INDEX

In this last chapter, John's vision of the glorious future for the people of God is completed with a brief description of some more features of the new Jerusalem (the river of life, the tree of life and the throne of God and the Lamb) followed by an epilogue containing a final invitation and warning from Jesus.

Eden restored

Revelation 22:1-5

The last two chapters of this book contain fantastic descriptions of the new heaven and the new earth that will be created after all that we know today has passed away. They also describe the new Jerusalem, where the dwelling of God will be "among the people and He will live with them. They will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God". The city will have matchless splendour and beauty. There will be a throne but no temple, because "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple". There will be a river flowing down the great street of the city and, on both sides of the river, there will be a tree of life bearing a crop of fruit every month. No longer will there be any curse. Then - joy of joys! - all those with His name on their foreheads will see Him face to face. The inhabitants will not need sunlight or streetlamps because God Himself will be their light and they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)

With the river of life flowing from the throne, there is no uncleanness or pollution. This is the pure, crystal 'water of life' that is offered to all. It is the same living water which Jesus offered to the woman at the well in Samaria. (John 4:7-14) It represents the fullness of eternal life with Him, offered to all who allow Him to satisfy their thirst. The awesome words of Jesus have echoed down through the years: “Let any who are thirsty come to me and drink! Those who believe in me, as Scripture has said, 'rivers of living water will flow from within them'." (John 7:37-38) John added that Jesus was talking about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Life in God’s city will be characterised by purity, humility and prosperity, all linked directly to a right relationship with God’s throne of grace.

The tree of life grows on each side of the river, in the centre of the great street in the city. This is a reminder of the garden of 'Eden', where God planted two trees. The first of them was the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" whilst the second was the "tree of life". (For a quick recap, see the study concerning Eve in Real Women.) When Adam & Eve disobeyed God and ate from the first tree, God prevented them from eating the fruit of the second. Now that access has been restored. Not only does this tree produce a new crop of fruit every month, its leaves can also be used for healing (or "health-giving"). This points to the function of this tree being to sustain good health and immortality.

When Adam & Eve disobeyed God, His response was to curse all three involved: the 'snake' (Satan), Eve and Adam. These curses involved suffering for all of them: humiliation for the snake, pain in childbirth for the woman and sweat and toil for the man. The relationships between all three became broken, distorted and dysfunctional and Adam & Eve were prevented from prolonging their lives, leading to death. This curse was dealt with when Jesus took it upon Himself through His crucifixion and John is now told that there will no longer be any curse in the new city.

Finally, the throne of God will be the source of all this life: the river shall flow from it, feeding the tree of life and God the Father and the the 'Lamb' (Jesus) shall reign from it. John is also told that "His servants will serve Him". There will be activity and work in heaven to occupy and fulfil everyone who lives there. What are you looking forward to doing, while serving the Lord Jesus Christ?

The epilogue

The remainder of this chapter contains the grand conclusion of this most wonderful of books. The final words in most documents are there to sum up what has been said and highlight the most important points. So, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to burn these last words into our hearts. There are four short sections, followed by a brief benediction. Firstly, the angel speaks some final words, to which John gives a response. Then Jesus speaks some final words, to which John again adds his own response.

The angel's final words

Revelation 22:6-7

Firstly, the angel wants to emphasise that, sooner or later, all that has been revealed will take place. These prophecies and visions are “faithful and true” and we can depend on them as being authentic because God has specifically told His angels to reveal what is going to happen in the future. Indeed, the whole Bible is "God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness". (2 Timothy 3:16) People may mock and deny the authority of Scripture, but God declares that His words are faithful and true and, as Peter said, “it is better to obey God rather than men”. (Acts 5:29)

Secondly, the angel gives the last word to Jesus (probably quoting what Jesus has said). "Look! I am coming soon!" Clearly, Jesus wants His followers to live each day in the expectation that He, Jesus, may return at any moment. Currently, over two thousand years have elapsed since John recordeed these words and distributed them but, as the apostle, Peter, said: "Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day." (2 Peter 3:8) So, as far as Jesus is concerned, all this only happened a couple of days ago!

John's response to the angel

Revelation 22:8-11

John confirms that what the angel has said is true. He has been an eye witness, seeing the visions and hearing all that was said. Poor John is completely overcome by the whole experience and, for the second time, falls down to worship the angel and receives another chiding! "Don't do that! I'm a servant like you... Worship God!" John’s reaction is a challenge to all of us, because we know how easy it is to displace God Himself with people and things. The angel brings John back to God's word, which is exactly where we should come, every time that we become distracted by worldly desires and standards. The angel is saying that this book is God’s final authority, so we need to allow it to bring us to His feet in worship. It is also important to remember that the one to worship is not a preacher or teacher, a worship leader or ministry leader, but the one who alone is the truth.

