Monday, August 3, 2015

REVELATION 22: 6- 21 : THE FINAL WORD !






Revelation 1 : 1-8         :  Introduction
Revelation 1:9 -  22:5  :  Main body  
Revelation 22:6-  21    :  Epilogue

A BRIEF  REVIEW  OF THE  MAIN BODY  OF THE REVELATION :

(i)                  1:9- 20 : The vision of Christ , who  gives John the commission to write down what he sees in that vision.
(ii)                2:1-3:22 : The vision of the 7 churches, representing the church in every age     gradually degenerating into the lukewarm  church of Laodicea, or Babylon.
(iii)               4:1- 5:14  : The vision of the open door, giving John a glimpse  into heaven where he sees  the vision of the Lamb standing as though it  had been slain,  standing  before the throne of God. He was  declared  worthy to receive and to open the book with its seven seals.
(iv)              6:1- 22:5  :  The vision   of the 7 seals , giving way to the vision of the  7 trumpets, and on to the vision of the  7 bowls. These  visions gave us insight into  the powerful struggle (the spiritual battle of which Paul  also speaks in Ephesians 6)  which, under the leadership of the devil, the anti-christ  and the beast   has raged  throughout the ages, and which shall come to an end  at the 2nd coming  of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We saw  in the examples of the 7 churches  and  also in this section,  how often  the  love of the church on earth grows cold, as she forgets to  embrace Jesus  her only  Saviour,  thus becoming  a prostitute , metaphorically  speaking , called Babylon.  She becomes in fact  another  instrument  in the hands of the anti-christ.    We also have seen that in this age   the Lord God has sent  war and pestilences, ‘natural disasters’   and all kinds  of trouble  so that this sinister  evil power could not develop itself prematurely.  We have learned that all these temporary judgements of God are illustrative of that great judgement that is to come. We have learned that in the midst of all this turmoil the Lord  Jesus keeps His people safe, even though many  die as  martyrs. We are nowhere safer than in the arms of Jesus – even though we die ! We have seen  that in the midst of the trials  of this present  age time,  He keeps 144 000 (the full number of the elect) sealed and  safe ! The devil and his armies are no match for Christ and they will be defeated! And so it is, and so it happens that we  see all wickedness destroyed  and  we see the  New Jerusalem, the true  church  coming out of the  new heavens  and upon the new earth, issuing in a new age  of the glorious and eternal rule of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
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EXPOSITION :

And  now,  we come  to the epilogue – the  final word  of the  Revelation  to John in 22: 6- 21.  
The main subject  of this epilogue is  the  “soon - coming“ of the Lord. This is mentioned   four  times[1]  in this  passage. The same idea is expressed in v.10  : " Do  not seal up the  words of this  prophecy of this book: for the time is  near.  The remarkable  thing is  this assertion that our  Lord  repeatedly says that He  will come  soon . This is,  of course, not the first time that we have heard him say it.   He  has said it in the very  opening line of the Revelation  (1:1):  “…  The Revelation which God gave John  to show  to his servants  the things  that must soon take place.” 

V.7. “I am coming soon” :  There is urgency in this passage. Now remember  that this  Revelation was given to John at a time when   the church was under immense pressure and subject to persecution. John himself  was in exile for this reason : “ I, John, your brother and  partner in the tribulation … was on the island called  Patmos on account  of the  word of God and the testimony of Jesus” . We  then read then  of the various trials of the 7 churches in Asia  (Rev. 2&3)  and  we understand that the church at large needed  perspective.  She needed to know that  the Lord was not slow in coming  to deliver her.  Some people were saying that the Lord was slow in coming . Such a “charge of slowness”  is found  in  2 Peter  3: 9,10.  And now, 2000 years later  Christ has  not  yet  come. What  then is  meant by his  “soon - coming”?  
It means  that  He is  committed to coming,and  according to His time table and as quickly as it is possible. 
H. Hoeksema  provides us with a helpful illustration here : [2]
“When Germany  in  World war 2  pressed the Allies  hard, they were for a time in desperate straits. They looked for the coming of the Americans. The Americans said, "We are coming, and we are coming quickly." But many months elapsed before they actually did come. To the Allies in their desperate condition it seemed a long time before they actually came. Yet did not the Americans come quickly? Surely, they did; and they came as fast as it was possible for them to come. But think what was implied in their coming. Many, many things had to be prepared before they could come. An army had to be drafted and trained. Money had to be raised. The army had to be equipped. The material, clothing and ammunition and weapons, had to be manufactured. Ships had to be built. In view of all this, it was absolutely true that they were coming quickly. The same may be applied to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
From our point of view it may seem a long time. But look! The children of God must be gathered. The whole church, gathered from all nations, must be filled: not one of the elect may be lacking. Besides, the great apostasy must take place. Antichrist and all the power of iniquity must develop. Babylon must be realized. The world-power must be formed. Surely, all these things being taken into consideration, we may certainly say, "He comes quickly." Things, especially in the last twenty-five or fifty years, are developing before our very eyes. We see Him come! “

