and the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy regarding the 70 weeks. Origen writes,“The weeks of years up to the time of Christ the leader that Daniel the prophet predicted were fulfilled” (TPR, IV:1:5).

Like Clement, Origen also believed the Jewish Age, the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel and the great tribulation were behind the Church, not ahead of it.


In 203 AD Tertullian wrote his famous treatise Against The Jews. This early Church father also taught that Daniel’s 70th week had been fulfilled in 70 AD: “Vespasian vanquished the Jews…and so by the date of his storming Jerusalem, the Jews had completed the seventy weeks foretold by Daniel”  (AAJ, VII; CID).

Contrary to modern postponement preachers and teachers, Tertullian believed the Jewish age, the abomination of desolation, and the great tribulation was behind, not ahead of the Church.


Athanasius was bishop of Alexandria from 326 to 373 AD. Like the early Church fathers before him, he also taught that the 70 weeks of Daniel culminated and the Jewish Age ended in 70 AD: “Jerusalem is to stand till His coming (Daniel’s reference to Messiah’s appearing in His First Advent), and thenceforth, prophet and vision cease in Israel (the end of the Old Covenant or Jewish Age). This is why Jerusalem stood till then…that they might be exercised in the types as a preparation for the reality…but from that time forth all prophecy is sealed and the city and Temple taken” (INC, XXXIX:3-XV:8).

Athanasius clearly reflects the view of the entire early Church: once the Messiah had come, the role of the Temple in Jerusalem would be ended. “Things to be done which belonged to Jerusalem beneath…were fulfilled, and those which belonged to the shadows had passed away” (FEL, IV:3-4).

This important early Church father clearly believed that the Jewish age ended in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.


Irenaeus was a contemporary of Clement of Alexandrea whose widely held view we dealt with above. Irenaeus and his pupil Hippolytus are the only two writers from the early Church period who believed in a still-future fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th week. They both placed the 70th week at the end of the gospel age and so are the first interpreters to postulate a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks (AG, V). Both predicted a specific date for the second coming that has long since come and gone.

But their belief in a future 70th week was never widely accepted! St. Jerome specifically pointed out that the number of years in their system did not coincide with the historical events they purported to cover. He wrote, “If by any chance those of future generations should not see these predictions of his (Irenaeus) fulfilled at the time he (Irenaeus) set, then they will be forced to seek for some other solution and to convict the teacher himself (Irenaeus) of erroneous interpretation”  (CID).

David B. Currie points out in his scholarly work, “As a point of history, the views of Irenaeus did give seed to premillennialism. But the early fathers of the Church strongly and universally denounced this concept. The early Church understood the presumptuous-parenthesis theory that rapturists employ…but they resoundingly rejected it”  (David B. Currie, Rapture, page 425).

The prevailing view of the early Church fathers was that Daniel’s vision of the 70 weeks was fulfilled in 70 AD. The final or 70th week began with the baptism of Jesus and his presentation to Israel by John the Baptist. The Messiah was cut off in the middle of the 70th week when Jesus was crucified. The abomination of desolation and the great tribulation spoken of by Daniel were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD.

These events marked the end of the Jewish age and the dawning of Messiah’s Day.

Day Trip to Columbus and Athens, Ohio

A week ago my wife, Jasmine, and I made a day trip to Columbus and Athens, Ohio. We spent about five hours near Athens, located 75 miles southeast of Columbus, visiting her older sister, her husband, and their first child (almost three months old). 

On the way to Athens, we spent a little time in Columbus, which is about two hours from Bowling Green, where we live now. Our first stop was for lunch at a Somali restaurant called African Paradise Cuisine, northeast of downtown Columbus.

African Paradise

Inside African Paradise

We both came to like Somali food when we lived in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota), and this was our first chance to enjoy it again since we moved to Bowling Green last August. Minneapolis has the highest number of Somalis in the US (about 75,000), and Columbus has the second highest number (about 55,000). Seattle and San Diego are third and fourth, respectively. 

Our plan was for one of us to order a fish entree and the other to order a goat entree, but we arrived before they had any fish ready, so we both ordered goat. Our meals came with complimentary mango juice, salads, and soup. We’ve found that salads at Somali restaurants are typically served with Italian dressing, and this is because Somalia was once an Italian colony (independence was granted in 1960). This is also why spaghetti with pasta sauce is commonly served as a side dish.

