Revelation #14b: (chap 22) – An open book
sermon Revelation 22 : Pierre Constant, 2022_10_25, AB Lausanne church
title : Revelation #14b: (chap 22) – An open book
Revelation #14b: (chap 22) – An open book
If many people perceive Revelation as a difficult book to understand, full of ‘mysteries’ and incomprehensible symbols, muddled announcements of predictions about the future, if many see only promises little related to the present world , the final chapter sets things right.
This chapter (1) reminds us of the aim of the whole book, (2) it certifies the truth of the testimony given therein, (3) it brings its main character back to the fore, and (4) it indicates the relevance of all this revelation for the present time.
Revelation is not a book that is lost in the future, but a divine message that challenges us in the present time.
The division into chapters is sometimes misleading, and this is the case in this last chapter of the Bible, v. 1-5 actually continue a section started in Apoc. 21.1 , while vv. 6-21 constitute the conclusion of the book.
We will first study the rest of the text in four parts, after which I wish to conclude by offering some suggestions for a better understanding of Revelation as a whole.
A. Overview of Revelation 22
1. What is central to the vision of the new heavens and new earth (22:1-5)
Despite a significant number of repetitions of certain elements already mentioned in chapter 21 or even earlier in the story (the name of God on their foreheads, there will be no more night, the Lord God will give them light, and so on) , something central appears again, mentioned twice: “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (vv. 1, 3).
The fact that the entire expression is repeated already attracts attention; but this throne appears in the center: it is from the throne itself that the river of water of life issues, and it is on the banks of this river that the tree of life is found. Assuredly, the allusions to TA are numerous:
- The tree of life appears in Genesis 2 and 3
- The river flowing out of the throne recalls the great river mentioned in Ezekiel 47 , where there are also trees with therapeutic virtues. The image of the river is certainly taken from Ezekiel (although not identical). But while this prophecy of Ezekiel was aimed primarily at the people of Israel, its fulfillment in the NT goes far beyond the geographical territory of the land of Israel; we are in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21.1), the new Jerusalem (21.2, 10), where there is no longer a temple (21.22), where God himself dwells in the midst of His people forever (21.3). The first things are gone, all things are now new (21.5).
- The phrase “they shall reign forever and ever” echoes Dan. 7.27 , another apocalyptic text.
Many have attempted to understand the exact geography of these verses; however, the central point does not lie in the arrangement of places, but rather in the centrality granted to the throne of God and the Lamb (note this repeated link between God and the Lamb).
The presence of God will no longer be mediated. While some may have seen the face of God in the Old Testament, what they saw was in fact only a very partial manifestation of God ( Exodus 24 , Exodus 34 , Isaiah 6 , and so on). But at that time, all the servants of God will see his face, that is to say, they will enjoy direct access to God, without sin, without veil, without vision “as through a mirror. It will be the ultimate perfection.
I must add that more than a desire to see our beloved ones again, we will be in the presence of the beloved Son of the Father.
In times of intense suffering and persecution, amid betrayals and killings, the book of Revelation leads us to look beyond present suffering.
At the beginning of the book of Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 9—11), the glory of God had departed from his people. At the very end of the book, Ezekiel contemplates quite a reversal: “The ‘Lord is here'” (Ezekiel 48:35). Here, then, is accomplished what the very last verse of the book of Ezekiel announced: the permanent presence of God among His people. This word finds its fulfillment in the New Jerusalem, yet to come.
If, as Paul says, “salvation is nearer to us than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11), we are not yet in the presence of final salvation. Some dimensions of our salvation are yet to come.
2. The Apocalypse, a revelation certified by a series of testimonies (22.6-11)
Note the witnesses mentioned in the following verses:
- v. 6: the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets;
- v. 8: John, who heard and saw these things;
- v. 9: the angel sent to John, “companion in service and that of your brothers the prophets”.
The ultimate superiority of God and his being the sole recipient of worship are again noted, just as they had been in Apoc. 19.10 .
We have already indicated, during our very first lesson, a major difference between the apocalyptic literature of the Old Testament (notably the book of Daniel) and the Apocalypse of John, in that the Apocalypse is an open book. Indeed, Daniel had received the order to seal the words of the prophecy that he had received: “You, Daniel, keep these words secret and seal the book until the time of the end. Many then will read it, and knowledge will increase. . . . I heard, but I did not understand; and I say: My Lord, what will be the outcome of these events? He answered: Go, Daniel, for these words shall be secret and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, whitened and purified; the wicked will do evil and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have understanding will understand” (Dan. 12.4 , 8-10).
John, on the other hand, receives the opposite order: “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book! Because the time is near. Let him who is unjust be unjust still, let him who is filthy be filthy still, let the just do justice still, and let him who is holy be sanctified still” ( Revelation 22: 10-11 ). Two important things to note from these parallels between Daniel 12 and Revelation 22 :
- If Revelation is an open book, unlike Daniel’s which was to remain sealed until the time of the end, it seems that this end time has now arrived when John writes down Revelation. Thus, far from dealing with events that will have to take place in the distant future, the Apocalypse is primarily addressed to people living in the first century, capable of understanding and grasping the tenor of what was addressed to them. .
- The v. 11 of Revelation 22 , difficult to grasp in itself, is more easily interpreted in the light of Daniel 12.8-10. The injustice and defilement in question refer not only to behaviors, but to a fundamental incapacity of people, when confronted with the book, when undergoing the judgments of God mentioned in the cycles of judgment presented in the heptads, to repent and turn to God. For example, note:
- the fact that men will seek death and find it not, when stung by locusts at the fifth trumpet ( Rev. 9.6 );
- the fact that the inhabitants of the earth perceive the testimony of the two witnesses as a torment rather than as a grace of God on their behalf ( Rev. 11.10 );
- the presence of blasphemies and the notorious absence of repentance when undergoing the fourth and fifth vials ( Rev. 16.9 , 11).
