Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 22:6-21
Chapter 39

Following the promise in Revelation 22:5, that the Saints "will reign forever and ever," the curtain closes on John's apocalyptic vision of the new Jerusalem and the angel declares the final message of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Though it is the angel of the Lord who is the instrument through whom He speaks, the words are those of our Lord Jesus Christ, spoken to give relevance, to all that has been revealed to John. Without this final message there is no urgency and therefore, no need to concern ourselves with the Revelation.

This final message from our Lord bringing all He has revealed into perspective is built upon three simple words, repeated three times, "I come quickly." These three words establish the urgency and importance of all God revealed in the Revelation of Jesus Christ and are used first in the epilogue as,

I. A Promise To The Saints

"And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand" (Revelation 22:6-10).
In v:6, the angel begins by telling John, "These sayings (words) are faithful and true." At first, it may appear the angel is saying the Revelation is faithful and true. Surely it is, but that is not what he is telling John. Remember, the Revelation did not come to John in words, it came to him in vision, he then wrote the words we read to describe his vision.

The visual Revelation is the subject of the latter part of v:6, where the angel says, the Lord sent him to "show" (key word) his servants the things that will soon take place. The referenced servants are those described in Revelation 22:3. They are the Saints who will reign forever and ever. Clearly, the angel is telling John, God sent him to reveal to the Saints, the things that will soon take place, that is, the things contained in the Revelation.

However, it is in v:7, that we find the specific words spoken to John that are said to be "faithful and true." They are, "Behold, I come quickly." This is followed by the beatitude that he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book is blessed.

The Greek word used for "keeps" is a word that means, "to keep an eye on" or "watch for." The idea is that one who is blessed will watch for the fulfillment of the words of the prophecy of Revelation.

The two words used to describe those for whom the Revelation is intended are "servants" and "blessed." These two words describe the Saints, or those to whom this promise, "Behold, I come quickly," is given.

In v:8, John says he saw these things, that is, the Revelation and he heard the words, "I come quickly" spoken and again, as he did in Revelation 19:10, he fell down to worship the one he thought was the Lord.

Rather, than focus on this as proof John was confused, it is better to view it as a demonstration of his faith. Remember, John was on holy ground. He had been taken into the realms of Glory. He had seen the throne of God in heaven, the passing of the created heavens and earth, and the new Jerusalem. He had just been told the things revealed to him would soon take place, so when he heard the words, "I come quickly," he surely thought he was in the presence of the One who would come quickly.

Apparently, John was so convinced the Lord could return at any moment, that when he heard these words, he thought it was time. This is the real message of v:8. We Christians should be convinced the Lord will return at any moment. We should be ready, on a moment's notice, to fall down and worship at the feet of our Lord. If we truly believe He will come quickly then we will live our lives preparing for that grand and glorious appearance, of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The great promise, "faithful and true" that Christ made to His Church is, "Behold, I come quickly" and we, as John, should live in expectation of that moment.

In v:10, we read the words of the prophecy of this book are not to be sealed because the time is short. This can be related to the command to, "Worship God," in v:9. I remember some years ago a group in Arkansas set a date for the return of the Lord. They gathered on a farm months before the date and devoted all their time to prayer meetings and worship services.

Because this group thought the time was short they isolated themselves from the rest of the world in anticipation of the coming of the Lord, to worship God. It can be said that they "sealed" themselves and their message from the rest of humanity, to devote themselves to the worship of God.

However, it was evident from their actions that they had little or no concern for other people, for if they truly believed the Lord was coming and they cared about others, they would have wanted to spread the message, not seal it. Rather, than gathering to worship, they should have been out spreading the message.

I dare say when Christians only respond to the Lord's promise that He will come quickly by gathering to worship, they are, in effect, sealing the words of the prophecy and are just as wrong as the folks in Arkansas.

Our Lord's great promise to His Church is, "Behold, I come quickly," and the great responsibility He has given is, "Seal not the words of the prophecy of this book." Next the words, "I come quickly" are used as,

II. A Warning To The Unrighteous

"He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" (Revelation 22:11-15).
In plain language, the Lord is saying He will come quickly and reward every person according to his work. Then, those who are unjust and filthy will continue to be unjust and filthy, while those who are righteous and holy will continue to be righteous and holy.