Goat Meat Meal


Less than a mile away was a Somali cafe, known as Safari Coffee. We stopped there for just a couple minutes to get a Somali tea (highly recommended) for the road. “Somali tea” is a spiced tea with milk (spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and black pepper, for example). The one at Safari Coffee may be the best I’ve ever had.

Safari Coffee

Before heading out to Athens, we took a driving tour of downtown Columbus on this warm, humid, and beautiful day.

Downtown Columbus 01

Downtown Columbus 02

Downtown Columbus 03

Downtown Columbus 04

Downtown Columbus 05

Downtown Columbus has a neat promenade along the Scioto River called the Scioto Mile, featuring swings, a walking path, sculptures, fountains, an outdoor cafe, and Bicentennial Park (more information here and more photos here). 

Downtown Columbus 06

Downtown Columbus 07


This post can be found on the newest page, titled “Places,” where a couple other posts featuring places and photos are already located, with more to come.

Upcoming Debate on Romans 11:25-27 (Dr. Michael Brown & Don K. Preston)

Of all the questions asked by readers here at this site, Romans 11 has been one of the most popular topics brought up over the last five years, particularly the phrase, “In this manner all Israel will be saved” (verse 26). I’m glad to see that two well-known teachers will be leading a moderated debate on June 3rd concerning the meaning of Romans 11:25-27. Don K. Preston, the president of Preterist Research Institute (websites 1 and 2), will be debating this topic with Dr. Michael Brown, an author, professor, and radio host (websites 1, 2, and 3). Dr. James White, an author and speaker, will be moderating the debate.  Here is the formal announcement for this debate:

I am thrilled to announce that just this morning, (5-13-14) we confirmed final agreement for a formal, moderated debate between myself and Dr. Michael Brown, a very popular Christian apologist and radio / Internet host.  Dr. Brown has done some fine work in debating Muslims and atheists. He is not a “typical” Millennialist, in that he takes the Classic or Historical Premillennial view, which is in many respects, totally different from modern Dispensationalism.

Dr. Brown has a nationally syndicated radio program: “Ask Dr. Brown,” (also known as The Line of Fire) in which he welcomes callers to ask any question. On April 2014, Dr. Brown issued a challenge to any qualified preterist to engage in a formal moderated debate. Some listeners posted to me about that challenge and I responded, accepting the invitation.

You can listen to the debate, live, here: (2-4pm, June 3, 2014) Eastern time:

dr michael browndon k preston

The debate will be on June 3, 2-4 Eastern Time (1-3 Central). I am particularly pleased to say that Dr. James White, of Alpha and Omega Ministryalso a noted Christian polemicist, will act as the debate moderator.

The Debate subject will be:

Resolved: The Bible teaches in Romans 11:25-27 that at some point of time in our future, “all Israel shall be saved” at the time of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Affirm: Dr. Michael Brown
Deny: Don K. Preston
Needless to say, this is a very, very important topic. Many Postmillennialists, some Amillennialists, and certainly, Millennialists of all stripes believe that there is yet to be a massive conversion of ethnic Jews at the time of the second coming of Christ. Obviously, I believe this view is not supported by the scriptures.
This offers to be a very lively debate, with a ton of information being made available. You don’t want to miss it, so put it on your calendar, and tune in!

You can read more about Dr. Michael Brown here:

Here is the Scripture text which will be under discussion in this debate:

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins‘” (Romans 9:25-27).

Since Don Preston first made this announcement, I’ve heard that the debate likely won’t begin at 2 pm EST on June 3rd, but will be somewhat later in the afternoon. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to watch it live, but once the debate video is posted on YouTube or elsewhere, I plan to post it here. It’ll be good to see what these two men have to say on the subject, and there will be an open invitation, for anyone who wishes, to evaluate what they have to say and discuss it here (as well as to look at discussions that may happen elsewhere).

Questions to consider:

1. What is the blindness that happened to Israel? How long was it to last? Where else does Scripture speak of this blindness?
2. What is the meaning of “the fullness of the Gentiles“?
3. Who is Paul speaking of when he says, “all Israel will be saved“?
4. Is Isaiah 59:20-21, quoted in Romans 11:26-27, about Jesus’ first coming and His work on the cross, or is it about His coming in judgment and in His kingdom (often spoken of as His Second Coming)? Is Isaiah 59:20-21 already fulfilled, or not yet fulfilled?

