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Saturday, September 23rd, 2023
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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Revelation 22

Light & Truth: Bible Thoughts and Themes on RevelationBonar on Revelation

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Verse 1

The Life River.

Revelation 22:1.

In the first Paradise, and in connection with the first creation, we find a river—’a river went out of Eden to water the garden’ (Genesis 2:10); and in connection with the second Paradise and the new creation, we find a river also—a river without a name—but simply designated ’a river of life.’ The earthly and the heavenly thus run parallel with each other, though the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

In connection, not merely with earthly fruitfulness and beauty, but with spiritual blessings, we have many allusions to rivers. ’The river of Your pleasures’ (Psalms 36:8); ’there is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God’ (Psalms 46:4); ’you enrich it with the river of God, which is full of water’ (Psalms 65:9); ’peace as a river’ (Isaiah 48:18); ’the Lord shall be to us a place of broad rivers and streams’ (Isaiah 33:21).

The earthlyriver beautifies, fertilizes, refreshes, gives life, quenches thirst. All these and much more does the heavenlyriver do for us. In this life-river is the reality of those things of which the earthly river is the shadow. What would the first Adam’s Paradise have been without the river? What would the second Adam’s Paradise and city be without the river of life?

But let us gaze a little on this life-river which John describes, and see its qualities and glories. Of it we may say, ’It is good for drink, and pleasant to the eyes, and a river to be desired;’ for no river on earth, Nile or Jordan, can be compared with it. It contains all that a soul needs; and it is not for angels—but for men.

I. It is a river of HEAVEN.These two concluding chapters speak of no earthly city, no earthly Paradise, no earthly tree of life, and no earthly river. It is a stream fed from heavenly sources, filled with heavenly water, and resplendent with heavenly beauty. Everything pertaining to its origin, and course, and nature, partakes of heaven. It is the river of God, conveying on its pure water all that heaven contains of blessedness. Those who drink of it must drink immortality and love. ’It is the river of God.’ To gaze on it, to wander by its banks, to bathe in its pure flood, to drink of its waters—this is heaven itself!

II. It is a river of GRACE.It flows from the throne of the Lamb; and everything that has connection with the Lamb is necessarily of grace. The Lamb is, of all the names of Christ, that which most explicitly expresses grace, and the channel through which that grace flows to us. Name but the Lamb, and you proclaim God’s love to sinners, His riches of grace towards the most worthless of human creaturehood. The Lamb is the name by which Christ is most commonly spoken of in this book; and this seems to be done, in order that we may, in the midst of the terrors and the glories of which it is full, be made to feel the grace of God as it pours itself out over the dwellers in this poor earth. And this grace goes on through eternity; there is grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. There is the grace of earth, there is the grace of heaven. There is the grace of the first coming, there is the grace of the second.

III. It is a river of POWER.It comes from the throne—the throne of God; and therefore possessing the properties of that throne. It communicates, it infuses power into the soul of every one that drinks, or even that walks along its banks. The power and authority of God are in it; for it issues from the fountainhead of universal owner. O mighty river of God! How mighty do they become who betake themselves to you! Mighty river! The symbol of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37), proceeding from the Father and the Son, from God and the Lamb—what infusion of power may we not receive from you here; how much more hereafter! In this wilderness much; in the glorious city, more.

IV. A river of PURITY.’A pure river of water of life!’ The word pure almost invariably refers to priestly or sacrificial cleansing. This river then owes its purity to the same blood which makes the garments of the redeemed white; and just as the gold of the city is called pure gold, like unto clear glass—so the river gets the like designation. A pure river! Like the Lamb from whose throne it comes, who is without blemish, and without spot! A pure river! Like the city through which it flows, into which nothing that defiles shall enter! As it pours its heavenly waters on us now, it purifies, it cleanses; and hereafter it will preserve in us eternally that purity which it began in time, as the tree of life will preserve forever the immortal life which it created here in us. Think often of this river, you who feel the impurity of your soul; wander by faith along its banks even now; refresh yourself with its transparent waters; for is it not promised, I will give to him who is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely? The pledge of this we get just now; but the full accomplishment is reserved for the day when ’the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall lead us to the living fountains of waters’ (Revelation 8:7).

V. A river of LIFE.Wherever the river comes it quickens; just as of Ezekiel’s river it is said, ’the waters shall be healed, and everything shall live where the river comes’ (Ezekiel 47:9). Each drop is life giving; it contains everlasting life, for the Spirit of life is in that river. And He from whom it comes is the Lamb, even He who said, ’I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish;’ ’because I live, you shall live also.’

VI. A river of BRIGHTNESS.The words ’clear as crystal’ should be ’bright as crystal’—the same word as in verse 16, ’the bright and morning star.’ It is a river of splendor, divine and heavenly splendor. No earthly river, shone upon by the brightest earthly sun, can equal this. It is radiant all over, and it communicates its radiance to those who dwell upon its banks. It makes them shine as the sun. It is a river of glory—God lights it, and the Lamb is the fountain of its splendor! O river of brightness, will you not cast down on us here some of the radiance of your pure water? River of glory and holiness, will you not gladden and purify us, by causing us to behold your beauty in some measure here, that we may be prepared for beholding that splendor in fuller measure hereafter, when the days of our shame, and sin, and mourning are ended?

Verse 2

The Tree with its Twelve Harvests.

Revelation 22:2.

Faith looks into the unseen past, hope into the unseen future. The ’things hoped for’ are very glorious. Eye has not seen them, nor ear heard them; but ’God has revealed (the name of this book is the "Revelation") them unto us by His Spirit.’ That Spirit has given us (1) eyes to see; (2) objectsto look upon; and (3) lightto see them with.

