Chapter Twenty-Two Closing Scenes (Part Two)
The first five verses of Revelation 22 continue the detailed symbolic description of the holy Jerusalem, which will be ruling over the earth during the millennium.
The River of Life (Revelation 22:1-6)
In this section we read of a pure river. David sang of a river, the streams of which will make glad the city of God. This river is the Holy Spirit’s testimony to the glory of Christ. It proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb, for the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Anyone who has tasted of that refreshing stream on earth longs to drink fully of its living stream throughout the unending day!
When man sinned in the garden on earth, God drove him out. He set the cherubim with a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life, lest he should eat and live forever. But that sword of flame has been sheathed in the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And now the blessed truth is made known that He who died and rose again is that tree of life. The leaves of this tree will be for the healing of the nations during Messiah’s glorious reign. The fruit of it will be for the refreshment and gladness of His redeemed saints, as they gather by that river of joy. There the curse will be unknown, for the throne of God and of the Lamb will be established in unquestioned authority. His servants will find delight in ever serving Him who, in the hour of their deepest need, served them so faithfully. They will not serve as hirelings, not seeing the Master’s face, but with holy gladness in His presence. They will behold the light of His countenance, and His name will be stamped on their foreheads.
The wonderful description of the heavenly Jerusalem closes with verse 5: “There shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” Oh, the nights of darkness and of anguish many of God’s beloved people have known in this poor world! The night is the time of mystery, the time of suffering, and of unfulfilled desire. The day will bring the glad fruition of all our hopes. In the full blessing of that untreated light we will reign in light through the ages of ages-at home in the city of God.
The Divine Epilogue (Revelation 22:7-21)
The closing verses need not detain us long. They are so plain, so simple, that they require little comment, if any. Yet they are so intensely solemn, we must not pass them lightly by, but desire that each added message might sink in deeper into our hearts. This divine epilogue consists mostly of practical messages from the glorified Lord to all those to whom this book may come in the course of time.
The sixth verse links us again with the opening of the book. “He said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.” How soon may all be fulfilled that we have been studying. Three times the Lord spoke announcing His near return. In verse 7 He said, “Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” In verse 12, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” And again, in verse 20, the last words sent down to us by our Lord from Heaven before the canon of Scripture was closed, was this: “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly.” To this John, as representing all the saints, replied, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
We can scarcely wonder that a second time the beloved apostle, overwhelmed by the abundance of the revelation given to him, fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed him these things. As on the previous occasion, he is forbidden to do so. The angel declared he is a fellow-servant both of John and of his brethren the prophets and of us if we are among those who keep the sayings of this book. “Worship God,” he commanded. In worshiping our Lord Jesus Christ we worship God: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
Daniel’s prophecy closes with the admonition, “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Daniel 12:9). In a former verse, the word to him was, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end” (12:4). But to John the angel said, “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand” (10).
In the eleventh verse we have set before us the great truth that science itself demonstrates equally with the Word of God, namely that character tends to permanence. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” It is a divine emphasis on the solemn truth that as a man is found in that coming day, so he will remain for all eternity. In this world God is calling men to repent. Here and now, He waits to renew, by divine grace, those who commit themselves to Him. But in the eternal world there will be no power that has not been in exercise here to make the unjust righteous or the filthy clean.
The fourteenth verse is translated differently in the Revised version, and that in accordance with the best manuscripts. It is thus: “Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” The promise rests on no legal grounds. It is not doing that gives one title to that home of the saints. It is only the precious blood of Christ, by which the acts of the saints (however well intentioned) must be washed, that fits any for entrance there. Outside forevermore will be the false, apostate teachers, designated as dogs, with those dealing with evil spirits, the unclean, and all murderers and idolaters, and whosoever loves and practices lying (15). They will be outside because they would not prepare to enter inside while God was offering mercy through His Son’s atoning work.
It is noteworthy that when the blessed Lord introduced Himself by His personal name and declared His official title in connection with Israel and His special title in connection with the church, the Spirit and the bride alike are aroused to send up the invitation shout “Come.” We read, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David” (16). He is the root of David because David sprang from Him- David’s Creator and Lord, who called him to guide His people Israel. And He is the offspring of David, for as man He was born from a daughter of David. And He is “the bright and morning star.”
Immediately the Spirit and the bride respond saying, “Come.” It is an invitation to Him to return to shine forth and gather His own to Himself. And all that hear are urged to join in this cry, “Come.” To all those who do not yet know Him, the gospel invitation goes forth for the last time in view of His near return: “Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (17).
In verses 18-19 in unmistakable solemnity, the glorified Lord Himself testified to every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book.
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.
Oh, how unspeakably awful must be the fate of those who reject this testimony and reject its message. Better far, never to have been born than thus to refuse the Word of the living God.
Surely every believing heart can join with the apostle in the prayer, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” But while we wait for His return, we would still seek to make known the message of His grace to a guilty world.
And so, with the apostolic benediction, this book and the entire canon of Scripture come to a close: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”