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A River of the Water of Life
Revelation 22:1. The words “then he showed me” introduce a new section. Still this section forms a whole with the previous one, for it still deals with the city. John gets to see “a river of water of life”. This river is an image of the Lord Jesus (cf. Revelation 21:6). The river also speaks of the eternal life that God’s children now already are allowed to enjoy (John 7:38).
The water is “clear as crystal”. There is no pollution at all; the water is totally pure, without any mixture with something else. That is also not possible, for the origin of this water is “the throne of God and of the Lamb”. The throne speaks of a kingdom, of authority. Wherever God and the Lamb have authority, there comes room for the life in wonderful refreshing streams. Death and curse have no chance to disturb the enjoyment of life. Life can be enjoyed to the full.
What John sees makes us think of the scene in Ezekiel 47:1-12. But there is still a great difference. There it is about a literal river in the earthly Jerusalem, while here it is about the heavenly Jerusalem with a symbolic presentation of matters.
Revelation 22:2. Then the attention is drawn to “the tree of life”. It is “in the middle of its street”, which is the street of the city, and at the same time on either sides of the river. It is one tree, though it is on several places at the same time. That is not to be explained logically. Anyway, this tree of life is an image of the Lord Jesus.
At the very beginning of the Bible you also read about the tree of life (Genesis 2:9). God put the tree of life in the middle of the paradise. Directly next to it He put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You don’t notice anything of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil here anymore. Here we see only the tree of life. Here the Holy Spirit connects the beginning and the end of the Scripture with each other.
In Genesis 2 there is mention of two trees. There a river is also mentioned, which parted and became four riverheads. Here however, is only one tree and one river. Here there is no mention any more of the responsibility of man. Man cannot be tempted by satan in the kingdom of peace, like in the paradise. After all, satan is bound during the time of the kingdom of peace (Revelation 20:1-Leviticus :). Therefore only the tree of life is here. Man is allowed to eat from it all the time, in order to enjoy the continuous blessing of the kingdom of peace.
It indicates a continuous dependence upon the Lord Jesus. He gives power to walk on that one street and He gives refreshment, regardless which side of the river a person lives. The church will be allowed to enjoy Him in a new way “every month” of the thousand years, for the fruits will be for the inhabitants of the city.
The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations on earth. All conflicts and disagreements will be ended by the Lord Jesus. There will be no more war, all wounds will be healed.
Revelation 22:3. There “will no longer be any curse” in this wonderful situation, for the Lord Jesus reigns. To His government blessing is attached and no curse. Curse is a result of sin. Everything that has to do with sin will in no way get a chance to exercise its influence in the new Jerusalem. Also the removal of the curse makes you think of the beginning when the curse entered into the world (Genesis 3:17). Here it has been taken away. In this way the end condition is the counterpart of the start condition in every view. Actually sin will still be found on earth, but not in the city.
Again the emphasis is put on the throne of God and of the Lamb as the source of blessing. Enjoying the blessing does not mean that no service is being done. The believers who form the new Jerusalem are here called “bond-servants”. That is not a name for oppressed people, but a title for voluntarily obedient people. They want to serve Him out of love for Whom they have been bought (which is God) and by Whom they were bought (which is the Lamb). Serving here also doesn’t mean doing slave labor, but it means to serve in the religious sense, serving as priest in a worship service. This is the greatest privilege of man.
It is also noticeable that it is written that they will serve “Him” (singular), while it refers to two Persons: God and the Lamb. That indicates that God and the Lamb are one God. You have come across this way of writing about God and the Lord Jesus also in the letters written by John. Sometimes you do not know whether he is talking about God or about the Lord Jesus. That does not matter, for with both Persons it is about God.
Revelation 22:4. Besides being surrounded by blessings and the unlimited possibility to enjoy them, there is an even greater privilege. That privilege is seeing the face of God and of the Lamb. That means that there will be free access to and relationship with God and the Lamb. It is the reward for those who are pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). Outwardly His Name shall be “on their foreheads”. It is the open proclamation that they are worshipers of God and the Lamb (cf. Revelation 13:16; Revelation 17:5).
