As John begins to wrap up his work, he brings to a close many of the themes he introduced in his prologue (Rev 1:1-8). He has not only been told what to say, but shown by an angel “what must soon take place . . . for the time is near” (22:6, 8, 10; 1:1-2 ESV). But the Revelation does not belong to John as a matter of authorship, for the One who gave it is himself “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (22:13; 1:8)—the book is in truth, “The revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1). And so John, in both his first and final benedictions, points out the blessings that come to those who read and heed the message of their Savior:
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. . . . Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book. . . . Blessed are those who [do his commandments], so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. (Rev 1:3; 22:7, 14; see ESV margin)
The readers of Revelation then watch as each of the main actors in the drama leave the stage for the last time: first the angel (Rev 22:6-11), then the Lord Jesus (22:12-17), and then John himself (22:18-21). As the angel departs, he reemphasizes the immediacy of what he has shown the apostle: “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (22:10). So near, in fact, that for many in John’s day it may already be too late to repent: “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy” (Rev 22:11; see Dan 12:4, 9, 10). Many had seen the plagues God wrought throughout history, but failed to perceive the power behind them, and so they too would be swept up in the destruction (9:20-21; Rom 1:18-23).
It may be at this point that the book of Revelation has much more to do with you than you think. Consider the list Jesus himself gives of those who live apart from God for eternity: they are “the dogs [male cult prostitutes; Deu 23:17-18] and sorcerers and [fornicators] and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev 22:15). But his list is not exhaustive; Paul tells us neither adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers or swindlers “will inherit the kingdom of God” (1Co 6:9-10).
But the good news of Christ is not that we must (literally or figuratively) sleep in the bed we have made; it is that through his grace, we have the opportunity to turn to him in obedient faith (Rev 22:14) for the cleansing only he can bring. As Paul continues in the next verse, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God” (1Co 6:11). Every saint has a past they’re not proud of, but in Christ God has a future prepared for every man, woman, and child who turns to him.
And as John tells us, that turning begins by accepting Jesus and everything he has said as the trustworthy, true, and sufficient revelation of God to man: “‘These words are trustworthy and true.’ . . . I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:6, 18-19). God’s word is spoken in creation (Gen 1:3), it lives in our hearts (Deu 6:6), it shapes our lives (Deu 32:47), and it will never pass away (Mat 24:35). The Scriptures are alone sufficient for all things because Jesus is alone sufficient for all things; he is the Word through whom all things were made, and through whom we have eternal life (2Ti 3:16-17; John 1:1; 6:68).
In the Bible, this obedient faith and heartfelt repentance receives the Spirit of Christ in the waters of baptism (Mat 28:18-20; Acts 2:36-38). Notice how John weaves together the themes of the Spirit, the church, faith, baptism, and grace: “The 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 desires take the water of life without price” (Rev 22:17, emphasis added). This is that moment the Christians at Corinth had been washed of their sins, made holy in Christ’s blood, and declared innocent through God’s own righteousness (see Acts 22:16; Rom 3:21-26; 6:1-7). At the moment of our baptism we are clothed with Christ’s royal robes (Rev 1:6, 9; 5:10; 14:1-5; Gal 3:26-29), we are sealed with the name of his Spirit (Rev 7:1-4; 2Co 1:22; Mat 28:19), we embody the power of his resurrection (Rev 11:1-14; Rom 6:1-7; 1Pe 3:21), and we become his bride (Rev 19:7; 21:2, 9; Eph 5:25-27).
But there is also a message here for the church as “the wife of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9). We Christians must not only do a better job of reaching out to the lost with the gospel call, we must also recommit ourselves to praying for the coming of Christ himself. “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come Lord Jesus” (22:20)! For many of us, these words may be hard to pray. We love our family, we love our neighbors, we love our country, we may even love the world in the worst way (1Jo 2:15-17). So perhaps the last thing that comes to mind when we bow our heads is, “Lord, please come and judge the unbelievers and take me away!”
For John, though, that same love of family, of neighbor, and of place, was what helped him suffer for the sake of the kingdom while he proclaimed God’s word to “many peoples and nations and languages and kings” (Rev 1:9; 10:11). The immediacy of Christ’s coming gave John both hope in the midst of suffering and purpose in his mission to the lost. For eternal victory is reserved for those who “have conquered . . . by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (12:11).
The message of Revelation is really only confusing because we have made it so. Rather than seeing it from the perspective of the seven churches (Rev 1-3) and from God’s own throne room (Rev 4-5), man has made it about us in the worst possible way. And because of that, we have overlooked what Revelation actually does say about our situation. Whether we are lost or saved, whether we are comforted or afflicted, whether we have or have not, we need to understand Revelation as a description of the life we are called to lead between the first and second comings of Christ. As Ray Summers writes,
This message is particularly relevant today — the call to choose eternal rather than the temporal; to resist temptation, to refuse compromise with pagan secularism, to place the claim of conscience above all demands against it; to cherish the confidence of ultimate victory for the kingdom of God, not only in the age of Domitian but also in every other chaotic period of world history . . . . Find the greatest enemy of Christ (whether corrupt religion, godless government, social anarchy, or any other) . . . and see its eventual failure as the living Christ, the redeeming Lamb, marches to victory over chaotic world conditions—Worthy Is the Lamb. (Summers 93, 208)
The message of Revelation is the message of redemption. The Spirit and the Bride still say, “Come.” The ones who hear say, “Come.” And those who belong to the Christ say, “Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with [all the saints]. Amen” (Rev 22:21; see ESV margin).
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