free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!
THE ABUNDANCE OF THE SYMBOLIC BLESSINGS IN THE SPIRITUAL NEW JERUSALEM
The first five verses of this the last chapter of Revelation are contextually joined to the last verses of the preceding chapter, to the section including verses ten to twenty-seven, as a continuation of the spiritual characteristics of the New Jerusalem. The text of the twenty-first chapter allows for the distinction between the constituent features of the descriptions of the city and the blessings that flow in it for its citizenry. The shift from the one to the other begins with verse ten of chapter twenty-one and continues through verse five of chapter twenty-two: hence, the break in the context of the two chapters.
It must be kept in mind that the term Jerusalem was employed metaphorically to represent the spiritual church in a state of triumph and glory. The ancient Jews regarded the tabernacle, the temple and Jerusalem itself, as having descended directly from God. But the inspired apostles of the New Testament, in correspondence with the old order, made the church of the new covenant the spiritual tabernacle ( Hebrews_9:1-28 :1-12 ) and temple ( 1Co_3:16 ) and city ( Heb_12:22 ). The noblest and highest emotion, and the most sacred and soothing and solacing sentiment, relating to the scriptural descriptions of the New Jerusalem have found expression in our melodious hymns of hope and praise and adoration.
Coming now to the last chapter of this miraculously marvellous apocalypse, before which we have stood with enthralled wonderment and amazement and awe, let us hear the Seer unfold the closing rapturous scenes.
BOOK OF REVELATION SECTION FIVE THE APOCALYPTIC EPILOGUE (CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: VERSES 6 TO 21) THE APOCALYPTIC EPILOGUE
THE COMPLETION AND CULMINATION OF APOCALYPTIC REVELATION
In the arrangement of this commentary the first and the second sections are a presentation of The Apocalyptic Preview, dealing with the scope of biblical visions; and The Visional Prologue, presenting an analysis of the messages to the seven churches as an approach to the Revelation proper. The third section is an exposition of The Vision Concerning The Conquering Christ; and the fourth section is the explanation of The Vision Concerning The Victorious Church.
The most significant events in all epochs of the world since the creation of mankind are connected with this dispensation marked as the fullness of time. ( Gal_4:4 ) It was the beginning of the era of the Lord and Saviour of man, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. The transition from the old covenant was eventuated by his birth, the cross, the ascension, Pentecost, Patmos, the fall of Jerusalem, and end of Judaism and the expansion of Christianity. The inevitable commanding conclusion is that all of these events culminated into the fulfillment of the long-continuing process comprehensive of the entire system of judgment and scheme of redemption--the completion and the end of all divine revelation. As it is biblically certain that the God of heaven in times of old descended, in the Old Testament metaphor, on the clouds of heaven to execute judgment on ancient wicked nations and cities ( Isa_13:1-22 ; Isa_19:1-25 ), so certainly did the Son of man come in the clouds with his angels of power to execute judgment on the once great city of Jerusalem, guilty of his blood and the blood of his saints and martyrs.
This triumphal administration of judgment has been wondrously portrayed in the scenes of the apocalypse, depicting the end of Judaism with the fall of Jerusalem; and the triumph of Christianity in the glory of the New Jerusalem, the church of the Lord of all glory. Before its march of advance the evil powers of paganism collapsed and the empire of heathenism crumbled. It was this display of divine judgment and supreme power that Israel’s Psalmist anticipated in the prophetic imagery of the second psalm: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, 0 ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
It does not require a detailed analysis to prove that this sublime psalm was a prophecy on the fall of heathendom by the establishment of the kingdom of Christ. It is notably significant that in Act_13:33 and in Heb_1:5 the apostles Peter and Paul applied this second psalm to the accession of Jesus Christ to the throne of his power in heaven. It can be observed without the stretch of imagination that the fulfillment of the apocalypse was connected with the language of the prophetic psalm.
THE CONFIRMATION OF THE VISION
The epilogue from verse six to the end of chapter twenty-two consists in a seven-point confirmation of its contents as a direct communication from God through Jesus Christ. In verses six and seven the angel verified the truthfulness of the words of the book; in verses eight and nine John added his own testimony to the witness of the angel, and to the fact of the direct communication between himself and the angel; in verses ten to fifteen the judicial admonitions in consequence of the apocalypses were recorded ; in verse sixteen the words of Jesus himself were employed to authenticate the visions; in verse seventeen the opportunity and obligation for the evangelization of all the world, as first announced by the Lord in the Great Commission and the Great Invitation ( Mat_28:18-20 ; Mat_11:28-30 ), were renewed; in verses eighteen to twenty the final warning against the diversion and perversion of God’s words were issued; and in verse twenty-one --the benediction of divine grace closed the book of Revelation with the inspired Seer’s amen.
(1) The river of life--22:1.
