Commentary on Revelation (covers all chapters from 1 thru 22, including Introduction)
Copyright © 2019 by Steve Sewell, Theology First. All Rights Reserved
All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Verses 1-5 continue the description of the eternal city, the New Jerusalem of the New Earth (see introduction to chapter 21). The remaining verses consist of closing remarks, promises, and warnings.
(Rev 22:1) – 1 And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,
Trinity of God: The Trinity of God is clearly presented in this verse.
“river of water of life”
This is not a literal river. This is a reference to the Holy Spirit, through whom we are regenerated, indwelt by, and given eternal life (see commentary Rev 21:6). It’s symbolic of both the Holy Spirit and our eternal security in Christ (Jn 4:10-14; Jn 7:37-39). It’s a promise that we will dwell in this “holy city” forever and ever.
“throne of God and of the Lamb”
The Father and Son are co-rulers of the Eternal Kingdom. The Kingdom of Christ is both now in the form of the Church (Col 1:13), and future in the form of the Eternal Kingdom of Rev 21 & 22. However, according to Paul, Jesus “hands over the kingdom to God the Father”:
NET – (1 Cor 15:24-28) – 15:24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has brought to an end all rule and all authority and power. 15:25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 15:26 The last enemy to be eliminated is death. 15:27 For he has put everything in subjection under his feet. But when it says “everything” has been put in subjection, it is clear that this does not include the one who put everything in subjection to him. 15:28 And when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.
We see that when all the enemies of Christ are defeated and He brings “all rule and authority and power” to an end (at His return in judgment), He gives honor to His Father and hands over the kingdom to Him. The spiritual kingdom of Christ in which we are in now, yields to the physical kingdom of Rev 21 & 22. The “handing over” signifies that the current order and plan for mankind has been completed, and that God is making all things new.
However, as this verse (Rev 22:1) makes clear, the Father and Son are co-rulers in this eternal city. In our current world and dispensation, the Lord Jesus Christ is central. The emphasis is on Jesus as the Ruler of His kingdom, which is a spiritual kingdom. Because in the New Covenant the focus is on Him as Lord and Savior and Redeemer of His people in this present world. However, while the Kingdom of Christ continues as a spiritual kingdom throughout eternity, the focus then becomes the Eternal Kingdom – which is physical in nature – where the Father and Son reign together. All the redeemed will be resurrected in glorified, physical bodies, and will dwell in a physical kingdom. That’s our eternal state. Thus the focus shifts from the spiritual Kingdom of Christ in this life, to the physical kingdom of the next life—our eternal dwelling place.
This title of Christ, of course, points to the sacrifice He made for us on the cross. The Old Testament animal sacrifices were a type and shadow of the sacrifice Jesus would make for mankind as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). The shed blood of those animals always had the shed blood of Christ in view.
(Rev 22:2) – 2 in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
NET – 22:2 flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations.
“tree of life”
(See commentary on Rev 2:7)
On each side of the river (the Holy Spirit) is pictured the “tree of life.” In the same way that this river is symbolic of the Holy Spirit and the eternal life that He gives, I believe this tree of life is to be interpreted as symbolic, as well. This tree represents our salvation in Christ as a tree of salvation (Ro 11:11-36). It pictures a tree that continually produces the “fruit” of eternal life, representing our eternal security in Christ.
However, it’s quite possible that this is a literal tree, perhaps the same tree or same type of tree that we see in the Garden of Eden (Ge 2:9; 3:22-24). Furthermore, when we combine the “no curse” of the next verse – which also takes us back to Eden (Ge 3:14,17; Ge 5:29; Ge 8:21) – it may suggest that this eternal “new earth” (Rev 21:1) may be what Adam and Eve experienced before they sinned. God implied eternal life to Adam when He told him: “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.” (NET – Ge 2:17). Thus, the Eternal Kingdom may be similar to the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world. In a very real way, the world begins in Eden and ends in Eden — and in sinless bodies such as what Adam and Eve had when they were first created.
