Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation
Lest we forget, when reading this fantastic and mysterious book; it is, first and foremost, about Jesus Christ, it is His Revelation. Only secondarily, and due to His Revelation as the Son of God, as He told Caiaphas in Matthew 26:64. 'Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.', is it a record, in sign and metaphor, of the annihilation of the apostate 'children' of Israel, after the flesh. When Jesus had spoken the words above; the high priest tore his robe, because, in his hearing, Jesus had blasphemed; God was the only one in his knowledge that came, or rode ( Deuteronomy 33:26, Psalm 68:4 ) 'on the clouds of heaven'. Jesus told Caiaphas, in other words, that He was God Himself, and now revealed to His people, His servants in the Great Tribulation, that He is Who He said He was, very God of very God!
This Book was written for the consolation of His servants who were going through the Great Tribulation, and as I said before, being first and foremost THE Revelation of Jesus as the Christ; it is this fact which was of greatest consolation to the saints, the 'souls under the altar'. As His 'coming on the clouds' was in judgment upon their adversary, first-century apostate Judaism, this was also of great relief to them, even, for those who heeded Jesus' words in Matthew 24:16, Mark 13:14, and Luke 21:21, it also meant their physical salvation ( Romans 13:11 ), for they escaped the siege of the earthly Jerusalem.
And he showed me a pure[a] river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, [ was ] the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each [ tree ] yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree [ were ] for the healing of the nations.
Some study has been made, I believe, concerning these 'fruits', and how they might be matched up with the 'fruits of the Spirit', mentioned in passages such as Galatians 5:22 & 23 and Ephesians 5:9 ( see also I Corinthians 13 and II Peter 1:5-7 ) , and although a correlation can certainly be found there, I believe that to try to make too much of it is to blur the point; the point being, that John, in a vision, was being gently reminded of what Jesus had said a bit earlier, and which John himself had recorded in the Gospel which bears his name. As recorded in John 15:5; Jesus had said, 'I am the vine, you [ are ] the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing'. Jesus was revealing to His servant, and through him, to His servants, that this was the phenomena of which He had spoken, that through the power flowing through them from the Tree, they would be His Hands for the healing of the nations. Not only would His servants partake of the 'Tree of Life', they would take part in His ministry, doing even greater things than He did while He walked this earth.
'Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads.' ( Genesis 2:10 )
'Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar.' ( Ezekiel 47:1 )
'When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, [ were ] very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. [ When it ] reaches the sea, [ its ] waters are healed. And it shall be [ that ] every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.' ( Ezekiel 47:7-9 )
Throughout this study; we have seen how heavily John drew upon the Hebrew Scriptures to describe what was happening before his 'eyes': there's good reason for this, for John was seeing in fulfillment, exactly what the prophets of old had merely glimpsed. As Ezekiel had seen this river of life flowing from under the Temple, and remember Ezekiel's was a vision, as well; so John saw the reality of what this 'Temple' truly stood for, and recognized in the metaphor that God had presented to Ezekiel, that the 'fish' represented the nations. No wonder that the early followers of the Christ chose the fish as their 'secret' symbol!
As we noted also of the light of the 'city', the holy, or heavenly Jerusalem, and of its wall, and even the city itself, in the last study, this river was 'clear as crystal'. As this signified the purity of the 'city', so it now stands to signify the purity of the river which flows from the city. Not to apply too much physicality here, but we might even think of the river as being the juice of the fruits; think on that!
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. They shall see His face, and His name [ shall be ] on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
To correctly understand this first statement; we need to have a correct understanding of what the 'curse itself was. Was the curse merely, or even primarily physical, with biological consequences, such as physical death? The 'curse' definitely could, and often did, lead to physical exhaustion and expiration, but as with death itself; I believe that John's 'staple' diet, the Hebrew Scriptures, show us that all of the curses pronounced upon the apostate 'children' of Israel, as in Deuteronomy 28, while they certainly had physical consequences, were the result of a 'cursed' conscience, which God had, as Paul wrote, in other words, 'given over to a debased mind'.