The coming of the Lord promised here is not the same as in v:7, where the promise is His coming to receive His Church. Here, the promise is His return in power and glory as "King of kings and Lord of lords."

One of the results of this return will be judgment, and v:15, is a listing of those who are in the "unjust and filthy" category that will be judged and remain outside the holy city. We know from our study of the Great White Throne Judgment they will not be allowed into the holy city because their destiny is the Lake of Fire.

Clearly, these are contrasted with those in v:14, "That do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." These are three characteristics of those who are "righteous and holy." They "do his commandments" speaks of their obedience to the Lord. Their "right to the tree of life" indicates they have everlasting life and their entry "through the gates of the city" shows they will dwell in the presence of God.

When the Lord returns as "King of kings and Lord of lords," He will judge those who are "unjust and filthy." They will remain as they are because it is not a time for change, it is a time for judgment.

The time for change is now. It is today that God offers the gift of everlasting life to all who will come to Christ in faith, believing He died for their sins and rose from the grave.

To those who think there is some other possibility of escape from this judgment, there is the warning, of v:13, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." This simply means nothing began without Christ and nothing will end without Christ. Therefore, it is a certainty that everyone will face Him, either as their Lord and Savior or as their Lord and Judge.

Those who trust Him as their Savior in this life, are declared righteous and holy. They will live with Him forever in the holy city.

Those who do not trust Him will be judged by Him and cast into the Lake of Fire, forever.

So, the warning is this, "I come quickly" and those who do not trust Me as Savior are "unjust and filthy" and I will judge them and they will remain that way in the Lake of Fire forever.

Following the promise to the Saints and the warning to unbelievers, next in the text there are,

III. Instructions To The Church

"I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:16-19).
In this passage, our Lord first told John He sent an angel to testify things to be testified in the Church. Many believe the "things" John was told to pass along for testimony in the Church are the "things" revealed to John in this Revelation. That is, they believe it is the Book of Revelation John was told to pass along to the Church. However, some things revealed here do not fit with this understanding.

For example: Jesus said He sent His "angel" (singular), not "angels" (plural) to "testify" (spoken words) to John. We know more than one angel was involved in the Revelation to John and we also know he did not receive the Revelation through testimony of angels but through vision. Therefore, it is possible our Lord is not talking about the Book of Revelation, but is referring to the statement immediately following, which is, "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star."

The "Root and Offspring of David" is a reference to the Majesty of Christ for He is the "King of kings and Lord of lords." The "Bright and Morning Star" focuses on His return and the dawning of the "Day of the Lord." The idea seems to be that in the Church, that is, among the members, the message of Christ is to focus on Him as "King of kings and Lord of lords" and on His imminent return. Truly, it can be said that to learn more about our Lord in preparation for His return, is part of the mission of the Church.

However, in v:17, our attention is directed to the responsibility of the Church to those outside, which is, to say, "Come!" To all who will hear, to all who are athirst, to "Whosoever will," the Church is to offer the "Water of life" freely.

It is not the Church's responsibility to determine who will be saved, nor is it the Church's responsibility to determine who will hear the message, but it is our responsibility to offer the "Water of life" freely, to "Whosoever will."

Following these instructions to the Church there is,

IV. Another Warning To Unbelievers

"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19).
Often this passage is used to inhibit people interpreting the Scriptures for themselves. Others have used it to prove that one way a person could lose his salvation is by adulterating the Word of God, thereby attacking the Doctrine of Eternal Security.

Both these assumptions are based on the belief this is written to believers, but nothing could be further from the truth. Someone who believes the Word of God has no reason to change it and certainly no desire to change it, because they understand the Word of God is inerrant.

It is only someone who does not believe the Scriptures that would change them to fit their own desires. They are the ones who think they know more than God and reject what He has written. It is their unbelief that will result in suffering the plagues of this book, having no part in the holy city and therefore, no access to the Tree of Life.

V. The Final Message

For those who believe the Word of the living God, there is this final message, in Revelation,

"He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" (Revelation 22:20-21).

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
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