Now we come to the concluding chapters of this extraordinary book.
1. REVELATION 19.
i] There are two halves to this chapter; first of all there are the first ten verses in which the church rejoices that her great enemy Babylon, our world system with its hostility to Christ’s gospel, is judged and destroyed by God. “He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants” (v.2). This is the triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ; this is the vindication of the rule of God, and the people shout their Hallelujah. You will scarcely believe this but the word ‘Hallelujah’ occurs for the first time in the Bible at this point. Its Hebrew equivalent is translated by “Praise the Lord” and that occurs often in the book of psalms, but the word ‘Hallelujah’ is only found four times in the whole Bible and they are all here in these six verses. In other words, here is the original Hallelujah chorus. But the shout is not merely a kind of Amen, but a response to the overthrow of the evil empire. Hallelujah! The Lord has done a great thing.
In the opening three verses the first Hallelujah resounds because of the people’s trust in God. He is straight and fair in all his judgments. There are no evil motives in his condemnation of Babylon. He has taken every factor into consideration and yet he has condemned her. The martyrs have been crying for vindication and it has finally come. The second Hallelujah in verse three is motivated by the assurance that this is no temporary victory. There’ll never come a time when again the great dragon will burst forth and wreak havoc on God’s creation. The beast is destroyed once and for all and its smoke goes up for ever and ever and ever. The third Hallelujah is sung by the hosts of heaven: “Amen! Hallelujah” (v.4) and at this acclamation the Lord Jesus speaks up and exhorts them not to stop their worship, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” (v.5). So the whole choir in heaven, not just the 24 elders and the living creatures, raise their voices and sing their praise in anticipation of the wonderful wedding that soon will take place. The final Hallelujah is the most glorious of all, and John tells us that it “sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder” (v.6). Then it bursts forth; let us give God glory, because the climax of the relationship of Jesus Christ and all his people is at hand. The courtship is over and now the consummation has arrived. It is the bridegroom’s wedding day. All her sufferings are ended; see how beautiful the bride looks in white. The bride makes herself ready (v.7), that is, by the good works which she has been foreordained to do; but even those fine clothes have been given to her (v.8). What a blessing to be there at the wedding supper of the Lamb.
Heaven is compared to a meal. Think of that. What happens at a meal? We enjoy the taste and textures of the different foods, of course, but, we also fellowship, talk, share stories, laugh, delight in one another’s company. There is nothing else in our lives that we do every day that comes closer to reflecting the social and spiritual interaction between men and women than a common meal; heaven is like that. The world has its bizarre notions of what heaven is like – that we become angels, or float about on clouds with wings on our backs – but the Bible stubbornly maintains that heaven is corporeal: an existence much like that which we have here, but without the down-drag of sin.
John’s response to this vision of heaven and the worship of God is to join in. He falls down at the feet of a particularly glorious-looking angel (v. 9), but immediately finds himself rebuked. “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!” (19:10). God alone is to be worshipped. It is never right to worship angels, no matter how glorious. Here at the close of the Bible we are given another reminder of how prone we are to commit idolatry. Our minds are a perpetual factory of idols!
How could John have blundered so badly? Did he think the angel was God, or did he think that angels ought to have been worshipped, or was he so emotionally overwhelmed that he didn’t know what he was doing? Probably the latter. Angels, of course, know a thing or two about worship. The angel’s swift and distressed response is worth noting. “I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers” (v.10). We, just as the angels, are meant to bow before the Lord. When John bowed to the angel, he was robbing God of the glory that was His. False worship, however unintentional, always does that. Just as Paul reacted with a kind of paroxysm at the worship of idols in Athens (Acts 17:16), so the angel reacts here. When Henry Martyn, the Cambridge translator of the Scriptures into Persian discovered a drawing of Jesus bowing in the presence of Mohammed, he turned aside and wept. When some thought he was overcome by the heat, he responded: “No! I could not live if my Saviour was thus dishonoured.” This passage is a lesson to those who sometimes say: “I get nothing out of that kind of worship.” It is not what we ourselves get out of worship that is of primary significance, but what God gets out of it. The test of worship is not our enjoyment of it so much as God’s glory in it.
ii] The second half of the chapter from verses 11-21 describe the final battle and Christ’s conquest of the beast and the false prophet and the kings of the earth. That is why he came into the world, to destroy the works of the devil. The cross and resurrection were like D-Day, the breaching of the power of the enemy in Normandy, when all the allied armies landed ashore successfully and began the steady invasion of the Nazi-held lands. Since the resurrection there has been the spread of Christ’s reign over the world for 2,000 years. Finally came the Nazi defeat and the surrender and that was V.E Day, Victory over Europe Day, when we had bonfires and street celebrations. The success of D-Day guaranteed VE Day’s triumph. So Christ’s victory over principalities and powers on Golgotha and his resurrection was the assurance of this final triumph.
