Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
For the analysis of the first five verses of this chapter see the analysis of Rev. 21. The chapter comprises the remainder of the description of the "New Jerusalem" - the blessed abode of the saints Rev 22:1-5, and then Rev. 22:6-21 the conclusion or epilogue of the whole book. It is difficult to conceive what induced the author of the division of the New Testament into chapters, to separate the first five verses of this chapter from the preceding chapter. A new chapter should have commenced at Rev 22:6; for the remainder properly comprises the conclusion of the whole book. Compare the introduction to the notes on the Gospels.
Analysis Of Chapter 22:6-20
This portion of the Book of Revelation is properly the epilogue, or conclusion. The main purposes of the vision are accomplished; the enemies of the church are quelled; the church is triumphant; the affairs of the world are wound up; the redeemed are received to their blissful, eternal abode; the wicked are cut off; the earth is purified, and the affairs of the universe are fixed on their permanent foundation. A few miscellaneous matters, therefore, close the book:
(1) A solemn affirmation on the part of him who had made these revelations, that they are true, and that they will be speedily accomplished, and that he will be blessed or happy who shall keep the sayings of the book, Rev 22:6-7.
(2) the effect of all these things on John himself, leading him, as in a former case Rev 19:10, to a disposition to worship him who had been the medium in making to him such extraordinary communications, Rev 22:8-9.
(3) a command not to seal up what had been revealed, since the time was near. These things would soon have their fulfillment, and it was proper that the prophecies should be unsealed, or open, both that the events might be compared with the predictions, and that a persecuted church might be able to see what would be the result of all these things, and to find consolation in the assurance of the final triumph of the Son of God, Rev 22:10.
(4) the fixed and unchangeable state of the righteous and the wicked, Rev 22:11-13.
(5) the blessedness of those who keep the commandments of God, and who enter into the New Jerusalem, Rev 22:14-15.
(6) Jesus, the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star, proclaims himself to be the Author of all these revelations by the instrumentality of an angel, Rev 22:16.
(7) the universal invitation of the gospel - the language of Jesus himself - giving utterance to his strong desire for the salvation of people, Rev 22:17.
(8) a solemn command not to change anything that had been revealed in this book, either by adding to it or taking from it, Rev 22:18-19.
(9) the assurance that he who had made these revelations would come quickly, and the joyous assent of John to this, and prayer that his advent might soon occur, Rev 22:20.
(10) the benediction, Rev 22:21.
And he showed me a pure river of water of life - In the New Jerusalem; the happy abode of the redeemed. The phrase "water of life," means living or running water, like a spring or fountain, as contrasted with a stagnant pool. See the notes on Joh 4:14. The allusion here is doubtless to the first Eden, where a river watered the garden (Gen 2:10, seq.), and as this is a description of Eden recovered, or Paradise regained, it was natural to introduce a river of water also, yet in such a way as to accord with the general description of that future abode of the redeemed. It does not spring up, therefore, from the ground, but flows from the throne of God and the Lamb. Perhaps, also, the writer had in his eye the description in Eze 47:1-12, where a stream issues from under the temple, and is parted in different directions.
Clear as crystal - See the notes on Rev 4:6.
Proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb - Flowing from the foot of the throne. Compare Rev 4:6. This idea is strictly in accordance with Oriental imagery. In the East, fountains and running streams constituted an essential part of the image of enjoyment and prosperity (see the notes on Isa 35:6), and such fountains were common in the courts of Oriental houses. Here, the river is an emblem of peace, happiness, plenty; and the essential thought in its flowing from the throne is, that all the happiness of heaven proceeds from God.
In the midst of the street of it - Prof. Stuart renders this, "between the street thereof and the river"; and says that "the writer conceives of the river as running through the whole city; then of streets parallel to it on either side; and then, on the banks of the river, between the water and the street, the whole stream is lined on either side with two rows of the tree of life." The more common interpretation, however, is doubtless admissible, and would give a more beautiful image; that in the street, or streets of the city, as well as on the banks of the river, the tree of life was planted. It abounded everywhere. The city had not only a river passing through it, but it was pervaded by streets, and all those streets were lined and shaded with this tree. The idea in the mind of the writer is that of Eden or Paradise; but it is not the Eden of the book of Genesis, or the Oriental or Persian Paradise: it is a picture where all is combined, that in the view of the writer would constitute beauty, or contribute to happiness.
And on either side of the river - As well as in all the streets. The writer undoubtedly conceives of a single river running through the city - probably as meandering along - and that river lined on both sides with the tree of life. This gives great beauty to the imagery.
Was there the tree of life - Not a single tree, but it abounded everywhere - on the banks of the river, and in all the streets. It was the common tree in this blessed Paradise - of which all might partake, and which was everywhere the emblem of immortality. In this respect, this new Paradise stands in strong contrast with that in which Adam was placed at his creation, where there seems to have been a single tree that was designated as the tree of life, Gen 3:22-23. In the future state of the blessed, that tree will abound, and all may freely partake of it; the emblem, the pledge of immortal life, will be constantly before the eyes, whatever part of the future abode may be traversed, and the inhabitants of that blessed world may constantly partake of it.
