PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|The New Heaven and the New Earth||All Things Made New||Vision of the New Jerusalem||The New Heaven and the New Earth||The Heavenly Jerusalem|
|The New Jerusalem||The New Jerusalem||The Measuring of the City||The New Jerusalem||The Messianic Jerusalem|
|21:15-21||The Glory of the New Jerusalem||21:15-21||21:15-22:2|
|The River and the Tree of Life|
|The River of Life|
|The Coming of Christ||The Time is Near||Epilogue||The Coming of Jesus|
|22:8-11||Jesus Testifies to the Churches||22:8-9||22:8-11||22:8-9|
|I Am Coming Quickly|
READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
A. Revelation 20-22 form the seventh literary unit. Revelation 21-22 conclude the actions of God in human history and initiate the eternal kingdom (cf. Dan. 7:13-14,27; I Cor. 15:27-28). Revelation 22:6-21 is the conclusion to the entire book.
B. Almost every element in these two chapters is an allusion to (1) Genesis 1-3; (2) Psalm 110; or (3) intertestamental Jewish apocalyptic literature.
C. There has been much discussion about the unusual elements in this last section.
1. mention of "the nations" – 21:14; 22:2
2. mention of "The kings of the earth" – 21:24,26
3. mention of the "unclean outside the city" – 21:27; 22:15
There seem to be several possible reasons for including these elements:
1. John is alluding to OT prophecies. Like the parables in the Gospels, interpreters are not meant to literally interpret the details, but identify the major emphases.
2. John's purpose is to show the ultimate distinctions between the saved and the lost.
3. The "nations" mentioned in this section are used in a general ethnic sense like "the people of God" in 5:9; 7:9; 21:14 and 22:5.
4. Because of these elements some have seen the saved Jews inside the city and the saved Gentiles outside the city. But, because of Galatians 3:29 and Ephesians 2:11-3:13, this simply cannot be a viable theological option.
5. I think there is a recapitulation between chapters 17-19 and 20-22. This explains the recurrent themes throughout this section.
D. There is one more series of the "seven" found in these two chapters. These are the things that are no more
1. The sea – 21:1
2. Death – 21:4
3. Mourning – 21:4
4. Weeping – 21:4
5. Pain – 21:4
6. Night – 21:25
7. The curse – 22:3
E. As the judgments associated with the Second Coming of Christ are depicted in dramatic fashion in three visions (seals, trumpets, and bowls), possibly heaven is depicted in dramatic fashion in three OT metaphors:
1. The Tabernacle, 21:1-8
2. New Jerusalem, 21:9-26
3. The Garden of Eden, 22:1-5
This may also be true of the Prologue (1:1-8), which emphasizes
1. The immediacy of Christ's return
2. The faithfulness of God's words
3. The needed holiness of God's people
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 21:1-4
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."
21:1 "Then I saw" There is a span of some period of time, how much time depends on your interpretation of "the thousand years" of chapter 20.
▣ "a new heaven and a new earth" This Greek term for "new," kainos, emphasizes quality, not chronological time (cf. 2:17; 3:12; 5:9; 14:3; 21:1,2,5). This was an OT theme, a recreated earth (cf. Isa. 11:6-9; 65:17; 66:22; see also Rom. 8:18-25; II Pet. 3:10,12). All believers are citizens of this new Kingdom (cf. Phil. 3:20; Eph. 2:19; Heb. 12:23) and share this new creation (cf. II Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 4:24). A parallel theological concept would be the "city of God not made with human hands" of Heb. 11:10,16; 12:22; 13:14.
The new creation will be like the initial creation. Heaven may be a restored Garden of Eden. God, mankind, the animals, and all natural creation will fellowship and rejoice again! The Bible begins with God, mankind, and the animals in perfect fellowship in a garden (cf. Genesis 1-2). The Bible ends with God and mankind in a garden setting (cf. Revelation 21-22) and by prophetic implication, the animals (cf. Isa. 11:6-8; 65:25). Believers are not going to heaven; the new Jerusalem is coming down out of heaven (cf. Rev. 21:2) and coming to a recreated and cleansed earth. God and mankind are together again (cf. Gen. 3:15; Isa. 7:14; 8:8,10; Rev. 21:3).
▣ "for the first heaven and the first earth passed away" There will be a restored creation (cf. Acts 3:21; Rom. 8:21; Col. 1:20), no longer affected by sin (cf. II Baruch 37:6; II Pet. 3:10-12; Rev. 20:11).