He is no longer sitting on a donkey but on a white horse (v.11), symbolic of a leadership of purity, righteousness, and truth. He is called “faithful and true” (a similar phrase in the plural occurs 21:5 and 22:6). He comes to judge and to make war. “With justice he judges” (v.11) is a favourite expression of the Psalms (Psa. 9:2, 9; 71:2; 95:13; 97:9). His eyes are “like blazing fire” (v.12), an expression we have seen twice before (1:14; 2:18). Its allusion is a verse in Daniel (Dan.10:6) where the Son of Man’s eyes are likewise portrayed. It is a figure of judgment. His head bears many crowns. The dragon and the beast are said to wear crowns, too, but in parody of their status (12:3; 13:1). Christ alone is the true king. Christians, too will wear crowns, showing their identification with the Saviour-King (2;10; 3:11; 4;4).
The secret name which the rider bears, known only to himself (19:12), seems to allude to Isaiah 62:2-3, coming as it does before the memorable picture of the blood-stained warrior from Bozrah (Isa. 63:1-3). It has been suggested that the secret name which Christ bears is that of the Hebrew name of God, commonly translated Jehovah and recently Yahweh. One recent hymn book is so sure what the correct pronunciation is that it has banned any hymns containing the name ‘Jehovah’! We all agree that the name was considered so holy that the Hebrews refused to pronounce it, but even today, scholars still debate how it should sound (Hebrew vowels were inserted only after the Babylonian exile when the language had largely fallen into neglect). Immediately following the expression “he has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself,” (v.12) Christ is identified in the next verse as, “his name is the Word of God” (v.13), and later as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (v.16; cp. 17:14). Clearly, John is playing with symbolism. His name is known (Word of God) and not known (Jehovah). To those in covenant fellowship, his name is known; “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear.” But to others, those upon whom he comes in judgment, he is not known, certainly not known as the LORD.
Christ is accompanied in this battle by the “armies of heaven” who also ride upon white horses and dressed in white (v.14). These might be angels, but earlier in chapter 17, a similar description of the war of the beast and false prophet against Christ indicates that Christ is accompanied, not by angels, but by the saints: “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers” (17:14).
The end is decisive: “But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh” (vv.20-21).
The description, as 20:10 suggests, is not one of annihilation, but of a conscious endurance of covenantal cursing that lasts for ever. The “fire and brimstone” picks up the judgment theme pronounced upon Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38:22. Those who have been seduced by the false prophet to follow the beast will also endure a similar punishment. It is in keeping with the prediction of Jesus on Mount Olivet: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'” (Matt. 25:41).
2. REVELATION 20.
In this chapter, after the beast, the kings of the earth and the false prophet have already been destroyed, there is but one force confronting the sovereign, reigning Christ and that, of course, is Satan himself. Now John is concerned to show us his final overthrow.
i] Firstly we are told of the binding of Satan. “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time” (vv.1-3). How do we approach this? To say first that this binding is not the final overthrow of Satan. The binding is not the same kind of event as the destruction of the beast and the false prophet. In chapter 19 we see that they are not bound; they are cast into the lake of fire and brimstone and later in this chapter, in verse 10 this is what also happens to Satan. He also is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.
So this binding is a judgment that has already happened to Satan long before his final judgment. There are frequent references in the New Testament to the fact that Satan was being bound and defeated and overthrown by the ministry of our Lord. The strong man, Jesus said, was going to be bound by a stronger one. Jesus casts out demons, and released Satan’s prisoners because he was stronger than Satan. Thus the kingdom of heaven was at hand because the King himself had come.
There was an occasion when certain Greeks turned up anxious to see Christ. Our Lord, confronted by Gentiles who were longing to meet him, said, “Now is the Prince of this world cast out!” Jesus was reflecting on his own death and crucifixion and declaring that as a consequence of pouring out his soul to death the Prince of this world was going to be overthrown. Or we can think of the familiar words in the epistle to the Hebrews where we are told that Christ “destroyed him that had the power of death,” that is, the devil. This has already taken place; our Lord has already destroyed the power of Satan.