We all joke about flies, mosquitoes, weeds, etc. as being 'part of the curse; but are they really, or are they a part of Gods good creation that He USES as a curse? Think of the way that God used them when He sent His plagues on Egypt. and I doubt if many people view frogs as 'part of the curse', but I'll bet the Egyptians were thinking that when God 'loosed' them on the Egyptians!
'But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: '( Deuteronomy 28:15 )
What follows God's warning here, is a list, an expansion really, of what this curse would involve. All the things that would happen to this people as a result of this disastrous curse are very physical, with life-threatening consequences, but, as we have seen with everything chronicled in a physical manner in the Hebrew Scriptures, it is usually not too hard to find a deeper spiritual meaning that it represented, or foreshadowed, in the Greek Scriptures.
Another clue to what might be meant by this 'curse' is found in the next part of the sentence; 'but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it'. This should tell us that the lack of God's presence was the 'curse'! Now we know, again, in a foreshadow, or physical picture of a greater spiritual reality, that God was symbolically present in the tabernacle of meeting, with the 'children' of Israel in the wilderness, when He alit, in the form of a cloud upon the tabernacle; He was said to 'rest' on the mercy seat, which was atop the ark of the covenant. ( Leviticus 16:2, Exodus 40:34-36 ) We read, in Exodus 13:20 & 21, of how God led His people through the wilderness, with the physical manifestation of 'a pillar of cloud', by day, and 'a pillar of fire' by night. As we'll see in a bit; God promised that 'There shall be no night there'.
'It shall be one day which is known to the LORD-neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen [ that ] it will be light.' ( Zechariah 14:7 )
Catching a glimpse of The Day of the Lord', and the introduction of the New Jerusalem, with 'living waters' flowing from it ( think Garden of Eden ); Zechariah prophesied of this phenomenon, of this 'city' with no night. We might also be reminded, again, of the ninth plague that God visited upon Egypt, the darkness which enveloped them, but 'all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings'; we can read about this in Exodus 10:21-23.
Reading this phrase through the 'eyes' of the covenant context, too, we might note that 'night' often referred to the old, or 'first' covenant, whereas 'day' referred to the New Covenant, as Christ was called by Peter, the 'morning star' ( II Peter 1:19 ). Remember how Paul wrote to the Church at Thessalonica that, 'You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness' ( I Thessalonians 5:5 ).
Then he said to me, “These words [ are ] faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy[b] prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed [ is ] he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
'So they said to Jeremiah, “Let the LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the LORD your God sends us by you.' ( Jeremiah 42:5 )
Before Israel forsook the land and fled to Egypt, even though God had promised to save them if they obeyed; whether feigned or real, the leaders of Israel came to the prophet Jeremiah with this petition, that he would pray God for them, after the manner of Baalam. Worse than Baalam, though, for Jeremiah even, saw their hypocrisy, they had already decided to flee to the land of Egypt, to seek safety from the hand of man, rather than from the hand of their God. As Israel then committed this idolatry, and spiritual harlotry; so old covenant Israel of Jesus day had committed the same harlotry, and were about to be judged according to their deeds.
Tradition tells us that the Christians of Jerusalem ( and the surrounding environs, I'm sure ) escaped to the mountains of Pella, heeding Jesus' warning ( Matthew 24:15 & 16 ), and thus, from certain accounts, were 'saved' from the destruction which overwhelmed their brethren after the flesh. Though these Christians were the ones who fled, and the apostate Jews the ones who stayed in their 'land' ( though technically, the Christians were still within the confines of the land ); I believe that they understood that the promises were not of a physical, geographical location, but referred to a return to Edenic conditions, to the enduring presence of God.
