The Revelation: Chapter 22:3-5 (they will reign forever)

lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaThe river of the water of life brings about a change in the nature of the world.

(Rev 22:3 ESV) No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

(Rev 22:3 NASB) And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him;

The text speaks of either end of those things accursed or the end of the curse itself.

[The second movement is said to be the heavenly celebration after the Creation.]

The curse of physical and spiritual death set on the human race by Adam in the first garden is permanently removed by the Lamb in the last garden at the time of the new creation. In primeval time humanity was expelled from the garden sanctuary, and its entrance was thereafter closed to sinful humanity. At the end time the redeemed will be ushered into that sanctuary again on the coattails of the Lamb’s work.

Even all the various physical sufferings and sorrows associated with the fallen condition of humanity, to which even the redeemed were susceptible, will be entirely removed and will no longer pose a threat in the new order.

This means not only that the saints will be free from the danger of separation from God but also that they will be secure from the entire range (πᾶν) of persecutions and afflictions threatening them in the former world. Therefore, the removal of the curse includes elimination of both physical and spiritual evils. The use of the same formula, a noun with οὐκ ἔσται ἔτι (“there will no longer be”), in 21:1, 4 with the same idea in mind, confirms this meaning.

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1112–1113.

Hence, we’ve come full circle from Gen 3 and the Fall of Man. Man is healed and restored to his proper place in the order of things.

Servants

God’s servants will either “serve” or “worship” him. The Greek is ambiguous, but the word (latreuo) is normally used of serving God at the Temple as a priest. Does that mean we’ll play harps in the heavenly orchestra? Or that we’ll burn incense? Or that we’ll prostrate ourselves in eternal prayer?

Fee says it very well —

Whatever John himself understood by “serve him,” he most likely was simply using language from his current worldview, where royal servants live only to serve the king. Again we are confronted with the kind of language that makes sense as imagery, but which is nearly incomprehensible in terms of its getting fleshed out. At this point the reader is left with imagery alone, while one is again thrown back on the fact that God can be trusted, whatever else; and therefore one may be sure that this “heaven on earth” will be infinitely better, greater, and grander than present imagination is capable of grasping.

Gordon D. Fee, Revelation, New Covenant Commentary Series, (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), 304–305.

Rev 22:4

(Rev. 22:4 ESV) They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

The reference to seeing God’s face likely is to —

The greatest of all eternity’s blessings is reflected in the one phrase, “They will see his face.” Moses, the great lawgiver of the old dispensation, was not allowed to see the face of God because God had declared, “No one may see me and live” (Exod 33:20; cf. 33:23, where Moses is allowed to see only the back of God). In the ancient world criminals were banished from the presence of the king and not allowed to look upon his face (Esth 7:8; cf. 2 Sam 14:24). Jesus taught that only the pure in heart will see God (Matt 5:8), and John in his first epistle speaks of the great transformation to take place at the return of Christ when “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 400.

“We shall be like him” and so we’ll able to “see him as he is.” Words fail …

But why on earth would God’s name be written on our foreheads?

[B]oth Philo (Vit. Mos. 2.114ff.) and Josephus (Ant. 3.187) say that on Aaron’s forehead [by means of his turban] was written only the name “Yahweh.”

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1114.

We’ll have God’s name written on us to show that we are priests before God and only God. Indeed, in a sense, we’ll be high priests because, having been baptized into Jesus, we take on the characteristics of Jesus — who is called high priest in the heavenly Temple by the author of Hebrews.

Rev 22:5

(Rev. 22:5 ESV) And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

We’ve covered earlier God as the light or sun of heaven. We need to reflect just a bit more on “they will reign forever and ever.” Obviously, “reign” is the word for the rule of a king or queen.

Men and women will be restored to their dominion over the universe given them in Gen 1:26-28. But, of course, God and Jesus are reigning. Thus, the saints enjoy what the Orthodox call theosis, that is, the very unity with God that Jesus prayed for in John 17.

John speaks of the saints’ reigning, even though there are no explicit statements about subjects to be ruled in the eternal state. The point is that they have such intimate fellowship with God that they not only take on his name (v 4) but also become associated with his throne (v 3) to such a degree that they are said to “reign forever and ever.” Perhaps, their reign is best understood according to a corporate exegesis of Zech. 14:9: “the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be one, and his name one.”

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1116.

It’s impossible to paint anything close to an exact picture of what the next age will be like.

At the risk of extracting overliteral precision from the picture here, it may nevertheless be profitable to consider that there is a sense in which there are subjects over whom the saints rule. They participate in the judgment of unholy people and angels at the last day (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:2–3; Rev. 2:26–27; 17:14; 19:14). … There is still a sense in which the saints rule forever, even if the last judgment is construed as only a one-time event and not an ongoing activity into eternity. That is, they exercise sovereignty over the new creation in a way similar to how Adam was to rule “over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28; Psalm 8).

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1116.

Why will we be given new bodies? According to the early Christians, the purpose of this new body will be to rule wisely over God’s new world. Forget those images about lounging around playing harps. There will be work to do and we shall relish doing it. All the skills and talents which we have put to God’s service in this present life—and perhaps, too, the interests and likings we gave up because they conflicted with our vocation—will be enhanced and ennobled and given back to us to be exercised to his glory. This is perhaps the most mysterious, and least explored, aspect of the resurrection life. But there are several promises in the New Testament about God’s people ‘reigning’, and these cannot just be empty words.

If, as we have already seen, the biblical view of God’s future is of the renewal of the entire cosmos, there will be plenty to be done, entire new projects to undertake. In terms of the vision of original creation in Genesis 1 and 2, the garden will need to be tended once more, and the animals renamed. These are only images, of course, but like all other future-oriented language they serve as true signposts to a larger reality—a reality to which most Christians give little or no thought.

Tom Wright, Surprised by Hope, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2007), 173–174.

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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 22:3-5 (they will reign forever)

  1. Ray Downen says:

    We do well to believe that God will be fully in control of the NEW heavens and NEW earth which will replace this one. Here, God controls weather and people choose whether or not to obey Him. There, God will be fully in control. We humans have no way to imagine a world where no sin exists.

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