Now we are ready to consider John’s conclusion in this glorious sight of eternity that is laid before us. John is ready to draw everything to its conclusion, or rather Christ through His angel is ready to bring John back to this reality. Christ relinquishes John and all of us through him with hope that is sure and steadfast and a purpose for reaching others with that hope.
First, Christ wanted to remind us that the time is close. “And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew 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.” Christ would have His angel to confirm to us the truth of what we have heard. They are faithful and true. They are faithful to all prophecy that has come before them. They are faithful to the nature of the Godhead and the work of God throughout history. They are true in that they are in line with reality; they are the consummation and sum of all things. Just as two and two make four so the Final Cause, which is Christ, must come to pass. They are faithful and true because they are of the nature of Christ (Rev. 3:14). We have infallible truth in these words. This is the third time that this has been declared (Rev. 19:9, 21:5). The whole of what we have read and has been recorded by John is sure and steadfast. And it was the purpose of the very same “Lord God of the holy prophets” who spoke in times past by those prophets in great “thus saith the Lord” revelations and has now in the last days spoke to us by His Son (Heb. 1:1-3), to speak at last through John that you and I could sit here today and know these things. As He moved the prophets of old by the Spirit so He moved John for us (II Pet. 1:21). Christ wanted us to have hope. Christ wanted us to know that these things must shortly be done.
It is clear from the following verses that the angel is still speaking. The angel is summing up the message of Christ that he has just declared to the faithful and true sayings of this book. If we were to sum up the message of this book it would be this message from Christ by His angel: “Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” He is coming and He is bringing His reward to those who are watching. We need to constantly be so encouraged by these two twin truths. To the churches Christ has already been as such, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:11). All of this has been based on the declaration that Christ could come at any point in time. His coming is at hand. As a thief in the night shall He come; in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye. As we peek through the veil of this book we know that all of this could be set into motion in the passing of moment. We are called to watch for quickly Christ shall come. There is again a repeat of the promise that we saw in the very beginning of this book: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:3). There is a blessedness to those who keep this hope as frontlets between their eyes; the prophecy of this book which is the hope of the coming of Christ. We are “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). John agreed, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:2, 3). This is the blessings for those that keep the hope that is contained in this book. We can look in hope. It could be today that Christ begins to unfold these things that shall be done. It may be today that we hear His voice and see Him coming. He is coming quickly so let us watch for Him in our expectation and works. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matt. 24:42).
We are also reminded that we are easily turned aside to bow before things that are not God: “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 shewed 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.” John again asserts himself as the actual eyewitness to these things as he was apt to do (I John 1:1-3). In this scene however, John admits to some folly. He bowed before the angel that spoke to him. The angel was a messenger of God but was not God and was not Christ. John offered worship to this angel and as such turned to folly. And this is not the first time we have seen this folly. John did the same thing in the 19th chapter and almost word for word was rebuked for his error (Rev. 19:10). So, even after being once reproved he still fell into the same error. We therefore will not take time here to discuss again the nature of the error but will only speak again of the ease at which the apostle turned aside to worship the creature instead of the Creator. As the end approaches in which Christ is coming, we need to be careful that we are not turned aside after those things that are not God and are not the Lamb. We worship the Lord alone. Here is a moment of excitement that caused John to turn aside. For us it may be the same. Our emotions are so apt to set up false gods. Let us, as the day approaches, keep our eyes upon Christ. Let us determine to only bow to the one Lord and God. We are so prone to error and therefore need to be constantly admonished by the ministers of God to keep our eyes upon Christ. Let us therefore, as the day approaches, attend to the word of God and His minsters.
