As I noted in our previous study, Revelation 22:5 not only ends the narrative for the Book of Revelation but it concludes the overall story-arch of the entire Bible. The original curse brought into the world through the sinful choices of Adam and Eve is finally brought to an end as our eternal reality transitions to the New Jerusalem we enjoy on a new earth.
Additionally, the devastating separation that has existed since the Fall between mankind and his Creator is at last removed for all eternity. According to John’s account, for the first time since the Garden of Eden, humanity will be able to see the veiled face of God.
Beginning with verse 6 and continuing to the end of the chapter, John will be given a few final exhortations that he relays to us… Revelation 22:6-7, “Then he said to me (for context regarding the identity of “he,” Revelation 21:9 establishes the speaker as being “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues”), ‘These words are faithful (completely dependable) and true (they are without fiction).’
(John then seems to cut in by adding…) And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. ‘Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.’”
Back in Revelation 16:15, in the midst of John recording the events of the sixth Bowl Judgment, Jesus broke into the narrative with the warning, “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches and keeps his garments.” It would appear, following this angel’s final words and John’s interjection, Jesus once again jumps into the flow of the text.
In light of all the things John has seen and recorded concerning the “new earth” and specifically the holy city, the “New Jerusalem” Jesus wants the reader to consider His soon coming. “Behold” or literally consume your thoughts with the idea “I am coming quickly!”
This exhortation to think about Jesus’ soon coming is of such importance, in addition to verse 7, you will find the same exhortation repeated two other times in this one chapter!
I noted in our very first study the idea behind this phrase “coming quickly” is not to say that Jesus was coming soon (which would be odd as it’s been 2000 plus years). Instead, the idea is that when His coming does finally happen it will take place abruptly. You see the suddenness of Jesus’ coming (the reality He could call His Church home to heaven at any moment) should cause His followers to live in a state of perpetual readiness.
May I ask… How often do you think about the reality your day could end with you standing on the other side of the great divide called death alive before King Jesus? Whether it be the Rapture or simply your appointment to die once, the idea that your eternity could be ushered in today should have a tangible impact on your life.
First and foremost, have you reconciled with God through Jesus? Are you confident of your salvation? Do you know where you’ll go? If today was your last, would eternity begin with serious regrets? Would there be conflicts left unresolved, harsh words still ringing out into the ether, sins hidden from everyone only to be discovered by your loved ones after the fact? Would those you care the most about know how you really feel about them? Again, the suddenness by which your eternity can begin should place today into context!
All the way back in the opening of the book, in Revelation 1:3, Jesus gave an interesting promise. He said, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” Unique to the Book of Revelation is that it comes with a particular blessing for the reader, hearer, and keeper!
Now that we’re approaching the end of the book, understand if you’ve been with us on Sunday mornings over the last few months you’ve already received the blessing of “reading” as well as the blessing in “hearing.” And yet, as noted in chapter 1:3 and now repeated again in Jesus’ exhortation recorded in verse 7, there is a final and lasting blessing given to those “who keep the words of the prophecy of this book.”
In the original language, the word “keep” doesn’t mean to obey, but rather to attend to carefully or safely guard. Considering most of the book documents future events — most of which are not relevant to the Christian, the idea of “keeping those things which are written,” is that we should cherish “this book” and hold this Revelation of Jesus in high esteem.
This is one of the reasons modern Christianity’s hesitancy to teach through this book is so shortsighted. Out of fear the subject matter might sound strange, we indirectly rob the congregation of a blessing promised by Jesus Himself. As I’ve mentioned, in light of what’s happening in our world, I believe the Book of Revelation is more relevant than ever!
Yes, it’s true this revelation addresses the coming future and the subject matter can be trippy, scary, and sometimes downright disconcerting. And yet, the book does this for a reason — so that you might come to see Jesus in a new and radicle way! It is not an accident the book begins by declaring itself to be “THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST!”
I said this in my introduction to this series and I’ll say it again here at the end… The goal of a series through the Book of Revelation should not be to work out all your eschatology or theology on the End Times. Instead, the blessing of reading and hearing is that this book provides a greater understanding of who Jesus is which is why it should be cherished. Without this 66th book, our knowledge of our Savior Jesus would be woefully incomplete.
To this idea of John’s revelation being referred to as a book… In Revelation 1:11, Jesus commanded the Apostle, at the onset, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia.” Now that we’ve reached the end of John’s record, we will find the final product referred to as being “this book” seven times in this last chapter.
Revelation 22:8-9, “Now I, John, saw and heard these things. (In his closing, the Apostle John is attesting to being an eyewitness to everything he recorded.) And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. (This is the second time John has made this mistake.) Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’”
Revelation 22:10-11, “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. He who is unjust (wicked), let him be unjust still (let him continue in his wickedness); he who is filthy (morally defiled), let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.’”
