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 Osbornes 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 Christs 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 Gods 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, Plano, Texas. 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 Martials appeal for Caesar to soon appear.

[5] Beale,, Revelation, 1144.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 22:6-9

Revelation 22:69

Then the angel said to me, These words are reliable and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must happen soon.
7 (Look! I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy expressed in this book.)
8
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things, and when I heard and saw them, I threw myself down to worship at the feet of the angel who was showing them to me. 9 But he said to me, Do not do this! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets, and with those who obey the words of this book. Worship God!
(NET Bible)

Spoiler alert

One of the big principles in American law is giving notice. The idea is that you are given adequate knowledge in advance of a needed response or decision you must make. Generally, this advance knowledge and your required actions must be put into writing.

Through John and the angels, God is putting us on notice that obedience and perseverance are required in response to the disclosures God is making to us through his agents. What will you do with the holy summons?

If you analyze this biblical text for frequency, words occurs three times, and the combination prophets-prophecy-prophets also grabs attention. When you combine that knowledge with the statement from Jesus in 22:7 — Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy expressed in this book — you have to realize that obedience to the challenge to overcome is a crucial theme in Revelation.

Greg Beale[1] says that the purpose of Revelation is to induce obedience among Gods people and supports his statement by pointing out that eight of the final fifteen verses exhort or warn toward that goal. This general theme is stated a little differently by Grant Osborne[2], who says that perseverance is the primary theme of the book.

When Jesus says that the one who obeys is blessed (22:7), the previous context describing the splendor of the New Jerusalem fills that word with substance that had not previously been revealed.

John again puts considerable emphasis on his own eyewitness testimony (22:8). These visions and words are not idle thoughts or a creation of Johns own mind, and he makes that very clear to his readers.

Understandably, John is once again overcome by what he has seen and heard, and he falls down to worship the angel (22:8). The angel rebukes John in a manner virtually identical to 19:10. Explaining Johns lapse, Osborne[3] says that the two almost identical incidents serve as bookends for the material from 19:11 to 22:5, which includes the end of the former age and the creation of the new heaven and earth. The angel again stresses to John the equality of angels with the saints and prophets who all serve God. Note the particular emphasis on those who obey the words of this book (22:9).

The angels words Worship God! (22:9) do not in this context mean to sing praise songs or any of the other activities normally associated with corporate worship. Instead they mean to worship God by persevering and staying in readiness for the any-moment return of Christ.

To be or not to be?

Osborne[4] makes the telling point that every passage in the NT on the imminent return of Jesus ends with a demand to walk worthily of the Lord because he is coming soon.

The thing is, in an hour from this moment your decisive interview with Jesus may be over!

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

 


[1] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 1122.

[2] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 782-783.

[3] Osborne, Revelation, 784.

[4] Osborne, Revelation, 783.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 21:22-27

Revelation 21:22-27

Now I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God the All-Powerful and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God lights it up, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their grandeur into it. 25 Its gates will never be closed during the day (and there will be no night there). 26 They will bring the grandeur and the wealth of the nations into it, 27 but nothing ritually unclean will ever enter into it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or practices falsehood, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
(NET Bible)

Keep your eye on the ball!

Jesus said: I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12). We have often understood this statement to refer to the gospel by having it mean light of salvation. But could Jesus have been telling us about the life we will live with him in eternity?

Grant Osborne[1] notes that most Jewish literature on the New Jerusalem puts the temple at its center, as in Ezekiel 40-48. But the flaw in that thinking is that the rationale for the temple was as a place for the people to encounter God. But in Revelation 21 we find that God physically resides among his people (Rev. 21:3), and the entire city has been made into a Holy of Holies (21:6).[2]

As John continues to contrast the holy city with the present age, he says the city needs no sun and moon due to the illumination provided by the radiance of God in Jesus, the Lamb (21:23).

Rev. 21:24-26 is very challenging for all commentators. Craig Keener explains: The image of the conversion of the nations (21:24) is a problematic one if pressed on a literal level against other images in Revelation. One possibility is that God creates new peoples for his saints to rule, but because this is not stated, commentators have rarely proposed it.[3] This rarely proposed idea is exactly the solution that I advocate to resolve this mystery.

The key problem is that the phrase kings of the earth (21:24) has uniformly served as a reference to those who will persecute the saints, gather with the beast, oppose the second coming of Christ, and then probably rise in rebellion when Satan leads the nations against the camp of the saints at the end of Christs earthly rule (see 16:14; 17:2; 17:18; 18:3; 18:9; 19:19; 20:8). So, it is sufficiently difficult to see these wicked kings coming to the New Jerusalem to worship — in the new heaven and new earth — that a few interpreters have said they were brought back from the lake of fire and converted! That idea is so contrary to the theology of both Revelation and the entire New Testament that it has gained no support.

The alternative is to take God more seriously: For look, I am ready to create new heavens and a new earth! The former ones will not be remembered; no one will think about them anymore (Isa. 65:17 ). I suggest that in this new creation there is no fall into sin and the result is the worship of God in Jerusalem by the leaders from nations around the newly created world.

This potential solution is far more complex than the usual fuzzy view of eternal life that most Christians hold. It may not express the actual course of events, but no viable alternative to the mystery of the kings of the earth in 21:24-26 has been proposed.[4]

No matter what God will show to be the solution to these questions, the nations will flock to the light of the Lamb, and those whose names are in the book of life (21:17) will see it all!

Jesus Christ is the focal point of the new world!

It is so difficult for us to imagine the new heaven and earth. As I write, the sun is shining and an electric light illumines my work area, but in the New Jerusalem the light from the Lambs presence will bathe every activity. Perhaps the biggest difference in the world-to-come is that it will focus far more attention and activity on Jesus than our fallen world does.

Jesus said to his enemies: I am going away, and you will look for me but will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come. (John 8:21). Rejoice that every Christian can come where Jesus is going!

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. 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) 759.

[2] Osborne, Revelation, 759.

[3] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 505.

[4] John Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966) 327, and Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Rev. Ed., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997) 397, adopt certain parts of the literal view I have expressed, but they back away in different ways. G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 1098, retreats into symbolism, as usual. Osborne, Revelation, 762-763, discusses the issue but presents no credible resolution.