As we have noted several times already in the course of these studies; Jesus told His servants twice in the passage above about the imminence of His coming and judgment. 'Behold, I am coming quickly', and 'things which must shortly take place', both of which are statements that He had made before, in other words maybe, to His servant John. You may have heard the rather weak argument that, when Jesus said 'quickly'; He actually may have meant 'speedily'; while it is true that different prepositional use of the root word translated from the Greek here have been used to denote a speediness, or hastiness, the contextual use of word like 'soon' and 'near' prohibit this passage from simply telling us that 'when He comes; He'll come quickly, or with speed'. The Greek word that Jesus used above also carries the connotation of 'without delay', further bolstering the fact that Jesus was revealing to His servant, and thus to His servants, that He was about to come upon their enemies like a flood!.
'The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand[c] to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.' ( Revelation 10:6 )
Now I, John, saw and heard[c] these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See [ that you do ] not [ do that ]. For[d] I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
Here John again attests to his truthfulness. He again makes clear that he really saw all these things. When he saw all this glory; he prostrated himself before this representative, this angel, who reminded him that he was only a messenger, the bearer of good news, and not the One who alone was worthy of his worship. A brother of mine quite a few years ago, preached a series of sermons on the Revelation, and I was privileged, not long ago, to listen to these sermons. When he got to this juncture; he commented that this 'angel' was telling John, in other words, 'I am no longer your superior'.
'What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels,[b] and You have crowned him with glory and honor.' ( Psalm 8:4 & 5 )
'Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?' ( I Corinthians 6:3 )
'So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' ( Matthew 19:28 )
We must remember that John was seeing a vision of, at that time, 'the age to come', of which Jesus had often spoken. Depending on which version you're reading; Jesus told the Sadducees that, in the resurrection, or 'the age to come', His people would be 'like ( or 'as' ) the angels in heaven', and in fact; Young's Literal Translation reads 'for in the rising again they do not marry, nor are they given in marriage, but are as messengers of God in heaven'. With the understanding that 'angel' simply means 'messenger', and not some ethereal being, as has been traditionally taught for centuries, even for millenia, and with the understanding that Jesus spoke these words in the context of the judgment of old covenant Israel ( after the flesh; it should be fairly clear that He was not saying that they would become ethereal, but, as in Matthew's Gospel, quoted above, they would judge those that formerly held rule over them.
And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous[e] still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”
'But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.' ( Daniel 12:4 )
Reading further in chapter 12 of Daniel; we see that 'Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.' Jesus told John, through His messenger, not to seal the book, whereas He had told Daniel a long time before ( about 600 years? ) to seal his prophecy of judgment because that time was far off in the future from Daniel's day. God revealed to John the loosing of those seals that Daniel was told to 'seal............until the time of the end'.
As we have noted throughout this study ( and many others have noted this, as well ); John was showing us, was writing nothing new: we have only to return to the Hebrew Scriptures to see this! The Israelites had become 'as an unclean thing' ( Isaiah 30:22 ), their righteousness 'like filthy rags' ( Isaiah 64:6 ), so God 'pronounced them unclean' ( Ezekiel 20:36 ), because of their ritual harlotry. The Hebrew Scriptures are also full of examples, especially in the 'major prophets', of the lack of justice meted out by those who were to judge God's people fairly, and were themselves judged for this crime.
National physical Israel had been given man chances, throughout her long history, to repent of her whorish and idolatrous ways, to do justly, to love righteousness, and for a time, she would. She always, though, turned back to her idols of wood silver and stone, and usually did more evil than even the nations around her, to whom she was to shine the light of the Gospel. At last, the fulness of time had come, for God to judge His typical old covenant people, and reveal His true people, the 'Israel of God', in His Son Jesus, who came as the Christ! John saw this revealed glory, and so worshiped.
And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward [ is ] with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, [ the ] Beginning and [ the ] End, the First and the Last.
Again we see that He was coming quickly. Some have tried to infer that Jesus was simply saying that when He came, it would happen quickly, speedily, and indeed, the Greek adverb ταχύ, transliterated 'tachy', does carry the meaning of 'speedily', but with it, the sense of 'without delay, as in 'right away' ( Matthew 5:25, 28:7, Mark 9:39, 16:8, John 11:29 ).