We continue to see that the book is opened: “And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. 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.” The angel again speaks directly with the authority of Christ and tells John not to seal the book. This is the exact opposite of the declaration of God to Daniel at the end of his prophecy and with the exact opposite reason. “And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Dan. 12:9, 10). The seals were broken by Christ through the revelation that we have read. The time of the end is not yet distant and numbered as it was in the days of Daniel. Since Christ has become the Lamb as it has been slain we now live in the last days. God has left the book open for us to read and for us to watch in anticipation and hope that Christ would come and would come quickly. No longer does the salvation of Christ remain shrouded in shadows but remains open to the light that is given to us by Christ. The book is left opened unto us that will keep it that we might have hope for that time is at hand. We are not in darkness that that day should overtake us as a thief (I Thess. 5:4). We are in the last times and the time of the end is fast approaching (I John 2:18, Matt. 24:14). And the end will see the revelation of Christ Himself. “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11).
The attached direction of Christ to the unsealed book is somewhat mysterious. The book is left opened because the time is at hand and then it is declared, “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.” There is a balance to the statement. There is the unjust and the filthy measured against the righteous and the holy. There is a personal dimension to the statement in that it speaks of individual persons that are lost or saved in the “he” and “him” pronouns that are used (the unjust and filthy speaking of those that are lost and the righteous and holy speaking of those that are saved). And there seems to be an aspect of divine permission in the phrase “let him be….” Is this a command for us or an expression of divine will? Surely it is not a command for us. We are to warn the ungodly that they may repent and we are to support the godly that they may not fall. We are not to take this text as a command to simply live and let live. So then one may conclude that it is an expression of divine will to allow men to remain in the state of their ungodliness. Where the tree falls there it lies (Ecc. 11:3). This is not true in the matter of time in this life at least. God pleads with men and is not willing that any should perish. Everything about the gospel of Christ demonstrates the truth that our God was not complacent to leave mankind in a lost state. So what is the meaning of this text? God in the “let him be” phrase teaches us the honor that God gives to the will of men. If you want to continue in sin God will allow you to do so forever. If want His righteousness and His holiness, God will forever fill you with it. It demonstrates the truth that character perpetuates itself. Those that are unjust tend to continue to do that which is unjust and those that wallow in filth will continue to see filth. “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Pet. 2:22). As you examine yourself in the light of your own works your true nature is revealed. Our actions beget our character and begets them for all eternity. They follow us on to eternity. Those that die in the character of their lost state will be allowed to continue thus forever. Those who have put on the righteousness and holiness of the character of Christ continue so forever. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. Paul stated this: “Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God” (Rom. 2:6-11). Those that are found at the final judgment to be unholy will be allowed of God for all eternity secured in their lost state. Those that are found holy at the final judgment will be allowed of God to continue forever in that state. We will enter into a permanent state of being by the will of God. Daniel stated, “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). Thus Christ said, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46). For those that are lost we plead with them to seek the Lord while He may be found. We plead for them to repent while they may be renewed unto repentance for the time will come when they cannot repent though they seek it carefully with tears. For the righteous we take comfort in this declaration that we will never be allowed for God to fall. Once again, we are eternally secure.
Next we see that the reward is ready. We must ask ourselves the question of Amos to those that desired the day of the Lord, “To what end is for you” (Amos 5:18). Following upon the thought of verse eleven, we are mindful that when Christ comes His reward is with Him. This reward is different for the lost and the saved. The children of darkness will have that day come upon them as a thief and their end is to be filthy and unjust still. The day of the Lord needs not come upon the children of light as a thief. “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him” (I Thess. 5:1-10). The children of light can look on that day in joy that a blessing is coming. We have in these next few verses the fact of the coming reward, the nature of Christ that makes Him the rewarder, and the differing rewards.