“healing of the nations”
As discussed in Rev 21:24, this does not mean that there will actually be nations in the eternal city. Rather, this refers to the redeemed of the nations of our current world, as Rev 5:9 & 7:9 indicate. The “healing” refers to our eternal security in Christ. We’ve been healed spiritually, and will continue to be healed throughout eternity. While this primarily refers to spiritual healing, this may also refer to our physical healing, as well—for we will no longer dwell in a body of pain and suffering, but in a glorified, immortal body that will never again be in need of healing. Thus this pictures the permanence of our healing, both spiritually and physically.
(Rev 22:3) – 3 And there shall be no curse any more: and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and his servants shall serve him;
(also see commentary on verse 2)
This refers to the curse pronounced upon the ground in Genesis 3:17-19. When sin entered the world, the ground was cursed, so that it was no longer without weeds, wild grass, and devouring insects and bugs. Before that, the Garden of Eden was perfect in beauty and order and without the need of maintenance. That all changed when sin entered the picture. From that point on, man would have to work hard to maintain the beauty and order of God’s creation.
In the eternal city, we will again enjoy something at least similar to what Adam and Eve first enjoyed—a creation that is perfect in beauty and without the need of care. We will forever enjoy a beautiful and perfect creation that is self-sustaining.
“throne of God and of the Lamb”
(See verse one)
“his servants shall serve him”
The New Jerusalem, the eternal city, will be a place of service, not idleness. We will forever serve God in various capacities. It’s not known how we will serve Him, but we will each have our assigned duties, and we will enjoy every moment of it! We will never grow weary of serving our God and King. This suggests (as God’s Word teaches), that we should be faithfully serving God now, for we are to be continuously growing in our position in Christ, which has its ultimate fulfillment in our new bodies in the new creation.
(Rev 22:4) – 4 and they shall see his face; and his name shall be on their foreheads.
“they shall see his face”
As the hymn says:
“What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.”
“his name shall be on their foreheads.”
The name of God on our foreheads is a symbolic mark of identification. It identifies us as belonging to God as followers of Christ. God will never lose sight of our identification in Christ. It will be there forever and ever (see commentary on Rev 14:1).
(Rev 22:5) – 5 And there shall be night no more; and they need no light of lamp, neither light of sun; for the Lord God shall give them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
“the Lord God shall give them light”
(See commentary on Rev 21:23-25)
“they shall reign for ever and ever”
This refers to the reign of the Saints. We reign with Christ now in the Church age (see commentary on Rev 20:4), but will continue to reign with Him in the eternal city. It’s God who truly reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords. However, we reign with Him in the sense that we belong to Him, we are one with Him, we have the truth that rules over all that is false, and that no human beings rule over us—because Jesus is our true King.
In eternity, it’s not that there will be anyone for us to rule over. But that we will rule in the sense that no one will rule over us! Only God Himself.
(Rev 22:6) – 6 And he said unto me, These words are faithful and true: and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly come to pass.
“These words are faithful and true”
Every word written in the book of Revelation is “true,” as it comes from God Himself, in whom there is no falsehood at all. Every word in this book is “faithful.” That is, every word is faithful to the truth and character of God, and every detail will come to pass as prophesied in this book. We can count on the promises of both the judgment of unbelievers, and of the eternal blessings that awaits the redeemed in Christ.
“the God of the spirits of the prophets”
This reminds us of what Jesus said:
NET – (Matt 22:31) – 22:31 Now as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, 22:32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living!”
This reveals that those who die, continue to live on as spirits, and will also be bodily resurrected one day. Unbelievers will be resurrected unto judgment, while believers will be resurrected to enjoy the Eternal Kingdom of these final two chapters of Revelation.
Therefore, as the “God of the spirits of the prophets” (both OT and NT), just as He spoke through them of things to come, so He speaks through the Apostle and prophet John of things to come, and of things that are. The words of the prophets live on.
“things which must shortly come to pass”
Reference to “things which must shortly come to pass,” refers to the beginning of the things written in this book, even things that were already occurring in John’s own day. The time period of the events of Revelation is the entire Church age. Therefore, many of the things written in this book would soon begin at the time of this revelation, but would continue throughout the entire Church era.
What these words do not mean is that the things written in this book would soon be completely fulfilled, as preterism teaches. Preterists believe that this book is about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and that that event would soon “come to pass.”