It is the glory of the new creation, and specially of the new Jerusalem, that is here described. It is no longer, as at first, Paradise alone without a city, and with only our first parents to inhabit it; nor is it Jerusalem alone without Paradise, and without a river, and without a tree of life. It is Paradise, and Jerusalem together. The city is in the garden, and the garden in the city; the tree of life springing up in fruit-bearing beauty, and the bright river flowing through the street and under the shade of the trees. Nor is this Paradise without its ’Adam,’ nor this city without its Solomon. The second Adam is here, the Lord from heaven. The throne of God and of the Lamb is here. All is heavenly, yet all is earthly too; all is divine, yet all is human. There is perfection everywhere—there is glory over all. It is the perfection of the material and visible, as well as of the spiritual and invisible. Creation has reached its summit—the eternally predestined height from which it cannot fall.

Into the regions of this glory we would seek to enter now. Time is fleeting. The world passes away. Our life is but a vapor. This present world is a waste, howling wilderness. Darkness and clouds are here. The ice and frost, the blast, the storm, the earthquake are here. Night, and death, and the curse, and the grave are here. We eagerly look beyond these, and anticipate the promised perfection and blessedness of the new creation.

I. The STREET of the city.The word refers to the main or broad street of the city. A wide central street, in the midst of which the river flowed, is the picture here. It is the great street of a well-built city—the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. The city is the ’heavenly Jerusalem,’ the ’holy city,’ of which we become citizens even now in believing, so that ’our citizenship is in heaven,’ and we, ’are come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God,’ realizing ourselves as already in the city, and the city as already here. That glorious city is to be the eternal center of the universe, the seat of government, and the center of social life and blessed being. We need not try to sketch the city and its street, nor to answer the question, Is all this to be real and material, or is it only spiritual? Spiritual certainly, in the sense in which our resurrection bodies are to be (1 Corinthians 15:44), but still real and material; for the gold and gems, the walls, and foundations, and gates, are evidently given to indicate something material, corresponding to all these, and which could only be represented to us by these. This ’street,’ or great thoroughfare of the celestial city, suggests to us all that a similar street in any of our great cities now calls up to view. It is the place of concourse; the place of fellowship; the place of splendor; the head and heart of the city—that city which is to be the metropolis of the universe, as the lower Jerusalem is the metropolis of earth.

II. The RIVER of the city.This is described in the previous verse. It is like, and yet unlike, all earthly streams. Its source is divine; its waters are bright; its flow is endless. Jordan, and Nile, and Euphrates cannot be compared to it. This magnificent river flows right through the center of the street, which is in the center of the city, dividing it into two, so that the whole city equally gets the benefit of its waters. It distributes on both sides its heavenly blessing as it pours along, carrying on its fair bosom refreshment, and gladness, and beauty. ’Well-watered’ is this city; and with provisions for every beneficent purpose. It is ’the river, the streams of which make glad the city of our God’ (Psalms 46:4); it is the river of peace, for on it ’shall go no war ship, neither shall mighty ship pass thereby’ (Isaiah 33:21). It contains in it all physical blessings which a river can contain, and it is the symbol of all spiritual blessings. ’You shall make them drink of the river of Your pleasures’ (Psalms 36:8). Not from any earthly source does this river flow; not even from the rock of the desert; not from the sanctuary (Ezekiel 47:1); not from the eternal hills—but from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

III. The tree of life.This carries us back to Paradise, with its unfallen glory. It is the ’tree of righteousness’ (Isaiah 61:3); the ’plant of renown’ (Ezekiel 34:29); the tree of the old creation, and the tree of the new; the living and life-giving tree. There is the earthly tree and the heavenly tree, just as there is the earthly and the heavenly Jerusalem; the tree of the lower Paradise, and the tree of the upper Paradise; but the glory of the terrestrial is one, and the glory of the celestial is another. Here we have the celestial; and yet, when we read this chapter in connection with the forty-eighth of Ezekiel, we see that the two are connected the one with the other—like the upper and the nether springs; like the higher and the lower stories of the great palace; like the outer and the inner courts of the great temple. This tree of life lines the river of life; extending like a fringe along its margin on both sides, between it and the street; shooting up like a long avenue of palms in the midst of the broad street, through the center of which the river flowed. A wondrous tree; or rather a forest of wondrous trees pleasant to the eye, good for fruit, and excellent for shade and fragrance, under whose shadow we shall sit down with great delight, in the day when the tabernacle of God is with men.

IV. The FRUIT of the tree. It is ’good for fruit.’ Take it either physically or spiritually, it is so. Take it in both ways—referring to both body and soul—the food of our risen life, the sustenance of our risen bodies and perfected souls, it is ’good’—it is ’very good.’ It nourishes and cherishes. It imparts and sustains the incorruptible life. It communicates its celestial properties to the whole being of the redeemed—body, soul, and spirit. It bears twelve kinds of fruits, or rather ’twelve fruits’—that is, harvests or crops. Like the orange tree among us now, it is always blossoming, and always bearing. The revolving year is one perpetual harvest, every month producing new fruit. The description of the ’celestial’ is very like that of the ’terrestrial’ in Ezekiel, which runs thus—’many trees were now growing on both sides of the river! All kinds of fruit trees will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, without fail! For they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.’ (Ezekiel 47:7, Ezekiel 47:12). Here then is the food of the redeemed—eternal nourishment, suited to their redeemed being! Here is perpetual spring, perpetual summer, perpetual autumn—no winter, no withering, no famine, no decay! Life for eternity, sustained by the fruit of the live-giving tree, which shall nourish all the parts and powers, mental and material, of our everlasting and incorruptible nature!

V. The LEAVES of the tree.These are for health. As the fruit is for food to the celestial dwellers, so the leaves are for healing. It may be also that these leaves are needful for the preservation of health. In any case, we see the meaning of the words, ’The leaves of the tree are for the healing (or health) of the nations.

