Revelation 22:18-21 Coming Soon!

At the end of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and journey through the Sinai desert, Moses assembled the twelve tribes on the plains of Moab. There, Moses gave the book of Deuteronomy as a constitution for the nation of Israel in the promised land. Deuteronomy was different from Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers, which recounted past history and its lessons, and from Leviticus, with its procedures for the priesthood. Deuteronomy explicitly looked forward to the life that the Israelites were entering as a people, with promises and commands pertaining to their covenant life as the people of God.

In this respect, Revelation is like the book of Deuteronomy. The four gospels record the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The book of Acts tells of the apostolic founding of the church, and the Epistles record the doctrinal and practical instructions of the apostles to those churches. Revelation looks explicitly to the church age that was then beginning and would continue until Jesus returns, looking ahead even to an eternity of glory. As Deuteronomy was written directly to Israel as it departed the exodus generation, Revelation was given to the churches emerging out of the apostolic age into the gospel millennium. It details the promises and obligations of the church’s life as God’s covenant people in Jesus Christ.

One sign that the apostle John saw Revelation as a new book of Deuteronomy is the warning he attaches in Revelation 22:18-19. Directed to “everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book,” the warning threatens anyone who “adds to them [and]…anyone [who] takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy.” This warning mirrors similar words that occur in Deuteronomy. Moses commanded, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you” (Deut. 4:2).

There are voices today that urge Christians to downplay Jesus’ sovereign demands. We are told to mention only the promises and comforting phrases of the New Testament without the requirements and warnings. Some even hold that to teach commands and laws for the Christian life amounts to an anti-gospel legalism. The book of Revelation shows, however, that Jesus did not hold this view. The Sovereign Lord puts commands before His people even as He provides the grace needed to keep them. Having insisted that His people must overcome the power of evil by faith, Jesus commands His church to reverently keep His Word. “Only hold fast what you have until I come,” Jesus says. “The one who conquers and who keeps my words until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (Rev. 2:25-26).

In addition to the warning that concludes Revelation, Jesus adds a promise to return soon: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon’” (v. 20). Jesus is not far off and inattentive but will soon return to bring both judgment and salvation. His primary emphasis here is to encourage His faithful disciples who are suffering in the world. In verse 17, the Spirit and the bride called out to the beloved Lord, saying, “Come.” He answers now, “Surely I am coming soon.”

So central is the theme of Christ’s soon return to the Christian faith that we should point out some of its important implications. First, the return of Christ should produce a serious concern to lead faithful, Bible-obeying lives. Christians have no need to fear condemnation in the coming of Christ, yet the Bible does teach that He will look to each of us to see the return on His grace in our lives. Faithful Christians will desire to do as much for Jesus as we can in these days and will desire that Christ receive a great profit from His investment in our salvation. Not only will Christ physically return to take accounts, but Revelation shows that He rules us now through the Holy Spirit, disciplining wayward believers and supporting His obedient disciples in their need.

Second, knowing that Jesus will soon return should animate all believers with a fervor for evangelism and world missions. We should be concerned about the spiritual condition of all people, realizing that without faith in Jesus they are under God’s wrath and in danger of terrible judgment when Christ returns. Moreover, we are told that Jesus will return only when the last of His people has been gathered to faith.

Third, the soon return of Christ calls on nonbelievers to repent, acknowledge the lordship of Jesus, and come to Him now in faith. Christ is coming soon to save His faithful people and also to judge rebels who have refused Him homage. In Jesus’ parable of the talents, which shows Him as coming back to reward His faithful servants; that parable concludes with a warning of judgment on those who did not trust or serve Him, who are cast “into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30).

John concludes Revelation with a benediction that reminds us that Revelation was a letter sent by the apostle for the benefit of his churches. He concludes: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (v. 21). A benediction is both a prayer appeal and a declaration of God’s blessing on His people. As was Paul’s practice, John in his benediction proclaims the grace of Christ for believers. When we speak of salvation “by grace,” we mean that salvation is a free gift from God. Here, “grace: refers to the attitude of the Lord toward His people: Christ is filled with merciful love for all those who call on His name. Revelation has shown Jesus as the Lion and Lamb who is worthy to unseal the scroll of God and establish the divine purpose for heaven and earth. This victorious Lord looks upon His struggling people – then and now – with grace in His heart, acting in compassion for their sufferings and determining by His redeeming work to bring them with Him into the new Jerusalem that is to come.

“Grace” further refers to the power that God provides to His people in need. In Revelation, Christ has commanded believers to overcome through faith. Will we? The answer is yes! By His grace the people of Christ will persevere in faith so as to stand triumphant on Mount Zion together with the Lamb (Rev. 14:1). Christians are commanded to hold fast to God’s Word and uphold our testimony to Jesus to the end. By the grace of Jesus, we will: the stars of the churches will shine brightly in the darkness of this world until the morning star rises to bring a new day.