'The Lord is not slack concerning [ His ] promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[b] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.' ( II Peter 3:9 )
Peter found the need to remind his readers, his brethren, that though Jesus had promised to come within their own generation, and even quickly, and soon, that just because it wasn't on their time-table, and not in the haste that they would have preferred; Jesus would return in judgment when He said, and how He said: 'quickly'! In Peter's use of the word βραδύνω, or 'slack', as it is translated here; he called to their minds what the prophet Habakkuk prophesied, and which the writer to the Hebrews quoted, when he said, of the Lord, ''For yet a little while, and He[j] who is coming will come and will not tarry' ( Hebrews 10:37 ( Habakkuk 2:3 ). The 'cup of wrath' of apostate old covenant Israel was full to overflowing, and as the Messenger of God said, in Revelation 10:6, there would be 'delay no longer'!
'For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.' ( Matthew 16:27 )
'Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, 'Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.' ( Jude 14 & 15 )
Many Christians try to insert a gap between Matthew 16:27, which I've quoted above, and the next verse, in which Jesus says, 'there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom'. This is just one of the many problems with our English translations; they, when they broke these wonderful passages up into verses, put the 'breaks' where they often really didn't belong, and thus gave rise to such 'gap theories'.
As with the quotation from the prophet Jude, however; we must realize, we must recognize the historical and covenant context of both Jesus' and Jude's words. When Jesus spoke these words, it was soon after He had warned His disciples of the 'leaven', or false and misleading doctrines of the Pharisees. We must remember also that Jude's warning, as well, was in the context of covenant judgment.
Once again; Jesus reminds His readers, through His servant John, that He is none other than God Himself, the Beginning and End, or fulfillment of His Covenant Creation!
Blessed [ are ] those who do His commandments,[g] that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.
A dear friend of mine has rightly pointed out the 'Beatitudes' of the Revelation, and, as so much of the book hinges on the number '7', so it is here; there are 7 'beatitudes', or blessings ( Revelation 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:19, 20:6, 22:7, 22:14 ). As in the 'Sermon on the Mount' in Matthew 5, which is most usually associated with 'The Beatitudes'; the blessings here are for those 'who do His commandments'. When Jesus gave His 'blessings' in the sermon on the mount; He told His followers that if they practiced these principles, they would reap the covenant blessings, theirs, He said, was 'the kingdom of heaven', they would 'be comforted' ( Revelation 6:9-11 ), they would 'inherit the earth', they would 'be filled', they would 'obtain mercy', they would 'see God', they would 'be called sons of God', if when persecuted, they did not act in kind, or take vengeance, they would inherit 'the kingdom of heaven', and Jesus ends by telling them that through their obedience to the covenant, they would have great 'reward in heaven'.
'Then the LORD God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever'_ therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.' ( Genesis 3:22 & 23 )
Jesus' words in Revelation 22, above, should be noted as in direct reference to God's denial of the right of Adam & Eve to the Tree of Life. When Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God's only command to them, they were consequently thrust out of the garden, and away from the figurative tree of life, although, as a friend of mine pointed out several years ago, they were not totally cut off from the Presence of God. It being His plan for them to leave the Garden one day that the Good News might permeate the earth; God's Presence followed them on their mission. Although our first parents suffered the consequences of their disobedience, and did not reap the blessings of the covenant, God was still with them as hey labored in His Kingdom, the world!
But[h] outside [ are ] dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
'Do not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry, and the land become full of wickedness.' ( Leviticus 19:29 )
'I have seen your adulteries and your [ lustful ] neighings, the lewdness of your harlotry, your abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! Will you still not be made clean?' ( Jeremiah 13:27 )
'For they shall eat, but not have enough; they shall commit harlotry, but not increase; because they have ceased obeying the LORD.' ( Hosea 4:10 )
I believe that we have noted before, in this study, how that this harlotry that Israel was guilty of was not necessarily the physical act, although this was certainly 'in view', but that covenantal unfaithfulness, spiritual harlotry was the reason that God put her away. We have seen, as well, how national Israel, as a whole ( God still had His Remnant ) had become almost indistinguishable from the nations around them; hence, God called their leaders, through the prophet Isaiah, 'dumb', and 'greedy dogs' ( 56:10 & 11 ). Rather than being the watchmen, and righteous spiritual leaders they should have been; they had become as corrupt, and in many cases, more wicked than the Gentiles whom they called 'dogs'!