All this is beyond doubt connected with the Lord Jesus Christ—’the Lamb as it had been slain;’ for as every infliction of the curse here or hereafter is connected with Him as such, so every part of present and future blessing is linked with Him. We might in this aspect say, Jesus is the river, He is the tree, He is the fruit, He is the healing leaf. But perhaps it is more correct to say, He is the fountainhead of all blessing in heaven and earth, in this world and in that which is to come; and these material things are the channels through which He pours out His fullness.

(1.) The bright and refreshing river.Weary man of earth, come here. There are waters for you, enough and to spare. All free and all accessible. ’Come to the waters;’ ’let him who is athirst come;’ ’I will give to him who is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely;’ not merely of the ’water’ or of the ’river,’ but of the ’fountain,’ ’the spring shut up, the fountain sealed.’

(2.) The plenteous and life-giving fruit.It is the ’bread of life;’ it is better than angels’ food. It is the hidden manna; the fruit of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Eat, for it is the nourishment you need; eat, for it is free and within your reach; eat, for it is living and life-giving food. You will find it sweet to your taste. It confers immortality on the eater. He who eats of this fruit shall live forever.

(3.)The healing leaf.We cannot say of this tree, ’Nothing but leaves;’ still there are leaves in abundance, and each leaf is precious. It is like the hem of Christ’s garment, through which healing came to all who touched it. It is like ’the handkerchiefs and aprons’ from Paul’s body that healed the sick (Acts 19:12); or like ’the shadow of Peter passing-by’ (Acts 5:15) that ’over shadowed’ and healed the sick of Jerusalem. These were healings for the body. In like manner there come healings for the soul. Christ is the healer of a sick world. The simplest touch in any part heals. Will you be made whole? Take a leaf from the healing tree. Are you sick again? Take another and another. Take them every hour!

Verses 3-5

The Curse Cancelled, and the Kingdom Begun.

Revelation 22:3-5.

Here we are carried back to the third chapter of Genesis—for here we have the undoing of the evil which the first Adam and the first sin wrought on man and man’s earth. Here is blessing and dominion; nearness to God, and deliverance from all evil; the kingdom of light, and the endless reign of His saints. How bright the picture! What a contrast with the scene of the sentence and the expulsion from Paradise! What a contrast with the present evil state of earth, and the present tribulation of the Church! Here is the glory to be revealed in us; the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; the ending of all the woes and wickedness that have been depicted in this book. No more room for Satan and his demons. No more place for Antichrist; or for the beast, and false prophet. No more tolerance for evil and error. No more scope for misrule and disorder; no more conflict, and darkness, and tempest. All is perfection—the perfection of God and of the Lamb; not simply a perfect and glorious heaven, but a perfect and glorious earth.

I. The removal of the curse.Many are the curses that have lighted upon earth—the original curse, with all the many curses that have flowed out of the first sin. It is true that there is no curse pronounced against the man, or the woman, or their race. That would have been inconsistent with the revelation of divine grace. It would have rendered unintelligible the love of God just announced. The curse is on the ground, and on the serpent; and this, though not directly aimed at man, affects man and his whole race. The curse has come in like a pestilence upon earth; and man must breathe the poisoned air.

All this is now reversed; the sentence is cancelled; the curse is exchanged for blessing. The cursed one is cast out of air and earth, into the bottomless pit. The atmosphere is purged. The sun scorches not by day, nor the moon by night. Thorns and thistles disappear. Fertility is restored to earth. The wolf lies down with the lamb, and the leopard with the lamb; and there is nothing found to hurt nor to destroy in the holy mountain of the Lord. There is the new earth wherein dwells righteousness.

II. The eternal throne.Here is the setting up of the throne. In the King’s absence all things have fallen into disorder; while the presence of a hostile claimant or usurper has intensified the evil and increased the confusion. But now the usurper has been dethroned, and the true monarch comes in. ’The throne of God and of the Lamb are in it.’ The new Jerusalem has come down out of heaven from God. The great kingdom has come. It is not only the kingdom of God, but of the Lamb. He is King forever. He is the center of the universe; head of all things in heaven and earth; the second Adam, who with His redeemed bride the Church is to reign forever and ever. This earth shall be honored in being made the seat of His eternal throne. It is no longer to be said, ’Earth is His footstool;’ but the throne is to be in it; and its rulers are to be those who claim kindred with its once cursed soil. O matchless honor conferred on earth and on it sons! O exceeding riches of grace! Where sin has abounded, grace much more abounds!

III. The eternal service.’His servants shall serve Him.’ They serve him day and night in His temple’ (Revelation 7:15). The words ’shall serve’ are here used in reference to religious service, the worship of God (Matthew 5:10; Philippians 3:3; Hebrews 9:14). There the throne and the temple are one; those who serve in the kingdom, serve in the temple too. They are kings and priests unto God. It is priestly royal service to which they are called. And as the throne and the temple are one, so are ’God and the Lamb,’ whether this means ’the Father and the Son,’ or ’He who is both God and the Lamb.’ It is not ’their servants shall serve them;’ but His servants shall serve Him. It is to this high service that the redeemed are called—eternal service, in the city and palace and temple of God and the Lamb!

IV. The eternal vision.’They shall see His face.’ Those who ’saw the king’s face’ (Esther 1:14) were ’the first in the kingdom;’ the nobles of the nobility, who stood nearest the king. It was blessedness, it was pre-eminence, it was honor. ’Blessed are the pure in heart—for they shall see God’ (Matthew 5:8). ’I will behold Your face in righteousness’ (Psalms 17:15). Not in a glass darkly, but face to face; not afar off, but near; not with cloud or veil between, but unclouded and unveiled—they shall see the face that is most glorious to behold. ’Your eyes shall see the King in His beauty’ (Isaiah 33:17). They shall be employed in that worship and service which is the most honorable of all. They shall occupy the innermost circle of the universe; for they are the redeemed from among men. And then shall that word ’brought near through the blood of Christ’ be no figure, but an eternal and glorious reality. ’You set me before Your face forever (Psalms 41:12).