First, John states, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Christ is coming. He is coming personally and visibly. He is coming quickly. He may appear soon at any point in time. Look or “behold” with eyes of hope. He is coming soon. His day is at hand and when He arrives He will also have our reward. No one will escape His judgement. No one will escape the results of their works. The reward will be in accordance with or in perfect harmony with our works. The lost will find themselves without in accordance with their life character, as we shall soon see. The saved will enjoy the blessing in accordance with the same. We will all receive our reward personally from Him for He says in our text “I… give every man….” Our works, which is synonymous with our character, follow us into eternity. That is what makes works important. They do not save but they will be rewarded. We have already spoken at length about the judgement of the lost and their works (Rev. 20:11-15). Their works make up the meat of their rejection by Christ. For the saved, there is an end result of what our works “shall be….” There is to be a summation of the works of our life. We are to build all of our works on the foundation of Christ. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (I Cor. 3:11-15). We will have our reward based on or in accordance with the summation of those works. We will all reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7, 8). John appears to be hailing back to the words of Isaiah: “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him” (Isa. 40:10). And again, “Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him” (Isa. 62:11). Christ Himself declared this truth: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:27). And to round off the theological certainty of the importance of works in the light of eternity, Paul stated, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Cor. 5:10). Brethren, let us be mindful of what we do for we may lose our reward if we do not build upon Christ with our works. John elsewhere stated this: “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (II John: 8).
We see that Christ is the rewarder of our works and the fact that He is the rewarder is based on His divinity. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” There is no reason for us to renew our study on these terms as we have already studied them at length (Rev. 1:8, 11, 17, 21:6). There is no doubt that this is Jehovah of the Old Testament (Isa. 41:4, 44:6, 45:10, 48:12). There is no doubt that Jesus is speaking as well. He is the one that is coming. It is His message. He is deity!. He is God (John 1:1). That is the message here. When He comes quickly, He will reward all. He is the one we hope for (Titus 2:13). We love Him and keep His commands (John 14:15). We are to fear Him. He is all in all to us. In Isaiah 40 we learn that it was Jehovah that was to come, who was the creator of all, and it was that being that the forerunner prepared the way for. He is the First and Final Cause of all things. He is eternal and timeless. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the object of our worship. He is the rewarder because He has the power as God to be rewarder. He is the rewarder because He has the knowledge as the omniscient God to reward all. He knows all men. As such all judgment belongs to the Son and He presides over all. He is the one true God. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
Now in the 14th and 15th verses we have a description of the differing rewards; for the last and the saved. The lost are not damned because of their works but their eternal reward is determined thereby. They are damned because they would not believe upon Christ. The same is true of the saved. They are saved by grace through faith alone but their reward hereafter is in accordance with their works. In that spirit we see the differing rewards. To the saved, Christ says, “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.” There are three sections of this verse; the reason for the reward and the two results of the reward. We are aware of the variant readings that are supposed by some to exist in so called “better” manuscripts. They claim that the verse should read, “Blessed are they that wash their robes….” While I do not disagree with the content of that variant reading (which agrees with Rev. 7:14), I disagree for the simple fact that our text represents the accepted reading for generations of Christians and the fact that it appears in two extant manuscripts is no reason to throw away the witness of the vast majority of manuscripts and other secondary sources. Some favor the other reading because they say that our reading smacks of works salvation. However, they do not escape that dilemma in their wording. Either way we must wrestle with this difficulty in the light of the Scriptures as a whole which plainly teach that salvation is not of works but is of the Lord. This blessedness belongs to those that do His commands. In a certain sense, this is true of all believers who obeyed the first gospel command to believe upon Christ. The gospel is a command that is to be obeyed (II Thess. 1:8). Our Christian life began by hearing the invitation to come to Christ and responding to that call by coming to Him. If you at any point have believed in Christ then this beatitude belongs to you. It is the love of Christ showed to us that creates a love of Christ in us. “We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). Heaven is made for those that love the Lord (I Cor. 2:9). And if we are saved and so love the Lord then we will keep His commands (John 14:15). The full capacity of our obedience may not be realized. If you are without Christ you are a sinner and a transgressor of the whole law (James 2:10). But, the reverse is true that if you are in Christ then through Christ you are obedient to the whole law. The full capacity may differ from individual to individual. I know that I have been chastened more than I want to admit. But, I responded to the gospel call and I desire to do His will. I have decided to follow Jesus, and by God’s grace I have moved forward. Regardless of the full capacity of my obedience, I lay claim to the happiness and blessedness of this text. Those who spend their time laying their best on the foundation of Christ will definitely enjoy the blessing to a great capacity (I Cor. 3). They may even be called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. But, we are all found in this text if we belong to Christ.