The symbols of flowing rivers and streams of water run through the entire body of the scriptures. Literally, for a source of supply and security a great city was situated on the river; and figuratively it was applied to the needs of the soul and the source of all spiritual blessing. The mention of the flowing stream was in the description of the garden of Eden in Gen_2:10 . When God planted the garden for the abode of the first pair it was said that “a river went out of Eden to water the garden”; and its waters were parted into four streams which formed the mighty rivers which compassed the later inhabited land and upon the banks of which great cities were built. The name of the first river was Pison “which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there was gold.” The second river was Gihon, which encompassed Ethiopia. The third river was Hiddekel, which bordered Syria; and the fourth river was the famed Euphrates which was called “the great river” ( Gen_15:18 ; Deu_1:7 ); and which formed the eastern boundary of the Promised Land ( Deu_11:24 ), and of David’s conquests ( 2Sa_8:3 -- 1Ch_18:1-3 ), and beside which the captive Jew wept in Babylon ( Psa_137:1 ). It was the river associated with the prophecies of Jeremiah (chapters 13:4-7; 46:2-10; 51:63) concerning the fortunes of Israel, and in the apocalypses of Revelation (chapters 9:14; 16:12) in connection with the events pertaining to the tribulation period of the church.
The beauty and blessing of the church was made the object of prophetic psalmody by the singer of Israel in the figurative cadence of Psa_46:1-11 : “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.” This sublime psalm blends into the visions of Revelation. The Psalmist identified this “city of God” by his reference to the holy place of the tabernacles--the old and the new tabernacles-and the holy place of the old was the type of the new. It was a thousand years before the establishment of the church that David swept the harp of psalm-prophecy and sang of this city of God. It was the new Zion, the new Jerusalem, His church of the new covenant, in which the river of divine love should perpetually flow; the streams whereof--the channels of his love--should distribute the benefits which make glad the people of God.
The breadth and length and depth and height of infinite love ( Eph_3:18 ) cannot be finitely comprehended, but in the symbolism of the New Jerusalem, with its ever widening and deepening stream, it flows through the church to bring blessings abundant.
The pure river of the New Jerusalem had no pollution. It was clear as crystal , without mingled elements to obscure its entrancing brightness. It proceeded out of the throne of God , its source was perennial and no force of man could stop its flow.
It was in the midst of the street, wh ere without respect of persons it was accessible all to drink of its water freely. It was symbolic of the fullness of life and salvation in which the redeemed shared with unhindered and unrestrained access.
(2) The tree of life--22:2.
The word tree in the text is in singular number, but it must of necessity be considered collectively for the verse reads: On either side of the river was there the tree of life. The phrase either side means each side, as in the crucifixion of Christ ( Joh_20:18 ) with the thieves, “on either side one.” It was evidently the collective use of the word tree, as it was of the street also of the great and grand city, described a streetway, or a passage system; otherwise there was a vision of traffic congestion in the New Jerusalem!
The tree of life was envisioned as bordering the banks of the river of life--on either side of it--affording to all inhabitants the source of perpetual spiritual blessings. It is not uncommon for a species of tree peculiar to a certain geography to be described in the singular term, but referring to its collective growth. The balsam tree of Gilead was not one tree but rather a kind that flourished in Gilead. So the reference to the tree of life on each side of the river of life was not intended to limit the picture to one tree, but rather to make known its kind --it was the tree of life, to be found only in the New Jerusalem. Its fruit was life-giving, and its balm was soul-healing. The concept adds to the force of these figures and enlarges the range of their truths.
The tree of life was further described as bearing twelve manner of fruits and its yield was every month. The numeral twelve in its use in chapter twenty-one was applied to the apostles, which must also be true here, to symbolize that apostolic teaching, or doctrine, was the allsufficient source of spiritual sustenance. The yielding of the fruit every month, or the whole twelve months of the year, indicated that there were no seasons in this fruit-bearing, no unyielding intervals--the spiritual supply was perrennial and perpetual.
The spiritual vision was extended in the description: the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. As there will be no imperfections in heaven, and consequently no need of healing there, here is another proof that this whole vision was the symbolic description of the church in the state of triumph and victory over the persecutions.
The healing of the nations meant the source of salvation for all of every tongue or clime or race of man. The prophet Jeremiah used a similar figure ( Jer_8:22 ) in reference to Israel: “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” The substance of the vision was that in the New Jerusalem, the church of the Redeemer and of the redeemed, there was an all-provident tree which produced the fruit of all spiritual blessings ( Eph_1:3 ), and which was the remedy for every ill or want ( 1Jn_1:7 ; Joh_2:1-25 : l-2) That balsam tree that grew only in the choice land of Gilead, which produced the balm known as balsamodendron Gileadense, was the similar and appropriate symbol of spiritual healing in the message of the prophet Jeremiah to the nation of Israel. This balm was highly esteemed for its healing properties ( Eze_27:17 ), and was once an important article of merchandise among the eastern people. The language of Jeremiah (chapter 8:22; 46:11;51:8) cannot be exceeded in eloquence and tenderness in the expression of disappointment that “the daughter of Zion,” the chosen people of God, should remain spiritually wounded and diseased, when there was healing balm of unfailing remedy within their reach. There could have been no finer figure of divine grace than the l eaves of the tree for the healing of the nations in the delineations of the New Jerusalem.
(3) The throne of God and of the Lamb--22:3.
The divine rule of God and of Christ together in the “kingdom of Christ and God” ( Eph_5:5 ) removed the penal judgment for sin from the inhabitants of the redeemed city-- and there shall be no more curse --that is, no more of anything that was accursed, no accursed person or thing should have a place in the Holy City. The curse of sin was removed by Jesus Christ. The apostle declared that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law ( Gal_3:13 ), being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” It was this death of ignominy on the cross, as declared in the following verse (14) that brought “the blessing of Abraham . . . on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” In the Holy City Jerusalem there should be no more curse of sin to the redeemed inhabitants.