Christians are required to withstand the allures of the harlot and must refuse to worship the beast. We must reject false teaching from the false prophets of this world. Will the church and will Christians maintain their faith against such potent opposition? The answer, for which John prays and that he declares on Christ’s behalf, is found in the closing benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (v. 21). Not merely some of Christ’s people are strengthened, empowered, and secured by this grace, but, John insists, the grace of the Lord Jesus will save all who hear, believe, and call on His name in true faith.

With this benediction, John concludes the book of Revelation right where he began. Chapter 1 presented the “revelation of Jesus Christ…who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Rev. 1:1, 5). Looking now in faith to the same Lord and Savior at the end, experiencing the power of His grace, and hearing His promise soon to come for our salvation, we know that we can continue in faith and conquer in His name until He returns. With His promise of grace ringing in our ears, we hear our Sovereign Lord claim, “Surely I am coming soon.” We answer, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

Revelation 22:18-21 Study Questions:

How might we live in joyful expectation of the day when Jesus comes?

Revelation 22:16-17 Come to the Waters

Having given His testimony through the angel to the churches, Jesus identifies Himself one last time: “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (v. 16). In response to this statement, the bride of Christ, His church, appeals for Him to come. Jesus then promises to come soon, and John concludes the book by declaring the grace of Christ on His believing readers. The conclusion of Revelation is centered on Jesus’ salvation offer and His people’s adorning praise.

When Jesus says that He is “the root and the descendant of David” and “the bright morning star,” He declares Himself the fulfilment of important Old Testament messianic prophecies. The first statement comes from Isaiah 11:1-10, where the prophet foretold, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit” (Isa. 11:1). When Isaiah called the Messiah “the stump of Jesse” (Isa 11:10), he was speaking not of Christ’s divine nature but of the insignificant earthly remnant that David’s line would have become when the Messiah came. All that would be left was of merely a stump of the line of Jesse but a root of that stump. Yet that root, being incarnated as the Son of God, would be blessed by God to bring salvation. “The Sirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,” Isaiah wrote (11:2), and with divine power the “root” would fulfill God’s promises and restore life.

The second prophecy was made in Numbers 24:17 by the mysterious pagan shaman Balaam, whom God used to foretell Jesus Christ: “A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.”  Jesus now declares that His victory has achieved this prophecy: “I am…the bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16). Balaam spoke of Christ’s rising not only to give light but sovereignly to crush His enemies, bringing redemption and salvation to the people of God.

The impact of Jesus’ self-description is felt not merely as we absorb the images but when we understand the doctrine that is realized in who He is and what He has done. In a world where salvation often seems unlikely, Jesus is the root from which an eternal peace has come to bless the renewed creation. Jesus is the rising morning star that signals the coming of an eternal age of glory and blessing. This is the Christian doctrine of salvation. Whereas humanism hopes for the cold advance of scientific progress, Christ speaks of eternal peace flowing from His saving work. Whereas Eastern mysticism hopes for the annihilation of the self in the cosmic sea, Jesus promises that His coming is the morning star that floods His people with life and light.

We know that we grasp Jesus’ message is we respond to it in the way that the Spirit-filled church speaks in Revelation 22:17: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’” The bride who calls to Jesus is His church. She is betrothed to Him through faith and longs for the Bridegroom to return so that the marriage feast may begin. The “Spirit” is surely the Holy Spirit, speaking through and with the church that He indwells.

While there is little doubt that at least the opening summons of verse 17 is directed to Christ, the second half of the verse calls to unbelievers who are present in the church or even in the world. John writes that “the one who hears” should say, “Come.” Hearers of the gospel should call out to Jesus and then plead with His salvation offer to the world. The final sentence in the verse is clearly directed to sinners in need of grace: “And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (v. 17).

That this evangelistic appeal occurs at the end of Revelation, and of the Bible, tells us something important about Jesus. Revelation is a book that shows Christ as judging His enemies, imposing His kingdom on the world, and casting down Satan and his servants. Yet the compassion of Jesus’ heart is not dimmed even in the midst of these scenes. While there remains time before the final judgment, Jesus still calls sinners to be saved. We discover the same mercy and zeal for salvation in the Gospels. Even after Jesus had been nailed to the cross, His first words were a prayer to the Father for the forgiveness of His tormentors: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). When one of the thieves crucified with Him called out for salvation, Christ was ready to give it: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Despite suffering so dreadfully on the cross, Jesus was still evangelizing! After Christ was resurrected and ascended to heaven, His disciples’ first witness was to the very Jewish leaders who had betrayed Jesus. His servants preached, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). This is the Savior who sends His gospel out to you now, even as His Word is preached. The reason that He has not yet come in answer to the plea of His people is so that forgiveness of sins may still be offered until the last one has believed. What could keep you from calling on Him for your own salvation, even as Jesus speaks from heaven offering salvation before He returns?