We are to guard as a treasure the things in this book and encourage as many as possible to study this amazing love story. We are so blessed in this modern, technological age that we have so many tools to use, enabling us to read God's word or even have it ringing in our ears every moment that we are awake. We can follow teachings from individuals, churches and Christian organisations all around the world, although there is nothing like having a personal one-to-one with the living God. We cannot draw closer to Him beyond a certain stage if we don’t seek Him for ourselves. We cannot expect to be spoon-fed with His word if we want to grow up to the point where we can have a close, intimate, moment-by-moment walk with our precious Saviour.

Finally, the angel stresses that the events described in the prophetic visions recorded by John were to take place soon and so John must not hide it away but publish it freely. It is the command of God that we seal nothing that is written in this book. Instead, we are to let people know about its prophetic truths, because His coming is near. God is so very keen for us to focus on His word because it is living, authoritative, accurate and accessible. It is the last word on all issues of faith and morals.

Jesus' final words

Revelation 22:12-19

Jesus Himself then speaks and, for the third time in this short chapter, reminds us to be watching and waiting because, "I am coming soon!" One of the main purposes of this book is to encourage believers everywhere to remain faithful and expectant. Jesus is on His way and will be bringing both rewards and punishments. He reminds us of the name that He shares with His Father: 'Alpha and Omega' - the 'Beginning and the End' - the 'First and the Last'. This emphasises that God will finish what He has begun. There is a choice to be made: those who "wash their robes" in the blood of the 'Lamb' will have "the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city" but "outside are the dogs, those who practise magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practises falsehood".

This is a clear message to say that what we are on earth determines what we shall be when He comes again. If we have been corrupt here, then we shall be corrupt throughout eternity. If we have been holy here (because of the grace of God and the blood of Jesus), then we shall be holy in eternity. We are all born into sin but, because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, we can be made new and fit for heaven, providing that we put our faith into action by believing that Christ is the Son of God. Those who reject Him will continue in their sin and, at death, their final destination will be fixed. The righteous are being made holy by the work of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis, but their eternal future is sealed by the blood of Christ.

Jesus then also confirms that He has sent the angel to open John's eyes to all that is going to happen. The prophetic visions have been given for the benefit of His body, the church. He declares that He is the “root and offspring of David.” How could Jesus be both? Firstly, He is the 'root' of David because, as the 'word of God' He was the one who created all things at His Father's command. He was the source of all human life, including David. Then, as a human being Himself, Jesus was born as a descendant of David and, looking forward, will one day claim the throne of David as His own. Jesus also states that He is “the bright, morning star.” This is the brightest star of all, shining brightly just before daybreak and pointing to the coming of the new day. He is the "star that will come out of Jacob". (Numbers 24:17) The 'root' may be buried in the ground where nobody sees it, but the 'morning star' is in the heavens and visible to all!

Not only does Jesus confirm the message that has been given, the Holy Spirit and "the bride" respond by saying simply, "Come!" (The "bride" here probably refers back to the church rather than the new Jerusalem, since John's message is being addressed to the church of his day and the new city has not yet been created.) Together, they urge Jesus to hurry and come back for His own. The presence of God has been calling people to Jesus, moment by moment, throughout history and both are undoubtedly thrilled and eager to see the marriage of the 'Lamb'. In the meantime, Jesus repeats His offer of "living water" for any and all who thirst for righteousness.

Finally, Jesus gives a warning about tampering with the content of this prophetic vision that John has recorded. We had better be careful what we say about this prophecy, for God will punish those who add or take away from it. The Lord will not have His word tampered with. At the beginning of Revelation, we saw the promise that those who read this book and "take to heart" what it says will be blessed. Now it ends with a curse for those who try to change it in any way. Should people add to these things, God will add to them the plagues recorded in the book. Should they exclude any of its content, God will take from them any share in the 'tree of life' and the holy city - the new Jerusalem. What an awesome challenge!

John's response to Jesus

Revelation 22:20-21

John concludes his book by repeating, yet again, the words of Jesus: "Yes, I am coming soon". This is the urgent message of the entire book and, for his part, John could hardly wait: "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!" At any moment now, He could rend the heavens and arrive to take all His saints home to glory in the 'rapture'! Let the church of Jesus Christ shout: “Even so come, Lord Jesus!” The Father alone knows the perfect time and until then, He stretches our faith by the reassurances He gives through the out-workings of His Holy Spirit. Let us take to heart His encouragement and determine to keep trusting Him.

John then concludes with a benediction: “The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, be with God’s people. Amen.” How wonderful of God to finish His book with a word of grace!


Summary

We have covered so much in our study of Revelation and for each of us there will be different highlights as the Holy Spirit has revealed things personally to us. Consequently, this summary will be very generalised but I want to reiterate what "Joy for Life" is all about. The 'joy' in our lives is that we are growing in our heart-relationship with Jesus Christ, rather than gaining a perfect head knowledge.