V. The eternal inscription.’His name shall be in their foreheads.’ The one name of God and the Lamb shall be engraved—not on their ’vesture or thigh,’ not on the palms of their hands, but on the forehead—visible, conspicuous, glorious, never to be erased; engraved by no earthly Bezalel, upon earthly gold or gems—but upon foreheads which have been washed in blood, and smoothed from every wrinkle and stain by the hand of Him who redeemed them for Himself. Jehovah’s name, written by Himself, on our foreheads—how great the honor and the blessedness! (Revelation 3:12).

VI. The eternal day.This is stated ’negatively’—no night, no need of lamp nor of the sun! (Isaiah 60:19). Here on earth, night alternates with day; here we must either have lamp or sunlight because of the darkness. Not so there. All is day—day without night; light without darkness. No night! nor any of the things that make night so dreaded and dreary—no pain, nor sickness, nor weariness, nor tossing to and fro, nor danger, nor enemy, nor storm. All these have passed away with the night, out of whose bosom they came. Everlasting day! Everlasting light! Everlasting spring!

VII. The eternal Sun.’The Lord God gives them light.’ The Lord God is a Sun even here. He is in every sense to be our Sun hereafter, superseding all other suns and lights. ’The Lord shall be their everlasting light.’ ’The Lamb is the lamp thereof.’ The light of heaven and earth, of all things material, and all things spiritual—is to come from the face of Jehovah Himself—the one sun of the universe, the one sun of the soul! Then shall we know, as we have never done before, the meaning of the words, ’I am the Light of the world.’ ’The day shall break, and the shadows flee away.’ All that we have hitherto known of light, outward or inward, material or immaterial—shall be as nothing to the effulgence of that eternal day.

VIII. The eternal reign.’They shall reign forever and ever!’ It is not merely everlasting life, but an everlasting kingdom, that is in store for us. It is dominion, and glory, and honor, such as that which belongs to Him who has redeemed us by His blood, and made us God’s kings and priests. From the lowest depths we are taken to the highest heights; from the degradation of bondage to the liberty of the sons of God—the inheritance of the saints in light. And of this kingdom there shall be no end. Christ does not deliver up the kingdom in the sense of parting with it, but in the sense of presenting it complete and glorious (1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22). Our reign is like Christ’s—an eternal reign.

A bright future is this for everyone who has received the testimony of the Father to His beloved Son; for on our reception of that testimony does our right to that kingdom depend. That future is meant to impact upon our present—and that in many ways. It is so lovely a prospect that it cannot fail to influence us now.

(1.) It purifies us—For all in it is pure and perfect. We gaze into its glorious vista, and take on its perfection and purity. Like light, it transforms each object on which it rests into a brilliance like itself.

(2.) It invigorates—The prospect of an inheritance like this nerves us for conflict, and makes us invincible. It rouses us when called to the great battle of life with Satan and the world. It enlivens mightily.

(3.) It cheers—A hope like this lifts us out of depression, and bids us be of good cheer. The light will soon swallow up the darkness. The time is short. The glory will be enough to make up for all!

(4.) It comforts—We need more than cheering; for sorrow sometimes covers us with so thick a cloud that we cannot see through. It crushes us, and breaks us to pieces. It smites us to the dust. Then we get a glimpse of the glory beyond—and are comforted. After all, ours is ’light affliction,’ and ’but for a moment.’ It will soon be swallowed up in the eternal joy!

Our title to all this surpassing and eternal glory is simple the blood of the Lamb. He has bought it for His Church; and it is hers forever. The nightless day, the unsetting sun, the incorruptible life, the undefiled inheritance, the new name, the heavenly city, the everlasting kingdom—all are hers; hers through ’the blood of the everlasting covenant.’ She is to walk worthy of it here—worthy of such a crown, such a heritage, such a city, such a Bridegroom, such a joy. ’Be holy;’ ’be perfect;’ ’walk worthy of the Lord.’

The entrance stands ever open, and each one is invited to go in. ’All things are ready.’ You dwellers in the highways and hedges—go in. There is the marriage hall, and the marriage feast, and the loving welcome of the Master—go in.

’He who believes’ enters in. We go in when we credit the divine record concerning the Son of God, and concerning the eternal life that there is in Him, for the dead in sin. It is not working, nor buying, nor waiting—but believing—which secures this eternal kingdom. Believe, and enter! Believe, and be blessed!

The Vision of God.

Revelation 22:4.

It is the new Jerusalem that John is describing—the city of glory; the home of light; the metropolis of the universe; the palace of Jehovah, where is the throne of God and of the Lamb. No sin there; no curse; no night; no death; no tears; no sorrow. There is the tree of life; the river of the water of life; the never-closed gates; the never-fading beauty; the never-setting sun. But of all the happiness and honor that fill that city of glory, this is the sum, and the center, and the overflow—’They shall see His face.’ Let us ask—

I. Whose face?It is the face of God; and that face is Jesus, the Word made flesh; the brightness of His glory, and express image of His person—for we know that the light of the glory of God is in the face of Jesus Christ. On the transfiguration ’His face did shine as the sun!’ (Matthew 17:2). And that face is at once the face of the Son of man and the face of the Son of God; fairer than the children of men; the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. It is the face of majesty, yet the face of love; the face of a king—no, the face of the King of kings! There is no other face like it in earth or heaven—in all the vast universe of God—so bright, so lovely, so perfect, so glorious, so divine.