There was also a dual meaning attached to this symbol of the curse. In the period of the tribulation there had been the edict for the worship of the emperor in bowing to the Caesar-image, and all who refused submission were placed under the imperial curse. Having come out of the tribulation, the persecutors cast into the brimstone lake, the victors over oppression were symbolized as delivered from the curse of the imperial edict. From this setting which remains always in the background of Revelation, and much of the time in the foreground, the progressive application was made to the spiritual state of the New Jerusalem church.
In the environment of the new state the constituency of the ransomed city should not only pay homage of worship to Him who was on the throne, but should also do service-- his servants shall serve him (verse 3). At the beginning of the Revelation (chapter 1:6) John said that Jesus Christ hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father in his church and kingdom here; and in chapter 5:10 the Seer said that this kingly and priestly character of the saints redeemed from persecution is further indication that the descriptions were of the church, and not of heaven. It is full harmony with the general teaching of the New Testament that Christians are priests in the church now ( 1Pe_2:5 ; 1Pe_2:9 ) and the church therefore is “a holy priesthood.”
(4) The mark of recognition and approval--22:4.
The citizenry should see his face in the sense of having the recognition and approval of the One whom they served. The face of the Lord was said to be against them that do evil ( 1Pe_3:12 ); and the wicked rulers of the nations ( Rev_6:16 ) implored the mountains and the rocks to fall upon them for a cover to hide them from the face of the One on the throne. But the righteous see his face in acceptable and approved service rendered to him. “Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies sake’ ( Psa_31:16 ); and, “Cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.” To see the face of God meant to bask under the smile of his approval. It therefore denoted the love and the favor of God. The receiving of his name in their foreheads- -and his name shall be in their foreheads --was the mark of submission and subservience to Christ the Lamb in contrast with the mark of the beast in the hand or on the foreheads of the devotees of emperor-worship, so frequently mentioned in the previous chapters of this Revelation.
The persecuting beast had “caused all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (chapter 13:16- 17); and, “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God” (chapter 14:9-10); but the victors “over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name” were among the throng standing on the sea of glass (chapter 15:2-3) singing “the song of Moses, the servant God, and the song of the Lamb; and it was this throng which had the name of the Father written in their foreheads” (chapter 15:2). So the name in the foreheads of chapter 22:4 was the symbolic designation that they were the servants of God.
(5) The reigning saints--22:5.
In repetition of previous statements in the context, verse five is a rephrasing of the words repeated: And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light. (See comments on chapter 21:3). The use of the word night has application to the darkness of the whole heathen world, as so used in other epistles ( 2Co_6:14-16 ), in contrast with the truth of the gospel ( Act_26:18 ) sent to all dark nations concerning which Jesus said to Saul: “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith in me.” The same Saul, after becoming the apostle of Christ to the world of heathen darkness, exhorted the Gentile church ( Eph_5:11-14 ) to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (heathenism), but rather reprove them . . . it is a shame to even speak of those things which are done in secret . . . for whatsoever doth make manifest is light . . . wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead (the state of darkness), and Christ shall give thee light.” So the words of the Seer in verse five of this chapter-- for the Lord God giveth them light --had specific reference to the absolute absence of any element of heathen darkness in the new and renovated state of the Holy City, the bride of the Lamb.
The apocalypse proper ended with this verse, as verse six was the beginning of the Seer’s own concluding comments on the vision which he had received. The apocalyptic descriptions were all completed, and the terse finale of the grand and majestic pageant was clothed in the crowning declaration: AND THEY SHALL REIGN FOREVER AND EVER.
The prophet Daniel foretold in the interpretation of king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream ( Dan_2:44 ) that in the days of the Roman kings the God of heaven would “set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed”; and he added in the words of the apocalypse that “it shall stand forever.” The prophet envisioned in this interpretation the rise and fall of Babylonia, Media and Persia, and Macedonia or Grecia, and clearly indicated the reign of the Caesar’s of the Roman empire as the fourth monarchy in the succession of kings. It was in the days of these kings, in fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, that Jesus made the announcement ( Mar_1:14-15 ) “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” In the record of Mat_4:17 it is stated that “from that time Jesus began to preach and to say: repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It was named the kingdom of God because “the God of heaven” set it up; but it was called the kingdom of heaven because of its spiritual character-- it was from heaven. The people of that day understood the meaning of the word kingdom; they had lived under no other form of government from the Babylonians to the Romans; but Jesus distinguished his kingdom from all others in origin and in nature when he named it the kingdom of heaven. Before Pontius Pilate ( Joh_18:36 ) he declared: Now is my kingdom not from hence. The phrase from hence means from here; it is here but it is not from here--because it is the kingdom of heaven, and therefore from heaven. And the word now, the first word of the sentence-- now is my kingdom not from hence-- meant that it would be established then, at that time, for Jesus had announced that the time is fulfilled.