Verse 17 concludes with a great statement of the gospel as it invites us to “take the water of life.” From the beginning of the Bible, where a “river flowed out of Eden to water the garden” (Gen. 2:10), to this statement at the Bible’s very end, God’s gracious stream has rippled with life-giving power for all who believe. David sang of “a river whose streams make glad the city of God” (Ps. 46:4), and Ezekiel foretold a stream issuing out from beneath the temple doors, bringing purity and life to a land poisoned by sin (Ezek. 47:1-12). Isaiah looked forward to the day of promise, declaring, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isa. 12:3).

Christ stands at both the end of the Bible and the end of history and together with His church offers you the water of salvation. What remains is only for you to come and take it: “And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price (v. 17).

Notice the kind of person to whom Christ offers salvation. He speaks to “the one who is thirsty.” Here is a universal appeal, for the entire human race thirsts from souls that are unfulfilled and dissatisfied with life. David wrote, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:2). It is with mercy and love that Jesus Christ presents Himself before everyone – even the greatest sinners – as “the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (v. 16). He calls, “Let the one who is thirsty come” (v. 17). Here is the general call of the gospel, offered universally to every soul, promising life if only you will come. It is the call given by the church today, proclaiming the gospel in every ear with the genuine offer of forgiveness and life.

You must receive salvation as a free gift, because you have nothing of your own with which to buy it. All your supposedly good works are corrupted by sin and are unacceptable to God (Isa. 64:6). Every quest you might perform, every dollar you might give, and every prayer you might offer is invalidated by the guilt of sin that lies heavy upon you. You must be saved by grace alone. Isaiah wrote: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1). Jesus offers you the salvation that He has achieved, which you receive as a gift through simple faith. Salvation is “the water of life without price” (v. 17), to the glory of God’s grace, which He generously extends freely to everyone who comes.

Revelation 22:16-17 Study Questions:

Who beckons Jesus to come (v. 17)?

How is the Spirit empowering you in your life as a follower of Jesus today?

Revelation 22:10-16 The Last Testimony of Jesus Christ

Revelation is the last book in the Bible, the final book of the apostolic era, and also the book that most clearly describes the end of history and return of Christ. As “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1), it has shown Christ reigning as Lord over His church, defending His people under persecution, slaying His enemies, and shining His glory on the eternal city. How fitting that Jesus should now speak at the book’s end.

Revelation 22:16 removes any doubt as to whose testimony is contained in the final message given to John: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches.” In the concluding verses of chapter 22, Jesus speaks as Sovereign, Judge, and Savior. In this last testimony, Jesus is Himself the Last Word as the canon of Scripture closes and His people wait expectantly for His return.

Throughout the book of Revelation, the sovereignty of God and of Christ has been emphasized as the basis of our hope for judgment of evil and the salvation of believers. Chapter 1 declared God as “the Alpha and the Omega” (1:8), who thus governs everything from the beginning to end. Chapter 22 ascribes this same sovereign title to Jesus: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (v. 13). In this sovereign capacity, Jesus dictates to John how to handle the message of this book: “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near’” (v. 10).

Revelation described a situation that was urgent in John’s time. These were churches facing the tribulations written of in Revelation, so they needed the courage that the book supplies by declaring Christ’s sovereign victory. With the sword of the beast against their necks and the seductions of harlot Babylon alluring, it was necessary for John’s readers to know the certain victory of the Lamb from His reigning throne on Mount Zion. It is in this same spirit that Jesus provides the message of Revelation to the church today, “for the time is near.”

Jesus’ instruction for the unsealing of Revelation proves that the book was not written merely for Christians who will live in the future period just before Christ’s return. Jesus said that His message was urgent for the people of John’s own time and thus for believers throughout the church age as well. According to the Bible, the last days began when Jesus ascended into heaven and established His church through the apostles, starting the final era of redemptive history (see 2 Tim. 3:1; Heb. 1:2). Jesus therefore gives His last testimony to John “about these things for the churches” (v. 16). Since Revelation is intended for the churches of this present age, the neglect of this book today will leave the church weakened under the assault of the world.

Jesus speaks with a command: “Let the evildoer still do evil” and “the righteous still do right” (v. 11). Jesus commands not only godly people to be godly but also evil people to do evil. In what sense can we understand Jesus to be commanding evil? The answer is that Jesus is commanding that ungodliness be seen for what it is and that godliness be seen for what it is. One of the emphases of Revelation is that Christ will confront and judge evil throughout this age and especially at its end. Here, He commands that evildoing be seen as evil and moral corruption be displayed as the filth that it is. Is this not happening in Western society today, despite the propaganda that promises sexual perversity, celebrates greed, and masks a culture of death? Despite the clever denials and deceptions, wickedness is nonetheless revealed by its effects. In this way, the Sovereign Christ exposes the evil of both sinful deeds and sinful character.

The opposite will be true for godliness throughout this age and at the end: however misrepresented and despised biblical obedience may be in our time; Christ will ensure that its luster will nonetheless shine. Righteous deeds will be seen as being right, and Christ’s holy people will be revealed as holy. This is the command of the Sovereign Christ, speaking at the end of His Word.

