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 21:9-14

Revelation 21:9-14

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven final plagues came and spoke to me, saying, Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb! 10 So he took me away in the Spirit to a huge, majestic mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. 11 The city possesses the glory of God; its brilliance is like a precious jewel, like a stone of crystal-clear jasper. 12 It has a massive, high wall with twelve gates, with twelve angels at the gates, and the names of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel are written on the gates. 13 There are three gates on the east side, three gates on the north side, three gates on the south side and three gates on the west side. 14 The wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
(NET Bible)

New Jerusalem as the holiest place: introduction

I challenge you to examine what the world considers glorious. Just walk through a large bookstore and glance at the covers of a hundred magazines.If that is the pinnacle of human achievement, then I say we must search for true glory somewhere else. What do you think?

Grant Osborne[1] points out the significant fact that Revelation 21:9-22:5 can be divided into three sections: the first describes the prostitute of Babylon (17:1-19:5); the second describes the end of history and final judgment (19:6-21:8); the third describes the wife of the Lamb (21:9-22:5).

Verses 17:1-3 strongly contrast with 21:9-10. The personal choice between the prostitute of Babylon and the wife of the Lamb is a real-time conflict of allegiance for the seven churches in Johns day and it extends to us today.

To continue the comparison, John describes the adornment of the prostitute (17:4; 18:16-17a) and contrasts it with the beauty of the bride (21:11). The adornment of the prostitute was stripped away in a single hour but the beauty of the bridewill endure for eternity. The beauty of the New Jerusalem flows from the glory of God (21:11), where glory should probably be translated as radiance or splendor.[2] The beauty of the holy city is the beauty of God, and that has no limit!

The presence of a massive city wall is slightly surprising since all enemies have been vanquished. But if the wall does not represent safety, it does again delineate the basic difference between outside and inside. Consider that 22:15 says, Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral, and the murderers, and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood! Angels stand at each gate (21:12) — reminding us of the angels who guarded the way into Eden (Gen. 3:24) — and the gates and foundation bear the names of the twelve tribes and twelve apostles to remind us that both believing Israel and the church belong within.

I expect that this more nuanced view of the new heaven and new earth will sound odd to you. Craig Keener[3] explains that Western Christendom has inherited an allegorical view of heaven [think of clouds with winged angels playing harps] from the philosophical views of some early interpreters. Instead, we should consider what the Bible says the scene will actually be, both inside and outside:

For just as the new heavens and the new earth I am about to make will remain standing before me, says the Lord, so your descendants and your name will remain. From one month to the next and from one Sabbath to the next, all people will come to worship me, says the Lord. They will go out and observe the corpses of those who rebelled against me, for the maggots that eat them will not die, and the fire that consumes them will not die out. All people will find the sight abhorrent.
(Isa. 66:22-24).

Live inside the New Jerusalem!

As you can tell, living inside the New Jerusalem is our aspiration. The one who makes it possible is the Lamb, a name for Jesus that occurs seven times from 21:9-22:3. It is the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf that makes our life in New Jerusalem possible. There is no other way!

The author of the book of Hebrews encourages us to think like the heroes of faith who lived before us: They aspire to a better land, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Heb. 11:16). You have a treat in store — true glory!

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) 745.

[2] BDAG-3, doxa, radiance, splendor, q.v.

[3] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 502.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 21:1-4

Revelation 21:1-4

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more. 2 And I saw the holy city the new Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.
(NET Bible)

The new heaven and the new earth

Some ideas die hard. In the early 20th century, many people believed an idea from mile Cou, a French psychologist, who said, Every day, in every way, Im getting better and better. Many thought the world was on the same track. But after World War I killed 16 million people and the influenza pandemic of 1918 killed at least 50 million people, such opinions soured.

Yet in 2007 a serious book was published with the title The Improving State of the World, again advancing the world-is-getting-better-and-better idea. Will humanity create heaven on earth?

Revelation 21:1-6 offers a summary of everything that will follow, and then verses 7-8 tell us how we must live in light of these things. The summary will then be expanded in two directions, first viewing the Holy City as an eternal Holy of Holies (21:9-27) and then as a new Eden (22:1-5).[1]

Here is a fact that some people do not accept easily: the new heaven and new earth are brought to us by God (21:2), not by humanity! The idea that humanity will save itself and transform the world into paradise is a lie! The beast took over the concept and presented his rule as the key.

The next development is a dramatic announcement from the throne of God (21:3-4) — Look! (21:3). The news deserving of such fanfare is that God will once again dwell among his people, but with some major differences compared to his past sojourns: He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (21:4, ESV). Recall that the first time God lived among his people (Exodus & Numbers) an entire, unbelieving, rebellious generation, except for Joshua and Caleb, died in the wilderness without seeing the Promised Land. Yet, even in the midst of national sin during the later years of the Israelite kingdom, God promised a new heaven and new earth:See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind (Isa. 65:17, NIV 2011).

The second time God lived among his people was when Jesus came to live among us. John 1:14 uses the same verb for took up residence among us that we find in Rev. 21:3 will live among them; this verb is only found in Johns Gospel and Revelation. Jesus and his disciples experienced great opposition, suffering and even death.

Of course, it is not accurate to say that God did not continue to dwell with his people after Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9). Jesus revealed to his disciples that after leaving them he would send the Holy Spirit to reside with them and live within them forever (John 14:15-17). The presence of the Spirit was unseen yet absolutely real.

But the dwelling of God with his people in the New Jerusalem will be personal, lasting and free from the suffering and opposition that characterized the first heaven and earth. The quality of life will be so far beyond our experience as to be quite beyond our conception. What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9, ESV).

Your forever-home!

Lots of people attempt to prepare for retirement, but it is costly. The only retirement worth having requires you to give your life to Jesus in return for eternity in splendor with God.

Jesus made promises to those who love him. One of the greatest is this one: There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too. (John 14:2-3). Nothing beats that!

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) 727.