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Bible Commentaries

Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation

Revelation 22

Introduction

We have reached the end of this singular but most instructive book of the Bible. Christ’s last message to His church written in symbolic language. The church’s marching orders written in code language. It is possible to find the KEY to understanding this code--the symbols used throughout the book of Revelation. Those who use this KEY consistently throughout this book of Revelation in interpreting the symbols will find that they have been blessed.

With all its difficulties we will continue to read the book of Revelation, finding fresh heart, and faith, and courage in this book which more clearly presents Christ’s victory and the fall of sin than any other book in our Bible. That the principles upon which we have interpreted the Revelation of John should be generally accepted by readers is probably too much to hope for.

We believe that whatever method of interpretation is adopted by the reader of John’s book of Revelation, that interpretation must take note that the book is dealing with what is happening NOW as well as what will happen in the FUTURE. Chapter 1 verses 1 and 19 make this fact plain at the outset. John was told to write "what must soon take place--what you see, what IS and what is to take place hereafter." Plainly, the book deals in symbolic language with events which are taking place NOW. They are not only to be fulfilled in the future but ARE BEING FULFILLED all the time. The events described in the various visions of the book are taking place now. The victory is always with God. In the finality of the future all evil will be destroyed. Only the good is eternal. As we interpret the book John’s Revelation is the most thrilling and hopeful philosophy of life that any person can hold.

It is important that the reader tries to be consistent in interpretation. We must avoid the confusion of using numbers, or things, or persons as symbols in one instance and as literal in other instances. The book can only be understood when the reader realizes that he must be consistent in interpreting its symbols.

John’s Revelation became the book with a blessing to us when we found the KEY to the interpretation of its symbolism which we have tried to share with you in these study notes. The reader who uses this KEY to the symbolism of John’s Revelation will find that whenever he turns to this book he discovers new and thrilling messages of hope and faith suited to his life’s experiences.

The truths of the book are never ending. They reach into eternity. God continues to reveal greater truth from this book of the Bible according to our capacity to receive it.

We hope at least that our treatment of the book may help you to read with greater profit this part of God’s Word.

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Amen."

The preparation of these studies in the book of Revelation has brought a deepening faith and joy to us. Many difficulties in interpretation have not been dealt with in these notes. We do not claim to have yet seen all the truth which God intends us to see in this book. Also, as the seventh seal of chapter 8: verse 2 reminds us, "there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Much of God’s purposes are revealed to us in this world but not all. God’s final purposes are not revealed to us here but hereafter. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him."--By careful study we learn much from John’s book but we need to humbly acknowledge that in this present life we shall never be able to understand everything.

Again and again we come to places and experiences where we cannot know--and there is silence!

It is our experience that the book of Revelation will no longer be the neglected book of the Bible but it will begin to glow with the very life and power of God in the soul of every reader who learns how to consistently use the KEY to the symbolic language of the last book of the Bible.

As you read John’s "Book with a blessing" you may think of G. Rawson’s hymn (Churches of Christ Hymnbook 1974, No. 188):

"We limit not the truth of God To our poor reach of mind By notions of our day and race Crude, partial, and confined. No, let a new and better hope Within our hearts be stirred: The Lord hath yet more light and truth To break forth from His word."

And also G. Briggs’ hymn (Churches of Christ Hymnbook 1974, No. 191)

"God yet speaketh--by His Spirit, Speaking to the hearts of men, In the age-long word declaring God’s own message--now as then. Through the rise and fall of nations One sure faith yet standeth fast: God is on His throne eternal He alone the First and Last."

And also T. Clark’s hymn (Churches of Christ Hymnbook 1974, No. 472):

"Our faith is in the Christ who walks With men today, in street and mart, The constant friend who thinks and talks With those who seek Him with the heart. His gospel calls for living men, With hearts aglow and minds alert; Strong men, who fall to rise again, Who strive and bleed, with courage girt. We serve no God whose work is done. Who rests within His firmament. Our God, His labours but begun, Toils evermore with power unspent. God was and is and e’er shall be, Christ lived and loved and loves us still, And man goes forward, proud and free, God’s present purpose to fulfil."

Such great hymns of the Christian church are in accord with our interpretation of John’s book of Revelation in these studies. They leave us with this conviction--That the greatest privilege anyone can have in this world is to be a member of Christ’s church, and that our greatest responsibility in this world is to be a worthy and active member of Christ’s church.