References to the kingdom which Jesus Christ came to establish all point either forward or backward to the Day of Pentecost, of Acts the second chapter, as the time of its establishment. The prophecy of Dan_7:13-14 connected its beginning with the ascension of Christ to heaven when it was given him “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom”: and in description of the same ascension scenes by the apostle of Hebrews (chapter 1:8) he declared that it was done. The gospel of Mark (9:1) records the statement of Jesus that some standing in his presence should not “taste of death” (would not die) until this kingdom had come “with power--they would be the living witnesses to its establishment. After his ascension, in conversation with his future apostles, he made the explanation to them ( Act_1:8 ) that the coming of the kingdom would accompany the descent of the Spirit and the power, and it is a matter of gospel record ( Acts_2:1-47 :1-4 ) that the Spirit and the power were received on the Day of Pentecost. It follows therefore as an inescapable scriptural conclusion that the kingdom of God and Christ, otherwise designated the kingdom of heaven, came on that day of Acts the second chapter;; and that it was in fulfillment of the time prophecies of the Old Testament.
After Pentecost all references to the existence and presence of the kingdom pointed back to the second chapter of Acts, to the Day of Pentecost. The preaching of the kingdom was the subject of repeated references in the book of Acts; and in the epistles to the churches the members were told that they had been translated into it ( Col_1:13-14 ); and that the church to which they belonged is itself the kingdom of Christ and of God ( Eph_5:5 ); and that this kingdom had been received ( Heb_12:22-28 ) simultaneously with the church, and that it is the church.
Finally, the Seer of Revelation made his signatory to the churches ( Rev_1:9 ) in the words: “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” Therefore, when the apocalypse of John was composed the kingdom of Christ was a present existing thing, and John the apostle was in it with his companions in tribulation.
The high note with which the apocalypse ended (chapter 22:5)- -and they shall reign forever and ever --meant therefore-- in the light of the textual and contextual teaching, and precept upon precept from other portions of the Old and the New scriptures--that the victorious saints reigned with Christ in the kingdom which would stand forever here, and forever and ever hereafter. Entrance into it here is entrance into the church. ( Mat_16:18-20 ); and there will be no exit from it for the faithful hereafter ( 2Pe_1:11 ), for the eternal state is but an abundant entrance into an everlasting kingdom already received and possessed, which cannot be moved ( Heb_12:28 ); and of which heaven will be the final and abundant fruition of its glorified realm.
Here ended the vision of the New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb, the church of Christ. The remainder of the chapter is in the character of a conclusion to the apocalyptic disclosures. The complete symbolic picture of the fortunes of the church, standing on the threshold of the tribulation, had passed before John’s enraptured view, to the vindication of the cause for which they were soon to suffer. The ending of the vision demonstrated that the church cannot die, as the believer himself who lives in Jesus Christ never dies. ( Joh_11:26 ) The New Testament concept of the believer’s life in Christ minimizes death and magnifies the transition to where he is: “That where I am, there ye may be also” ( Joh_14:3 ) and, “for me to live is Christ (to preach), but to die is gain . . . and to be with Christ; which is far better.” ( Php_1:21-23 ) In this world death has no more dominion ( Rom_6:7-9 ) over the risen believer ( Col_3:1-4 ), whose affections have been set on the things above where Christ is enthroned with God; for he views this life as a pilgrimage and as a place of sojourning ( Heb_11:13 ), knowing that his abiding citizenship is in heaven. ( Php_3:20-21 )
The New Jerusalem was envisioned as the home of the saints; but it was not in heaven--it descended out of heaven from God; it was descriptive of the new surroundings of the church with Judaism removed and heathenism overcome.
The apocalypse completed, John proceeded to his concluding observations concerning things both retrospective and prospective which were related to this wonderful visional panorama.
(1) The confirmation of the testimony of the angel --22:6-11.
Verse 6: These sayings are faithful and true: the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
This is the verification of the truth of the whole apocalypse by John after the vision was ended. Here the epilogue corresponded with the prologue. It was the reiteration and the re-affirmation of chapter l:1-5. It corresponded to the introduction and reverted to the same theme. It was the claim of the authorship of the Revelation repeated in the expression I John in both chapter 1:8 and chapter 22:8. It was the seal of its being a revelation from God--John heard and saw these things. His epilogue was in verbal agreement with the prologue, and ends with the affirmation of direct communication with God and Jesus Christ.
1. These sayings are faithful and true. This unequivocal claim of integrity has parallel in the postulation of Hebrews_1:1-14 :1-2 , that the God who had spoken unto the fathers by the prophets had shown unto his servants these things by John, The same God who had inspired John and Revelation therefore possessed the same credentials of inspiration.
2. The things which must shortly be done. The verbal agreement with chapter 1:1 here emphasized that the things revealed were of high importance and attention to them was imperative because of the shortness of time. It again supports the main thesis of this treatise that the events belonged to this period of time.
Verse 7: Behold I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
Here again John reverted to the first chapter of the book in order to affirm the truth of what had there been said prior to the beginning of the vision.
1. Behold, I come quickly. At this point Jesus himself was not speaking, as when these words were first uttered by him; but John was here quoting the words of Jesus which had previously been spoken. Here the person sent was speaking for the Sender.
There are three keys words in the context: signify and shortly and quickly. These words were significant of the method of conveying the revelation through signs; and the time for the fulfillment was impending; and the coming of the Lord would be in relation to the events and concurrent with them. The three words together meant that everything relevant to the catastrophe and calamities predicted and depicted were about to come to pass. Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation --Jesus in Mat_23:36 .
2. Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. But the book had not yet been written, yet its message was imperative and the reading of it to his servants was urgent. The fact that this somewhat ominous statement was made in the first chapter and repeated in the last chapter, thus before and after the vision was received, accentuates the immediacy of its contents. Why the urgency of this command if the events were so remote as the future theory represents?
