An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 15 July 2011; Revised 7 April 2016
Scripture: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found here. The Revelation Scripture text is taken from the NASB (1977 Edition) and unless otherwise indicated other Scripture quotations are from the NASB 1995 Updated Edition. Other Bible versions are also quoted. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Most versions can be accessed on the Internet.
Ancient Sources: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Works by early church fathers are available online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library or Early Christian Writings. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75-99 A.D.). Online.
Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from Walter Bauer, W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (1957), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Explanation of grammatical abbreviations and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
The Healing of the Nations (22:1-5)
1― And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb,
And he showed me a river of the water of life: As the tour of the New Jerusalem continues John is shown a river flowing from Godís throne and containing the "water of life." Ever since the first river in Eden (Gen 2:10), the river of God has figured in Scripture as a symbol of Godís abundant life and spiritual refreshment. The Psalmist, too, reflects this sentiment, "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God" (Ps 46:4; cf. Ps 1:3; 65:9; 78:16, 20). clear: Grk. lampros means brilliant or bright (Rienecker). as crystal: Grk. krustallos, rock crystal, from krous, "frost" (Danker). The "water of life" is a significant theme in Johnís Gospel as a metaphor for eternal life (John 3:5; 4:10-14). The brightness of the river is in keeping with the transparent and shimmering nature of the New Jerusalem in the previous chapter, and that asserts the absolute purity of its properties. There is no reason to believe that this water is only symbolic.
There is a parallel between this river and the one described in the millennial prophecy of Zechariah,
"And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea [i.e. the Dead Sea] and the other half toward the western sea [i.e., the Mediterranean]; it will be in summer as well as in winter" (Zech 14:8).
"Living waters" really means fresh water in contrast to the waters of the Dead Sea, which can support no life but will be healed by the fresh water of the Messiahís river flowing through it. "Living" also means the waters will never run dry as they are apt to do now in that region (Baron 502f). Ezekiel 47:1-12 recounts the same prophecy but with more vivid detail and specifies that the source of the river is in the "house of the Lord." Unlike the millennial river Revelationís new earth has no sea for the river to run into (21:1) and thus no destination is given for the river. On the assumption that the New Jerusalem is set on the new earth, Morris speculates that the river provides whatever hydrologic needs the new earth may have. The current hydrologic system relies on evaporation from the oceans to provide rainfall, which in turn supplies the rivers.
coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb: Whatever the reality and personal benefit of these waters, the Scripture emphasizes especially the source as the throne of God, perhaps clarifying the previous mention in Revelation of "springs" of living water (7:17). The Lord Himself is the "spring" from which the waters flow, as Isaiah says, "But there the majestic One, the Lord, will be for us a place of rivers and wide canals (Isa 33:21; cf. Jer 2:13; 17:13). Though God (the Father) is the source, the channel through which it flows is Yeshua, the Lamb of God. John may have been reminded of that moment at Golgotha where he saw water flow from Yeshuaí side after being pierced by a spear (John 19:4) or he might connect the image to Yeshuaí statement in the temple, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ĎFrom his innermost being will flow rivers of living waterí" (John 7:37-38). The water that brought life to those dead in sin continues to maintain that salvation and spiritual life for eternity.
2― in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
in the middle of its street: Grk. plateia means "broad or wide." See 21:21 on "street." The exact geographical layout of the river and "street" is not clear. The NASB seems to connect "in the middle of the street" with the river, implying that the street and the river run parallel with the trees growing in an area between the two, similar to the concept of a boulevard. It should be noted that the word translated "street," given its literal meaning, may only refer to a large open area, such as a town square or plaza. As for streets, there would certainly be more than one thoroughfare in the city.
And on either side of the river was the tree: Grk. xulon. Both the Heb. word etz and the Greek word xulon can mean tree, wood, stake or stick, depending on the context (Stern 237). Xulon is used of the cross on which Yeshua was hanged (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal 3:13; 1Pet 2:24) and of wood in Revelation 18:12. The Greeks had a word for tree, dendron, but it is not used in Revelation in reference to this tree. The use of xulon may indicate an intentional parallel to the cross of Yeshua on which the shed blood of the Lamb became the true source of eternal life.
of life: Grk. zōē, life in the normal physical sense, but in this context a condition that transcends normal corporeal existence of the present age. The reference to the "tree of life," though singular in form, is used in the sense of a species that apparently grows in profusion throughout the city and perhaps on the new earth, since the tree is described as growing on both sides of the river. The first mention of the tree of life is in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:9) from which Adam and Eve were barred after their sin (Gen 3:24). There an angel guarded the garden to prevent any return to partake of its benefits. Access to the tree was permanently denied by the total destruction of the earth by the global flood in Noahís day. In the restored Eden, the gates of the city are kept open to assure the continual availability of the tree.
