Of the Certain Bliss of Eternal Life.
The river of water and the tree of life:
v. 1. And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
v. 2. In the midst of the street of it and on either side of the river was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
v. 3. And there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him.
v. 4. And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads.
v. 5. And 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 forever and ever.
The prophet, in the attempt to give a concrete description of the glories of the Church of Christ in her final perfection, gives still further details of the picture which he began in the foregoing chapter: And he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, coming forth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. Just as a great stream or river watered the Garden of Eden, so here the heavenly Paradise receives its water from a healing stream of perennial waters issuing from the throne of God and of the Lamb Himself. This feature would be sure to make the city prosperous and secure, and would insure to all inhabitants of the city an abundance of refreshing, healing aster throughout eternity.
A very prominent feature or landmark is now described: In the midst of her streets and along the river on either side the tree of life bringing forth twelve fruits, each month yielding its own fruit; and the leaves of the tree arc for the healing of the nations. So the river of the waters of life, which flowed through the streets of the city, was lined on either bank with the trees of life, much as there was a single tree of life in the earthly Paradise, Gen_2:9. Just as the waters of the living stream were open to all the inhabitants, so also the fruits of these trees of life were accessible to all those that lived in the heavenly city. There would never be a lack of fruit, some of it always being in season on account of the fact that a new crop ripened every month. The very leaves of these wonderful trees would have their value; for they would serve for the healing of the nations assembled in the heavenly city, to keep them forever happy and contented in true heavenly bliss. This indicates that we shall be nourished spiritually in the home above, that our heavenly life and our salvation will be sustained and increased by the very richest of gifts of God's grace. We shall have an abundance of heavenly blessings and yet desire ever more of the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That, truly, will be life in the word's fullest and truest sense.
This heavenly bliss is further outlined: And every accursed thing will be absent; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in her, and His servants will minister to Him; and they will see His face, and His name will be upon their foreheads. The bliss of heaven will not be spoiled by the presence of any person that has made himself liable to the curse of God by a life of unbelief and sin; for all such cursed will then be in the place of the damned. In the heavenly city, our eternal home, we shall have the throne of God and of the Lamb, our Redeemer, before us, in our presence, all the time. We all shall have the pleasure, the holy joy, of an unfettered and unspoiled, worshipful devotion to our God and to Christ. For the very summit of our heavenly bliss will be reached in our seeing the face of God and of our Savior all the time, world without end, even as we shall wear His name on our foreheads as His own, purchased and won by Him with His precious blood. It will be the most intimate and happy fellowship and confidence which can possibly obtain; it will make us partakers of the supreme perfection of happiness which is God's from eternity and to eternity.
Still another feature is added: And night will no more be, and they will not have need of the light of a lamp or of the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shine upon them, and they will reign forever and ever. This thought is the same as that of chap. 21:25. As perfected saints we shall dwell in eternal light. The dark night of sin, of ignorance, of error, of sorrow, of death, will then have passed away, and the bright day of justice, of knowledge, of righteousness, of truth, of salvation, of life, will be upon us without end. The light of Christ's countenance will surround us always, making every other light to which we have been accustomed in this world altogether superfluous. We shall live with Christ, and not only that, we shall reign with Christ in eternal power, glory, and happiness.
John and the angel:
v. 6. And 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.
v. 7. Behold, I come quickly; blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
v. 8. And I, John, saw these things and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things.
v. 9. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not; for I am thy fellow-servant and of thy brethren, the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book; worship God.
The visions proper have now come to an end; there is only the conclusion to consider. The first words are, as it were, the seal of God upon the entire book: And he said to me, These words are faithful and true, for the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets has sent His angel to show His servants what is bound to happen shortly; and, behold, I come very soon; blessed is he that keeps the words of, the prophecy of this book. These words may have been spoken by the angel who was the guide of John in his vision of the Holy City above, but their content seems to make it more plausible that they were spoken by the Lord Himself. He declares here that the words of prophecy which have been transmitted to John are reliable and true, for it was His intention thereby to reveal the future to His servants, to His believers. At the same time He announces that He intends to return very soon for the final Judgment, for the end of the world. Blessed, eternally happy, therefore, would be every person that would hear, heed, and keep these words, just as they were given to John to write. It is true of this book of prophecy, as well as of all the other words of the Lord: Blessed is he that hears the Word of God and keeps it. All Christians should receive strength and comfort to stand firm in the midst of the perils of the last day by the contemplation of God's promises as contained in this book.
John now relates an incident almost identical with that of chap. 19:10: And I, John, was he who saw and heard these things; and when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel that had shown me these things. And he says to me, Not that; thy fellow-servant I am and of thy brethren, the prophets, and of those that keep the words of this book; worship God. John was overcome by the wonder of all the things that he had seen and heard in the various visions that had been presented to him; he felt the utter insignificance of man in the face of such mighty revelations. And so, in the ecstasy of feeling that possessed him, he fell down at the feet of his guide, with the intention of worshiping him. But the angel promptly interfered, bidding John worship God alone, since he was but a fellow-creature and a fellow-servant. Angels are great and mighty spirits, and they hold a relation of peculiar intimacy to God; but for all that they must not be given divine honor.