Which bare twelve manner of fruits - "Producing twelve fruit-harvests; not (as our version) twelve manner of fruits" (Prof. Stuart). The idea is not that there are twelve kinds of fruit on the same tree, for that is not implied in the language used by John. The literal rendering is, "producing twelve fruits" - ποιοῦν καρποὺς δώδεκα poioun karpous dōdeka. The word "manner" has been introduced by the translators without authority. The idea is, that the tree bore every month in the year, so that there were twelve fruit-harvests. It was not like a tree that bears but once a year, or in one season only, but it constantly bore fruit - it bore every month. The idea is that of abundance, not variety. The supply never fails; the tree is never barren. As there is but a single class of trees referred to, it might have been supposed, perhaps, that, according to the common method in which fruit is produced, there would be sometimes plenty and sometimes want; but the writer says that, though there is but one kind, yet the supply is ample. The tree is everywhere; it is constantly producing fruit.
And yielded her fruit every month - The word "and" is also supplied by the translators, and introduces an idea which is not in the original, as if there was not only a succession of harvests, which is in the text, but that each one differed from the former, which is not in the text. The proper translation is, "producing twelve fruits, yielding or rendering its fruit in each month." Thus there is, indeed, a succession of fruit-crops, but it is the same kind of fruit. We are not to infer, however, that there will not be variety in the occupations and the joys of the heavenly state, for there can be no doubt that there will be ample diversity in the employments, and in the sources of happiness, in heaven; but the single thought expressed here is, that the means of life will be abundant: the trees of life will be everywhere, and they will be constantly yielding fruit.
And the leaves of the tree - Not only the fruit will contribute to give life, but even the leaves will be salutary. Everything about it will contribute to sustain life.
Were for the healing - That is, they contribute to impart life and health to those who had been diseased. We are not to suppose that there will be sickness, and a healing process in heaven, for that idea is expressly excluded in Rev 21:4; but the meaning is, that the life and health of that blessed world will have been imparted by partaking of that tree; and the writer says that, in fact, it was owing to it that they who dwell there had been healed of their spiritual maladies, and had been made to live forever.
Of the nations - Of all the nations assembled there, Rev 21:24. There is a close resemblance between the language used here by John and that used by Ezekiel Eze 47:12, and it is not improbable that both these writers refer to the same thing. Compare also in the Apocrypha, 2 Esdras 2:12; 8:52-54.
And there shall be no more curse - This is doubtless designed to be in strong contrast with our present abode; and it is affirmed that what now properly comes under the name of a curse, or whatever is part of the curse pronounced on man by the fall, will be there unknown. The earth will be no more cursed, and will produce no more thorns and thistles; man will be no more compelled to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow; woman will be no more doomed to bear the sufferings which she does now; and the abodes of the blessed will be no more cursed by sickness, sorrow, tears, and death.
But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it - God will reign there forever; the principles of purity and love which the Lamb of God came to establish, will pervade that blessed abode to all eternity.
And his servants shall serve him - All his servants that are there; that is, all the inhabitants of that blessed world. For the meaning of this passage, see the notes on Rev 7:15.
And they shall see his face - See the notes on Mat 18:10. They would be constantly in his presence, and be permitted continually to behold his glory.
And his name shall be in their foreheads - They shall be designated as his. See the notes on Rev 3:12; Rev 7:3; Rev 13:16.
And there shall be no night there - notes on Rev 21:25.
And they need no candle - No lamp; no artificial light, as in a world where there is night and darkness.
Neither light of the sun; for the Lord God, ... - See the notes on Rev 21:23.
And they shall reign forever and ever - That is, with God; they shall be as kings. See the notes on Rev 5:10; Rev 20:6. Compare the Rom 8:16 note; Ti2 2:11-12 note.
Remarks On Revelation 21:1-5 And Revelation 22:1-5
This portion of the Apocalypse contains the most full and complete continuous description of the state of the righteous, in the world of blessedness, that is to be found in the Bible. It seems to be proper, therefore, to pause on it for a moment, and to state in a summary manner what will be the principal features of that blessedness. All can see that, as a description, it occupies an appropriate place, not only in regard to this book, but to the volume of revealed truth. In reference to this particular book, it is the appropriate close of the account of the conflicts, the trials, and the persecutions of the church; in reference to the whole volume of revealed truth, it is appropriate because it occurs in the last of the inspired books that was written. It was proper that a volume of revealed truth given to mankind, and designed to describe a great work of redeeming mercy, should close with a description of the state of the righteous after death.
The principal features in the description are the following:
(1) There will be a new heaven and a new earth: a new order of things, and a world adapted to the condition of the righteous. There will be such changes produced in the earth, and such abodes suited up for the redeemed, that it will be proper to say that they are "new," Rev 21:1.