Jesus Christ is Lord of the earth and, as the creator and now the redeemer, He has unfolded His plan to reclaim the earth. He is the commander-in-chief preparing for worldwide victory. He has called us - His disciples - to evangelize the world and the baptism of the Holy Spirit enables us to demonstrate His life, love and grace and to produce fruit for Him. He stands ready to execute justice and pronounce judgment in order to cleanse and renew the earth. Ultimately, He will rule the earth in righteousness. He is the God of history and the judge of all humanity.

God is tireless in His continued dealings with His people, Israel, both spiritually and nationally. There are just two eternal truths: God' word and God's people. Historically, it looked as if His dealings with the Jewish people had been suspended while the great harvest from the rest of the world was gathered in. More recently, we have seen remarkable, clear evidence that He is God is beginning to realise His purpose for them, in a national sense. The establishment of the Jewish State on 14 May, 1948, saw Israel centrally located in the Middle East, providing stability in what was fast becoming an increasingly volatile area. The growth of the nation since then has seen enormous prosperity coming to the land. God is reaching out to Jewish people at a personal level and watching over the 'apple of His eye', in accordance with His everlasting promises. Zechariah 2:8. The "Ruach ha-Kodesh" (Holy Spirit) is blowing upon the "dry bones" and breathing life into them, just as Ezekiel prophesied. (Ezekiel 37:4-6)

This last book of the Bible is a true love story - a book of hope! It is the book of (and about) Jesus Christ. We have seen that He was there at the very beginning of creation, at the 'Fall', when God the Father, in His great love for all mankind, put His rescue mission - His plan of salvation - into action. He wanted none to perish and so He sent His only Son to enable us to have a way back to Him. “I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

True to form, the book has the perfect storybook ending: good triumphs over the powers of evil and love overcomes hatred. What an encouragement to Christ’s followers of every generation, to believe and accept His word, by putting it into action daily and persevering in faith and trust, even in trying times! This victorious conclusion is no fairytale, but a testimony to the power of God’s sovereignty over all of His creation. In it, we have experienced an enormous range of emotions from the extremes of the full force of God’s anger against sin, to the great eternal reward for all the faithful, who persevere through adversity to victory!

Have you ever thought of the Bible as a scroll being opened in a time line to reveal a very lengthy piece of parchment? Perhaps you have visualised, in your mind’s eye, all sixty-six books, individually bound and sitting on a library shelf in a row between Genesis on the left and Revelation at the far right end? But has it occurred to you, on reading this last book, that there is something of a surprise ending? The straight row (or time line) of individual books, which comprise God’s complete word, comes full circle to start again at the beginning! Jesus said: “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end”. It's as if He stands in the centre of a circle, appearing in every book and ever-present from beginning to end.

As a groom gives his bride a wedding ring to show the outward promise of their spiritual union, so Jesus Christ gives His bride, the company of saints and believers, a glorious eternity ring, which is 'His-Story' - His promise from the beginning to the end! What love! What amazing grace and mercy! Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus! Amen!


A prayer of encouragement

We can use this powerful prayer from the apostle, Paul, to pray daily for our entire family of brothers and sisters in Christ. Let's encourage one another to hasten the day of Jesus' return by praying for those who have slipped away or are not yet in His kingdom.

I pray that, out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
I pray that you may know His love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!
Amen

(Ephesians 3:16-21)


As a member of His living church - His body - Jesus calls us today:

  1. To live always in faithful anticipation of His return. (Revelation 2:25; 3:11; 16:15; Revelation 22:7; 22:12; 22:20)
  2. To stand firm when experiencing apparent defeat, being confident of ultimate victory. (Revelation 13:7-10; 14:9-13; 19:1-10)
  3. To faithful intercessory prayer and constant praise-filled worship. (Revelation 5:8-10)
  4. To hear the Spirit’s voice, to know the Father’s word and to walk the Saviour’s pathway of obedience. (Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26-29; 3:5; 3:6; 3:12-18; 3:21; 3:22)
  5. To anticipate an eternal destiny of joy and purpose with Christ. (Revelation 19:1-10; 20:4-6; 21:1-22:4)

May God, our holy creator, give to each of us the grace to take full advantage of every precious opportunity, to find refuge from the coming wrath of almighty God, in the mercy and love of Jesus His Son.

As a believer in the complete work of Christ, we look forward to:

  1. A place prepared for us. (John 14:2-3)
  2. A place unlimited by physical properties. (John 20:19; 20:26; 1 Corinthians 15:35-49)
  3. Being like Jesus. (1 John 3:2)
  4. Having new bodies. (1 Corinthians 15)
  5. A wonderful experience. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
  6. A new environment. (Revelation 21:1)
  7. A new experience of God’s presence. (Revelation 21:3; 1 Corinthians 13:12)
  8. New emotions. (Revelation 21:4)
  9. No more death. (Revelation 21:4)

To Him who died for all, belongs all praise and tribute, all devotion and esteem, to the eternal glory of His Father and ours, who is blessed for evermore.


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