I have referred to the these passages because they prove one great point that in some sense Satan is already bound. There is a binding which has already occurred whose benefits we believers enjoy now. Take this reference to a chain – you see how graphic the whole description is – we are being told that Satan is bound with a great chain, and that is his present status. The devil is limited by the chain of the sovereignty of a reigning Saviour. There is a curtailment of Satan’s influence, a limitation imposed on his kingdom by the exaltation of Jesus Christ. The great chains of the blood of Christ and his session at the right hand of God effectually curtail the activities of Satan.
Or take again the picture of Satan being thrown into the Abyss, the bottomless pit. The seventy-two disciples return from their successful mission of preaching, healing and exorcism, and Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Lk. 10:18). On the day of Pentecost 3,000 are converted and Satan is falling. Samaria hears and turns to Christ under Philip, and Satan is falling. Saul of Tarsus is converted on the road to Damascus, and Satan is falling. Europe hears the gospel and churches are planted all over Greece and Rome itself and Satan is bound and falling. That is the image, not of a literal Abyss; not of a literal chain and a literal bottomless pit. The victory over Satan’s power.
There are three great senses in which in the practicalities of our present situation Satan is bound. Firstly he can never destroy any single human being who lives under the protection of the Messianic Empire. Secondly Satan lies under the efficacy of the Saviour’s atonement; he cannot destroy one single member of Christ’s kingdom. He cannot pluck one single child out of the Father’s hand. He cannot separate one Christian from the love of God in Jesus Christ. It is not that Satan will not try, because he prowls around seeking whom he may devour. He does so in this exercise of his own naked strength, and by his own wiles, and yet for all his cunning he cannot devour the smallest girl who is in Christ. He is unable to destroy her. He can certainly harass and cause bewilderment and pain and backsliding and folly, but he cannot destroy. To every single Christian he is a chained and bound devil. He is immensely noisy; he roars and stamps and froths. He tries to divide and makes his presence felt in the most frenzied manner possible, but he cannot destroy. If we belong to the empire of the Messiah then we lie under the eloquence of the blood of sprinkling, and there is no way that he can kill the youngest lamb in the flock of Christ.
Thirdly, we are told that Satan can deceive the nations no longer (v.3). John is referring to the Gentiles to whom God had sent virtually no prophets during the Old Testament period. They were all caught up in the web of deception where Satan had absolute sway; his deceit was perfect, and the mass of mankind followed him and his religions. Then on the day of Pentecost Christ poured out his Spirit and the apostles preached the gospel in all the languages of the world. The church marched forth into all the world, preaching Christ to every creature. Satan no longer holds exclusive sway and authority over the Gentile nations. So the first picture is the binding of Satan.
ii] Secondly we are told that the saints are reigning with Christ (v.4). Satan has been bound and certain Christians are seated on thrones with Christ in heaven. There is no reference at all to this reign taking place here on earth. They were alive with the living Christ; they were not in a position of nonexistence, or a condition of soul sleep. Death itself had not separated them from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Absent from the body they are now present with the Lord. They were sharing in his dominion and blessed majesty. They had been living lives of temporal obscurity and humiliation, lives of lowliness and poverty, and many of them had died violently and in anguish, their heads had been cut off (v.4). Every sign of their being the sons of the King of kings had been obscured, but what a difference now! These sons of God are really reigning; they were seen to be the sons of King Jesus. They sat on their thrones in the blessedness of the Saviour, and every tear had been wiped away. Their condition is commensurate with their dignity because, he says, “they are priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for 1000 years” (v.6).
What John is saying here is that this reign of the saints with Christ is not over an earthly, physical, political, economic kingdom. Rather it is a description of the condition of those who have died for their faith. It was a pressing question for John and his friends, close associates, companions, and all believers, knowing that perhaps one night a knock would come on their own doors as it had come on their Christian friends. Someone had informed on them as followers of Jesus. They wouldn’t acknowledge that Caesar was Lord and within a few hours they knew that they would be called upon to be faithful to death for their faith in Christ. They wanted comfort and they needed it, and the comfort they received was this, that the souls of those who were martyred for the witness of Jesus lived and reigned with him in heaven for 1,000 years. This 1,000 years is a symbolic number like all the numbers in the book of Revelation, 144,000, and the 7’s, and the 12’s. 1,000 is a symbol of completeness, a perfectly fulfilled period.
