The Revelation: Chapter 21:5-7 (“I will be his God and he will be my son”)

lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaAgain, a voice is heard, but this time we’re told God himself is speaking —

(Rev. 21:5 ESV) 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

We covered the first sentence in the first post on Rev 21:1.

God next emphasizes the certainty of his promises. He declares his words “trustworthy and true.” That is, despite the suffering and persecution the church will have to endure, it’s all going to be worth it. The new heavens and new earth will take us beyond death and fear forever.

(Rev. 21:6 ESV)  6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”

“It is done” can’t help but recall Jesus’ words on the cross: “It is finished.” The exact same announcement was made back in Rev 16:17, helping to demonstrate that the Revelation is made up of parallel accounts. In fact, several elements of chapter 21 and 22 recapitulate the ends of the parallel visions.

God declares himself the Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet), the beginning and the end. He started everything with the Creation in Gen 1:1-2, and now he’s finishing what he began. His work was interrupted by sin, but now sin has been defeated, and so therefore death has been defeated, and now he can bring it all to completion.

The “spring of the water of life” is a promise of eternal life, and it recapitulates the promise of Rev 7:17 and will be repeated in Rev 22:17.

The promise echoes not only Jesus’ words in John 4 but several passages in the prophets, esp. Isa 55:1.

(Isa. 35:4-7 ESV)  4 Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”  5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;  6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;  7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

(Isa. 55:1-3 ESV) “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”

(Joel 3:17-18 ESV)  17 “So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it.  18 “And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD and water the Valley of Shittim.”

The Israelites were a desert people. Water was precious and life-sustaining — and always in short supply. The typical Israelite home had a cistern to collect rain water. It’s not that they didn’t have enough water to live. Rather, gaining enough water to live was a lot of trouble. Even in Jesus’ day, in many villages the nearest well was outside of town, and the women had to go to the well to draw water daily — and water is heavy and it evaporates.

If you were traveling, you had to carry water with you, or else be certain of where the next well or stream would be. There were no vending machines dispensing water bottles.

The occasional artesian well, where the water comes up out of the ground without having to be drawn, was a great blessing indeed. And, of course, to receive the water without drawing, without carrying, and for free! Well, that would have been unimaginable.

Therefore, when God compares his salvation to a “fountain free,” he’s not speaking of an electric water fountain in the church lobby (which was my understanding as a child). He was speaking of a spring continuously welling up — so much water you could swim in it. God does not dole out his forgiveness sparingly. It’s generous to the point of overflowing.

(Rev. 21:7 ESV)  7 “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”

This promise recapitulates all seven of the preceding visions of victory.

“Those who conquer will inherit these things.” The substantival participle ὁ νικῶν, “the one who conquers,” introduces a promise-of-victory formula similar to the seven formulas found at the conclusion of each of the seven proclamations (2:7b, 11b, 17b, 26f.; 3:5, 12, 21; see Comment on 2:7b).

David E. Aune, Revelation 17–22 (WBC 52C; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 1129.

“Conquers” could be translated “prevails” or even “wins” or “is victorious.”

“Heritage” is something inherited. More literally, the language is “will inherit these things,” referring to the promises of v. 4 especially.

Now, “inherit” hearkens back to the Torah, which refers to the Promised Land as an inheritance. Of course, in modern terms, we “inherit” from someone who dies. Here, God is speaking of what we’ll receive after we die. So it’s a little confusing.

Think of it more in terms of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The son requested that his father give him his inheritance — his share of the father’s property — early. Hence, in that part of the world, the “inheritance” is the father’s wealth to be given to his sons, usually on the father’s death but, for a generous father, sooner. Hence, the Promised Land was given by God to his children as a gift. Since it came from God’s bounty, it was an inheritance.

The phrase “I will be his God and he will be my son” refers back to God’s covenant with David.

The father-child (father-son) imagery in this phrase reflects the adaptation of adoption language in the Davidic covenant tradition reflected in 2 Sam 7:14 (“I will be his father and he shall be my son”) and several other passages in the OT (Pss 2:7; 89:26–27 [MT 27–28]; Jer 3:19; 31:9c [“For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn”]; 1 Chr 17:13; 22:10; 28:6).

David E. Aune, Revelation 17–22 (WBC 52C; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 1129.

Jesus, of course, is David’s descendant, ruling from the throne of heaven. But this promise is made to all Christians — because we’re all have been incorporated into Jesus and therefore are also kings and queens, destined to rule from God’s own throne. The promise of kingship given to Jesus is thus extended to every Christian.

The great promise to the Messiah is found in Psalm 2 —

(Ps. 2:6-8 ESV)  6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”  7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.  8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

But Rev 21:7 extends this language to each Christian. We are all begotten of God. To be “born again” per John 3:5 is the same in the Greek as to be “begotten again.” And to be begotten by God is not only to become his son but to become a king.

In the next post, we take up the one book that, in my reading, most directly tries to makes sense of this amazing fact.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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One Response to The Revelation: Chapter 21:5-7 (“I will be his God and he will be my son”)

  1. laymond says:

    The great promise to the Messiah is found in Psalm 2 —

    (Ps. 2:6-8 ESV) 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

    In the general sense, Psalm 2 is interpreted as referring to King David, God’s anointed, defeating the enemies of Israel who gather against her.

    however,the promise is made to the future Messiah, a future kinfolk of David, that he will inherit King David’s throne. and also the fight against Israel’s enemies. who are also God’s enemies.

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