II. Who shall see it?His servants. ’This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.’ ’Blessed are the pure in heart—for they shall see God.’ ’Your eyes shall see the King in His beauty.’ They of whom it is written, ’If any man serves me, let him follow me;’ and ’where I am, there shall also my servant be;’ ’if any man serves me, him will my Father honor.’ It is only those who are admitted within the resplendent walls of that holy city, who shall see His face. From all who are shut out, that face is forever hidden. They are called ’servants’ here, yet are they sons, kings, joint-heirs with Christ! As He is a servant, so are they; servants, yet sons and friends; and the name of servant is one of honor and dignity.

III. What is it to see His face?This is explained by Psalms 41:12, ’You set me before Your face forever;’ and by Esther 1:14, ’The seven princes which saw the king’s face, and which sat first in the kingdom;’ and by 2 Kings 25:19, ’Five men of them which were in the king’s presence,’ lit. ’which saw the king’s face.’ In this, then, there is implied:

(1.) Nearness—These servants form the inner, no the innermost, circle of heaven. They stand nearest to God, ’always beholding the face of their Father in heaven.’ There is no nearness like this; even that of angels is distance when compared with it.

(2.) Blessedness—The nearest of the disciples was the most blessed, the disciple whom Jesus loved. The nearest to Him in heaven will the most blessed. For nearness is blessedness; and seeing Him face to face is the perfection of joy.

(3.) Honor—To see the king’s face was the great earthly honor; so is it the greatest heavenly honor. Those who see it nearest and most often are the most honored; they are those whom the King delights to honor—His nobles, His princes, His sons, more—His bride. Theirs is the place of honor.

(4.) Power—Those who see the King’s face are His counselors, His vice-regents, the doers of His will. They are invested with His authority, and go forth to exercise His dominion. ’Power over the nations’ (Revelation 2:26); ’Dominion over ten cities’ (Luke 19:17). This power belongs to the redeemed. Christ’s throne is theirs; His crown, His scepter, His kingdom—all these universal—for ’he who overcomes shall inherit all things.’

This seeing of the face of God and His Christ will be:

(1.) Eternal—It cannot end. It is an everlasting vision; and therefore an everlasting nearness, blessedness, honor, and power. No lapse of ages can cloud the vision, or dim the eye that sees it. The vision and the joy are alike forever.

(2.) Unchangeable—No interruption; no eclipse; no cloud; no darkness; no setting; no dimness of eye; no unbelief; no distance! The glory cannot change. No intervention for the world; no faintness on our part; no veil drawn by Satan; no old age or failing faculties; no distraction from other objects; no discomposure from cares or sorrows; no unsteadiness of sight; none for these can diminish the vision. It is as perpetual as it is perfect and divine.

Learn from this hope such lessons as these:

(1.) Live a joyful life—May not a prospect such as this make a man joyful? Should not the very hope of it make his countenance to shine?

(2.) Be strong for toil—Let this hope nerve us for labor, and animate our zeal. Let it rouse us out of sloth, and make us grudge nothing, either of labor or sacrifice. Toil on; fight on; spend and be spent.

(3.) Be comforted under trial—The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. The vision of the face of God will more than make up for all.

And it may be soon! He will not tarry. The Lord is at hand. The new Jerusalem is coming. The glory will soon be revealed. The time is short. A few years, perhaps less, and we shall see His face—and share His glory!

Verse 14

Entrance Into The City.

Revelation 22:14.

The last three chapters of Revelation correspond with the first three of Genesis. Creation—and new creation; the Paradise of man—and the Paradise of God; Paradise lost—Paradise regained; man expelled—man brought back. This fourteenth verse fits in with the twenty-fourth verse of the third of Genesis. Let us look at its parts.

I. The CITY.It is the new Jerusalem. At the first creation there was no city—only a garden with one man in it; now there is a city in the midst of the garden, and the citizens are the multitude that no man can number. It is a glorious city; well-built, well-watered, well-founded, well-paved, well-lighted—altogether perfect! ’God has prepared for them a city’—a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

II. The GATES.These gates are twelve; each one a pearl; gates for redeemed men to enter by; gates never shut; gates for both men and angels; gates which lead into the palace of the King, through which the sons of the second Adam can enter into the new Jerusalem. They are made by God’s own hand. They are the everlasting gates or doors sung of by David, at which the King of glory enters. They are the gates through which there is the ’abundant entrance’ into the everlasting kingdom. No longer ’narrow’, but wide; not painful to pass through, but pleasant and glorious. Divine gates, for a divine city, in the midst of which there is the palace of the King.

III. The TREE.It is the tree of life, spoken of in Genesis, and also specially noted in the promise to the Church of Ephesus. It is the life-giving tree—not only now in the midst of the earthly Paradise, but the Paradise of God; nor only in the midst of Paradise, but in the midst of the city—for Jerusalem and Paradise are now one. The tree, which no doubt symbolizes Christ Himself (as does the water of life), is doubtless a real tree; only more heavenly, more spiritual, than that which grows on earth. The tree is laden with fruit; it has twelve kinds of fruit; it has a monthly harvest; its leaves are for the healing of the nations. As there is the bread of life, and the hidden manna, so is there also this tree of life—this true plant of renown.

IV. The BLESSED ONES.It is God who calls them blessed, and they must be so whom He calls by such a name. Throughout this book this word occurs several times. ’Blessed is he who reads;’ ’blessed is he who watches;’ ’blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.’ In our text let us notice three points of BLESSEDNESS.

(1.) They keep His commandments.This carries us back to the 119th Psalm, and reminds us of the blessedness in which David rejoiced. In keeping of these commandments there is great reward, and great peace. We are called and forgiven, that we may keep these. It is to a life of such keeping that we are called. By such a life, we partake of blessedness as well as glorify God. We are redeemed that we may be holy—that we may walk in the commandments of the Lord our God and delight in His law after the inner man. This delight is blessedness. Thus one of the names of a Christian is a ’keeper of the commandments of God’.