iii] Thirdly there is the brief loosing of Satan (v.3 and v.7), so that for a short time before the end, the nations will be deceived again (v.8); after the gospel has spread through the world those nations will enter a time of darkness again. What grief, and yet what a pattern we see of this kind of thing in the history of the church, north Africa after Augustine; Europe in the Middle Ages, Wales in the 20th century. It is a period of utter confusion and tremendous hostility to the testimony of Jesus. The church is under siege everywhere (v.9). Those old names for God’s enemies in the Old Testament, Gog and Magog, describe the renewed power of their enemies. There is a great war against Christianity, for the minds of men, for discipleship and leadership, a battle of truth against error. That will be the scene when Christ returns again; he comes and then, triumph – “fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (v.9). This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels: “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed” (2 Thess. 1:8-10). Then the devil will finally be thrown into the lake of fire forever.
iv] There is the day of judgment of all mankind without exception: “Then I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened” (v.12). Now there are a few points we can make about this tremendous event.
It doesn’t matter what the circumstances of our death might be, and in what way our bodies were disposed. We are told that, “The sea gave up the dead that were in it,” (v.13). It was a horrible event to a pagan when a member of his family perished at sea. They pondered the restlessness of that soul and the effects of the ocean upon that precious dust. Yet we are told that it was of no consequence. However a man die he is going to rise still and come to judgment. He may be buried; he may be committed to the deep, he may be blown to pieces in an explosion, he may be cremated, his body might be destroyed in a nuclear blast, but it is of no consequence. It does not matter how a man dies and his remains are disposed of he is going to rise. There is no measure that a man can take, no step, no provision that can ensure that we shall not stand before God in the day of judgment. We may lie buried in an unmarked grave, the tomb of the unknown warrior, we are known to God and at his command all the dead shall rise.
The great ones shall stand before God. In this life many were accountable to no man; they were above the law. They thought of themselves as VIP’s, but at God’s summons they come to him. Pontius Pilate and Felix and Agrippa will stand there. Nero and all the emperors will be there. The famous writers of self-promotion, Marx and Freud and Russell and Hume will be there. The great tyrants who bled their countries dry will be there in the most profound embarrassment; there they stand without a word on their lips. There is silence in heaven. Many of these men were demagogues and orators, eloquent pleaders and motivators of evil causes, and yet at last they have nothing to say. The masters of spin will be there, silent.
The small ones too will be there, and it is easy for us to think, “It will serve the tyrant right! It will serve the capitalist right, the porn king and the drug baron will get what he deserves.” But you see the small are there too, those whose lives were unmarked and unnoticed in their own generation. They made scarcely a ripple on the surface of human history; there were those who names have been long lost and unrecorded yet they will stand there too. In many ways it is part of our grandeur, and it reflects the dignity of human life. You can hardly belittle a man more than saying that you don’t hold him responsible for his actions. You pass no verdict on him; you simply lock him up for his own good. There is not one human being whom God will not hold responsible. He will say, “You’re a little person, but you are a person. I expect you have an answer. Your record does bear scrutiny.” Let the children be aware that God is going to call them to account. They are small people, yes, but they are people too.
God will open the books, and what are these? They are the books of God’s remembrance, in other words, they are symbols of God’s omniscience. In other words he is recalling to us what he knows about us, and that is a tremendously searching picture. Our judgment will depend on documented evidence. Our works are recorded there, the things we did before we died, the deeds done in the body. When we die the record is complete; the book is closed; the probationary period is over. The judgment will depend upon that, and there are certain things that God is especially interested in. “Every idle word” – the Lord is interested in our words, in our language and spirit Children often think it is a mark of being grown up to use four letter words, but God will hold them to account. All impure and hurtful and contemptuous words will be judged.
Anything more? If a man was ashamed of Jesus then that will come up. If we were ashamed that we weren’t allowed to play football on Sundays, and that we said grace before meals, and that our parents stood in open air preaching meetings. Anything more? That God’s children were in need, lonely and sick and in prison and we did nothing to help them. Again, if anyone put a stumbling block in the way of one of Christ’s little ones he would wish he were never born, if anyone tempts a little Christian, and makes things tough and difficult for him, and disdains him – he will wish he had never been born. How important it is to think of the day of judgment. How it should help us to live wisely, because I hope I can say without arrogance that I know how disappointing we are, how disappointing I am, I know that.
