June 19, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy LXII: The End Is The Beginning of Forever

This will be the last post in the Apocalypse Prophecy as we have reached the end...and it is just the beginning...

Everlasting Kings and Priests Praising God's Glory

In Revelation 22:1–5 we see the conclusion to all of chapter 21.  The opening verse of chapter 22 combines the prophetic pictures of a spring or river of “living water”  flowing out of Jerusalem and its temple, which appeared respectively in Ezekiel 47:1–9 and Zechariah 14:8. Zechariah reads “in that day living water will come forth out of Jerusalem” when the city has been finally reestablished. This is also in Joel 3:18: “a spring will go out from the house of the Lord”.

The “living waters” are a portrayal of eternal life (John 4:10) found in Christ. If the waters symbolize the Spirit, as in the similar portrayal in John 7:37–39, then Rev. 22:1 is an early picture of the later Christian confession that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Just like in Ezekiel 47, the living water flows from the temple, though now God and the Lamb are the temple Revelation 21:22. Though the Holy Spirit may be in mind, the water metaphor primarily represents the life of eternal fellowship with God and Christ, which is borne out of salvation. This fellowship is reserved in Revelation for those who have maintained their faith in the Lamb’s atoning death and their testimony to his redemptive work. The water purifies away people’s sins so that they may enter into the intimate presence of God. Hence the symbolism in Baptism. “The river of the water of life” is located “in the middle of” the city’s main “street” because the imparting of eternal fellowship with God is an essential characteristic of the city itself.

This analysis of the trees in the next few verse seems to confirm that the tree was “yielding its fruit each month,” a time period that can only be understood according to a literal calender reckoning based on solar days and lunar months, whereas in the figurative depiction of the new cosmos in Revelation 21 there will be no sun or moon. Peculiar. A later total of twelve months of fruit bearing together with “twelve kinds" of “crops” or "fruits” in 22:2 reinforces the repeats the idea of normal sowing and reaping cycles and the multiples of twelve already used in the vision to highlight fullness of redemptive provision. My guess is that the best conclusion is that the healing effect of the fruit is figurative for the redemption accomplished by Christ, which will be consummated at his final parousia.

Additionally, 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. Everything has come full circle. There will be no form of curse in the new Jerusalem because God’s consummate, ruling presence will fill the city: “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it.” Therefore there will be no room for it. All who enter the city have access to the presence of God and the Lamb.

We see a prophetic vision of the perfected people of God in unending fellowship with him is intended to comfort and motivate God’s people to persevere through temptations to compromise.

The prospect of final victory should impel us all to run the race with endurance because it is race being run to win.

Apocalyptic Outro  (Revelation 22:6-21 )

We now enter the formal conclusion to the whole book  of Revelation and to the Bible as a whole. We now enter into the outro of the entire symphony of Scripture 

The introduction of Revelation pronounced a blessing on all who obey the revelation, whereas the conclusion now issues an emphatic curse on all who disobey the Revelation or adds to Scripture. Unlike the formal introduction, the concluding  portion stresses final judgment for disobedience and the final coming of Christ, the latter perhaps hinted at in Revelation 1:7. The last judgment occurs at the climactic coming of  Jesus Christ. The epilogue now shows clearly that the purpose of the book is to induce holy obedience among God’s people so that they may receive the reward of salvation (which is also part of the entire point of Scripture)

There doesn’t appear to be any explicit flow of thought in 22:6–21 but  merely a series of repeated exhortations based on prior portions of the Apocalypse, each of which is concluded with an interjection concerning Christ’s coming. There are repeated exhortations to holiness in the end and they are the main point of the epilogue, since they are supported by the exclamations about Christ’s coming.

The first exhortation to holiness is in Revelation 22:6–7. The speaker could very well be Jesus, since v7 continues the statement and it is clear Jesus is the speaker there. Revelation 22:6 echoes Daniel 2:45. Given that “the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets” is bracketed by allusions to Daniel 2, it is probable that “prophets” is restricted to a special class of officeholders or of persons that God specially commissioned to reveal his word to the Old Testament and New Testament covenant communities. We know that “slaves” refers to all saints means that the visions in the book have been “shown” not only to John but in some sense also to all in the churches, who are “slaves” along with John.