A basic understanding of John’s Apocalypse brings to the reader a steady faith in the unfailing purposes of God and in His final victory over all unrighteousness. The future belongs to God and Jesus Christ our Lord.

The greatest experience of our lives is found in the fulfilment of our prayer "Marana--tha" ("Come, Lord Jesus").

His parousia (Presence) does come. We are caught up, not in the sky, but in His purposes, hopes and yearnings. We become friends and co-workers with Him here on earth "Immanuel."

We repeat--One truth the reader of the book of "Revelation" will realize is that the greatest PRIVILEGE anyone can have in this world is to be a member of Christ’s church. And the greatest RESPONSIBILITY we have is to be a worthy member by loyalty and faithfulness.

Truly, John’s book of Revelation will become "The Book with a blessing" to those readers who are consistent in the use of the KEY to its symbols.

Whenever you turn to this last book of the Bible you will find new and thrilling truths of hope and faith suited to your life’s experiences. The truths of the book are never ending; they reach into eternity. God continues to reveal greater truth from this book of the Bible according to our capacity to receive it.

Verses 1-2

First--THE RIVER OF LIFE--verses 1 and 2.

"Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Through the middle of the street of the city, also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its 12 kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."

Remember that this description of the river of life flowing through the city of God is part of the description of the church. In chapter 21 verses 9 and 10 John was shown the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. Part of that description which follows of the holy city includes these verses about the river of life. And there also is the tree of life bearing its 12 fruits for 12 months (Notice the "12"--Always a symbol of the church.) Link John’s vision of the river of life with Psalms 46:1-11 verses 4 and 5--

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 shaft not be moved."

We observe that no great cities can exist without rivers. Rivers bring life and health to a city. Rivers carry away impurities. Surely there is symbolism in John’s picture of the river of the water of life which flows through the church (the city of God)! What is this river? It is the love of God--The grace of God--Grace is the free love of God bestowed on those who have not merited d--John expressed God’s grace--the river of the water of life--in other words in John 3:16 "God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life."

Here is this last chapter of the Bible we are shown the river of God’s love bringing eternal life and spiritual health to believers, and also carrying away all of our impurities--our sins. God’s love, God’s grace, bestowed on undeserving sinners, is the river of the water of life in Revelation 22:1-2. Carefully note three things--

1. Note THE SOURCE OF THIS RIVER.

It flows "FROM THE THRONE OF GOD AND OF THE LAMB"

See what this is saying! It is telling us that God’s love alone can give us the power to make a better world. Power must come DOWN from God else all of man’s schemes to save our world will come to nothing. No great rivers can flow through cities or bring life to and plains except there are high mountains as sources of those rivers. No river of water of life and health can bring life to the desert of man’s life unless it takes its source in the inexhaustible heights of the throne of God. Left to man himself no such river is possible. But in the holy city--the church--the river of the water of life--The love of God--the grace of God--takes its source from above--from the throne of God.

2. Note that this river of the water of life CARRIES AWAY OUR IMPURITIES (OUR SINS)

3. The river BRINGS HEALTH AND LIFE

Our present world society has become a barren desert with spiritual and moral impotence. But the river of the water of life is flowing. God’s love from His throne.

So with a warmer love for the church and a deeper dedication in the service of our local congregation as a part of that great church--realising that the river of water of life is flowing now--we will sing with truer understanding--

"Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God! He, whose word cannot be broken, Formed thee for His own abode. On the Rock of Ages founded, What can shake thy sure repose? With salvation’s walls surrounded, Thou may’st smile at all thy foes. See, the streams of living waters, Springing from eternal love; Well supply thy sons and daughters, And all fear of want remove: Who can faint while such a river Ever flows their thirst t’assuage? Grace, which like the Lord, the Giver, Never fails from age to age."

Have we found this river in our personal churchmanship?

The only way I know to experience the blessing of the river of the water of life in our present day is to keep in close fellowship with Jesus. Keep going back to the manger and the Cross. God’s grace is free, but to have this river the conditions are faith, prayer, meditation on the Word of God, dedication of oneself in the mission of the church.

Have you ever linked Revelation 22:1-21 verses 1 and 2 with Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 47 of his prophecy?

