Dr. Richard L. Strauss
September 9, 1979
We live in a day of uncertainty and confusion, and in some cases, despair. Many thoughtful secularists see little hope for the future. A feeling of pessimistic futility pervades the thinking of the world, the general opinion that human history has no other goal than ultimate self-destruction. People feel this way because they do not know the One who shall bring human history to a meaningful consummation, the Lord Jesus Christ. They have repudiated the one trustworthy source of information about Him, the Bible. And they are ignorant of the one book of the Bible that particularly describes His plan for bringing history to a triumphant conclusion, the Book of Revelation.
But there is no despair for the Bible-believing Christian. He has an optimistic philosophy of history, for he has in his possession "the Revelation of Jesus Christ...to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass" (Revelation 1:1). We have noted the increase of lawlessness and sin as it is described in this book. We have traced God's wrath poured out against sin and unrepentant sinners during seven years of great tribulation. We have seen the glorious second coming of Christ to earth to put down sin and Satan and to establish His righteous kingdom for 1000 years. We have seen the Great White Throne judgment where ungodly men shall be sentenced to separation from God forever. We have seen the indescribable glory of our eternal home.
And now the book of Revelation is drawing to a close. The conclusion begins in Revelation 22:6 with a word about the reliability of this prophecy.
1. The Reliability of this Prophecy
We at once recognize that this is the conclusion of the book by the similarity to the introduction. Let's look at both passages so we can see them together.
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants--things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near" (Revelation 1:1-3).
"Then he said to me, 'These words are faithful and true.' And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. 'Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book'" (Revelation 22:6-7).
Jesus says to John that the words of this prophecy are faithful and true. They are accurate and dependable. You can trust them. They are reliable. They will most certainly come to pass just exactly as they predict. The words come from God Himself. The same Lord God who inspired the prophets of old by His Holy Spirit sent his angel to show John, and us, the things which must shortly be done.
Again we say, as we did when we began this book, that 1900 years hardly seems to be "shortly." But the word could mean several different things. The idea may be that when they occur, they shall occur suddenly. But beyond that, there seems to be the idea that these things could begin at any time. Even in John's day, world events could have taken shape quickly so as to precipitate the Lord's return for His church, followed by the Great Tribulation. They were impending. They were imminent. You say that it couldn't happen in God's day if it required the scientific abilities and technologies of our day. We don't know how all this could happen. God may use something like satellite television or He may use some supernatural means. It could happen at any time by whatever means God chooses. When John put these things in writing, they were imminent; they could happen at any time. If John realized that he could live to see them, how much more should we be ready for them?
That is exactly what verse 7 says. The Lord Jesus is speaking here. In whatever way He might be communicating through the angel who delivered the message to John, it is clear that Christ Himself is speaking. "Behold, I come quickly. Blessed is he that keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
The next event on God's prophetic timetable is the coming of our Lord Jesus to the air to rapture His own, to catch them away from this earth and take them to heavenly glory. It can happen at any time. The message to every age is exactly the same. "Behold, I come quickly."
We need to be ready. We need to be living in daily fellowship with Him. We need to be filling our hearts and minds with His Word. We need to be obeying that Word, and sharing it with others. We need particularly to be living in the light of the prophecies in this book. Bible prophecy, far from being just a novelty to satisfy our curiosity concerning the future, ought to be a life-changing force. Our knowledge of what will happen shortly ought to drive us to our Lord for resources we need to live above the rising tide of godlessness, to stand firm against the spirit of Antichrist which even now seeks to capture men's minds, to live in daily fellowship with Him in spite of the attempts of the evil one to divert us, and to witness effectively to a world dying without Christ--and so to be ready for Him when He comes.
What we know ought to make a difference in how we live. And God promises rich blessing for those who let it. "Blessed is he that keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." Some people don't like to read Revelation. But you know, it is one of the few books of the Bible that promise a blessing by studying it.
2. The Response of God's Servant
John is overwhelmed by the magnificence of these revelations given to him by God, and he responds in a very natural way. He falls down before the feet of the angel who showed him these things in an act of humble adoration. The revelation of the Lord Jesus in all His majesty and glory recorded in this book ought to inspire worship in our hearts as well. But worship is not to be directed to any angel. It is to be directed to God alone, and so the angel gently rebukes John for worshipping the wrong person. He insists that he is John's fellow servant, just like the prophets and others who have the responsibility of carrying out the sayings of this book.