Verses 8-9: And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things.
John had been previously commanded not to worship the angel, but God only. (Chapter 19:10) It is inconceivable that he would disobey the order by doing so here. It has been explained that John was mistaken in the identity of the angel in this instance, believing him to be Jesus. But there is no such intimation in the context. John’s memory was not so short as to have forgotten, even under the overwhelming circumstances of an angel’s appearance, the so recent prohibition against the worship of the angel. To the contrary, a reappearance of the angel would have reminded him of the previous command. The obviously correct view therefore is that John was here restating what had previously occurred for a necessary emphasis, just as he had quoted the words of Jesus in verse 7.
In the restatement of what had occurred in the record of chapter 19:10, John added that the angel had said: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethen the prophets. This word of the angel links the apocalypse of John with those of the Old Testament, and as being of the same character, content and source; and of the same application as to their respective periods in their current history. A prophetic spiritual brotherhood had been displayed by the apocalypse, inspired by the same Spirit; even in the repeated use of the same words and phrases and the employment of the same symbols. The visions of the Old Testament prophets related to the judgments on Babylon and Egypt and to Israel’s deliverance from exile; and the visions of John in like manner pertained to the destruction of Jerusalem and the victory of the church over Judaism and heathenism. But the statement of the angel exalted John’s inspired credentials and authority as the author of Revelation to that of the prophets of the old dispensation.
The words of the angel further included them which keep the sayings of this book. This number included all to whom John had addressed the letters and this apocalypse and who were exhorted to read, heed and keep the things written in it. The angel classed himself as being among them all, therefore was not the object of their worship. It meant that no man or angel is to be revered or worshiped: worship God. The Son of God said to Satan, the head of the diabolical realm who was commanding his worship: “It is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
Verse 10: Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
The metaphor of sealing in respect to visions denoted secrecy, or that which was not ready to be disclosed. The prophet Daniel was instructed to “shut up the words, and seal the book” ( Dan_9:24 ; Dan_12:4 ; Dan_12:9 ) for the events prophesied were far distant and were not at hand nor shortly to come to pass; therefore the prophet was commanded to “seal up the vision”; and he was told that the words of it were “closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” So it was with the vision of John in chapter 10:4--the things which were not intended for disclosure he was commanded to seal up and write them not.
But in chapter 22:10 the angel enjoined John to seal not the contents of this book; and the reason was stated-- for the time is at hand. For comparison again, in Dan_8:26 , the prophet was directed to shut up the vision for it shall be many days; but in Rev_22:10 John was ordered to seal not . . . for the time is at hand. The time had come for the public announcement of the things enfolded in the seals and the trumpets-therefore, let it be known. This is the obvious distinction in the significance of the two commands in the phrases seal up and seal not up.
The use of the phrase the time is at hand before the visions were introduced, and in exactly the same words following so closely the order to seal not up the sayings of the vision, certainly implied with necessary inference the immediate importance of the visions; and it undeniably has the same import of immediacy as the announcement of Jesus ( Mar_1:15 ) that the kingdom of God is at hand. The uses of this phrase in several other passages bear the same meaning and are subject to the same application. The statement of Paul ( Rom_13:12 ) that “the night is far spent, the day is at hand” must be considered with his further statement ( Rom_16:20 ) that “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly, both of which declarations were the anticipations of the impending events.
To the Philippians ( Php_4:5 ) he said: The Lord is at hand; and Peter said ( 1Pe_4:7 ) that “the end of all things is at hand” -- that is, the end of the Jewish state and all things pertaining to it. To impart any other meaning to the phrase at hand in these passages, and apply them to the end of time, would amount to convicting the inspired apostles of contradictions and of teaching error on the second coming of the Lord, which was not at hand ( 2Th_2:2 )--for he did not so come, neither as yet has done so. And if at hand can be stretched to the end of time in these instances, it obliterates the meaning of the same expressions in reference to his kingdom. It adds up to one conclusion: the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the demolition of the temple and termination of the Jewish theocracy, together with the end of the Jewish state with its attendant tribulations, were the impending ominous events before the New Testament churches and the object of many references in the epistles of the apostles.
Admonishing the Jews of the Dispersion, James exhorted : “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” The Lord’s second coming was not nigh--it did not occur; so it is evident that the apostle’s monitory declaration referred to the imminent events envisioned in John’s apocalypse. ( Jam_4:7-8 )
Verse 11: He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, l e t him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
These admonitions were coupled with the warnings that the time was at hand; and the events being so near, so shortly to come to pass, no change in the characters of the wicked devotees of the imperial beast or of conditions in the heathen world could be expected; but all others were exhorted to maintain their state of righteousness and holiness, as the storm approached.
The words of this category of characters were significant. The unjust were the unbelievers in general; the filthy were those who were defiled by heathen practices; the righteous were the justified, who had obeyed the gospel; and the added term holy implied the maintaining of the life of separation from sin into which they had entered by justification. They had become righteous through justification by obedience to the gospel; they would remain holy by living apart from sin and its defilements.