The results of the reward are two-fold. Their life of obedience gives them the right to the tree of life and they may enter into the gates into the city. We have already discussed these two results and therefore will not spend long on these points. Obedience to Christ (no matter the capacity) gives us the right to the tree of life. It is the same thing that John said in his gospel: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). Christ and His nature is the tree of life. It is not an accident that He died on a tree. We will have the right to take of the fruit, to enjoy the fruit of paradise, to fellowship with God. Whether there is greater access for the greater obedience is not the issue. The same may be said of the second result. We will be given the ability and permission to enter the gates and go into the city. The same meaning is given. We seek a city whose builder and maker is God. Through Christ we will enter it. There we will have fellowship with God forever: “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:11). There is a blessed reward for those who obey the gospel and take up a life of Christian discipleship.
There is also a reward with Christ at His coming for the lost. “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” Six is the number of man and fallen man without Christ are finally spoken of in six distinct categories. Two observations are worth noting. First, as to their reward, they find themselves without. Second, they find themselves forever in the character of their overt sins. Theirs is a negative reward. In the song of Moses he sang, “I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me” (Deut. 32:41). And the psalmist stated, “Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame…” (Ps. 40:15). Isaiah continued, “Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him” (Isa. 3:11). There is a reward for the unrighteous and the heart of that reward is described in our text. We may call this the wages of sin. The nature or their reward is to be separated from God and to be filled with their own ways. The sinner finds themselves “without….” They are without the city and the church and the God that dwells there. They are without the blessings and those good things that the righteous enjoyed. They are destined to depart from Christ as we have already studied. To be outside of the love and glory of God of which in their own state they fell short. “When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:25-28). As if separation from God and the good things prepared for those that love God is not enough, we also see that they are forever rewarded with the continuance of the sinful character. Let the filthy be filthy still. They will be filled with their own sin. They will drink that cup that they had filled all their life. “Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices” (Prov. 1:31). So they are described in the character of their besetting sins. Without are dogs. Dogs are unclean creatures of vile appetite. The dog returns to his own vomit (Prov. 26:11). It appears to be in one place the description of a homosexual prostitute and those that practice sodomy (Deut. 23:18). They eat the refuse and trash of this world (Ex. 22:31). They ate the flesh of Jezebel and licked up the blood of Ahab (I Kings 22:38, II Kings 9:10). It was out one point a derogatory term to speak of the idolatrous and wicked Gentiles that were outside of the promises of God (Ps. 22:16). That unclean appetite will be what they will forever live with and never be able to set aside. Without are sorcerers. These are those who use drugs and enchantments to alter their state of mind in order to get power. They will forever live with those unfulfilled lusts. Without are fornicators; the sexually impure appetites. They will forever mourn at last when their flesh and bodies are consumed (Prov. 5). Without are murderers; those that take the lives and of other men. There they will eternally die. Without are idolaters. Those that set up false gods and they will forever live with those idols. Without will be those that love lies and make lies. The hypocrite will forever live with those lies that they love and made and will never be able to find comfort therein. The point is, they will always live with the character of their sin. The way of the transgressor is hard and will become unbearable for all eternity. “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways…” (Prov. 14:14).
