Chapter 22

Introduction

In this final chapter, verses 1-5 continue the description of the eternal kingdom that began in chapter 21. With these verses, the vision of the future presented by Revelation comes to an end. Arguably, these verses may have been better placed at the end of chapter 21 than at the start of chapter 22.

Verse 6 begins the epilogue which then continues through to the end of the book of Revelation. This epilogue gives the sense that perhaps John has returned to Patmos — the same setting in which he was given the introductory information seen in chapter 1. Thus, the introduction given in chapter 1 and this epilogue given in chapter 22 are like bookends to the primary content of Revelation.

Commentary

Concluding the Vision of the New Earth

1Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

v1 a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb – This “water of life” flowing from the throne of God carries the same meaning as the “living water” that Jesus spoke about to the woman at the well (John 4:10-14)That is, eternal life.

v2 On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations – This alludes to similar imagery in Ezekiel 47. The point is that by understanding the context in Ezekiel, we will understand the parallel context here. If you read Ezek 47:7-12, you will see the following:

  • A river that is life-giving.
  • Trees on both sides of the river.
  • The trees bear fruit every month.
  • It’s leaves bring healing.

What does it mean? This passage from Ezekiel is part of a broader vision of a new and idealized temple that the prophet received, which started back in Ezekiel 40. At the time Ezekiel wrote this, the earthly temple had been abandoned by God (Ezek 10:18), and then it was destroyed by the Babylonians. While this vision of the new temple promises restoration to Israel, it also goes beyond the earthly temple to symbolically give us a glimpse of the eternal kingdom of God — the same eternal kingdom that is being described in Revelation 21 and 22.

The previous chapter of Ezekiel (chapter 46) discusses a “prince” who represents Christ. This prince is offering his sacrifices in the temple (Ezek 46:4-7). Flowing out of the temple is this “river of life” that we see in Ezekiel 47. This water is flowing from the altar of sacrifice, and out of the temple through the eastern gate (Ezek 47:1). Normally, one would expect blood to be flowing from the altar of sacrifice, but here we see instead the “water of life”. This difference points to the uniqueness of Christ’s sacrifice. All sacrifices involved the shedding of blood, but only Christ’s sacrifice actually accomplished its purpose, which was to once and for all become the source of eternal life (symbolized by the water of life), and thus entry into the kingdom of God.

The eastern gate is significant because it has been identified as the gate through which God and his Messiah (the Prince) enters (Ezek 44:1-3). Of course, Christ entered the temple through the eastern gate on Palm Sunday, as he approached from the Mount of Olives to the east (Luke 19:37). Thus we see that Christ’s sacrifice is the source of the river of life.

The references to the tree of life also point to permanent renewal, as we are returned to an Eden-like state (Gen 2:9, Gen 3:24) where once again people have access to eternal life (Rev 22:14).

3There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.

v3 There will no longer be any curse – Unlike the first creation in Eden which was cursed due to sin (Gen 3:17), there shall no longer be a need for any curse in the sinless new creation.

v4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads – Each person will see the Lamb and His name will be on their forehead. This reminds us of the 144,000 Jews of chapter 7 who had the name of God and the Lamb on their foreheads. Interestingly, those 144,000 were referred to as “firstfruits” for God and the Lamb in Rev 14:4. Perhaps this verse illuminates the meaning of “firstfruits” in that the 144,000 were the first on earth to receive this mark identifying them as God’s servants. In the new earth, everyone else will also receive this mark.

v5 no longer be any night … not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun – Symbolizing the holiness of this new world, in contrast the dark (unholy) world with which we are familiar.

With that, the vision of the future that God revealed to John is finished.

Epilogue

What remains are some final comments and instructions from the angel, and some from Jesus himself:

6And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.

7“And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” 8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things.

v6 These words are faithful and true – He is speaking about all the things that have been shown to John by the angel of the Lord; essentially, this means the entire prophecy revealed in Revelation.

The words in verses 6-7 echo the things said in Rev 1:1-3; specifically that:

  1. John is the messenger of a message communicated to him by an angel of God,
  2. The message is to show God’s servants the things that are going to happen,
  3. That these things must quickly take place (see What Does Soon Mean?),
  4. That the one who reads and heeds the words of this prophecy is blessed for doing so.

9But he said to me, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.”

v9 Do not do that – Again (as in Rev 19:10), John reacts to the things he had been shown by falling down and worshipping the angel who showed him those things, and again, John is corrected by the angel. It is hard to fault John for being overcome by his emotions. After all, he is sinful man in the presence of holy beings and being told astounding and glorious things. But the angel is right: Only God is worthy of worship, and all of these astounding and glorious things are His work.

10And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.

As mentioned in the article What Does Soon Mean?, this verse near the end of Revelation mirrors a similar verse at the end of the book of Daniel (Dan 12:4), although the differences are significant. Of course, the book of Daniel is in many ways the Old Testament equivalent to Revelation.

11“Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.”

v11 Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; … filthy, still be filthy; … righteous, still practice righteousness; … holy, still keep himself holy – This is a somewhat curious statement and the first two clauses are particularly difficult. At first glance, it appears that it’s God’s desire that the wicked keep acting wickedly. But the actual meaning is clarified by recognizing that we are still mirroring things that were said toward the end of Daniel’s prophecy:

Dan 12:9-10 – 9He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time. 10“Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.