UPDATE: The debate took place as scheduled, and I’ve posted the video, along with notes and time stamps, here:

Identity Crisis: The Israeli ID System

Today I saw this graphic, shared by Stephen Sizer on Facebook, and found it to be informative, although it certainly doesn’t touch on every issue concerning the Israeli/Palestinian situation. The statistics are said to be valid as of 2011. This graphic illustrates a range of disparities between three groups of people when it comes to freedom, restrictions, living access, and voting:

  • 5.9 million Jewish citizens in Israel
  • 5.5 million Palestinians in Israel, East Jerusalem, West Bank, and the Gaza Strip
  • 5.7 million Palestinian exiles/refugees with no access to Israel or the Palestinian territories

Graphic courtesy of Electronic Intifada and Visualizing Palestine

Revelation 22 (Part 2: Verses 6-21)

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:

Daniel 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).
John (Revelation) 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. 16:2728).”

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.

Revelation Chapter 22 (Part 1: Verses 1-5)

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 22

Review of Revelation 21

Our two posts on Revelation 21 (Part 1 and Part 2) were written in 2010, so this post is very much overdue. In our study of Rev. 21, we saw how John drew heavily on the Old Testament to depict with rich symbolism the glories of this present, everlasting new covenant age. John also echoed many spiritual truths taught elsewhere in the New Testament, which the writers of those epistles proclaimed to be existing realities in their own day. Revelation 21 is not as much about prophecies fulfilled in the past, as it is about ongoing spiritual realities that are being lived out by God’s people to this very day.

For the body of Christ, Revelation 21 is a beautiful portrayal of God’s relationship with His new covenant people. It’s also part of our manual on how the Church is to walk in spiritual victory and advance God’s ever-expanding kingdom on this earth. When John was told that he would be shown “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” he is actually shown a city called New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-10), which John vividly describes for his readers, lacing his words with all kinds of Biblical symbolism. Unlike the Jerusalem that went up in flames (Matthew 22:7; Rev. 17:16, 18:8-9, 18:18), New Jerusalem is a city with no temple, “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (verse 22). It’s a city illuminated by the glory of God, where “the Lamb is its light” (verse 23; see also John 8:12).

New Jerusalem is not a cube-shaped city that God’s people will one day live in, but God’s people are New Jerusalem. This is not the only passage of Scripture where a physical structure is used to describe God’s people.  God’s people are also described as a holy structure in Ephesians 2:19-22, and both structures are built on the foundation of the apostles (Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14).

Introduction to Revelation 22

These themes continue as we move into Revelation 22, the final chapter of this book. The beginning of the chapter continues John’s description of the city of God, the new Jerusalem. After that Jesus recaps, through John, what He had already promised earlier in the book, particularly the nearness of His promise to come in judgment. Before we get into a verse-by-verse study of this chapter, let’s review again the very helpful structural outline that Steve Gregg presents on page 492 of his book, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).” He shows that Revelation 21:1-8 outlines the remainder of the book of Revelation (21:9 – 22:19):

CONTENT In Verses 1-8 In the Remainder
New Jerusalem Verse 2 21:9-21
God dwells among men Verse 3 21:22-27
Renewal of the world Verse 5a 22:1-5
“These words are true and faithful” Verse 5b 22:6-10
Work completed: “I am Alpha and Omega” Verse 6a 22:11-15
Final blessing: water of life to all who thirst Verses 6b – verse 7 22:16-17
Final curse upon the rebellious Verse 8 22:18-19

Verse 1:
In the first five verses of Revelation 22John’s vision of the city of God, New Jerusalem, comes to a conclusion. In verse 1, John sees “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

Who is the angel who shows John this river? This question takes us back to Revelation 21:9 where the one speaking to John is “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues.” This same angel takes John to see “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” In Revelation 17:1, we saw that an angel, fitting the exact same description, took John to see “the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.” According to Steve Gregg (p. 493), this connection “provides a structural link, deliberately placing the harlot in juxtaposition with the bride,” New Jerusalem. In this way, John contrasts two women in the same way that the apostle Paul does in Galatians 4:21-31, where he portrays one woman in slavery representing the old covenant and another free woman representing the new covenant.

