(Rev. 22:6-7 ESV) 6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” 7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
We now shift from the description of the New Heavens and New Earth and the New Jerusalem to the concluding words of the book.
The command is to keep the words of the prophecy of this book. Not to correctly predict the order of the Rapture, the Tribulation, and the Millennium. It’s not about predicting future history. It’s about obedience. The command is to be faithful in the face of persecution and temptation. To resist worldly power and to see the demonic powers that hide behind the human face of the -isms that tempt us to divide our loyalties.
(Rev. 22:8-9 ESV) 8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
Of course, John the Revelator surely knew better than to worship an angel. The point is that we worship God and God only — not even his angels. Not even his prophets. Not even emperors, kings, and presidents.
(Rev. 22:10 ESV) 10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.”
Why tell John not to “seal up the words” of this Revelation?
The prohibition of sealing “the words of the prophecy” is linked to the command to Daniel at the conclusion of his prophecy: “close the words and seal up the book until the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4 Theod.; so also 12:9; 8:26; cf. LXX). Daniel prophesied about a final tribulation for God’s people, the consummate defeat of wicked kingdoms and the eternal establishment of God’s kingdom. But Daniel neither understood precisely how these events would transpire nor when in history the final end would occur and the prophecies would at last be fulfilled (Dan. 8:27; 12:8–9), though he was assured that the end had not yet come (Dan. 12:13). Therefore, the sealing of Daniel’s book meant that its prophecies would be neither fully understood nor fulfilled until the end.
What Daniel prophesied can now be understood because the prophecies have begun to be fulfilled and the latter days have begun. That “the words of the prophecy” are not sealed means that now, at last, the OT end-time prophecies, especially Daniel’s, have begun to be fulfilled and, in the light of that fulfillment, can now be understood better. It thus indicates not only the beginning of fulfillment, but also the revelation of greater insight into the prophecies, which was kept from OT saints (so likewise Eph. 3:4–5). In particular, Christ’s death, resurrection, and reign over history and the saint’s tribulation are where fulfillment of OT prophecies begins. Through Christ’s initial fulfillment and teaching, saints can have greater insight into OT prophecy and better obey God’s word for their generation.
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), 1129–1130.
(Rev. 22:11 ESV) 11 “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”
This sounds almost fatalistic, as though our fates have already been written and we can do nothing to change it. A better reading is suggested by Rowland–
The series of sayings in 22:11 (reminiscent of 13:10) suggests a rather fatalistic attitude, contrasting with the much more vital, open-ended attitude throughout the book, which encourages change of heart rather than resignation to one’s fate. But the deterministic tone may well be read as part of the book’s challenge for us: to decide whether we belong among the unjust or the filthy (v. 11; cf. Dan 12:10; Ezek 3:27). Of all the biblical books, Revelation is the one most intended to lead the reader to change. A watchword of Revelation is “repent.”
Christopher C. Rowland, “The Book of Revelation,” in Hebrews-Revelation (vol. 12 of New Interpreters Bible, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), 733.
That is, we being told to pick our path. There is no in-between, nor is delay an option. Decide whose side you are on today.
(Rev. 22:12-13 ESV) 12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
“Judgment according to works” is the technical term, and it bothers readers of Paul that the Revelation, like Jesus, so overtly connects salvation to behavior. (Personally, I’d be more worried to obey than to sort through the metaphysics. Speaking as a professional lawyer, this is a threat. We should take it seriously as such.)
The point, though, is that the saved will be saved (by grace). The Revelation does not pretend that the saints are perfect or ideal. There is nothing romantic in the Revelation. It’s brutally realistic: the saved will struggle and sometimes mess up. But they are the saved, chosen, and beloved by God, and if they are faithful (not perfect, not ideal, not free from error or sin), God will reward them.
(Rev. 22:14 ESV) 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.
To most Christians, washing our robes is not a familiar metaphor. Baptism, for example, is often referenced in scripture as a washing, but not of our clothes.
[T]he origin of the metaphor of washing one’s garments is rooted in the practice frequently attested in the OT and early Jewish literature of the washing of garments (and sometimes the body as well) as a purification ritual (πλύνειν is used of washing things that are not the body or a part of the body; e.g., LXX Lev 14:9, καὶ πλυνεῖ τὰ ἱμάτια καὶ λούσεται τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ ὓδατι, “and he will wash his garments and bathe his body in water”; cf. Louw-Nida, § 47.8). It must therefore be understood in the active sense of what a person must do, i.e., either reform his or her way of living or (less likely) die as a witness for Christ.
The metaphor of washing one’s garments is appropriate in the context of the larger metaphor of entering into the holy city, as some of the following texts suggest. The people of Israel were required to wash their clothes in preparation for their appearance before God (Exod 19:10, 14), and Levites were required to wash their clothes as a ritual of consecration (Num 8:7, 21; priests, on the other hand were given entirely new garments, Lev 8:13).
David E. Aune, Revelation 17–22 (WBC 52C; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 1220.
(Aune’s commentary in the Word Bible Commentary series, like Beale’s in the NIGTC, is thorough and very frequently cited.)
In other words, to enter the Temple, pilgrims had to wash their clothes. Christians do this by being faithful to Jesus so that his blood continually cleanses us (1 John 1:7). The verb tense of “wash” is present and implies continuous washing. It’s not just repenting and being baptized. We must continue in our faithfulness or we won’t be eligible to enter the Eternal Temple to worship the Eternal God.
(Rev. 22:15 ESV) 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
Despite the clever arguments of many, the Revelation resists a Universalist interpretation. Some people aren’t going to make it.
The reference to “dogs” does not answer the age-old question of whether dogs go to heaven (the answer as to cats is obvious).
“Dog” is used here as metaphor for the wicked (if understood literally, it would be the only reference in this vice list to nonhumans) and is the only instance in which this term occurs on an early Christian vice list. It may be that κύων, “dog” (and perhaps οἱ πόρνοι, “the fornicators,” as well; see below), is used more specifically here for male homosexuals, pederasts, or sodomites since the term on the parallel vice list in 21:8 (see Comment there) is ἐβδελυγμένοι, “those who are polluted.”
David E. Aune, Revelation 17–22 (WBC 52C; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 1222-1223.