Revelation 22:5. There will be no more need of natural light sources in the city (Revelation 21:23). God Who is light (1 John 1:5), has driven out all darkness. What John already has announced in his first letter as the principle of the new life – that the believer, regarding the new life that he has received, walks in the light (1 John 1:7) –, has then become reality for the heavenly order of things.
It is not possible for the darkness to return. In the new Jerusalem, which is formed by men who all have the new, eternal life in the Son Whom is the eternal life, it will be day forever. Also after the millennial kingdom of peace that situation will not change. We shall reign with Christ forever. After the kingdom of peace our government with Christ will not cease, although the form of government will actually change (1 Corinthians 15:24). The kingdom of the Lord Jesus as the Son of Man will last for a thousand years. As the Son of God He will reign forever, without Him ceasing to be Man.
Revelation 22:6. John gets the security that there is no doubt that what is said is true: “These words are faithful and true.” They are indeed, because He Who has spoken those words, is true (Revelation 19:11). God’s Word is exalted above all doubts. It has always been like that of course, but nevertheless, it is emphasized here.
God gives such security concerning His Word, because He knows that you can be weak in your faith in His Word. Just hold on to what the prophets have spoken about it in a way that mistakes are not possible. The Lord, He Who has authority over all things, is “the God of the spirits of the prophets”. That means that He has controlled the spirits, which is the inward man of prophets, over what they had to write down.
It is about things which must “soon take place”. You have come across these words also at the beginning of this book (Revelation 1:1), which causes as it were that the end of this book closes the circle. It is a remembrance of the purpose of the book, which is that you will look forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus. There is nothing left that still has to take place before the coming of the Lord Jesus for the church. If that already applied to John and Paul, how much more does that apply to us.
Revelation 22:7. The angel has told John that the events of this book will soon be fulfilled. That makes your desire for the Lord to grow more and more. How wonderful it is then to hear the Lord Himself saying that He is coming quickly. It is as if He wants to focus your eye, concerning the future things, on Himself. His desire is just to cause everything that is written in this book to take place. Therefore you do not look forward to events in the first place, but to a Person.
Up to that moment “the words of the prophecy of this book” are at your disposal. If you keep them, you are “blessed”. Keeping the Word of God has always been a source of blessing. It gives you light on your way and it shows you what your future is, because your future is related with Christ. The Lord relates special blessings to the reading of this book, which unfortunately is often considered to be an incomprehensible book and left unread by many believers.
Now read Revelation 22:1-7 again.
Reflection: Mention the blessings that are related to the river of living water.
My Reward Is With Me
Revelation 22:8. What John has heard and seen, made a strong impression on him. When he says “I, John”, it clarifies that he has personally experienced everything that he “heard and saw”. It was not just absorbing all kinds of interesting facts, so that he now had an idea about the future. No, he was totally involved with his whole being.
That is very important for you too. Now you have come to the end of this book, you may wonder yourself what impact this book has had on you, just as I must wonder what impact it has had on me. Have you made progress in just factual knowledge or has it deeply moved you inwardly? Do you only find it important that you now know how history will come to pass or has it caused you to desire for the coming of the Lord?
John is so deeply impressed that he ends up in worship. But he ascribes this worship to someone who is not entitled to it. That is also a risk you run. You run the risk to admire God’s instrument instead of Him Who is represented to you through that instrument. The Holy Spirit does not want to focus your attention on an angel, or on John, or on whomever, but on the Lord Jesus.
Revelation 22:9. John is called to order by the angel. He had already made this mistake earlier (Revelation 19:10). Then also he was called to order by the angel. The fact that he has made this mistake for the second time, shows that it is indeed very difficult to give honor to the Lord Jesus alone and not a creature to whom we sometimes may possibly look up to. However, how much appreciation we may have for persons who have helped us to learn to know God’s truth better, there is absolutely one Person Who is worthy of our praise. Everyone has a subordinate place towards the Lord Jesus and an equal position towards one another, considering the differences which the Lord has applied.