(2.) They have a right to the tree of life.Not by merit, only by grace—yet still a right; something which they can claim. The reception of pardon is simply in believing; but the reward is the result of good works. This statement as to keeping the commandments and its fruits, is no more inconsistent with a free salvation than such an expression, ’Holiness, without which no man can see the Lord;’ nor with our Lord’s ’Beatitudes,’ each of which gives expression and forfeiture reversed, and we introduced into the better Paradise, with the conscious certainty that we cannot fail or be driven out! No flaming sword to guard the way! All open and free! To feed on that tree forever; and in feeding find ourselves nourished and invigorated in every faculty! No death, nor disease, nor weakness, nor weariness, in sight of such a tree as this! All life and health forever!

(3.) They shall enter in through the gates into the city.They are blessed in a threefold way, as doers of the commandments, as partakers of the tree of life, as triumphant conquerors, entering in procession through the gates into the city.

(a.) The city is their city—Its name is the new Jerusalem. It is not for angels, but for men. God has built it for them; and so He is not ashamed to be called their God. The ’fire’ into which the unrighteous are cast is not prepared for these redeemed ones. Their citizenship is in heaven, though they shall not enter it until their Lord returns as the King of glory. As Paradise was Adam’s garden, so is the new Jerusalem their own city.

(b.) They shall enter through the gates into it—Not over the wall; not by stealth; but as conquerors in triumphal procession, their Lord, as King of glory, at their head. They are the conquerors so often mentioned in this book; and they shall be seen as such in the day of their entrance.

(c.) They shall possess it forever—This is evidently implied. Eternal possession! They shall go out no more. They are citizens of a magnificent city—a joyous city. They shall not be driven out. They, as the true cherubim, shall occupy the true Paradise, in which not only shall the tree of life be assessable, but the tree of knowledge shall be no more forbidden.

Verse 17

Come, O Savior! Come, O Sinner!

Revelation 22:17.

The speaker here is Jesus Himself, as the context shows. But who is the one spoken to? Is it one person or more than one? Is it the sinner that is addressed (as most think)? or is it first Christ and then the sinner? The last is the truth. The verse is twofold. In the first part, Christ is addressed; in the second, the sinner—though the word ’come’ runs through the whole. ’The Spirit and the bride say, Come! and let him who hears say, Come!’ are words addressed to Christ, pleading for His advent. ’Let him who is athirst come! and whoever will, let him take the water of life freely!’ are the words of invitation from Jesus to the sinner.

I. The cry for Christ’s coming.It is this advent that is the great theme of the Apocalypse, and the central object of its scenes. It opens with, ’Behold, He comes;’ it goes on with, ’Behold I come as a thief;’ and it ends with, ’Behold, I come quickly.’ All the predictions throughout the book bear upon this event, and carry forward the Church’s hopes to this great goal. But there are three parties here represented as uttering this prayer—

(1.) The Spirit.He cries, ’Come.’ He who has been speaking to the Churches; who has inspired all the predictions relating to the event—He Himself is brought in personally as breathing the desires which He has dictated. He has sympathized with them all; and those longings which He had put into the lips of others, now come forth from His own. ’The Spirit says, Come.’ What so interests the Spirit in the advent?

(a.) Christ will then be fully glorified, and it is the Spirit’s office to glorify Christ. He has not yet got His glory on earth at all, nor even His full glory in heaven.

(b.) Then the whole earth will be converted, and the Spirit will get full scope to all His longings and yearnings over men. He shall no longer strive, but prevail. He shall no longer be vexed, and grieved, and quenched. No wonder that He cries, ’Come!’

(2.) The Bride.The Lamb’s wife, the whole Church as a body, as a virgin betrothed, looking for the marriage day. In one sense an injured widow, in another the bride. She expects the marriage; the union, the fellowship, the blessedness, the glory; the ending of loneliness and weariness, of sorrow and shame. No wonder, then, that she sighs for the Bridegroom’s arrival, ’Come!’

(3.) He who hears.’Blessed is he who hears.’ Not as if the hearer was not part of the bride; but the word thus singles out each one on whose ears the message is falling. The moment you hear it, you should cry, "Come! Come, Lord Jesus! For then our sins and sorrows are ended; then our victory is won; then this vile body is changed; then we meet and unite forever with the loved and lost; then shall the ransomed of the Lord return, and come to Zion with songs." Let this, then, be the theme of our morning and evening cry, Come! as we read of wars, and blood, and human passion, cry louder and louder, Come!

II. The invitation to the sinner.In this latter part it is clearly the sinner that is spoken to—’Let him who is athirst come; and whoever will.’

(1.) The inviter—Christ Himself; the same who said, ’Come unto me.’ He invited once on earth; He now invites from heaven with the same urgency and love. He speaks to us with His own lips; He would have us know that He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever; that He still receives sinners; that there is still joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.

(2.) The persons invited—They are first described as the ’thirsty’; but lest this should be supposed to narrow the message or to exclude any class of men, it is added, ’whoever will.’

1. The thirsty—Those who would gladly be happy, but know not how; who are seeking rest, but finding none; who are asking for good, ’any good,’ anywhere; who are hewing out broken cisterns; who are betaking themselves to dried-up wells; who are drinking of the Dead Sea’s bitter water. ’Ho, every one who thirsts! (Isaiah 55:1; John 4:10, John 7:37).

2. Whoever will—This is a wide enough description. It shuts out none; it names every one. Are you in quest of water for your soul? It is here. Do you want to be happy? Joy is here for you—whoever and whatever you are.