bearing twelve kinds of fruit: Lit. "twelve fruits" (Marshall). yielding its fruit every month: The tree of life provides indefinite production, but it is not clear whether a different fruit is produced each month of the year or if all twelve fruits are produced every month (cf. Ezek 47:12). This would imply some kind of calendar to determine periods of time. Since antiquity the "month" has corresponded to the period of a new moon to the next new moon. No mention is made of a new moon to go with the new earth or how time is measured in the eternal kingdom, but possibly a new heaven would include a new moon. The narrative may also be conveying in familiar human terms the regularity of the production.
and the leaves of the tree were for the healing: Grk. therapeia means serving, service or care. Therapeia referred to the treatment of the sick, especially healing, but was also used of household servants in Greek and Jewish literature. Therapeia occurs only four times in the apostolic writings and twice refers to servants (Luke 12:42 and the TR of Matthew 24:45). of the nations: This is an unusual statement since healing is normally used in the apostolic writings to refer to treatment of a physical disease or ailment. Yet, Paul says the resurrected body is "incorruptible" (1Cor 15:53-54). Sickness occurs because of the penalty of death on Adam, and once "death has been swallowed up in victory" any further sickness is impossible. One of the benefits of the resurrection will be a permanent perfect body. While it would be natural to assume the "healing" is a form of health maintenance, in biblical history the word was used to mean "serving," "service" or "care."
In consideration of the literal meaning, Morris speculates that the leaves may have chemical properties that serve the economies of the new earth. Some commentators seem to be more puzzled by the mention of "nations" than "healing," thinking that the verse is out of sequence and implies unregenerate mankind organized in politically distinct units. But, in the Scriptures the word "nations" normally means Gentiles in contrast to Jews, so what other word would John use to identify the non-Jewish members of the people of God? And, there is certainly no indication in the text that the future new earth will consist of political or ethnic subdivisions segregated from one another. Gregg offers an excellent suggestion that the image here is parallel to the pictures of the Kingdom of God as a mustard tree (Matt 13:31f) or a great cedar (Ezek 17:22f), which spreads its branches providing a place of refuge for all the nations under the shadow of its leaves.
But, why do the nations need healing? Salvation and the resurrection have their reality in the individual, but do they automatically wipe out centuries of national pride, competition, prejudice and even racism? Remember that nations only developed after God imposed different languages at Babel and the resulting variety of language groups scattered over the face of the earth (Gen 11:9). Ever since then nations have warred with one another and only developed trade and inter-cultural relations out of self-interest. The increasing level of globalism and internationalism, which began in the early 20th century, may reflect the longing to be one people again, but this longing can only find its true fulfillment in Messiahís kingdom. The promise of the gospel is that ethnic, social and gender distinctions will no longer divide the people of God (Gal 3:28). In the new earth and the New Jerusalem this promise will finally be fulfilled.
3― And there shall be no longer any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him;
And there shall be no longer any curse: When God created the universe and everything on the earth He declared it all "good." This simple analysis summed up the condition of the earth as a place where man and all creation could be fruitful and multiply with no hindrances. In effect there was a law of conservation operating that assured that all biological, geological and social structures remained orderly and productive. Adamís sin changed that sublime paradise. Breaking Godís commandment brought His curse on all of creation and with it came death and decay. The scientific term for the biblical concept of the curse is the law of entropy (also known as the second law of thermodynamics), which means that all created structures began breaking down as soon as the curse was pronounced.
His bond-servants shall serve Him: Considering how the curse has impacted the earth in this present age helps in evaluating the features of the new earth without the curse in operation. No one will ever age and all work will be productive and satisfying. There will be plenty of time devoted to rejoicing and fellowship as Isaiah says, "But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness" (Isa 65:18). Yet, work will likely be a significant part of kingdom life. Instead of the current division between secular and sacred, clergy and laity, all work will be for God. Many have attempted to create utopian societies here on earth, but the operation of the curse has prevented success. In the restored paradise there will be no forced equality or competition, only a passion to please the One who died for all humanity and to serve Him forever.
4― and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
and they shall see His face: Yeshua promised that the pure in heart would see God (Matt 5:8; cf. Heb 12:14) and to look into the face of Yeshua is to see God (2Cor 4:6). Walking by faith will result in unimaginable blessing when the faithful finally see Him face to face.
will be glory for me
His name shall be on their foreheads: This prophecy hearkens back to the sealing of the 144,000 of the tribes of Israel with the name of the Lamb and the Father on their foreheads (7:3 and 14:1). The Torah required priests to wear a turban bearing a gold plate imprinted with "Holy to the Lord" (Ex 28:36-38). Men also wore phylacteries on their foreheads to symbolize their devotion to Godís Word and their teaching office in the home (Ex 13:9, 16; Deut 6:8; 11:18). The Lord had promised the congregation at Philadelphia, and, by extension, all believers, "I will write on him the name of My God" (3:12) and since Godís people has become a kingdom of priests (1:6), the Designerís clothing will reflect that status.