“to show unto his servants”
“His servants” are identified in verse 3, which are all believers throughout history. This book is a revelation to all those who profess and follow Christ their Savior and King. This is primarily a book for Christians (but also serves to warn and lead sinners to faith in Christ). As I’ve talked about throughout this book, Revelation is largely about the persecution of God’s people. Thus this is a book that is meant to bring comfort to those who are persecuted and suffer for their faith in Christ. It’s meant to encourage them about what we have to look forward to in the eternal city of these final two chapters. The trials of this life are only temporary, and for those who endure in their faith, they will be richly and gloriously rewarded throughout eternity. Therefore, we Christians are not to lose heart over the things that we may have to go through in this life, for it will one day all be behind us, and we will forever enjoy living and serving in the very presence of God.
I want to add, if this is a book for all the “servants” of Christ throughout history – as verse 3 positively indicates – then the events of this book has to be relevant for all servants of Christ. In other words, the events of Revelation has to occur throughout the entire Christian era—in general. The idea that this book is primarily about a “seven year” period that occurs prior to the return of Christ – as Premillennialism teaches – leaves out all the “servants” of Christ leading up to that time, which is out of harmony with what is revealed in verse 3. Imagine as a Christian reading this book, with the understanding that nearly everything written in it has little to do with you….but only for the group of Christians that happen to be living in the end of days? Premillennialism fails to take enough into account. It’s an eschatological system that fails on many levels.
Therefore, the book of Revelation is relevant for all Christians throughout the Church age, up until the time of Christ’s return. However, I would agree that this book does, indeed, have a particular relevance for Christians who are alive at the time of Christ’s return that is not shared with all other Christians—because quite obviously, they will be right there at the culmination of God’s plan, at the very end of all things relating to the world.
(Rev 22:7) – 7 And behold, I come quickly. Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book.
“I come quickly”
“quickly” (Gr. Tachu – 5035)
Means quickly, speedily (without delay)
This is the same Greek word used in Rev 3:11 and in verses 22:12 and 22:20.
(For full explanation, see commentary on Rev 3:11)
“Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book.
As discussed in verse 6, in order for Christ’s servants to “keep the words of the prophecy of this book,” it must be applicable for all Christians throughout the entire Church age. Otherwise, the larger percentage of this book only applies to a small percentage of Christians who are alive just before Christ returns.
(Rev 22:8-9) – 8 And I John am he that heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel that showed me these things. 9 And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren the prophets, and with them that keep the words of this book: worship God.
(See Rev 19:10)
“heard and saw these things”
The Apostle John both heard and saw the things revealed in this book. Hearing confirmed what he saw. Seeing confirmed what he heard. There is no mistaking what was revealed to him. We can count on every word as being from God.
“I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel”
It’s difficult to understand why the Apostle John would fall down at the feet of this angel in worship, but he did (Rev 19:10). It was a severe mistake in judgment, and he was rebuked for it. This revealing angel reminded him that worship is reserved and deserved by no one but God alone, and that he is no one but a “fellow-servant” of the Lord, just as John was. (see Col 2:18)
That John should do this for a second time (Rev 19:10), after being sternly rebuked for it before, is doubly difficult to understand. I guess it shows that even the Apostles were susceptible to making serious mistakes in judgment. I like that this isn’t hidden from us, as it serves to encourage us when we fail in our own life. No one serves God perfectly.
“I am a fellow-servant….with them that keep the words of this book”
This revealing angel is a “fellow-servant” not only with “John” and his fellow “prophets” (both OT and NT), but also with “them that keep the words of this book.” Who does that refer to? Just a small percentage of Christians that are living during the last “seven years” before Jesus comes back? Is this angel a “fellow-servant” only with them? That idea is nonsense. “Them that keep the words of this book,” absolutely has to refer to all of God’s people throughout the history of the Church age. That the words of this book are applicable for all Christians throughout history, should be obvious.
(Rev 22:10) – 10 And he saith unto me, Seal not up the words of the prophecy of this book; for the time is at hand.
John was instructed not to “seal” the words of prophecy of this book. “Seal” means not to reveal, not to disclose, to but to keep hidden or secret. It’s not known why John would do that, but the angel gives the reason for his instruction:
“for the time is at hand.”