Worship God. The study of this book ought to inspire us to worship God. He alone is to be the object of our adoration. I trust that your heart has been drawn to the Lord and to the Lamb as we have opened this book together. May the revelation we have seen of Him capture our full allegiance and inspire heartfelt and enduring adoration.
But while John is still meditating on the glory of the Lord in worship, the angel gives him instructions. "Seal not the words of the prophecy of this book; for the time is at hand" (Revelation 22:10).
Seal not. This is to be an open book. Let everybody read it. God wants us to study it. First, He promises a blessing for studying it, then He says not to seal it but to keep it open. This is the distinct contrast to the command given to the prophet Daniel at the conclusion of his prophetic revelation. "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end" (Daniel 12:4). "And he said, Go thy way, Daniel; for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (Daniel 12:9).
The end times were far off when Daniel wrote. The book had to be sealed to indicate that ages and other prophetic events would intervene between the time of the prophecy and the time of its fulfillment. There were things that had to happen that hadn't happened yet, including the incarnation of Jesus Christ. But the message of the angel to John is, "the time is at hand." The word he used translated "at hand" is engus, meaning "near." It is the word Paul used in Philippians 4:5 when he said, "The Lord is at hand." James used the verb form of the same word in James 5:8 when he said, "...the coming of the Lord draws near." "Near" does not necessarily mean "soon," for almost 2000 years have intervened. It does imply "proximate," this is, "forthcoming," "next in order to follow." In other words, the time for the events of this book to begin is next in order in God's prophetic program. At any given moment, the Lord could come back for His church, and the awful events of the Great Tribulation could commence. The time is at hand.
With that in mind, the angel makes a very unusual statement to John. "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (Revelation 22:11). At first thought this seems like a rather cold and heartless statement, that God really doesn't care about men's spiritual condition. Let them go on as they please; let them ignore the momentous events of this book that are even now impending. But that is not its meaning at all. The idea seems to be rather that when one ignores the message of this book, there is no hope for him. God has told us what he is going to do with this sinful world. He warns us that He is about to begin. If we will heed His warning and prepare our hearts, then we shall enjoy eternal righteousness and holiness in His presence. If we ignore His warning, and go on in our sinful ways, then we shall suffer that sin and its penalty forever.
And just to be sure we understand the seriousness of the matter, the Lord Jesus repeats at the end of this section exactly what He said at the end of the first section. "And, behold, I come quickly. And My reward is with Me to give to every man according to his work" (Revelation 22:12).
We are going to see that every section in this passage is concluded with a reminder of the Lord's coming. This is the message John wants ringing in our ears when we finish reading this book: the message that the Lord Jesus could come at any moment. Be prepared. Be watching. Live in daily expectancy of His return.
This particular exhortation is for the benefit of Christians, I believe. He speaks of rewards, "...and my reward is with Me, to give every man according to his work." It's the same thing Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5:10, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad."
When the Lord Jesus returns to the air to take us away to be with Himself at the rapture, the next known event will be our appearance before His judgment seat--but not to determine whether or not we are saved. Only the saved shall be there at this judgment. It will be to evaluate our lives as believers and reward us accordingly. It will be a judgment of the things we did after we became believers--not only a judgment of our actions, but also of our thoughts and motives. And may I remind you again that we shall receive just exactly what we have earned in accord with the deeds done in our body, whether they be good or bad. Just as an unbeliever's works determine the degree of his punishment, so a believer's works determine the degree of his reward. "So run, that you may obtain," encourages the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24. Live a life of Godliness because He's coming soon and His reward is with Him.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ. That's what this book is called. Just as this book began with a glorious revelation of Jesus Christ, so now does it conclude with the same, and with the normal invitation that would issue from a revelation of His person: the invitation to put your trust in Him.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last" (Revelation 22:13).
Jesus Christ is God, the eternal omnipotent God. He existed from eternity past, and He shall exist for eternity to come. That is why He adds the beatitude, the seventh and last in the book of Revelation (see Revelation 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7). The best manuscripts read, "Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14).
How can you wash your robes? The eternal God took upon Himself human flesh and died for your sins. Your sin-blotched garments must be washed white and clean before you are qualified to enter heaven, and there is only one way they can be so cleansed: through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 7:14).
You can wash your robes white right now, by acknowledging your sin, and receiving Christ as your Savior. If you will do it, you will have the right to enter God's heavenly city for eternity, and to eat of the tree of life which is there.
Just as we saw in chapter 21, so again we have those who will enter the city contrasted with those who will not (see Revelation 21:6-8). "For outside are dogs, and sorcerers, and fornicators, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loves and makes a lie" (Revelation 22:15). We're not talking about collies and cocker spaniels here--I don't know where those dogs are going to be. The term "dogs" in Scripture is commonly applied to false teachers. Paul, Peter, and John used the word in that sense.