In Ezekiel’s vision the river of water DEEPENED the further it flowed. A third of a mile from its source the river was ankle deep. At two-third’s of a mile the river had deepened to the knees. At one mile the water was to the loins. And at one and a half miles from its source the river was one to swim in. The river deepened the further it flowed.

There is important symbolism here. There is something wrong with our religious experience if it is not an ever deepening experience. Look back over the years since you found Jesus Christ as your Saviour and first committed yourself to Him. Has your discipleship been an ever deepening experience?--An ever deepening river?--The river of the water of life which began for you at your conversion should be a far deeper experience now. You should be making fresh discoveries about Jesus Christ which you had never known before--Is your experience ankle deep--or, "a river to swim in?"

Don’t dream of the river of the water of life only as in a future heaven. The river of the water of life is here NOW. When we realize this truth we will be able to sing--

"Love of Christ so freely given, Grace of God beyond degree, Mercy higher than the heaven, Deeper than the deepest sea. By the crystal flowing river With the ransomed I will sing And forever and forever Praise and glorify the King"

The river of God’s grace brings a wonderful redemption. Takes away our sin, brings eternal life (not merely everlasting existence, but the quality of God’s fife in our souls).

So, read Revelation 22:1-21 verses 1 and 2 with understanding.

The river of the water of life is here NOW
It comes DOWN from God as its source
It carries away our impurities (our sins)
It brings eternal life and spiritual health
And, it is available to us NOW--The grace of God which brings
salvation and blessing in Christian discipleship.
A river that deepens the further it flows. And it ever flows from age to age.

Verses 6-21

And we look now at the last words of this book and we notice that they are:

1.

THE TRUE WORDS. (verses 6 and 7)

The Lord God has spoken to open the door of revelation to His people. The words and visions which came to John came from the same God who inspired the great prophets of the Old Testament. They must be accepted as equally divine and treated with equal seriousness.

2.

THE FINAL WORDS (verses 10-13)

The words of this book are to be given to men and are not to be sealed. Verse 1 1 indicates that men are divided into two classes--those who receive the truth and those who are opposed to the truth. It is true in every generation that in so far as the heart and will of a person is set on good or evil the attitude he has chosen tends to continue to the triumph of one or the other. "Sow a thought and reap an act. Sow an act and reap a habit. Sow a habit and reap a character. Sow a character and reap a destiny." The principle a man chooses shapes his conduct now as well as in the end and final judgment. (This has been one point made in all the visions of this book. They have pictured principles in conflict and the results of those conflicts).

3.

WORDS OF PROMISE (verses 13, 16)

Christ is the Alpha and Omega--Life’s alphabet, the One who is the beginning and the end. The One who gives meaning to life.--All right thinking depends on right application and use of the relationship of a person with Jesus Christ. Christ is "the root and offspring of David." (verse 16)--that is, He is the promised Messiah, the Saviour of mankind. Christ is "the bright morning star." (verse 16). Life is dark and tragic with despair for many troubled people on earth today. Disease, poverty, war, hunger are rampant. Men face either despair or hope--either darkness or light--either futility or God’s purposes. If we believe in Christ we have found the answer to dark despair. Against the dark background of night, wise men once saw the clear shining of the Star of Bethlehem, and today we have hope because we see Jesus "the bright morning star" the herald of a new day. Trust that "bright morning star." God set it there for you. "And so, all the jarring notes of life Seem blending in a Psalm. And all the angles of its strife Seem all the angles of its strife Slow rounding into calm. And so the shadows fall apart, And so the west winds play; And all the windows of my heart I open to the day."

4.

WORDS OF WARNING (verses 15, 18, 19)

Verse 15: In contrast to those who enter the city of God and have access to the tree of life are the impure who are described by SIX different impure characteristics. The number six is the number used throughout the book of Revelation for MAN WITHOUT GOD. The number which falls short of the perfect 7. (see former notes on 13:18--the number "666" of the beast). Verses 18, 19: Remind us that this book of Revelation must not be treated lightly. It has been written at God’s command and under the guidance of His Holy Spirit. The book must not be ignored because we find its language unfamiliar. It is part of God’s message to us. Sharp and terrible words are spoken to any who add to or take away from its words.

5.