In the final few words given to Daniel by the Lord, the prophet was instructed in chapter 12:4 to “shut up the words” of his prophecy and “seal the book until the time of the end.” The reason for this was that Daniel’s prophetic visions could be better understood at a later date and with the benefits of hindsight. In contrast to this, John is instructed: “not to seal the word of the prophecy of this book.” Why the difference? “For the time is at hand.”
Again, while the Book of Revelation includes many things that still remain in our future, the purpose of John’s writing was to reveal the complete person of Jesus to His Church making the things he documents incredibly applicable in the moment. They were not to be sealed.
You see the Revelation of Jesus provided in this book has been relevant to believers down through the centuries for it’s given comfort that God wins in the end, peace that all wrongs will one day be righted, an anticipation of brighter days ahead, the promise of heaven, as well as the motivation to make every day count — for the King of the Kingdom is Coming!
I will admit that verse 11 is rather complicated. The angel says to John, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” In the Greek, there doesn’t seem to be an invitation to continue doing what you’re doing but an admission this is what will happen.
A better translation would be, “He who is unjust and filthy, will remain unjust and filthy; he who is righteous and holy, will remain righteous and holy.” It would appear the key to understanding what’s being articulated by this angel is the fact the statement itself is being made within the context of the exhortation to be prepared for Jesus’ soon coming.
David Guzik observes, “The thought here is probably since Jesus is coming so suddenly, there won’t be time for change. There will be no time for last minute repentance, but there is time now. If what you have read in Revelation hasn’t changed you, there isn’t much hope!”
In verse 12, Jesus again interrupts… Revelation 22:12-13, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
There is no question Jesus is relaying to the reader a measure of urgency. He’s coming and we need to be ready. Why? Jesus says that He will “reward every one according to his work.” If you are a Christian, I hope you know that you’re alive on this earth for a reason. You and I were created by God, saved by Jesus, and then filled with the Holy Spirit so that God might accomplish His will on this earth through our hands, feet, and mouths.
The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, “Lord make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness joy. O Divine master grant that I may, not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood, as to understand. To be loved, as to love. For it’s in giving that we receive… And it's in pardoning that we are pardoned… And it’s in dying that we are born… To eternal life.”
In Ephesians 2:10, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Regarding our Christian service, Jesus had promised to reward our work in eternity!
While the Bible is clear it is our faith in Christ alone that saves, it’s equally true a genuine faith in Jesus will bring about the real transformation of a person’s life. To this point, Jesus’ half-brother wrote to the Church in James 2:17-18 that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
You see works are the most reliable indication as to the existence of saving faith in a person’s life. For example, if you claim to have had a life-altering encounter with Jesus, but your life has not been altered in any way, did you really have such an encounter? As Charles Spurgeon once said, “A grace that does not change your life will not save your soul.”
In verse 14, John once again jumps into the text… Revelation 22:14-15, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”
Regarding the works yield by our faith, John relays how “blessed” or literally happy “are those who do His commandments” for we’re given “the right to the tree of life” (everlasting life) as we are able to “enter” the New Jerusalem “through the gates into the city.”
Obviously, the pertinent question is what is “His commandment?” In 1 John 3:23, we’re provided the answer. We read, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” Understand, the one work by which all other Christian works flow is the personal decision you make to surrender your life to Jesus Christ!
In many ways, this list John provides in verse 15 is nothing more than a repeating of what he was told in Revelation 21:8 about those not granted access to the new earth and instead cast into hell. We’re told these will remain “outside” where, as Jesus said in Matthew 8:12, they are “cast into outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
This revelation closes with a particular exhortation given by Jesus to the churches the book would have been originally delivered to upon John’s release from the island of Patmos…
Revelation 22:16-17, “I, Jesus (please note this is the only place in the entire Bible where we have this personal dictation meaning what follows is really, really important), have sent My angel (John was the messenger) to testify to you these things in the churches. (Jesus is authenticating that what John has written in this book the Lord revealed to him.)
I am the Root and the Offspring of David (Jesus instituted the very Davidic line He would be born into. He was the originator and fulfillment.), the Bright and Morning Star.’ (This is a reference to the North Star or the dawning star that welcomes in a brand new day.)
And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
For those who find themselves deeply longing for something more than this fallen world has to offer… For those keenly aware of an internal need this world fails to meet… For the man or woman perishing from an unquenchable thirst… The Book of Revelation closes with the bold invitation that “whoever desires” may “come” to drink “freely” of “the water of life.”
This concept of Jesus offering to humanity something that can satisfy a spiritual need as illustrated by water, physical thirst, and coming to drink was first introduced through an interesting exchange Jesus has with a Samaritan Woman recorded in John 4:7-15.
“A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’ … Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?’ … Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?’
Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.’”
