As we saw in the Introduction, St. John wrote the Book of Revelation as an annual cycle of prophecies, meant to be read to the congregation (coinciding with serial Old Testament readings, especially Ezekiel) from one Easter to the next. Chapter 22 thus brings us full circle, verses 6-21 being read exactly one year after Chapter 1 was read. For that reason, as well as recapitulating many of the themes of the prophecy, Chapter 22 also has much in common with Chapter 1. We read again, for example, that the prophecy is of “things that must shortly take place” (22:6; cf. 1:1); that it is communicated by an angel (22:6; cf. 1:1) to St. John (22:8; cf. 1:1, 4, 9); that it is a message intended for God’s “bond-servants” (22:6; cf. 1:1); that there is a special blessing for those who “keep” its words (22:7; cf. 1:3); and that it specifically involves the Testimony of Christ (22:16, 18, 20; cf. 1:2,5,9), the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (22:13; cr. 1:8, 17), who is “coming quickly” (22:7, 12, 20; cf. 1:7).
Paradise Restored (22:1-5)
- And he showed me a River of the Water of Life, clear as crystal, coming from the Throne of God and of the Lamb,
- in the middle of its street. And on each side of the River was Tree of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the Tree were for the healing of the nations.
- And there shall no longer be any Curse; and the Throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him;
- and they shall see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads.
- And there shall no longer be any Night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever.
The vision of the New Jerusalem continues: the Chalice-angel (21:9) shows St. John a River of the Water of Life, clear as crystal, coming from the Throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. The scene is based, first, on the Garden of Eden, in which springs bubbled up out of the ground (Gen. 2:6) to form a river, which then parted into four heads and went out to water the earth (Gen. 2:10-14). This image is later adopted by Ezekiel in his vision of the New Covenant Temple. In the Old Covenant, people had to journey to the Temple to be cleansed, but that will no longer be true; for in New Covenant times the great bronze Laver in the southeast comer of the House (2 Chron. 4:10) tips over and spills its contents out under the door, becoming a mighty river of grace and life for the world, even transforming the waters of the Dead Sea:
Then he brought me back to the door of the House; and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold of the House toward the east, for the House faced east. And the water was flowing down from under, from the right side of the House, from south of the altar. And he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate by way of the gate that faces east. And behold, water was trickling from the south side.
When the man went out toward the east with a line in his hand, he measured a thousand cubits, and led me through the water, water reaching the ankles.
Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the knees.
Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the loins.
Again he measured a thousand; and it was a river that 1 could not ford, for the water had risen, enough water to swim in, a river that could not be forded.
And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he brought me back to the bank of the river. Now when I had returned, behold, on the bank of the river there were very many trees on the one side and on the other. Then he said to me, “These waters go out toward the eastern region and go down into the Arabah; then they go toward the sea, being made to flow into the sea, and the waters of the sea become fresh. And it will come about that every living creature that swarms in every place where the river goes will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there, and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.” (Ezek. 47:1-9)
Ezekiel said that “on the bank of the river there were very many trees on the one side and on the other”; St. John expands on this and tells us that on each side of the River was Tree of Life – not a single tree only, but forests of Tree-of-Life lining the riverbanks. The blessing which Adam forfeited has been restored in overwhelming superabundance, for what we have gained in Christ is, as St. Paul said, “much more” than what we lost in Adam:
For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many…. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ…. Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 5:15-21; cf. v. 9-1O)
Paradise is not, therefore, only “restored”; it is consummated, its every implication brought to complete fruition and fulfillment.
The word Tree is xulon, often used with reference to the Cross (cf. Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; 1 Pet. 2:24); in fact, it is likely that Christ was crucified on a living tree, as His words in Luke 23:31 imply: “For if they do these things in the green tree, what will happen in the dry?” St. Paul saw Christ’s crucifixion as the fulfillment of the Old Testament curse on one who is hanged on a tree (Gal. 3:13; cf. Deut. 21:23; Josh. 10:26-27). St. Irenaeus saw the Cross as the Tree of Life, contrasting it with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, through which man fell: Jesus Christ “has destroyed the handwriting of our debt, and fastened it to the Cross [Col. 2:14]; so that, just as by means of a tree we were made debtors to God, so also by means of a tree we may obtain the remission of our debt.” The image was quickly adopted in the symbolism of the early Church: “Early Christian art indicates a close relationship between the tree of life and the cross. The cross of Christ, the wood of suffering and death, is for Christians a tree of life. In the tomb paintings of the 2nd century it is thus depicted for the first time as the symbol of victory over death. It then recurs again and again. The idea that the living trunk of the cross bears twigs and leaves is a common motif in Christian antiquity.”