“the time is near” (NET, ESV, NASB, NIV)
This is a major key in determining the time period of this book. This angel says that “the time is at hand.” Meaning, that the events of this book are now at hand or soon to begin. This doesn’t mean that they are soon to be completed, but only that they are soon to commence. Indeed, they had already begun to be fulfilled in John’s day—because he and the other Apostles were used by Christ to establish His Church and the Christian faith. Thus John was there at the very beginning of the events of this book, which continues up until the time Jesus comes back.
This statement also precludes the premillennial position that the events of this book occur only in the latter years prior to the return of Christ. If that were true, this statement would make absolutely no sense.
(Rev 22:11) – 11 He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still: and he that is holy, let him be made holy still.
“He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still”
All through Scripture people are told to repent of their sins and turn to God. So the first part of this verse may seem contrary to what is normally taught. However, what’s actually being taught here is that there is a consistency of who we really are. In other words, the fruit of one’s life is in harmony with what one professes to believe, for “a tree is known by its fruit” (Matt 12:33-37; Luke 6:43-45; Matt 7:15-21). Thus we see a line drawn here between the people of the world and the people of Christ.
“he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still: and he that is holy, let him be made holy still.”
Those who are “righteous” and “holy” are those who have been cleansed of their sins through faith in Christ. A true faith will result in a life that is characterized by “righteousness” and “holiness,” and not by a life that is “unrighteous” or “filthy.”
Therefore, the instruction of this verse is that those who make a profession of faith in Christ (the “righteous” and “holy”) will live lives that line up with that profession. If a person professes to be a Christian, but is living a life of “unrighteousness,” then they are deceiving themselves about their salvation. A true salvation will produce the fruit of salvation (see commentary on Rev 21:7) or the fruit of faith. When we stand before Christ, He will look at the lives we lived, and if He does not see the fruit of salvation, we will be assigned a “place with the hypocrites,” which is in the lake of fire (Matt 24:51; 45-51; Rev 20:11-15).
Therefore, the instruction and message of this verse is that a life of unrighteousness is for those who are unrighteous, and a life of righteousness is for those who are righteous. The fruit of our lives will be in harmony with who we really are. However, as Christians, we will not live sinless lives. But rather, our lives will be characterized by faithfulness. There will be fruit that can be readily seen to reveal our faith in Christ.
Use of the word “still,” means to continue. That means, first of all, that there must be a presence of such. True faith must have the presence of the fruit of salvation. Then, it must continue. A true biblical faith is an enduring faith, one that lasts throughout our life. Faith is not a single act of a single moment that “gets us in the door.” No, true faith will endure.
Note: I think also in view is that in eternity, we will see the perfection and continuation of both righteousness and unrighteousness. Both will be unchanging.
(Rev 22:12) – 12 Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is.
“I come quickly”
(See verse 7)
“my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is.”
Notice that Jesus does not say that He will render to each person according to what he or she professes to believe. He says that He will render to each one according to what each has done. Again, as discussed in verse 11, He will be looking for the fruit of faith. In other words, He will be looking for proof that we are who we profess to be.
So then, upon the return of Christ, He will render to each person according to what they have done. First is the matter of salvation, or the lack thereof. Those who die in their sins without Jesus as Lord and Savior, will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev 22:14-15). Those who died in Christ, who received forgiveness of their sins through faith in Him, will be welcomed into the Eternal Kingdom.
But notice that Jesus doesn’t state it that way. Instead, He uses the phrase, “according as his work is.” In other words, according to his or her works. While we are saved through faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, the outworking of faith is a life of faithfulness. True faith will be demonstrated by a sincere and genuine devotion to Christ. Those who profess Christ, but are not living the Christian life – but living for the world – are deceived about their salvation.
I believe also in view here is the degree of punishment for the unsaved, and the degree of rewards for the saved. The degree of punishment for the unsaved will be determined by the kind of life they lived. The degree of rewards for the saved will likewise be determined by the kind of life we lived. A life of faithful service will be richly rewarded. Christians who did the bare minimum with their lives, will receive the bare minimum rewards.
(Rev 22:13) – 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega”
These are the ”first and last” letters of the Greek alphabet, the “beginning and the end.” Our God, the true God, is the beginning and the end of all things. He is the eternal Creator and Ruler of the universe. He is preeminent over all things. He is Sovereign God. Therefore, His plan for mankind and for this world will be fully carried out. In the final two chapters of this book, we see the total fulfillment of that plan.