Christ's announcement as to sharing in the blessings of heaven:
v. 10. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book; for the time is at hand.
v. 11. 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.
v. 12. And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
v. 13. I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.
v. 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.
v. 15. For without are dogs and sorcerers and whoremongers and murderers and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Here the Lord Himself lifts up His voice in words of admonition and warning: And He says to me, Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book; for the time is near. In the case of Daniel the opposite command was given, namely, to seal up his prophecy. But the revelations that had been made to John were to be fulfilled very soon, and the believers would be able to recognize their fulfillment within a short time. See Rev. l: 3. It is true, of course, that men abuse this book, and therefore the Lord adds at once: Let the wicked still be wicked, and let the filthy still be filthy, and let the righteous still practice righteousness, and let the holy still be holy. There has been warning enough given to the unbelievers, to all the enemies of Christ, to all the wicked and filthy. If they persist in their course, then their course will finally lead them into eternal damnation; the more they harden their hearts, the smaller will be their chances of salvation, and their latter end will be a matter of weeping and of gnashing of teeth. But those that are righteous and holy through their acceptance of the righteousness of Christ shall not permit themselves to be led aside from this path of holiness in the power of God. It is the Lord that will strengthen them and bring them to the goal, to the salvation of their souls.
The Lord now repeats His solemn call: Behold, I am coming very soon, and My reward is with Me, to pay out to every one as his work is. I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. It is the last hour of this world, and the return of the Lord to judgment may be expected at any time. He is the just and righteous Judge, who can and will reward every one according to the works that he has done in this life, as these works indicate a state of faith or a state of unbelief. He is the almighty, eternal God, who has the world and all that is in it in the hollow of His hand; He is a source of unfailing comfort to the believers, but one of terror to all those that have rejected His salvation.
Like an antiphonal chant the voice of the angel here chimed in: Blessed are they that wash their garments, that they may have a right to the tree of life and to enter through the gates into the city; without are the dogs and the sorcerers and the adulterers and the murderers and the idolaters, and every one that practices and loves falsehood. That is the glorious privilege of the believers, to wash their sin-stained garments in the blood of the Lamb, and thus to appear before the throne of God in the pure white garments of the righteousness of Christ. These are the ones that have a right to eat of the fruit of the tree of life; they are the ones whom God invites to enter into the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem. There eternal joy will rest upon them, and pain and sighing will be a thing of the past. But of the unbelievers and the deliberate transgressors of God's commandments, of the false teachers and blasphemers, of those that beguile men of their faith, of those that delight in spiritual adultery, of those that indulge in hatred and persecution against the Church of God, of those that practice idolatry in any form, in short, of all those that love falsehood and practice it in any form, it is said that they are outside of the heavenly Jerusalem and shall not enter. They have chosen their lot, and they shall be given their preference, in the abyss that burns with fire and brimstone.
A final call to come:
v. 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.
v. 17. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
v. 18. For I testify unto every man that heareth 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;
v. 19. and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his parts out of the Book of Life and out of the Holy City and from the things which are written in this book.
v. 20. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
v. 21. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
The Lord Himself signs the Book of Revelation with His name: I, Jesus, sent My angel to testify to you these things concerning the churches; I am the Root and the Generation of David, the bright Star of the morning. It is a solemn and impressive declaration that is here recorded by Him who inspired John to write, as His angel testified to him concerning the churches of Asia Minor and the Church as a whole until the end of time. He has the right, the authority, to do so; for He, Jesus, is both the Scion and the Offspring of David, the relation of these two being like dawn and sunrise, both David's Lord and David's Son; and He is the bright Star of the morning, the Day-spring from on high, Luk_1:78, of whom the prophets have spoken; He is the eternal God.
It is the tenderest and most gracious invitation that He sends forth in this book and in the entire Gospel: And the Spirit and the bride say, Come; and he that hears it should say, Come; and let the thirsty come, let him that desires it, take the water of life without price. Here is certainly sufficient proof of the sincerity of God's call to repentance and faith. What the Spirit says in so many passages of Scriptures, what the Church has preached for so many centuries, that should be echoed by every one that hears the gracious invitation to partake of the joys of eternal salvation. He that hungers and thirsts for the righteousness of the Lord as revealed in His Word is freely invited to partake of it in full measure, without money and without price. With this gracious call and invitation ringing in their ears, the believers should continue their march onward and upward, until their battle-cry will be changed into the eternal shout of triumph.
Now John adds his own personal testimony as to the divine truth of his statements. For I testify to everyone that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any one adds to them, God will add to Him the plagues that are written in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the Holy City, as described in this book. John has described the visions and revelations which he had; he has written down the prophecies which he received. He himself has not added thereto, nor taken there from. But he earnestly advises others also not to meddle with the prophecies as recorded by him. To do so would expose a person to a loss of all the bliss which is held out to those that are faithful unto death, and to all the terrible plagues that are described in the entire book as descending upon the enemies of God.
Once more John hears the voice of the Lord: He that testifies these things says, Yes, I am coming soon. This fact must never be forgotten. by the Christians; the coming of the Lord may be expected at any time. And we, all believers, answer the Lord in joyful cry: Amen, come, Lord Jesus! And with this in mind, we accept and welcome the apostolic blessing with which John closes his book: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. He that has forgiveness of sins has also life and salvation. That is our comfort throughout this life, until we open our eyes in eternity to see and enjoy what we here hoped and believed.
The seer finishes his picture of the glories of heaven and describes the longing of Christ for His believers and their eager call for Him to come.