The point is not that they committed these sins at some time in their lives, but that this is their character. They are people of sinful natures, whose sins have not been washed away by faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus, whether they are these sins or any others. Will you notice the similarity in this list to the one in 21:8? We are talking about the same people. They are merely excluded from heaven in Revelation 22:15. They are suffering in the lake of fire in Revelation 21:8.
The revelation of the Savior continues in verse 16. "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star" (Revelation 22:16).
He is the one who communicated these facts to John, just as we were told in the first verse of the book. He is the root and offspring of David, and so is vitally related to the nation Israel. God does have a future for Israel. He was born King of the Jews; He was crucified King of the Jews, and someday He shall reign as King of the Jews.
But beyond being of the family of David, He is the bright and morning star. For those of us who know Him, He embodies all the beauty of that star that beams brightest at dawn, that brings delight to those who gaze at it. How our hearts long to see Him face to face. John, as a member of the church, the body and bride of Christ, longs to see Him. And the Holy Spirit, who indwells the church, longs for the day of His bodily return for the church. "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let him that hears say, 'Come'" (Revelation 22:17). And here at the end of this section we have another reference to the return of the Lord. We are among those that hear. And certainly if we love Him, our hearts as well cry out to see Him.
The revelation of the Savior concludes with another invitation to trust Him, the last invitation in the Bible. "And let him that is thirsty come, and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17b). God has made eternal salvation so simple. All He asks is that you come to Jesus Christ. If your soul longs for some sort of satisfaction you have not yet found, if the guilt of your sins causes you gnawing fear and uncertainty, come to the Lord Jesus. Trust Him as your Savior. And He will provide you with the water of life, fully satisfying life, abundant life, eternal life.
4. The Restrictions Concerning This Book
The book is about to end. But John is constrained to add a word of warning about tampering with it. This is the Word of God. It came to John from the Lord Jesus Christ. Scribes and scholars might be tempted to change parts of it to suit themselves, but let them take warning. This is not the first warning in the Scriptures about adding to or taking from the Word of God. Let's look at one in Deuteronomy 4:2. "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." This is God's Word. Don't add to it. Don't subtract from it.
Turn over to Deuteronomy 12:32. "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it." This is God's Word. Don't add to it. Don't subtract from it.
Now look at Proverbs 30:5-6. "Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar." Don't add anything to God's Word.
Here again in Revelation is the solemn warning. "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18).
That's a rather frightening promise, isn't it? Having come to understand the awfulness of the plagues in this book, I certainly wouldn't want that curse on my head. Yet how many there have been through the centuries who have dared to add to the Word of God, who have elevated other writings to an equal status with inspired Scripture? God promises punishment for that sin.
But that is not all of the warning. Note the second half: "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, and from the things which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:19). No man who detracts from the Word of God, who denies all of it or parts of it, who takes away from it, could not be genuinely born again, according to this verse--because God is going to blot his name from the Book of Life. He will have no access to the holy city and the tree of life, nor will he enjoy all the blessings we saw in the heavenly city.
And to be sure we remember, Jesus repeats in verse 20, "He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming quickly.'"
The words of the Lord Jesus never had such exciting application as they do right this minute. True believers in every age have accepted that and they've lived their lifetime through with the expectancy that Jesus could come in their lifetime. But I would have to say to you--and I'm not an alarmist nor a spectacularist--but I would have to say to you that from my observation, the circumstances in our world today are more conducive to the beginning that starts these events than ever before in human history.
The world seems to be ready. We see it a continuous march toward a one-world government. We see continuing conflict in the Middle East, where the events of the last days will center and focus. We see a continuing increase in crime and lawlessness, which seems to be paving the way for the lawless one, the Antichrist. We see a continuing march toward unified religion: a one-world church, a humanistic religion, a religion of man which could unite the religious organizations of the world.
We see on one hand religious apostasy, a falling away from the true faith--a Biblical faith--that was once for all delivered unto the saints. This falling away shall pave the way for the great world church in the end times. On the other hand, we see efforts being intensified to reach every tribe and nation on earth. We see little pockets of revival breaking out in different places in God's world as if God is saying to us, "Reach everyone you can because the time is short." There are so many things that point to it. It could happen in our generation. As a matter of fact, if I understand the words of Scripture clearly, it could happen today.
Are You Ready?
Are you ready? Do you really want it to happen today? I surely do. I would cry out with John, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus. And the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."