Where do they go after judgment? The chapter ends with a fearful description of one place and the next chapter begins with the description of the other. There is first the lake of fire and the second death. It is a tremendous symbol of human lostness, the soul that is in despair, lying in anguish under the unmitigated condemnation of God. A life that has lost its way, and missed its goal and plunged into the agonies of the second death, and here is the overwhelming possibility that I might be one of those. If I am following the majority and am careless of what is written in this Book it shows I’m on a road that ends in a lake of fire, in the condemnation of God for wretchedly wasting my life, and arriving ultimately at meaninglessness, and frustration, and desolation, and anguish and a darkenss that all never ends. Here is the obscene absurdity of a man in God’s image who ends his time in the fellowship of the beast and the false prophet and the devil for ever, in a place compared to a lake that burns with fire and brimstone. I preach it to you only to warn you not to be there.
3. REVELATION 21.
Why should we linger on the end of the unrighteous when we are also told of what lies before the righteous. It is a destination described so often in terms of negatives (v.4); it will be a tear-free zone; the pangs of hunger and thirst will be unknown; there will be no temper and despair there; no depression, nor anxiety, nor craving fears. Nothing that defiles and creates guilt and shame will be there; no pollution at all. What then is there? The society of righteous men and women who have been perfected, a place where temporary broken friendships are renewed and immeasurably deepened. We will see those who have gone before us, and we shall be with the Lord Jesus Christ for ever. At a friend’s funeral 10 days ago I thought of what he was doing at that moment. I wondered had he been able to take his eyes of Jesus yet to look out for John and Huw and Eurfyl and all his friends who have gone before. I didn’t think so. He was seeing Jesus as the Saviour is. He was seeing him face to face, like a mother gazes at her child, and the Lord had things to say to him personally. He couldn’t take his eyes off the Lord Jesus. They had a personal warm lasting relationship, and he deepened that before moving on to fellowship with others in heaven, his parents in Christ, and Lloyd-Jones, and Spurgeon, and Howell Harris, and John Bunyan, and Martin Luther, and the apostle Peter, and king David, and Noah.
What wonders lie before us, and then John returns to the warning, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (v.8) There will be one of two places where we must all spend eternity, and I must leave here tonight with a fascinating hope or trembling with dread.
Then comes the fascinating description of the architecture or heaven. This New Jerusalem has certain dimensions: “The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man s measurement, which the angel was using” (vv.15-17). 12,000 stadia in length, and that means nothing to us until it is explained. 1,500 miles, larger by far than the whole of ancient Israel during the time of David and Solomon’s reigns. It was an enormous city, far bigger than Mexico City today and the vision intends us to be moved by its grandeur. It is also a perfect cube, not only 1,500 miles in length but in width and in height. What is the meaning of this? In Solomon’s temple the Holy of Holies was also a perfect cube, and what John is saying is that in this new Jerusalem we have the New Testament expression of that same symbolism, we are going to live in the true Holy of Holies. This is the innermost sanctuary, and we are all there in the dwelling place of God. That is the symbolism. Under the old covenant one man once a year for less than an hour could enter that place, but before us lies a place where we shall live in God’s holy presence for ever.
There is also an emphasis on the security of the place. The wall is 144 cubits thick (v.17), in other words, the blest inhabitants of the New Jerusalem are utterly and totally at peace. Right round this city, on all sides, is this wall.. No evil can possibly breach it. It is the wall of the attributes of our Sovereign Protector. He is the watchman who never slumbers nor sleeps who keeps every one eternally safe. The great contrast is with the Garden of Eden which, despite all its splendour and access to God, lacked a wall, and so in came Satan and down fell our first parents.
Again we are told that this city has great foundations, and they are the twelve apostles of the Lamb (v.14), because they had kept their testimony to the Lamb of God who had borne away the sin of the world. All who are in heaven had built their lives and their witness on the foundation of the apostolic word concerning Christ. What a man thinks of Christ is crucial; the convictions he has about the Saviour are primary, that he can say, “I have a great High Priest.”