The passage contains a judicial declaration upon the incorrigible heathen enemies and was indicative of the ultimate destiny where there can be no reformation; combined with an appeal to the righteous and the holy to pass through tribulation with washed robes and undefiled garments, for the threat of heathen influence would continue to be a reality, after the persecution itself had ceased. John had reverted to a pre-persecution exhortation based on what he had heard and seen in the vision; and he was obeying the command to seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book. The purpose of the admonition was to ready and steady them for the impending onslaught.
There is an extended and continuous application of the solemn words of verse eleven. When all of the events of time shall have transpired, and the judgments shall have descended and shall have been executed on all of the forces of evil; the conditions of men respectively shall have been unchangeably fixed for eternity. Here may be the proper application to the everlasting state of all people in the world that has no end. The basis of the apocalyptic warning is that eternal truth.
(2) The corroborative testimony of Jesus to that of John and of the angel--22:12-13.
Verse 12: And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
The imminence of the things envisioned was here reemphasized in the word quickly to the degree of having become repetitious, but for that precise purpose--the alerting of the saints in every part of the Roman world.
The reminder that my reward is with me was a dual pronouncement of threat and promise. There would be the execution of judgment on the characters represented by the beasts and their followers; and the bestowal of the trophies of victory and reward to the saints of the tribulation. This distribution of reward and retribution was announced in the words: to give every man according as his work shall be. Here again was the statement of an eternal principle with an everlasting application, the basis of which was in the fact as applied to the visional circumstances; but was nevertheless indicative of the truth couched in numerous epistolary references ( Rom_2:6-29 ; Rom_3:1-31 ; Rom_4:1-25 ; Rom_5:1-21 ; Rom_6:1-23 ; Rom_7:1-25 ; Rom_8:1-39 ; Rom_9:1-33 ; Rom_10:1-21 ; Rom_11:1-36 ; Rom_12:1-21 ; Rom_13:1-14 ; Rom_14:1-12 ; 1 Corinthians 3:8-- 5:10 )--that judgment by works is not subject to a single judicial decision, but is a continual process in the lives of men.
Verse 13: I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
The title of this verse, Alpha and Omega, belonged to Christ alone in this connection, and represented the finality of the sayings of the vision--the first and the last, the beginning and the end, were the words of his authority--the yea and the amen from which there could be no appeal and for which there could be no repeal.
The vision, as previous shown, had closed and these words of Christ were being quoted by John to corroborate and verify his post-vision sayings of this last chapter, and to vindicate all of the claims of credibility. The words of verse thirteen meant--so be it, all in all as here recorded, for it came from Christ the All In All of divine jurisprudence and justice.
(3) The seven apocalyptic beatitudes of the bride of the Lamb, the victorious church--22:14-16.
Verse 14: Blessed 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.
This beautiful beatitude was the last of a cluster of the blessed passages of Revelation, and it rises to the highest heights of the mountain ranges of the visions of the blessed in the descriptions of their trials. After the first pronouncement of blessing in chapter one, their contexts appear as a sort of parentheses in the subject matter of the visions.
There are seven of these beatitudes in Revelation, which deserve to be listed as a parenthesis here:
The first beatitude was the blessing for them that read, heard and kept the words of the Seer, because the time was so near--chapter 1:3.
The second was the benedictory for the future martyrs who should die in the cause of the Lord from henceforth-- chapter 14:13.
The third was in praise of the state of grace for those who were aware of the imminence of ominous events and who lived in sustained preparation to meet the crisis-- chapter 16: 15.
The fourth included the faithful saints who survived the persecutions and participated in the renewed and continuous fellowship of the victorious Bride in the marriage supper of the Lamb--chapter 19:9.
The fifth was the blessed state of victory shared by the martyrs who “lived and reigned with Christ” in complete victory, which was symbolized by elevating the souls under the altar (chapter 6) to positions on the throne (chapter 20) and which symbolized the resurrection of the cause for which they died, and therefore figuratively designated the first resurrection in which the enthroned souls had part --chapter 20: 6.
The sixth was exhortatory to all who had received the completed apocalypse, and maintained faithful adherence to all of the sayings embodied in the visions--chapter 22:7.
The seventh was the blessing of reward for all, after the scenes of persecution had been accomplished, and the trials of the tribulation were ended, who through obedience entered the opened gates into the city of the new Jerusalem, the redeemed Bride of the Lamb, the victorious church of Christ--chapter 22:14.
This high note of hope in the form of beatitudes permeated the apocalypse from the first chapter to the last, and the character of them adds to the accumulation of evidence that the visions of Revelation belonged to the tribulation period of the early churches.
Returning to the text of chapter 22:14, the important words do his commandments constitute an imperative command. The condition of entering this City of God, the church, was obedience to the gospel.
The revisions that have changed the phrase “do his commandments” to “wash their robes” have served only to weaken the text and obscure its meaning. It is a specific gospel text which should not be generalized by a tampering with its words, a thing that all of the late so-called revisions appear to be specializing in doing. The text is sublime as it reads and it means that the gospel must be obeyed.
The clause that they may have right to the tree of life meant the title to it. The word right does not here merely mean a right or privilege of entering the city--but indicates the title of inheritance. The one who enters “through the gates into the city” has right to the tree of life--to the inheritance of the life which is the fruit of the tree, as set forth in the comments on verse three of this chapter. It is an edifying concept of the source of spiritual life in the church of God and of Christ.