▣ "and there is no longer any sea" There have been several interpretations of this phrase (see note at 4:6):
1. because the sea is mentioned in 4:6 as a way of speaking of the holiness of God which separates Him from sinful mankind, some have seen its exclusion here as the restoration of perfect fellowship between God and humanity
2. because in Rev. 20:13 the sea seemed to be one of the three holding places of the dead, it is a way of saying that all of the dead have been assigned to one of two eternal destinies
3. because the first beast in Rev. 13:1 comes out of the sea and there is an allusion to the sea as referring to evil people in Isa. 57:20, it is possibly the wicked that are no more
4. because Rev. 17:15 is a quote from Isa. 17:12-13 where the waters stand for people, many assert that it refers to the wicked nations, like Psalm 2. I like #1 best.
21:2 "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem" Jerusalem in Palestine is called "the holy city" in Isa. 52:1 (cf. Isa. 48:2; 64:10; Dan. 9:24; Neh. 11:1). This new Jerusalem is first mentioned in 3:12 and alluded to in Heb. 11:10; 12:22; and 13:14. This shows how John took OT prophecies, terms, titles, and promises and applied them to the new people of God. This city is not the old covenant Jerusalem in Palestine as some millennialists have assumed, but the new covenant heavenly Jerusalem.
▣ "coming down out of heaven" There are not two descendings, one in v. 2 and another in v. 10. Apocalyptic language is very fluid and should not be structured chronologically, logically, or literally.
▣ "made ready as a bride adorned for her husband" This is an allusion to Isa. 61:10 (cf. 19:7). In these last chapters several metaphors are used to describe the people of God: (1) a bride (cf. 19:7; 21:2); (2) a wedding guest (cf. 19:9); and (3) a city (cf. 21:22,9; 22:2).
The OT metaphor of YHWH (cf. especially Hosea 1-3) as husband and Israel as bride is the background of the image of the Church as the bride of Christ (cf. Eph. 5:21-31).
21:3 "'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men'" This Greek phrase repeats the OT promises of God dwelling with men in three different ways:
1. it is an allusion to the tabernacle, a symbol of YHWH's presence
2. "He shall dwell among them" is what the term "Immanuel" of Isa. 7:14 (cf. John 1:14) meant
3. "they shall be His people" is covenant terminology; now all believing people (cf. John 10:16) are God's chosen people (cf. Lev. 26:11-12; Ezek. 37:23,27).
21:4 "and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes" This is an allusion to Isa. 25:8 (cf. Matt. 5:4; 7:17). The new age will be a time of joy, peace, wholeness, and praise!
▣ "and there will no longer be any death" This last enemy (cf. Rev. 20:14) will be destroyed (cf. I Cor. 15:26). Believers will have their new bodies like Christ's resurrected body (cf. I Cor. 15:50-57; II Cor. 3:18; I Thess. 4:15-16; I John 3:2).
▣ "there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain" This is an allusion to Isa. 65:19 and also reflects Isa. 35:10.
▣ "the first things have passed away" The first created order was affected by the Fall (cf. Gen. 3; 6:5,1-12,13), but a new order will be unaffected by sin (cf. Heb. 12:27-28).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 21:5-8
5And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." 6Then He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. 8But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
21:5 "And He who sits on the throne said" God speaks several times in Revelation (cf. 1:8 and probably 16:1,17). There seems to be a purposeful ambiguity as to who sits on the throne, YHWH or Messiah (cf. 22:3). See fuller note at 20:11. As the first creation was brought into being by God's (i.e., Father through the Son) spoken word (cf. Gen. 1:3,6,9,14,20,24; Ps. 33:6,9), so also will His new creation.
▣ "I am making all things new" This is the promise of Isaiah 60-66. This refers to the new age of the Spirit, the age of the Messiah, the age of righteousness, which Jesus inaugurated at His first coming and will consummate at His second coming. This is a metaphor for the certainty of God's will becoming a reality (cf. 1:19; 14:13; 17:17; 19:9).
▣ "these words are faithful and true" This phrase was used to describe (1) Jesus, cf. 1:5; 3:7,14; 19:11; (2) Jesus' followers, cf. 17:14; and (3) God's word cf. 19:9; 21:5; 22:6. Often God is described as "righteous and true" (cf. 15:3; 16:7; 19:2). The Hebrew thought behind this Greek phrase would imply trustworthiness.
21:6 "It is done" This is a perfect active indicative. This could relate to the certainty of God's promises regarding both wrath for unbelievers and deliverance for believers (cf. 6:11; 10:7; 16:17), or the immanence of God's promises (cf. 1:1,3; 3:11; 10:6; 12:12; 22:7,10).