In His last testimony, Jesus speaks not only as Sovereign but also as Judge: “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done” (v. 12). This is the second of three times in this final chapter that Jesus declares His soon return (see also Rev. 22:7, 20). In this instance, He is emphasizing the need to be ready at all times.

Jesus’ coming as Judge does not refer merely to His return at the end of the age, but also to His sovereign judgments within history. In His letter to Thyatira, Jesus warned about a woman He called “Jezebel,” and those who followed her into “sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (Rev. 2:20). Jesus warned that He would visit the woman with sickness and great tribulation upon that church, unless they repented. He summed up His providential discipline, saying, “I will give to each of you according to your works” (2:23).

These statements raise the question whether Revelation is teaching salvation by works. The answer is made clear in 22:14, where it is seen that only those who wash their sins in Christ’s blood can be saved. Salvation is not by works, since we are all sinners who would be condemned before God’s law. The standard of works for salvation was given by Jesus in Matthew 5:48. Paul informs us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), so that we can be saved only by God’s grace received through faith. Believers, Paul continues, “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

It’s appropriate that Christ appears at the end of Revelation as Sovereign and Judge, since these themes play such a large role in the book. His final testimony, however, is given as Savior, since Christ’s true purpose in Revelation is to speak to His people for their deliverance from sin and salvation into eternal life. Indeed, when we speak of Christ’s bringing a recompense for His people, His primary reward is stated in the final beatitude of Revelation: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (v. 14). As judgment is by works, here we find that salvation is by grace through faith in the blood of the Lamb.

By saying that “those who wash their robes” are blessed, Jesus refers to the cleansing from sin that comes through faith in the blood of His cross. As noted earlier, this beatitude rules out the idea of salvation by works, since the believers’ robes need to be washed. Through the blood of Christ our sins are cleansed, our penalty is paid, and we are made acceptable to enter the presence of the glory of God and receive His blessing of eternal life. The cleansing of sin through Christ’s blood is not only a past reality to believers but a present resource. The washing of robes in verse 14 is in the present tense: they are blessed who “wash” their sins, referring to the daily cleansing that comes through confession and faith in the blood of Christ (see 1 John 1:9).

We are cleansed from sin by Christ’s blood, and thus through faith we receive eternal life. This blessing is symbolized by access to the Tree of Life and entry into the city gates. All that was lost by the breaking of God’s covenant in the garden has been regained through the new covenant in Christ. Christians do not stand outside the gates of the glorious city described in Revelation 21 and 22. Christians have the right to enter the city by its gates.

How great is the contrast for those who refuse Christ and His gospel in this life, and who after His return are consigned to eternal darkness. John writes: “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (v. 15). John earlier showed that in the final judgment, the ungodly are cast into the lake of fire for eternal torment (20:12-15). Here, he identifies those who violate God’s law – “the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters” – with the wild creatures that belong in the howling wilderness outside, to whom the gates of God’s city are permanently shut. In the ancient world, dogs were despicable creatures fit only to die. With this condemnation, the wicked likewise fall under God’s contempt and condemnation.

The concluding emphasis on “everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (v. 15) shows Gods special disdain for those who not only practice sin but call evil good and deceive others into joining their wickedness. There is probably as well a warning to professing believers and church members that our testimony must be true and consistent with our lives. Those who profess faith in Christ but show that their loyalty is with idolatry of this world have no reason to think they enter the city of God or eat from the Tree of Life.

Verse 15 records Jesus’ condemnation of veil men who were like dogs who had defiled themselves in immorality, murder, and idolatry. Yet while they lived, they still had the opportunity to be saved by turning to Christ for cleansing through His blood. Can a person who has committed terrible crimes against humanity be forgiven so as to stand spotless before the throne of God? He can through the blood of Christ, which fully pays the greatest debt of sin and washes clean all who come to God in Jesus name. The same salvation is offered to everyone now through faith in Christ, before he returns to judge every soul. Jesus gives this as His last testimony in the Bible: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (22:14).

Revelation 22:10-16 Study Questions:

How are you making sure you are ready for Jesus’ return?

Revelation 22:6-9 Trustworthy and True

The prologue in Revelation 1:1-3 stressed that John was writing a revelation from God, sent by an angel as a testimony from Jesus Christ concerning things that were soon to come. John wrote: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3). Now at the end of his remarkable book, John provides nearly the identical exhortation: “These words are trustworthy and true…Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (22:6-7). John’s concluding interest concerns the book’s authenticity as a revelation from God and the urgent response merited by its message.

Included with these emphases is an implied challenge to us that comes not from John but from Jesus Christ: “How are you going to respond to reading this message?” All the information we need has now been provided; no further visions are needed for us to know what to do. The question now is whether we will do it! Will John’s readers commit themselves to worship and serve only Jesus Christ, living faithfully as His people, relying on His sovereign rule over history to ensure our salvation, and rejoicing now to give our testimony to God’s saving grace through the blood of Christ the Lamb?