(2) the locality of that abode is not determined. No particular place is revealed as constituting heaven; nor is it intimated that there would be such a place. For anything that appears, the universe at large will be heaven - the earth and all worlds; and we are left free to suppose that the redeemed will yet occupy any position of the universe, and be permitted to behold the special glories of the divine character that are manifested in each of the worlds that he has made. Compare the notes on Pe1 1:12. That there may be some one place in the universe that will be their permanent home, and that will be more properly called heaven, where the glory of their God and Saviour will be especially manifested, is not improbable; but still there is nothing to prevent the hope and the belief that in the infinite duration that awaits them they will be permitted to visit all the worlds that God has made, and to learn in each, and from each, all that he has especially manifested of his own character and glory there.
(3) that future state will be entirely and forever free from all the consequences of the apostasy as now seen on the earth. There will be neither tears, nor sorrow, nor death, nor crying, nor pain, nor curse, Rev 21:4; Rev 22:3. It will, therefore, be a perfectly happy abode.
(4) it will be pure and holy. Nothing will ever enter there that shall contaminate and defile, Rev 21:8, Rev 21:27. On this account, also, it will be a happy world, for:
(a) all real happiness has its foundation in holiness; and,
(b) the source of all the misery that the universe has experienced is sin. Let that be removed, and the earth would be happy; let it be extinguished from any world, and its happiness will be secure.
(5) it will be a world of perfect light, Rev 21:22-25; Rev 22:5. There will be:
(a) literally no night there:
(b) spiritually and morally there will be no darkness - no error, no sin.
Light will be cast on a thousand subjects now obscure; and on numerous points pertaining to the divine government and dealings which now perplex the mind there will be poured the splendor of perfect day. All the darkness that exists here will be dissipated there; all that is now obscure will be made light. And in view of this fact, we may well submit for a little time to the mysteries which hang over the divine dealings here. The Christian is destined to live forever and ever. He is capable of an eternal progression in knowledge. He is soon to be ushered into the splendors of that eternal abode where there is no need of the light of the sun or the moon, and where there is no night. In a little time - a few weeks or days - by removal to that higher state of being, he will have made a degree of progress in true knowledge compared with which all that can be learned here is a nameless trifle. In that future abode he will be permitted to know all that is to be known in those worlds that shine upon his path by day or by night; all that is to be known in the character of their Maker, and the principles of his government; all that is to be known of the glorious plan of redemption; all that is to be known of the reasons why sin and woe were permitted to enter this beautiful world. There, too, he will be permitted to enjoy all that there is to be enjoyed in a world without a cloud and without a tear; all that is beatific in the friendship of God the Father, of the Ascended Redeemer, of the Sacred Spirit; all that is blessed in the goodly fellowship of the angels, of the apostles, of the prophets; all that is rapturous in reunion with those that were loved on the earth. Well, then, may he bear with the darkness and endure the trials of this state a little longer.
(6) it will be a world of surpassing splendor. This is manifest by the description of it in Rev 20:1-15, as a gorgeous city, with ample dimensions, with most brilliant colors, set with gems, and composed of pure gold. The writer, in the description of that abode, has accumulated all that is gorgeous and magnificent, and doubtless felt that even this was a very imperfect representation of that glorious world.
(7) that future world will be an abode of the highest conceivable happiness. This is manifest, not only from the fact stated that there will be no pain or sorrow here, but from the positive description in Rev 22:1-2. It was, undoubtedly, the design of the writer, under the image of a "Paradise," to describe the future abode of the redeemed as one of the highest happiness - where there would be an ample and a constant supply of every want, and where the highest ideas of enjoyment would be realized. And,
(8) All this will be eternal. The universe, so vast and so wonderful, seems to have been made to be suited to the eternal contemplation of created minds, and in this universe there is an adaptation for the employment of mind forever and ever.
If it be asked now why John, in the account which he has given of the heavenly state, adopted this figurative and emblematic mode of representation, and why it did not please God to reveal any were respecting the nature of the employments and enjoyments of the heavenly world, it may be replied:
(a) That this method is eminently in accordance with the general character of the book, as a book of symbols and emblems.
(b) He has stated enough to give us a general and a most attractive view of that blessed state.
(c) It is not certain that we would have appreciated it, or could have comprehended it, if a more minute and literal description had been given.
That state may be so unlike this that it is doubtful whether we could have comprehended any literal description that could have been given. How little of the future and the unseen can ever be known by a mere description; how faint and imperfect a view can we ever obtain of anything by the mere use of words, and especially of objects which have no resemblance to anything which we have seen! Who ever obtained any adequate idea of Niagara by a mere description? To what Greek or Roman mind, however cultivated, could there have been conveyed the idea of a printing-press, of a locomotive engine, of the magnetic telegraph, by mere description? Who can convey to one born blind an idea of the prismatic colors; or to the deaf an idea of sounds? If we may imagine the world of insect tribes to be endowed with the power of language and thought, how could the happy and gilded butterfly that today plays in the sunbeam impart to its companions of yesterday - low and grovelling worms - any adequate idea of that new condition of being into which it had emerged? And how do we know that we could comprehend any description of that world where the righteous dwell, or of employments and enjoyments so unlike our own?