5― And there shall no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever.
And there shall no longer be any night: The prophecy of 21:23 and 21:25 is repeated, affirming that the New Jerusalem will be perpetually illuminated. "Night" has existed since creation when God separated the light from the darkness (Gen 1:4). they will not have need of the light of a lamp: The least and the greatest sources of light in human experience, the lamp and the sun, are used to illustrate that Godís power will be more than sufficient to provide all the light needed for eternity. This verse is not saying that there will be no sun in the new universe, only that the sun is not needed to light the New Jerusalem. God shall illumine them: God demonstrated in His original creation that He did not need the sun for light when He created light on the first day. The sun and other heavenly light sources were created on the fourth day. It is difficult to conceive of light as an entity in itself. In human experience light has only been known as a property of some object that gives illumination. However, this verse makes the simple, yet powerful, declaration that God Himself will provide light for the saints without artificial aids of any kind.
they shall reign forever and ever: Previously the saints had reigned with Yeshua for a thousand years (20:4, 6). With the advent of the New Jerusalem the saints will reign forever, which reinforces the necessity of taking the previous time reference of the millennial reign literally. If "a thousand years" were symbolic of eternity, then how long would "forever" be? The human mind cannot fully grasp timeless eternity, although the analogy of the flower to the human lifespan hints at the depth of the mystery (Ps 103:15).
Certification of the Message (22:6-9)
6― And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true;" and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.
And he said to me: Apparently the same angel who spoke to John previously (21:9) and had shown him the heavenly city now offers a series of closing observations. These words are faithful and true: The angel reminds John of the reliability of Godís Word. The revelation of the future is unquestionably accurate. and the Lord Ö sent His angel: The reference to "His angel" is a reference to the Lordís personal angel mentioned in the beginning of the book and whose duty was to oversee the revelation of Godís Word to John (cf. 19:5, 9f; 21:3f). (See the note on 1:1 for this special angel.) The message of Revelation is also for all His servants, then and now. In this wonderful disclosure to John, the Lord made many precious promises to His servants that He will honor at His coming.
to show to His bond-servants the things which must: Grk. dei refers to something thatís binding and necessary (Rienecker). soon take place: "Soon" is Grk. tachos, an adverb that may mean (1) quickly or at a rapid rate, (2) without delay, at once, or (3) in a short time, soon. See 2:16 on "quickly." The last clause of the verse repeats exactly 1:1 in which Yeshua tells John of His intention to reveal things that must "soon" take place. Thus, the Epilogue looks back to the Prologue (Earle). Commentators generally assume that the Lord is making a prediction from the hearersí or readerís point of view. Preterist interpretations of "soon" associate the prophecies in Revelation with contemporary events in Johnís lifetime.
"Soon" certainly had an application to the seven congregations whose letters contained warnings of imminent judgment for their sins (cf. 2:5, 16, 22f; 3:3). Futurists, on the other hand, emphasize that "soon" means when the end of the age occurs, all of the prophecies will come to pass quickly as indicated in the next verse. Perhaps commentators overlook the fact that God is predicting the future from His perspective. The eternal God is not governed by the human calendar, as Moses says, "For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night" (Ps 90:4). The Father has fixed the date of Yeshuaí return (Matt 24:36), but if Yeshua does not come for another century, it still would be soon by heavenís calendar.
7― "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book."
And behold, I am coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., means to come, come back, return or appear and in a few instances it means to go. When used of persons erchomai often indicates traveling or a journey. quickly: Grk. tachus. See the note on the previous verse for "soon." This is the third of five times in Revelation that the words, "I am coming quickly" appear as an affirmative prophecy. The next phrase is either a direct interjection of the Lord, or the angel is quoting the Lord who affirms that He will come "quickly," which is a different word than "soon" in the previous verse and occurs six times in Revelation to emphasize Godís judgment (2:16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20).
The prophecy in this verse is both warning and promise, because the inherent double entendre points to impending judgment on backslidden congregations and His future glorious Second Coming that will punish the wicked and do justice for His saints. In relation to Yeshuaí return the meaning of "quickly" emphasizes the character rather than the timing of the coming. In other words, "quickly" is not how long from the present until He comes, but, when the Father says the time has come, how long it takes for Him to get from His heavenly throne to earth and complete the resurrection, which requires no more time than oneís eye to blink (1Cor 15:52). That is very quick. The sinner will not have time to repent, thus the warnings to be ready are especially important.
