Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 22:10–13

Revelation 22:10–13
Then he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy contained in this book, because the time is near. 11 The evildoer must continue to do evil, and the one who is morally filthy must continue to be filthy. The one who is righteous must continue to act righteously, and the one who is holy must continue to be holy.”
12 (Look! I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done! 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end!)
(NET Bible)

The Paymaster is on the way!

During my years in the Navy, I served with the operating forces only for brief periods. I saw two occasions when sailors could be counted on to show up with exceeding promptness: mail call and getting paid. Even on a ship far at sea, the ship’s store always had some goodies waiting!

As Christians, our Paymaster will come aboard at any moment. Do you plan to run right down there or hide in a dark storage locker?

Is there a doctor in the house?

The words that Jesus wants us to have are in plain sight (22:10). Anyone can see what Jesus has said and make of it what they will. But what will they make of it?

Rev. 22:11 presents the answer to that question in an unusual form. Here is a more helpful translation[1] from the ESV: “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy” (Rev. 22:11, ESV). The problem that confronts all interpreters is that God (through the angel) seems to command that evildoers keep it up! What sense does that make? Actually, it makes ironic sense[2], like a dare.

Jesus told us exactly how people will respond when he returns. He said it would be like the days of Noah, when people went about their business “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matt. 24:38). Jesus went on to describe how oblivious they were when the flood swept them away (Matt. 24:39) and then added, “It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man.”

We come face to face with an unpleasant fact: a heart that hardens itself against God is very likely to end in that state. That is what Jesus discussed in the parable of the four soils (Matt. 13:1–9), and he quoted Isaiah to attribute the issue to a dullness of heart, an inability to hear, and a closing of their eyes (Matt. 13:14–15). The truth is that those who are intensely committed to the world would rather be shut away from God for eternity than to repent. Unfortunately, that strategy ends in “the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30).

But believers enjoy a tremendous opportunity here! The concept of people being repaid for what they have done cuts both ways. Theologian Wayne Grudem says, “Scripture teaches that there will be degrees of reward for believers.”[3] This idea comes across clearly in the parables where Jesus describes different levels of reward for those whose performance pleases their master on his return (e.g. Luke 19:17, 19, 26). Paul also takes up this theme in 1 Cor. 3:12–15. Check it out!

How much pay would you like?

The fact that the Paymaster is on the way means that you should consider what Paul advised the Colossian believers: “that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects– bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

Paul counsels how to live: “We ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received instruction from us about how you must live and please God (as you are in fact living) that you do so more and more” (1 Thess. 4:1). When the Paymaster arrives, you will be delighted to see him!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] “Must” is used four times by NET to translate commands; this is not a typical style of command translation.

[2] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 491, footnote 109.

[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994) 1144.

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Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!