▣ "I am the Alpha and the Omega" This is used of God in Isa. 44:6 and Rev. 1:8; however, it is extremely significant that this phrase, although a title for the Father, is also used for the Messiah in 1:17 and 22:13. It is another example of the NT authors applying titles for God to the Son.
There are several inclusive types of phrases which describe God's eternal, unique existence:
1. "the first and the last," cf. Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13
2. "beginning and the end," cf. 21:6; 22:13; and KJV 1:8
3. "who is and who was and who is to come," cf. 1:4,8; 4:8
All of these are related to God's covenant name, YHWH, which is the causative form of the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14; Isa. 43:10,13; 46:41; Ps. 90:2; 93:2).
▣ "I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost" The OT allusion is to Isaiah 55. The invitation is for everyone and it is absolutely free (cf. Rom. 3:24; 6:23; Eph. 2:8)! What a tremendous invitation from God Himself of the availability of forgiveness. Mankind's redemption has always been central in the heart and mind of God (cf. 9:20-21; 14:6-7; 16:9,11; 22:17).
In the OT springs of water are often associated with God providing for the spiritual needs of mankind (cf. Ps. 36:9; Isa. 12:3; 44:3; 49:10; Jer. 2:13; 17:13; also John 4:10).
21:7 "He who overcomes" This is a present active participle, which is a continuing reference to the doctrine of perseverance amidst a time of terrible persecution. This phrase occurs throughout the letters to the seven churches (cf. 2:7,11,17,26; 3:3,5,12,21), which link the opening chapters of the Revelation to the conclusion. See Special Topic on Perseverance at 2:2.
▣ "will inherit these things" The reward of inheritance in v. 7 (cf. I Pet. 1:4,5; Rom. 8:17) and the warnings in v. 8 are against the backdrop of potential apostasy in an age of persecution. The series of wicked apostates (cf. v. 8) is somewhat similar to the one found in I Cor. 6:9-10.
▣ "and I will be his God and he will be My son" These are covenant phrases (cf. v. 3) which are so common in the OT (cf. Exod. 6:7; 29:45,46; Lev. 26:11-12; II Sam. 7:14; Ps. 89:26-27; Jer. 7:23; 11:4; 30:22; 33:38; Ezek. 11:20; 14:11; 34:30; 36:28; Hos. 2:23; Zech. 8:8; 13:9) and are also used in the NT (cf. II Cor. 6:16,18).
The concept of covenant is probably the unifying theme of the Bible. Mankind has been alienated from God (cf. Isa. 53:6; Rom. 3:9-18,23). Mankind cannot find God. God reaches out for us; God is pursuing us! His offer of reunion is one of covenant. He initiates (cf. Jer. 31:3; John 6:44,65); He sets the agenda, but mankind must respond in specified ways. These ways have varied in content (Adam/Eve, forbidden tree; Noah, a boat; Abraham, a land, a son; Moses, a law code), but the form of acceptance, faith in the faithfulness of God, remains the same (cf. Romans 4). The Old Covenant had requirements; so does the New (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16,19; 20:21). Mankind must respond both initially and continually in faith, repentance, obedience, service, worship, and perseverance.
See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SON OF GOD at 2:18.
21:8 It is unusual to find this series of sins when judgment has already occurred and the wicked have supposedly been removed (by the victory of Jesus at the Second Coming, cf. 19:5-21 and the White Throne, cf. 20:11-15). This is not to say that some believers have not committed these sins but that their lives are not characterized by these sins (cf. I John 3:6,9). This seems to be a literary technique to show the eternal difference between the saved and the lost or an aspect of apocalyptic drama (repeated for emphasis).
▣ "the lake that burns with fire. . .the second death" Obviously the lake of fire is synonymous with the second death or our concept of Hell, which Jesus called Gehenna (a Greek term which does not appear in Revelation). See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at 1:18.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 21:9-14
9Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 11having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. 12sup>It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. 13There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. 14And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
21:9 "one of the seven angels" This is the exact description of the angel in 15:1,6-8; 16:1; and 17:1 who poured out the seven bowls. There is a tradition in rabbinical Judaism that there are seven Angels of the Presence who serve God. Here, there is one angel for each plague.
21:10 "And he carried me away in the Spirit" This is a literary technique to show the different visions (cf. 1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10).