Christ also wanted to bring to our mind that the invitations are sent. “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.” Jesus reminds John that He sent His angel to testify to him all of these things. As we learned early in the first chapter. He did it so the churches would know and have hope. We are the immediate beneficiaries of the acts of Christ toward John. He had us in mind when He spoke this whole book. We have seen the identity of Christ as deity when we spoke of him above as the rewarder of men. Before we can consider the invitation to come we must remember the man Christ Jesus. He says that He is the root and offspring of David and that He is the bright and morning star. This all draws us back to the salvation that He provided by taking humanity upon Himself. He is connected with the promises of the coming Messiah, the promises to David that his seed would sit upon an everlasting throne. His connection to those promises is that He, as the Alpha and Omega, is both the root and the offspring of those promises. This touches on the duel nature of Christ as both God and man. Christ offered the greatest commentary on this passage when the Pharisees argued with Him about the nature of Christ. “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, 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. 22:42-45)? The true promised Messiah, as Christ pointed out by quoting David himself from Psalm 110, is not just the son of David but is the Lord of David. As the offspring of David He occupies the throne of David. We have again already studied this out in our study when we saw that he is the root of David and the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5). As the angel proclaimed to Mary: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). Paul declared the Messiah in those words: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh…” (Rom. 1:1-3). There is a great mystery that is summed up in this phrase. Christ is the son of Highest. He is very God of very God as the root of David. He is the root of David because it is by His word that the promise of David rests: “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah…. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah” (Ps. 89:3, 4, 34-37). He as God became the root by which David and His seed bore fruit. But as the offspring of David He become the very emodiement of those promises. “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:5-7). He became not only the fulfillment of the promise to David but the fulfillment of the promised seed, the Messiah, which Savior was promised to fallen man from the beginning (Gen. 3:15). We live in such a world in which the Savior has come and all the promises of God to man have been fulfilled in the person of Christ.
So He is also the bright and morning star. Many modern versions of the Scripture show themselves to be in great error when they translate Isaiah 14:12, which speaks of Lucifer as the morning star. Such translations should be immediately flung away when they equate Jesus with the devil. There is only one bright and morning star. We must ask ourselves what the bright and morning star is? Venus is known by many to be the evening star and the morning star. It is the first star that is seen as the sun sets and the first star to appear just before the break of the day. But, at the end of the day it is but a lesser light compared the glory of Christ. We shall shine as stars according to Daniel. This phrase speaks of Christ as the dayspring and the day star. The Lord God is the sun and shield (Ps. 84:11). As we have seen, He will be the light of the city that will shine in that eternal day. It is at His coming that we will say “This is the day that the Lord hath made.” And so when he was to be born He was called, “the dayspring from on high…” (Luke 1:78). And so Peter said of the fulfillment of the Word of Christ, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (II Pet. 1:19). And so Malachi prophesied of the coming Christ, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (Mal. 4:2). So we have come to the place in which all the promises are fulfilled in Christ. And the day of grace has risen (though we wait for the day it will be a physical reality). Christ speaks in the present tense to John. He is presently the root and offspring of David. He is presently our bright and morning star. And we may presently look unto Him.
And so the invitation is heard: “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.” Christ is speaking and the invitation to come is directed toward Him. The invitation is for men and women to come to Him. The message of the gospel could be summed up by the command and the loving invitation, “Come to Christ.” First, we marvel that there is a unified witness. There is a witness from earth and a witness from heaven. The church has a commission from Christ to tell people to come Christ. The bride of Christ has the glory of inviting all to join her. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). This is the mission of the church. This is the glory of the bride here in now and until the time of the bringing forth of these things yet to be. But, they go not alone. The work of the Spirit is to testify of Christ. Jesus said, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me…” (John 15:26). And that which the bride says the Spirit also says. When she is lifting up Christ she is drawing all men to come to Christ (John 12:32). They stand as a unified voice calling the lost to come and be a part of the blessings of this book through Christ. We note that we have the glory of speaking with the authority and help of God the Holy Spirit. It is His message and we get to give Him our voice to testify of Christ. We speak to their ears and He speaks to their heart. We draw them with our voice and He with the cords of love draws them as well. When we invite men to come to Christ we are doing the very work of God. And the voice of the Spirit invites all who hear the voice of the bride as well. All who hear the voice of the preacher or the bride also hear the voice of the Spirit. We become the means of them being born of the Spirit (John 3:5). Our voice becomes the means of them through the Spirit crying out “Abba Father” (Gal. 4:6). It is the Spirit that bears witness with our spirit that men become children of God (Rom. 8:26). It was not until Jesus breathed upon the apostles and they received the Spirit that they went out with authority to tell men their sins could be remitted (John 20:21-23). We need to pray that our voice would be unified with the Spirit and we would be in full agreement with Him about the simple message of the gospel and in that spirit will make our message, “Come to Christ.” It cannot be done in our might or power but by the Spirit (Zech. 4:6). It is only as such that Christ can be declared (Rom. 1:4). This was the prayer of Paul about his ministry and we would do well to pray the same: “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power…” (I Cor. 2:4). In the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter is established. We have the witness of the bride and the Spirit. We add then the third witness of the one that hears.