In order to respond properly to the staggering message of Revelation, we must first be persuaded of its truth. The angel thus said to John, “These words are trustworthy and true” (v. 6). By recording this testimony John assured us that we may rely on Revelation’s visions to accurately depict our present age as well as its ending. We may safely obey the exhortations that accompany the books visions. If we commit ourselves to the faith and life urged by Revelation, we will experience the blessings promised with them.

When John claims that God’s Word is “trustworthy and true,” he is echoing the uniform teaching of the Bible about itself. According to the Bible, the Scriptures may be trusted completely because they are the Word of God. You see this view in Paul’s writing. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul criticizes his opponents for not understanding God’s plan and purposes. Speaking of his own teaching, he adds, “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:10). Second Timothy 3:16 states: “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” It is on this basis that what John says of Revelation is true of the entire Bible: “These words are trustworthy and true” (v. 6).

As the angel continues in verse 6, he describes God as “the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets.” By referring to the “spirits” of the prophets in the plural, John speaks of the inward faculties of the various men who wrote the Bible books. The Bible was written by men in a wide variety of situations, and their spirits were fully engaged in writing their histories, poems, and prophecies. Yet God was ruling over this entire process: the Lord is “the God of the spirits of the prophets.” The angel’s statement accords with the classic definition of the inspiration of Scripture, which states that the Bible’s human authors wrote under God’s control.

John offers a final attestation to the truth of Revelation by noting that it was recorded by an eyewitness of the visions who also was an authorized apostle of Jesus Christ. Verse 8 states: “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things.” The apostles were Christ’s authorized servants in recording the New Testament. What Paul said about his message is equally true of John’s teaching: “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:12). For this reason, the teaching of the apostles is to be “accepted…not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13). In this capacity, John assures us that the visions he has seen and heard are “trustworthy and true” (v. 6).

While believers await the appearing of Christ, John gives clear instructions in Revelation’s sixth beatitude: “Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (v. 7). To “keep” God’s Word is to receive it in faith, hold fast to it in hope, and obey it in action. Verse 7 informs us how to receive the entirety of God’s Word. We are to keep its words and its prophecy. Receiving the words of the Bible means that we are to study it carefully, believing and putting into practice everything that it says. Christians believe not only the general message of the Bible but its actual words, since they are spoken to us by God. We therefore take seriously whatever the test of Scripture says. Jesus asserted, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35).

The angel especially emphasizes keeping “the prophecy of this book” (v. 7). This means that the history revealed in Revelation – some of it present and some future – becomes the truth by which we live. We are to resist evil, knowing that it is soon to be judged and that Christ will not allow His people to be defeated. Knowing the certainty of our victory in Christ, we are to do the will of God and bear testimony to Christ’s blood.

The angel had reminded John the truth of these visions, and then, in verse 7, Jesus either interrupts to say that He is coming soon or says this to John through the angel. In response John is so overwhelmed that he loses his bearings: “I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me” (v. 8). We see in John that when we receive God’s Word as truth and keep its visions of glory, we will be cast down in an attitude of worship.

In responding to John’s action, the angel instructs us in the vitally important matter of worship. Angels are worship specialists, so we should listen carefully when they teach us about this topic. Here, the angel responds in outraged horror: “You must not do that!” (v. 9). We should not think that this interplay between John and the angel is disconnected from the exhortation to keep the message of Revelation. John is being shown, and we with him, that the first and single most important element in keeping God’s Word is to give God alone the glory that He is due. The angel reacts out of a consuming passion for the exclusive glory of God, and this same passion must be seen in the hearts of all those who keep the words of God’s Book.

We should consider the angel’s reaction not only negatively but also in three essential and positive statements that he makes to John. First, he tells us that the worship of God is a command and duty for all His servants in Jesus Christ (v. 9). The call to “worship” is in the form of an imperative, which means that it is a command. We do not worship God merely when we think it would be pleasing to do so, or would otherwise serve our interests, but we are to devote ourselves fully and constantly to the praise of God.

Second, note that “worship” in verse 9 has a direct object. Worship always has an object. The problem with many churches today is that the object or recipient of worship is man. But the angel insists that only God is the true object and consumer of worship. “Worship God!” he says. This means that we come to church not primarily seeking what we will get out of worship but what God will get out of worship. The best way to achieve this is to worship according to God’s Word. Through worship that follows the example of Scripture and fervently proclaim God’s Word we fulfill the command of Hebrews 12:28, “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”

Third, the angel tells us that it is in true worship directed to God that we most thoroughly realize our high identity and privilege as God’s people. The angel tells John, “I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book” (v. 9). What an incredible dignity the angel conveys upon John if he worships God as he should. In worshiping God, he becomes a fellow servant with glorious, unfallen angels in the splendor of their holiness. This is also the true dignity of every Christian man and woman, when the worship of God through Jesus Christ we are elevated into the fraternity and brotherhood of angels!

