Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Revelation 22, John's Final Briefing

In this chapter, John is first escorted inside the magnificent city of New Jerusalem then is taken back to Patmos to receive a final briefing from our Lord Jesus Christ.

v.1-2 "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."

Two remarkable elements of the magnificent city are revealed: A crystal clear river flowing from the throne of God and the “tree of life” seemingly planted squarely in the middle of it.

Although both are highly symbolic of God’s provision of eternal life in Christ Jesus (see—John 4:10, 13-14; Rev.2:7), the tree, with its twelve kinds of fruits, is also meant for the consumption of the saints (Rev.2:7), and its leaves “for the healing of the nations.”

Let’s consider it.

Scripture doesn’t speak of a need to eat in heaven. So it’s safe to say that our resurrected bodies won’t require food to subsist, and that the purpose of eating fruit from the tree of life is altogether distinct from survival. My own opinion is that it’s intended for a blessed communion together with God, and partaken of at future gatherings throughout eternity as a means of intimate fellowship between the saints and God. When He introduced the communion service, Jesus said, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now until that day when I drink it with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matt.26:29). This seems to support the idea of a celestial gathering with Christ for fellowship and maybe explains why we would eat from the tree of life in heaven?

“And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Though the “nations” are seemingly those who inhabit the new earth for eternity (see notes—Rev.21:24-26), the purpose for their “healing” is not easily interpreted. Perhaps, as some commentators suggest, the application is substantive—having to do with the fact that they enter eternity in physical bodies and therefore require a perpetual healing. Or as others suggest, it's figurative, meant only to underscore the point that their flesh becomes new and never again experiences corruption. Whatever the case, we can be certain of God’s glorious provision for those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
“Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You” (Ps.31:19)
v.3-5 "And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever."

The "curse" speaks of that which God Himself imposed upon man and the planet in the Garden of Eden following the sin of man (Gen.3:16-19).

Since a curse won’t exist in the new heaven and the new world, we should also take it to mean that a curse will never again be implemented. That all which is perfected will remain eternally perfect because no lower nature or vile spirit will ever again exist and sin will never occur again, forever.

Moreover, the throne of God and of the Lamb shall dwell amongst men, and we shall see Him face-to-face. Throughout all of eternity there will be no dark places, nothing covered or concealed, and all will be shown by and all will be known in the eternal light of God Himself.

[This ends John’s incredible journey into the future. All that follows takes place back on Patmos].

v.6-7 "Then he said to me, 'These words are faithful and true.' And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. 'Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.' "

Three testimonies in this passage undeniably embrace the record of John's eyewitness account and give formidable notice that the Revelation is both credible and accurate.
  1. John’s angelic escort - He plainly says, "These words are faithful and true"; confirming that John recorded the vision exactly as it was presented.
  2. John himself - He says “And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place”; reaffirming that his experience was real and genuine, not something he made up.
  3. Jesus - He says, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book”; which He would not have said had John’s record contained an error or omission.
It should be noted that three testimonies was the legal requirement for a testimony to be admissible in court (check—Deu.17:6; John 5:31-32). We may question the various interpretations, dear ones, but we can trust the Revelation to be true.

v.8-10 "Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, 'See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.' And he said to me, 'Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.' "

John’s emotions are once more fueled and as before, he must be corrected for wrongly attempting to worship the angel. We must always bear in mind that angels are servants of God who minister to us (check—Heb.1:13-14).
"And he said to me, 'Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand'. “
Because "the set occasion" or "proper time" for the vision to be read and understood by the Church is at hand and it’s God's desire for us to have knowledge of this prophecy, John is commanded not “to keep it secret” (compare to—Dan.12:9). If we earnestly seek to understand, dear ones, He will reveal this vision.

v.11 "He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.' "

The Revelation, not unlike all the Gospel of Christ, will not affect all that read it in the same way.

Those who have been made righteous and holy by the blood of Jesus and therefore consecrated to God as pure are drawn to it and encounter a blessing, while those who resist the things of God and whose own soul remains unclean before God are hardened and repelled by it.
“Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand” (Dan 12:10)
v.12-13 "'And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.' "

The phrase “I am coming quickly”, stated no less than three times in this chapter (vs. 7, 12, 20), doesn't speak in terms of days (as if, "tomorrow I'm coming"), but rather implies that the events foretold will occur in rapid succession once they begin.

Jesus never intended for the Church to set a date for His return, but for us to expect Him at any moment, and therein ordering our lives in the light of that blessed hope. We must be ready especially because we aren't given a date, and instead only made aware that He can return at any moment, suddenly, and with no other warning than what He has already given.

“And My reward is with Me.” The word for "reward" means, “pay for service—good or bad” (more literally, a “wage”). The idea conveyed here is that Jesus will compensate the saints (Rev.11:18) and the unrighteous (2 Peter 2:12-13). A believer given the gift of life and rewarded for good works, the unbeliever the wages of death (Rom.6:23). There is no partiality with God. He “will render to each one according to his deeds” (check—Rom.2:5-16).

Okay, but let's not confuse “works” to mean that we work for salvation. Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29).

Born-again believers will gain or lose rewards at the judgment seat of Christ (2Cor.5:10) based on the “quality” of the works, not the quantity (1Cor.3:13-15). Our judgment is only to “test” our works (to determine what sort it is), not a judgment of our sins.

v.14-15 "Blessed are those who do His commandments that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie."

One last time, a clear distinction is drawn between those who will occupy New Jerusalem and those who will not. Those who do His commandments will enter New Jerusalem and find blessing at the tree of life, whereas those who do not will have no place there.

Here again, the blessing appears to be contingent upon one's ability to keep the commandments of God, as if man must make himself perfect to enter heaven. But that's a contradiction to Scriptural teaching.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph.2:8-9)
The commandments of God concern desire, not ability. One who is born again can desire to obey God and fail (check—Rom.7:14-25), and another who is not saved may possess the ability but lack desire (check—Mark 10:17-22). A promised blessing is made to believers, not because they managed to keep the commandments, but because their saving faith in Jesus Christ has prompted them to do His commandments. “Not to our doings, but to what He has done for us", one commentator writes, "founded, not on our merits, but on God's grace.”

v.16 "'I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches, I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.' "

It should be noted that there has been no direct mention of the Church since the completion of the letters to the seven churches (Rev.2-3). All throughout the tribulation, beginning in Chapter 4, the church has only been referred to indirectly, and only as it was seen in heaven, not on earth.

Now, in this final briefing to John, with the Revelation almost complete, Jesus reminds John that the Revelation is to be taught to the Church. To which He adds His two great titles "the Root and the Offspring of David" and "the Bright and Morning Star" to qualify His sovereign right to do so. Jesus Christ is the Messiah of Israel, and He is the Lord of the Church.
"…that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil.2:10-11)
v.17 "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."

This passage is both a plea and an invitation. As the Church pleas for Christ to return to the world, yet it longs for the world to come to Christ.

“And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely." The greatest invitation ever extended unto man is God's call to "Come!" The greatest assurance to those who come is that none will be denied (John 6:37), and for those who “thirst” that they may come and take of the water of life freely and thus be saved (see also—John 4:10, 14).

v.18-19 "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book. If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

God's awful retribution won't be withheld from those who either add or delete from the words of the Revelation. But this doesn't mean that commentators who share various views about the Revelation are in danger.

"The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev.19:10), and the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the one truth God will not permit man to pervert. The issue concerns the true reality that grace can be found in none other than Jesus Christ, and the warning applies only to those who would preach any other gospel (see also—Gal.1:6-9).

v.20 "He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming quickly.' Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

"Surely I am coming quickly", Jesus tells John. “So be it! Even so, come, Lord Jesus”, John responds. This is the final exchange between John and Jesus.

Okay, this begs a question. Will we be the generation that witnesses the Coming of Jesus Christ? We have no way to be certain, of course, but several things didn't exist prior to our generation that makes it highly plausible and worth considering. We'll begin with the most important development.
  1. The Nation of Israel – In 70 A.D., Rome overthrew Jerusalem, destroyed their temple, and virtually scattered the Jews throughout the world with nothing that should have prevented them from assimilating into various cultures and disappearing as a people. Yet on May 14, 1948, over twenty-five hundred years after they were besieged by Babylon and ceased to be a nation, Israel once again became a nation. This needed to occur for many prophecies to be fulfilled (for example—Ez.37-39; Dan.9; Zech.12-14).
  2. Nuclear weapons – Jesus said of the Tribulation, "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved…" (Matt.24:22). The potential that all mankind (all flesh) could be annihilated quickly enough to concern Jesus didn't exist prior to nuclear weapons.
  3. Telecommunications – The bodies of the two witnesses, for instance, will be displayed in Jerusalem and celebrated by the world (Rev.11:8-10). This instant knowledge and simultaneous worldwide jubilation could not have occurred before radio; and is only enhanced and made more plausible by television, satellite transmissions, and the internet.
  4. Computers – Prior to computers, it would have been impossible for Antichrist to impose a mark on the entire world and then control every buying and selling transaction each and every person makes (Rev.13:16-17); at least not soon enough to make it meaningful inside a period of three and a half years.
The prophet Daniel was told that the time of the end would be characterized by an increase in knowledge.
"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." (Dan.12:4)
It is true that this "increase in knowledge" can be taken (as it is with some) to signify technological advances, and therefore interpret Daniel's prophecy to mean we should expect to see quantum leaps in technology as we near the end. It is certainly plausible that the end of this age will be marked with new increased levels of knowledge and intelligence; and certainly reasonable (if not correct). However, I interpret this verse otherwise.

I believe that it's the "knowledge of prophecy" that increases at the end of our age. In other words, as we behold the unfolding of events and technology, last-days prophecy will become more understandable in light of those events and technology.

v.21 "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."

The most complete future installment of God ever beheld by a man has been written, by the grace of God preserved, and by the power of the Holy Spirit made available for every believer to read and learn throughout every generation since.

As we heed God’s Word, dear ones, having seen how the history of time shall be closed and the history of eternity opened, may it more arouse in us to consider what manner of persons we ought to be in holy conduct and godliness. Moreover, may it embed within us the courage to warn the lost of their eternal doom and lovingly bid them to seek the Savior.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

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