▣ "to a great and high mountain" Many believe that this is in direct antithesis to the great whore who was on the plain. However, John alludes to many OT passages, so here he may be referring to the mysterious northern mountain where God lives (cf. Ezek. 40:2; Isa. 2:2; 14:13; Mic. 4:1; I Enoch 18:8; 25:3). It is even possible that it alludes to Satan's temptation of Jesus in Matt. 4:8.
▣ "and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven" This is heavenly Jerusalem, a metaphor of God's presence (cf. v. 2). The earthly sinful Jerusalem was discussed in 11:1-13. The capital city of David has become universalized into the end-time abode of all of God's people (cf. John 14:2-3).
21:11 "Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper" The city (cf. vv. 11-27) is described in very beautiful, physical, and moral terms. Like all of the book of Revelation, this chapter is symbolic. Humans' sinful, finite minds simply cannot comprehend the ultimate joy and glory of the presence of God (cf. I Cor. 2:9). Literal jewels and a fantastic ancient city may be good metaphors, but they are not ultimate reality! Heaven is really both a person (Jesus), and a place (for fellowship with the Triune God).
21:12 "with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels" This is an allusion to Ezek. 48:31-34. The number "twelve" occurs again and again in the remainder of this chapter and the first few verses of chapter 22. It is the biblical numerical symbol of organization (twelve months, twelve tribes, or twelve apostles) or of God's people. See Special Topic: the Number Twelve at 7:4.
▣ "and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel" The list of the twelve tribes in Rev. 7:5-8 is slightly altered to show their symbolic nature. Here, it is very important to note that the OT people of God, described as gates in v. 12, are united with the NT people of God, described as foundation stones, in v. 14. There has always been only one people of God, but this mystery was not clearly revealed until the gospel (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).
21:14 "the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" All of these metaphors allude to Ezekiel's end-time temple (cf. Ezekiel 40-48).
Many commentators have asserted that this verse shows that the author cannot have been John the Apostle. However, Paul uses a similar phrase in Eph. 2:20.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 21:15-21
15The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. 16The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. 17And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. 18The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; 20the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. 21And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
21:15 "The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city" Measuring was used earlier to show God's protection and care (cf. 11:1-2; Jer. 31:38-40; Zech. 2:1-5). The end-time prophecy of Ezekiel 40 also involves measuring.
21:16 "The city is laid out as a square" This may be an allusion to the Holy of Holies (cf. I Kgs. 6:19-20), which was also a perfect cube.
The reason that there is no temple (cf. 21:22) is because God Himself will be the temple. This may be John's way of showing that OT prophecies like Ezekiel 40-48 are symbolic or have been fulfilled in a different way.
▣ "fifteen hundred miles" Literally this is "twelve thousand stadia—one hundred and forty-four cubits." These are multiples of twelve; they do not refer to a literal city, but perfect measurements showing that God is providing the unique atmosphere for permanent joy and fellowship between Himself and His people (cf. John 14:2-3) in a perfect cube symbol like the OT "Holy of Holies."
21:18-20 "The material of the wall was" This series of stones may be identified with
1. the stones on the ephod of the High Priest (cf. Exod. 28:17-20), however, the order and names are different. This was not unusual because the names of ancient stones changed from country to country and century to century.
2. the jeweled city of Isa. 54:11-17
3. the splendor of the king of Tyre (or Satan) conveyed in royal (or heavenly) jewels in Ezek. 28:12-13
4. the Zodiac, but presented in reverse order (Philo and Josephus)
21:21 "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl" This is symbolic. It goes back to the rabbinical traditions of the Talmud, "the Sanhedrin" 100a, which states that the end-time city gates would be made out of a single stone 45 feet tall.
▣ "And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass" This is symbolic. We must realize that God's city is not simply human opulence, but symbolizes the inestimable value and purity of God's presence.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 21:22-27
22I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; 26and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
21:22 "I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple" This is highly unusual when compared with the numerous passages in Revelation where a heavenly temple is depicted (cf. 3:12; 7:15; 11:1,2,9,19; 14:15,17; 15:5,6,8; 16:1,17). This same concept of a temple in heaven is revealed in the book of Hebrews (cf. 8:2-5; 9:11,23-24.)
▣ "the Lord God the Almighty" Here again are the three most used OT titles for God (YHWH, Elohim and El Shaddai) used in combination (cf. 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; see Special Topic: Names for Deity at 1:8) to show the majesty of Him who sits on the throne. Notice His close connection with the Lamb of Revelation 5. They reign together and there is only one throne (cf. 22:1,3).