These, as we have seen, were simply 'outside' the city, apparently still existent, but with the blessings of the Covenant and the enduring Presence of God!
I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.
'The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants-things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified [ it ] by His angel to His servant John.' ( Revelation 1:1 )
Jesus finally assures his audience that this message is actually from Him. This also serves to show, again, that this is ONE Revelation, that it was given to 'the seven churches which are in Asia', and that the warnings in this book, though no doubt applicable, in some way, for us today, were for these 'seven' ( number of perfection or completeness, wholeness ) churches. These churches, we know from history, actually existed in the ancient Near East, in what is now modern-day Turkey. As a friend has recently pointed out, these churches, over time, failed to heed these warnings, and as warned, their 'candlestick', or 'lampstand' was removed.
'And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.' ( Isaiah 11:10 )
From the genealogies given in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, we can ascertain that, according to the flesh; Jesus was indeed from the line of David. Paul, in his letter to the Romans ( 1:3 ), declared that Jesus was 'born of the seed of David according to the flesh'. That Jesus was a descendant of David, according to His human heritage, is a well-established fact! More importantly, though this fact is encompassed by it; Jesus was the 'Root' that we see prophesied throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, but mainly in the prophesy of Isaiah, and in the Psalms. Jesus was the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of the Covenant that God made with His people, and which He Himself upheld and strengthened when He sent His beloved Son as the Foundation of the salvation of His people!
'I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.' ( Numbers 24:1 )
This prophecy of Balaam's was, of course, of David, who did finally defeat Moab ( II Samuel 8:2 ), but it was David's Great Anti-type of whom Balaam ignorantly and primarily prophesied, Jesus the Messiah, or Christ, who would defeat in finality, the enemies of God's people, the death that Adam had brought upon his progeny: covenantal separation from God!
'And so we have the prophetic word confirmed,[a] which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.' ( II Peter 1:19 )
The rising of this 'Star' was not a new concept, as Peter reminded his audience. This rising had been prophesied, as well, throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, though maybe in other words. We must remember too, that the birth of Jesus was heralded by a star that rose out of the East.
'And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations-'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’[j]- as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.' ( Revelation 2:26-28 )
In Jesus promise to the overcoming Church, He quotes Psalm 2:9, revealing His Oneness with them, and advising them that just as He ruled, so would they, because He would present Himself to them, to us!
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
'God [ is ] Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.' ( John 4:24 )
'For [ as ] a young man marries a virgin, [ so ] shall your sons marry you; and [ as ] the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, [ so ] shall your God rejoice over you.' ( Isaiah 62:5 )
When Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus concerning marriage; he told them, 'I speak concerning Christ and the church.' ( 5:22 ). It is a well-established fact that we, as the Church, are the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ; so here John takes note that it is not only God, but His Bride, as well, who gives the invitation. We, as the Church, and 'members individually' ( I Corinthians 12:27 ), being one with Christ, have taken part in the ministry that He began during His period on earth. Jesus actually told His followers, in John 14:12, that 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater [ works ] than these he will do, because I go to My Father'. This sounds almost unbelievable, but it's really not! Because of the indwelling of the Spirit of God; we are doing greater works, continuing the work of redemption and reconciliation that He began! When we invite others to 'Come'; we are doing His work!
