Revelation 22:1-2. And — Proceeding with his description of the heavenly city, the apostle observes, he — That is, the angel who condescended to be his guide on this occasion; showed me a pure river of the water of life — The ever fresh and fructifying influence of the Holy Spirit; see Ezekiel 47:1-12, where also the trees are mentioned which bear fruit every month, that is, perpetually. Proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb — All things that the Father hath, saith the Son of God, are mine; even the throne of his glory. In the midst of the street of it — Here is the paradise of God, mentioned chap. Revelation 2:7; and on either side of the river was the tree of life — As this river ran through the chief street in the midst of the city, so there were planted on each side of it beautiful trees, not only to serve for ornament and refreshment, but which, like the tree of life in paradise, should make the inhabitants immortal; which bare twelve manner of fruits — Which produced a great variety of pleasant fruits, and in such plenty, that ripe fruit was yielded every month — So that all might freely partake of them at all seasons. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations — That is, for the preserving, not the restoring, of spiritual health; for no sickness or infirmity, of mind or body, is, or can be there: beneath the salutary shade of these trees no disease can ever invade any individual of the nations of the saved, but perpetual health shall exist and flourish in them all.
Revelation 22:3-5. And then too there shall be no more curse — As there is in this present world, and has been ever since the fall of man; but only pure life and blessing, every effect of the displeasure of God for sin being now totally removed; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it — That is, the glorious presence and reign of God and the Lamb; and his servants — The most honourable title in the universe; shall serve him — The noblest employment. And they shall see his face — The blessed inhabitants shall enjoy the so much talked of beatific vision, a privilege not granted even to Moses. They shall have the nearest access to, and the most free intercourse with him. This is the strongest expression in the language of Scripture, to denote the most perfect happiness of the heavenly state, 1 John 3:2. And his name shall be on their foreheads — Each of them shall be openly acknowledged as God’s own property, and his glorious nature shall most visibly shine forth in them. There seems in this expression to be an allusion to the name of God being on the golden plate which the Jewish high-priest wore on his forehead. And there shall be no night there — In this blessed state there shall be no interruption of their happiness and joy, but they shall live in the continual light of God’s countenance. And they need no candle, neither light of the sun — No instruction, aid, or comfort from any means of grace, ordinances of God, or any creature, as on earth; for the Lord God giveth them light — Their knowledge and wisdom, holiness and happiness, proceed immediately from God himself, from his constant and everlasting presence with them, and favour to them, so that they shall enjoy the same unspeakable happiness, without any interruption or diminution. And they shall reign for ever and ever — What an encouragement is this to the patience and faithfulness of these saints. That all their sufferings here on earth shall work out for them an eternal weight of glory! Observe, reader, the kingdom of God is taken by force; but the prize is well worth all the labour. What is high, amiable, or excellent in all the honours, riches, pleasures, titles, dignities, monarchies of the earth, has, if taken together, not the weight or value of a grain of dust, compared to the glory, riches, and felicity of the children of God. God is not ashamed to be called their God, for whom he hath prepared this city. But who shall come up into this holy place? Who shall have a right to the tree of life? They who, being justified by grace, are made heirs according to the hope of it, Titus 3:7; they who, having this hope in them, purify themselves as he is pure, 1 John 3:3; they who do his commandments, Revelation 22:14; and give diligence to be found with him in peace without spot and blameless, 2 Peter 3:14. Thus ends the doctrine of the Revelation, in the everlasting happiness of all the faithful. The mysterious ways of Providence are cleared up, and all things issue in an eternal sabbath, an everlasting state of perfect peace and felicity, reserved for all who endure to the end.
