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.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 20:13–15

Revelation 20:13–15
The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each one was judged according to his deeds. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death — the lake of fire. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire.
(NET Bible)

Not a nice neighborhood!

Once when I was travelling by car on the east coast, I took a freeway exit and immediately found myself in the wrong neighborhood. All the drug dealers and assorted other professions were looking at me like fresh meat. There is a time in every man’s life to admit you got lost. U-turn!

Moral #1: Know where you are going. Moral #2: Make sure a U-turn is possible. It would be good to think about that in relation to today’s Bible passage.

The first thing to understand about 20:13 is that the word sea is symbolic. How do we know that? The answer is that heaven and earth have already vanished (20:11). Beale explains why we need to forget any romantic ideas we have about the literal sea: “It is possible that the realm of evil (4:6; 13:1; 15:2), within which Satanic forces operate and which imprisons all unbelievers.”[1] Mark that the new heaven and new earth have no sea.

So, the chaotic waves of the literal sea symbolize the dark, swirling, unknowable currents of evil that carry humanity away from God. It is not by accident that one of the beasts — the Antichrist — will rise from the sea (13:1). We are not in a good neighborhood when speaking of the sea in Revelation. The “dead that were in [the sea]” (20:13) are wicked dead, not deceased mariners.

Beale also brings clarity to the phrase Death and Hades (20:13) when he says: “The first death (i.e. physical death) occurs until the present cosmos is destroyed. All unbelievers suffering the first death are held in the sphere of ‘death and Hades,’ which is a temporary . . . holding tank to be finally replaced by the permanent . . . ‘lake of fire.’”[2]

What do we conclude? Just as we saw with all the dead (20:12) appearing before the great white throne (20:11-12), all of the dead given up by the sea, by Death and by Hades are unbelievers headed for the lake of fire. And, again, each one is checked against the book of life (20:15) as a demonstration of strict justice, but none is recorded there. God waited for them patiently and with forbearance (Rom. 2:4), but not one of them ever decided to repent.

Getting shut of Death and Hades

My wife and I like to joke about getting shut of something (e.g. our income tax obligation or a Jehovah’s Witness team). The Oxford English Dictionary traces the phrase back to the early 1500s. It means “to be rid of, free from (something troublesome).”

Our expectation of getting shut of Death and Hades is no joke! That they will be cast into the lake of fire shows that there will no longer be any need for them. This is another reason to worship Christ forever for what he has done for us!

Paul speaks of these amazing things when he quotes the prophets Isaiah and Hosea:

Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen,
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?”
(1 Cor. 15:54–55).

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. 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) 1034.

[2] Beale, Revelation, 1030.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 20:7-10

Revelation 20:7-10

Now when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to bring them together for the battle. They are as numerous as the grains of sand in the sea. 9 They went up on the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely. 10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever.
(NET Bible)

The power of denial

In graduate school there are a few perks. By that point the university is no longer putting you through flunk-out courses, and rarely does anyone ever get a grade lower than a C. The graduate school also figures that as a college graduate you should be able to understand the manual for graduate school. Life is good!

I was tightly focused on my final exam in quantum mechanics when a sleepy-eyed grad-student met the professor at the nearby classroom door. Sorry, Professor! I just didnt have time to study, so I guess Ill just have to take a C in the course.

Prof first looked puzzled, then sad, and said, Unfortunately, the grade for failing is F, not C. The sleepy grad student suddenly woke up! Ignorance and denial are a powerful combination, are they not?

For a thousand years (by this point) Jesus has ruled the world, which began the Millennium with a large unbelieving population that knew the grim result of Armageddon. But children may not learn what their parents know, and grandchildren remember even less. Old facts become old stories. Satan, confined in the abyss, is not present to deceive, but self-deception is ever popular!

Why will Satan be released from his prison (20:7) at the end of the Millennium? Robert Mounce explains that it happens to make plain that neither the designs of Satan nor the waywardness of the human heart will be altered by the mere passage of time.[1]

To put this explanation into other words, some might say that God was unfair to punish committed sinners since it was Satan who actually caused all the trouble. But removing Satan from the scene and putting the world under Christs righteous rule demonstrates that the tendency to rebel against God does not start with Satan or unfortunate circumstances. Shakespeare put these words in the mouth of one of his characters: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.[2] Indeed it is.

Grant Osborne speaks of the deceived nations when he says, After fourteen lifetimes of enforced good . . . as soon as Satan is released, they allow themselves to be deceived all over again.[3] The number committed to rebellion against Christ is far larger than that within the camp of the saints (20:9), but they are destroyed completely by fire from heaven (20:9). This is their first death, but a second will soon follow!

How miserably the rebels will fail soon becomes apparent. The devil will be hurled into the lake of fire where he will join the beast and the false prophet, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever (20:10). The redundant phrases day and night and forever and ever (20:10) combine to mean without pause and without end. Demonic spirits have long known this would be their end (Matt. 8:29; Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28). I think those who joined Satans rebellion refused to believe they would ever reach this punishment. Denial and ignorance will fail spectacularly!

Wishful thinking

Some years ago it occurred to me that those who become disillusioned were somehow illusioned in the first place! [Forgive me for making up a new word.] Those who rebel against God simply do not take images like the lake of fire seriously. The problem is that our thinking that something is so or is not so has no bearing on its factual existence. In some matters it simply is not reasonable to take such a chance of being wrong.

Paul Shepherd is one of my favorite Bible teachers. He says his mission is to do permanent damage to spiritual ignorance. That is a mission which can save a lot of lives, and you can adopt it yourself!

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

 


[1] 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) 371.

[2] Julius Caesar, act 1, scene 2, lines 138139.

[3] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 703.