John’s vision of the river of life flowing through the new Jerusalem is very similar to Zechariah’s vision at the time of the day of the Lord: “And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur” (Zechariah 14:8). While some teach that this is future and will literally occur in Jerusalem (i.e. in the Middle East), it’s also possible — and I believe correct — to see that Zechariah received a vision of New Jerusalem, Christ’s bride. John’s vision here is also reminiscent of statements that Jesus made about Himself:

Jesus answered and said to [the woman at the well], ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but 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‘” (John 4:13-14).

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” (John 7:37-38).

Verse 2: John is told that “the leaves of the tree” of life were “for the healing of the nations“:

In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

John’s vision is remarkably similar to Ezekiel’s vision of a river flowing from the threshold of the temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12).

When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: ‘This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live...’ Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine” (Ezekiel 47:7-9, 12).

Duncan McKenzie, author of “The Antichrist and the Second Coming,” makes the following observation about these passages and their parallel nature (Duncan’s entire article is very much worth reading):

“In Ezekiel, the prophet is told that the city is the dwelling place of God with his people (43:7; 48:35), which parallels what John is told about the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:3). The respective cities both have twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel inscribed on them (Ezek. 48:30-34; Rev. 21:12-13). The Temple in Ezekiel has healing waters that flow out of it (Ezek. 47:1-11); there are trees on both sides of the river that have leaves for food and healing (v. 12). This parallels Revelation where the river of life flows from the throne of God and the Lamb in the New Jerusalem; the tree of life is on both sides of the river, it has leaves for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:1-2).”

Duncan McKenzie, “Revelation’s Parallel Use of the Sequence of Ezekiel: Part Two”

This picture, and this language, speaks to our present setting here on earth, where the nations of the world are in need of healing and where all kinds of immorality still exists outside of God’s city (verse 15). So one way of applying this text is to ask questions like these: Is Syria in need of healing today? Is Nigeria in need of healing today? Is Indonesia in need of healing today? Is America in need of healing today? The church, the body of Christ, is a channel of the living waters of Christ, and we are equipped with the healing that the nations need. As members of the body of Christ, we have been given the responsibility and the grace to link arms with one another and work together to see the nations healed by the living water of our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Steve Gregg (p. 499) discusses the various ways that this text is understood:

The purpose of the leaves of the tree is…said to be for the healing of the nations (verse 2), but the question intrudes itself, what nations? If we take this to mean that humanity in the new creation will be organized into discreet political nations, then these are matters of which we have little or no additional information.

On the other hand, if nations be understood simply in the sense of “the Gentiles,” then it may simply be a reference to the church saints of Gentile extraction in the holy city. Weidner considers the reference to be to “the converted Gentiles who are among the glorified saints.” This view seems to enjoy the favor of most expositors, including Milligan:

“It is impossible to think that the nations here spoken of have yet to be converted. They have already entered the New Jerusalem, and that they are healed can signify no more than this, than they are kept in constant soundness of health by what is here administered to them.”

Taken, however, as a symbolic picture of the New Covenant blessings in the present age, the leaves of the tree could refer simply to the fact that as the gospel advances, the kingdom, like a mustard tree (Matthew 13:31-32), or a cedar tree (Ezekiel 17:22-23), spreads its branches, providing all nations a place of refuge and healing under the shadow of its leaves (cf. Ezekiel 31:4-6; Daniel 4:11-12).

John’s reference to “the tree of life” takes us back to Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, and to the tree of life that was there (Genesis 2:9, 3:22-24):

And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’— therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:22-24).

The outcome of eating from the tree of life would be eternal life. In Jesus, eternal life is freely available for those who trust in Him. In Revelation 22, in New Jerusalem, the tree of life is available for everyone in the city of God, bearing fruit 12 months each year. In the Garden of Eden there was one tree of life, but in New Jerusalem there is a tree of life “on either side of the river.” The Jamieson-Fausett-Brown Bible Commentary (1882) said this about the correlation between Genesis 2-3 and Revelation 22:

“How striking it is that, as in the beginning we found Adam and Eve, his bride, in innocence in Paradise, then tempted by the serpent, and driven from the tree of life, and from the pleasant waters of Eden, yet not without a promise of a Redeemer who should crush the serpent; so at the close, the old serpent cast out for ever by the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, who appears with His Bride, the Church, in a better Paradise, and amidst better waters (Rev. 22:1): the tree of life also is there with all its healing properties, not guarded with a flaming sword, but open to all who overcome (Rev. 2:7), and there is no more curse.”