Revelation 22:6-7. The glory and felicity set forth in the preceding chapter, and continued in the five verses we have just considered, being great above all imagination, certain as the word of prophecy, and lasting without end, must, if duly considered, be a powerful encouragement to us, and persuasive to constancy in the profession and practice of pure Christianity, whatever difficulties or dangers may attend it. What follows, to the end, is the conclusion of the whole book, or a sort of epilogue, which confirms the truth of the prophecies contained in these revelations, shows the importance and use of them, and is well fitted to leave them with strong impressions on the hearts of the readers, to preserve them from complying with any corruptions of the Christian faith and worship, and encourage their constancy in the ways of truth and righteousness. And he said, These sayings are true and faithful — All the things which thou hast heard and seen shall be faithfully accomplished in their order, and are infallibly true. Thus the angel ratifies all the forementioned particulars, by a repetition of the same solemn assurance which he had before given, (Revelation 19:9; Revelation 21:5,) adding that he was commissioned by the same God who had inspired the ancient prophets, to show the things which should shortly be done — That is, which would very soon begin to be in part fulfilled, and would, in process of time, be completed. Behold, I come quickly — Here the angel speaks, not in his own person, but in the person and character of Christ, whose ambassador and representative he was. Christ is said to come, upon any notable and illustrious manifestation of his providence; and all these are but so many steps to prepare the way for his last coming to judgment. Blessed, happy, is he that keepeth, without adding to or diminishing from, the sayings of the prophecy of this book — And that is duly influenced by them. And, as Vitringa devoutly wishes, “May the Lord grant this favour to us who have bestowed some labour in meditating thereon, that we also may have some share in this blessing.”
Revelation 22:8-9. And 1 John saw these things — I, who have committed these revelations to writing for the constant use of the churches, do solemnly declare they are no invention of my own, but what I was an eye and ear witness to, having really seen and heard these things in the prophetic visions granted me, as I have faithfully related them. And when I had heard, I fell down, &c. — And now, my visions appearing to be at an end, I prostrated myself before the angel who had showed me these things — To express the great respect and gratitude I felt for a person who had laid me under such great obligations. See on Revelation 19:10. Then saith he, See thou do it not — The expression, as before, in the original is short and elliptical, as is usual in showing vehement aversion: as if the apostle had said, The angel hindered me again, as he had done once before, informing me that I should not consider him as the author of these prophetic visions, but as a fellow-servant of the prophets; and, as such, employed in the service of God with them: all the praise of the church should be therefore given to God alone, who only is to be acknowledged the author of these Revelations, and who only gives the Spirit of prophecy for the encouragement and consolation of the faithful.
Revelation 22:10-11. And he saith unto me — After a little pause; Seal not the sayings of this book — Conceal them not, like the things that are sealed up; for the time is at hand — When they shall begin to take place. He that is unjust — Or unrighteous; that is, who lives and dies unjustified, let him be unjust, or unrighteous, still — For after death his state can admit of no change, he that is filthy — Unholy, unsanctified, and dies in that condition; let him, that is, he shall be, filthy, or unholy, still; and he that is righteous — That lives and dies justified, or accounted righteous; let him be, he shall be, righteous still; and he that is holy — That is, renewed in the spirit of his mind, and stamped with the divine image, and perseveres until death in that state; shall be holy still — Shall be found so at the day of judgment, and shall remain so for ever. Dr. Doddridge’s paraphrase on the verse, connecting it with the preceding, is, “The time is just approaching when the last seal shall be put on the characters of men, and when it shall be said, on the one hand, Let him that is unjust be unjust still, &c., for no more opportunities shall ever be granted for reforming what has been amiss, and recovering the unrighteous and polluted soul to rectitude and purity; and on the other hand, it shall be said, Let him that is righteous be righteous still, &c.; nothing shall ever happen to bring the virtues and graces of good men into any future danger, or under any cloud; but their righteousness and their holiness shall for ever shine, yea, shine with an increasing lustre.”
Revelation 22:12-15. And behold, I — Jesus Christ; come quickly — To judge the world. And my reward — Both of grace and vengeance; is with me — The reward which I shall assign, both to the righteous and the wicked, shall be conferred at my coming; to give to every man according as his work — His spirit and conduct, his whole inward and outward behaviour, shall be. And to confirm it further, I repeat it again, I am Alpha, &c. — Rather, the Alpha and the Omega, &c. — Who exist from everlasting to everlasting. How clear, incontestable a proof does our Lord here give of his divine glory! He is the Lord of the whole creation, by whom all things began to be formed, and by whom all things are to be finished; so that he will do all his pleasure, through all the ages of time, to the consummation of all things; and nothing can prevent or hinder the sure and full accomplishment of his word. Therefore, blessed, happy, are they, and they alone, that do his commandments — And so prepare for his important appearance; that they may have a right — Through his gracious covenant; to the tree of life —
To all the blessings signified by it. When Adam broke his commandment, he was debarred from the tree of life. They who keep his commandments, who show their faith by their works, shall have access to it, and shall eat of it. For without are dogs — That is, the unclean, the contentious and quarrelsome, the fierce and rapacious. The sentence, in the original, is abrupt, as expressing abhorrence. The gates are ever open; but not for dogs. These are, and ever shall be, shut out, as also sorcerers, &c. — All that live in the violation of the known laws of God. See on Revelation 21:8.