In light of this instruction, we must not think we have kept the words of the prophecy of the book of Revelation until we have imbibed the passion for the glory of God that we see in this angel. This is our true calling, and it is the purpose of Revelation that even in this present evil age we would enter into it: that we would possess and overwhelming concern for the glory of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Moreover, we must not think we have suitably given testimony before the world to the gospel message of this book until the world has seen in our lives the consuming passion for the glory of God that Revelation is intended to inspire.

Revelation 22:6-9 Study Questions:

Will you commit yourself to worship and serve only Jesus Christ, living faithfully as His people, relying on His sovereign rule over history to ensure your salvation, and rejoicing now to give your testimony to God’s saving grace through the blood of Christ the Lamb?

Revelation 22:1-5 The River of the Water of Life

Previously, John has looked on the eternal city and, on the people living there. Now he concludes with the sources of life that bless the garden-city, the New Jerusalem: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (v. 1).

There are many biblical antecedents to this vision, but two stand out. The first was the river that “flowed out of Eden to water the garden” in Genesis 2:10. The second was the river that “was issuing from below the threshold of the temple” in Ezekiel’s vision of God’s end-times temple (Ezek. 47:1). We see the first river flowed “out of Eden” and Ezekiel’s river flowed from the eastern temple door, the river of the New Jerusalem flows “from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (v. 1). The clear point is that the sovereign reign of God in history is the source of the life and refreshment that flows to His people in eternity. Since it is the throne not only “of God” but also “of the Lamb,” we see that grace flows from the sovereign will of the Father by means of the saving death of His Son.

John provides details regarding this river of life. He says that its water is “bright as crystal,” depicting the purity of life that God gives and the cleansing effect of the grace that we receive by faith. John adds that the river flows “through the middle of the street of the city” (v. 2). Earlier, we saw a street of “pure gold, transparent as glass” (21:21). Apparently, the river flows either atop or beside the main thoroughfare, showing that divine life streams in the heart of the eternal dwelling place of God’s people. Here is fulfilled the promise of Revelation 7:17: “The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water.”

Ezekiel’s temple vision showed the stream beginning at the temple doors as a trickle, then growing finally so deep that it could not be crossed (Ezek. 47:1-12). This depicted the increasing power of God’s grace as it advanced in redemptive history. As it flowed to the east, Ezekiel saw brackish water becoming fresh, trees lining its banks, and fish swarming with life. Ezekiel said that on its banks “there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fruit every month… Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing” (Ezek. 47:12). John picks up this language to show that Ezekiel was foreseeing not a future physical blessing for the physical land of Israel but rather the vitality of life that God has in store for His people in the New Jerusalem.

The Genesis account of the garden highlighted not only the river flowing out of Eden, but also the “tree of life…in the midst of the garden” (Gen. 2:9), which conveyed eternal life to those who eat from it (Gen 3:22). Now John sees this Tree of Life growing on both sides of the river. Most scholars think that this image depicts not a single great tree but a grove of trees that give life, lining the banks of the river.

Ezekiel saw trees whose “fruit will be for food,” and John notes their fulfillment in the New Jerusalem: “the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month” (v. 2). The fact that “twelve kinds of fruit” are yielded “each month” indicates both the variety of blessings and their perpetual availability. There is an abundant provision of spiritual life and grace to meet every imaginable need.

Verses 1-2 shows the ultimate accomplishment of salvation by the sovereign will of the Father and the atoning death of the Son, culminating in the outflowing provision of eternal life. Verses 3-5 depict the eternal application of redemption for those who come to Christ in faith. For them, the curse of sin will give way to the blessing of grace, eternity will be spent basking in the knowledge and service of God, and those joined to Christ will reign with Him forever and ever.

When Adam and Eve first sinned against God, they fell under the curse of His just wrath. As a result, they were cast out of the garden and barred from the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:22-24). No longer would they enjoy personal fellowship with God and serve as His people. When John says, “No longer will there be anything accursed” (v. 3), he declares that the entry of sin has been remedied and reversed. Now believers will enjoy the bounty of God’s grace, which is richer in Christ than the joys of the original garden. We live now in the age when sin has not yet been removed. But by confessing our sins and bringing them to the cross for forgiveness, we escape the curse of sin and enter into the life of the children of God. The penalty paid by Jesus has restored us to God, and one day soon its effects will be cosmically removed for life in the New Jerusalem.

The chief result of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin was their alienation from the presence of God. The chief blessing of the eternal glory is, correspondingly, the return of God’s presence to His redeemed people. John thus writes that “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it” (v. 3). God’s throne dominates the visions of Revelation. At first, John was permitted to peer into heaven to see the vision of God’s throne (4:2). Now, at the end of the story, he sees “the throne of God and of the Lamb” in the very midst of His people.