I cannot more appropriately close this brief notice of the revelations of the heavenly state than by introducing an ancient poem, which seems to be founded on this portion of the Apocalypse, and which is the original of one of the most touching and beautiful hymns, now used in Protestant places of worship - the well-known hymn which begins, "Jerusalem! my happy home!" This hymn is deservedly a great favorite, and is an eminently beautiful composition. It is, however, of Roman Catholic origin. It is found in a small volume of miscellaneous poetry, sold at Mr. Bright's sale of manuscripts in 1844, which has been placed in the British Museum, and now forms the additional ms. 15,225. It is referred, by the lettering on the book, to the age of Elizabeth, but it is supposed to belong to the subsequent reign. The volume seems to have been formed by or for some Roman Catholic, and contains many devotional songs or hymns, interspersed with others of a more general character. See Littell's Living Age, vol. xxviii. pp. 333-336. The hymn is as follows:
A Song Made by F. B. P.
To the tune of "Diana"
Jerusalem! my happy home!
When shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end -
Thy joys when shall I see?
O happy harbor of the saints -
O sweet and pleasant soil!
In thee no sorrow may be found,
No grief, no care, no toil.
In thee no sickness may be seen,
No hurt, no ache, no sore;
There is no death, no ugly deil*,
There's life forevermore.
No dampish mist is seen in thee,
No cold nor darksome night;
There every soul shines as the sun,
There God himself gives light.
There lust and lucre cannot dwell,
There envy hears no sway;
There is no hunger, heat, nor cold,
But pleasure every way.
God grant I once may see.
Thy endless joys, and of the same.
Partaker aye to be.
Thy walls are made of precious stones,
Thy bulwarks diamonds square;
Thy gates are of right orient pearl,
Exceeding rich and rare.
Thy turrets and thy pinnacles.
With carbuncles to shine;
Thy very streets are paved with gold,
Surpassing clear and fine.
Thy houses are of ivory,
Thy windows crystal clear;
Thy tiles are made of beaten gold -
O God, that I were there!
Within thy gates no thing doth come.
That is not passing clean;
No spider's web, no dirt, no dust,
No filth may there be seen.
Ah, my sweet home, Jerusalem!
Would God I were in thee;
Would God my woes were at an end,
Thy joys that I might see!
Thy saints are crown'd with glory great,
They see God face to face;
They triumph still, they still rejoice -
Most happy is their case.
We that are here in banishment.
Continually do moan;
We sigh and sob, we weep and wail,
Perpetually we groan.
Our sweet is mixed with bitter gall,
Our pleasure is but pain;
Our joys scarce last the looking on,
Our sorrows still remain.
But there they live in such delight,
Such pleasure, and such play,
As that to them a thousand years.
Doth seem as yesterday.
Thy vineyards said thy orchards are.
Most beautiful and fair;
Full furnished with trees and fruits,
Most wonderful and rare.
Thy gardens and thy gallant walks.
Continually are green;
There grow such sweet and pleasant flowers.
As nowhere else are seen.
There's nectar and ambrosia made,
There's musk and civet sweet;
There many a fair and dainty drug.
Are trodden under feet.
There cinnamon, there sugar grows,
There nard and balm abound;
What tongue can tell, or heart conceive,
The joys that there are found?
Quite through the streets, with silver sound,
The flood of life doth flow;
Upon whose banks, on every side,
The wood of life doth grow.
There trees forevermore bear fruit,
And evermore do spring;
There evermore the angels sit,
And evermore do sing.
There David stands with harp in hand,
As master of the quire;
Ten thousand times that man were blest.
That might this music** hear.
Our Lady sings Magnificat,
With tune surpassing sweet;
And all the virgins bear their parts,
Sitting above her feet.
Te Deun doth Saint Ambrose sing,
Saint Austin doth the like;
Old Simeon and Zachary.
Have not their song to seek.
There Magdalene hath left her moan,
And cheerfully doth sing.
With blessed saints, whose harmony.
In every street doth ring.
Jerusalem, my happy home!
Would God I were in thee;
Would God my woes were at an end,
Thy joys that I might see!
*devil, in ms., but it must have been pronounced Scotic, "deil."
**Musing, in ms.
And he said unto me - The angel-interpreter, who had showed John the vision of the New Jerusalem, Rev 21:9-10. As these visions are now at an end, the angel comes to John directly, and assures him that all these things are true - that there has been no deception of the senses in these visions, but that they were really divine disclosures of what would soon and certainly occur.
These sayings are faithful and true - These communications - all that has been disclosed to you by symbols, or in direct language. See the notes on Rev 21:5.
And the Lord God of the holy prophets - The same God who inspired the ancient prophets.
Sent his angel - See the notes on Rev 1:1.
To show unto his servants - To all his servants - that is, to all his people, by the instrumentality of John. The revelation was made to him, and he was to record it for the good of the whole church.
The things which must shortly be done - The beginning of which must soon occur - though the series of events extended into distant ages, and even into eternity. See the notes on Rev 1:1-3.