So, secondly, we see the perpetuating witness: “And let him that heareth say, Come.” In an age of pragmatism, we are given a very pragmatic witness. There is unity in the message of Spirit and the bride. There is efficacy in the message of the ones that hear the message. So much so that they turn around and themselves tell the world to come to Christ. When Saul heard the word of the prophets the Spirit of God came upon Him and he began to prophecy as well (I Sam. 10:10). And so it was with his messengers (I Sam. 19:20-23). There is power in the simple message “Come to Jesus.” There is power to change any that open their ears to hear it. Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). There is saving efficacy in the preaching of the word. It pleased the Lord that by the foolishness of preaching the lost are saved (I Cor. 1:21). There has always been just one plan to reach the world. When Christ ascended, He left only 11 disciples. How were they to reach the world with the gospel. They preached and men were saved. Those men were scattered and they also preached. The message of the church spreads through those that hear it. We need to pray that people will hear and in hearing they will also speak. “I believe, therefore I have spoken” (II Cor. 4:13). We have freely received a message so we can be numbered among those who freely preach the very same message. And so we that have heard say “Come.” We who have made it into the ark (Christ) we turn to beckon others to do the same.
Our text also tells us of a corresponding need: “And let him that is athirst come.” While the spirit and bride speak of unity and the one that hears the message speaks of efficacy, the one that is athirst speaks of urgency. We are not now talking about the messengers but we are focusing now on the hearers of the message. It is God’s will for those that hear that they should come. But Christ expresses His will for the most needy to come in specific. John Bunyan would speak of the message to the Jerusalem Sinners. Christ wanted the message to be preached all over the world but to Jerusalem first where the people who spit on Him and hung Him on the cross lived. The message of the gospel has always gone out to the worse or the chief of sinner. It has always been a truth that Christ came to heal the sick for the well need not a physician. Here it is allegorized to speak of those who are thirsty. Water here is offered, not the satiated, but, to the thirsty. The hart that pants after the water brook is the one that comes to the stream. It is the parched tongue in the desert that longs for wells of water. They are empty and ready to perish of the thirst. If they cannot drink they must die. They are the ones that are invited to come. Those who have a felt need that they must have water or they will die are invited to come and drink. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37).
Finally there is a universal calling: “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” We have seen the unity of the messengers. We have seen the efficacy of the message. We have seen the urgency of the hearer. Now we see the opportunity of the offer. There is no limitation placed on the responders. If any will come they will find salvation. While we are not saved by our will (John 1:13) we are not saved apart from our will. If some find themselves lost and without Christ the blame lies solely upon themselves. They could have come to Christ and found life. The water of life is offered free of charge. They can drink if they will come and live eternally. We preach the gospel with the conviction that all who hear have the opportunity to respond and be saved. Let us go forth with that conviction.
Next we see a final warning. “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.” There is a danger in adding to the prophecy of this book and making it say things that it does not say or diminishing it to say that it does not mean what it does say. Let us unpack this warning.
First, who is making this warning? It is Christ that was speaking in the verses immediately previous. Who would know better than Christ about the seriousness of this warning? It is Christ that testifies to these things and He speaks from His eternality and His divine omniscience. This is not a vain threat but one that comes directly from the authority of the throne of God. Some may interpret this as John speaking but the 20th verse makes it clear that it is Christ speaking. However, even if this is John’s words it would not change the fact that it goes forth with the authority of Christ as all this book has. We are reading the word of Christ and the word of God as we read this warning and we should well fear.