The angel calls himself “a fellow servant” of John, however much he has served John with the explanation of the future events. The angel also speaks about “the prophets” as “brethren” of John. John and all the prophets of God have spoken about future events. They could only do that because God had shown them what He was planning to do. He made those plans known in His Word to all of His own, particularly in this Bible book.
The angel also calls all the ones, who keep the words of this Bible book, his fellow servants. You have also come across this word ‘servant’ at the beginning of this book. The book can only be understood by believers who, as a response to what God reveals in His Word, devote their lives to Him. That is the true worshiping of God.
Revelation 22:10. When Daniel came to the end of his book, he learnt that he had to seal the book until the time of the end (Daniel 12:4). The reason was that in the time of Daniel the end was yet far away. He lived in another period of time of God’s history of salvation. The sealing of his book meant that the prophecies which are written in it, were made inviolable and kept safe until the fulfillment. The opening of the seal was only allowed to be taken place by the person that was authorized to do that (cf. Revelation 5:5).
However, for us the time is near (cf. Matthew 25:6). Everything has been fulfilled since the death of Christ and we have come to the ‘last hour’ (1 John 2:18). The end of the ages have come upon us (1 Corinthians 10:11). Therefore John is told that he was not to seal the prophecy of this book. God has revealed everything. The time of the coming of His Son is near to make everything to be fulfilled. It is important to God that by this revelation, which is not sealed – by which we know that His Son can come any moment – you will be eagerly looking forward to Him Who is going to fulfill everything.
Revelation 22:11. When all events of this book have come this near, it will result in a separation among men. There are only two reactions possible:
1. There are those who reject the Word of God and do not consider what is soon to happen.
2. There are those who submit themselves to the Word of God and look forward to its fulfillment.
The more the time gets nearer, the more the real character of every man is exposed:
1. The first category of men “does wrong” more and more and therefore one makes himself more and more “filthy”, dirty. You see that in the world and even more and especially in the so-called Christian world. People become more and more unjust and present themselves more and more unashamed with their dirtiness.
2. The second category of people devotes itself more and more to God. They live righteously and “still practice righteousness”, which causes them to become more and more “holy” opposite to the dirtiness of the people around them. Their holiness becomes more and more visible, because of the contrast with the growing filthiness of the world. The contrast to the world will grow bigger and bigger.
In the light of the coming of the Lord everything is being decided regarding our lives on earth. In that very light it is seen what we are living for.
Revelation 22:12. You may think that it is not simple to live righteous and holy in such a filthy world where the filthiness jumps all over you from all sides. Therefore the words of the Lord are a great encouragement. You hear Christ saying that He is coming quickly. That is already encouraging. But then you hear also that He relates a reward to His near coming. Christ will surely appreciate every sign of righteousness in your life and He will give you an appropriate reward for that.
If you have made your choice for Him on earth, you have perhaps missed out on many appreciations from men. But the Lord will compensate that abundantly at His coming. The unbelievers have already received their reward on earth (cf. Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5Matthew 6:16). Therefore they will not find any reward when the Lord comes. On the contrary, they will receive a retribution for their wicked deeds.
Revelation 22:13. For the third and last time you hear that the Lord Jesus is “the Alpha”, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and the “Omega”, the last letter of the Greek alphabet (Revelation 1:8; Revelation 21:6). He is the Word of God, the full revelation of God. Everything that God has to say, He has said in Christ. Christ will fulfill everything to the letter, as God has said it (cf. Joshua 21:45; Matthew 5:17-Job :).
He Who is beyond the history of creation has entered into history. He is “the first and the last” of history (Revelation 1:17; Revelation 2:8; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12). He stands at “the beginning” of everything as the First and He stands at “the end” of everything as the Last. He will still be there when everything that was, is over. He is both the origin and the purpose of creation (Colossians 1:15-Esther :). He Who Himself has no beginning nor end, the eternal God, covers all things. There is nothing outside of Him that in a way can escape from Him. Everything owes its beginning to Him and everything will be fulfilled in relation with Him and be brought to fullness. You see how great He is !