(3.) The blessings invited to—The water of life. ’Water,’ that which will thoroughly refresh you and quench your thirst; ’water of life,’ living and life giving; a quickening well; a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. Not a shower, nor a stream, but a well—a fountain (Revelation 21:6). This water is the Holy Spirit Himself, who comes to us as the bringer of God’s free love, with all the joy which that love introduces into the soul. His wrath withers up the soul, His free love revives it, like rain upon the mown grass. His condemnation carries death, and gloom, and bondage; but His forgiveness reverses all this. What is there that this free love of God does not contain?

(4.) The price—Freely! without money; so that the poorest can have all they need. The free gift of God! Free as the rain and dew; free as the sunbeam; free as the reviving air around. Absolutely, unconditionally free! Free to each one as he is—though the chief of sinners, the emptiest, wickedest, thirstiest of sons of men.

(5.) The time—The invitation comes forth at the close of that book which sums up all revelation. It contains Christ’s last words, meant specially for the last days of a weary, thirsty world; when men, having tried every pleasure, vanity, lust, folly, and found nothing, having exhausted every cup and broken every cistern, will be found more thoroughly weary and thirsty than before. The last generation of earth, as it will be the wickedest, so will it be the thirstiest of all. Just when human thirst is at its height, when the gates are about to close, when the last trumpet is about to sound, the message of free love to the sinner comes forth, in greatest largeness, in undiminished fullness. It is no feeble, no fettered gospel—no dried-up well!

Verses 18-19

The Divine Word, and the Doom of its Defacers.

Revelation 22:18-19.

This warning in reference to the Book of Revelation is applicable to all Scripture, and carries us back to Deuteronomy 4:2and 12:32. ’You shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish from it.’

It is given in the form of a testimony—from the faithful and true witness, to show its importance, and its truth. To everyone who hears that testimony the warning comes. How great the responsibility of those who have the Bible in their hands! How solemnly they should look on it, and listen to it, and handle it! In this testimony, then there is declared to us—

I. The perfection of God’s word.Man may not meddle with it—either to add, or to take away. He may meddle with his own words, or doings, or plans—to alter, to correct, to complete—but not with what is divine. The words and things of God are not for him to touch. They are perfect; perfect for the ends required; perfect for God’s purpose in speaking them to man. Can man improve the works of God? the mountains, rivers, flowers? the blue sky, the stars, the sun? Even so is the word of God too perfect for him to touch.

II. The honor God puts on it.He has magnified it, even above His works; so that he who disparages the word of God is more guilty than he who disparages the works of God. Whether we see its perfection is not the question. We may be blind to it; but whether blind or seeing, God expects honor at our hands for His word. It is the fullest expression of His mind, the completest revelation of His character. It is such a declaration of the name of God as can be found nowhere else.

III. Our responsibilities in regard to it.It is not given us for mere speculation or gratification; but for something far higher. We are responsible for the way we treat it, study it, profit by it. Its perfection makes our responsibility very great, and appeals to our consciences most powerfully. Were it not so perfect, we might deal with it as we deal with a human volume; were it not divine, we might forego the honor to it of which we speak. Hence the modern dislike to the idea of a perfect Bible; because the pressure upon the conscience is felt to be so solemn and so overpowering, with no possibility of evasion or escape. Definite Bible doctrine, the age hates, as trammeling its freedom—specially doctrine defined by a divine revelation.

IV. The sin of tampering with it.In regard to many of the things of God, the idea is, that while it is a misfortune to be in error, there is no sin in it. No sin in differing from God! No sin in trifling with His truth, or denying it! No sin in undervaluing His revelation! The sin of tampering with the Bible is one of which man is not easily persuaded; yet in the reckoning of God it is real and great. Every low thought about the Bible is sin. Every attempt to touch it, either in the way of addition or subtraction, is sin.

V. The danger of meddling with it.The danger is exceeding great; and the punishment awarded to the meddlers is the declaration of the danger. God will not be mocked in this!

There are two opposite ways in which men treat the Bible—to add or to take away; and both these our text condemns in the most fearful way.

(1.) The doom of those who ADD.’God shall add unto them the plagues written in this book.’ Those plagues are very fearful. Read the plagues of the seals, the trumpets, the vials. Are they not fearful? They are for this life, as well as for that which is to come. The very mention of them is appalling. Who in our day credits such things, or believes that God will execute such terrible vengeance upon all such as add to His word! The Pharisees added to it; the Romanists add to it; and we ourselves often add to it, by the way in which we enter on its perusal with unteachable hearts, with preconceived opinions, which would make the obvious meanings of the word give way before them. Let us tremble at the word! Add not unto His word, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar. God adds His plagues to the adders of His book!

(2.) The doom of those who TAKE AWAY from it.This is especially the sin of our age. We sit in judgment upon its verities; we tamper with its certainty; we trifle with its words. We take from it; we render it null and void; we deny its authority; we object to its inspiration; we cut off what books we please! But let us not be deceived. God is not mocked. He also can take away—and He will! He will take away—

(a.) Our part of the book of life—effacing our names, and inserting them in the book of death!

(b.) Our part in the holy city. No holy city, no new Jerusalem—for the deniers of His word!

(c.) Our part from the things written in this book. These are many—the promises to the seven conquerors, the first resurrection, the marriage supper! How much we lose! What a condemnation is there for those who reject or mutilate the divine word!

Verse 21

The Free Love of Christ.

Revelation 22:21.

Thus the Bible closes with blessing. In this prayer we have the summing up of all the blessings which the word of God has uttered.

In the prospect of the Lord’s coming, and with His voice proclaiming, ’Surely I come quickly!’ the apostle breathes out the prayer, ’The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.’ It was sent to the seven Churches of Asia—it is sent to usin these last days. Nor do we need it less. It suited well the Church in the beginning of her history—it suits her as well at its close. The love which passes knowledge is contained in it—and in that love all that a sinner needs at first, as well as all that a saint needs to the last.

