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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Writings

Revelation 22

Verses 1-21

(Rev 22:1; Rev 22:2) We have seen that only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will enter the city. Now we learn the everlasting provision for the sustainment of the life. The life of believers is indeed eternal life, but none the less it is a dependent life; it is not life apart from Christ. "The river" and "the tree" are symbols that very blessedly bring Christ before our souls. Further, they speak of Christ in connection with "life," for the river is the "river of water of life," and the tree is "the tree of life." Christ is not only the fountain of life through whom we receive life, according to His own touching words, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely," but, as the river of life He is the One that sustains the life He gives. So the Apostle Paul can say, "Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal 2:20). The new life is sustained by Christ in all His wondrous love as the object before the soul. Alas! it may be but feebly that we keep our eyes on Christ, and thus feebly live the new life we have. In the day of glory the new life will be sustained and enjoyed to the full as, without let or hindrance, we shall have Christ before the soul and thus drink of the river of water of life. Thus we can say,

Oh, Christ! He is the fountain, Psa 147:3).

(Vv. 3-5) Looking back to the Garden of Eden we remember that the tree of life was there, and "a river went out of Eden to water the garden," and God came down to walk with man in that fair scene. Alas! man had sinned, and God could not dwell with man; the way of the tree of life was barred, and the curse was over all. Looking on we are permitted to see this vision of the church in glory, and find again the tree, and the river, and free to all, for there will be no more curse.Rev 22:6-21)

(Vv. 6, 7) In the closing verses of the Revelation we have not only the formal conclusion of the prophecy but the fitting conclusion of the whole Word of God. In many Scriptures the principle is asserted that "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (2Co 13:1). To strengthen faith, and rebuke unbelief, we have in these closing verses a threefold witness to "the sayings of the prophecy of this book." The angel says, "These sayings are faithful and true" (6); the apostle says, "I, John, saw these things and heard them" (8); the Lord, Himself, says, "I, Jesus, have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches" (16). How serious then to reject, or neglect, the sayings of this book. It means, not only indifference to angelic testimony and apostolic witness, but that the testimony of Jesus, Himself, is ignored.

If then it is so solemn to neglect the great truths of the Revelation, what, we may ask, will lead to the sayings of this book being treasured in the heart? The answer is plain. It is only as our souls are in the faith and enjoyment of the great truth of the coming of the Lord that we shall value the sayings of this prophecy. None will rightly interpret the Revelation unless they believe in, and cherish, the truth of the second coming of Christ. This great truth is the central fact of the Book of Revelation. The opening verses assert this truth, "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" (Rev 1:7). In the course of the book this great truth is again and again kept before us, and, finally, in these closing verses we have a threefold presentation of the Lord's coming (Rev 22:7; Rev 22:12; Rev 22:20). The Revelation unfolds to us events that will precede His coming; it instructs us as to the manner of His coming, and reveals to us the solemn and glorious events that will follow His coming. Cherishing the hope of His return, every event that precedes or follows His coming will have for us the deepest interest. Thus, in verse 7, the coming of Christ and the sayings of the prophecy are closely linked together.

(Vv. 8, 9) Further, in these concluding verses we see that the proper effect of these prophecies on the soul of the believer is to lead to a spirit of worship. Thus the Apostle says, "I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship." He had seen the Lord in His glory in the midst of the churches in ruin on earth, and he had seen the Lamb in the midst of the glorified saints in heaven. He had been carried into a wilderness to see the judgment of the great city Babylon, and he had been carried to a high mountain to see the glories of the holy city, Jerusalem. He had seen the judgment of the nations at the coming of Christ, and he had seen the judgment of the dead at the great white throne. He had looked into eternity and seen the new heaven and the new earth, where all tears will be wiped away, and there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying. He had heard heaven and earth join to celebrate the glories of the Lamb, and he heard all heaven rejoice at the marriage of the Lamb. Can we wonder then that, having seen such sights, and heard such sounds, he should fall down and worship? It is true that he worshipped at the feet of the wrong person, but he did the right thing. The object of worship must ever be, not the angelic messenger that tells us of these wondrous things, but the One who sends the messenger and who alone can bring these mighty events to pass. Thus the word of the angel is, "Worship God." Mat 6:2; Mat 6:5; Mat 6:16); but it is not Christ's reward, and it is a reward without Christ, for, says the Lord, "My reward is with Me." To enjoy Christ's reward we must wait Christ's return. What an encouragement to quietly continue in the Lord's service, in obscurity, it may be, and unknown by men, and possibly little appreciated by the people of God. Nevertheless, all is under the eye of the Lord. He knows, He will not forget, and when He comes every little act for Him, every little sacrifice for Him, every cup of cold water given for His Name's sake, will have its bright reward; but it will be "with Him."