The One speaking is Jesus (vs. 16). This is a declaration of His Deity, for the same thing is said of God in Rev 1:8:
(Rev 1:8) – 8 I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
With this statement, Jesus declares to be Almighty God. He is the Second Person of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Not three Gods, but three Persons of the Godhead. If you remove any member of the Trinity, God ceases to exist, for He exists in three Persons.
Therefore, it’s erroneous to teach that God merely expresses Himself in three different ways. In such a case, if you remove any of the three members of the Trinity, then God still continues to exist—but that’s not the true Trinity of God; that’s not who God is.
The teaching of the Triune God is central to the Christian faith.
(Rev 22:14) – 14 Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have the right to come to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.
“wash their robes”
This is figurative language for those who have been cleansed of their sins by placing their faith in Jesus. Thus it’s symbolic of salvation.
“that they may have the right to come to the tree of life”
(See verse 2)
This speaks of our eternal security in Christ. Those who have been cleansed of their sins, will have “the right to come to the tree of life.” In other words, they will be given life in “the city” (eternal kingdom) forever and ever. It’s an everlasting cleansing and an everlasting life in the presence “of God and of the Lamb” (vs. 1-2).
“enter in by the gates into the city”
(See commentary on Rev 21:25-27)
These are one-directional gates into the “the city” (Rev 21:2,10). Not only are we admitted entrance to these gates, but we will never have to leave. There is no exit!
(Rev 22:15) – 15 Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and everyone that loveth and maketh a lie.
(See commentary on Rev 21:8)
This is referring to unbelievers who have their place in the lake of fire. Given here is a sampling of sins that characterize those “outside” of Christ and the Eternal City. They will never ever be able to gain entrance into this city.
(Rev 22:16) – 16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright, the morning star.
It’s important to know who the true author of this book is. The fact that it’s Jesus who sent His angel to reveal the things in this book, shows that this is a God-given book, and that every word is true and every word will come to pass. Furthermore, Jesus is central in this book. It is, in fact, the revelation of Christ Himself (see commentary on Rev 1:1).
“for the churches”
While this likely refers directly to the “seven churches” of Rev 1-3, it’s with the whole Church in view (see commentary on Rev 1:4,11). Therefore, this book is a revelation and message to all Christians throughout the whole Church age. It’s relevant to all believers in Christ.
“I am the root and the offspring of David”
(See commentary on Rev 3:7 and Rev 5:5)
This refers to the Kingship of Christ, who is King over His kingdom, which is the Church (Col 1:13). His kingdom is now, and reigns over His people now. His kingdom is forever and leads into the eternal kingdom described in these last two chapters of Revelation (see verse 1).
“the bright, the morning star”
I go into a lengthy explanation of this in Rev 2:27-28, but here is a brief quote from that commentary:
Therefore, I think it’s clear that what Jesus is referring to is the eternal light that we have in Him, a light that overcomes all darkness. It speaks directly of our eternal salvation in Him. The fact that He uses the “morning star” to describe it is significant, because just as Venus is seen when the darkness of night turns to the light of day, so do we go from the darkness of sin and death to the light of life in Christ.”
In Rev 2:27-28, we see that there is a connection between the “rulership” (kingdom) of Christ and the “morning star.” We see that same connection in this verse. Thus the reference to the “morning star” is significant, because what it represents relates to all Christians of all time, and not just a group of Christians at the end of the age prior to the return of Christ. This connection indicates that the Kingdom of Christ is now and applies to all Christians throughout the whole Church era—especially when you tie in Jesus’ words, “for the churches.” Therefore, this whole book is relevant for – and about – all Christians throughout the history of the Church, and is not only about the group of Christians who are alive at the time of Christ’s return.
The book of Revelation begins and ends with the Kingdom of Christ and the Church. We see this in Rev 1:5-6 (see commentary) and now here in these verses of the last chapter. This suggests that all the events in between (except the last two chapters) occur during the Church age.
(Rev 22:17) – 17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely.