Verse 15: For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
These all were the aggregation of the enemies of Christ and the saints and the persecutors of the church and their followers. The characters of all who were without the city were in contrast with all who were within it. The expression without are dogs had the implication that all who were without were of that classification, a term of various connotations. It was descriptive of the evil and impious characters that inhabit the outside.
Among the Jews the dog was typical of that which was unclean and vile. The Mosaic law decreed that the hire of a harlot and the price of a dog were abominable to God and were not acceptable for the offerings and the vows of the law. ( Deu_23:18 ) Paul warned the Philippians to beware of the dogs ( Php_3:2 ) which meant the cautious avoidance of Gentile influence and affiliation. The Jews called the Gentiles dogs; but here the unbelieving Jews had so classified themselves and the term had boomeranged and fallen back upon them. Jesus said to his disciples; “Give not that which is holy to the dogs,” meaning that the pure principles of his teaching should not be compromised or mixed with the inferior philosophies and practices of the heathen world surrounding them. None of these evil things could enter the city of God--all dogs were without.
For comments on the terms sorcerers, whoremongers and liars turn to chapter 21:8,27. These were terms to designate heathenism and to define their practices; and these words of John constituted a pronouncement for the eternal exclusion of all classes which these evils represented, and of all who do not obey his commandments--the gospel which Jesus Christ had commissioned his ambassadors to preach to all the world.
Verse 16: I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
This passage is one of the pinnacles of John’s utterances in the book of Revelation, of which there had been many. It affirmed that He who had commissioned his angel to testify the things of the apocalypse was the rightful heir to the kingdom and throne of Judah’s sceptre as the legal and regal descendant of David. The statement forms an epexegetical insertion of a leading point for special emphasis--that is, an additional explanatory point, put or set in the text for extra accent; and in this instance the purpose was to focus the attention on who had spoken in the visions. He who was the Son of David according to flesh, the fulfillment of all Davidic prophecies and promises, was in these visions the Bright And Morning Star to herald the dawn for the persecuted church. In numerous other passages he was said to occupy the throne of David ( Act_2:29-33 ); and to bring the blessings and mercies of David ( Act_13:34 ); and to set up the tabernacle of David ( Act_15:13-17 ); and to hold the key of David ( Isa_22:22 - Rev_3:7 ).
All of the prophecies relating to David’s throne have been fulfilled in the ascendancy of Jesus Christ to the throne in heaven; from which throne He had been the Speaker of the apocalypse. As the Root and Offspring of David, he had spoken with a sovereign and royal authority above kings of the nations or the emperors of the imperial dynasty; the throne of David was greater than the throne of Caesar; and kingdom of heaven was superior to the dominions of any earthly government. He was the victorious Rider of the white horse and his Cause had triumphed. Christ was the Victor; the persecutors were the vanquished; and the saints of tribulation were the rewarded in the visions that had been concluded.
THE INVITATIONAL AND BENEDICTORY CONCLUSION
Verse 17: And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
As heretofore mentioned, these concluding admonitory words were the sayings of John himself, not of Jesus, in which he sounded the note of an unlimited invitation, but not an unconditional one. This seventeenth verse of the last chapter of Revelation has had a first place in gospel preaching for centuries. It has been proclaimed the high note of redemption and has been compared to ringing the bells of heaven. It was the call to all men to come to the river and the tree of life within the wonderful city of verse fourteen. The city was the New Jerusalem, which has been specifically and repeatedly designated the Lamb’s Bride--the church of Christ.
The Spirit which joined in this invitation was the One Spirit before the apocalyptic throne, from which the seven spirits of the vision had proceeded. Joined with the Spirit in this great invitation was the Bride, bidding all to come within her walls. And the Seer himself exhorted any one who heareth -- who had heard the Spirit and the Bride say, Come--to ring the bell and join the refrain by saying, Come. And all who would thereafter hear this book of Revelation read in the churches (1:3) should join the glad chorus and say, Come. All who were athirst, without the water of salvation, were entreated to come, to the river which flowed the thirst--quenching water of life, to drink of which one would never thirst again. ( Joh_4:14 ) And to make this gospel call all inclusive John said: whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Salvation full and free was offered to all, but within the sphere of salvation-- the church. And it was made conditional by in saying whosoever will, and in the accompanying word take. These words expressed conditions. They required that the will of man shall yield to the will of God in the doing of the commandments of verse fourteen. The phrase let him come implies that the gospel is persuasive, not coercive. No one can shoot the gospel into a sinner nor machine-gun Christianity into a heathen--but he that will, whosoever or wheresoever he may be, can come without hindrance or restraint.
Verses 18-19: If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
These verses were prefaced by the statement of John for I testify unto every man. The preposition for connects this verse with the preceding verse seventeen. It conveys the meaning: in view of which, or in consideration of which, or with reference to which--that is, the universal invitation brought forth a universal admonition, a caution and a warning: the fateful consequences of adding to or taking from the Word of God. Though the restriction in itself was limited to these things and this book, the other portions of the Word of God in the other epistles are not less important than the book of Revelation, and the injunction therefore applies with equal appeal and penalty to all of the inspired scriptures. It means that any alteration of them in any degree is criminal in the sight of God.