Secondly, to whom is the warning addressed? It is addressed to “every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book….” It is a universal warning to every man. Every man is capable of heeding the warning or suffering the consequences of this warning. It is when man hears the word of God that they are tried by those same words. Faith comes by hearing; so does unbelief. That is what is at the root of warning. Those who hear the word and do not believe it will add to it or take away from it. “Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have” (Luke 8:18). We are reminded of the great parable of Christ about the hearer. The seed of the word of God was sown and a some fell by the wayside, some fell on stony ground, some fell among thorns, and some fell on good ground and brought forth fruit. Not all that hear the word of God respond properly to it. This then is a great warning to people who hear. We have been presented the word of God as we have read and studied this book and now it is up to us whether or not we will believe it as it has been given it and apply it as such to our lives or add to or take away from it.
That brings us to the next question: what are they warned against doing? They are warned “If any man shall add unto these things…” and “if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy….” The “if” connected with both lies solely in the realm of human will. This addressed those who freely choose to abuse it rather than receive it. It properly belongs as a warning that follows the invitation for all to come and take of the water of life freely. What follows then is that fruit of unbelief and the warning belongs solely to the unbelieving. Those that will not freely take of the water of life or come to Christ as this book most definitely and clearly directs men to do will instead choose to add to it or diminish it. We read of a sin against light. The light is clear and simple and the sin we read about is deceitful. These sins are the fruit of purposefully handling the word of God deceitfully. They twist the words of God to suit their own fancies. “Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil” (Ps. 56:5). As Peter warned, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (II Pet. 3:16). Simple acceptance of the gospel is the renouncing of these sins and so is the simple preaching of these truths: “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (II Cor. 4:2).
Now, what do these acts look like? To add to the words of this book is to remove the freeness of that salvation message: come to Christ. It adds a charge to grace and destroys grace along with the price. They will add “new” revelations to the word of God that will demand other obligations. They will add to the message of Christ the need to belong to their particular sect, the need to be baptized by their specific mode, the need to take part in sacraments that they provide, the need to keep the law or the feast days, the need to speak in tongues or exhibit specific gifts, the need to have this experience or that experience, the need to hold on or hold out till the end, and so on. They will add the burden of earning salvation that is free. They will take away from the hope of Christ’ return by saying that they have to bring in the kingdom for themselves. While adding to the words of this prophecy belongs to the religious and ‘Christian’ unbelieving, the taking away from those words belongs to the irreligious and cultish unbelieving. To take away from the words of the prophecy of this book is to diminish the person and work of Christ or deny it efficacy or importance. This may take the form of denying the reality of judgment and eternal punishment as some are apt to due. They fancy that if they deny that there is a hell or a lake of fire or a conscious reality to the eternal reality of the lost that they do not have to face it. Some may deny the existence of God or the reality of the atonement of Christ as the means of salvation. Some may deny the reality of sin and the need of salvation. Some may deny and mock the idea of heaven and mock the return of Christ as many are apt to do: “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. (II Pet. 3:3, 4). Those that diminish the word of God do so because the reject the word of God in part or in whole and desire only to mock it or belittle its central tenants. To come to Christ solely for salvation and to have hope only in Christ for salvation means that man must be sinful, hell and heaven must be real, God must be real and must be a holy judge of all, Christ is coming again, and the word of God is truth. They will one by one reject all of these premises to lift themselves up as holy and their own means of their own salvation. The will take their penknife and cut away the portions of the Bible that do not suit their sensibilities.