This statement shows that redemption is a restoration to the presence and blessing of God, as well as to God’s kingly rule. The calling for God’s throne to reign in your life through obedience to His Word is a sign of your return to His favor. It is those under a curse who are left to wander in the blasted lands east of Eden, free to govern their own lives in folly and sin. Those who are placed under the authority of God’s Word are those no longer cursed by sin but blessed by grace. Just as the curse of sin was removed by God’s sovereign will and the Lamb’s atoning work, His blessing is sustained by the enthroned presence of God in His truth and grace.

Not only will we enter into blessing of God, but we will spend eternity growing in our knowledge of Him. John writes: “They will see his face” (v. 4). In this life, you will probably never meet a famous general, a head of state, or even a popular movie star. But if you belong to Christ through faith, you will see God’s face. Indeed, the mark of a mature believer is an increasing desire to see God’s glory in heaven and to be closer to Him now.

In addition to seeing God’s face, believers will have “his name” written “on their foreheads” (v. 4). Whereas the mark of the beast signified loyalty to the tyrannical Antichrist, here the mark of God signifies the loyalty of those who belong to Him. In as earlier vision, the sealing of God’s name on His people indicated His care for their souls (7:3), in contrast to the unbelieving world marked with the sign of the beast. Moreover, the name of God stands for His character, which is reflected in the holiness of the glorified saints. God’s mark indicates His ownership, His covenant union, and His acceptance of all who bear His name in eternity. None who bear His name will ever be forgotten or lost.

John repeats in verse 5 his earlier statement that “night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light.” Everything belonging to the old order will have gone, including both nighttime with its dangers and temptations and the celestial light needed for daytime. In the New Jerusalem, God’s presence will always be their light. John concludes: “And they will reign forever and ever” (v. 5). Thus, at the end is fulfilled God’s first calling for His people. God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion” (Gen. 1:26). Sin made slaves, but God intends by grace to make us kings.

Through union with Christ in faith, you are destined to reign with Him in the land of glory. Of the one who conquers, he said, “I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21). This being true, why should sin reign over you now (Rom. 6:12)? Why should you succumb to anxiety, even in the midst of great trials, when God has sent His Son to die for your sins and has promised that you will reign with Him forever? Remembering that John wrote the book of Revelation to churches facing terrible persecution for their faith and testimony to Christ, why should you fear to speak boldly the truths of God’s Word, and especially the gospel offer of salvation?

There is a crown for you, together with a portion of the glory of Christ for you to display in this world. If you come to Jesus for salvation and yield yourself to His reign in this life, then the final words of John’s vision will come true for you: the Lord God will be your light, and you will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:1-5 Study Questions:

According to John, what is the purpose of the leaves on the tree (v. 2)?

From the start of the book, we were told that the Lamb’s followers were to be a royal priesthood, and now we see what this means. It is from the city, the city which is the bride, the bride which is the Lamb’s followers, that healing, restorative stewardship is to flow. This is how the creator God will show, once and for all, that His creation was good, and that He Himself is full of mercy. How might we begin to participate in this healing, redeeming work today?

Revelation 21:22-27 The City without a Temple

In a book filled with important visions, the final vision depicts the new heaven and the new earth in the form of a temple-city. The book of Revelation was written to provide hope to suffering Christians in the church age and its persecutions. The final and greatest hope for every believer is the eternal glory awaiting us in Christ. A courageous faith will cultivate this hope by knowing the precious blessings awaiting us, anticipating glories that are beyond our present capacity by meditating on them as they are symbolized in Scripture.

The opening sections of this final vision identify the coming city as the glorified church of the Old and New Testaments (vv. 12-14). The city’s shape compares it to the holy of holies inside the tabernacle and temple, a perfect cube that marks the entire city as the inner sanctum of God’s dwelling. The precious gems and pure gold that adorn the city show the preciousness of His people to God and their radiance in reflecting His surpassing glory (vv. 18-21).

Starting in Revelation 21:22, John looks inside to observe life in the eternal city. He makes three statements, each of which is in negative terms: The first of these negative statements notes the absence of a physical sanctuary: “I saw no temple in the city” (v. 22). All ancient cities had a temple or many temples. Here we see there is no temple in the city of God. Temples existed as places where one went to meet with God. The New Jerusalem will need no such place, since “Its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” In the eternal city, God will fill the dwelling of His people so that He is met and known everywhere. It was god’s presence that made the old, physical temple sacred. In the end, God will have so reclaimed the entirety of creation that His glory will equally and fully pervade every square inch and light-year.

Notice that the temple in the eternal city is “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (v. 22). This statement makes clear the equality between Jesus and God; together with “God the Almighty,” Jesus, “the Lamb,” is the temple of His people. Not only do believers gain entry into the eternal glory through faith in Christ’s death for our sins, but He reigns there as our Divine King and Mediator forever. From the moment a sinner puts his or her trust in Jesus and is forgiven of sins, there will never be a single second in all eternity when Christ’s atoning mediation will not ensure our righteous standing before God and God’s covenant favor toward us.

