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!
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 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.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 21:5-8

Revelation 21:5-8

And the one seated on the throne said: Look! I am making all things new! Then he said to me, Write it down, because these words are reliable and true. 6 He also said to me, It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the one who is thirsty I will give water free of charge from the spring of the water of life. 7 The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But to the cowards, unbelievers, detestable persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells, idol worshipers, and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. That is the second death.
(NET Bible)

All things new!

Shakespeare[1] has a beautifully crafted passage about lasting commitments:

His promises were as he then was, mighty.
But his performance, as he is now, nothing.

Are you truly thirsty for Christ and his living water? God is asking!

For a second time we have the dramatic summons Look! (21:5) as God himself speaks from his throne. When God says, I am making all things new! there is no question of his determination or ability. Those holding out against persecution need to feel the certainty of their salvation and reward. He further commands John to write down his reliable statement (21:5b).

While English translations generally say It is done! (21:6), there is no question the verb is plural and means: They are done![2] Whether this completion refers to all the events of history (Grant Osborne) or all the prophecies of the book (Greg Beale) or the creation of all the new things that comprise the new creation (also Beale) is hard to say. I prefer to think that the plural means that God has brought all the judgments — seals, trumpets, and bowls — to a close and has created everything necessary for the new heaven and new earth.

The one who declares the end of the old order and the beginning of the new order can say such astounding things because he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (21:6). Beale[3] explains this title by saying that God transcends time, guides the entire course of history, and is sovereign over its beginning and its end.

Osborne[4] suggests that the one who is thirsty refers to those who have persevered and stayed faithful to Christ; he also compares them to the people who came to Jesus for living water (John 7:38). But Craig Keener[5] says that suffering alone in not sufficient; the believer must conquer (21:7) by not compromising with the worlds values in the face of persecution. The one who does so will inherit the spring of the water of life (21:6), which is a life of eternal fellowship with God.

But the water of life is not the only figurative liquid in question; there is also the lake of fire (21:8). The contrast to the conqueror (21:7) is the coward (21:8), whose final destination is the lake of fire. Naturally, this appeal to overcome is addressed to the people of the seven churches and to us who live before the time when the new heaven and earth emerge.

Obey the right thirst!

Only a corpse could fail to be attracted by the numerous advertising messages that appear nightly on television. It is unfortunate that the one thing that actually deserves such favorable attention, a thirst for God, is missing. Be very careful what thirst you quench!

At one of the great feasts in Jerusalem, Jesus said: If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, From within him will flow rivers of living water (John 7:37-38). John 7:39 explains that the living water is the Holy Spirit. If you have believed in Jesus, that living water flows within you at this very moment!

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


[1] Henry VIII, act 4, scene 2, lines 41-2; Mark Antony to Octavia.

[2] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 1054; Osborne has They are over, which he expands to These events are over, Revelation, 737 and 729, respectively.

[3] Beale, Revelation, 1055.

[4] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 738.

[5] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000)488.