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, Plano, Texas. 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.

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.