Another illustration from the Bible to help us  to understand  that  “soon” may not  necessarily mean  “in a  hurry”, but rather “on time”. So, when  for instance  Lazarus  was sick  (John 11)   there was great need on a human level  for hurry for Jesus to come and heal him before he died. And then he did die. And Jesus took his time in getting there. In fact, when Jesus  arrived,  Lazarus was already four days in the grave.   Jesus  was late according to Mary  (Jn. 11:21). But was He?  No, He wasn’t!  He was on time. Not a minute too soon or too late! This  was  a deliberate and timely  arrival, and  in it  God  would be glorified (Jn. 11:  4, 40). This is the point that Peter also makes  in 2 Peter 3:9,10.  

Realizing, however, that from  John’s  point of view, and  the church under great  pressure,   the time of Christ’s promised coming  may  indeed seem long and delayed, the Lord assures His church  repeatedly that He is indeed coming soon  and not  too late.  To this end  He  assures  John:
V.6  :"And he said to me, These words  are trustworthy and true . And the Lord, the  God of the  spirits of the  prophets has  sent his angel to show  his servants  what must soon  take place.”  Jesus  says to John  in effect, “…what is written in the book shall surely happen. Therefore believe  John… Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (v.7) 

Vv.  8-9  : When John understood  this, he was  so overwhelmed  that he fell down at the feet of the angel to worship. The vision of glory always produces worship, and for a moment John  was tempted to worship the messenger  rather  than Him who  gave  the Message to the messenger !  This is very typical of us human beings! The angel however quickly helps him to  redirect  the worship to  God , who alone is to be worshipped and praised! Once this obstacle is put out of the way    John   is once again  able  to receive  further instruction .

V. 10 :  “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.”  This book must not be closed. It must not be sealed. The  world  must hear this!  The response  to this revelation  will of course  be two-fold. We read of this  in the very next verse:

V.11 : “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”  There will be those that will be hardened by this message and there will be those that will obey this message.  This is true of the entire Bible.  When it is opened and expounded, there will be those who will  ignore,  or  mock  or resist  its message. On the other hand, there  will be those who  receive   this message  with joy and faith and obedience.   The point is that this book must not  remain  sealed  up  because it appears  to be controversial and judgmental. The people of this world need to hear this message.  
The Revelation draws very clear  lines, emphasising  the great difference between the people of God, who will inhabit the city of God, the new Jerusalem and the people of the  world, who are  the subjects of  Satan, the anti-christ and the beast,    and who are  the citizens of  the city of Babylon.  This  distinction  and division  between these two kind of people in this world is not made by me or others, but by this open  book, which  may not be sealed up. The separating process     must happen, and it will happen, when the  Great  Judge  will reveal  who  are  the  sheep   and who are the goats  (see Matt. 25:31-46). The consequences of unbelief are always  the product of our  own choice.  As C. S Lewis once  remarked, "A man can't be taken to hell, or sent to hell: you can only get there on your own steam."

Vv. 12 &13:  “Behold I am coming  soon, bringing  my recompense with me[3] , to repay everyone for what he has done.”  That day  will reveal  who we are , and the great Judge who is “the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End“ will make no mistake in His judgement. Before Him our souls stand exposed and open. The inner workings of the heart  and the mind cannot be concealed  before His piercing eyes.  This is, incidentally,    not a proof text  that we  will be ultimately justified by our works.  The Lord Jesus  is speaking here of the response of faith, which is good works . Good works  should invariably  should follow a  true profession of faith. And this is a pattern that will be looked for and ‘rewarded’ on the Day of Judgment.

V. 14 :   Here we observe that in the New Jerusalem  there are only those who have their robes washed, that is  those, who have by faith have  washed their robes in the blood of Christ. Christ alone is  our guarantee , our entrance ticket  to heaven. It is by His blood that we  can enter  into the presence of our holy Creator.  He   gives them the  right to come to the tree of life and for this reason they may  enter into the city by  the gates.
V.15 :  In marked contrast are those in the outside.  They are excluded from the  New Jerusalem. Again , a very clear division and an  exclusion by Jesus .

