Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 22:18–21

Revelation 22:18–21
I testify to the one who hears the words of the prophecy contained in this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book. 20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.
(NET Bible)

The message must stand!

My grandmother and my mother’s siblings treated me like royalty! (Hey, the first child/grandchild/nephew gets the best of everything!) When we rode in the car — a stick-shift for those who recognize the term — I could sit anywhere except the driver’s seat.

Then one afternoon I decided to see what would happen if I reached across the front floor with my foot and stepped on the gas while we were moving down the street. For a while after that a cloud hid the sunshine in my young life. Some things you cannot do!

Since Jesus was the speaker in 22:16 and also in 22:20, he is the probable speaker in verses 22:18–19. In addressing the one who hears (22:18), he speaks to a large audience that should include us.

The warnings from Jesus to anyone who would dare to add to or subtract from the words of the Apocalypse amount to punishment in the lake of fire (22:18–19). As suggested in the questions above, this punishment is similar to warnings in the covenants God had with Israel (Deut. 4:2); the integrity of the words was crucial so that any person would know exactly how to keep the covenant. I keep italicizing words to point out that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit right down to the very words chosen by God to express his revelation (2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 4:12; 2 Pet. 1:21). It is no accident that the devil added and subtracted words when discussing God’s command with Eve (Gen. 3).

But who would add to or subtract from the words? While no explicit answer is given to that question, we do know that they will not be living in the New Jerusalem or eating from the tree of life. Whatever they may have claimed about themselves, their decisions receive the lake of fire.

In 22:20a, Jesus affirms for the final time that he is indeed coming soon. John joyfully responds in 22:20b, and the grammatical form implies the obvious — there is advantage to John (and us) for Jesus to come soon. But if the coming of Jesus is good for the church, it also closes the opportunity for unbelievers to bring their thirst to the one with living water. As Grant Osborne points out, “The coming of Christ is both a promise and a warning, and it provides a fitting conclusion to John’s book.”[1]

Grace in the promise and the warning

When the wicked fall into the lake of fire, it will happen in spite of God’s gracious warnings. God even sent his Son to die for the sins of the world in demonstration of his love for the lost (John 3:16). But certain people would have none of it, preferring the immediate rewards of the world.

When the righteous enter the splendor of Eden, it will happen because of the grace and truth embodied in Jesus Christ. He did everything to make it possible. All we had to do was accept his merciful gift and wait for the time when God will reveal the wonders he has prepared for us.

The grace of God in Jesus Christ is one thing we cannot live without! “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.” (Rev. 22:21). Amen!

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) 798.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 22:1-5

Revelation 22:1-5

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life water as clear as crystal pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. 3 And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, 4 and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.
(NET Bible)

New Jerusalem as the final Eden

One of my favorite images from a lifetime ago was a painting called Break Time, showing a dusty cowboy drinking his fill of cold water after a long days work was done. Whatever image refreshes you, it cannot describe the refreshment we will have in the final Eden. Are you ready for that break time?

Just as we saw New Jerusalem presented as the Holy of Holies in Revelation 21, so the section 22:1-5 portrays New Jerusalem as the final Eden. Both Genesis 2 and Ezekiel 47:1-12 provide the background to the vision.

Grant Osborne describes the water of 22:1 when he says, This life-giving water . . . is also emphasized in John 4:10-14 (Jesus as the living water) and 7:3739 (the Holy Spirit as streams of living water).[1] Just as water is crucial to life, so these living waters sustain us throughout eternity. The source of this water is God and the Lamb (21:1). Can you imagine how it tastes?

One of the striking features of the water of life (22:1) is its total accessibility as it flows down the middle of the citys main street (22:2). As with the water, so with the food; the tree of life lines both banks of the river and provides twelve kinds of fruit (22:2). That much is plain, but 22:2b presents a familiar issue: who are these nations and why do they need healing by the leaves of the tree?

Commentators strain to explain — unconvincingly — that this healing has already taken place prior to the descending of the New Jerusalem. Such healing would, by that theory, apply to the nations of the old earth. Greg Beale[2] asks whether the trees leaves will continue to heal throughout eternity and answers no because there is nothing to heal. Ben Witherington[3] says it is the saints memories of the old world that need healing, but Isaiah 65:17 says otherwise!

I have already presented my view that the newly created earth has nations in it (see discussion of 21:24-26). These are the nations that will need the healing God here provides. Like all spiritual healing, it comes from God and is based on what Christ has done.

When Adam failed to guard Eden (Gen. 2:15 and Gen. 3:6) from the incursion of Satan, the result of the sin which ensued was both death and a curse (Gen. 3:14-19). Adam and Eve were forcibly expelled from Eden (Gen. 3:23) and an angel was set to guard the entry. The New Jerusalem, presented as the final Eden, is amply guarded by angels at the gates (21:12), and no evil may enter there (21:27).

In place of the tree of knowledge and the tree of life at the center of the former Eden (Gen. 2:9), we find the throne of God and the Lamb (22:3). Instead of Adam and Eve hiding from God, we have a picture of unbroken fellowship between God and his redeemed people (22:4-5). Even though the delegated rulership of Adam and Eve over the old earth (Gen. 1:28) was shattered, now the saints reign forever on a new earth (22:5) with Christ.

That is a sight better than a cold drink after a hard day!

Beauty, refreshment and fulfillment

In our fallen world, some people do immoral things to live a life full of comforts for a short time. But a life lived for God will result in experiencing the best food, drink and companions in the most beautiful setting, forever. Oh, did I mention that you get to live with God?

Through Isaiah the prophet, God says: Why pay money for something that will not nourish you? Why spend your hard-earned money on something that will not satisfy? Listen carefully to me and eat what is nourishing! Enjoy fine food! (Isa. 55:2).

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) 769.

[2] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 1108.

[3] Ben Witherington III, Revelation, The New Cambridge Bible Commentary (New York: Cambridge University Press) 272.