The things “that must come to pass quickly” appears to be Christ’s own coming. This refers to his final appearance but includes his earlier comings throughout the church’s existence, all of which are imminent for every generation of the church. Those who “keep the words of the prophecy of this book” will receive a “blessing,” a promised repeated from Revelation 1:3. The goal of the book is that God’s true people would obey its revelation and be blessed with salvation.

The second exhortation to holiness is in Revelation 22:8–10. John is in a long line of prophets who witnessed to Israel and God’s true people about God’s covenantal stipulations, Israel’s disobedience to those stipulations, and the consequent impending judgment. The notion of “seeing and hearing” is the basis for a legal witness, as in 1 John 1:1–2: “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes …we testify.” Just as with the OT prophets, so now John’s witness is also directed to the covenant community. The believing remnant will be blessed for their obedience, but the rest will be judged for their disobedience.

Just as in Revelation 19:10, so again John begins to worship the angel, again the angel responds by forbidding John to worship him because he also is, like John, the prophets, and the rest of those who obey God. With the angel as a messenger of God’s word means that…to believe and obey the words of John’s prophecy is equivalent to holding the testimony of Jesus. The angel commands John not to “seal up the words of the prophecy” so that God will be worshiped. If the revelation is sealed, the churches will not know its contents and will not be able to respond to its contents in obedience and worship…duhhhh. Therefore, John is to write down the revelation and send it to be read to the churches in Asia Minor. This is the mirror image of 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.” Daniel prophesied about a final tribulation for God’s people, the consummate defeat of wicked kingdoms and the eternal establishment of God’s kingdom. The sealing of Daniel’s book meant that its prophecies would be neither fully understood nor fulfilled until the end.

The third exhortation to holiness is in Revelation 22:11–12. Both passages make two declarations about the destiny of the unrighteous and two about the destiny of the righteous. Both the righteous and unrighteous will continue in their present condition.

The fourth exhortation to holiness is in Revelation 22:13–17. The Revelation has already called God “the Alpha and the Omega” and “the Beginning and the End”, and Christ has been called “the First and the Last”. Now all these titles, which are used in the OT of God, are combined and applied to Christ to highlight his deity. The titles figuratively connote the totality of polarity: Christ’s presence at and sovereignty over the beginning of creation and over the end of creation are boldly stated in order to indicate that he is also present at and sovereign over all events in between. The emphasis of the bipolar names here at the end of the book is to underscore Christ’s divine ability to conclude history at his coming. For the second time in the conclusion Jesus identifies himself. And, as in Revelation 22:13, the self-ascription combines names attributed to him earlier in the book: “I am the root and offspring of David-Revelation5:5, the bright morning star Revelation 2:28”. These titles combine two Old Testament prophecies (Numbers 24:17 and Isaiah 11:1, 10) concerning the messianic king’s triumph over his enemies at the end of time. Do we sense a culmination now? We should…Jesus now applies these names to himself in the present shows that he has already begun to fulfill these prophecies.

Verse 17’s “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’” here as a reference to Christ, and others equate it with the speech of prophets, but it is best to see it as simply the Holy Spirit. The “bride” most likely represents the true people of God who say through the power of the Holy Spirit,


The fifth and final exhortation to holiness resides in Revelation 22:18–20. They are better seen as a warning. The “adding and taking away” are not general disobedience to the divine word, but adherence to false teaching about the Word as it is in the Bible. Belief in the abiding truth of God’s word is the presupposition for positive obedience to it (Deuteronomy 4:2). The Deuteronomy background is suitable here since the descriptions in the vice lists in 21:8, 27 and 22:15 have all concluded with emphasis on the deceptiveness of the ungodly in connection with idolatry.

The whole range of plagues recorded in the book will come on the apostate, in agreement with the allusion to Deuteronomy29:20: “every curse that is written in this book will rest on him”. As one would guess, the punishment for disobedience is severe, since they are the very words of God. John’s words are not his own but God’s just as the rest of the Bible.

Jesus reaffirms that “Yes, I am coming quickly,” serves to confirm the validity of his glorious testimony.

John then says the only thing that makes sense at this point “Amen, Come Lord Jesus”

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