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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 22

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary

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Verses 1-2

‘And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life bearing twelve types of fruits, yielding its fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.’

This is a clear parallel with the original Paradise in Genesis 2:0 where a river flowed through the garden, and also clearly has in mind the river flowing from the Temple of God in Ezekiel 47:0 on. The river is clean and totally pure, it comes from God’s throne, Who is the source of all life, and it feeds the tree of life which bears fruit constantly for all. It is the river ‘whose streams make glad the city of God’ (Psalms 46:4). Both the river of life (compare Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:6 and see John 4:14; John 6:35) and the tree of life (see Revelation 2:7) are symbols of the eternal life received from God.

In John 7:38 we are specifically told that the rivers of living water refer to the Spirit of God. Thus central to the city of God is the Spirit of God. It is He Who is its life source. His life runs through it. The tree of life is on both sides of the river, it has thus reproduced itself. There are a number of offshoots and there is sufficient for all. The eternal life that God’s people have received is continually and eternally nurtured. The twelve types of fruit show that all of the ‘twelve tribes’ (the people of God) are catered for (see Ezekiel 47:12). (The literalists, of course, have to exclude the tribe of Dan).

‘The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations’ (compareEzekiel 47:12; Ezekiel 47:12). Note the past tense. The nations who have responded are now healed because they partook of the river and tree of life in Christ. The leaves enable them to look back and remind themselves of the healing they had once known through the activity of the Spirit of God, and what blessing they have now received. God had made full provision for their healing. We may see it as a reminder that there is no illness here. So Paradise is now restored.

Alternately we may see ‘healing’ as signifying the ‘maintenance of health’. After all, this is the tree of life. The thought may be that just as human bodies constantly need a process of maintenance and restoration (that is why we need vitamins) so God has made continual provision for the health of His people. Again the idea is simply that there is no lack of total health there. All that is needed for full health is provided.

We must of course recognise the symbolism of the whole. In the resurrection world there will be no physical trees and we will have spiritual bodies (whatever they are). We can have no conception of the realities involved but we can be sure that they will provide all that we need. We note again that there is only ‘one street’, a symbol of the unity of God’s people in the New Jerusalem.

Verses 3-4

‘And there will be no curse any more, and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him, and they will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads.’

The curse that resulted from man’s first failure (see Genesis 3:0) has been removed. All is now restored. Again, as constantly, we are reminded that the Lamb is on God’s throne, even as glorified man, for He partakes of the essential essence and glory of God. His servants will worship Him (compare Revelation 7:15 where the same verb is used).

‘They shall see His face.’ This was something which no man could do and live (Exodus 33:20). But now the people of God have been made perfect and there is nothing to prevent their seeing the glory of His face. They have been made like Him and they see Him as He is (see 1 John 3:2; compare Psalms 17:15). To see the king’s face, which involved direct access into his presence, was on earth a privilege for the very view exceptionally important people (Esther 1:14 compare 2 Samuel 14:24; 2 Samuel 14:28; 2 Samuel 14:32), but here it is for all His people.

‘His name will be on their foreheads’ - a sign that they are forever His (see Revelation 3:12). The High Priest bore the name of Yahweh on his forehead as ‘holiness unto Yahweh’ (Exodus 39:30-31; compare Jeremiah 2:3)

Verse 5

‘And there will be night no more, and they need no light of lamp nor light of sun, for the Lord God will give them light and they will reign for ever and ever.’

He Who is the light of the world (John 8:12) gives them light, and this light has given them life. They need nothing more. Neither sun nor artificial light will be required. Darkness is gone. All is light. Indeed with God as their light that is all that they can possibly need. Their lives will be lived in the glory of His light.

‘And they will reign for ever and ever’. They share the eternal reign of Christ (Revelation 11:15). This is an advance on their reign with Him while they were on earth (Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:4; Romans 5:17). Now they stand supreme with Him (compare Daniel 12:3).

The book has reached its ultimate. All has been restored to its pristine glory, and there is better far to come.


We now have a series of statements summing up the main messages of the book. They are very similar to postscripts in letters, a little disjointed but each concerned to highlight something.

Verse 6

‘And he said to me, These words are faithful and true, and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angels to show to his servants the things that must shortly happen.’

