Revelation 22:12-17, 20


Forms of the verb  "to come"  appear six times in our text; once in verse 12, three times in verse 17, and twice in verse 20.  Two are future indicative, spoken by Jesus.  The remaining four are second singular imperative.  We shall comment further on these as we go along.

Revelation 22:12  "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.

Very obviously  "behold" alerts us to something important, very important.  Verse 12 is reminiscent of Isaiah 40:10:  "Behold, the Lord God will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him.  Behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompenses before Him."  He brings the reward with Him.  That implies that there will be no trial after which the type of reward will de decided upon.  It will be a judgment, not a trial.

Franzmann: All men are moving, not toward a distant, dimly apprehended future but toward Him Who draws near soon, to judge and to reward.
Swete: The Voice of Christ comes in parenthetically, as in verse 7.
Kretzmann: It is the last hour of this world, and the return of the Lord to judgment may be expected at any time.  These works indicate a state of faith or a state of unbelief.  He is a source of unfailing comfort to the believers, but one of terror to all those that have rejected His salvation.
Mounce: The distribution of rewards on the basis of works is taught throughout Scripture.  Jeremiah 17:10 is representative.  Look at Romans 2:6 and 1 Peter 1:7.  It is the quality of a man's life which provides the ultimate indication of what he really believes.

On this thought compare Matthew 25:31-46.  Works are the fruit, not the cause, of salvation.  There is no such thing as a fruitless Christian.  Look at John 15:1-8.  If this verse of our text frightens the hearer he must be advised to confess his sin and flee to the healing wounds of Jesus.  Thus did the dying thief and even he produced good works in his dying hours.

Lenski: The angel is still speaking but is now quoting Jesus just as in verse 7.  The singular of  "work"  is collective, the public evidence of what is in his heart, either faith or unbelief. Look at 20:12.

Revelation 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

By the way, there are two  "I Am's"  spoken by Jesus of Himself in our text: here in verse 13 and in verse 16.

Bengel: The Lord Jesus plainly speaks here: and there are three clauses; the first we examined in 1:8, where the Father speaks of himself; the second, at 1:17, where the Lord Jesus speaks of himself; the third, with the first, we touched upon at 21:6, where again the Father speaks.  Now, in this passage, the three clauses are accumulated, for a most manifest proof of the glory of the Lord Jesus, who testifies of himself both what the Father had spoken of himself, 21:6, and what he himself had spoken of himself, 1:17.
Mounce: In 1:8 and 21:6 it was God who identified himself as the Alpha and the Omega.  The risen Christ now applies the title to himself.  Its meaning is essentially the same as that of the two following designations, the first of which Christ has already applied to himself in 1:17 and 2:8.  The names set him apart from the entire created order.  He is unlimited in any temporal sense, and in that all things are found both in the Father and in the Son the attributes of the former belong to the latter as well.
Lenski: This is signed by the Lord's own threefold signature: God's REVELATION, all HISTORY from state to finish; all God's saving WORK from inception to consummation.

Revelation 22:14  "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.

Now the angel speaks the final beatitude in this Book.  There are thirteen beatitudes in Matthew, fifteen in Luke, and seven in Revelation, 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14.

This beatitude denotes the blessedness of the child of God, in one way or another.  In verse 7 it denotes the blessedness of sanctification.  Here, in verse 14, it denotes the blessedness of justification.

"Those who wash their robes"  of course denotes those whose sins are constantly washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ.  The expression  "tree of life"  is a clear reference to Genesis 3:24 and denotes immortality.  Sin excluded man from immortality.  The blood of Jesus grants the right to immortality.

Franzmann: The healing and health of the tree of life, 22:2, may become theirs now; the splendid gates of the new Jerusalem are opening for them even now.

Revelation 22:15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

On this verse compare 21:8 and 27.  Also look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.  The word  "dog"  in the Old Testament was used of unclean persons, for example, the male prostitutes mentioned in Deuteronomy 23:18.  The verse mentions sorcerers, people who put their faith in superstition, false beliefs.  The astrologers today should note this word.  Their beliefs amount to sorcery.  Also mentioned are those who sin against the sixth commandment, and again the fifth commandment, be it in thought, word or deed.  Idolaters are those children of the devil whose main activity is noted in John 8:44.  Our verse is speaking of the deliberate, willful, constant sinner.

Franzmann: Only the hard will of impenitence will close those gates forever.
Swete: No one who has watched the dogs that prowl in the quarters of an Eastern city will wonder at the contempt and disgust which the word suggests to the Oriental mind.
Mounce: The contrast is between the blessedness of the faithful and the fate of the wicked.
Kretzmann: But of the unbelievers and the deliberate transgressors of God's commandments it is said that they are outside of the heavenly Jerusalem and shall not enter.
Verse 15 is frightening Law, and the Law always accuses.  The Law always convicts.  If the believing child of God is frightened by any item in this verse he should immediately be comforted by the Gospel and be told:  "Go and sin no more."