Revelation 22:16. I Jesus have sent mine angel — It was not thought sufficient to represent the angel as speaking in the person of Christ, but Christ himself also is here introduced speaking in his own person, and confirming the divine authority of this book, and attesting it to be properly his revelation; to testify unto you these things — Primarily to you, the seven angels of the churches; then to those churches, and afterward to all other churches in succeeding ages. I, as God, am the root — And source; and, as man, the offspring of David — And his family; and the bright and morning star — Who wear a glory exceeding that of the most brilliant and celestial luminary, and who put an end to the night of ignorance, sin, and sorrow, and usher in an eternal day of light, purity, and joy.
Revelation 22:17. And the Spirit — With which I inspire my servants; and the bride — The church, whom I have espoused, or the Spirit of adoption in the bride, says, with earnest desire and expectation, Come — And accomplish all the words of this prophecy. And let him that heareth say, Come — Let every one echo the invitation; and let my people, in all ages, consider it as their duty so to do; and let him that is athirst — That sincerely and earnestly desires the blessings of the gospel, whether the blessings of grace, or those of glory; come — And partake of those blessings. Let him apply to the Lord Jesus, in repentance and faith, to be pardoned and renewed; taken into God’s favour, and stamped with his image here, and put in possession of eternal life hereafter, and he shall not apply in vain; and whosoever will — Here they also, who are farther off, are invited; let him take of the water of life — He may partake of spiritual and eternal blessings; freely — Yea, as freely as he makes use of the most common refreshments, as freely as he drinks of the running stream. Such a declaration of free grace seems to have been wisely inserted just in the close of the sacred canon, to encourage the hope of every humble soul that is truly desirous of the blessings of the gospel; and to guard against those suspicions of divine goodness, which the dark mind of man is so ready to imbibe. The word λαμβανετο, which we render take, often signifies receive; and the word δωρεαιν, rendered freely, implies the same as gratis, namely, the perfect freedom of the gift, and may probably refer to the celebrated invitation, Isaiah 55:1-3.
Revelation 22:18-19. For I testify — Here the Lord Jesus adds a solemn admonition, not only to the churches of Asia, but to all who should ever hear or read this book. To him that adds to the things contained in it, shall all the plagues mentioned in it be added; and from him that takes away from the words of this prophecy shall the blessings spoken of in it be taken. And doubtless this guilt is incurred by all those who lay hinderances in the way of the faithful, in order to prevent them from hearing their Lord’s words, I come, and answering, Come, Lord Jesus. This may likewise be considered as an awful sanction given to the whole New Testament; in like manner, as Moses guarded the law, (Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32,) and as God himself did, (Malachi 4:4,) in closing the canon of the Old Testament. It is true, however, that this solemn caution particularly refers to this book of the Revelation. But, as Doddridge observes, “God forbid we should imagine every honestly mistaken criticism, where there is a question respecting receiving or excluding any particular verse, should affect a man’s salvation, in consequence of what is here said. Such a passage, however, should make men very cautious, that they may not rashly incur any censure on this account; though, undoubtedly, the terror of the threatening is planted against any designed erasement or addition.” It may be observed further on this verse, that since God threatens the plagues written in this book, and the loss of a part in the holy city, as what might be the portion of those who should presume to corrupt it, and such corruption might happen in any age of the church, — it is very evident that the holy city spoken of in the preceding chapter is a representation of the heavenly state to be enjoyed by all good men; how applicable soever it may seem to any glorious scene preceding the final judgment: and that Revelation 20:11-12, refers to the universal judgment.