Verse 3: John writes, “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” Is this another reference to the Garden of Eden, and the curses spoken over the serpent and over humanity (Genesis 3:14-24)? Is this a reference to the curse of the law, which was removed in Christ (Galatians 3:10-13)? Kenneth Gentry points out that many Bible scholars see Zechariah 14:11 (“The people shall dwell in [Jerusalem]; and no longer shall there be utter destruction, but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited“) as the background for John’s statement, and says “we see John’s backdrop from correspondences within the two passages:

Zechariah 14 Contextual Correspondences Revelation 21-22
14:2, 4, 8, 10-12, 14, 16-17, 21 “Jerusalem” 21:2, 10, 14-15, 18-19, 21, 23; 22:14, 19
14:6-7 Alteration of patterns of light, day, night 21:24-25; 22:5
14:8a Living water source in Jerusalem 22:1, 17
14:8b No problem of seasons causing death 22:2
14:11 Absence of anathema; katathema 22:3
14:14 Glory of nations received within 21:24, 26; see also Isaiah 60:5-14
14:16 Nations positively influenced 21:24
14:17-18 Outsiders in negative condition 21:27; 22:15

Gentry goes on to say:

Note the strong similarity between the two statements in Greek:

Zec 14:11: kai anathema ouk estai eti
Rev 22:3: kai pan katathema ouk estai eti

…We should note that John immediately parallels with his katathema statement a comment that intentionally contrasts with it. And by doing so he underscores the objective, concrete matters involved. I will provide a woodenly literal translation of 22:3, then the Greek text, to show the parallel:

And every cursed person will not be [there] any longer (22:3a)
And the throne of God and of the Lamb in it will be (22:3b)

Note the parallel in Greek:

kai pan katathema ouk estai eti (22:3a)
kai ho thronos tou theou kai tou arniou en autç estai (22:3b)

Clearly 22:3b speaks of location, not existence; the same should be true of 22:3a. John means that accursed persons are absent, not that the curse no longer exists… 

Consider that at the end of his external tour of the new Jerusalem he learns that certain persons will forever be excluded from the new Jerusalem: “and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27). Thus, now as he looks inside the new Jerusalem, he can happily report that this is true: “every cursed person will not be there” (22:3a). This truth is so important that he states it once again at 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.”

…In Rev 22:3 John is encouraging the followers of the Lamb who have been abused by the religious leadership of Israel — either directly at their hands or at the hands of their compatriot minions, or indirectly by their influence with the Romans to spark persecution of the Christians. They must understand that those who have tormented them and cast them out of their communion (Mt 10:16–18, 21; 23:34; Jn 9:22, 34–35; 12:42; 16:2; 1Th 2:15) or brought charges against them to the Roman authorities (Ac 17:7; Rev 2:9–10) are themselves “accursed” and will not be allowed into the new Jerusalem. Christianity will not be extinguished through the efforts of the Jews (or the Romans). In fact, the tables will be turned against the [unbelieving] Jews: “the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out” (Mt 8:12; cp. 22:13) as God establishes the new, final redemptive order. Rather than rule by the corrupt “kings of the land,”  the new Jerusalem will be ruled from the throne of the Lamb (22:1, 3).

Kenneth Gentry, Supplement #18 – Absence of Curse  in the New Creation, Revelation 22

Verse 4: John writes, “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” This is a fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to the church in Philadelphia: “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:11-12). In our studies of Revelation 7 and Revelation 14, we also saw that God sealed the foreheads of His servants with His name. In contrast, those who followed the beast had his mark, his name, or the number of his name on their right hands or foreheads (Rev. 13:15-17). 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also promised that it would be the pure in heart who would see God (Matthew 5:8). Kurt Simmons gives his take on the significance of Rev. 22:4.

“The fall brought man’s banishment from the presence and fellowship of his Creator; man was driven from the garden; he was estranged from God and became an exile in the earth…  Even in the temple, God was in the Holy of Holies, separate and removed from the worshipper.  None could approach except through the sprinkling of blood and the appointed mediator.  The stranger that drew nigh was put to death.  However, the veil of separation was rent in twain in the cross of Christ (Matt. 27:51); man can now boldly enter into that which is within the veil, made faultless before his presence by the blood of Christ (Heb. 6:1910:19-22; Jude 24).  We are no longer servants, but have attained the adoption of sons, are become heirs of the King, and enjoy a ‘face to face’ relationship with God through Christ.”