The speaker is concerned that John will recognise the divine validity of what he has seen. All is totally reliable and completely true. But who is the speaker? At first sight we would assume it is the angel of Revelation 21:9, but in the next verse it is clearly Jesus Who is the speaker, and it is He Who is faithful and true (Revelation 19:11). (However we must compare how postscripts in letters skip from one thought to another). Whoever it is he is saying that the angels have come to John from the God Who Himself guides the spirits of prophets, with Spirit inspired words. Therefore John as a prophet can be sure of the things that he has seen, for God wants His servants to know what will be. Again it is stressed that these things will ‘shortly happen’, as indeed they did. And they have gone on happening. For the ‘thousand years’, that indeterminate but complete length of time before His coming, still continues, and is still ‘a short time’ to God.

Verse 7

‘Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.’

This is a repetition of the words in Revelation 1:3. By ‘keeps’ the angel clearly means ‘takes to heart and meditates on them’. The book is to be seen as a prophecy similar to that of the earlier prophets and treated as such, and is to be taken to heart and acted on.

Verse 8

‘And I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw I fell down to venerate at the feet of the angel who showed me these things, and he says to me, “See that you do not do it. I am a fellow-servant with you and your brothers the prophets and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God”.’

The writer first confirms who he is, that he is the John whom everyone will know, and that his information is first hand. Then he informs us of what was a natural reaction to what he had experienced. He fell before the angel in awe and reverence. But even this was not to be. The angel strongly forbids such behaviour and stresses that such should only be shown to God. Man is ever slow to learn this lesson. None is to be venerated but God.

Over the last two thousand years these words have been constantly ignored. Fallen man, when he rejects idolatry and yet fails to come to Jesus Christ in full trust and obedience, loves to replace idols with other substitutes. This is so whether they be Mary or the so-called saints or angels. The angels stricture applies equally here. They too were fellow-servants and are not to be shown veneration, which is all too similar to full worship. They become substitutes for God and barriers against a full knowledge of Him. We must remember the words of the angel. “See you do not do it”. But he is not saying that all men are on a level with angels. Rather he is saying that those who have truly responded to Christ are raised in status to that of the angels, ‘fellow-servants’ of God.

Verses 10-11

‘And he says to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. He who is unrighteous, let him still behave unrighteously, and he who is filthy, let him still be made filthy, and he who is righteous, let him still behave righteously, and he who is holy let him still be made holy”.’

With this compare Daniel 12:9-10. But Daniel had to seal the book for it could not finally apply until the new age when Christ had come. John, however, is in the new age and there is nothing to necessarily intervene between His time and the final fulfilment of God’s purposes. His readers are not to see it as something that will happen in the distant future but as something that is almost upon them. Now the book need not be sealed, it is about to come into fulfilment.

Revelation 22:11 has two parallels, the righteous and the unrighteous, the holy and the ‘unclean’. The world is divided into two. Firstly those who respond to Christ and are declared righteous in God’s sight through His offering of Himself once for all on their behalf, with resulting righteous behaviour in their lives, and those who reject him and are still unrighteous before God, and thus behave unrighteously. And secondly those who are acceptable to God and can come into His presence, and those who are defiled and cannot approach Him. All their righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Those who are acceptable to God as ‘holy’ are those who have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14; Revelation 22:14), and those who are satisfied with themselves and seek no cleansing are filthy.

He is warning of the consequence of men’s attitudes. What men are will result in what their lives become. Self-improvement is in vain in heavenly terms. It may make us more acceptable to man but it will not make us more acceptable to God. The righteous are those who respond to Christ who become ‘righteous’ in God’s eyes, in a state of acceptability to Him. They become ‘holy’, set apart to God and sanctified in Christ. The unrighteous are those who fail to respond to Christ and are liable to condemnation (although in man’s eyes some may be very righteous). The ‘filthy’ are those who, while they may be bathed and washed, and may be in fine clothes, fill God’s heart with ‘holy horror’ because of their earthliness and spiritual uncleanness. Those who are holy may be clothed in dirty clothing through no fault of their own (if John was working in the mines he may have been in such a state), but their hearts are pure and fixed on things above and God gladly accepts their approach.

John is not, of course, telling men to be satisfied with their position. He is making them aware of the choice available. He is saying, I have told you what is to come. Now it is up to you what you do. They must do what they choose.

Verse 12

‘Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me to render to each man according to his work (his attitude and behaviour).’

Again without warning we find words of Jesus Christ. John expects us to use discernment. (John’s Gospel also ends in statements whose author or authors the discerning reader has to determine - John 21:24-25). We have the same vagueness here). Again we are solemnly warned by Christ that His coming is imminent, and that when He comes all must give account (see Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12).