Vv. 16 &17  : Again the Lord Jesus  puts His stamp of authority  upon  His words , and in v. 17  we find   an exhortation  to embrace the message of this revelation,   under the influence of the Spirit and the Bride   who say  :   “Come !  And let the one who is thirsty  come; let the one who desires  to  take  the water of life without price” (cf.  Isa  55:1).   Notice that the Spirit and the bride  are here connected. The Spirit is the Spirit of the Bridegroom. That Spirit of the Bridegroom dwells in the bride- his church !   It is  by the Spirit that the bride, the church  gives  to  the people in the world an evangelistic  invitation :  "Come!"  The ones that come  are the thirsty ones ,  also spoken of by the prophet Isaiah in 55:1. The  subjects of the  true church (chosen before the beginning of time)  always  long for the coming of the bridegroom (Matt.  25:1-13).  However, we shall find  in the church at large  that  there are always  “the 5 foolish virgins”, the false professors of faith ,   who will be shut out on that day . They are  those who  are paying mere  lip service to the coming of the Lord. The true subjects of the Lord, by  way of contrast  always watch and wait for His coming. They live their lives in the light of His coming.   They worship Him faithfully  now. They have a desire for holiness and godliness.    This is a test for us as a church and as individual believers. The question is: do we long for  the Lord Jesus ?  Do we  find ourselves praying :  "Come, Lord Jesus!” (v.20) ?   

Vv.  18 &19  : The book of Revelation  also  tells us about  the closure to the giving of revelation.  With this  revelation any need for further revelation  has ceased. Nothing is to be added or taken away (22:19). For this reason  the  Revelation  has a  serious   warning  to those   who deal lightly with this book.   The warning is  not addressed  to those who say, “ I find it difficult to understand this book” . It does not apply   to  our  imperfect understanding of  this book.  No, the words here  refer to a conscious attitude of unbelief with respect to this Revelation. This  warning is addressed  to those  who hear  the  words  of this book, and who downplay  its contents .  The fact that so many pastors   will not   to preach this book to their people may be a serious indictment,  and a withholding of blessing and encouragement to the church.  But the most serious aspect may be that  people may   deny the facts represented in this book with respect to  Christ’s second coming and all  which follows that.  Such people  effectively   cut themselves off from heaven and  eternal life , which is exactly what this warning is about .    
Of course, this must not be interpreted as if  a person could  lose their salvation – as if  a person at one time really  was a believer, but later fell from grace!  The Bible  clearly teaches  that  God preserves His people.  Him whom Jesus  has saved, he is saved . Nothing can undo  the work of Christ (see Rom 8:28ff) . No names can ever be taken out of the book of life.  

No! The truth about such  a person   is that he/she  thinks  themselves  to be a  Christian, when in fact  there is no  evidence that they are.  They have  no true  exhibits of  faith in God, and no trust in His Word. They have  no assurance  from the Holy Spirit that they are the  children of God.  Even worse , they may  distort and corrupt the  words of this  prophecy concerning the holy city and the coming of the Lord.   The sad thing is that in society such people may  have a good standing  before men, before the church in the world,  who think  of them as fine Christians.   But the text  says that anyone that takes away   from the words of the book of this prophecy has never had his name recorded in the book of life in the first place. He has no place in the holy city . These verses  teach that such a false prophet shall  encounter all the plagues that are written in this book, that is,  all the judgement that shall come upon the wicked and unbelieving  rebels. 

These are serious words, but they come from One who is serious.  He the Alpha and the Omega (22:13 cf.  also  1:8; 21:6), the Beginning and the End (cf. 21:6), the First and the Last (cf. 1:17; 2:8). He  says concerning  Himself in  22:16  : "I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

All that is left  now  is  prayer: "Come Lord Jesus" (22:20) – Maranatha!  

Well , I trust  that as a result of this  lengthy study  of the  Book of Revelation  you  have grown in the knowledge of the glory of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that you have  grown in  your  faith. I trust that you  have grown in the hope and  the ability  to  love the world less  than you love the Lord Jesus . I trust that  you have received grace  to wash your robes in the blood of the Lamb.  I trust  that I will see you  one day walking  in those streets of the great city – the New Jerusalem.  And so I close  where the book closes, with the apostle  John  pronouncing the blessing upon the church: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."




[1] ( Gr.tachu – quick or soon ,used 4 times in this passage :   see 22:6,7,12,20)
[2] A.H.Hoeksema  :Behold He is coming  , p. 719 
[3] Similar texts  that indicate a doctrine of rewards are found in Matt 16:27 ; Rom. 2:6 ; 2 Cor.5:10

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