Revelation 22:20. He which testifieth these things — Even all that is contained in this book; saith — For the encouragement of the church in all her afflictions, and the warning of all her opposers and persecutors; Surely I come quickly — To judge and punish all my enemies, and the enemies of my cause and people; and to establish my church in a state of perfect and everlasting happiness. The apostle expresses his earnest desire and hope of this, by answering, Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus — Accomplish thy promises in order: and finally crown the faith, patience, and constancy of thy servants with eternal life.
Revelation 22:21. The grace — The free love; of our Lord Jesus Christ — And all its fruits; be with you all — Who thus long for his appearing, and with all true Christians. The conclusion, as Bishop Newton says, is truly excellent, as well as all other parts of this book; and nothing could be contrived to leave these things with a stronger impression upon the mind of the reader. In the whole, from first to last, appears the majesty of the divine revealer — The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the Author and Finisher of every good work, and of this more especially. This is the sure word of prophecy, whereunto Christians, as St. Peter saith, do well to take heed, and attend, 2 Peter 1:16. Attention, then, to this book is recommended to us upon the authority of St. Peter, as well as of the writer, St. John: a double blessing, as we have seen in the book itself, is pronounced upon those who shall study and observe it; first in Revelation 1:3, and here again Revelation 22:7. Imboldened by which blessings, with Nehemiah, we would pray, Remember us, O my God, concerning this also, and spare us, according to the greatness of thy mercy, Nehemiah 13:22.
And now, to use the words of the pious and excellent Dr. Doddridge, “How sweetly and delightfully the canon of Scripture concludes, leaving, as it were, the music of heaven upon the attentive ear! O thou blessed root and offspring of David! O thou bright and morning star, impress on all our hearts these thy gracious words, which thou hast condescended to speak from the throne of thy glory; thereby, as it were, to aid the weakness of our faith in those which thou didst deliver while dwelling in mortal flesh! Then did the compassionate Saviour proclaim, from an eminence in the temple, to a crowded assembly, on a day of peculiar solemnity, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink, John 7:37. And now, behold, he makes the same proclamation from the celestial temple: he points as it were, to the fountain-head of happiness, to the springs of the water of life, near the throne of God; and says, Whoever will, let him come, let him take, let him freely take, of this living water, Revelation 22:17. Yea, and not content with speaking this language by his Spirit only, he calls on his bride to lift up her melodious voice, to publish this kind invitation. He calls on every one who hears it to echo it back, as if the excess of his goodness overcame him; as if it were necessary to his happiness that men should accept of their own salvation!
“With what sacred observance should these books be guarded, which contain a message of such infinite importance! of what dreadful curses are they worthy who presume to add to what is already perfect, or to take away, from that which is in every part divine! Revelation 22:18. God forbid that any of us should ever presumptuously attempt to do it! And may we be preserved from those mistaken interpretations, in consequence of which we should teach the world, as by his authority, any thing which he has not dictated, or deny any thing which carries along with it the stamp of such an authority! Have pity, O Lord, upon our weakness! Impute not prejudices which thou knowest we do not allow; and give us a greater penetration of mind to understand the true sense of thy word; a simplicity of heart to receive it; an integrity, so far as the duty of our station requires, to declare it; and a zeal to inculcate and defend it.
“While we are thus employed, — or employed in any other services which Providence may assign us; — whatever labours may exercise us, whatever difficulties may surround us, whatever sorrows may depress us, let us with pleasure hear our Lord proclaiming, Behold, I come quickly: I come to put a period to the labour and suffering of my servants; I come, and my reward of grace is with me; to recompense, with royal bounty, every work of faith and labour of love. I come to receive my faithful, persevering people to myself, to dwell for ever in that blissful world where the sacred volume, which contains the important discoveries of my will, shall be no more necessary; but knowledge, and holiness, and joy, shall be poured in upon their souls, in a more immediate, a more noble, and a more effectual manner. Amen! even so, come, Lord Jesus! Hasten the blessed hour to us, and to all the churches, so far as it may consist with thy wise and holy counsels. And, in the mean time, may thy grace be with us, to keep alive the remembrance of thy love, and the expectation of thy coming, in our hearts; and to animate us to a temper and conduct which may suit the blessings we have already received, and the nobler felicity after which thou hast taught us to aspire! Amen and Amen!”