Kurt Simmons, “Exposition of Revelation 20-22,” source

Verse 5: John writes, “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” In Rev. 21 we already saw that Jesus is the light in New Jerusalem, the city of God: “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light”  (verse 23). This also lines up with other statements made by the prophets, as well as those made by the writers of the gospel accounts and epistles in the New Testament:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you… The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended” (Isaiah 60:1, 19-20).

Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darknessand the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life‘” (John 8:12).

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light (Romans 13:11-12).

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night… But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (I Thessalonians 5:1-5).

In part 2, we will continue examining Revelation 22, beginning with verse 6.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Jonathan Welton: Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy Is About Jesus, Not An Antichrist

(Note: This post includes a full-scale teaching illustration below the following introduction.)

The last quarter of the 20th century featured many prophecy charts, based on dispensationalism, depicting a future “Rapture,” 7-year tribulation, Antichrist, series of seal/trumpet/bowl judgments, Battle of Armageddon, etc. When I was younger, I saw a few of these charts in person, and a number of others when I watched “A Thief In the Night” (1972), “A Distant Thunder” (1977) and “Image of the Beast” (1981); all available here.

Charts and illustrations can be good teaching aids. Based on my study of church history, however, the vast majority of respected leaders in the first 1800 (or so) years after Christ would have been horrified to see a lot of these (dispensationalist-based) charts. As my personal journey has taken me away from the pre-trib Rapture/premillennialist view I grew up with, and toward fulfilled eschatology, I’m glad to see that new charts, illustrations, and similar tools are being created which are a lot more sound and Biblical (in my opinion). In a couple of previous posts, I’ve highlighted two such illustrations by author Jonathan Welton, one on Daniel 2 and the kingdom of God and another on John’s use of “ge” (land) versus “kosmos” (world) in the book of Revelation.

Welton’s newest illustration concerns the 70 Weeks prophecy in Daniel 9. Seeing this prophecy differently was a major turning point in my own journey. Previously I was led to believe that Daniel saw a future Antichrist who would make a 7-year political covenant with Israel, then break it 3.5 years later, before presiding over another 3.5 years of planet-wide turmoil and catastrophes. This was to be the 7-year tribulation period. The text (Daniel 9:24-27) says none of these things. I can’t forget how stunned I was when it was pointed out to me, online, that the covenant of Daniel 9:27 is parallel to Jesus’ words on the night He was betrayed by Judas:

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering…” (Daniel 9:27).

For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

Each “week” in Daniel’s prophecy represents a period of seven years. We also know that Jesus laid down His life as a sacrifice after 3.5 years of ministry (“…in the middle of the week…”), and that His sacrifice brought an end to the sacrifices and offerings under the old covenant. There went the idea that sacrifices must be restored in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem in our future. There also went the only Scriptural basis (so I thought) for a 7-year tribulation period. Jonathan Welton does a great job bringing this and more out in his latest illustration:

Maurice Perry: The Book of Revelation Is All About Covenant

One of my Facebook friends, Maurice Perry, has also been blogging for the last three months. Maurice believes that the book of Revelation is about the Biblical covenants, and the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant. I believe the same (see “Echoes of Mount Sinai in the Book of Revelation”).

His article on this subject, “The Book of Revelation Is All About Covenant,” makes some great points about the judgments in the book of Revelation being covenantal, and fulfilling Jesus’ words (e.g. Matthew 23:29-38) against the rulers of the old covenant age:

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothingBut we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (I Corinthians 2:6-8).

Maurice also makes some great points about the main opposition to the church during the generation (roughly 30 AD – 70 AD) when the covenant periods were in transition. That opposition was the bondage of the old covenant and those who sought to impose it upon the new covenant community (Jesus’ followers). This particular opposing force was dealt a huge blow when the Jerusalem temple, the center of old covenant worship and ceremonies, was taken out of the way. I’ve highlighted some of these points in red, below. I’m still mulling over the topics of Satan and the lake of fire, which Maurice also brought up in this article. As always, your thoughts are welcome on these things:

Revelation is all about covenant. It’s a covenantal book. When you look at it that way, things become more simplistic. There were two covenants. One, old. One, new. One (the old) was preparing to vanish away, or be demolished (Hebrews 8:13), while the other (the new) was already in existence because men and women were pressing into it even during Jesus’ earthly ministry (Matt. 11:12, Luke 16:16)…

Revelation, a letter written to 7 churches to SIGNIFY to them things which would shortly come to pass (Rev. 1:1), is virtually entirely written in signs, symbols, metaphors and figurative language. If you read the book with a literal narrative, you will miss the entire meaning and focus.

