Text: Rev 22:6-21
OT Text: Deuteronomy 29 (This closing admonition of Moses has many similarities in style and content to the closing statements of the Book of Revelation.)
Featured Verse: Rev 22:6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”
Main Idea: These closing verses remind us about God's purposes for the book as they not only booked Revelation, but serve as a closing note for the entire Bible.
This is our final entry in the blog. Thanks for following along on this reading program. In the Easter Sunday Service at 10:15, the sermon will cover four of the verses from this section in greater detail, so we will not comment on them today. (The sermon text will be Rev 22:16-17,& 18-21, dealing with the common theme of saying, "Come, Lord Jesus.")
I'd also like to thank Neil Sederburg for reading these posts in advance and making necessary corrections. If you noticed that the posts had fewer errors and typos as we went along, say thank-you to Neil!) (You're welcome and thank you!!! -Neil)
Congratulations! (I am saying that partly to myself.) We've made it to the end of the book. Unless Jesus returns between my writing this and you reading it, we will have completed our project.
I say that, partly in jest, but also seriously. The closing section of the book reminds us of several things, one of which is a healthy sense of anticipation for the return of Jesus. "The time is near... behold, I am coming soon", says Jesus. (22:10-12) Which leads us to the big question... When will Jesus come?
As we have repeatedly reminded ourselves, we don't know. Jesus told the disciples that no one knows the hour or the day of his return. (Matt 24:36) However, in God's view of history, the return of Jesus is the next event on the horizon. It is the next thing scheduled to happen. Like the next song cued on the playlist. That is why John is told "don't seal up this book." (22:10) We can best understand that verse by way of contrast. The close of Daniel's prophecy seems to point toward the final judgment and the events portrayed in Revelation 20-22. But God told Daniel to "seal up the book until the time of the end." (Dan 12:4) This is because from Daniels point in history a whole bunch of things still needed to happen, before the end could come. In particular, Jesus needed to be born, die, be raised, pour out the Holy Spirit on the Church and empower them for faithful witness to the nations. In contrast, those key events have happened for John in his point in history.
Furthermore, we have argued that the events of Revelation have already begun. The scroll of history was opened at resurrection of Jesus. The shaking of the nations during the seals and trumpets have already begun. We await the return of Jesus, but the events have begun to unfold. As we speak, the gospel is going to the nations and the church is growing even as beastly figures seek to oppose the church, and Babylon seeks to sway and seduce with her shimmering splendor. God is working in the world right now, shaking the nations and establishing his unshakeable kingdom. So, we seek to live in faith and we seek to operate with an expectation that Jesus is close (among his lampstands) and that his return is just off stage. Therefore, we can live in hope with a lively expectation about the coming renewal of all things.*
Conclusion and Application
John bakes several commands into this closing admonition.
1.) Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book. (22:7) A reminder that John's revelation is meant to be pastoral. He wants his churches to act in response to what they have seen. The book is not meant to satisfy our curiosity. It is not meant to be a riddle book which is fun to solve. It is meant to be a pastoral word for churches and Christians who are facing hardship. It is meant to be an encouragement to endure under hardship. All of the visions are serving that function. To the degree we are moved to greater faithfulness to God and greater endurance, then we have understood the book properly.
2.) Worship God. (22:9) We are called to right living, but that includes worship. Revelation is meant to stir us to more heartfelt worship. A quick story.
When I was a seminary student, I took a class on Revelation and had to translate the entire book. It was a really good class and many things I am relaying in this study are timeless truths that I learned in that class two decades ago. But, what I remember most vividly is translating the heavenly vision of chapters 4-5 and reaching the final verse (5:14) which says, "and the elders fell down and worshipped." I remember how profoundly it struck me. I was alone in the basement corner of the library and I was training to be an elder, so it seemed applicable. So I put down my Greek New Testament and picked up a hymnal and sang a soft song of praise. Perhaps, it was "Holy, Holy, Holy," where we sing of the saints casting their golden crowns before God around the glassy sea. Through this experience, the book became more personal. In Revelation, we are being invited into a song of praise sung by every creature under heaven, by the angels themselves, and by people from every tribe, tongue and nation. I pray it will lead you to deeper worship.
3.) Let the evildoer do evil... and the righteous do right. (22:11)
This is a pretty difficult command to understand. In light of the many calls to repentance, we can't see this as a call to complacency. Here is what I think it means. I think Revelation is telling us that people will continue to do good and evil throughout this age. As Jesus said in the parable of the weeds - both kingdoms will grow right up until the end, when weeds and wheat are separated in the final judgment. At times, one may look stronger than the other, but both righteousness and evil will continue to happen until Jesus returns.
4.) Blessed are those who wash their robes. (22:14)
This is one of the those calls to repentance. Believing in Jesus, confessing your sins and following him as Lord are part of being connected to him by faith. In faith, the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin and our robes are "washed."
Revelation presents stark images of future destruction and future renewal. It shows us the end toward which all things are moving and in so doing it moves us toward a decision. Are you with Jesus, or with Babylon. Will you fall with the beast in judgment, or will you enter the city with the Bride. Who do you trust? Who do you serve? Who do you worship?
5.) Don't add to [the words of the prophecy of this book], or take away from [them.] (22:18-19) It has been historically understood that the closing words were a very appropriate end. Not only an end to this particular book, but to the whole Bible. We should neither add new revelations, or cut away things God has revealed.
After 50 Days Through the Book of Revelation, I trust that we are all a little more familiar with this book of prophecy. I pray that it will lead you to greater faithfulness, greater worship, and greater confidence in the victory of Jesus. I pray that you will have greater hope in the midst of inevitable human conflicts, as you learn to see life through the lens of these heavenly visions. God Bless. "Come, Lord Jesus." - Matt
* One final pop culture reference. The return of Gandalf during the battle of Helms Deep in the Two Towers is a pretty good depiction of faith in action. Aragorn and Theoden's decision to "ride out" and meet the enemy in battle is a direct response to the promise of Gandalf that he will return. And as the "Rider in White" sweeps down the hill toward the enemy hordes, their deliverance arrives just in time! This is one of my favorite scenes of all time. And I like it even more when I think about it through the lens of the Book of Revelation. Maybe John saw something like this when he saw a prophetic vision of Armageddon.
Look to My Coming at First Light on the Fifth Day… Look to the East
I am not saying that when Jesus returns he will fight against orcs. But I do think that the prophetic image is meant to stir our hearts to greater faithfulness as we seek to witness for Jesus, even in the face of great opposition.