21:23 "the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb" The glory of the Father and Son is all the illumination that is needed (cf. Ps. 36:9; Isa. 24:23; 60:19-20; Zech. 14:6-7 and also Rev. 22:5). This is possibly a way of emphatically rejecting astral worship.
21:24 "The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it" It is very difficult to understand why "the nations" are still mentioned in this post-White Throne section of Revelation. It may simply be an OT allusion to Ps. 72:10-11; Isa. 49:23; 60:3,15,16. It is not literal, but literary! It represents all the peoples from all the tribes and nations who make up the people of God.
21:25 "In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed" This is an allusion to Isa. 60:11 or Zech. 14:6-7. The concept of darkness in the Bible is often a metaphor for evil (cf. Matt. 6:23; 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). Light and dark were especially important symbolic theological contrasts for John (cf. John 1:4-5, 7-9; 3:19-21; 8:12; 11:9-10; 12:35-36,46; I John 1:5-7; 2:8-11). The gates never close symbolizing openness, availability, no fear of attack.
21:27 "nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying" This is an allusion to Isa. 52:1; Ezek. 44:9; Zech. 14:21 which seems to be a literary technique showing the ultimate difference between God's people and those of the evil one (cf. v. 24). The new age is characterized in the lighter, open city, a city of complete righteousness. There is no evil present!
▣ "written in the Lamb's book of life" This metaphorical phrase "the book of life" is also found in Rev. 20:12-15, where two books are mentioned:
1. the book of life, which is made up of the names of God's people (cf. Exod. 32:32; Ps. 69:28; Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1; Luke 10:20; Phil. 4:3; Heb. 12:23; Rev 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27)
2. the book of deeds or remembrances which records both wicked and righteous deeds (cf. Ps. 56:8, 139:16; Isa. 65:6; Mal. 3:16)
These are metaphorical of God's perfect memory.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:1-5
1Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.
22:1 "Then he showed me a river of the water of life" There should be no chapter division here. The concept of a river flowing from the presence of God is an allusion to the OT (cf. Ps. 46:4; Ezek. 47:1-12; Joel 3:18; Zech. 14:8). Water is a common metaphor referring to God abundantly supplying the spiritual needs of His people (cf. Isa. 12:3; 44:3; 49:10; Jer. 2:13; 17:13; John 4:10-15; Rev. 7:17; 21:6). Only John uses the term life (zoē) to refer to resurrection life.
▣ "clear as crystal" This speaks of the purity of God's heavenly city (cf. 4:6).
▣ "coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb" There is only one throne (cf. 21:22). This is anthropomorphic language from ancient eastern royal court imagery. God is an eternal spirit; He does not sit on a physical throne. It is a metaphor of His sovereign rule.
22:2 "On either side of the river was the tree of life" This same tree is alluded to in Rev. 2:7. This whole vision is from Ezek. 47:1-12 (here, v. 12). There are many references in Jewish apocalyptic literature to the tree of life found in Gen. 2:9; 3:22 (cf. Enoch 25:2ff; IV Esdras 7:53; 8:52; II Enoch 8:3). That which Adam forfeited from God (fellowship, knowledge, eternal life), God now freely gives to redeemed mankind (cf. Phil. 2:6).
▣ "bearing twelve kinds of fruit" See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NUMBER TWELVE at 7:4.
▣ "and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" This is highly unusual because there should be nothing left to cure! However, this may simply be a quote from Ezek. 47:12; possibly the recurrent theological theme is that God wants all ("the nations") to be saved (cf. Isa. 2:3-4; 45:22-25; 60:3; 66:18-19; Zech. 2:11; 8:20-23).
22:3 "There shall no longer be any curse" This is an allusion to Gen. 3:17 and Zech. 14:11. The new age has come and the curse of the OT (cf. Eph. 2:15-16; Col. 2:14) has been removed by Christ's death (cf. Rom. 8:18,25; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 2:13,16). In Revelation the crystal sea of 4:6 symbolizes God's transcendent holiness. Fallen mankind could not approach God, but now the sea is removed (cf. 21:1).
It is possible that the term represents the Hebrew charam, meaning destroyed or totally destroyed (cf. Zech. 14:11). If this is the OT allusion, then this verse refers to the security of the new Jerusalem and would be similar to the promises of I Pet. 1:4-5.
▣ Notice the unusual grammatical features of this phrase. There is one throne, but two on it (i.e., God and the Lamb). However, the servants serve "Him" (singular). This involves the mystery of monotheism and incarnation. One God, but also a divine Messiah (and a personal Holy Spirit).
22:4 "they will see His face" In the OT to see God meant death. Moses was not allowed to see God's face (cf. Exod. 33:20). Seeing God or dwelling with God are rewards to those who are pure (cf. Ps. 11:7; 16:11; 17:15; 140:13; Matt. 5:8). The original intimacy intended in Eden has been fully restored (cf. Ps. 42:1-2)!
▣ "and His name will be on their foreheads" As Satan marked his followers (cf. 13:1-17; 14:9; 20:4), God marked His (cf. 3:12; 7:3; 14:1). It was a symbol of ownership and security. See note at 7:2.
22:5 "there shall no longer be any night" (cf. 21:23-25; Isa. 60:19-20; Zech. 14:7)
▣ "and they will reign forever and ever" Who rules with Christ during the millennial kingdom? Chapter 20:4-5 suggests only Christians who lived during the end-time persecution, but Rev. 2:26 and 5:10 imply that all saints will rule with Christ on the earth. There is no clear differentiation in the Bible between the eternal reign (cf. Dan. 2:44; 7:14,18; Isa. 9:7; Luke 1:33; II Pet. 1:11; Rev. 11:15) and the millennial reign. It is hermeneutically inappropriate to derive a major doctrine from an apocalyptic passage. This verse implies an eternal reign.
The imagery of God's people experiencing an evil invader, who is totally destroyed by God, is taken from Ezekiel 37-39. John never intended this to be interpreted literally! It is an abuse of authorial intent to turn apocalyptic imagery into historical literalness! Our love for the Bible and our curiosity about the future have caused the modern western church to interpret prophecy and apocalyptic literature in strange and strained ways! See Special Topic: Reigning in the Kingdom of God at 5:10.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:6
6And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true"; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.
22:6 "he said to me" This refers to the angels who had the seven bowls of judgment (cf. 21:9; 22:1,8,9,10).
▣ "these words are faithful and true" This phrase is used to describe
1. Jesus (cf. 1:5; 3:7,14; 19:11)
2. Jesus' followers (cf. 17:14)
3. God's word (cf. 19:9; 21:5; 22:6)
Often God is described as "righteous and true" (cf. 15:3; 16:7; 19:2). The Hebrew behind this phrase implies total trustworthiness.
▣ "The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets" This is possibly:
1. an allusion to 19:10
2. a reference to the inspiration of the OT (cf. II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:20-21)
3. a reference to the inspiration of the NT (cf. II Pet. 3:15-16)
4. a reference to the gospel preachers of John's day
5. a reference to John's book (visions)
The original Greek texts did not have capitalization. Often the translators or interpreters must decide whether "spirit" refers to the Holy Spirit or the human spirit. This text refers to the human spirit (cf. I Cor. 14:32; Heb. 12:9).
▣ "sent His angel" This is an allusion to 1:1. These closing verses are very similar in their motifs to chapter 1. The traditional personal letter format used in chapter 1 is used again in chapter 22.
▣ "the things which must soon take place" There is a series of allusions to the imminence of the Lord's coming (cf. 1:1,3; 3:11; vv. 6 [twice], 7, 10, 12, and 20). The two-thousand-year delay thus far is somewhat difficult for believers to understand (the delay is revealed in II Thessalonians), but it must be seen that every generation of Christians has the hope of the coming of the Lord in their day. There is a real tension in the NT between the any-moment return of the Lord and some things that must occur first. Believers are to remain faithful and active!
Here is a brief quote on this subject from my commentary on Matthew.
"There is theological paradoxical tension between
1. the any moment return (cf. 24:27,44) and the fact that some events in history must occur
2. the Kingdom as future and the Kingdom as present.
The NT states that some events will occur before the Second Coming.
1. the Gospel preached to the whole world (cf. 24:14: Mark 13:10)
2. the great apostasy (cf. 24:10-13,21; I Tim. 4:1; II Tim. 3:1ff; II Thess. 2:3)
3. the revelation of the "man of sin" (cf. Dan. 7:23-26; 9:24-27; II Thess. 2:3)
4. removal of the one who restrains (cf. II Thess. 2:6-7)
5. Jewish revival (cf. Zech. 12:10; Rom.11)"
Those who believe that there is significant parallelism among the seven literary units of the book also assert that each one of them represents the period between the first and second comings of Christ from different perspectives (e.g., William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors). If this is true then the texts that refer to the imminent coming of Christ (cf. 1:3; 3:11; 22:7,10,12,20) refer to the initiation of these prophecies after the death and resurrection of Christ. The eschatological ball is rolling!