The same injunction was included in the Mosaic law ( Deu_4:2 ); and the principle was embodied in the apostolic epistles ( 1Co_4:6 - 2 John_9:1-41 ). The effect in its application of all scripture would be the same ( 2Ti_3:16-17 ) and the consequences therefore the same. An instance of the evil results of presumptuous men changing the truth was put into the record in the cases of Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus ( 1Ti_1:19-20 -- 2Ti_2:17-18 ); and the direful end of such presumption is damnation. ( Romans 1:22- 25-11 Thess. 2:8-12)
The consequences of such interpolation and deduction were the anathemas of the plagues and forfeiture of all portion in the book of life, the holy city, or the promised rewards. The names of all who would thus divert and pervert divine revelation would be erased from the registry of the citizens of the city of God.
Verse 20: He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Since John was here writing the epilogue to the apocalypse, and the vision had been completed, the reference to these words of Jesus was the quotation of what he had said to John in the vision. And the words, surely, I come quickly, were not in reference to the second coming of the Christ; but rather the promise to the churches in tribulation. He had so promised, and that repeatedly, to come in the events ready to occur; and the promise had been repeated to each of the seven churches in various forms. These events were shortly to take place and Jesus would therefore in keeping with his promise come quickly. John had testified that Jesus had so promised--and he consistently, believingly and confidently responded, Even so, come, Lord Jesus. And it is the recorded fact that their Lord Jesus did come in the events of that generation to which John belonged, the words of Jesus himself being true ( Matthew 23:36--24:34 --and He whose very name was THE FAITHFUL AND TRUE and THE WORD OF GOD (chapter 19;11-13) was the surety for their fulfillment at that time. The word amen meant so may it be; and even so meant, exactly in that manner. The word even connected with so meant “precisely,” and precise means minutely exact, not varying in the slightest degree from truth and accuracy; and so is an adverb of manner--therefore, the words amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus, meant “so may it be in this manner, come Lord Jesus.” This was the apostle’s six-word closing prayer to the Lord who had testified to him these things on the Aegean island.
Verse 21: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
They all to whom John addressed this benediction were standing on the threshold of all that had been envisioned and disclosed to John. They were the same events described in the words of Jesus ( Mat_24:21 ), “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be”- -and in a pathos which even the reader of his words can feel, the Seer of Patmos invoked the grace of Christ to be with them all. And to this benediction of grace, he added Amen.
Thus ends the greatest pageantry ever envisioned for disclosure to mortal man. Nineteen full centuries have faded into the pale nations of the past since John’s Amen, and there has been nothing in all history to replace the events of that generation to which this apocalypse belonged. The effort to stage the re-enactment of these scenes of Revelation is scripturally unexegetical and historically anachronistic. The continuous-historical theory is biblically non-scientific, not in the occult meaning of the word, but in the sense of its inconsistent exegetics. The future theory is non-historical because its whole thesis consists in anachronisms, the taking of events out of the period to which they belong and assigning them to the wrong periods of time, or errors in the order of time. As an end of the world theory this continuous-history view is non-philosophical in its millennial phases in that it presents a pessimistic concept requiring the same conditions of tribulation which surrounded the church in the Roman empire to be re-enacted, bringing back into existence the empires of heathenism necessary to fulfill the symbolic delineations of the apocalypse; and a further than that millennial contention that the gospel of the Great Commission is not competent for the conversion of the world and, therefore, this dispensation in a failure to accomplish the purpose of redemption must culminate in another earthly age called the millennium. And the future history theory is non-scriptural in its disharmony with the purposes and plan of redemption revealed throughout the New Testament. Withal, the future theory is little short of the nonsensical in the assertions necessary to bring it down through the dark ages, and is comparable to the efforts of the Roman Catholics to establish the calendar of popes from the apostle Peter to the present pope Paul; and of the Baptists to maintain their claim of an unbroken chain of church succession from John the Baptist. But from one generation to another the links fall out of both these Catholic and Protestant unhistorical chains; and the continuous-history theory of Revelation has never had a chain.
When the book of Revelation is placed where it belongs in the canon of all the other apostolic epistles, in proper chronology before the Destruction of Jerusalem; and as being an apocalyptic vision of the struggle and triumph of the Church with the existing power of Judaism and heathenism, its contents fall into complete harmony and all the parts fit--and when things fit it is a sort of prima facie evidence that they are in the right place.
In conclusion, the book of Revelation unrolls in a series of images the sublime panorama of the victory of the church over the great powers of Judaism and Romanism and Heathenism set to the theme of the promise and providence of God in the protection of his Cause and his Church, summed up in the initial divine assurance, I come quickly, and in the concluding human prayer of response, even so, come, Lord Jesus. It is between this beginning and ending that the visional message of the angels was communicated--the epistles to the seven churches signalling the approach of tribulation; the apocalypses of the conquering Christ and of the victorious church; and the vision of the glorious New Jerusalem--all of which were interspersed with lyric anthems and choral doxologies, which all together impart to the Patmos apocalypse its unique position as the apex of all revelation, and sufficient in itself to vindicate the claim of divine inspiration for all the Scriptures.
Finally, notwithstanding its apocalyptic character in reference to its historical period, and all of the obscurities which have given rise to the legion of speculations, it answers an important practical purpose--by implanting and increasing unwavering faith in the integrity of the Word of God; by engendering hope in the unfailing promises of God; by inducing patience in extreme suffering and sorrow; and by infixing implicit trust in him who is able to save to the uttermost all who believe in him, and come to him, and obey him.
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
Wallace, Foy E. "Commentary on Revelation 22". "Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany