"10And he said to me, Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. 11 He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. 12 And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. 14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. 16 I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star. 17 And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come! And let him who hears say, Come! And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. 18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. 20 He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." (Revelation 22:10-21, NKJV)
As we near the close of this marvelous book, we sense the fervent desire of our Lord for His people to know and comprehend His message to them. Often we think of the fervency required on our part to ppropriate the truth of God. It is well to also consider the fervency with which the Lord has made that truth known to us. The inspiration of Scripture involves a Divine intrusion into the affairs of men. In the case of the book of Revelation, the Lord broke through political, religious, and social confusion to deliver a message to "the churches." Even though Satan had spread a veil of spiritual ignorance over the world, the Word of God broke through it all. The powers of darkness were not able to hold back the revelation. They could not stop Jesus from receiving from God. They were impotent to impede the conveyance of the revelation from Jesus to the angel. John received it from the angel without so much as jot or tittle being withheld by "the enemy." And then, John delivers the message faithfully to the churches of all succeeding ages. The very existence of this book is a refreshing commentary on the Sovereignty of God. It confirms the Lord is fully capable of governing His kingdom effectively. We will find that truth concealed brings no ultimate profit to the people. It is only as it is perceived that benefits are realized. Truth is not to be held as a mere relic, kept in a museum, and worshiped as though it were an end of itself. Spiritual freedom is the result of KNOWING the truth, not merely possessing it. This is the meaning of the an expression found in the 51st Psalm. "Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts" (v 6).
I say these things to assure your heart that efforts expended to profit from this book are not in vain. It contains a message Jesus wants the churches to know. A blessing is pronounced on all who "read" the words of this prophecy (1:3a). A blessing is conferred upon all who "hear" these words (1:3b). All who keep, or retain, these words are "blessed" (1:3c; 22:7). There is something here that will bring joyful profit to our hearts. We will be the better for taking hold of the message Jesus is delivering to the churches.
Those who insist on being practical must see this! There is nothing more practical, or matter-of-fact, than the blessing of God. That is an appointed process that brings Divine influence to bear upon the individual. It lifts true religion out of the realm of mere philosophy. It removes spiritual knowledge from the realm of mere theological position. "Blessing" removes monotony from religion, and opens the door for strong faith, abounding joy, and dominating hope. And, BLESSING is associated with our exposure to, and reception of, the words of the book of the Revelation. What a marvelous benefit is here offered to the saints of God.
DO NOT SEAL THE WORDS
"10And he said to me, Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand." Those familiar with Scripture will at once see the difference between the revelation given to John and the one given to Daniel. After receiving a remarkable revelation concerning the future, Daniel was told: "And the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; Therefore seal up the vision, For it refers to many days in the future" (Dan 8:26). The KJV reads, "shut thou up the vision," and the NASB reads, "keep the vision secret." Again, Daniel was told, "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase" (12:4). Again the Lord said, "Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (12:9). A SPECIAL GENERATION
Does this phrase, "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book" mean, EXPLAIN WHAT YOU SAW? Remember, once in this vision John was commanded to withhold what he saw: "Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them" (10:4). Throughout the remainder of the book, those thunders were never revealed. Nor, indeed, is everything explained in an academic manner, thereby satisfying our carnal curiosity. John is being told the vision he has received was not a private one. Nor, indeed, was it for another generation. This was a message to be told, believed, and embraced.
The book is not for a future generation, as with Daniel. We must not think of future generation from a fleshly point of view. Time is not the fundamental consideration in this matter. Solomon spoke of generations from the standpoint of character. "11 There is a generation that curses its father, And does not bless its mother. 12 There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness. 13 There is a generation; oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up. 14 There is a generation whose teeth are like swords, And whose fangs are like knives, To devour the poor from off the earth, And the needy from among men" (Prov 30:11-14). Jesus spoke of "an evil and adulterous generation" (Matt 12:39). The "children of this world" in their totality are also considered a "generation" (Lk 16:8). The Lord Jesus Himself has a "generation"-numerous offspring that span many ages (Isa 53:8,12; Acts 8:33).
The righteous themselves are called a generation: "For God is with the generation of the righteous" (Psa 14:5). David also spoke of "the generation of those who seek Him" (Psa 24:6). He also spoke of them specifically in his hallmark Messianic Psalm. "A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation" (Psa 22:30). David also captured the sense of generations that is reflected in both Daniel and Revelation. "This will be written for the generation to come, That a people yet to be created may praise the LORD" (Psa 102:18, NKJV). In this case, the Spirit was referring to those in Christ Jesus: a generation that would be born again, created by the grace of God from Jew and Gentile-a "new man" (Eph 2:15). Peter referred to those in Christ as "a chosen generation" (1 Pet 2:9). There is a spiritual generation that is unique.
Daniel's vision was closed because that generation of people were yet to be created. What he was given to see pertained to the coming ages-"the day of salvation" and "the acceptable year of the Lord" (2 Cor 6:2; Lk 4:19). He spoke of the coming Messiah, His termination of iniquity, and the induction of "everlasting righteousness" (Dan 9:24). That message pertained to another time, and thus was sealed during Daniel's time. In Daniel, that time is called "the time of the end" (8:17; 11:35,40; 12:4,9).
"The time of the end" is not to be limited to the closing years of time, and that is not the point of Daniel's prophecy. Rather, that phrase means the closing era of the world itself-an era that would last for some time. Yet, there will no earthly era after "the time of the end."
John's revelation also pertained to those living in the closing era of time-"the day of salvation." Yet, his book was not closed because the prophesied "generation" was in place-the posterity of Jesus, "the Everlasting Father." They needed this message to survive the assaults of the enemy and avail themselves of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The message of this book pertains to them. They are the ones for whom Jesus is now reigning.
These people are in the battles described in this book. The devil was attacking them, and has launched an organized initiative against them. They are the ones who are being "nourished from the face of the serpent" (Rev 12:14). They are the ones who will reign with Christ (5:10; 22:5). That is why the book must not be sealed. Remember, the book of Divine destiny was in the hands of the reigning Lamb. That book was sealed, just like Daniel's vision. The Lamb, however, broke open the seals, unfolding the eternal purpose of God. Now John is told NOT to seal the book. It is a message "to the churches." Christ had accomplished the reconciliation, destroyed the devil, plundered principalities and powers, and inaugurated the New Covenant. Now is the time when the message of this book is relevant.
THE END OF TIME
Jesus did induct the end of time. He appeared "once in the end of the world" to "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb 9:26). The revelation of Jesus in His redemptive capacity is said to have been manifested, " in these last times for you" (1 Pet 1:20). On the day of Pentecost, Peter announced the beginning of "the last days," as used in this sense (Acts 2:17).
Referring to the devil's initiative against the church, John wrote, "Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour" (1 John 2:18).
These expressions denote the last stage of human history, and not the finality of time itself. There are texts that do speak of the closing days of the last time. The Spirit spoke of scoffers that would come in "the last time" (2 Pet 3:3; Jude 18), and perilous times that would come "in the last days" -i.e., the closing days of time, or the last of the last days.
We must take care not to become snared by a carnal view of these things. Faith does not think in terms of time, but in terms of appointed events and eras. Thus, when John is told NOT to seal up the book, the Lord is confirming the message is for the period in which he lived. All of the things shown to him were germane for the churches, to whom he was writing.
By saying "the time is at hand," the Spirit is calling for alertness and vigilance among the saints. The events at hand are not merely the ones relating to the coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead, or the judgment of humanity. They also include Jesus judging the churches, Satan launching an initiative against the saints, and the nourishment of God's people. The government of Jesus and the overthrow of Satan's work are also included, as well as the awakening of Israel, the persecution of God's people, and the triumph of truth. The book of Revelation covers a wide range of events, from the death and exaltation of Jesus to the demise of the natural order at His return. God's people are to become sensitive of these things, keeping their vision firmly fixed on their Lord, and not the passing things of this present evil world.
The Revelation is written to "the churches" in general, and the Gentile churches in particular. In my judgment, the Gentile church needs to be more aware of the brevity of time. This is one of the great failings of the modern church-its near-total lack of a sense of the swiftness of time. It makes it plans as though time was never going to end. This is a blight that dominates the nominal church, which simply is not living in hope.
The "times of the Gentiles" are chronicled as having a termination point (Lk 21:24; Rom 11:25). This is all the more highlighted by the pivotal reference to the "the tribes of the children of Israel" in the book of the Revelation (7:4; 21:12). Both references have to do with Kingdom prominence. These circumstances demand alertness from which no church in any time is excluded.
THE TIME IS AT HAND!
This is not an expression about which men are to speculate. Something that is "at hand" is to be considered, pondered, and the motivation for appropriate preparation. We must rid ourselves of a lifeless academic approach to the Word of God. Jesus is not speaking to us as a Schoolteacher, but as a Lord and Savior. His message is primarily to our hearts, not our minds.
When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matt 22:37). Mark includes the words, "and with all thy strength" (Mk 12:30). In both cases, the heart is mentioned first. Our Lord's reference was to the words of Moses, who used this expression three times. All three statements are found in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut 6:5; 10:12; 30:6). Here is how those passages read. "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might . . . And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul . . . And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live."
Notice that Moses does not mention the mind, but rather the "soul" (nephesh). That is a general word referring to the unseen part of man. Jesus, however, delineates that unseen part as "soul" (yuch/| psuche) and "mind" (dianoi,a dianoia)-distinguishing them both from the "heart" (kardi,a| kardia). Further confirming the distinction of "the heart" from "the mind," the New Covenant involves putting God's laws "into their hearts" and writing them "in their minds" (Heb 10:16). Hebrews 8:10 reverses the order, saying God's laws are "put into their minds" and written "in their hearts." The point is that a sharp distinction is made between the heart and the mind, with the heart given the priority. We believe "with the heart" (Rom 10:10). It is "out of the abundance of the heart" that the mouth speaks (Matt 12:34). A good man brings forth good things out of the "abundance of the heart" (Matt 12:35). Evil thoughts proceed from "the heart" (Matt 15:19). This is where spiritual circumcision occurs (Rom 2:29). True obedience is rendered "from the heart" (Rom 6:17). The heart has intentions and thoughts that can only be deciphered by the living Word of God (Heb 4:12). Grace can also establish the heart (Heb 13:9).
The heart is where character is found. It is where motives reside. It is the throne room of the individual. Whatever rules the heart rules the person.
The heart functions more by intuition than mere intellect, which can be void of emotion and spiritual understanding. The heart can believe the promises of God even when they are not fully comprehended, refusing to stagger at commitments of God-even though they are unreasonable to the flesh (Rom 4:18-20).
The book of Revelation is addressed more to the heart than to the mind. It does not exclude the mind-God forbid! The mind, however, is subordinated to the heart when the message of this book is embraced. Those who hear or read it with dates and historical events in mind will not grasp the intended message. The Lord is not providing data for the compilation and writing of a thesis. Rather, He is providing nourishment for the heart-giving His people a reason to hold on their way.
The Time Is At Hand
This is the manner in which the Holy Spirit frequently speaks to us-addressing our hearts. "The night is far spent, the day IS AT HAND. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light" (Rom 13:12). "Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord IS AT HAND" (Phil 4:5). "You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord IS AT HAND" (James 5:8). "But the end of all things IS AT HAND; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers" (1 Pet 4:7). Viewing these texts as though they focused upon dates diffuses them of their power. When we read the words "AT HAND" we are to look expectantly and with joyful anticipation.
The heart leaps beyond the boundaries of time, obtaining benefit from facts positioned in other times. It can reach backward to Abraham, the law, the Prophets, and the death and resurrection of Christ, obtaining benefits even though they occurred in another time. By the same token, the heart can bound forward, gathering immediate and effectual encouragement from things that have not yet occurred; i.e., the coming of the Lord, entrance into glory, the obtaining of our inheritance, etc.
This is the posture of faith: looking and longing for the end of all things. Faith takes hold of the promises and lives in view of them. It enables the believer to be uprooted from this world and anchored "within the veil." Such language can be strange, indeed, to the intellect-but not to the heart that believes. It speaks of Divine commitment and eternal advantage. It means the Heavenly agenda is being fulfilled most precisely, and to our eternal advantage.
Thus, John is told NOT to seal the book, for these things are pertinent to faith. They are food for hope, and encouragement for the persecuted and struggling. If John was told NOT to seal the book, men had better be sure they do not hide it with their stilted theologies and doctrines! Any teaching that hides the determined outcome of all things brings unspeakable handicap to believers! It also brings a curse upon its originator and perpetrator. God makes no provision to experiment with the faith of His people. There is no place in the Kingdom of God for lifeless philosophizing and personal opinion, or "private interpretation," none of which are permitted in the Kingdom of God.
WHEN CHARACTER IS FIXED
"11 He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still." Here is a verse worthy of much consideration. It is sandwiched between a declaration that "the time is at hand" and "I come quickly." The NASB reads, "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy." The Living Bible seems to capture the sense of the text. "And when that time comes, all doing wrong will do it more and more; the vile will become more vile; good men will be better; those who are holy will continue on in greater holiness." "That time" is the fulfillment of God's purpose in Christ and the coming of the Lord. Observe how mankind is classified: Unjust and righteous, filthy and holy. The "unjust" are those whose lives are out of synch with eternity. Their thoughts, words, and deeds are at variance with those of the Lord. The "filthy" are those who are defiled, contaminated, and unfit to dwell in the presence of the Lord. The "righteous" are those whose manners have been changed by personal transformation and the imputation of righteousness. The "holy" are those who are undefiled, who have been washed from their sins and made clean through the blood of Christ. What a contrast there is between the two categories-and they are the only categories there are!
There IS coming a day when character will become unalterable! The Spirit apprizes us of that time in order to stir us to make required changes now, while "the day of salvation" is still here. Time is something we are not promised! Changes are not to be put off! As the Spirit says elsewhere, "knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light" (Rom 13:11-12).
I do not find much of this type of awareness in our time. Many contemporary theologies would be forthrightly abandoned if a consciousness of the coming conclusion of all things were prominent. Somehow I sense people-Christian people-are living as though time will be provided for a change sometime in the future. Both young and old often wait for a more "convenient season," as did Felix (Acts 24:25). But a day of crisis will dawn upon all men when change will no longer be possible! For those who have lived by faith, that will be a time of inexplicable joy. Their warfare will end abruptly, and they will no longer struggle within. But for all others, it will be a time of unimaginable lamentation. Throughout the universe the mournful words will be heard, "The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!" (Jer 8:20). It is the time when these words will be ultimately and finally fulfilled in every sense: "My spirit shall not always strive with man" (Gen 6:3).
WHAT IS THE SPIRIT SAYING?
This expression is more than a mere supply of factual information. It is a form of spiritual irony. It is a Divine demand for immediate response, instant receptivity, and on-the-spot change. This, of course, is one of our Lord's manners, and is frequently expressed in Scripture. "Choose you this day whom ye will serve" (Josh 24;15). "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him" (1 Kgs 18:21). "Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me" (Ezra 20:39).
Listen to the Lord speak with His people Israel. He speaks with precisely the same tone as that of our text. "But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD. He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house" (Ezek 3:27). "As for you, O house of Israel," thus says the Lord GOD: Go, serve every one of you his idols; and hereafter; if you will not obey me; but profane My holy name no more with your gifts and your idols" (Ezek 20:39).
There is an urgency in salvation that is scarcely detected today. Evangelism and missions are too often approached as though the words of Revelation were not "at hand," and the coming of the Lord was not drawing near. But this is not the manner in which God reasons with men. He plainly tells them that if they are not going to serve Him NOW, let them give themselves wholly to what will condemn them in the end! Remember, Jesus said to a lethargic church, "I wish that you were either cold or hot" (Rev 3:15, NRSV). One time, beholding the stubbornness of His people, the Lord said, "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone" (Hos 4:17). Such a day is coming-when the state of all individuals will be fixed, or made permanent, with no possibility of change.
Now, in "the day of salvation" and "the acceptable time," change can be made. But this day is not an eternal one! Even in this life, it is possible for a person's character to become unalterable! The conscience can become "seared with a hot iron" (1 Tim 4:2), and men can become "twice dead, plucked up by the roots" (Jude 12). There is a state-in this life-when it would have been better not to have been born (Matt 26:24).
How much more is this true when time is no more, and the purpose of God has been fulfilled. When the Lord comes again, bringing a grand conclusion to all things, not a solitary person will experience a change of character. If they are unrighteous, they will be forever unrighteous. If they are filthy, they will forever be locked into the filthy state. If they are righteous, they will forever be righteous, shining forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father (Matt 13:43). If they are holy, they will forever be pure and uncontaminated, with no possibility of ever again being subjected to defiling influences in any form.
But men must prepare NOW for the inevitability. There is no time for distraction, or for involvement in the tawdry baubles set before us by the wicked one. There is no time for entertaining levity, or distracting commitments. If we are going to be righteous, we must be so now! If we are going to be holy, we must be holy now! There is no time to wait! The church must apprize people of these things.
A JOYFUL REMINDER
"12 And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last." Throughout the Revelation, Jesus apprizes His church that He is returning. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him . . . But that which ye have already hold fast till I come . . . Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown . . . Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame . . . Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book . . . And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. . . He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly" (1:7; 2:25; 3:11; 16:15; 22:7,12,20).
Behold the weight of each of those statements, and the profound realities with which they are associated! Every eye will see Him! Until then, we are to see to that no man takes our crown from us. The fact of His coming is to induce a state of preparation and readiness. A blessing is pronounced on those who keep their garments clean in anticipation of His return. His reward will be brought with Him, to give to every man in strict accordance with his work. His coming is surely going to occur. It is difficult to conceive of anything being more weighty than the return of the Lord. The Gospels contain at least 187 references to the coming of our Lord. Significant teaching concerning His return is found in First Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, First Thessalonians, second Thessalonians, First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, First Peter, Second Peter, First John, and Jude. This is a prominent teaching in the Word of God-a pole star, if you please, held out to those living by faith. It is not strange that Jesus mentions His return in the Vision of the ages, and does so multiple times.
Four times in this book, Jesus says He is coming "quickly." Our text is one of the times. Some of the versions read, "I am coming soon" (RSV, NRSV, and NIV). I do not care for that rendering of the word. Coming from tacu, (ta-chu), the word means without delay, by surprise, and without hesitation. It is not a word of time, but of manner. His coming will be sudden, and at an unexpected time for those who are not watching. As Jesus said elsewhere, "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (Matt 24:44, NKJV). That is surely a word the church needs to hear! I fear it has been lulled to sleep by her preachers and teachers. It is conducting itself just as though the Lord Jesus was not scheduled to return at all, or that she will not be held strictly accountable for her stewardship. Any one attending the average American church-gathering would never suspect that Jesus was going to come suddenly, possibly even interrupting that very gathering.
Some have suggested it is inappropriate to seek for or anticipate a reward from Jesus. They imagine that duty or obligation is sufficient to propel us into the work of the Lord. But this is very foolish, and conflicts sharply with the clear teaching of our Lord. Earlier in this book, it is said to the Lord Himself, "You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great" (11:18). Jesus promised, "I will give to each one of you according to your works" (2:23).
Now the Lord Jesus announces when this will take place-when He comes! How refreshing to hear these words! Many believers never associate the coming of the Lord with being rewarded. The very thought strikes fear into their hearts. Others, confused by the doctrines of men, think of a rapture, a tribulation, the mark of the beast, or other kindred matters. While God has spoken on these subjects, the real comfort ministered by Christ's coming is what it will mean for the believers. Of paramount importance is their reward.
Jesus spoke frequently of rewards to His disciples. Do you remember some of those words? " . . . great is your REWARD in heaven . . . thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall REWARD thee openly . . . He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's REWARD; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's REWARD . . . He shall REWARD every man according to his works . . . But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your REWARD will be great" (Matt 5:12; 4,6, 18; 10:41; 16:27; Lk 6:35). And how about the Apostles' doctrine? "If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a REWARD . . . Let no man beguile you of your REWARD . . . knowing that from the Lord you will receive the REWARD of the inheritance . . . Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great REWARD." (1 Cor 3:14; Col 2:18; 3:24; Heb 10:35).
For that matter, how is it that faith views the Lord Himself? It comes to God believing "He is, and that He is a REWARDER of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb 11:6). In fact, God MUST be approached in this manner. "He that cometh to God MUST believe" this! In the case before us, the reward is CHRIST'S reward. It is not that it differs from what the Father gives, but that the Father gives His reward through the Lord Jesus Christ, Who purchased the church with His own blood.
Thus Christ's words appeal to faith, which has come to God convinced He DOES reward those who diligently seek Him. The world despises the people of God because of their affiliation with Christ. For this reason, the expectation of His reward is especially needful. The saints are not to be deprived of this expectation by stilted theology. The prize must ever bet set before them, accurately and with diligence.
ACCORDING TO HIS WORK
The reward of Christ will not be given undiscriminatingly, or in an impersonal way. There is a direct correlation between the work of the individual and the reward he receives. It will not be granted on the basis of appearance, but according to each person's work. Some very gifted people put little of themselves into the work of the Lord. They will not receive a significant reward, if, indeed, they receive any at all. There are also people who do not possess a lot of natural ability, yet give themselves wholly to the Lord. They will receive a great reward.
It should be apparent that a lack of involvement with the Lord contradicts the entire thrust of salvation. We have not only been called out of darkness, we have been called into light (1 Pet 2:9). Not only were our sins forgiven, righteousness was imputed to us (Rom 4:6-7). From a state of alienation, we were called into the fellowship of God's Son (1 Cor 1:9). All of this presumes activity on the part of the saved-Kingdom work.
The "work" to which our text refers is not mere activity. Rather, it is participation in what the Lord Jesus Himself is doing. His reward will be based upon the degree to which we became involved with Him through faith. That involvement is being "laborers together with God" (1 Cor 3:9).
RIGHT TO THE TREE OF LIFE
"14Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city." Here is another Revelation beatitude. Some very wonderful Kingdom perspectives can be seen in this expression. Observe, the blessing is upon those who "DO His commandments."If you have a more modern version of Scripture, it reads quite differently: "Blessed are those who wash their robes" (NASB, NRSV, NIV). There are academic explanations for the variant translations. I will give you one provided by William Barclay. "In Greek the two phrases would be very like each other. Those who have washed their robes is hoi plumontes tas stolas, and those who do His commandments is hoi poiountes tas entolas. In the early Greek manuscripts all the words are written in capital letters and there is no space left between them. If we set down these two phrases in English capital letters, we would see how closely they resemble each other. HOIPLUNONTESTASSTOLAS
It is easy to see how a scribe could make a mistake in copying and substitute the more unusual phrase."
I must confess I cannot place a lot of stock on this type of exegesis, if, indeed, it can even be called that. I choose to offer another explanation for the difference. First, the different translations do not change the meaning of the text, as most Bible scholars agree. The phrase "do His commandments" emphasizes the cause, and "washed their robes" emphasizes the effect. It is the same truth taught in Romans 6:17-18: "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness."
The blessing is pronounced on those who responded by faith to the message of the Gospel. "His commandments," in this case, were those associated with obeying the Gospel (2 Thess 1:8; 1 Pet 4:17). In their obedience they obtained cleansing from sin, and were inducted into heavenly realms. Thus Ananias said to Saul of Tarsus, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). This obedience is also referred to as "the washing of regeneration" (Tit 3:5). The commandments, therefore, are not the Ten Commandments, or a humanly-devised catalog of commandments, compiled from perceived critical texts. Before I leave this subject, I want to confirm to you that this is the manner in which obedience is addressed. Just as the ten Commandments were summarized in two statements (Matt 22:37-40), so the commandments in Christ are summarized in two requirements. "And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment" (1 John 3:23, NKJV). Obedience to these commandments is what results in the washing of our robes, or cleansing from all unrighteousness. John stated it this way, "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
DOING His commandments involves faith and the heart. They cannot be done perfunctorily, or without the involvement of the whole person.
One additional thing is seen in this text. Read it once again: "Blessed are those who do His commandments, THAT [in order that] they may have the right to the tree of life." In other words, they DID His commandments in order that they might be given right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates of the city. While myriads of professed believers do not appear aware of this, disobedience disqualifies from the blessing.
This view delivers us from any notion that we are justified by works, or by, as some call it, perfect obedience. Nor, indeed, should anyone consider this a contrived and faulty explanation. The privilege vouchsafed to the obedient and washed ones confirms the emphasis was NOT on what they did, but on what they appropriated in their obedience.
Why Must We Be Washed?
With the exaltation of psychology, a "science falsely so called" (1 Tim 6:20), the defiling nature of sin has been obscured. Sin is now called maladjustment, addiction, chemical dependence, sickness . . . etc. All of these explanation consider only the social affects of sin. However, sin contaminates the person like leprosy defiles the body. It corrupts the mind, and the affection. Man's intelligence, imagination, and very spirit is infected by sin. A thorough washing must take place before eternal life can be experienced, either initially or eternally.
We are not restricted to this text on the matter of garments being washed. In chapter seven, the saved were viewed in this manner. "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Verse 14). "Robes," or "garments," refer to all of our varied capacities. The heart, mind, soul, and strength are "washed." The part of our persons that remains in touch with this present evil world must continue to be washed, else sin will again overtake us.
RIGHT TO THE TREE OF LIFE
The absolute righteousness of our God is seen in this promise. God will not be unrighteous in conferring salvation (Rom 3:26). Neither, indeed, will He allow "the unrighteous" to enter the heavenly Kingdom (1 Cor 6:9). Salvation is a gift, to be sure (Eph 5:8), but it also must be received and acted upon. That is why out text reads the way it does. The Lord Jesus sees no difficulty in speaking about the saved having "right to the tree of life," and neither should be.
An obvious comparison is being made with the Adamic transgression. In the beginning, humanity lost their right to the tree of life. "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Gen 3:24). Not having right to the tree of life is the same as being delivered over the death. Unless God intervened, all men were shut up to death, with no hope of recovery.
By the same token, having "right to the tree of life" is another way of saying "eternal life." In Eden God ensured the people would NOT "take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever" (Gen 3:3:22). But now, with Sovereign wisdom and power, the redeemed have the right to "take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever." In this world, the presence of the "flesh" often provokes us to express our unworthiness of the "great salvation" in which we participate by grace. But in the world to come, there will be an acute awareness of worthiness, and having a right to the tree of life. It was our Lord Who said of the faithful in Sardis, "they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy" (3:4). The extent of this worthiness, and of our "right" to the tree of life cannot be measured while we remain in this world. However, this is something very real, and is to be joyfully anticipated by the saints of God.
ENTERING THROUGH THE GATES OF THE CITY
This is another aspect of the righteousness of the saved being in glory. The idea is of a triumphal procession, as when victors return from the battle. Then the 100th Psalm will be fulfilled in the redeemed, "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name" (v 4). Isaiah's word will also be fully realized, "Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in" (Isa 26:2).
The glory of that entrance can scarcely be imagined, yet we do well to make every attempt to picture it. The anticipation of this entrance will produce an incentive to "DO" His commandments, and to keep your garments washed. This is nothing less than the "abundant entrance" mentioned by the Holy spirit. "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 1:10-11).
This speaks of a glorious entrance, a public entrance, and a joyful one. The saints lived in anticipation of it, maintaining an acute sensitivity to their Lord and His will. They will be rewarded for their diligence.
THE EXCLUDED ONES
"15But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie." The Revelation makes quite clear who is excluded from the glory to come. "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth . . . If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation . . . But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death . . . And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie" (3:16; 14:10; 21:8; 21:27).
But what is the purpose of these expressions? We must not miss the point being made by the Holy Spirit. It is more than a harsh denunciation of ungodly manners, although it surely includes that. The point is that the wicked, by their very nature, are excluded from "the world to come." It is not that they want to enter into glory, but cannot. Rather, they have cultured their souls to live without the Lord, without His blessing, and without His favor. They were content to conduct their affairs just as though there were no God. In them was fulfilled the word, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (Psa 14:1). This is what prompted the church at Ephesus to leave its "first love" (Rev 2:4). This is why those at Pergamos endured some in their number who held to the licentious doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes (Rev 2:14). Because they were not mindful of the Lord, the church at Thyatira allowed a false prophetess among them to seduce Christ's servants (Rev 2:20). This is why the church at Sardis died (3:1-2). It is also why the Laodicean church became lukewarm (2:16). The refusal to live with an keen consciousness of God prompted the opposition of and persecution of the saints of God (Rev 1:9; 2:13; 6:9; 17:6; 20:4). It is why people refused to repent, even when great judgments were poured out upon them from God (Rev 9:20; 16:9,11).
The exclusion of "dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie," is owing to their nature. What they DID was the direct result of WHO they were. If people refuse the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, they shut themselves up corruption. That corruption takes many forms, from religious to moral defilement. That is why the "unbelieving" are classed with "murderers" and "idolators" (21:8). In our text, "whosoever makes a lie" is grouped with "sorcerers" and "whoremongers." The thing all of these individuals have in common is their refusal to live by faith and walk in the light. All sin is not the same, but it all driven by the same nature-a life lived without God..
"DOGS" are defiled people with the nature of dogs. They are spiritual scavengers, doing great damage and causing fear and harm wherever they are. Too, these are people who return to the folly they once abandoned (Prov 26:11; 2 Pet 2:22). We are told to "beware" of such people (Phil 3:2).
"SORCERERS" are those who practice magic or witchcraft, dealing in the occult. Having a penchant for the supernatural, they do not seek the Lord, or avail themselves of access to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Rather, they traffic in the realm of fallen spirits.
"WHOREMONGERS" are men who practice immorality. Such sins include fornication, adultery, sodomy, and other forms of sensual indulgence.
"MURDERERS" conduct themselves in stark contrast to the Lord of glory. He came that men "might have life." These take life, despising those who are made in the image of God. Their expressions range from hatred to the shedding of blood.
"IDOLATORS" are those who choose to serve "other gods" (Ex 20:3). They have enough presence of mind to know they must render obeisance to someone or something. Refusing to render it to Almighty God, they give their allegiance to false gods, and thus to demons (Deut 32:17; 1 Cor 10:20; Rev 9:20).
"WHOSOEVER LOVETH AND MAKETH A LIE" stand in stark contrast to those who love the truth (2 Thess 2:10) and speak the truth (Eph 4:15). Although God is "abundant in truth" (Ex 34:6), and has revealed truth in the Person of Christ (John 14:6), these people prefer the lie-what contradicts God and Christ. Not content to NOT embrace the truth, they aggressively embrace the lie, preferring what is false, and speaking what opposes the truth.
Care must be taken not to view these transgressions simply as things that are not lawful. To be sure, they are unlawful. However, it is their NATURE that is being emphasized in this text. Those in whom these sins are found do not have the Divine nature, even though it was offered to them (2 Pet 1:4; Heb 3:14; 2 Cor 3:18; Rom 8:29). They remained in, or returned to, the spiritual condition from which deliverance is provided in Christ Jesus.
All such are excluded because they do not fit into glory. They have no appetite for the presence of the Lord, and thus there is no place in glory for them.
I cannot leave this solemn reminder without observing the serious deficiency in the contemporary church concerning these matters. Altogether too many church members are conducting their lives just as though there were no God, no Savior, and no glory. They are riveted to the earth, and think and speak of that realm alone. That very condition will exclude them from heaven.
THE ROOT AND OFFSPRING
"16I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star." Here the Lord again confirms the source of the message. This is a word from the King! It is not the impression of the Apostle John or the tradition of the elders. Jesus has personally sent the message: "I Jesus." To spurn the message is to spurn Jesus., To neglect it is to neglect Him. He has sent the message by His own angel: "My angel." Holy angels, as you know, never act on their own accord. They are Divine messengers, bringing needful and pertinent communications. To reject the word of an angel is tantamount to rejecting the Lord Himself (Josh 5:14; Num 22:22-35). IN THE CHURCHES
Again, the recipients of the message are identified: "the churches." This is not a message for the sinners, but for the churches. It is to be testified "in the churches," apprizing them of the purpose of their Lord. Note, the Lord does not say "the seven churches of Asia" here, but "the churches." The churches of Asia were the immediate recipients of the message, but not the only ones. What the Spirit says in this book is "unto the churches" (2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). After being apprized of what the Lord had against them, the church at Thyatira was told, "and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works" (2:23).
I am going to wax bold here and say that the condition of the modern church is partially owing to the failure of preachers and teachers to proclaim this book. It contains a message that is intended "for the churches." No church, therefore, can be adequately equipped for the good fight of faith while remaining in basic ignorance concerning this message.
ROOT AND OFFSPRING OF DAVID
Elsewhere in Revelation our Lord is called "the Root of David" (5:5). Now He is also identified as "the Offspring" of David. He is "the Root" from which David Himself came. That is, the coming Messiah was the reason for the birth and life of David. He is the reason David came into being. The significance of this man of God is traceable to the Person and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. The glorious and extensive reign of David was a Divinely ordered introduction to the reign of the Lord Jesus. History is ordered by the Lord! The Lord does not simply intervene in history and make things turn out for His good. He actually orchestrated it, bringing key individuals into the world to prepare the way for the coming Seed. This is particularly true of David.
Jesus is the promised Seed, or "Offspring," that would sit upon David's throne (2 Sam 7:16; Isa 9:7). He is "the sure mercies of David" through Whom The world is being blessed (Isa 55:3; Acts 13:34). His throne is "the throne of David," as affirmed by Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:30).
The knowledge of this circumstance will neutralize any temptation to stand in criticism of David. It will also provoke us to consider more deeply his words and manners.
This is the very truth accentuated by our Lord's answer to His critics. "How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he His son?" (Matt 22:43-44). He is both Cause and Effect, Reason and Consequence, Foundation and Building.
BRIGHT AND MORNING STAR
Among all the luminaries that have appeared before both angels and men, Jesus is the brightest. His glory is greater than the combined glory of both cherubim and seraphim. The amalgamated glory of all the holy angels is but a mere spark when compared with His glory. And when it comes to men, there is no one as prominent as the Lord Jesus Christ. Were all of the great men of the ages to stand together, their glory would fade away in the light of our Lord's glory. He is the "Bright and Morning Star."
Overcomers are promised, "And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star" (Rev 2:28). Thus, our blessed Lord is not simply a source of illumination for the church in general. He will be God's gift even to the individual overcomer.
In the world to come a personal affiliation with Jesus will be enjoyed that surpasses the grandest thought of which redeemed man is capable. In the heavens, and Divine purpose, there is a single Person Who shines more brightly than all others. He possesses a greater glory because He is a greater Person. When men are tempted to place inordinate emphasis upon their peers, let them remember the words of our Lord. "I am . . . the Bright and Morning Star."
The book of revelation must be read as a message to the churches, and with the Lord Jesus Christ in mind! If it is read with any other emphasis, its message will be missed. Blessed is the person understanding this, who refuses to be distracted by men. Who, when he reads, sees heaven and Jesus.
THE SPIRIT AND THE BRIDE
"17And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come! And let him who hears say, Come! And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely." This book does not close without a summons to mankind. It is a message to the churches, and yet it calls out to the extremities of humanity. The Holy Spirit is speaking through this book-through its message. If a person has "ears to hear," this is not a mere history lesson. Nor, indeed, is it the lifeless proclamation of future events!
The book of Revelation is a message through which the Holy Spirit speaks. But notice, the "bride" speaks in concert with Him. "The Spirit AND the bride . . . " The Holy spirit has been sent by God into each member of the church, thereby constituting them sons of God. The presence of the Spirit brings a harmony between the individual and the Lord. They can sing a Divine duet, and in perfect harmony. The Spirit does not say one thing and the church another. Rather, they speak in concert with one another. This is an aspect of "the communion of the Holy Spirit" (2 Cor 13:14). This also casts light upon the expression, "laborers together with God" (1 Cor 3:9).
In certain religious circles, there is a great emphasis on reaching the lost, making disciples of all nations, and winning souls. These are all noble ambitions, and not to be despised. I have rarely heard references to such things, however, as the harmonious working of the "Spirit and the bride." Too many times, I fear, the church is operating by its own agenda, and not that of the Holy Spirit. You will notice that the Spirit is mentioned first. The "bride" is joining in His effort, and not vice versa.
And what is it that "the Spirit and the bride" say? What is their harmonious and compelling word? It is "COME!" Already a blessing has been pronounced on those who are "called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev 19:9). The call comes from God, but it comes through "the Spirit and the bride." Whenever an individual hears what the Spirit is saying, he will have strong inclinations to "COME," appropriating what the Spirit is offering. Whenever a person comes into proximity of "the bride," the same call will be sensed-a call to avail oneself of the blessings declared in the Gospel of Christ. I must confess I have been in many assemblies where this call has not been sensed-in fact, where it was completely out of harmony with the self-conceived agenda being served. This is a tragic circumstance.
Jesus declared the Kingdom of God was like a "A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready" (Lk 14:16-17). The "great supper" is the feast of salvation-a table lavishly spread with remission of sin, justification, the communion of the Holy Spirit, and an eternal inheritance. Everything has been prepared, and is ready to be enjoyed. That is why the call is, "COME!" Come now, without hesitation.
The very summons indicates that "all things are now ready." The benefits can be appropriated now. The individual can begin to feast now. No further preparation is required on the part of the Provider of the feast. The feast will not be catered, or brought to the person. The person must "come" to the feast. If the wise men had to "come to worship" Jesus, we ought not think it strange that we must "come" to the abundant feast of salvation.
When among us, Jesus also gave this invitation. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28). Again, he cried out, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink" (John 7:37). All of this indicates a profound desire on the part of both God and Christ to give us what they have prepared. No person should doubt the sincerity of the invitation, or imagine they will be rejected if they come. Jesus plainly said, "him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). Now, "the Spirit and the bride" join in the summons.
He That Is Athirst
"Him that is athirst" is also urged to come. This is the person who has found no satisfaction in the empty wells of this world. They are hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Matt 5:6). They have an insatiable hunger for the Living God (Psa 63:1). Such have a profound dissatisfaction with all the world has to offer. And what shall such a soul do? Let him "COME!" Let no such soul imagine they do not have sufficient to enjoy the richness of Divine grace. The person who "hath no money" is told, "come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Isa 55:1). See, there is hope fort every longing soul-every single one!
In my judgment., there should be a stronger appeal to thirsty souls. The "bride" is to join with the Spirit in offering satisfaction to weary individuals. In some circles-particularly the ones in which I have traveled-there is such a downplay of experience, one would think nothing was really to be experienced in Jesus. But this is not the case at all. Jesus offered satisfaction- thorough and refreshing satisfaction. Hear His words to a spiritually starved woman. "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). Again, hear His gracious words. "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).
And what does "never hunger" and "never thirst" mean? It means the person will be satisfied, gratified, contented, and pleased. It means Jesus brings delight, exultation, and satiation. This aspect of salvation could do with a lot of shining and polishing in our day. Depression and dissatisfaction are at unusual levels in our time. Suicide is rocketing to new levels. If ever there was a time when our society needed to hear these words, it is now. "COME!" The Spirit says "COME!" The bride says "COME!" The person who is thirst is urged to "COME!'
Whoever wants the glorious benefits of salvation is invited to come: "And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Why should any person linger where they are not satisfied? What possible reason can be adduced for remaining where the soul is not fed, the heart grows weak, and discontentment assumes the throne of the heart? In the words of the prophet, "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness" (Isa 55:2).
Does the message of Christ sound good? Then come and take of the water of life, and do so freely! Does triumph, nourishment, and a home in glory sound pleasant to your heart? Then Come, and take of the water of life freely! Does a time when tears are wiped away, sorrow and pain banished, and the devil removed, sound good? Then come and take of the water of life freely. If you want what Jesus offers, you can have it!
A MESSAGE OF SALVATION
The book of Revelation is a message of salvation. It is a summons to come and "take of the water of life freely." Through it, Jesus and the Spirit are calling the saints into the most holy place. Any interpretation of the book of Revelation that pushes salvation into the background is of man, not of God. By "salvation," I mean the appointed results of Christ's death, resurrection, and exaltation. If that is not what surfaces when we hear or read the words of this book, we have missed both the point and the blessing. This book is nothing less than an encouragement to "COME!" It gives good reason for those who are thirsty to come expecting a blessing. It provides incentive for those who desire the marvelous promises of this book to "come and take of the water of life freely." Do not fail to grasp these things in your study of the Revelation. Come! Come!
DO NOT TAMPER WITH THESE WORDS!
"18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
If ever there was a book with which men have taken unspeakable liberties, it is the book of the Revelation. Fearlessly pretending theologians rush through the book, making every effort to bring it into accord with their preconceived notions of what God is doing and will do. Now the Holy Spirit takes care to warn us against such sinful tendencies. Actually, this is a statement of Divine principle. Through Moses, the Lord said to Israel, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you" (Deut 4:2). Again, He said, "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it" (Deut 12:32). Solomon warned, "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar" (Prov 30:6). Jesus said to those who had added to His Word, "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition . . . But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt 15:6). Tremendous penalties are paid for tampering with the text of Scripture, both in this world and in that which is to come.
This proscription is involved in Paul's admonition to Timothy. "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 1:13, NKJV). It is vitally important to say it the way God says it, not adding or taking from the words. This is the point made by Paul to the Corinthians. "Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words" (1 Cor 2:13, NASB). In my judgment, this needs to be taken more seriously in academic circles. Of old time, scribes were afraid to say God's name, or even write it. Somehow, with the proliferation of professionalized religion, this sensitivity has been lost. It is even fashionable today to issue Bibles that contain the commentaries of men. In fact, it is growing exceedingly difficult to purchase a Bible that does not contain these additions. While it is not my purpose to sit in judgment on all of these Bibles, together with the various paraphrases and free translations, it is my business to point to the word of the Lord concerning adding or taking from His words. His warning is to be taken seriously.
There is an absolute lack of discrimination in the words of the Spirit. The testimony is given "TO EVERYONE," not just the churches in Asia, or those of the first century. The curse is pronounced on "ANYONE" who "adds to these things," and "ANYONE" who "takes away form the words of this book." No leniency in this matter is given to the expert in language or the person with historical and cultural expertise. Because a person is a scholar, he may not handle these words as though they were a mere literary presentation. Nor, indeed, is permission granted to the disinterested to play with the text as though it were an intellectual toy. These are the words of God, given to Jesus, who gave it to an angel. John did not add to them. Nor, indeed, did he take from them. He himself took the admonition seriously, and so must we.
Our country could do with a fresh dose of respect for the Word of the Living God! It is to be "handled aright" (1 Tim 2:15), and treated with the utmost respect. If this word is "wrested" or distorted in any way, the penalty cannot be escaped. Such individuals are "unstable" and will be destroyed. As it is written, "Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures" (2 Pet 3:15-16, NKJV). The "destruction" to which the Spirit refers is not that of the Scriptures. The Word of God lives and abides forever, and cannot be destroyed 1 Pet 1:23). Again it is written, "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). It is the person who distorts the Scriptures that will be destroyed!
WHAT WILL BE DONE?
And what will the Lord do to the person who dares to tamper with the words of the prophecy of Revelation? Such a person will meet with no penalty by the religious academic community. They may even applaud his additions or subtractions as though they had some value. Such modifications may be added as footnotes to special Bibles, and highly lauded for their scholarship. But what will the Lord do? How will he react to taking such liberties with His Word? The Spirit leaves no doubt!
The Plagues of This Book Added
"God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book." Is there a soul with but a modicum of intelligence that questions the seriousness of God on this matter? Perhaps there are some who conceive of God as being so loving and kind He is incapable of doing such a thing. If such be the case, let such a deluded soul think about Egypt, and the grievous plagues poured out upon it by God! Let them recall how God once said He would "smite" people with "the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed . . . with madness and blindness and confusion of heart" (Deut 7:27-28, NKJV). Let them remember the leprosy of Gehazi (2 Kgs 5:27), the death of Herod (Acts 12:23), and the death of Ananias and Saphirra (Acts 5). Recall those stricken with sickness and death in the church at Corinth (1 Cor 11:30), or how the Lord "plagued Pharaoh's house" for daring to want Abram's wife Sarai (Gen 12:17). There is simply too much in the Word of God on this subject for anyone to doubt its reality.
Considering "the plagues of this book" will provide sufficient incentive to refuse to meddle with its words. Read again of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven vials of wrath. Remember the opening of the bottomless pit, the plague of the warring locusts, and men desiring to die rather than live. Time does not allow an extensive development of this word, and it should not be necessary to do so. If there are frightening things in this book (and surely there are), consider God will add them to the person presuming to add to the words of this prophecy. The "plagues" even include being "tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb" (14:10). Oh scholar, take heed how you handle the good Word of God-particularly the "words of the prophecy of this book." Make sure you do not leave people thinking it says more than the Spirit says. Give all diligence to ensure your words are not so mingled with it men cannot tell the difference between what you thought and what God said. Let "the words of the prophecy of this book" take the precedence over your opinion. The promised penalty is not worth lifeless conjecture and vain philosophizing.
His Part in the Book Of Life Taken Away
God has no care for the sectarian interests of men. Those who say a name cannot be removed from the book of life must contend with this text. If they hold to their contrived doctrine, they do so at the jeopardy of their souls. This is not a war of words between denominations. It is the Word of the King on what will happen if but a jot or tittle of His Word is considered expendable.
Again, there is no discrimination here. No class of people may remove from these words what God placed there. Words can be "taken away" by an historical perspective that makes the words of the book of no relevance. They can be "taken away" by withholding the warnings issued to the churches, or the promises given to the faithful. Men "take away from the words of the book of this prophecy" when they fail to accentuate the triumph of Jesus, the demise of Satan, and the certainty of Divine purpose. They "take away" from the words when the surety of our inheritance and certainty of the glory to come is obscured by lifeless tradition. Men also "take away" from these words by simply refusing to declare them.
And what will be the portion of those bold souls who dare to "take away from the words of the prophecy of this book?"God will prune such people from the Vine! "God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Other versions read, "God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book" (NIV, NASB). But the intent is the same. The point is they will have no part in eternal life! Their names will be removed from the book of life, their access to the tree of life, and their part in the glorified church. There is only one other alternative: the second death.
None of the marvelous promises of this bok will be experienced by those taking from the works of the prophecy of this book. Such people will not be sustained in this world, or glorified in the one to come. They will not reign with Jesus. They will not be nourished from the face of the serpent. They will not experience the wiping away of all tears, the termination of sorrow and pain, or an abundance entrance into holy city.
It is not necessary to say any more on this matter. The gravity of handling the book of Revelation correctly is clear. Among other things, that accentuates its importance. It is not a book that is expendable, or to be placed on the theological trash heap.
THAT IS THE WAY WE WANT IT
"20 He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming quickly.' Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" Again, the Lord testifies He is returning. That is a central message in this book, as I have already pointed out. It is not the coming of an antichrist that is the point, but the coming of Jesus. The coming of the "first beast" is important, but the coming of the Lord Jesus is more important. It is essential to comprehend the dangers of the coming of the "second beast," but it is more essential to discern the coming of the Lord. Understanding something of the involvements of the "great harlot" and "Babylon the Great" is important, but to understand the coming of the Lord is more important.
By saying "Surely I am coming quickly," the Savior is emphasizing the suddenness of His return. He will suddenly interrupt the affairs of men, bringing the war to an abrupt conclusion. It could happen at any moment. Your troubles could be interrupted by the Lord's return! The weaknesses with which you now grapple will suddenly and effectively terminate when the Lord comes. If you are weighed down with the affairs of this life, Jesus says: "Surely I am coming quickly." If you are being persecuted for righteousness sake, the Lord says: "Surely I am coming quickly." Perhaps you are discouraged in your labors, tempted to think they are in vain. To you, the Lord says: "Surely I am coming quickly." If you are languishing on the bed of sickness, or hindered in frustrating ways, Jesus says: "Surely I am coming quickly."
And how does faith respond to that glorious promise? What does the heart of those fatigued by the battle say to a word like that? What of a wearied Apostle on a lonely Isle, isolated from his brethren? What will he answer to such a Divine affirmation.
Ah, weary soul, hear John's shout reverberate through nearly two thousand years, and let his words be your own. "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" "Amen," meaning, let the promise stand just as it is! That is the way we want it. That is what we long for. We believe what our Lord has said, and will conduct our lives in preparation for His return. "Amen!"
"Even so" - come just that way! Quickly, suddenly, and without announcement! Break through the din of carnal noise, and interrupt the transient things of this world! Come now! Some swiftly! Come surely! Do not hesitate! When the word comes, fly swiftly to the harvest, taking us to Yourself! Those who are "saved by hope" speak in this manner. They know the return of their Lord will mean the end of all their troubles, and the beginning of an eternal reign.
THE FINAL BLESSING
"21The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." Here are the final words of the Bible-the last words to Christ's body, which is the church. They are found in a book many have disassociated from "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." Settle it in your mind, such a word could not be a fitting conclusion for a book devoid of grace. The grace of God has been vividly depicted in the care and sustenance of the church, the overthrow of all of her enemies, and the proclamation of the glory of her future state
Why is it called "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?" Most of the time, we read of "the grace of God" (24 times). But ten times we read of "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 16:20,24; 1 Corm 16:23; 2 Cor 8:9; Gal 6:18; Phil 4:23; 1 Thess 5:28; 2 Thess 3:18; Phile 25), and one time of "the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess 1:12). It is Christ's grace because He is the Cause and Dispenser of it. He alone has given God the Father a just reason to bless us, lavishing His love and favor upon us. It is ever true, "God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph 4:32). God has been favorably impacted by the death of His Son, and so can you! As eternity rolls its ceaseless cycles on, God will "show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:7). Throughout eternity, in honor of God and His great salvation through Jesus Christ, the saints will shout: "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb" (Rev 7:10). In this world, we come to believe and embrace that truth. In the world to come, we will see more fully the grandeur of what we have now known only in part. Just as our vision expands, so will our expressions-and it will all be to the glory of the conquering Lamb. It is He that satisfied God, destroyed the Tempter, and brought unspeakable joy to us.
Thus we conclude this overview of the book of the Revelation. It has been my intention to show its relevance to the life of faith. It contains comfort for the godly, and warning for the ungodly. But above all of this, it provides a glimpse of the grand purpose into which you have been called by grace. It confirms that Jesus is presently at the helm, governing all things with a keen interest toward His people. With alarming clarity it affirms this world is but a temporary stage upon which the drama of redemption is being fulfilled.
Although we are involved in a fierce battle, the outcome of it all is sure. There are marvelous promises to be possessed by those who sense the greatness of the cause. There is a grand supper-a feast of fat things-to which we have been summoned. All of the grace required to safely arrive on the other side is there, and can be accessed by faith. Whatever your lot in this life, and wherever you may be in the progressive change from glory to glory, hold on your way! The battle will not be long, and the outcome will be glorious. Soon the King will appear, and when He does, you will also. Grace will keep you until that day.