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:7
7"And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book."
22:7 "I am coming quickly" Apparently the angel is quoting Jesus (cf. vv. 12-15). This is stated specifically by Jesus in 22:16. Exactly who speaks in v. 17 and vv. 18-19 is uncertain, but Jesus speaks again in v. 20 and John in v. 21. See Special Topic: Soon Return at 1:3.
▣ "Blessed is he who" This is another of the seven blessings for believers found throughout the book (cf. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14).
▣ "prophecy" This book is a prophecy and must be interpreted in the light of prophetic literature (cf. vv. 9-10,18-19; 1:3; 10:11). This book is not historical narrative! Prophecy always has a conditional element. New Testament eschatological passages reflect OT prophetic insight that viewed the end-time through contemporary occurrences and faith responses. Many scholars believe the apocalyptic genre grew out of Jewish propheticism. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY at 1:3.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:8-9
8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9But he said to me, "Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God."
22:8 This is a highly unusual verse. This is the exact problem that John had in 19:10. Apparently he must have thought that this angel was deity.
22:9 "those who heed the words of this book" Christianity involves an initial decision of repentance, faith, and continuing repentance, faith, obedience, and perseverance! Revelation, written to persecuted Christians, emphasizes perseverance. The temptation for our culture today is not physical persecution, but "dry rot," apathy, practical atheism, materialism, shallow Christianity with all benefits and no responsibility!
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:10-11
10And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy."
22:10 "'Do not seal up" This is exactly opposite of Isa. 8:16; Dan. 8:26 and 12:4,9. The time of prophetic fulfillment has arrived. God's warnings to unbelievers and encouragement to believers is now! The decisive decision is demanded now! The Kingdom is present.
▣ "The time is near" See Special Topic: Soon Return at 1:3.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:12-13
12"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
22:11-12 "to render to every man according to what he has done" This is a recurring theme throughout the Bible (cf. Job 34:11; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; I Cor. 3:8; II Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7-10; II Tim.4:14; I Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12). God will reward those who love Him and live for Him in the midst of this fallen world system (cf. 2:23; 20:12-13). Lives reveal the spiritual reality and vitality of inner faith (cf. Matthew 7). Humans are stewards of the gift of life and will give an account to God!
This is not to imply a "works-righteousness." Mankind is redeemed through the grace of God by means of Christ's death and resurrection and the Spirit's wooing! However, the evidence that one has met God is a changed and changing life of Christlikeness! One's priorities and allocation of resources reveal the heart!
22:11 This is an allusion to Dan. 12:10.
22:12 "I am coming quickly" See Special Topic at 1:3.
22:13 This verse is an allusion to the OT titles for YHWH found in 1:8 and 21:6, but here it refers to Christ. The transfer of these OT titles to Jesus was one way NT authors affirmed His deity. Verse 13 has three such OT titles or phrases which originally described the eternal God (cf. Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12), but now are used for Jesus (cf. 1:17; 2:8).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:14-15
14Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
22:14 "Blessed" This is the last of the seven blessings for believers found in Revelation (cf. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14).
▣ "those who wash their robes" This is a metaphor for trusting in the atonement of Christ (cf. 7:14). Believers are accepted because He was accepted (cf. Eph. 1:6). Believers live because He died. Believers have resurrection life because He lives!
There is a Greek manuscript variant in this phrase.
1. "wash their robes" is in MSS א (fourth century) and A (fifth century), as well as the Vulgate. The UBS4 gives it an "A" rating, meaning "certain."
2. "keep the commandments" is in 046, an uncial MS from the tenth century, minuscule MSS (1 and 94) from the twelfth century, and the Peshitta (Syrian) version.
▣ "they may have the right to the tree of life; and may enter by the gates into the city" These are two metaphors for eternal salvation through Christ. One goes back to Gen. 2:9; 3:22 (cf. Rev. 2:7; 22:2,14,19) and the other to Rev. 21:2,9-22:5.
22:15 "Outside are" This is very difficult to interpret unless it is a metaphor for the lake of fire (cf. 21:8).
▣ "the dogs" This is another strange allusion because there should be no evil people left at this point in the book. In Deut. 23:18 this term refers to male prostitutes of the Canaanite fertility cult. In other parts of the Old and New Testaments it refers to wicked people (cf. Ps. 22:16,20; Matt. 7:6; and Phil. 3:2). Let me quote Robert H. Mounce at this point from his commentary on Revelation in the New International Series:
"The verse does not intend to teach that in the eternal state all manner of wicked men will be living just outside the heavenly city. It simply describes the future with the imagery of the present. The contrast is between the blessedness of the faithful and the fate of the wicked" (p. 394).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:16
16"I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."