A passage from the Hebrew Scriptures that comes to mind in relation to the verse above, from Revelation 22, is the incidence in the wilderness of Israel being watered by 'that spiritual Rock that followed them' ( I Corinthians 10:14 ). The passage I referred to above is Numbers chapter 20, verses 1-13, where Moses was told to 'Speak to the rock before their eyes'. Of course, we know from history that Moses instead struck the rock, about which Paul said 'that Rock was Christ', and so was symbolically refused entry to God's Rest, or the Land of Promise. This water was offered freely, but rather than following God's instructions, doing it His way, as so many times we ourselves fail to do, Moses, for whatever reason failed to do as he was told, and though he got results, he also paid a high price for it!
For[i] I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add[j] to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away[k] his part from the Book[l] of Life, from the holy city, and [ from ] the things which are written in this book.
Many that I have spoken to about this passage will rip it from it's context, and warningly say that God thus has told us that if we take away one 'jot or tittle', one iota, one word, from the Bible, that God will curse us by removing our name from His 'Book of Life'. Firstly; who are we to say which is the correct version of the Bible? Usually, I believe; those who make statements like this are some kind of King James Version Only advocates, who believe that one certain version is the true Word of God, and all other versions are just that, versions, and flawed versions at that, because they omit, or just, true to the Greek or Hebrew text, don't include the words that are often not there in the first place. Secondly, and more to the point; the 'book' that Jesus is talking about here is not the whole of Scripture, although the could be included in this warning; He is, more importantly, talking about the letter that He has just revealed to His servant John, what we call the Revelation.
Having said all that; let me now say that the Scriptures, to be sure, ARE one revelation, from beginning to end! Much of the problem that we have within the Body of Christ today, or the Church, can be traced to the division of the greater story of Scripture, the meta-narrative, as a good friend of mine rightly calls it. Long ago, someone saw fit to divide the Scriptures, by putting an almost blank page in between Malachi and Matthew, thus lending credence to the idea that God was dealing with national physical Israel under the old covenant, in what is called the old testament, but turned to deal with the Church under the New Covenant, and will at some point, under the futurist paradigm, return to deal, once again, with national physical Israel, where He will reign from a physical throne, in a physical Jerusalem.
Clearly; God is plainly warning the churches, yet again, that if they do not heed His warnings in the earlier part of this letter, or book; He would remove their 'lampstand'. In immediate context of His words; he is giving this warning to the churches in the first century. Covenantally; I believe that we, as the modern-day Body of Christ must also take note of these warnings and realize our responsibility to do the things that He commended these churches for, and not do the things that He waned them about. If we, as His Church, His Body, across the ages, do not practice the things tat some of these churches practiced, and lost their standing, their place, for, then we will continue to live out our lives within the City of God, and eat from the Tree of Life, but if we do not continue in His ways; we too, will cease to grow, and be cut off, burned, as a useless and dead branch!
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [ be ] with you all.[m] Amen.
All hope is not lost! Jesus again tells His servant, in words plain and true, 'I am coming quickly'! As we saw earlier; this word has been bandied around, and the connotation made to fit the theory of a future coming of Christ. This clearly, and especially in the context of His words, is not so! Jesus was warning those who were disobedient to His word that He would soon appear, and if things were not 'ship-shape', which, as we saw, they were not, that He would give their place to another, another who would heed His word, who would bear good fruit. He also gave these as words of comfort, comfort to those who were oppressed by the unrighteousness of the Judaizers, and those like them, who sought to suppress their Righteousness!
As I finish up this study of the book of the Revelation; my prayer is that, in some way, God might use my weakness to further His Kingdom, to take some of the mystery out of the book, or what has heretofore been viewed by many as enigmatic! We need not read it apprehensively, unless, of course, we are found guilty of the sins pointed out here, and we may take great comfort in the fact that it has been fulfilled, and that we are residents of this holy city, the New Jerusalem! In several of the articles that I have recently, within the pat several years, written on this subject; I have explored, though not in great detail, the blessedness of this glorious fact. I hope, as well, as with this study, that my words,both here and there and of course, the Holy Spirit of God; will open the eyes of many that have been blinded to this glorious fact!
In the service of the King and His Kingdom,
Charles Haddon Shank