Second, not only is the New Jerusalem a city without a temple, but it also lacks physical lights (v. 23). We are reminded here of the creation story in Genesis 1:14-16. Secularists today insist that light cannot exist without the sun, moon, and stars, but the Bible declares that God is the source of light. Therefore, when His presence fills the eternal city, there is no further need for celestial lights. John’s point is not about the astronomical situation in the renewed universe but to affirm the unsurpassed splendor which radiates from the presence of God and the Lamb.

Here again, the light belongs equally to the Father and the Son: “the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (v. 23). While they are coequal as God, the Son delights to display in His person and works the glory of the Father, as a lamp that reflects a light. When we consider the beauty of natural light, we can only imagine the surpassing glory of the light of God revealed by the lamp of Christ. Since John identifies Jesus as “the Lamb,” we may be sure that God’s end-times revelation of glory will highlight the love that gave His Son so that believers might be forgiven of our sins.

Looking by the light of God into the city, John sees a teeming metropolis of activity. People from over the whole of the globe are gathered for worship and holy commerce: “By its light will the nations walk” (v. 24). The nations will walk by His light, having first seen that light by the countless bold Christians in their witness of the gospel of Jesus. Ancient cities closed their gates at night for security reasons, but in this city there is no need. John notes that “its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there” (v. 25). The imagery speaks of peace and blessing in the city on which God’s glory shines.

John’s third statement regarding the New Jerusalem describes it as a city with no sin: “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false” (v. 27). By “unclean” things, John means unregenerate people whose natures remain corrupted by sin. By “what is detestable,” John refers to the perverse evils condemned throughout the Bible as reprehensible to God. These sins are specified in the final chapter: “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters” (Rev. 22:15).

In a society as immoral as ours, it is essential that Christians speak the truth about God’s hatred of sins such as adultery and homosexuality, together with the idolatry of greed and thievery. Recent examples show a gross intolerance toward biblical teaching about God’s judgment on these sins, especially when it comes to deviant sexual lifestyles. Christians must nonetheless speak the truth boldly about God’s condemnation of homosexuality, adultery, and other perversions, just as we must speak graciously about forgiveness for all sins that is available in Jesus Christ. The fact that concludes with those who are “false” may indicate God’s special disgust for those who not only practice gross immorality but deny God’s judgment in encouraging others to join in their sin.

Contrasted to the ungodly are those whose names are “written in the Lamb’s book of life” (v. 27), who alone will enter God’s glory. The Book of Life is God’s eternal record of those elected by sovereign grace and called to salvation through faith in the blood of Christ. Whereas divine judgment is by just demerit, salvation is through the mercy of Christ for sinners, received by faith alone.

We are not permitted to look into God’s Book of Life before the final judgment, but we can identify the distinguishing character of those whose names are there. First, they are true penitents. Those destined for the New Jerusalem have felt the condemnation of their sins, have grieved before God for their guilt, and have hated the presence of sin in their lives. Second, they are all believers in Christ Jesus. Those who dwell in the eternal glory are those who trust in the saving work of Christ, especially His atoning work as the Lamb of God who died for their sins. They found salvation nowhere else, but believed in Jesus, received His offered mercy, and continued in faith throughout their lives despite all manner of persecution.

Third, those whose names are written in God’s Book of Life are all born of the Spirit and sanctified. This means that they began in this life, however imperfectly, the holy life they will enjoy perfectly in the age to come. They have been inwardly renewed by the Holy Spirit with a nature that inclines after God. This is how you know that you are destined to enjoy eternity in the glory of God’s presence: not church membership alone, not fleeting spiritual experiences, not money given to the church or good deeds that you think will overcome your sins, but a penitent heart that embraces the Lamb of God in faith and seeks thenceforth to live for the glory and honor of God.

Realizing that the ungodly will never enter God’s holy, eternal city, we should not only warn sinners to repent and believe in Jesus, but first make sure that we ourselves come to Him to be forgiven and cleansed from sin. Have you come to Jesus to deal with your sin and be justified before God? Until you admit your guilt, come to Jesus for forgiveness, and believe His gospel for salvation, there is no more important resolution for you to make. If you do not, you will be barred from God’s eternal city as a rebel and cast into hell for your sin.

The day of judgment has not yet come, and the current age has yet to give way to the eternal glory. How urgent, then, is your need to embrace the opportunity to believe on Jesus Christ and be saved! John urges you to seek the only way of entry into the glorious city to come, through the Lamb of God who takes away our sins: “Blessed are those who wash their robes,…that they may enter the city by the gates” (Rev. 22:14).

Revelation 21:22-27 Study Questions:

Why are the temple, the sun and the moon absent from the New Jerusalem (vv. 22-23)?

In what way did the ancient temple in Jerusalem serve as a signpost to something greater?

How will the nations participate in the life of the New Jerusalem (vv. 24-26)?

Why are the gates of the city never shut (v. 25)?

That which ruins the beauty and holiness of God’s new city is ruled out by definition> What is specifically mentioned here (v. 27)?