As in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 47:12), the Tree of Life is continuously productive, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month in a never-ending supply of life for the overcomers (2:7), those who do His commandments (22:14). St. John goes on to make it clear that the power of Christ’s Tree will transform the whole world: The leaves of the Tree were for the healing of the nations. Again, St. John does not conceive of this as a blessing reserved only for eternity, although its effects continue into eternity. The Tree of Life is sustaining believers now, as they partake of Christ:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My Word, and believes in Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. (John 5:24-25)
In the same way, St. John expects the healing virtues of the Cross to give Life to the nations as nations, in this world; the nations, he has told us, are made up of “those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life,” since the nations as such are admitted into the Holy City (21:24-27). The River of Life is flowing now (John 4:14; 7:37-39), and will continue to flow in an ever-increasing stream of blessing to the earth, healing the nations, bringing an end to lawlessness and warfare (Zech. 14:8-11; cf. Mic. 4:1-4). This vision of the Church’s glorious future, earthly and heavenly, mends the fabric that was torn in Genesis. In Revelation we see Man redeemed, brought back to the Mountain, sustained by the River and the Tree of Life, regaining his lost dominion and ruling as a priest-king over the earth. This is our privilege and heritage now, definitively and progressively, in this age; and it will be ours fully in the age to come.
3-4 Thus there shall no longer be any Curse, in fulfillment of the ancient promises:
Thus says the Lord GOD: On the Day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt. And the desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passed by. And they will say, “This desolate land has become like the Garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate, and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.” Then the nations that are left round about you will know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places; I, the LORD, have spoken and will do it. (Ezek. 36:33-36)
The Throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in the Holy City, as St. John implied in 21:3,11,22-23. It is striking that the citizens are called His servants – an expression that is primarily used to describe prophets (cf. 1:1; 10:7; 11:18; 15:3; 19:2, 5 [cf. 18:24]; 22:6, 9). As we have seen, this has been a significant theme in Revelation, the fulfillment of the Old Covenant hope of communion with God: All the LORD’S people are prophets, for the LORD has put His Spirit upon them (Num. 11:29). Therefore they shall see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads. Kline comments: “Behind the imagery of Revelation 22:4 are the figures of Moses and Aaron. Aaron bore on his forehead the name of the Lord inscribed on the crown on the front of the priestly mitre. The very countenance of Moses was transformed into a reflective likeness of the Glory-Face, the Presence-Name of God, when God talked to him ‘mouth to mouth’ (Num. 12:8) out of the Glory-cloud. As the Name and the Glory are alike designations of the Presence of God in the theophanic cloud, so both name and glory describe the reflected likeness of God. To say that the overcomers in the New Jerusalem bear the name of Christ in their forehead is to say that they reflect the glory of Christ, which is to say that they bear the image of the glorified Christ.” Thus, says St. Paul, all the saints now see His face: “We all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the Glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). And, because all the saints are priests (Rev. 1:6; 20:6), we wear His name in our forehead (3:12; 7:3; 14:1), serving Him in His Temple (7:15).
5 As St. John told us in 21:22-25, within the walls of the Holy City there shall no longer be any Night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them. In our study of “the new heaven and earth” in Chapter 21, we took note of how St. Peter urged the churches to holy living in light of the approaching age of righteousness, which was to be ushered in at the fall of the Old Covenant with the destruction of the Temple (2 Pet. 3:1-14). Similarly, St. Paul exhorted the Christians of Rome to godly living in view of the imminent dawning of the Day:
And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed. The Night is almost gone, and the Day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Rom. 13:11-12)
In much the same way he wrote to the Thessalonians, arguing that their lives must be characterized by the approaching Dawn rather than by the fading Night:
For you yourselves know full well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of Light and sons of Day. We are not of Night nor of Darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of Day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 5:2-9)
The era of the Old Covenant was the time of the world’s dark Night; with the Advent of Jesus Christ has come the age of Light, the great Day of the Lord, established at His Ascension and His full inauguration of the New Covenant:
Arise, shine; for your Light has come,
And the Glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For behold, Darkness will cover the earth,
And deep Darkness the peoples;
But the LORD will rise upon you,
And His Glory will appear upon you.
And nations will come to your Light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isa. 60:1-3)
For behold, the Day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the Day that is coming will set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My name the Sun of righteousness will rise with healing in His wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. (Mal. 4:1-2)
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people….