As ever, in Scripture, the reward is set before us, not as an object, but as encouragement to endure in the midst of suffering and opposition. When the Lord was here there were those who followed Him for the loaves and fishes; but in the same chapter we read, they "went back and walked no more with Him" (Joh 6:26; Joh 6:66). It is Christ alone that can hold our affections and become the object of all true service. As one has said, "Rewards will follow by and by, but saints follow not the rewards but the Lord."

Further, we are reminded of the glories of the One who is coming, and that we seek to follow and serve. He is One who can say, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." As the Alpha and Omega He is the Word - the One who is the full revelation of God. As "the beginning and the end," He is the Creator by whom "all things were made," who can dissolve the things that He has made, and bring in the "new heavens and a new earth." As "the first and the last" He is the eternal God before all created things. So the Lord can say through Isaiah, "I am the first and I am the last, and beside me there is no God" (Isa 44:6).

(Vv. 14, 15) If, however, every work for the Lord's sake will have its reward, we are reminded that no works that we have done will give any right to the tree of life or entrance into the holy city. To be within the circle of eternal blessing, to enjoy Christ as the tree of life in life's eternal home, the soul must be washed in the blood of the Lamb. Thus the angel can say, "Blessed are they that wash their robes" (N. Tr.). Job 14:7-9). Israel has indeed failed; the tree has been windswept and tempest-torn amongst the nations, but the root remains, and hence Israel will again bud and bring forth branches. So Scripture can speak of the sure mercies of David, for Christ is the root of David.

Secondly, Jesus is also "the offspring of David." If He is the source of all as Root, He is the inheritor of all as the Offspring. He is of the royal line and, as the Son of David, He is God's King to establish God's kingdom. The heathen may rage and the people imagine a vain thing. To-day we see that in their folly the powers of this world think that they can get rid of God, and God's King, and thus seize the inheritance of this world and set up a kingdom in which man can gratify his own lusts without any restraint from God. To this evil end they may set themselves and take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed. Nevertheless God can say, "Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." Men nail Jesus to a cross, God sets Jesus as the King of kings upon the throne, and all who will not submit to God's King will "perish from the way" (Ps. 2).

Thirdly, Jesus is "the bright and morning star." As such He is presented in relation to the church. Others will know Him in all His kingly glory as the root and offspring of David; the world will know Him as the Sun of righteousness that will arise to chase the darkness away, and bring healing to this sorrow-stricken world, but only the church will know Him as "the bright and morning star." When the sun shines the stars cannot be seen. He has not yet arisen above the horizon of this dark world as the Sun of righteousness, but while it is yet night He is known in the heart of the believer as the bright and morning star.2Pe 1:19). Prophecy is a light in the darkness; Christ is the star of the day. It is true that both shine in the darkness but there is this difference between the lamp and the morning star: the lamp tells me the darkness is here; the star tells me the day is coming. Prophecy warns us as to the condition of the world around, and the judgments to which it is hastening and, as the apostle says, we do well to take heed to it. Thus the effect of prophecy is to close up all our hopes of this present age and to centre our hopes in Christ. He is seen to be the coming One, and when our affections are drawn out to Christ as the centre of all our hopes then, indeed, it can be said that the day star has arisen in our hearts.

Then again, in the address to Thyatira, the Lord can say to the overcomer, "I will give him the morning star" (Rev 2:28). The Lord can also say to the overcomer, "To him will I give power over the nations." But if He holds out the reward of power in the future, He also gives the overcomer a portion for his heart in the present. Amidst the moral and spiritual darkness of Thyatira the overcomer will enjoy Christ known in his heart as the star of the coming day.

In this closing scene Christ is presented not only as the morning star but as "the bright and morning star." Everything in the hands of man loses its lustre, but Christ, in the heavens, is beyond the touch of man's rude hand. He shines with undimmed lustre; He is the bright and morning star. With the day star in our hearts we can watch through the darkness of the night and wait for the coming glory - the morning without clouds.

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Revelation 22". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/revelation-22.html. 1832.