Verse 13

The Central Messages of the Book.

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’

Compare Revelation 1:9; Revelation 1:17; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 21:6. The book begins and ends with the fact that Father and Son sum up all things in themselves. All things come from them, all things proceed to them. God is all in all. The assumption must be, as with all first person statements in this epilogue (from Revelation 22:10 to Revelation 22:17), that these words are spoken by Jesus Christ. Note Revelation 22:12, Revelation 22:16 a, Revelation 22:16 b. Thus Jesus is taking to Himself the divine title which indicates the all-encompassing nature of God.

Verse 14

‘Blessed are those who wash their robes so that they may have the right to come to the tree of life and may enter in by the entrances into the city.’

Christ is not just concerned to express His glory, He wants it to affect men’s behaviour and attitudes. In the final analysis only by being cleansed through the blood of Christ can men find entry to the tree of life and become part of the city that is comprised of the people of God. For ‘wash their robes’ compare Revelation 7:14, where it indicates making them white in the blood of the Lamb. It is this which gives them the right to come to the tree of life, and to enter into the city. The Bible began with expulsion from the tree of life, now it ends with a welcome to the tree of life. It is a record of how that has been accomplished.

This is the seventh statement of blessedness in the book. In Revelation 1:3 those who read, hear and keep the prophecies of the book are blessed. In Revelation 14:13 those who ‘die in the Lord’ are blessed. In Revelation 16:15 those who watch and keep their garments by them in readiness for His return are blessed. In Revelation 19:9 those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb are blessed. In Revelation 20:6 those who share the First Resurrection are blessed. And in Revelation 22:7 those who keep the prophecies of this book are blessed. Now those who are cleansed in the blood of Christ are blessed. For they, unlike the fallen Adam, have entry to the tree of life and entry into the city of God.

Verse 15

‘Outside are the dogs, and the occult-seekers, and the sexually misbehavers, and the murderers, and the idolaters and every one who makes and loves a lie.’

Compare Revelation 21:8; Revelation 21:27. Throughout the book these things have been illustrated and condemned. Dogs in those days were mainly disreputable and disease ridden creatures as they scavenged around cities, and cities always sought to exclude them. Here we are told that men reveal themselves to be ‘dogs’ when they engage in the occult, in sexual misbehaviour, in murder, in putting loyalties before God and in lies and deceit, especially in believing the great Liar, and they too are then excluded. The warning is clear. Make sure you are in.

This cannot seriously be taken to demand that those mentioned are waiting there, standing outside. They are outside because there was no welcome for them. The point is that they are ‘outside’ because they have been excluded. They are the opposite of being in. They are, in fact, at this time in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

Verse 16

‘I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star.’

Compare Revelation 5:5; Revelation 2:28. Christ applies to Himself the Old Testament promises in respect of the coming one. He is the promised son of David (Numbers 24:17; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 12:1, 10). See also on Revelation 2:28. He is the bright and morning star, the welcomer of the new day (Numbers 24:17). The bright and morning star is an appropriate description with which to end. The night is passing and it is then that the bright and glorious morning star appears. These citations of the Old Testament stress that the One revealed cannot be distinguished from the One promised in the Old Testament. He is the fulfilment of the Old and the New.

Note how this statement of His Davidic descent is in close proximity with His statement that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13). Compare Romans 1:3-4; Mark 12:35-37.

Verse 17

The Final Invitation.

‘And the Spirit and the Bride say “Come”. And he who hears let him say “Come”. And he who is thirsty let him come. And whoever will let him take of the water of life freely.’

The book ends with the final call to all to come. None who desire to come will be excluded. The invitation is there and all must either accept it or ignore it. The Spirit Who has spoken all these things invites them to respond to Christ. The Bride who has been so blessed invites them to be part of herself. The reader of and listener to the book, who is moved and stirred to response, will himself immediately issue the invitation to others. The water of life is freely available to all. Let them take it before it becomes unavailable. It is available to those who hear, and to those who are thirsty.

Verse 18

‘He who testifies these things says “Yes, I come quickly”. Amen, come Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with the people of God. Amen.’

But how appropriate that the final P.S. should be “Yes I am coming soon”. To which all His own can only reply, ‘Amen (so be it). Come Lord Jesus.’ The final sentence then reminds us that all the blessings for God’s people depend on the undeserved love and favour of God. Amen, so be it.

Excursus. The Coming Age.

