Closing Thoughts (Rev. 22:6-21)

Published on Wednesday, 13 September 2017 20:35
As we come to the closing section of this amazing book, we hear the voice of Jesus speaking through an angel to his servant John. He reminds John that the fulfilment of what was described was near. How do we interpret the meaning of near? I suppose the answer to that question is that it is near in a relative sense in comparison to the length of time that will exist afterwards. Although almost two thousand years have passed since the message was given, there is a long eternity ahead. We should also bear in mind that with the Lord a thousand years can be as one day.

A second detail to observe is what should be our attitude to the Word of God that is trustworthy and true. In the first chapter, a special blessing was promised to those who would keep the instructions of this book, and that promise is repeated in verse 7. Other comments are made about the importance of this particular book as well. In verses 18 and 19, a threat of judgement is made against any who would attempt to alter this book. This would indicate that the book would be a focus of attack by those who do not like its message. Instead, the message of the book should be made public (v. 10). And we can see in verse 9 that a definition of a true Christian is that he keeps the words of this book, and he should continue to live righteous and holy lives whatever others are doing (v. 11).

A third detail from this passage is that believers, including leaders, should watch out for particular sins. We would have been surprised at the first occasion of John bowing down to an angel, but in verse 8 he does it again. Yet we should observe that he admits to having done it, which is a reminder that we should not pretend we are innocent of sins of which we are guilty.

The gospel

A fourth matter is the gospel invitation mentioned in verse 17: ‘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 desires take the water of life without price.’ It is not clear if the first two uses of ‘come’ are addressed to Jesus in reference to his second coming since it is mentioned shortly before. Yet since the next two uses are addressed to the unconverted, it could point to interpreting the previous two uses in that way as well. If that is the case, we are given insight into how the Holy Spirit feels with regard to the gospel offer. His involvement when the church announces the offer reveals the heart of God, and also shows that he wants to make the offer through his people.

The final two uses say that the gospel should be offered to those classified as thirsty and to those who are want to take it. This is a reminder that we should not be satisfied with being thirsty or with having a desire. In addition, we must make contact with Jesus through the gospel and enjoy the water of life.

As far as the context here is concerned, the water of life is what flows around the church in the eternal world. This points to the amazing fact that the blessings of eternal life can be enjoyed in this world by God’s people, even although they yet are sinful. Those blessings are connected to knowing God through Jesus, as the Saviour stated at the commencement of his prayer in John 17.

The consequences of responding to the gospel call are stated in verses 14 and 15: ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.’ The editors of the copy of the Bible that I used in preparing this address did not think this verse was said by Jesus, even although the preceding and following verses are obviously regarded as by him. It is a red letter Bible, so verses 14 and 15 are not in red. I don’t see how this conclusion was made since it seems to read on from the previous verse.

Those who wash their robes, which is a picture of cleansing from sin through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, will have access to the privileges found in the church of Christ throughout eternity. Earlier in the chapter, the church was described as the New Jerusalem, and as a city with gates that led to a street on which it was possible to eat from the tree of life. Doing so will be the way that the Lord will provide his people with what they will requires as his redeemed servants. John is told that such are blessed now, and not only in the future when the city is in full function.

The return of Jesus

Several times in this section Jesus refers to his second coming and saying that it would happen soon. In verse 12, he says that he is coming as the Judge of all: ‘Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.’ This is a reminder that the return of Jesus has solemn consequences. We may be inclined to limit this threat to unbelievers, but we should observe that Jesus says it will affect everyone. Obviously, the judgement day will be far worse for those who are not safe in Christ. Yet the New Testament does indicate that it is possible for believers, including pastors, to lose out on that day and not receive a full reward. So we need to walk carefully in this life.

Names of Jesus

In this closing section, Jesus calls himself by different names. He refers to his eternal identity in verse 13 when he says, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’ In making use of those names, he is stating that he was there before anything else appeared and that he is the one who brings things to an end. Because he is the eternal God, Jesus should receive the same worship as the Father.

Then in verse 16, Jesus speaks about his royal character when he says, ‘I am the root and the descendant of David.’ Through this description, he is revealing that he has a kingdom that is connected to promises made to David. Moreover, Jesus is revealing that he existed before David as well as being his descendant. So he is stating that his roles in his kingdom involve him functioning as both God and man. He is the Mediator who rules over the kingdom for God’s glory and our good.

In the same verse, Jesus refers to himself as the bright morning star. The morning star is generally regarded as the planet Venus and it was called the morning star because it is usually seen shortly before daybreak, and thus indicates that the dark night will soon be over. Given this background, it is not difficult to see what Jesus meant when he described himself as the morning star.

First, it is a reminder that the world is yet in a state of spiritual darkness. Paul, when writing to the Ephesians, led them to recall that at one time they too had been spiritually blind, unable to understand God and his ways. This description of sinners is not limited to people of the first century but also describes each person who is living today without Jesus. Such have no real grasp of the beauty and bounty of God. Still, Jesus is there as the morning star, as the light who shines in the darkness, drawing people to himself in order for them to discover how kind and merciful the Lord is.

Second, as the morning star, Jesus announces that the day of brightness and glory is soon to arrive. In the natural world, the morning star is seen a short time before daybreak. When people see it, they can assume that it will soon be daylight. Those who have seen Jesus know that the eternal day will soon be here. And what an incredible day it will be! It will be a day without end, a day without disappointment, a day without problems, and a day without pain. 

In the meantime, as we live in the land of the shadow of death and wait for the arrival of the eternal day, we can focus on the morning star. We see him in the Bible where he reveals himself to those who take the time to search its pages looking for him. And when we discover his presence there, we often find that he too is looking ahead with anticipation to the day of which he is the morning star, because that is what he says here.

The response of John

John, who had misinterpreted what to say a short time before, now reveals his heart’s desire which is that Jesus would soon come. These are the last recorded words of the apostle of love and they express love for Jesus and love for his people. His desire and the desire of Jesus to come focus on the same glorious event. I suspect that even if we could speak to John in heaven we would find that he still has the same desire.

Then the apostle closes with a benediction for his readers: ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.’ The benediction is a reminder of the deity of Jesus because only a divine person can give the blessings of grace. John points to this when he mentions that Jesus is Lord. As Lord he is in charge of the heavenly storehouse and we know that it is full of the riches of grace. So whatever we need, we can go to him for it, knowing that he will be delighted to provide us with spiritual help. He has grace for us as a shepherd feeding his sheep, as a physician healing his patients, as a teacher instructing his pupils, as a guide leading his travellers, as a friend sharing his secrets. His grace is appropriate, abundant and available.

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