WORDS OF HIS COMING (verses 7, 12, 20)

Three times the words are repeated "I am coming soon." It is to us a mistake to limit this promise only to the final climax of history--to that great event which men describe as The Second coming of Christ. (We prefer to use the term The final coming of Christ). This final coming of the Lord is of course an important part of the promise in these verses. "I am coming soon" is a promise with wider and immediate application. We need to remember that the whole book of Revelation is dealing with principles in constant conflict now.--That the visions record this conflict from many different view-points. The visions are not successive in order of time but are parallel. And in these visions the book describes the struggle in every individual, in every generation between good and evil, and in every case the Lord comes in judgment on evil and brings victory to the good. The promise "I am coming soon" refers to the coming of Christ to each person, to each generation, as well as to His final coming to the world at its end. Only as the individual Christian lives with the sense of the presence of his Lord can the Christian find victory over sin in his daily life. It is true that the Christian life is a spiritual conflict. It is a heavenly warfare which is to the finish. It is not fought with physical earthly weapons. We cannot win the battles against sin by our own unaided powers. Victory only comes to those in Christ. The decisive victory of Christ at His Cross decided the end of the conflict. Here and now those who are fully yielded to the reign of Christ become victors over sin. In this conflict Christ comes to strengthen and bless the Christian. "I am coming soon." These are the words of promise of the Christ who said "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." The three-fold promise of the last words of the Bible "I am coming soon" is fulfilled in part when individuals open their lives to receive Christ not only as Saviour but also as an abiding friend, guide and helper. With Paul even in a prison of cramping circumstances they can say "The Lord is at hand"--He is near. He is here with me. I am never alone." "I am coming soon." If we have caught the real message of the book of Revelation we have come to realize that Christ comes in many ways. He comes to the believer in times of crises--to guide, strengthen, encourage and help. He comes lo the believer at his death to fulfil His promise of John 14:3 "I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself." Christ comes to His church in its witness and need. Christ comes in each generation to bring it to judgment. And this book makes clear that in A VERY REAL WAY THERE IS A FINAL COMING OF CHRIST. Judgment, although it goes on from day to day is brought at last to completion upon all humanity and upon every devilish source of evil. Judgment and salvation are both alike present and future. Sin and evil are not eternal. At Christ’s final coming all sin and the satanic source of sin will be removed forever.

6.

WORDS OF INVITATION (verse 17)

John reminds us of the church’s real task of witnessing to the world--of evangelism--as the church, the bride of Christ lifts her voice with the Holy Spirit saying "Come"--to all who are thirsty for the water of life.

7.

THE LAST WORD IS OF HOPE AND BLESSING (verses 20, 21)

Christ speaks first to His people as they suffer for Him. "Surely I am coming soon." This is Christ in glory, offering to His church all she needs in her trials. To the troubled Christian the book of Revelation is given. And the church replies "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" Amen to the thought of sin and sorrow banished and the victory of Christ over the devil. This cannot come too soon. Verse 21: "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen." The last word left with us is the grace (the free unmerited pardon and help of the Lord Jesus). This last word reminds us that whatever are the dangers or difficulties, afflictions and persecutions which are pictured in this book, there is strength and love and help in the Lord. It reminds us that whether we are readers or interpreters of this book of Revelation, or whether we are trying to carry out its teaching in practical ways in our daily life, our power and wisdom must come from Him. Without the Lord Jesus Christ this book could not have been written; without Him it cannot be understood; without Him it cannot be obeyed.

Verse 7

ONE OF THE SECEN BEATITUDSE OF REVELATION It is significant that two of the seven beatitudes of this book appear in the last chapter (here and in Revelation 22:14).

6.

"Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." (Revelation 22:7). To "KEEP" the words of the prophecy of this book is not to wrap them up and bury them, nor simply to guard them from being stolen away--but rather to LIVE them with all the heart.

Verses 7-21

In our Meditation point we refer you to verses 7, 12, 20 of Revelation chapter 22 in which there is THE THRICE REPEATED PROMISE OF JESUS CHRIST "I AM COMING SOON".

We briefly referred to this promise in the Study notes on this chapter under "5"--"WORDS OF HIS COMING."

Three times in this last chapter of the Bible Jesus makes the promise "I am coming soon."

1. At some FUTURE time (a time known only to God) there will be THE FINAL COMING OF CHRIST.

When at His final coming Christ will be seen by every eye--When He will bring human history to its end and climax--When Christ will triumph and "the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of God and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever."