Revelation 22:14. For the seventh and last time the word “blessed” is spoken. It regards those “who wash their robes”. It is remarkable that we read “wash” which indicates an ongoing process of washing. That is different from what you have read elsewhere in this book, where it says “washed” (Revelation 7:14). In the latter case it concerns the conversion. That is a one-off happening. When you came to conversion, all of your sins were washed away by the blood of the Lamb. But in this verse it is about your responsibility.
You also come across this difference between ‘wash’ and ‘washed’ in John 13. There the Lord speaks about being ‘bathed’, which is being totally washed, and about having one’s ‘feet to be washed’ (John 13:10). The act of being totally washed is a one-off happening at the conversion. The act of letting the feet to be washed ought to happen continually, because living in the world defiles the believer.
Having one’s feet to be washed, or as it is said here, to wash their robes, is a responsibility of the believer. The robes speak of the outward behavior. You prove that you are washed by the way you walk. Your clothing, meaning your conduct, will then show no spot. As soon as it gets stained by committing sins, there will also be a confession of these sins, which makes the robe to be pure again. In this way you are not to be blamed for anything concerning your practical way of living, which makes you to have the right to the tree of life. It means that you participate in the enjoyment of it.
You are allowed to live in the city of God, in His presence. You partake of the blessings of the tree and the city on the ground of the blood of Christ. That is grace. But everyone who partakes of that grace, will surely want to live accordingly. In that way you show that you have the right to it. It is a right which, concerning you, is based on grace, but it is a grace which is granted by God on the ground of the right that He has through the blood of Christ.
Now read Revelation 22:8-14 again.
Reflection: What can possibly be the reward that the Lord Jesus will have with Him when He comes?
Yes, I Am Coming Quickly
Revelation 22:15. The contrast to the previous verse is big and tragic. “Outside” the city, ‘outside’ the new world, are all who have no right to the tree and the entering of the city. ‘Outside’ is more than a geographic location alone. It is surely a geographic location, but it is especially a place of eternal torment (Revelation 21:8). The character of the people who are outside, confirms that it is justified that they are ‘outside’ the city of all blessings. It indicates that they have surrendered themselves to serving satan.
1. The first thing that marks their character is indicated by the term “dogs”. ‘Dog’ is a name for an evildoer who operates without any feeling (Psalms 22:16; Psalms 22:20; Isaiah 56:10; Philippians 3:2; see also Deuteronomy 23:18). All categories have this characteristic.
2. “The sorcerers” want to exert power over others.
3. “The immoral persons” seek to fulfill their lust at the expense of others.
4. “The murderers” are taking other people’s lives.
5. “The idolaters” totally deliver themselves powerlessly to demons.
The whole is framed in the lie which they love and tell. Hell will be full of such people.
Revelation 22:16. Here the Lord Jesus is speaking again. He draws the attention to Himself with the words “I, Jesus”. He is the Almighty, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Creator of the universe and the Sustainer of all things, but He presents Himself here with the name which is typical for His humiliation.
He is also the Commander of the angels. He sends them wherever He wants to with the message He wants to be sent. Through His angel He addresses the churches. Those are the local churches where believers gather and dwell together with the awareness that they participate in the worldwide church. Such believers desire no more than to affirm in the local church what is applied to the worldwide church.
The Lord still adds some more aspects of His Person to His messages. He calls Himself “the root and the descendant of David”, which He is indeed for Israel, whereof He is the shoot (Revelation 5:5; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10) and therefore out of which the whole people comes forth. For Israel He is also the Offspring (which means ‘Son’) of David. He came forth out of this people, that in Him all promises, pertaining to the kingdom of God, may become reality, with the blessings for Israel and the nations.
The Lord is also “the bright morning star”, which He indeed is for His church. Israel will never know Him like that. The church will not have to wait until He appears as the Sun of righteousness. He will appear as the Sun of righteousness to Israel (Malachi 4:2), but the morning star precedes the rising of the Sun. This means that the morning star has risen already in your heart (2 Peter 1:19), meaning that you are eagerly looking forward to His coming for the church.