“the Spirit and the bride”
As we discussed in chapter 21, the “bride” is both the Church and the “holy city, which is the “New Jerusalem” of the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev 19:6-9; 21:1-3,9), who is indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Together as one, they say “come” and “let him take the water of life freely.” This is the invitation to the people throughout the world to turn from their sins and receive Christ as Lord and Savior (Rev 5:9; Rev 7:9). It’s through the Church that the gospel of Christ is spread, both corporately and individually.
“he that heareth, let him say, Come”
Those who “hear” are those who truly hear the truth of the gospel message and respond in faith. In other words, while the corporate Church (the bride) says “come,” so do the individual members of the Church say “come.” It’s an invitation to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior as we have. This speaks of our witness for Christ. We’re to be faithfully sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.
“he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely.”
(See verse 1 and commentary on Rev 21:6).
(Rev 22:18-19) – 18 I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: 19 and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.
NET – 22:18 I testify to the one who hears the words of the prophecy contained in this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 22:19 And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.”
NKJV – 22:19 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.
In regard to the “tree of life” vs. the “Book of Life,” the NET Notes provide helpful information:
The Textus Receptus, on which the KJV rests, reads “the book” of life (ἀπὸ βίβλου, apo biblou) instead of “the tree” of life. When the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus translated the NT he had access to no Greek mss for the last six verses of Revelation. So he translated the Latin Vulgate back into Greek at this point. As a result he created seventeen textual variants which were not in any Greek mss. The most notorious of these is this reading. It is thus decidedly inauthentic, while “the tree” of life, found in the best and virtually all Greek mss, is clearly authentic. The confusion was most likely due to an intra-Latin switch: The form of the word for “tree” in Latin in this passage is ligno; the word for “book” is libro. The two-letter difference accounts for an accidental alteration in some Latin mss; that “book of life” as well as “tree of life” is a common expression in the Apocalypse probably accounts for why this was not noticed by Erasmus or the KJV translators. (This textual problem is not discussed in NA27.)
“I testify to the one who hears the words of the prophecy contained in this book:”
Here is one final clue that this book is a revelation of what occurs throughout the whole Church age, because those who “hear” must include everyone who hears during that time, and not just during the so-called final “seven years” of Premillennialism.
“If anyone adds to them” (vs. 18)
“And if anyone takes away from” (vs. 19)
Those who “adds” or “takes away” from the book of Revelation, must be understood as referring to the unsaved only. I also understand this to refer to those who deliberately set out to change the message and meaning of this book. I believe this also likely refers to those who ridicule and discredit this book. In no way should this be understood as referring to sincere Christians who are doing their best to understand, interpret, and teach this book.
“If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.”
Although the “plagues” in Revelation are obviously in view here, I believe here they’re used to represent greater punishment in the lake of fire, because the plagues of Revelation are all about God’s judgment upon sinners—which is what the lake of fire is. When sinners stand before Christ and the degree of punishment is pronounced for each person, this “adding” to the words of this “book of prophecy” will be taken into account for those who are guilty of it. Considering that those who add and those who take away are guilty of the same type of sin, I believe this condemnation also holds true for those who “takes away from the words of this book of prophecy.”
Those who “take away from the words of this book of prophecy,” will not have access to the “tree of life” (vs. 2) or entrance into the “holy city” (vs. 14). In other words, those who are guilty of doing this will not obtain salvation, as mentioned above. In fact, both those who add and those who take away, refer to the unsaved, and so neither will be given access to the “tree of life” or to the “holy city.”
To be clear, no one who dies without Christ as Lord and Savior, will be given access to the tree of life or to the holy city—the eternal dwelling of the redeemed. However, those who are guilty of adding or taking away from this book of Revelation, will suffer a greater degree of punishment. That fact reveals how seriously God takes this revelation, and how seriously people should take it. Mocking it will bring harsh judgment.
(Rev 22:20) – 20 He who testifieth these things saith, Yea: I come quickly. Amen: come, Lord Jesus.
NET – 22:20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
“I come quickly”
“I am coming soon”
(See verse 7)
(Rev 22:21) – 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with the saints. Amen
A very fitting final word of encouragement, considering the persecution of Christians that is so prominent in this book. It’s only by the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” that His “saints” are able to endure persecution and suffering for His name.