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.

Good Posts about Hades/Hell/Gehenna at Bible.org

Michael H. Burer of Dallas Theological Seminary’s New Testament Department has [link deleted due to malware report at site] some interesting and educational articles about the meaning of various Greek and Hebrew words that relate to the afterlife (words translated into English as Sheol, Hades, Hell, Gehenna, etc.). I suggest you take a look at them.

It is also encouraging to see that the scholars involved with the NET Bible are constantly striving to make the translation and its Notes better. That’s exactly what we would want Bible translators to do! In this case, he liked one of my suggestions.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Death of Osama Bin Laden

Tonight President Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Some people deserve to face God’s judgment sooner than others. Osama Bin Laden is such a man.

It is a cautionary lesson to all rebels against God that Bin Laden already knows what a big mistake he made with his life.

However, it is wise to remember Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-4:

1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?
3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

As an American, I rejoice that Osama Bin Laden will now face judgment. But I am also aware that, while life and opportunity remain, many others should face up to the lives they have led. They should bow the knee to Jesus of Nazareth while they still have the chance to do so!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.

Ross Douthat talks about Hell; Craig Blomberg does too

Seems like the conservative voices on the New York Times op-ed pages are talking theology these days; go figure! This time Ross Douthat briefly and intelligently discusses the reluctance of Americans to believe in Hell.

Not only does Douthat’s analysis give the lie to the claims of atheists and those who believe in universal salvation, but it also exposes the way publishers exploit the preference of Americans to believe in heaven but to discount hell. Worth your time to read his points.

For a deeper look at Hell by a solid New Testament scholar, Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary, check out this link. Blomberg ably discusses the little-known fact that the New Testament teaches different degrees of punishment for those consigned to Hell (Luke 12:46–48). Stalin will not fare quite as well as the school bully. A good article in a valuable blog.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.

Books: Love Wins by Rob Bell is reviewed by Darrell Bock

Rob Bell’s book Love Wins is getting lots of attention out in the evangelical blogosphere. I have not read the book, and I don’t intend to do so after reading the extended reviews by Darrell L. Bock of the Dallas Theological Seminary faculty. Bock has posted seven long blog entries so far, and they are available [link deleted due to malware report at site]. If Hell and judgment are issues that trouble you, make sure to read Bock’s analysis.

The title Love Wins probably gives you the big idea. Bell emphasizes God’s love and mercy in Christ and generally presents a minimal picture of Hell or divine judgment. That is certainly what a lot of people would prefer to believe. Of course, the only problem is that God’s Word says otherwise!

While I don’t always agree with Bock on progressive dispensationalism or on philosophy of Bible translation — it’s like a gnat bothering a bull elephant — I really admire his ability to do biblical and theological analysis of a book like Bell’s.  Bock skillfully expresses his ideas in a way that reaches a non-seminary audience and does so using the Bible as his basis for disagreement or agreement.

In short, read Darrell Bock (both blog and books) but not Rob Bell.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.