22:16 "'I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches" Notice that the term "you" is plural and the allusion to the seven churches of chapters 2-3 is made very specific. The book begins and concludes with the genre of letter, while the visions in between are a combination of prophecy (the end viewed through the lens of the present) and apocalyptic (imaginative imagery).
▣ "My angel" Often the sender is God the Father (cf. 22:6, "His angel"). Here the sender is Jesus ("My angel"). The phrase is also found in 1:1, but the pronoun antecedent is ambiguous.
▣ "the churches" See Special Topic at 1:4.
▣ "I am the root and the descendant of David" There are many allusions to the Davidic line of the Messiah in the OT (cf. II Sam. 7:12-16 and Isa. 11:1,10) and in the NT (cf. Matt. 1:1; 9:17; 15:22; 21:9; Rom. 1:3; II Tim. 2:8 Rev. 5:5). Jesus is the fulfillment of all OT prophecies.
▣ "the bright and morning star" This is a Messianic title (cf. Numbers 24:17 or Matt. 2:2 or II Pet. 1:19). This may be a play on Isa. 14:12 where a similar phrase referred to Satan. In Revelation evil often is a parody of the Triune God.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:17
17The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
22:17 "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come'" Although there are different interpretations of this passage it seems from the context that this must be a gospel invitation to everyone who senses a need and will respond to God's offer in Christ. This has continued to be the focus of the book of the Revelation, not only to encourage the saved but to convict and encourage the lost to respond to God's free offer in His Son. The four-fold use of "come" (all four refer to the lost and not to Christ's second coming); the recurrent use of "the one who"; and the tremendous good news that it is without cost (cf. Isaiah 55) should be an encouragement to everyone and anyone to respond! This seems to me to be a flashback to those who were living in John's day (and every day). This may explain the unusual elements (the presence of the lost after Judgment Day) in Revelation 19-22. There are several flashbacks to John's own day, which may be explained by parallelism among the seven literary units of Revelation. He wrote with his "beloved children" in Ephesus in mind (cf. I, II, and III John).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:18-19
18I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.
22:18-19 These verses are obviously related to the first hearers of the message as well as all future readers/hearers of this book. It is a common literary practice of the OT to put severe warnings addressed to those who might be tempted to tamper with God's word (cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32). This was not meant to be taken literally, but it is a very strong Oriental overstatement of the seriousness of altering God's message. This does not refer to believing interpreters or scribes who pray earnestly and seek God's will, but according to Ireneaus in his Contra-Heresies, 30:12, it referred to false teachers who add, change, or delete the words of Scripture, which is the thrust of this passage. Remember that we cannot proof-text one verse to establish a doctrine which goes against other clear teachings of Scripture.
▣ "if. . .if" These are both third class conditional sentences which denote potential action.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:20
20He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
22:20 "I am coming quickly" The immediacy of the end, of God's coming in judgment are characteristics of Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature. This same theme is seen in Matt. 13:34-36; 24:43; 25:1-13; Luke 12:29; I Thess. 5:2,4; II Pet. 3:10. In light of a 2000 year delay this must be understood in an existential, not temporal fashion. He is coming! Live ready. See Special Topic at 1:3.
▣ "Come, Lord Jesus" This is the Aramaic phrase, Maranatha (cf. I Cor. 16:22). It is possible to interpret this in several ways:
1. if maranatha, then it is "Our Lord has come"
2. marana tha, then it is "Our Lord, Come!"
Number 1 fits this context best. We learn from the Didache 10:6 that this was the liturgical closing to the Lord's Supper service in John's day.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:21
21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
22:21 Notice that "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ" being with His people, is the concluding truth presented to an age of persecuted Christians and is the hope of every generation of Christians!
This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.
1. Are believers going to heaven or is heaven returning to a cleansed earth?
2. How is Rev. 21:3 related to the term "Emmanuel"?
3. Why is there no temple in the new Jerusalem (cf. 21:22)?
4. Who are the people mentioned in 21:24?
5. How do believers "keep/heed" the words of this prophecy (cf. 22:7)?
6. If this is heaven who are the evil ones outside the city in 22:15?
7. Why is 22:17 so important?
8. Is 22:18-19 to be taken literally? Could a believer who misinterprets Revelation lose his/her salvation?
9. Three times in chapter 22 it says "I am coming quickly (cf. vv. 7,12,20). Why has it been over 2000 years?
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