That is, it is not a statement of what God desires, but rather a statement of what will take place. Regarding those who do evil, it is like Rom 1:24-32, where it says that “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts”. God let them go to do what they wanted to do. So in verse 11, the word “let” refers not to God’s desires, but to the desires of those who love wickedness. Likewise, the latter clauses (e.g. “let the righteous … practice righteousness“) refer to the desires of those who love righteousness (Matt 5:6).

12“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

This continues to echo things said in the introduction of chapter 1 (e.g. Rev 1:7-8). However, in this case, it is clearly Jesus speaking. Jesus is identifying himself as the Alpha and the Omega, which is a title reserved for God (Rev 1:8), and thus Christ asserts His deity.

14Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

v14 Blessed are those who wash their robes – The Vulgate adds “in in the blood of the Lamb”, which agrees with Rev 7:14 and is the meaning here. This removes any notion that this washing (attaining righteousness) is accomplished by the works of the redeemed. Rather, it is accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God. This righteousness given by Christ grants access to the “tree of life” and entrance through the “gates of the city“, which symbolize eternal life and access into the kingdom of God.

v15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons… – This is the final reference to the unredeemed. They did not wash their robes in the blood of Christ, and they shall forever be shut out of the kingdom of God. To them belongs eternal death.

16“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

v16 the root and descendant of David – As the “root of David”, Jesus precedes David and is even the one who gave David life. And yet, as the “descendant of David”, Jesus fulfills the prophecy (e.g. Isa 9:7) that an heir to David’s throne would reign forever upon earth (Rev 5:5). These titles confirm that Christ both establishes and executes His kingdom upon the earth.

v16 the bright morning star – This speaks of Christ’s divine glory as he appears to earth as a man. The idea is that the earth is a spiritually dark place, but Christ appeared to us as a light shining in darkness (John 1:5). Like a bright morning star, just before dawn, He signaled the beginning of a glorious new day. This day begins with Christ healing our hearts, and it reaches its fullness as the kingdom of God comes to earth. It is the same idea as in 2 Pet 1:19 , which says, “we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts”.

17The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

v17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” – This is said in response to Christ saying “I am coming soon/quickly” (in verse 7 and again in verse 12). Here, we see that this is the desire of the Holy Spirit and the desire of His Church (represented by the bride).

v17 And let the one who hears say, “Come.” – It is Christ’s desire that those who hear and heed the words of this prophecy (verse 7) should desire the coming of Christ and His kingdom upon the earth.

v17 And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. – Referring back to water of life back in verse 1. This water is the righteousness eternal life that Christ offers without cost (Matt 5:6, John 4:13-14, John 6:35, Eph 2:8). It is fitting for the final words of the Bible to include one more invitation to salvation.

I think that many Christians, to be honest, might not feel so anxious for Christ to come, simply because it has been revealed that there is great tribulation that must come before Christ’s return. This is understandable of course. Even Jesus did not desire to face the suffering that He ultimately endured. We know this because His prayer in Gethsemane was, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt 26:39).

The church is called the “Body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:27). That means that in addition to being Christ’s representatives on earth, we should expect to be treated the way Christ’s body was treated. John 15:20 says, “A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you”. But don’t forget that besides the temporary persecution, we also obtain the glorious and eternal resurrection of Christ. May God grant us the faith to see all of this from an eternal perspective. If so, we can genuinely say “Amen Come Lord Jesus”.

Warnings and Benediction

18I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

In verses 18-19, we see a severe warning to not tamper with this prophecy. Revelation, more than any other book, refers frequently to itself. Just in this chapter, we’ve seen:

  • Verse 6 says these words are faithful and true (referring to the prophecy of Revelation).
  • Verse 7 says we are told that those who keep the words of this book are blessed.
  • Verse 10 is a command for John to not seal up the words of this book.
  • Verse 18 says not to add to the words of this book (or suffer the plagues described).
  • Verse 19 says not to take away from the words of this book (or lose the eternal promises described).

I believe that all this self-referencing emphasizes the importance of the words of this book. God seems to think that it’s important for us to read, understand, heed, and carefully guard these words. This makes it somewhat distressing that the book of Revelation is so neglected in churches today.

Side note: The severe warnings given in verses 18-19 should not be misunderstood nor abused. They pertain to people who purposely desire to distort or conceal this prophecy. They are not threats against people who sincerely seek the truth, yet fail to understand Revelation exactly right. I have known Christians who use these verses as a “club” to threaten others who disagree with their own interpretation! That, however, is an example of abuse.

20He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Jesus is the one who testifies to these things, as He is the one who says “Yes, I am coming quickly”. John shows that this is his desire as well, by adding his “Amen“.

21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

The last words of the Bible, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” is a simple benediction expressing that God’s grace, which includes access to this glorious eternal kingdom and is offered to all through Jesus Christ. Indeed, these final words summarize the main point of the Bible.

In the context of Revelation, it is a reminder that whatever persecution we may face from this world, it’s infinitely less than what we would deservedly suffer apart from the grace of God.

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