This is a continuation of Applying Revelation 21: A Disturbing Paradise.
We’ve finally reached the last chapter of Revelation, and it’s a continuation of the vision that began in Chapter 21. An angel is still giving John a visual tour of an eternal paradise with many features that are specifically designed to appeal to ancient Jews living under Roman persecution.
Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. (Rev. 22:1-2)
Old Testament imagery is woven throughout the entire book of Revelation. This river of life that flows from the thrones of Yahweh and Jesus in the new Jerusalem is a direct parallel to a river of life which Ezekiel saw in his vision of a glorious new Temple (see Ezekiel 47). In his vision, Ezekiel also saw trees along the banks of the river which provided food and medicine.
But wait—why is there such a demand for medicine in a perfect paradise? Medicine is only valued where there is sickness and suffering. The realities of the harsh conditions in the Roman Empire are creeping into this paradise as we find solutions to the Jews’ current earthly problems showing up in eternity. In real life, persecuted Jewish Christians would be short on food and medicine and long on hunger and suffering. Here God paints pictures which assure them that all of their needs will be provided for on the other side. Naturally these fruit trees produce twelve crops, because these Jews love their twelves. And notice the reference to a “tree of life” which reminds everyone of the abundance Adam and Eve enjoyed way back in Eden.
No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of Yahweh and of the Lamb will be there, and His servants will worship Him. And they will see Yahweh’s face, and His Name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord Yahweh will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.
Then the angel said to me, “These words are faithful and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent His angel to show His servants what must quickly take place.” (Rev. 22:3-6)
It’s Yahweh’s face that these Jews are excited to see in Heaven, for He’s the far more mysterious One who spent centuries hiding Himself from view in the Holy of Holies. Jesus seems far more approachable since guys like John can remember hanging out with Jesus on earth. We find this same concept of Yahweh providing a source of eternal light all the way back in the days of Isaiah, over 700 years before the birth of Christ on earth.
The sun will no longer be your light by day, and the brightness of the moon will not shine on you; but Yahweh will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your splendor. (Isa 60:19)
“Look, I am coming quickly! The one who keeps the prophetic words of this book is blessed.” (Rev. 22:7)
This line is usually attributed to Jesus, but it’s probably Yahweh who said it given the fact that these Old Covenant focused Jews have always expected Yahweh to one day return in some glorious way.
Look, the Lord Yahweh is coming with power to rule all the people. Look, He will bring reward for His people; He will have their payment with Him. (Isa 40:10)
I, John, am the one who heard and saw all these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. But he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers the prophets, as well as all who obey what is written in this book. Worship only God!” (Rev. 22:8-9)
This is the second time John admits to trying to worship an angel. What is wrong with this man? Does he have no regard for how jealous Yahweh is?
Then the angel instructed me, “Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book, for the time is near. Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy.” (Rev. 22:10-11)
In the Old Testament, we find Daniel being told not to share certain prophetic visions that he received. Here John is told to share his visions because the time is near. The time is near for what—the fulfillment of these things? That’s a laugh. Two thousand years later, we know beyond all doubt that John never arrived in a Heaven that was exalting the idolatrous nation of Israel.
This declaration that everyone should keep going like they’re going is another imitation of Old Testament language. Our behavior doesn’t threaten God. Instead, He has a great system of judgment all worked out which will ensure that He is satisfied with where each soul lands in eternity.
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing My reward with Me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Rev. 22:12-13)
This is Yahweh talking again. He’s using His ancient titles of “the First and the Last” and “the Beginning and the End”, plus this new Greek title of “the Alpha and the Omega” to remind everyone of His supremacy as the God who always was and always will be. This famous “Behold, I am coming soon” line could also be translated “I am coming quickly” or “I am coming suddenly.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and everyone who loves and practices lying. (Rev. 22:14-15)
The washing of robes here is a picture of spiritual cleansing. When we align with the tenants of Yahweh’s New Covenant, we are eternally accepted by Him and given access to Heaven.
Now to really study the Bible well, you have to compare various versions and realize that there is no perfect translation. As you compare, you’ll notice some very significant differences in the way various passages are handled. In passages which frequently alternate between God speaking and humans narrating, there is often disagreement about who is saying certain lines of text. John 3:16 is a good example of this. Some translations interpret that famous line as being spoken by Jesus. Others interpret it as part of human John’s filler narration. Obviously there’s a big difference between God speaking and a human filling in his own thoughts, so misidentifying the speaker in some of these passages can have serious implications. Here in Revelation 22, are verses 14-15 said by John or God? It’s unclear. Some Bibles will put these verses in quotes and highlight them red, others will attribute them to John and leave them as black. We attribute them to John, who once again shares his list of pet peeve behaviors.
