Now we come to the final chapter of the book and of the Bible. The first five verses seem to be a continuation of the prior chapter. We see more imagery of the spiritual Jerusalem with the river of life flowing from the throne (v1). Interestingly, this contrasts with the river of fire flowing from the throne in Daniel 7:10. Is there both a river of fire and a river of life? Did the river of life replace the river of fire? These questions don’t seem to have a clear answer within the text, but it is an interesting comparison.
In verse 2, we see the tree of life bearing its fruit every month. As well, we see the leaves used for the healing of the nations. This seems to have both a spiritual and physical component. The leaves heal the nations as we go out into the world spreading the Good News of Jesus’ love and opening of the Kingdom to all.
Verse 3 states that the curse is no more. The Old Covenant came to an end with the full establishment of the New Covenant Kingdom (Heb 8:13). Therefore, there is no more curse. Jesus became the curse for us (Gal 3:13). We still see the physical effects of the world we live in, but the punishments for sin have already been borne by Jesus.
In verse 4&5, we see more of the concepts of the spiritual realm reiterated. We will see Jesus’ face, there will be no night, and we will reign with him forever.
So far, from 21:1 through 22:5, the new Jerusalem vision seems to be all in one sequence. All of this is spoken of as though it has already happened, that we are free to live in the new Kingdom now, though we are still temporarily bound to the physical. None of this sounds like a city that would come down in the physical realm, nor does it sound symbolic. It reads as though it is an actuality in the spiritual realm. It would seem that the spiritual realm is more real than the physical.
Verse 6 brings us again to the familiar terminology, as though to assure us, and especially the original recipients, of the intended time frame of these events—“things which must happen soon.” Verse 7 continues, in the red letters—“Behold, I come quickly” and Jesus goes on to further state, “Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Considering that we today have a hard time even knowing what the words of this book mean, how ever are we to keep them? This again seems to acknowledge that we weren’t the intended audience of these passages as far as the witnessing of the signs, tribulation, and Parousia.
In verse 8&9, John begins worshiping the angel, who tells him not to as he is a fellow servant, but to worship God. The angel again confirms, in verse 10, that the time is at hand and therefore the words of this book should not be sealed up. Verse 11 seems to show the imminence of these happenings as those who were unjust/filthy and those who were righteous/holy would likely stay so. In other words, it was too late at this point to change as the judgment of the Lamb was soon to commence. This would seem to be in reference to passages such as 2 Thes 2:11 (also the chapter where Paul is speaking of the “man of sin/lawlessness”).
Yet again, in verse 12, we see the repetition of the soon concept—“Behold, I come quickly.”
In verse 13&14, we see Jesus’ well known statement of Alpha and Omega. We see the repetition of those who have kept his commandments/washed their robes (depending on the translation) allowed entry into the city and access to the tree of life. We see in verse 15 that those who have not washed their robes remain outside of the city. Perhaps it’s our job to help bring them in!
In verse 16, Jesus again states the intended audience—the assemblies. Again, this correlates with the opening passages of the assemblies of Asia Minor (1:11).
In verse 17, like in the gospels, we see the (Holy) Spirit and the bride (the New Jerusalem) making the invitation to “come” to all—that everyone who is thirsty can drink from the water of life freely. Shouldn’t this also be our gospel, our Good News? Is this the message we are portraying to the world?
In verses 18&19, we see the warning that the passages in this book should not be added to or taken away from. This seems to have been a warning to the early readers that the things in this book would soon happen. Likewise, if we remove the soon terminology, we get a book that can be made to say whatever we would like it to and be relevant to whatever time we retrofit it for. Yet again in verse 20, we see that—“He who testifies these things says, “Yes, I come quickly.” ” As well John reiterates a common theme of the 1st century church—“Amen! Yes, come, Lord Jesus.” It seems they were looking for, and seeing, the signs of Jesus’ approaching Parousia.
The book closes out with a small benediction (21).
In Greek, there was no punctuation and everything was capitalized. In order to delineate a matter of importance, it was either repeated, or a certain type of word was used as to make the topic noticed. We see both being applied in this chapter. The soon reference is made five times and implied in a few other places. Jesus himself directly marks out two of these occurrences with “Behold,” a word meant to draw specific attention to what followed. It would seem that these things were to occur imminently in reference to the intended audience—the assemblies of Asia Minor in the 1st century.
So that’s it. That’s the whole messy, scary, weird, crazy book. I know many may not agree with a lot of what I wrote, but I hope that at least a few points come across that would help others be more readily willing to study some of these scriptures. This commentary, if for nothing else, has helped me immensely in understanding this seemingly “off limits” book. I pray that all come to a greater knowledge of Jesus and his love for us.
For easier viewing, links to this entire commentary can be found here.