Behold, I come quickly - See the notes on Rev 1:3. The words used here are undoubtedly the words of the Redeemer, although they are apparently repeated by the angel. The meaning is, that they were used by the angel as the words of the Redeemer. See Rev 22:12, Rev 22:20.
Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book - That receives them as a divine communication; that makes use of them to comfort himself in the days of darkness, persecution, and trial; and that is obedient to the precepts here enjoined. See the notes on Rev 1:3.
And I John saw these things, and heard them - That is, I saw the parts that were disclosed by pictures, visions, and symbols; I heard the parts that were communicated by direct revelation.
And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel, ... - As he had done on a former occasion. See the notes on Rev 19:10. John appears to have been entirely overcome by the extraordinary nature of the revelations made to him, and not improbably entertained some suspicion that it was the Redeemer himself who had manifested himself to him in this remarkable manner.
Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not - See the notes on Rev 19:10.
For I am thy fellow-servant - notes on Rev 19:10.
And of thy brethren the prophets - In Rev 19:10, it is "of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus." Here the angel says that, in the capacity in which he appeared to John, he belonged to the general rank of the prophets, and was no more entitled to worship than any of the prophets had been. Like them, he had merely been employed to disclose important truths in regard to the future; but as the prophets, even the most eminent of them, were not regarded as entitled to worship on account of the communications which they had made, no more was he.
And of them which keep the sayings of this book - "I am a mere creature of God." I, like human beings, am under law, and am bound to observe the law of God. The "sayings of this book" which he says he kept, must be understood to mean those great principles of religion which it enjoined, and which are of equal obligation on human beings and angels.
Worship God - Worship God only. See the notes on Rev 19:10.
And he saith unto me - The angel.
Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book - That is, seal not the book itself, for it may be regarded altogether as a prophetic book. On the sealing of a book, see the notes on Rev 5:1 . Isaiah (Isa 8:16; Isa 30:8) and Daniel (Dan 8:26; Dan 12:4, Dan 12:9) were commanded to seal up their prophecies. Their prophecies related to far-distant times, and the idea in their being commanded to seal them was, that they should make the record sure and unchangeable; that they should finish it, and lay it up for future ages; so that, in far-distant times, the events might be compared with the prophecy, and it might be seen that there was an exact correspondence between the prophecy and the fulfillment. Their prophecies would not be immediately demanded for the use of persecuted saints, but would pertain to future ages. On the other hand, the events which John had predicted, though in their ultimate development they were to extend to the end of the world, and even into eternity, were about to begin to be fulfilled, and were to be of immediate use in consoling a persecuted church. John, therefore, was directed not to seal up his predictions; not to lay them away, to be opened, as it were, in distant ages; but to leave them open, so that a persecuted church might have access to them, and might, in times of persecution and trial, have the assurance that the principles of their religion would finally triumph. See the notes on Rev 10:2.
For the time is at hand - That is, they are soon to commence. It is not implied that they would be soon completed. The idea is, that as the scenes of persecution were soon to open upon the church, it was important that the church should have access to these prophecies of the final triumph of religion, to sustain it in its trials. Compare the notes on Rev 1:1, Rev 1:3.
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still - This must refer to the scenes beyond the judgment, and must be intended to affirm an important truth in regard to the condition of people in the future state. It cannot refer to the condition of human beings on this side the grave, for there is no fixed and unchangeable condition in this world. At the close of this book, and at the close of the whole volume of revealed truth, it was proper to declare, in the most solemn manner, that when these events were consummated, everything would be fixed and unchanging; that all who were then found to be righteous would remain so forever; and that none who were impenitent, impure, and wicked, would ever change their character or condition. That this is the meaning here seems to me to be plain; and this sentiment accords with all that is said in the Bible of the final condition of the righteous and the wicked.
See Mat 25:46; Rom 2:6-9; Th1 1:7-10; Dan 12:2; Ecc 11:3. Every assurance is held out in the Bible that the righteous will be secure in holiness and happiness, and that there will be no danger - no possibility - that they will fall into sin, and sink to woe; and by the same kind of arguments by which it is proved that their condition will be unchanging, is it demonstrated that the condition of the wicked will be unchanging also. The argument for the eternal punishment of the wicked is as strong as that for the eternal happiness of the righteous; and if the one is open to doubt, there is no security for the permanence of the other. The word "unjust" here is a general term for an unrighteous or wicked man. The meaning is, that he to whom that character properly belongs, or of whom it is properly descriptive, will remain so forever. The design of this seems to be, to let the ungodly and the wicked know that there is no change beyond the grave, and by this solemn consideration to warn them now to flee from the wrath to come. And assuredly no more solemn consideration can ever be presented to the human mind than this.
And he which is filthy, let him be filthy still - The word "filthy" here is, of course, used with reference to moral defilement or pollution. It refers to the sensual, the corrupt, the profane; and the meaning is, that, their condition will be fixed, and that they will remain in this state of pollution forever. There is nothing more awful than the idea that a polluted soul will be always polluted; that a heart corrupt will be always corrupt; that the defiled will be put forever beyond the possibility of being cleansed from sin.