The Focus?

The revealing of Jesus Christ as Messiah – judgment for the ones that had pierced him (Rev. 1:7) – salvation and deliverance for those 1st century saints that were being persecuted. Covenantally, it was judgment being released on those that killed the apostles and prophets (servants of God). This scenario is played out over, and over, and over and over again throughout Revelation using different imagery, symbols and idiomatic language each time the scenario is retold.

That being said, the majority of stuff in the letter cannot be taken literal. This includes hard things to be understood like “1000 years”, Satan being bound, and the Lake of Fire.

Long story short, Satan being bound for a “1000 years” is in reference to the time in which the gospel went forth relatively unhindered. This would be the gospel of the New Covenant. Remember, it’s all about covenant.

Satan was “loosed for a little while”, and this SIGNIFIED the time when the 1st century saints (who were preaching the gospel of the N.C.) were being persecuted, killed, imprisoned, etc – just as Jesus had previously told them (Matt. 24:9, Mark 13:9, Luke 21:12).

Satan’s main objective was to stop the spreading of the N.C by making the Hebrew Christians trip up and fall away and back into bondage, via the old covenant.

Luke 8:13
They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.

Hebrews 3:12
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

It was Judaism, or the temple worship, and the pressure of the unbelieving Judaizers that caused many to fall away from the faith (in Jesus) and back into Judaism (bondage under the law). Thus, Jesus’ question-

Luke 18:8
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

So, what better way to put an end to [competition against] the New Covenant?

DESTROY the infrastructure of the Old Covenant. That would be the temple!

EVERYTHING in Jerusalem revolved around the temple – worship, politics, economics/commerce (thus, Jesus driving the money changers out!), etc…

When the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the entire economy and way of life for the Jews was destroyed, and when it was destroyed, the main oppressor, or competition [against] the New Covenant was destroyed also (the Old Covenant had then vanished away).

Satan (which means adversary), who opposed God EVERY step of the way, from Genesis to Revelation, could not stop the ultimate plan of redemption for the entire world – the gospel message of faith in Jesus Christ. His last ditch effort to stop the spread of the gospel was with the persecuting of the saints (Rev. 12 – “chasing after the woman”, then “chasing after the woman’s seed”) through the unbelieving Judaizers. He (Satan) failed miserably!

Him (Satan) being thrown into the Lake of Fire is symbolic of his eternal covenantal judgment, and also symbolizes that he can no longer hinder the progression of the gospel of the kingdom, world without end (Eph. 3:21)

New heavens and New earth is spiritual and covenantal. Lake of Fire is spiritual and covenantal. Those that accept Jesus and the New Covenant enter into New heavens and New earth (which 1st century saints began entering – Hebrews 12:22), and those that reject Jesus and the New Covenant enter into the Lake of Fire, which is the 2nd death, which is representative of being cut off from communion with the Father forever.

Satan, being in the Lake of Fire, cannot plead His case with God. Unbelievers who enter the Lake of Fire will not be able to plead their cases. It’s covenantal judgment.

Satan, and demons HAVE NOT been annihilated. They still roam around the world. Thus, the continued need for deliverance ministry and salvation. But they are forever outside of the kingdom, or City of God.

The gates of the city are continuously open for those that are made righteous in Christ, but closed to those that are unbelievers:

Revelation 22:14-15
14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
15For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

We see in Rev. 21:8 that the same people of Rev. 22:15 are said to experience the 2nd death:

Revelation 21:8
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

So, being in the Lake of Fire, which is the 2nd death, is synonymous with being left outside of the gates of the city, which is a spiritual city, New Jerusalem, heavenly Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the city of God, the general assembly, the CHURCH of the first born! (Hebrews 12:22)

THE CHURCH IS NEW JERUSALEM!!! The kingdom is an everlasting kingdom… the church is an everlasting church!!!

Ephesians 3:21

Maurice Perry and his wife, Ericka, live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee with their three daughters. In February 2014, Maurice published his first book, “Restoring Sanity in the Western Church.