Revelation 22:17. Now the Lord has made His voice to be heard in such a way and has referred to Himself as the fulfillment of all promises, the Spirit and the bride cannot keep silent. The Spirit is indeed on earth, but as a temporary dwelling place. The Spirit dwells here as long as the church, the bride, is here. But He doesn’t feel at home, like the bride also does not feel at home in this world. She is still separated from her Bridegroom. But when she hears His voice, her voice sounds fully harmoniously with the voice of the Spirit and she says to her Bridegroom: “Come!”
The bride is the church as a whole. The whole of the church says ‘come!’, even though not everyone who belongs to the bride longs for the Lord in the same passionate way. Therefore the call applies to every individual to say: “Come!” The desire of the one person may have a contagious effect on the extinguished desire of the other.
Then a third group is addressed. That group still has no part in the bride, but would want to have a part, because there is a thirst. He who thirsts is still invited to drink from the water of life and for free (Isaiah 55:1). This water refers to the refreshment that the Lord wants to give through His Spirit to everyone who is weary, due to living in sin (John 4:10-Ezra :; John 7:37).
Revelation 22:18. The Lord Jesus warns in powerful words, “I testify”, to everyone not to add anything to the content of the words of the prophecy that are written in this bible book. It is prohibited and not allowed to add anything to all the events that are described (cf. Proverbs 30:6; Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32). To add something means the arrogation as if God would not have said everything that He had to say. This is the sin which satan tempted Eve with (Genesis 3:1-Leviticus :), which caused that the punishment of death announced to her was added to her.
Satan will still try in every way to keep the prophecy of this book closed to men, or distort it in such a way that it loses its true power. If satan manages to add his lie to the words of the prophecy of this book, words wherein his end is displayed, he can drag as many people with him to hell as he possibly could. But the Lord Jesus warns here not to get sunken into this trap. Adding something to what is perfect, means getting the plagues that are written in this book added to you. Those plagues cannot be more severe than they are described, but they can increase in number.
Revelation 22:19. The order is different from the previous verse. Here it is about the completely achieved message of the book as a whole. Nothing can be taken away from it. People may take away something from the Word that they do not understand. The arrogant reason of man rejects God’s Word which he considers to be unacceptable. You may think here of Bible criticism. Such an attitude marks the audacity of unbelief.
However, he who deals with God’s Word in such a way, God will surely deal with him. Such a person receives no part to the tree and the city. Because of his attitude he indicates that he doesn’t like to have part at all in the things that the believer enjoys. Therefore he will never get part of it. It has been presented to him, he has read about it, but he rejects it. He could have got part of it, but he refused. Therefore the part that was offered to him is taken away from him.
Therefore the issue here is absolutely not taking away something to which a believer has received part of. The part of a believer can in no way be taken away from him. Therefore a believer will never take away something of the words of the book of this prophecy. That you as a believer do not understand everything and have questions about it is of a totally different order than rejecting something that God has said. The latter is the point here.
Revelation 22:20. The Lord Jesus concludes the book with a final testimony that the book comes from Himself. Christ is the absolute faithful Witness of the things revealed in this book. Following this He says: “Yes, I am coming quickly!” This is the reply to the call of the Spirit and the bride in Revelation 22:17. With His “yes” He confirms that we should not have the slightest doubt about everything that is said. Then He says that He is about to come. There is no fulfillment necessary of any prophecy before He can come for His bride.
The response to the promise of the Lord that He is coming quickly, is: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” This comes out of the mouth of all who love Him. Two times earlier the Lord has said that He is coming quickly (Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:12). The response to that is different than the response here. In Revelation 22:7 the promise is followed by an exhortation to keep God’s Word. In Revelation 22:12 the promise is followed by the promise of a reward. In this verse the promise of the Lord is followed by a spontaneous expression of a desire for Himself, for His Person. This is actually the conclusion of the book.
Revelation 22:21. Still, there is a blessing from John to “all” saints, which is needed as long as the Lord Jesus has not come yet. Until that moment of His coming all saints can count on His “grace”. The only thing that is left is a consenting “amen” – a beautiful end.
Now read Revelation 22:15-21 again.
Reflection: What does the thought of the coming of the Lord mean to you?
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Revelation 22". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany