Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 22:14–17

Revelation 22:14–17
Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can have access to the tree of life and can enter into the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral, and the murderers, and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood!
16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star!” 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 wants it take the water of life free of charge.
(NET Bible)

Washing your robe

We rose after a night of much-needed rest at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. The famous rock spires called hoodoos made the view from the rim one like a forest of stone towers and spears. We learned that you could hike down there, but it was dangerous and hot — a stone maze.

That afternoon, when we discovered the man and his wife lying in the highway, it was a shock. They had wandered for hours among the hoodoos without water, and their heat exhaustion was plain. Cold water and a fast trip to the ranger station set these German tourists right, but what if relief had not come?

As we enter this section, we do well to hear Grant Osborne’s words: “’We are saved by grace and judged by works.’ The teaching here deals not with salvation by works (though it does deal with salvation in the broad sense) but with our eternal reward.”[1] With that caveat, we will press on.

In 22:14 we find that washing your robe is vital to having access to the tree of life by entering the city gates. The key to such washing, which grammar suggests has an ongoing quality, is the washing based on Christ’s redemptive death: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:14). That is the basis for all Christian living.

Those with authority to enter the city and eat of the tree (22:14) are contrasted with those outside (22:15) — a word which, unusually, stands first in word order — people who are unfit for God’s presence or blessings. Indeed, the word translated outside is quite ominous when used in this way; see Luke 13:22-28, where Jesus warns those rejecting his message that they will end outside where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28). See also 3:12 where the overcomers are told, “All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it [literally: ‘go away outside’]” (Rev. 3:12, NLT).

Without apology to our family dogs, the Bible uses the term dog (22:15) in a negative sense that was common in the ancient world. Greg Beale[2] says that the reprobates listed in 21:15 have no place in the new creation; further, he says that outside means the lake of fire and that city is another word for the new creation. Those conclusions are likely to be correct.

When 22:16 says “testify to you,” the personal pronoun in italics is plural in the original language. This is probably a reference to the members of the seven churches and to all who have an ear to hear what Jesus reveals through John.[3] Jesus reiterates his role as the Davidic Messiah and perhaps as the savior of the gentiles as well; the bright morning star uses a title applied to the Roman Emperor.[4]

Verse 22:17 presents a puzzle as to who is invited to come. Some say Jesus, but Beale[5] correctly notes that the threefold come of 22:17 mimics the same phenomenon in Isa. 55:1. The appeal is to people who need to come to Jesus for the water of life and the food that heals forever.

Only the thirsty will come.

Many of us had to memorize this stanza from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, whose sailing ship was becalmed and without fresh water: “Water, water, everywhere/ And all the boards did shrink/ Water, water, everywhere/ Nor any drop to drink.”

This is the desperate plight of people in our time who are surrounded by many candidates for god, including the currently fashionable atheism. Just as sea water will kill rather than nurture the thirsty sailor, these false gods cannot touch the spiritual thirst of our time. Only Jesus can truly offer the water of life.

In offering the water of life, Jesus says, “Whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Come, and drink freely!

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



[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 788.

[2] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 1142.

[3] Beale, Revelation, 1143, citing Beasley-Murray.

[4] Witherington, Revelation, 282, citing the Roman poet Martial’s appeal for Caesar to soon appear.

[5] Beale, , Revelation, 1144.

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2 Responses to Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 22:14–17

  1. Russell Young says:

    I do not agree that outside represents the lake of fire. Revelation 21:8 is a reminder that unbelievers are to be sent there. Revelation 22:14, 15 references “believers, “those who belong to Christ,” the redeemed. According to Revelation 22:14, 15 those who love to live a lie are outside. That is, they have confessed Christ’s lordship (Romans 10:9,10) for salvation (deliverance) but have not lived it. “If we claim we have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6, 7) Those on the outside have not lived their confession so they have “lived a lie” neither have they been able to wash their robes because they have not walked “in the light” so have not been purified from all sin.
    Those on the inside and those on the outside have all been redeemed, but their judgments have placed some inside and some outside. It also needs to be recognized that the leaves of the tree of life are for the “healing of the nations.” Those who have developed contrite hearts and who have humbled themselves to God’s sovereignty may be healed so that they may enter the city. (See Isaiah 57:15-21) Are some of those outside permanently in that place? Concerning Israel, Daniel said that some would be resurrected to shame and everlasting contempt and they were of the first resurrection. (See Daniel 12:2) Although these were of the house of Israel (all of whom are to be saved), some are saved to the outside.

    • Barry Applewhite says:

      Thanks for your comment, Russell!

      It is true that I cannot produce an explicit statement that those outside occupy the lake of fire. However, the description of them in Rev. 22:15 is very similar to those in 21:8 who assuredly go into the lake of fire. In general, it is better to interpret using the near context rather than going to another book of the Bible. It is difficult to imagine the angel sent by Jesus describing any “redeemed” person as “the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral, and the murderers, and the idolaters” (Rev. 22:15). So, I conclude that those outside are there to stay.

      -Barry

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