Grace abounding, grace reigning, grace conquering, grace justifying, grace comforting, grace purifying—such is the key to the history of the Church of God. It is the history of Christ’s free love, and of ’salvation to the uttermost,’ through that free love flowing down to earth. For everything pertaining to the sinner’s deliverance and eternal life comes down to us from God. Man is simply the receiver and the enjoyer of a love as boundless as it is unbought!

I. What is this grace of the Lord Jesus Christ?Free love! Divine favor, unbought, unsolicited, and undeserved! With this the Bible begins, and with this it ends. The free love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! This is the ’good news’ which the messengers of God have brought to us; the ’good news’ which the cross of Christ has made available and accessible; the ’good news’ which remains ’good’ to the last, unchanged and unweakened by the lapse of time. The gospel has not become a dried-up well or broken cistern. The free love of God, coming to us through His Son, has not been exhausted or made less free. In these last days, we can take up the old message of grace to the sinner, and sound it abroad as loudly and as freshly as at the first.

No delight in the death of the wicked! Delight in his turning from his ways and living! Yearning over the impenitent, tears for Jerusalem sinners, stretching out of the hand to the rebellious, invitation upon invitation to the weary; the open door, the universal call, the beseeching to be reconciled, the pressing of the cup of life to the lips of a thirsty world—all this, continued to the last, marks he unutterable compassion of God to the sinner, the riches of the divine grace, the boundless fullness of God’s heart, as it pours out its longings, and proclaims its long suffering to the chief of sinners. Return to your Father’s house, and be blessed! Come, and be forgiven! Look, and be saved! Touch, and be healed! Ask, and it shall be given!

II. How this grace has been shown.In many ways, but chiefly in the Cross. The words of Christ were grace—the doings of Christ were grace—but at the cross it came forth most fully. Grace all concentrates there—grace shines out there in its fullness. The cross is the place and pledge of grace. The cross did not make or originate the grace; but it made it a righteous thing that grace should flow out to us. It threw wide the gates of the storehouse; it unsealed the heavenly well. From the cross comes forth the voice of love, the message of grace, the embassy of peace and reconciliation. This grace flows everywhere throughout a guilty earth; but its center is the cross; and only in connection with the cross is it available for and accessible to us. The ’it is finished’ of Golgotha was the throwing down of the barriers that stood between the sinner and the grace.

The grace itself was uncreated and eternal; it did not originate in the purpose—but in the nature of God. Still its outflow to sinners was hemmed in by God’s righteousness; and until this was satisfied at the cross, the grace was like forbidden fruit to man. Divine displeasure against sin, and divine love of holiness, found their complete satisfaction at the altar of the cross—where the ’consuming fire’ devoured the great burnt-offering, and gave full vent to the pent-up stores of grace. The love of the Father, giving His son, was there. The love of the Holy Spirit, by whom a body was prepared for Him, and by whom ’He offered Himself without spot,’ was there. The cross is the great exhibition of the grace!

III. How we get this grace.Simply by taking it as it is, and as we are; by letting it flow into us; by believing God’s testimony concerning it. Grace supposes no preparation whatever in him who receives it, but that of worthlessness and guilt, whether these be felt or unfelt. The dryness of the ground is that which fits it for the rain; the poverty of the beggar is that which fits him for the alms; so the sin of the sinner is that which fits him for the grace of Christ. If anything else were needed, grace would be no more grace, but would become work or merit. Where sin abounds, there it is that grace much more abound. How many are shutting out the grace by trying to prepare themselves for it! Open your mouth wide and I will fill it, is all that God asks. Our thirst may be but the thirst for happiness; our hunger may be but the hunger of earth; our feelings may be altogether unspiritual; our sense of sin nothing—yet all this does not make us less qualified for Christ’s free love, or that free love less immediate or less bounteous in its flow. In the belief of God’s testimony to the grace of His Son, we let in the grace, and become partakers of the pardon and the joy.

IV. What grace does for us.It does so many things, that we find it not easy to reply to this question, any more than to such—What does the light do for us? What does the air do for us? It does for us exceeding abundantly, above all we ask or think.

(1.) It pardons—Forgiveness through the grace and work of Christ is the beginning of the good news. He who believes God’s record of the grace of Christ is forgiven.

(2.) It pacifies—It brings peace to the conscience. Not the grace without the blood—but still the grace that comes to us through the blood, pacifies.

(3.) It liberates—Dread of God’s anger kept us in bondage; the knowledge of the grace of Christ reaching us through the finished propitiation of the cross sets us free, by removing this dread.

(4.) It enlightens—With the grace there pours in light from Him who is the Light of the world. The grace dispels the darkness.

(5.) It strengthens—The sight of the free love brought to us by the blood invigorates the soul. Until we see it, our hands hang down, and our knees fail us.

(6.) It purifies—It is holy grace, holy love; and it carries its purifying power into the soul that receives it. The cross is the wondrous revelation of divine holiness—and the love which comes to us through the cross, is purifying love.

(7.) It comforts—Only such free love can sustain the soul in sorrow, or speak consolation, or bind up the wounds of the broken-hearted!

V. How long grace lasts.Forever! It has not end. Christ loves forever. His grace is unchangeable like Himself. Its fullness is inexhaustible. It will be a perpetual fountain throughout eternity. It does for the evil days here—and for the glorious days hereafter. It suits us on earth—it will suit us in the kingdom. There is grace that is to be brought to us, at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and in the ages to come God will show us the exceeding riches of His grace, in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus our Lord!

Bibliographical Information
Bonar, Horatius. "Commentary on Revelation 22". "Light & Truth: Bible Thoughts and Themes on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bch/revelation-22.html.
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