To this the New Testament bears witness in every page. I see little need to stress the clear teaching of the New Testament to the promise of the final coming of Christ. What 1 am seeking to stress is that CHRIST’S PROMISE "I AM COMING SOON" refers to more than His final coming. We should not forget that the religious leaders of the Jews who considered that they knew all about the Old Testament promises of the first coming of Christ made such a terrible mistake that when He came as a babe to Bethlehem they rejected and crucified Him. I am concerned lest Christians today should be so caught up in prophecies about Christ’s final coming that they become blind to the reality of His present coming to Christians in daily life NOW.

2. If we have come to understand what John has taught on the whole book of Revelation, then we will understand that Christ’s promise "1 am coming soon" refers also to the fact of DAILY EXPERIENCE--THAT CHRIST DOES COME. HE FULFILS HIS PROMISE TO EVERY CHRISTIAN IN DAILY LIFE.

In our times of crises and need, Christ comes to guide, strengthen, encourage and help. Surely in our experience we have all known the fulfilment of His promise "Lo, I am with you always": Christ’s promise "I am coming soon" takes my thoughts back to the experience of two disciples on the road to Emmaus that first Easter Sunday, as recorded in Luke 24:1-53. They had had the bitter experience of having all their highest hopes shattered. They had actually seen goodness in the form of Jesus nailed to a Cross on Good Friday. They were bewildered and broken as they walked the 7 miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

A stranger CAME to them, and talked with them, lifted up their hopes and faith, "but their eyes were holden and they did not know Him."

How like those two disciples are we! Christ COMES to us, knowing all our griefs and burdens. He comes to bless us. One thing an understanding of John’s book of Revelation will do for us is that our eyes are now open to the truth that Christ has, and continues to fulfil His promise "I am coming soon."

He comes to guide, strengthen, encourage and help us.

"No fable old, no mythic lore, No dream of bards and seers, No dead fact, stranded on the shore Of the oblivious years. But warm, sweet, tender, even yet A PRESENT help is He, And faith has still its Olivet, And love its Galilee."

And Christ comes to us today in every call to DUTY and Christian service.

Do you remember Tolstoy’s story about Martin the cobbler who had been reading about Christ and wishing that Christ would come to him? He fell asleep and heard a voice "Martin, look into the street tomorrow, I will come." The next day Martin looks out of his window saying to himself "Was it just a dream--or will He come indeed?" During the day the old man brings in a sweeper from the street, gives him tea, warms him at the fire. Then he brings in a soldier’s wife who was trying to wrap a bag about her baby to keep it warm. He gave her warm clothing and food. Then he brought in a poor apple woman and a boy and sorted out their problems. The last scene shows Martin sitting at the table on which burns a solitary candle. "The day is nearly over and He hasn’t come." And as Martin sits there, the figure of the cold snow sweeper rises before his eyes--The figure of the woman and her baby--the woman and the boy--and a voice is heard. "I have come. I was the sweeper, the woman, those in need." And the truth dawns on Martin the cobbler that Christ does fulfil His promise to come again when Christians respond to the call of duty. As Christians serve they find the Christ who comes.

That story of Tolstoy’s is not just a story. It presents a fact.

Personally I never see a vision. I never hear a voice. But I know that Christ Himself comes. HE HAS COME TO ME. I have found His presence when I have forgotten self in service to others.

I see no profit in date fixing or sign watching for the future event of Christ’s final coming. That is a secret known only to God. I am concerned lest we overlook the present fact taught in John’s Revelation that Christ does come to the Christian NOW. His promise "I am coming soon" is continually being fulfilled. As Christ comes to live in us as the power, the inexhaustible resources of God to enable us to live this present life triumphantly. It’s a wonderful thing to be a Christian, to be sure that we are not alone--but that "The Lord is near,"--and that we are not left to face life alone.

True Christianity does not postpone the presence of Christ to the future, nor recall His presence from the past, but lives in the conscious sense that Christ IS. Christ COMES. Christ LIVES in the present tense, and truly blessed is the reader who has grasped this truth.

Verse 14

7.

"Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates." (Revelation 22:14). These appeared much earlier in 7:14. They were those sealed and made safe because they had "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Purity and conquest over sin is a characteristic of those redeemed by Christ. It is this purity and conquest over sin which gives them access to the tree of life which man lost because of his fall into sin in the garden of Genesis chapter 3.

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Bibliographical Information
Norris, Harold. "Commentary on Revelation 22". "Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/nor/revelation-22.html. 2021.