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to attest these things to you for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star.” (Rev. 22:16)
In Isaiah 11:10, the coming Messiah was referred to as the Root of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of David. In Ezekiel 37:24, Yahweh refers to His coming Messiah as “My servant David”, which was the same as saying the Jews would consider the coming Messiah to be a genetic descendant of the man David. In 2 Peter 1:19, Peter uses the term “Morning Star” as a metaphorical title for Christ.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.”
Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. (Rev. 22:17)
The Spirit would be the Holy Spirit. The Bride is a reference to the Church, which means all believers. The reference to life giving water is an echo of things Yahweh said in Isaiah 55, as well as some words of Jesus which John recorded in his gospel book. In John 4:10-14, Jesus was speaking to a Samaritan woman at a well when He turned water into a metaphor for eternal salvation.
Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
In Isaiah 55, we find Yahweh predicting the coming New Covenant over 700 years in advance with these exciting words:
“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink— even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk— it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to Me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Come to Me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting Covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.” (Isa. 55:1-3)
And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book. (Rev. 22:18-19)
Just as we Christians like to talk about “the power of the spoken word” and the power of “name it and claim it”, the ancient Jews also fancied themselves to be potent little sorcerers who could cast blessings or curses onto people merely by making emphatic declarations. Here John makes the outrageous claim that editing his written document will result in the revoking of one’s salvation. In other words, to change anything that the awesome John wrote is an unpardonable sin. Suddenly believing in Jesus isn’t good enough—you also have to revere some ratty old document that John wrote. Well, no, as much as John’s ego wants to believe God will take orders from him with regards to eternal judgment, that’s not how it works (see Change the Bible, Go to Hell: Debunking Christian Superstitions).
He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!”
Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with Yahweh’s holy people. (Rev. 22:20-21)
It’s very tiresome the way New Testament writers try to direct God about with these “may” statements. We’re in the same bad habit today as we say things like “May God be with you.” If you saw your friend eating lunch in a café, would you walk up to her and say, “May God give you food”? No, because you could see she already had food, so your statement would sound ridiculous. Well, Christians are already basking in abundant grace from God. Given this, how insulting is it for us to say “May God’s grace be with you”? Hello, it already is. These cutesy little phrases are really our way of publicly rejecting truths that God has taught us while we simultaneously rehearse doubt about His goodness. “May God be with you” only becomes an appropriate thing to say if you have reason to believe that God isn’t already with the person you’re talking to.
The apostle Paul is really good at insulting God with these kinds of statements. Colossians 1:9-10 is a good example.
For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.
This is a lousy prayer. Paul claims to have a whole team of believers who are constantly nagging God to do certain things for other believers. Right there is a major problem: servants shouldn’t be bossing their Master about. It’s not our place to tell God how to manage the spiritual illumination of another soul. It’s very insulting to God when we keep making the same request fifty billion times as if we believe He is either deaf or intentionally ignoring us. Notice what Paul and his badly taught buddies are asking God for: to tell other Christians what God’s will for them is. Really?? So Paul thinks God is in a habit of not telling believers what His will is? Since when is God the jerk who sits around playing “read My mind” games and refusing to tell His own kids what He wants from them? This is an obnoxious prayer which demonstrates no faith in God on the part of Paul and his fellow believers, yet we’re supposed to read these words and think this is a great example of how to pray. Not hardly. And while Paul implies that abundant knowledge is the only thing that a believer needs in order to please God, this is more hokum. God is constantly telling us what He wants from us, but most of us are refusing to listen and cooperate with His convictions. Knowledge alone isn’t enough. We have to choose to submit to God, but this isn’t what Paul is saying here. Instead, he wants points for the way he’s insulting God with his constant nagging for God to do something that God is already doing. Nice leadership.
So now that we’ve finally made it through the whole book of Revelation and ended on the sour note of John’s ridiculous curse, what are we supposed to be learning from this mess? If this isn’t a blow-by-blow of what to expect in the real end times, what is it? In our next lesson, we’ll discuss what this book’s main lessons are and how we can apply them to our own walks with God.