For greater clarity as to what this “water” really is, in John 7:37-39, we’re told, “On that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Practically, when the Book of Revelation closes with this invitation that “whoever desires” may “come” to drink “freely” of “the water of life” what’s being promised is an internal transformation of the individual through the indwelling of the Spirit of God. This spiritual experience is referred to as regeneration, the new birth, or simply as being born again. In John 3:5, Jesus told a religious leader named Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
Before we move on, please don’t miss the implications of the “whoever desires” component of what Jesus is offering. Friend, the only prerequisite to a life-changing encounter with Jesus is “desire.” It’s not being good enough or somehow proving you’re worth it. All you have to do is want it enough to ask Jesus to fill you with His Holy Spirit.
Again, this word “freely” is more accurately translated as undeservingly. No one filled with the Spirit deserves to be! It’s a gift given by Jesus we can only receive. In the end, this is what really makes Christianity so much different from all the other world religions.
You see the religious norm of this world presents a dynamic whereby man comes with an offering they hope will be found good enough to be received by god. And yet, Christianity turns this dynamic on its head for the Gospel presents a dynamic whereby God comes having made a good enough offering He hopes man will receive.
In both, the situation is fundamentally, “I’m giving. Will you receive?” The great contrast is who’s in the first person — who’s the giver and the receiver, who’s making the offering, and who’s receiving it? Amazingly, the options are clear and the contrast evident… We give an offering hoping God receives it or God gives an offering hoping we receive it!
Revelation 22:18-19, “For I testify (when Jesus makes such a declaration we’d be wise to take it seriously) to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book (this has a universal application): If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Very heavy implications.)
Before we unpack what Jesus is warning of in this passage, we do need to address whether or not this is applicable to only the Book of Revelation or the Bible more broadly. Notice the two pertinent lines in our text… Jesus first references the “words of the prophecy of this book” (which applies to the Book of Revelation), but then He also mentions the “words of the book of this prophecy” (which indicates an application to the entire Bible).
The overwhelming majority of Bible scholars and the orthodox view universally adopted by the Church fathers — beginning with the first generation following the Apostolic Age, is that God’s Word includes a total of 66 books (39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New) with Revelation (the final manuscript written by an elderly John) closing out the Cannon.
I don’t want to run down the rabbit hole, but I should point out the Church fathers did not pick and choose what books to include in the Bible. The entire idea of Canonization was that they codified which books had already been accepted as the authoritative word of God.
This sober warning Jesus gives in this passage applies to anyone that would “add to” or “take away from” God’s Word following the completion of Revelation. This would include the Roman Catholic Apocrypha, Book of Mormon, the Koran, or more fringe writings like the Book of Enoch or the Gospel of Judas which have never been accepted as authoritative. In fact, Jesus can’t be any stronger than He is in His admonition not to mess with Scripture.
Revelation 22:20-21, “He who testifies to these things says (Jesus says for the third time this chapter), ‘Surely I am coming quickly (this should have a particular impact for anyone named Shirley).’ (Now John jumps back into the narrative…) Amen (or that’s true). Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
Following man’s decision to rebel against God and eat of the forbidden fruit, Genesis 3:10 records Adam’s first words in a fallen state. “So he said to the Lord God, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’” Inherent to our sin nature has always been the tendency to hide oneself from the presence of a holy God.
And yet, it’s really a fascinating thing to observe the final words of sinful man recorded in the Bible in this appeal made by the Apostle John closing out the Book of Revelation. He says, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” While the Bible begins with man hiding from the presence of God, it closes with man pleading for God to come quickly! Amazing! What changed?
John answers this question with the final words of the book… You see man has gone from hiding from God to now longing to be in His presence because of “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!” It is the grace of God demonstrated in Jesus that has changed everything!
In such a gnarly book that presents for us so many aspects of Jesus’ person and character we would be oblivious to if only left to the Gospel narratives, John closes by bringing us back to the one thing about Jesus that makes Him so very different — His grace!
God not only loves you in spite of you, but He sent His only Son Jesus to die to save you from your sin for no other reason than He’s that good! Friend, there is nothing you can do to cause God to love you any more than He already does. And there is nothing you can do to cause God to love you any less. In Romans 5:8, Paul declares, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Friend, the Good News is that your salvation is not dependent upon your performance. You can’t earn your salvation any more than you’ll ever deserve it. You see a life-changing relationship with King Jesus is given. All that is required of you is to humbly accept.
While this Revelation of the King presents Jesus in some challenging ways, John closes by reminding us that today we can receive “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I pray as we wrap up our travels through this amazing book you find yourself having a greater understanding of who Jesus is and a deeper love for Him as a result.
Coming out of this study, you know the future and it’s true that should make an impact on how you view today. But never forget, you’ve been given a glimpse into future things so that you might see more clearly the One who holds these things in His hands. I pray through this study and over the last 30 weeks you’ve enjoyed a fresh Revelation of the King
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