Blessed is he who heeds: Grk. tēreō, pres. part., means to keep watch over, guard, keep, hold, reserve, preserve, observe, fulfill, and pay attention to. The word has particular usage in the LXX in relation to keeping or observing Godís laws and teaching. The verb is a present active participle and emphasizes a continual diligence. Yeshua is talking about obedience, not just reading. The verb "heeds" is in the present tense, which indicates a continual keeping (Rienecker). the words of the prophecy of this book: Blessed, indeed, is the person that heeds Revelation and purposes to keep in a state of spiritual readiness for the Lordís return on the clouds. While there are grim depictions of Godís wrath on the wicked, Revelation is a comforting message of Godís care for the saints and the final triumph of the faithful. God expects attention to be closely paid to all the "words" in this wonderful book and accept Johnís report with all the authority due to one of Yeshuaí apostles. Since the teachings and prophecies of Revelation are in accord with the rest of Scripture and Revelation completes Godís book for His people, then the command and the blessing for compliance extend to the entire canon.
8― And I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
And I, John, am the one: Again, John asserts that his writing arose out of his personal experience with the double emphasis of "heard" and "saw." If Revelation is true then it cannot have been produced either from Johnís imagination or by "plagiarizing" other Jewish works. John has taken the witness stand and delivered his evidence to the jury of the first century congregations, who accepted it because they knew the character of the writer. And, all who read Revelation, too, can have complete faith in Johnís report.
I fell down to worship: John inexplicably repeats his prior mistake with an angel recorded in 19:10, which indirectly reinforces the authenticity of Johnís authorship. Why admit to such a flagrant and embarrassing mistake in a publicly read document? John was committed to the truth and readily confessed his failing. John identifies the angel as the one "who showed me these things," probably referring to the angel who belonged to the group of angels with the bowls of wrath and who showed John the New Jerusalem (21:9f, 15, 17; 22:1).
9― And he said to me, "Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God."
Do not do that: The angel quickly corrects John and commands him to cease his act of worship and clarifies the reason. I am a fellow servant: The angel repeats almost verbatim the response of the angel in 19:10 and identifies himself as being a servant of John and his fellow prophets, probably referring to the prophets who penned the biblical canon. The angel may mean that he is one of those angels that appeared to the Hebrew prophets and had a direct hand in delivering the Scriptures (cf. Acts 7:38, 53; Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2). No servant of God, angel or human, is worthy of worship (cf. Matt 23:8-12). those who heed the words: The angel goes on to repeat the promised blessing of verse 7, except stated in the plural. "Those who" no doubt refers to the faithful people of God. For "heed" see the comment on verse 7 above. The entire reference to the keepers of Godís word would be parallel to the children of the woman in Chapter Twelve that "keep the commandments of God" (see 12:17 on "commandments.").
Worship God: The terse sentence "Worship God" is a reminder that the chief purpose of manís life is to serve and glorify the Creator. (See 4:10 on "worship.") Both the Hebrew and Greek words for worship contain the concept of bowing down, as John literally did before the angel. As the angel reminded him, worship is connected to obedience, which must be directed only to God. Based on its first mention in Scripture (Gen 22:5), worship is an act of sacrifice. For Abraham worship was not a religious ritual or a religious meeting that excited emotions, but a call to sacrifice what was most dear to him. In the apostolic writings the first mention of worship, Matthew 2:2, finds the Magi leaving home as Abraham did in obedience to Godís call, to present precious and costly gifts to the Seed of Abraham. The apostle Paul summarizes the same principle in Romans 12:1 and demonstrates that worship is an attitude of life. To many Christians the English word "worship" is primarily associated with a religious gathering and may become unnecessarily divided over the style and content of those meetings. However, to worship is to bow down to the will of God in every arena of life every day of life.
Reward and Retribution (22:10-15)
10― And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.
Do not seal up the words: The angel resumes his exhortation and commands John not to leave this experience on Patmos, but to write it down and share it with the congregations. In contrast Daniel was told to seal up the prophecy he was given (Dan 12:4). Praise the Lord that John was obedient! Should not the same admonition apply to all the saints? Revelation was meant to be read and obeyed by all believers, not ignored because it appears to be mysterious, or thought too controversial for common sense discussion.
the time is near: Grk. engus may be used of space or time and mean near, close to or by. The "nearness" emphasizes the certainty of fulfillment of Godís plan. The reader may well question how the prophetic message could be "near" for John when the Lord foretells events that still have not happened. Earle offers the compromise approach that the predictions in Revelation 4-20 had a partial fulfillment in Johnís day and the Roman Empire, that they have had a continuing fulfillment throughout the present age, and that they will have a complete fulfillment in the future.
The time of judgment on some of the seven congregations was certainly "at hand" and occurred as prophesied. But, for those prophecies pertaining to the coming of the Antichrist and the coming of the Yeshua at the end of the age, perhaps the simple answer is that Revelation was given by the eternal God who is not bound by time and sees the end from the beginning. The Messiahís coming in Scripture is always viewed as imminent since His first advent marked the beginning of the last days and He is ever present with us (cf. Phil 4:5; James 5:7ff; Heb 1:3; 10:25, 37). Therefore the time of fulfillment is near from His perspective, not ours.