So, moving on, what is the consequence of not heeding the warning? It is two-fold but it is actually two sides of the same coin. To those that add to the word of God “God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” To those who take away from the word of God “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.” To the religious this would mean that they are among them that will believe the lie and be damned. They will, if they are alive in the days of the unfolding of these events, will experience the plagues that will fall upon the beast and all who follow him. Barnes rightly noted that the term plague speaks of all those events that bring the judgment of God upon mankind. Those that add to the words of God will only be adding judgment to themselves. They will be storing up judgment against the Day of Judgment. “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (II Pet. 3:7). The failure of simple faith in Christ and belief in the simple message of Christ is to align one’s self with the enemies of God and to add to themselves the plagues that belong to them. The other side of the same coin is to have their part taken away out of the book of life, out of the holy city, and out of (presumably) the good things written in this book. This book speaks hope to the just and judgment to the unjust. The things written in this book are primarily for the just. This is a book of hope for believers. The promise to true believers is that they will not be blotted out of the book of life (Rev. 3:5). Having a firm place in the book of life they enter into the city. Whosever was not found written in the book of life had to be cast out. These warnings then stands to those who will not believe just as the former one did. Hell was made for the devil and his angels. Christ died for all. There is a potentiality for all to come to Christ and so find their names written in heaven. There is no man that can stand and say that they could not have had a part in Christ. He that comes to Christ shall not be cast out (John 6:37). They could have had a part in all these good things. But, they made light of the word of God and would not believe and would not come to Christ. In doing such they have not part in those good things. They prove themselves worthy of the plagues of this book.
Before, we finish we should ask ourselves what are the implications of this warning? First, we have one final testament to the fact that Christ is the lawgiver. This is the same warning that God gave elsewhere after the giving of the law and the giving of prophecy. “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Prov. 3:5, 6). “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, see also Deut. 12:32). Christ is not only the lawgiver but the final lawgiver. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1, 2). Christ has spoken for the last time and tells us not to add to His message or take from it. As such we learn that we now have the completed word of God. All who believe in any added revelation from whatever source after the penning of these lasts words of John believe in a lie and find themselves heirs of the plagues of this book! There is no continuing revelation from Rome or from Salt Lake City or from Mecca or any other place. There is no validity to the Gnostic Gospels or any other so called revelation that came after John. The cannon is completed and Christ finished it with a warning not to add to it or diminish from it. We have the completed word of God with a singular message that we should simply believe on and come to the Christ of this book.
The final point of Christ that He would have us to consider is a hope that sustains. “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.” This sums up the hope of this book. We have the testimony of Christ that He is indeed coming and coming quickly. He tells us that this fact is sure and even adds the Amen to the message. We hope in the solid word of Christ and we look up for that blessed hope (Titus 2:13). We then have the longing prayer of the saint, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Our heart stirs within us with this prayer. This speaks of the love for His appearing. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Tim. 4:8). It is the voice of one that is longing for the coming of Christ and the voice of one that is watching for the coming of Christ. They are the good stewards in the house that the Master will find doing His will. “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods” (Matt. 24:45-47). They are the ones that are keeping their garments white waiting for the day that they shall see Him and be like Him. “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:3). They are the ones indeed “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). May our hearts look for the quick return of our Lord in the same manner and answer in the same way in our hearts; “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” Let us watch! “Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13:33-37). This prayer is a sanctifying prayer of hope that should be always on our lips. “Look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:38).
Then we have the sustaining benediction that if kept will keep us until that time that Christ returns. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” A popular benediction for the apostles in the completion of the letters. Paul used it often (Rom. 16:20, 24, II Cor. 13:14, Gal. 6:18, Phil. 4:23, Col. 4:18, I Thess. 5:28, II Thess. 3:18, I Tim. 4:22, Titus 3:15, Phil. 1:25). The writer of Hebrews did the same (Heb. 13:25). Now John ends his book the same way. It no doubt it reflects the common salutation of the early church and early Christians. It recognized the absolute need of everyone. We need grace, sustaining grace to keep us both now and in future times of tribulation. We are always and forever saved, not only in the sense of justification but in all other senses, by grace. The greatest thing we can do is pray that grace will be upon us and the greatest wish that we could place on others is that grace will be upon them. That is why the book of Revelation opened with this prayer and now it so closes (Rev. 1:4). It recognized that grace only comes from Christ (John 1:17). It recognizes the fullness of grace comes from the fullness of His being; He is the Lord (the sovereign of all of us and we rightly call Him thus), He is Jesus (our Savior from all aspects of our sin), and He is Christ (the promised King of kings over all this world). Our grace flows from those truths of His person. And so the benediction ends with this prayer and the word Amen. It is true. It is sure. Christ is coming and we look for Him in a hope that is sure and steadfast. AMEN!