Revelation 22:16  "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

Here Jesus plainly speaks for Himself. He uses  "I"  of Himself twice.  He endorses everything that His messenger has said.  Everything that has been written in this book for all the churches -- written for all congregations throughout the New Testament.  Note that the glorified Savior calls Himself by the name of  "Jesus"  which means  "Savior from sin."

Franzmann: He has entered our history as 'the offspring of David,' Romans 1:3. The one Man who as a future, the Morning Star, Numbers 24:17, who ushers in God's eternal day, has in this Revelation to John been inviting men into His future.
Swete: Now at length Jesus speaks in His human personal name.  He attests to the genuineness of His messenger.  He is at once the Root and the Offshoot, the Beginning and the End of the whole economy associated with the Davidic family.  The Morning Star, the Lord's ultimate gift to the conqueror, is Jesus Himself.  He is the brightest in the whole galaxy, the Light which lightens every man by its coming into the world, John 1:9; the Star of Dawn, Whose coming precedes the sunrise of the Day of God.
Kretzmann: The Lord Himself signs the Book of Revelation with His name.  He, Jesus, is both the Scion and the Offspring of David, the relation of these two being like dawn and the sunrise, both David's Lord and David's Son; and He is the brightest Star of the morning, the Day-spring from on high, Luke 1:78, of whom the prophets have spoken; He is the eternal God.
Mounce: The morning star is a promise that the long night of tribulation is all but over and that the new eschatological day is about to dawn.
Note the repetition of the article with each adjective at the end of verse 16.  Beck translates:  "I Jesus have sent My angel to tell you these truths for the churches. I am David's Descendent and the bright morning star."

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the bride say,  "Come!"  And let him who hears say,  "Come!"  Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

The  "Spirit" is obviously the Holy Spirit.  The  "bride" before in this Book denoted the Church in glory, but here it plainly means the Church in time.  Are the two imperatives  "come"  addressed to Jesus or are they an invitation to the repentant sinner, as in the latter part of the verse, to receive the Gospel?  In view of the second part of the verse very likely the two  "come"  denote an invitation to the repentant sinner.  If that is so the entire verse is evangelistic.  Look at Isaiah 55:1 and John 7:37.  Note that almost all the verb forms in this verse are present tense, denoting constant inviting and constant offering of the Gospel.

"Whoever wishes"  theologically must denote the person whom God Himself has made willing. Look at Philippians 2:13.  The Holy Spirit and the Church invite the individual human being.  When that person hears the message he must respond with the same invitation to other people.  And precisely why the individual should come is clearly described in the second part of the verse.

Beck translates:  "'Come!' say the Spirit and the bride.  If you hear this, say 'Come!'  If you are thirsty, come.  If you want it, take the water of life -- it costs nothing."  Water is indispensable to preserve physical life.  The Gospel is indispensable not only to preserve spiritual life, but also to bestow it.

On the invitation of this verse look at 1 Corinthians 16:22 where we find the word  "maranatha" which means  "Our Lord, come!"  This can also be applied to verse 20.

Franzmann: When men have learned so to pray and have heeded the invitation to take the water of life, John's book has accomplished its purpose.
Swete: The call is to be taken up and repeated by every hearer of this Book; not only the Church in her ideal unity, but each individual member of every Christian congregation where the book shall be read is invited to demand the fulfillment of the Lord's promise.
Kretzmann: What the Spirit says in so many passages of Scriptures, what the Church has preached for so many centuries, that should be echoed by everyone that hears the gracious invitation to partake of the joys of eternal salvation.

On this entire verse compare Matthew 11:28-30.

Mounce: It is the testimony of the church empowered by the Holy Spirit that constitutes the great evangelizing force of this age.  Those who hear and accept repeat the invitation to others who thirst for the water of life.
Lenski: No wonder the attestation of this Book is so strong, seeing how blessed its purpose is!
(Note: the following verses are not included in the sermon text) Revelation 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. Revelation 22:19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says,  "Yes, I am coming soon."  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

"These things"  means at least the entire contents of the Book of Revelation.  The prediction and promise of verse 7 is repeated.  Up to this point Jesus speaks.  Now the Church responds, collectively and individually.

"Amen"  denotes the faith and acceptance of the Church and the individual.

Only in this and the next verse is Jesus called  "the Lord Jesus"  in the Book of Revelation.  Beck translates:  "He who spoke these truths says: 'Yes, I am coming soon!'  Certainly!  Come, Lord Jesus!"

The latter part of this verse is used in the prayer used by many Lutherans as a table prayer.  The words  "Come, Lord Jesus"  are very likely spoken frequently by Christians throughout the world.  Children of God long for the moment when the Lord Jesus will return.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Epistle Texts, Festival Season Sundays, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1985, pp. 122-126. Used with permission.

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