The word "near" would resonate with John because in the Hebrew idiom it pointed to the mortality of man whose time for the appointment with death is always near (Heb 9:27). For all people life is "like grass which sprouts anew. In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away" (Ps 90:5f; cf. James 4:13-14). Peter understood the imminence of his death (2Pet 1:14), as did Paul (2Tim 4:6ff). The warning is clear. "Salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light" (Rom 12:13f).
11― "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy."
The angel announces the verdict of the heavenly court, set in the parallelism form common to Hebrew psalms and prophecy passages. Let the one who does wrong: Grk. adikeō, pres. part., to do injustice or unrighteousness. The present tense emphasizes the habitual nature of the wrong (Rienecker). still do wrong: Grk. adikeō, aor. imp. and the one who is filthy: Grk. ruparos. As a moral quality ruparos describes a person who has disregard for purity of life or even common decency (Rienecker). still be filthy: Grk. rupainō, aor. pass. imp. means to befoul, soil, make dirty, defile, or pollute. The terms "wrong" and "filthy" refer to those who do not fulfill the requirements of holiness mandated in Scripture and are consequently separated from God.
The command that the wrongdoer and "filthy one" will continue in a sinful condition is not a reversal of Godís desire for people to repent but a statement of reality. The coming of Yeshua will happen so fast that unsaved people will not have time to repent, resulting in no second chance at salvation. A personís choice and the state of oneís soul at the time when Yeshua appears will forever fix oneís character and place of residence for eternity. As Paul warned a generation earlier, "Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation" (2Cor 6:2).
and let the one who is righteous: Grk. dikaios, one who lives in accord with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior. In Scripture that standard is Torah. still practice: Grk. poieō, to produce something or to perform something. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē, a state that is in accord with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior, namely the Torah. the one who is holy: Grk. hagios, set apart for God; the state of being wholly His. still keep himself holy: Grk. hagiazō, aor. pass. imp., set apart for God with the focus on elimination of that which jeopardizes access to God. The aorist tense of these verbs indicates the permanence of the state of the person from this point into eternity (Rienecker).
While sometimes in Scripture "righteous" and "holy" are used somewhat synonymously the mention of both in this verse points to the distinction between these two virtues. The term "righteous" refers to the character of one that seeks to live by Godís commandments and "holy" means belonging wholly to God. See 20:6 on the holiness of the saints. Another way to view these virtues is in the context of the two great commandments. To be holy emphasizes fulfillment of the first commandment to love God with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength. To be "righteous" emphasizes fulfillment of the second commandment to love oneís neighbor as oneself, which incorporates peacemaking, pursuing justice for the poor and performing charitable works (cf. Matt 6:1-4). Holiness in heart naturally leads to righteousness in life.
12― "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.
Behold, I am coming quickly: The promise of the Lordís quick coming in verse 7 is affirmed again. My reward is with Me, to render: Grk. apodidōmi, aor. act. inf., may mean (1) give away, give up, give out, (2) give back, return or (3) render, reward or recompense. according to what he has done: The promise of the Lord's return contains the additional comment that He will reward everyone according to their behavior, which was asserted in the account of the white throne judgment (20:12f). The phrase "according to what he has done" endeavors to smooth out the text that would be lit. translated "as the work is of him" (Marshall). In other words, the standard alluded to here may not be a life of works but one specific work. The most important deed to be judged is whether a person has put his complete trust in Yeshua (cf. John 6:29). While the saints are saved because of Godís unilateral initiative of grace, the new birth and regeneration cannot be completed until the Spirit-aided trust of the individual makes a firm connection with the divine invitation. For the true believer the heavenly rewards to be given will be based on that all-important deed and the faithfulness that follows (21:6f; cf. Rom 2:6; 1Cor 3:8-15). The corollary is true, as well, that the unbeliever will reap what he has sown (11:18).
13― "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
I am: Yeshua reasserts His divinity using three expressions for infinity. For the title Alpha and the Omega see the note on 1:8. For the title the first and the last" see the note on 1:17. For the beginning and the end see the note on 21:6. The reminder of these titles emphasize that God is "all in all" to the believer in the present age and provide a substantive ground for the hope that God is capable of keeping His promises for eternity.
14― Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
Blessed are those who wash: Grk. plunō, pres. part., refers to washing something in the ordinary sense, but also in a religious sense as a symbol of cleansing from sins or the impurity of sin. See 7:14 on "wash their robes." The present participle indicates a continual commitment to spiritual cleanliness. The Maj-Text and TR have "do His commandments" instead of wash their robes," but the best MSS support the NA-Text. The last blessing of Revelation reminds the faithful of their reward. In 7:14 "washed" is in the past tense indicating a one-time completed event. Here "wash" is in the present tense and refers to the obedience of the saints who faithfully maintain their relationship with the suffering Savior. The thought could be completed by adding "in the blood of the Lamb," implied by the concept of washing.
their robes, so that they may have the right: Grk. exousia, authority. to the tree of life: It is in being washed that one has a claim on the tree of life, which refers to both the actual tree in the New Jerusalem and the quality of life that will be enjoyed in knowing the Father (John 17:3). The completed washing and the continual washing are parallel to the act of believing for salvation and then living by trusting faithfulness. The contrast of degree between the initial spiritual washing and subsequent washings may be found in John 13:10 where Yeshua said to Peter, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet."
and may enter by the gates into the city: Entering by the gates is the only way into heaven or a relationship with Yeshua (cf. Matt 7:13f; John 10:1f). In biblical times judicial proceedings were conducted in the vicinity of the city gates. It is no accident that Yeshua shed His blood outside the gate to fulfill the righteous requirement of Godís law. So to enter by the gates is to accept Godís judgment on sin and His remedy, which is solely efficacious to remove guilt. The whole tenor of the beatitude emphasizes the gospel promise of "whoever will" (Rom 10:13), and may serve to reinforce the invitation to unbelievers to partake of the life offered by the Lord (cf. 21:6; 22:17).
15― Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
Outside: Contrasted with the blessed ones are those who deny themselves the blessing because of their sin and unwillingness to live by Godís commandments. As a location "outside" would refer to being outside the New Jerusalem and confinement in the lake of fire (21:9), similar to the Torah requirement that capital punishment be done outside the camp (Lev 24:14, 23; Num 15:35). Spiritually, being outside refers to being away from Godís fellowship (Matt 8:12; 25:30; 1Cor 5:3). Paul reminded the Ephesian Gentile believers that they "at that time had no Messiah. You were estranged from the national life of Isra'el. You were foreigners to the covenants embodying God's promise. You were in this world without hope and without God" (Eph 2:12 CJB; cf. Rom 5:10; 1Cor 6:11; Col 1:21). There can be no worse place than to be "outside."
are the dogs: The angel then repeats most of the categories of people in 21:8 that are "outside," substituting "dogs" for the "cowardly" and "abominable." This list is by no means exclusive, but the offenses do represent violations of most of the Ten Commandments. "Dogs" is an ancient metaphor for homosexual men, particularly male prostitutes common in pagan temples, no doubt because of the similarity in the manner of sexual intercourse (Deut 23:17f) (Stern). Israelites then expanded the use of the metaphor as a pejorative reference for all Gentiles (Matt 15:26) because idolatry and sexual immorality so characterized their society. For the apostles "dog" took on the additional application of referring to disciples that distorted or turned away from the true faith. Paul uses the insult to refer to Gentile proselytes that attempted to impose their legalistic version of the Gospel on the congregations of Asia (Phil 3:2-3; cf. 1Cor 9:20; Gal 5:2ff; 6:12f) and Peter likens the backslider to a dog who "returns to its own vomit" (2Pet 2:22).
sorcerers Ö immoral persons Ö murderers Ö idolaters Ö everyone who Ö practices lying: The rest of the verse repeats the list of offenders in 21:8. See the note there for definitions. Similar catalogues of outcasts are found in 1 Corinthians 6:9f and Galatians 5:19ff. All of these lists unequivocally declare that those who live contrary to Godís law will not share in the joys of the Godís eternal kingdom; thus, they are "outside the camp."
Authentication and Invitation (22:16-17)
16― "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."
I, Jesus: Grk. Iēsous. See 1:1 on "Yeshua." John's Jewish Messiah and Redeemer adds a personal message to attest the fact that He sent His own angel to declare the prophetic Word through John to all the congregations as was stated at the beginning of the book (1:1). The pronoun "you" is plural indicating that Yeshua is actually making this statement to all the saints. The Lord authenticates the message with a reference to two significant titles. I am: Grk. egō eimi. See 1:8 on "I am." Yeshua connects the oft repeated self-revelation "I am" with the title root and the descendant of David to emphasize both the Lordís divinity and humanity. King David sprang from this Root, because Yeshua pre-existed David (Mic 5:1; John 8:58) (Stern). Yeshua is also Davidís offspring in the flesh (Matt 1:1). The Davidic ancestry of Yeshua is also asserted in Matthew 1:6, 9:27, 15:22, 21:9; Luke 1:32, 2:4, 3:31; Romans 1:3; and 2 Timothy 2:8.
the bright morning star: Grk. proinos means early, belonging to the morning, and in the case the morning star, Venus. Moving away from the earthly, Yeshua is described as the "bright morning star." The actual morning star would be Venus, the brightest object in the sky after the sun and the moon (Stern). This bright planet, or star, is referred to three times in the apostolic writings as a symbol of Yeshua. Yeshua is called the "Day Star" in 2 Peter 1:19, the morning star in Revelation 2:28 and here He is the "bright" morning star. The angels before the fall of Adam were known as morning stars (Job 38:7), but Yeshua outshines them all. The mention of "morning star" may allude to the Messianic prophecy "a star shall come forth from Jacob (Num 24:17), and the word for "star" in that verse is of a heavenly luminary.
