Today we conclude our look at Revelation’s description of the future that awaits us – a recreated world in which there’s no more evil, in which sin’s curse has been undone, and in which we can see God face-to-face. If you’re just joining us, start with yesterday’s post.
Revelation 22:1-2 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
The river of the water of life reminds us of Eden, in Genesis 2:
Genesis 2:10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.
The tree of life is no longer under guard, compared with the last time we left it, back in Genesis 3:
Genesis 3:22,24 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” …24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
Here, the tree is available for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 22:3-5 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
The curse of Genesis 3 is reversed. We’ll see God’s face, which even Moses wasn’t allowed to see (only the back of his glory, Ex 33:19-23), and which we only see dimly now (1 Cor 13:12)
Revelation 22:6-10 The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” 7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.” 8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9 But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!” 10 Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near.”
Again, we have a reference to the word being trustworthy and true, just like Christ himself, who is the source of these words.
There’s another reminder against angel-worship, and that humans are on the same level as servants of God.
And John is told not to seal up the words of the prophecy, in contrast with Daniel:
Daniel 12:9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end.”
The final verse is a reminder that judgement is coming:
Revelation 22:11 “Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”
The first part is almost an ironic commandment like we find in the prophets—keep doing it, if it’s judgement you want:
Amos 4:4a Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more
Then Jesus promises his return:
Revelation 22:12-16 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
Christ comes with a reward in hand for faithful service. Again, the point is to contrast the future for those who remain faithful to God, with those who persist in sin. Those excluded (outside) are those who continue in pagan worship and the morality that goes along with it. “Dogs” was a derogatory term, particularly when they weren’t household pets but scavengers. In the Graeco-Roman world they were associated with sexual immorality, and in the Jewish world it was used for the unclean Gentiles.
Jesus is described as the morning star. It may well refer to this passage in Numbers:
Numbers 24:17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel.
But, given the next bit (verses 17-21) imploring Jesus to hurry up and get here, it may also be intended as a contrast with a poem (written by the Roman poet Martial) about Domitian (the emperor when Revelation was most likely written), imploring him to return to Rome from another part of the empire:
“You morning star, bring on the day! Come and expel our fears, Rome begs that Caesar may soon appear.”
Is this intended to present Jesus as the true emperor for whom we are impatiently waiting to come and put things right?
Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
The Spirit and church (the bride) are the witness to Christ; both call Jesus to come.
Revelation 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
Revelation ends with a claim to being the inspired and authoritative word of God, calling itself a prophecy.
The warning and curses in it are traditional for an apocalypse, and draw on Deuteronomy:
Deuteronomy 4:2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
The warnings are about “this scroll” (often translated “book”), not the whole bible – which, of course, was not compiled in this form at the time of the original document!
Revelation 22:120-21 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
“Come, Lord Jesus” is the same as Paul’s prayer in 1 Cor 16:22. Marana tha (Lord, come).
Next week: our Christmas special from Revelation 12 – A Very Apocalyptic Christmas.