And he that is righteous, let him be righteous still - The just, the upright man - in contradistinction from the unjust mentioned in the first part of the verse.
And he that is holy, let him be holy still - He that is pure, in contradistinction from the filthy mentioned in the former part of the verse. The righteous and the holy will be confirmed in their character and condition, as well as the wicked. The affirmation that their condition will be fixed is as strong as that that of the wicked will be - and no stronger; the entire representation is, that all beyond the judgment will be unchanging forever. Could anymore solemn thought be brought before the mind of man?
And behold, I come quickly - See the notes on Rev 1:1, Rev 1:3. These are undoubtedly the words of the Redeemer; and the meaning is, that the period when the unchanging sentence would be passed on each individual - on the unjust, the filthy, the righteous, and the holy - would not be remote. The design of this seems to be to impress on the mind the solemnity of the truth that the condition hereafter will soon be fixed, and to lead people to prepare for it. In reference to each individual, the period is near when it is to be determined whether he will be holy or sinful to all eternity. What thought could there be more adapted to impress on the mind the importance of giving immediate attention to the concerns of the soul?
And my reward is with me - I bring it with me to give to every man: either life or death; heaven or hell; the crown or the curse. He will be prepared immediately to execute the sentence. Compare Mat. 25:31-46.
To give every man according as his work shall be - See the Mat 16:27 note; Rom 2:6 note; Co2 5:10 note.
I am Alpha and Omega ... - See the notes on Rev 1:8, Rev 1:11. The idea here is, that he will thus show that he is the first and the last - the beginning and the end. He originated the whole plan of salvation, and he will determine its close; he formed the world, and he will wind up its affairs. In the beginning, the continuance, and the end, he will be recognized as the same being presiding over and controlling all.
Blessed are they that do his commandments - See the notes on Rev 1:3; Rev 22:7.
That they may have right - That they may be entitled to approach the tree of life; that this privilege may be granted to them. It is not a right in the sense that they have merited it, but in the sense that the privilege is conferred on them as one of the rewards of God, and that, in virtue of the divine arrangements, they will be entitled to this honor. So the word used here - ἐξουσία exousia - means in Joh 1:12, rendered "power." The reason why this right or privilege is conferred is not implied in the use of the word. In this case it is by grace, and all the right which they have to the tree of life is founded on the fact that God has been pleased graciously to confer it on them.
To the tree of life - See the notes on Rev 22:2. They would not be forbidden to approach that tree as Adam was, but would be permitted always to partake of it, and would live forever.
And may enter in through the gates into the city - The New Jerusalem, Rev 21:2. They would have free access there; they would be permitted to abide there forever.
For without are dogs - The wicked, the depraved, the vile: for of such characters the dogs, an unclean animal among the Jews, was regarded as a symbol, Deu 23:18. On the meaning of the expression, see the notes on Phi 3:2. The word "without" means that they would not be admitted into the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, Rev 21:8, Rev 21:27.
And sorcerers, ... - All these characters are specified in Rev 21:8, as excluded from heaven. See the notes on that verse. The only change is, that those who "love and make a lie" are added to the list; that is, who delight in lies, or what is false.
I Jesus - Here the Saviour appears expressly as the speaker - ratifying and confirming all that had been communicated by the instrumentality of the angel.
Have sent mine angel - See the notes on Rev 1:1.
To testify unto you - That is, to be a witness for me in communicating these things to you.
In the churches - Directly and immediately to the seven churches in Asia Minor Rev 2:3; remotely and ultimately to all churches to the end of time. Compare the notes on Rev 1:11.
I am the root - Not the root in the sense that David sprang from him, as a tree does from a root, but in the sense that he was the "root-shoot" of David, or that he himself sprang from him, as a sprout starts up from a decayed and fallen tree - as of the oak, the willow, the chestnut, etc. See this explained in the notes on Isa 11:1. The meaning then is, not that he was the ancestor of David, or that David sprang from him, but that he was the offspring of David, according to the promise in the Scripture, that the Messiah should be descended from him. No argument, then, can be derived from this passage in proof of the pre-existence, or the divinity of Christ.
And the offspring - The descendant; the progeny of David; "the seed of David according to the flesh." See the notes on Rom 1:3. It is not unusual to employ two words in close connection to express the same idea with some slight shade of difference.