- In other words, Revelation 22:11 denotes the impossibility of human beings turning themselves to God. We hear an echo of the words of Jesus: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ). It also points to the pure grace given to those who have received the seal of God and who have not received the mark of the beast; but for the grace of God on their behalf, they would be among those who prefer darkness to light. Just, they practice justice; holy, they are still sanctified. Finally, this text reveals the permanence of these two states. Indeed, far from repenting, the unjust and the defiled persevere in their spiritual error; contrary to popular belief, there will be no remorse at the Last Judgment and thereafter.
What will be found far from the face of God will be people who have not had what they wanted, and who will continue to want what they cannot get, namely, their own will, the ability to determine for themselves what is right or wrong, and the impossibility of seeing their desires fulfilled. They will also be people who will recognize for eternity that the righteousness and holiness they have received has been bestowed on them by pure grace, and that they will have only the Lamb to thank, rather than their own wisdom.
3. Revelation, a revelation centered on Jesus Christ and authenticated by him (22:12-16)
Jesus speaks in vv. 12-16, and certifies the truth of the testimony given by John. The soon to come (v. 12) cannot be anyone other than Jesus. Neither the angel, nor John, nor the Father had affirmed such a coming; only Jesus, the one who loves us and who delivered us from our sins by his blood, and to whom were given glory and power for eternity in the first chapter, is the one whose coming John had announced in Apoc. 1.5b -7. In the letters to the Churches, Jesus affirms “I am coming soon” (in Smyrna – 2.16; in Philadelphia – 3.11), a word spoken again by Jesus in 22.20, to which responds: Amen, Come, Lord Jesus!
If the Father had revealed himself using the titles “Alpha and Omega” in Apoc. 1.8 , it is now Jesus’ turn to affirm such a truth with regard to His own person, another way for John to unequivocally affirm the full divinity of the Lamb, of the Son, of Jesus.
The vv. 14-15 present one last time a central truth of Revelation: there are only two peoples, two kinds of people:
- Those who wash their robe, who have the right to the tree of life, and who enter through the gates of the city. All these expressions relate to the same group and are synonymous with each other.
- The other people, variously presented throughout the book as the inhabitants of the earth, those who have received the mark of the beast, the unrighteous and the defiled, and here presented under the titles “dogs, magicians, lechers, murderers , idolaters, lovers of lies”.
Jesus speaks again, to present himself under two other titles:
- the Root of David (a sure echo of Isaiah 11 :1 );
- the bright morning star (cf. 2 Pet 2.19 , perhaps an echo of Numbers 24.17 , the star that comes out of Jacob).
4. Revelation, a relevant revelation for the present time (22:17-21)
The v. 17 contains a double call:
- A first, addressed to Jesus from the Spirit and the bride, from “he who hears”.
- A second appeal, this time addressed “to the thirsty,” again reminding us of the words of Isaiah 55.1 .
The admonition to keep this revelation intact and pure finds parallels in apocalyptic literature, and is intended to signal the authority of the words of “this book.” “.
Finally, after a final promise of return from Jesus, and a final response in the form of a prayer, we have a greeting or blessing similar to those found at the end of some NT epistles.
While many contemporary readers get lost in reading Revelation, while many so-called modern prophets get lost in conjecture, make mistakes in predicting the hour, the day, the year of Jesus’ return, while many mystics fantasize about the meaning of a biblical book whose literary genre is unknown to them but whose meaning was clear to the eyes and ears of its first readers, the book of Revelation, like any biblical book, cannot be interpreted only according to its literary genre.
We do not read Leviticus as we read the book of the prophet Isaiah, that of Proverbs, Psalms or Genesis. Nor do we read Revelation as a Gospel or an Epistle. We read the Apocalypse even less in the light of gossip newspapers, the predictions of Nostradamus or the Mayan calendar.
No, we read Revelation as a book addressed to first-century Christians, called to live in this world while not being of this world. We read Revelation as God’s revelation, written in a style and genre less familiar to us, but not hermetic.
Throughout our course, we read Revelation as an intelligible book, admittedly difficult at times, but steeped in Old Testament allusions, embedded in New Testament theology, and in the light of its literary genre.
We did not seek to analyze the text in great detail, but rather to understand the main meaning and some lessons to be drawn from it, here and there, in our study. Here are six final elements:
- Jesus Christ is the central point and key to the interpretation of this book (Rev. 1:1-2).
- Reading and listening to this book is a blessing (Rev. 1.3).
- Revelation was written to encourage Christians to persevere in their testimonies, even in the midst of severe persecution.
- It was also written to reassure Christians that what they were experiencing was known to God, and that ultimately they would have victory.
- It was sent to different churches to correct course, to repent of their sins if necessary, and to encourage them to persevere until the end.
- Finally, it calls all its readers to come to Jesus Christ, to “drink of the water of life, freely”
Key Bible Passages
1. And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
2. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
3. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
4. And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
5. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
6. And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
7. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
8. And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.
9. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
10. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
11. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
12. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
13. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
14. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
15. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
16. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
17. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
18. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
20. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
21. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Related Links / Notes
Study Notes are translated from the original French version prepared by Pierre Constant who has been Associate Professor of the New Testament at the Toronto Baptist Seminary since 2003. The orginal French notes are in “note” form, and are not a direct transcription of the video. The notes provided here follow that form, but are detailed enough to help provide a deep understanding of the texts in the book of revelation.
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