17― And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come": The Holy Spirit is an active communicator in Scripture through the inspiration of the apostles, but here the Spirit issues a direct and personal invitation to come. Many commentators suggest that the appeal of the Spirit and the Bride amounts to a response to the promise in 22:12 and encourages Yeshua to "come" in the sense of His second coming as John apparently means in 22:20. However, the Spirit is not likely to make such an appeal knowing that it is the Father who makes the decision for Yeshua to return and the verse clearly identifies the object of the appeal to be the "thirsty" that desperately need the water of life. God has always invited the willing (cf. Matt 10:11-14; John 7:17; Rom 10:13), but especially those who seek Him with their whole heart (Jer 29:13). His arms are open wide to welcome the sinner and transform his life.
And let the one who hears say, "Come": God will satisfy those who "hunger and thirst" for Him (Matt 5:6). The term "bride" has been used in Revelation to designate both the saints and the New Jerusalem (19:7; 21:2, 9). From the standpoint of the city, the invitation is like a welcome sign offering hospitality, indicating its readiness for occupation. From the standpoint of the saints, the invitation is proclaimed to all in order to keep adding to the community.
And let the one who is thirsty come: Grk. dipsaō, pres. act. part., means to be thirsty or to suffer from thirst for water, and is used figuratively in Scripture to mean a longing for or having a strong desire for something. The Spiritís message echoes Isaiah, "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat" (Isa 55:1). Many resorts tout their water, but none can equal the water of life. let the one who wishes take: Grk. lambanō, aor. act. imp., means to take or to receive (Rienecker). The extravagant generosity of Godís grace is truly amazing. The thirsty are invited to "take" the water, but the verb probably should be translated "receive," even though it is a command, since the water of life is a gift of God. Yeshua offered the same privilege to the Samaritan woman and assured her that His water would quench the deepest needs of the human spirit for eternity (John 4:10, 14). the water of life without cost: Grk. dorean, a gift, without payment, or gratis. The water of life is "without cost," which restates Isaiahís invitation to those who have no money, i.e., the poor. However, no one has a currency that can be physically transferred to heaven, so rich and poor alike must rely on the grace of God manifest in the provision of Messiahís blood. Conversely, "without cost" does not mean that nothing is expected on the seekerís part. Isaiah goes on to call for repentance in order to receive the water of life, "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isa 55:7). O, that all would "come" and partake of this water!
Caveat and Postscript (22:18-21)
18― I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book
I testify to everyone: Yeshua the Messiah brings the grand Revelation to a close with a solemn caveat, not only intended for all disciples, but non-believers as well. if anyone: The caution applies to everyone who handles this precious book. In the first century individual copies of the Scriptures did not exist and the congregation heard the Word of God from an assigned reader when gathered for worship or learning (cf. Col 4:16). The public reader must avoid inserting or changing the words and, consequently, distorting the message. Imagine the incredulity and wonder of the reader and the congregation the first time Johnís story was read in a worship service!
The warning echoes the Torah, "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" (Deut 4:2; cf. Prov 30:5). The warning is particularly apt for an original Hebrew text in which the least change in the shape of a letter could alter the entire meaning. Yeshua said as much when He asserted that not the smallest letter (the Hebrew yod) or the slightest stroke of a Hebrew letter would be changed in the Torah (Matt 5:18).
For example, in the Shema (Deut 6:4), it is written, "Hear O, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. The word for "one" is echad, which ends in the Hebrew letter dalet ($). If you change the dalet to a resh (9), by removing a small fraction of a stroke, the translation would be "The Lord our God, the Lord is another" (Rudolph 138). Thus, the Lordís warning had a particular application to those who would transcribe and copy the Hebrew text or translate it into Greek. However, Earle points out that the injunction does not limit the work of responsible scholarship in the work of comparing ancient MSS to determine the best text and translating that text into contemporary language.
Adding oneís own words or beliefs would have the effect of nullifying Godís revelation and cause people, particularly immature believers (cf. Matt 18:6), to lose faith in Scripture. The solemn warning would apply to teachers not to reject any part of the book because the words seem unintelligible or improbable (Barnes). The whole book is to be taken on faith that what is obscure or confusing will one day be fully understood. Wanton disregard for the truth will bring the severest judgment from God.