And the bright and morning star - See the notes on Rev 2:28. It is not uncommon to compare a prince, a leader, a teacher, with that bright and beautiful star which at some seasons of the year precedes the rising of the sun, and leads on the day. Compare the notes on Isa 14:12. The reference here is to that star as the harbinger of day; and the meaning of the Saviour is, that he sustains a relation to a dark world similar to this beautiful star. At one time he is indeed compared with the sun itself in giving light to the world; here he is compared with that morning star rather with reference to its beauty than its light. May it not also have been one object in this comparison to lead us, when we look on that star, to think of the Saviour? It is perhaps the most beautiful object in nature; it succeeds the darkness of the night; it brings on the day - and as it mingles with the first rays of the morning, it seems to be so joyous, cheerful, exulting, bright, that nothing can be better adapted to remind us of Him who came to lead on eternal day. Its place - the first thing that arrests the eye in the morning - might serve to remind us that the Saviour should be the first object that should draw the eye and the heart on the return of each day. In each trial - each scene of sorrow - let us think of the bright star of the morning as it rises on the darkness of the night - emblem of the Saviour rising on our sorrow and our gloom.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come - That is, come to the Saviour; come and partake of the blessings of the gospel; come and be saved. The construction demands this interpretation, as the latter part of the verse shows. The design of this whole verse is, evidently, to show the freeness of the offers of the gospel; to condense in a summary manner all the invitations of mercy to mankind; and to leave on the mind at the close of the book a deep impression of the ample provision which has been made for the salvation of a fallen race. Nothing, it is clear, could be more appropriate at the close of this book, and at the close of the whole volume of revealed truth, than to announce, in the most clear and attracting form, that salvation is free to all, and that whosoever will may be saved.
The Spirit - The Holy Spirit. He entreats all to come. This he does:
(a) in all the recorded invitations in the Bible - for it is by the inspiration of that Spirit that these invitations are recorded;
(b) by all his influences on the understandings, the consciences, and the hearts of people;
(c) by all the proclamations of mercy made by the preaching of the gospel, and by the appeal which friend makes to friend, and neighbor to neighbor, and stranger to stranger - for all these are methods in which the Spirit invites people to come to the Saviour.
And the bride - The church. See the notes at Rev 21:2, Rev 21:9. That is, the church invites all to come and be saved. This it does:
(a) by its ministers, whose main business it is to extend this invitation to mankind;
(b) by its ordinances - constantly setting forth the freeness of the gospel;
(c) by the lives of its consistent members - showing the excellency and the desirableness of true religion;
(d) by all its efforts to do good in the world;
(e) by the example of those who are brought into the church - showing that all, whatever may have been their former character, may be saved; and,
(f) by the direct appeals of its individual members.
Thus a Christian parent invites his children; a brother invites a sister, and a sister invites a brother; a neighbor invites his neighbor, and a stranger a stranger; the master invites his servant, and the servant his master. The church on earth and the church in heaven unite in the invitation, saying, Come. The living father, pastor, friend, invites - and the voice of the departed father, pastor, friend, now in heaven, is heard re-echoing the invitation. The once-loved mother that has gone to the skies still invites her children to come; and the sweet-smiling babe that has been taken up to the Saviour stretches out its arms from heaven, and says to its mother - "Come."
Say, Come - That is, come to the Saviour; come into the church; come to heaven.
And let him that heareth say, Come - Whoever hears the gospel, let him go and invite others to come. Nothing could more strikingly set forth the freeness of the invitation of the gospel than this. The authority to make the invitation is not limited to the ministers of religion; it is not even confined to those who accept it themselves. All persons, even though they should not accept of it, are authorized to tell others that they may be saved. One impenitent sinner may go and tell another impenitent sinner that if he will he may find mercy and enter heaven. How could the offer of salvation be made more freely to mankind?
And let him that is athirst come - Whoever desires salvation, as the weary pilgrim desires a cooling fountain to allay his thirst, let him come as freely to the gospel as that thirsty man would stoop down at the fountain and drink. See the notes on Isa 55:1. Compare the Mat 5:6 note; Joh 7:37 note; Rev 21:6 note.
And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely - Rev 21:6. Every one that is disposed to come, that has any sincere wish to be saved, is assured that he may live. No matter how unworthy he is; no matter what his past life has been; no matter how old or how young, how rich or how poor; no matter whether sick or well, a freeman or a slave; no matter whether educated or ignorant; no matter whether clothed in purple or in rags - riding in state or laid at the gate of a rich man full of sores, the invitation is freely made to all to come and be saved. With what more appropriate truth could a revelation from heaven be closed?
For I testify - The writer does not specify who is meant by the word "I" in this place. The most natural construction is to refer it to the writer himself, and not to the angel, or the Saviour. The meaning is, "I bear this solemn witness, or make this solemn affirmation, in conclusion." The object is to guard his book against being corrupted by any interpolation or change. It would seem not improbable, from this, that as early as the time of John, books were liable to be corrupted by additions or omissions, or that at least there was felt to be great danger that mistakes might be made by the carelessness of transcribers. Against this danger, John would guard this book in the most solemn manner. Perhaps he felt, too, that as this book would be necessarily regarded as obscure from the fact that symbols were so much used, there was great danger that changes would be made by well-meaning persons with a view to make it appear more plain.
Unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book - The word "heareth" seems here to be used in a very general sense. Perhaps in most cases persons would be made acquainted with the contents of the book by hearing it read in the churches; but still the spirit of the declaration must include all methods of becoming acquainted with it.