Then there are 12 gates (v.12) and they are all guarded, as the entry to the garden of Eden was defended, by an angel. On every side of this city there are gates, on the north, south, east and west there are three, and the great and simple message is this, that you can come into this city from every direction and from wherever you are. It is a great symbol in our present age of the universalness of the Gospel invitation, that wherever the sinner stands, and whatever his condition, and position and status, however numerous his sins, whoever serious and persistent and special there is a gate on his side to the Saviour’s mercy. So no one can say there is no way he can get to the Lord; “I have been too bad a man,” because the gate is ajar for you now (v.25). They are open now and they will be open. You do not need to wait until next year for them to be open. You say, “Surely they close at night for security reasons?” No, there is no night there (v. 25), and no enemy, so, sinner, come now into the warmth and light of this place. It is full of sinners who came from the north and south and east and west and you are bidden to come too. It is full of kings and there is room for you too.
There is no temple in that huge vast city (v.22), because there is no need. It was all one great dwelling place of God. He filled every part of it with himself. There is no distinction between the sacred and the secular in this place. Everywhere you look you see the glory of God. Everywhere you turn you see the Lamb in the midst of the throne. There is the Father’s love and the Spirit’s power and that glory is everywhere. There is no need of sun and moon there because Jesus the light of the world illuminates it all and drives all darkness away. The Lamb is its everlasting light. And there is nothing impure there (v.27), nor anyone shameful or deceitful. Nothing to destroy our peace and fellowship with one another, ever again.
4. REVELATION 22.
These are the last words of the last book of the Bible, and what memorable words they are. The New Jerusalem is not like Manhattan at all, vast skyscrapers. It is not like science fiction’s cities that hang in space the size of a small planet but all man made. This city has a river running through the midst of it, of the water of life, as clear as crystal, right through the main street flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb. In other words Jesus refreshes and irrigates the whole heavenly community, and on each side of the river there is a forest with one type of tree in abundance, a tree of life forest, and every month its crops of fruit appear, and its leaves heal the hurt of all who are there. Whatever grief they have known in this world when they get to heaven their pain will go.
Then Jesus speaks his parting words to us, and he says one wonderful message three times, in verse, 7, 12 and 20, “I am coming soon!” They were uttered two thousand years ago, and so the word ‘soon’ has the perspective of eternity, but also it is emphasising this, that since Christ has died and risen and ascended there will be no more major events left before his coming again. God is working by a time-table and the next event to mark God’s dealings with the world will be the appearance of the Son of God.
So these words of Revelation are not to be sealed up. Preachers are not to ignore them. Conferences are to be held to study these 22 chapters; preachers are to take his congregations through them; their truths are to be investigated and applied to us today. Daniel was told that he had to seal up the words of the prophesy that he was given because it referred to a future time, but John was living in a time when Daniel’s prophecies had been fulfilled. All the promises of God have been fulfilled. The divine ‘Yes’ in Jesus Christ has been spoken. All the promises of God’s deliverance and glory have come to fulfilment through Christ. The end of the ages has already dawned (Hebs. 9:26).
So the book ends with the following exhortations.
i] John, worship nothing by God. He is up to it again, (vv.8&9) overwhelmed by the glory of an angel. He did not fall to the ground on the Mount of Transfiguration before the Son of God but John fell before angels. How glorious they must be, yet they are mere angels. Then how surpassing glorious must the Son of God be in heaven! Before him John fell down as dead!
ii] Keep the words of the prophecy of this book (v.7). Do not simply puzzle over them and argue about them. Keep all you understand, and then ask God that you may understand more and more.
iii] You will only get what you have done (v.12). What have you done? For example, have you washed your robes (v.14)? Let us get down to something as basic as that.
“I know a fount where sins are washed away.
I know a place where night is turned to day.
Burdens are lifted; blind eyes made to see,
There’s a wonder-working power in the blood of Calvary.”
Have you been to that fountain opened up for sin and iniquity? Have you known the cleansing blood of the Son of God? You will only get what you have done, and if you’ve not done that you will get the eternal guilt of a wasted life. Be fruitful in good works and they will follow you.
iv] Come to Christ! Have you heard a patient wife calling to her husband, “Are you coming?” So after all this book with its blessings and warning Jesus urges us to come. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life ” (v.17). Are you coming? Why delay any longer?
v] Don’t mess with the book (vv. 18&19). Don’t tamper with it. Don’t say it is not enough and add sacred tradition, or the Book of Mormon, or the writing or Mary Baker Eddy. Do not add to it, and then don’t take your penknife out as on Old Testament king once did, and he cut out of the words of the book all that displeased him. Don’t make Scripture something that merely rearranges your prejudices. Keep the words of the prophecy of this book. Don’t add to it. Don’t subtract from it. Come to Christ to wash your robes, and then looking forward to getting to what you’ve done.