When the prophets looked forward to the day when God would deliver His people they did so in terms of a coming age of peace and plenty, where there was no bloodshed even among animals (e.g. Isaiah 11:6-9). Men in those days thought very much in physical terms. As we have seen (see the article " " and , the idea of an after-life was almost unknown, rarely being thought of except by the few, and never spelt out in detail. The future of Israel was firmly linked to this earth. The Old Testament is full of such references.

Even the resurrection spoken of in Isaiah 26:19 gives the impression of a rising in order to enjoy the future life of blessing on earth. Any other concept would have been so revolutionary as to be meaningless to the people, for men’s minds were not tuned in to that kind of idea, and these were therefore ‘pictures’ speaking to them in earthly terms they could understand, of what was to come. But note above in Revelation 22:1-5 how Ezekiel 47:0 is seen as fulfilled in the vision of Heaven. Note also how the coming future is spoken of in all the prophets as referring to what is ‘everlasting’ (Isaiah 9:6-7; Ezekiel 37:25-28 (three times); Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:14; Daniel 7:27; Micah 4:7). Such ideas are especially prominent in Isaiah. He sees the future glorious Jerusalem, as having eternal connections and as being part of the everlasting kingdom (study carefully Isaiah 1:27; Isaiah 4:3-5; Isaiah 12:6; Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 26:1-4; Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 30:19; Isaiah 33:5; Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 51:11; Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 59:20; Isaiah 60:14; Isaiah 61:3; Isaiah 62:1; Isaiah 62:11; Isaiah 65:18-19; Isaiah 66:10; Isaiah 66:13; Isaiah 66:20). All this does not speak of a Millennial kingdom but of one that is everlasting.

We have seen in the Book of Revelation that this use of the Old Testament to refer to the eternal kingdom is in fact assumed time and time again (compare also, especially, Hebrews 11:10-14). John draws hugely on the Old Testament, as do the visions. He was describing how he saw the Old Testament promises as being fulfilled. However, some godly people do think that the Old Testament promises must be taken absolutely literally, although in our view they only do so even then by selecting out what they wish to emphasise, and ignoring the remainder. It is not something to fight over. What really matters is that these promises are the guarantee of final blessing for the people of God.

Certainly the prophets wanted to offer hope and the certainty of God’s future mercy, and they did it in vivid pictures in a way that could speak to the people at the time. But so many and vivid are the Old Testament pictures of this glorious future life on earth that some are unwilling to accept that they were just pictures of what would later be revealed as an after-life with God in Heaven, pictures of future happiness and joy, of incomparable peace, prosperity and plenty. They therefore argue that there must yet be such a kingdom on earth.

The problem is that a careful study of the different pictures makes it difficult to reconcile them, (consider for example the differing futures shown as facing Egypt and the other nations, or the different ways described of observing the feasts). This does not matter if they are physical descriptions of a heavenly reality presenting ideas rather than facts, but is vital if they are to be taken literally. But certainly they do all contain the idea of peace and plenty, and benefit for other nations as well as for Israel.

Those who take the literal view seek to read it into the passage in Revelation 20:1-6 discussed above, but if they are not careful they offer only a second best. And it is a second best that most of them do not want for themselves, for they either tend to exempt themselves from it, or make provision for the ‘best’ of them to avoid it. God’s mercy does not offer second best. What is bought with the life-blood of God’s Son can surely only be the best. After that there can be nothing better.

The idea of a ‘kingdom age’ is often presented as ‘another chance’ for the half-believer. But any application of it can only result in inconsistency and a dilution of the Gospel. The ‘ideal’ conditions of a ‘kingdom age’ will not result in those who are made strong through being tried in the fire, but could only result in a false apathy and life of pretence - such is human nature! And, interestingly enough, to this most would agree. It is suggested that the millennium has partly this purpose in mind. But a kingdom age is not required to demonstrate this fact. Our lives of ease in some Western countries are sufficient to demonstrate it fully. Jesus makes clear to His listeners, as to us, that the chance is now. If we refuse it, He says, we must take the consequences we have brought on ourselves. There will be no second chance. If they will not hear Moses, neither will they believe if one rise from the dead. And we can add, neither will they believe in a Millennial kingdom.

But one thing is certain. Differences on such questions are only of secondary importance. Whatever our view it will not affect the course of God’s timetable. What is of primary importance is that we all work together in love and fellowship, looking for His glorious appearing, and seeking to be faithful servants ready for Him when He comes. We can then leave Him to do what He will.

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 22". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/revelation-22.html. 2013.
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