If any man shall add unto these things - With a view to furnish a more full and complete revelation; or with a profession that new truth had been communicated by inspiration. The reference here is to the book of Revelation only - for at that time the books that now constitute what we call the Bible were not collected into a single volume. This passage, therefore, should not be adduced as referring to the whole of the sacred Scriptures. Still, the principle is one that is thus applicable; for it is obvious that no one has a right to change any part of a revelation which God makes to man; to presume to add to it, or to take from it, or in any way to modify it. Compare the notes at Ti2 3:16.
God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book - These "plagues" refer to the numerous methods described in this book as those in which God would bring severe judgment upon the persecutors of the church and the corrupters of religion. The meaning is, that such a person would be regarded as an enemy of his religion, and would share the fearful doom of all such enemies.
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy - If he shall reject the book altogether; if he shall, in transcribing it, designedly strike any part of it out. It is conceivable that, from the remarkable nature of the communications made in this book, and the fact that they seemed to be unintelligible, John supposed there might be those who would be inclined to omit some portions as improbable, or that he apprehended that when the portions which describe antichrist were fulfilled in distant ages, those to whom those portions applied would be disposed to strike them from the sacred volume, or to corrupt them. He thought proper to guard against this by this solemn declaration of the consequence which would follow such an act. The whole book was to be received - with all its fearful truths - as a revelation from God; and however obscure it might seem, in due time it would be made plain; however faithfully it might depict a fearful apostasy, it was important, both to show the truth of divine inspiration and to save the church, that these disclosures should be in their native purity in the possession of the people of God.
God shall take away his part out of the book of life - Perhaps there is here an intimation that this would be most likely to be done by those who professed to be Christians, and who supposed that their names were in the book of life. In fact, most of the corruptions of the sacred Scriptures have been attempted by those who have professed some form of Christianity. Infidels have but little interest in attempting such changes, and but little influence to make them received by the church. It is most convenient for them, as it is most agreeable to their feelings, to reject the Bible altogether. When it said here that "God would take away his part out of the book of life," the meaning is not that his name had been written in that book, but that he would take away the part which he might have had, or which he professed to have in that book. Such corruption of the divine oracles would show that they had no true religion, and would be excluded from heaven. On the phrase "book of life," see the notes on Rev 3:5.
And out of the holy city - Described in Rev. 21. He would not be permitted to enter that city; he would have no part among the redeemed.
And from the things which are written in this book - The promises that are made; the glories that are described.
He which testifieth these things - The Lord Jesus; for he it was that had, through the instrumentality of the angel, borne this solemn witness to the truth of these things, and this book was to be regarded as his revelation to mankind. See the notes on Rev 1:1; Rev 22:16. He here speaks of himself, and vouches for the truth and reality of these things by saying that he "testifies" of them, or bears witness to them. Compare Joh 18:37. The fact that Jesus himself vouches for the truth of what is here revealed, shows the propriety of what John had said in the previous verses about adding to it, or taking from it.
Saith, Surely I come quickly - That is, the development of these events will soon begin - though their consummation may extend into far distant ages, or into eternity. See the notes on Rev 1:1, Rev 1:3; Rev 22:7, Rev 22:10.
Amen - A word of solemn affirmation or assent. See the notes on Mat 6:13. Here it is to be regarded as the expression of John, signifying his solemn and cheerful assent to what the Saviour had said, that he would come quickly. It is the utterance of a strong desire that it might be so. He longed for his appearing.
Even so - These, too, are the words of John, and are a response to what the Saviour had just said. In the original, it is a response in the same language which the Saviour had used, and the beauty of the passage is marred by the translation "Even so." The original is, "He which testifieth to these things saith, Yea - ναὶ nai - I come quickly. Amen. Yea - ναὶ nai - come, Lord Jesus." It is the utterance of desire in the precise language which the Saviour had used - heart responding to heart.
Come, Lord Jesus - That is, as here intended, "Come in the manner and for the objects referred to in this book." The language, however, is expressive of the feeling of piety in a more extended sense, and may be used to denote a desire that the Lord Jesus would come in any and every manner; that he would come to impart to us the tokens of his presence; that he would come to bless his truth and to revive his work in the churches; that he would come to convert sinners, and to build up his people in holiness; that he would come to sustain us in affliction, and to defend us in temptation; that he would come to put a period to idolatry, superstition, and error, and to extend the knowledge of his truth in the world; that he would come to set up his kingdom on the earth, and to rule in the hearts of people; that he would come to receive us to his presence, and to gather his redeemed people into his everlasting kingdom. It was appropriate to the aged John, suffering exile in a lonely island, to pray that the Lord Jesus would speedily come to take him to himself; and there could have been no more suitable close of this marvelous book than the utterance of such a desire. And it is appropriate for us as we finish its contemplation, disclosing so much of the glories of the heavenly world, and the blessedness of the redeemed in their final state, when we think of the earth, with its sorrows, trials, and cares, to respond to the prayer, and to say, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly." For that glorious coming of the Son of God, when he shall gather his redeemed people to himself, may all who read these notes be finally prepared. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen - The usual benediction of the sacred writers. See the notes on Rom 16:20.