19― and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.
God will take away his part from the tree of life: The KJV, which is based on the TR, has "book of life" instead of "tree of life." When Erasmus produced the TR he did not have access to any Greek MSS for the last six verses of Revelation. So he translated the Latin Vulgate back into Greek at this point. The result is decidedly inauthentic, since "the tree" of life is found in the best and virtually all Greek MSS. The confusion was most likely due to an intra-Latin switch: The form of the word for "tree" in Latin in this passage is ligno; the word for "book" is libro. The two-letter difference accounts for an accidental alteration in some Latin MSS. That "book of life" as well as "tree of life" is a common expression in the Apocalypse and probably accounts for why this was not noticed by Erasmus or the KJV translators (NETN).
and from the holy city: The penalty for such a presumptuous sin is severe in the extreme. It is important to remember that this warning was given to those in the congregations. Those in the roguesí list of verse 15 above are automatically excluded from the city of life, so the forewarning has special significance to those who teach and preach the Word. As James says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment" (James 3:1). The first one to reinterpret Godís Word was Satan himself in the Garden when he asked the deceptive question "has God said?" Down through history many false prophets, heretical teachers and cult leaders have distorted Godís Word in flagrant violation of this warning. Godís people must be vigilant and test everyone who claims to have a prophetic message about the future from God on the one hand (1Cor 14:29, 32; 1Jn 4:1), or denies the truth of the Scriptures on the other.
20― He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
He who testifies is Yeshua, who, for the fifth time in Revelation and the third time in this chapter, reminds the congregations that this Revelation came Him (cf. John 18:37). Yes, I am coming quickly: Just as He began the Revelation with a reminder of His certain return, so He ends the book with the same encouragement and warning. Regardless of how the visions and symbolic language of the book may be interpreted, the consistent purpose throughout Revelation is to assure the faithful believer that the conquering Messiah will come in power and glory and His coming will occur much too quickly to remedy a life not ready for Him. The Hebrews epistle captures the same sense of expectancy and immanence: "For yet in a little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay" (Heb 10:37).
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus: John eagerly responds to the Lordís prophecy with "Amen, Come, Lord Yeshua," a prayer that was used to conclude the Lordís Supper in later church practice, most likely inspired apostolic example (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, 10; cf. 1Cor 16:22). In Johnís case the prayer was no mere ritual, but an earnest desire that the Lord would come soon in his lifetime (perhaps even to rescue him off Patmos). Johnís desire is certainly understandable and the most natural cry of the heart if you believe you are living in the days of the Antichrist, as John probably did (cf. 1Jn 4:3) and the early church fathers most certainly did. But, the Father has not determined His timetable based on manís desires and the Messiahís coming is not without its consequences. When the Lord does come, those who have not received Him as Savior will suffer His judgment, including neighbors, friends and family members. Nevertheless, it is the natural longing of all disciples of Yeshua to be with their Lord.
21― The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all: Grk. pas. MS evidence is divided between "all" (CEV, CJB, DRA, ESV, GW, KJV, MSG, NCV, NKJV, NLT, and TEV) and "all the saints" (ASV, BBE, HCSB, NIV, NRSV, PNT and RSV). The NIV has "Godís people" and the PNT has "his people." The longer postscript is supported by the Maj-Text, including the Sinaiticus, Syriac, Coptic and Armenian MSS (GNT 895). The original WH-Text contains "all the saints," but the editors of its successor, the NA-Text (upon which the NASB is based) did not believe the evidence strong enough to include the word. I favor the retention of "saints" in this verse because its inclusion in the early Greek MS Sinaiticus more likely renders the original Hebrew MS of Revelation and it emphasizes the "sevenness" of Revelation by bringing the total occurrences of "saints" in Revelation to 14.
John ends the awesome vision of the future with a quiet benediction in similar fashion as the apostle Paul ended most of his letters. This is a wish prayer that all the saints who read or hear the words of this Revelation will be recipients of Godís grace, and while it may have been a common manner of ending a letter between early disciples, there may be a variety of meanings drawn from it. Like our Lord, John wishes for people to experience Godís favor rather than His wrath. Johnís prayer is also an encouragement that in the most difficult of trials and tribulations Godís grace is sufficient to carry the saints through victoriously (cf. 2Cor 12:9). Elsewhere in the apostolic writings grace is often the gift and action of the Father, but John recognizes that the Lord Yeshua offers grace as well, especially since He promised to always be with His disciples (Matt 18:20; 28:20).
Amen: The congregation is instructed to say "Amen" at the close of the public reading of the book (cf. 1:3) affirming both the exhortation and the wish prayer of John (Stern). I agree. Come, Lord Yeshua, and grant us your grace for now and eternity. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.
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