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us,
To shine upon those who sit in Darkness and the shadow of Death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:68, 78-79)
In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. And the Light shines in the darkness, and the Darkness did not overpower it. (John 1:4-5)
Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the Darkness, but shall have the Light of Life.” (John 8:12)
The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the Light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the Image of God. . . . For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Cor. 4:4, 6)
Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He delivered us from the domain of Darkness, and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son. (Col. 1:12-13)
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb. 10:23-25)
And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the Day dawns and the Morning Star arises in your hearts. (2 Pet. 1:19)
Again we must remember that the New Covenant age is regarded in Scripture as definitively and progressively an era of Light, in contrast to the relative Darkness of pre-Messianic times. In the absolute and ultimate sense, the Light will come only at the end of the world, at the Second Coming of Christ. But, as the apostles contemplated the end of the Old Covenant era, during which the nations were enslaved to demons, they spoke of the imminent Dawn as the age of righteousness, when the power of the Gospel would sweep across the earth, smashing idolatry and flooding the nations with the Light of God’s grace. Relatively speaking, the whole history of the world from Adam’s Fall to Christ’s Ascension was Night; relatively speaking, the whole future of the world is bright Day. This follows the pattern laid down at the creation, in which the heavens and earth move eschatologically from evening to morning, the lesser light being succeeded by the greater light, going from glory to Glory (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19,23, 31): Now, St. John tells us, Jesus Christ has appeared, and is “coming quickly,” as the bright Morning Star (v. 16).
In his concluding comment on the restoration of Paradise, St. John tells us that the royal priesthood shall reign, not just for a “millennium,” but forever and ever: “The reign of the thousand years (20:4-6) is but the beginning of a regal life and felicity which are to continue through all aeons to come. And so the kingdom of the saints of the Most High will be most truly, as Daniel wrote, ‘an everlasting kingdom’ (Dan. 7:27). This is the ‘eternal life’ of Matthew 25:46, just as the second death, the lake of fire, is the ‘eternal punishment’ into which the ‘cursed’ go away.”
Final Warnings and Blessings (22:6-21)
- And he said to me: These words are faithful and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to’show to His servants the things which must shortly take place.
- And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.
- And I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
- And he said to me: Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who keep the words of this book; worship God.
- And he said to me: Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.
- Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.
- Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.
- I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
- Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the Tree of Life, and may enter by the gates into the City.
- Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the fornicators and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
- I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. 1am the Root and the Offspring of David, the bright Morning Star.
- And the Spirit and the Bride say: Come. And let the one who hears say: Come. And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
- I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book;
- and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Tree of Life and from the Holy City, which are written in this book.
- He who testifies to these things says: Yes, I am coming quickly! Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
- The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints. Amen.
6-7 The apostle’s final section reviews and summarizes the central messages of the book. Appropriately, St. John’s angelic guide begins by testifying that these words are faithful and true, in keeping with the character of their Author (1:5; 3:14; 19:11; cf. 19:9; 21:5); they cannot fail to be fulfilled. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His servants the things which must shortly take place. The word spirits here may refer to the “Seven Spirits” (cf. 1:4; 4:5), i.e. the Holy Spirit in His manifold operation through the prophets (cf. 19:10: “the Spirit of prophecy”), but it is possible also to understand the expression in the sense of 1 Corinthians 14:32 – the spirit of each prophet in particular. In any case, St. John has repeatedly emphasized throughout his prophecy that “all the LORD’S people are prophets” in this age, having ascended with Christ to the heavenly Council-chamber. The function of the Book of Revelation is that of an official “memo” to all members of the Council, telling them what they need to know regarding imminent events. The consistent message of the whole book is that the things of which it speaks – the final end of the Old Covenant and the firm establishment of the New – are on the verge of fulfillment, irrevocably destined to take place shortly.
Speaking on behalf of Christ, the angel repeats the theme of the prophecy, underscoring its immediacy: Behold, I am coming quickly (cf. 1:7; 2:5, 16; 3:11; 16:15); in fact, the word come or coming (erchomai) is used seven times in Chapter 22 alone: “The frequency of the assurance now before us, shows with what earnestness it was made.” Our study of the New Testament is drastically off-course if we fail to take into account the apostolic expectation of an imminent Coming of Christ (not the Second Coming) which would destroy “this generation” of Israel and fully establish the New Covenant Church. This message was not to be taken lightly, and there is an implicit warning in Revelation’s Sixth Beatitude, a promise that echoes the First (1:3): Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book. Again, St. John stresses the ethical response of his audience to the truths they have heard. He has given them commandments to obey (cf. v. 14), not only explicitly but implicitly: He has revealed the activity of heaven as a pattern for life on earth (cf. Matt. 6:10).
8-9 St. John emphasizes that he, the Apostle, is the one who heard and saw these things (cf. his similar language in 1 John 1:1-3; 4:14). And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. And he said to me: Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who keep the words of this book; worship God. As at 19:10, it is the angelic declaration of a Beatitude which causes St. John to fall down in reverence before the messenger. As we saw on that passage, St. John was not offering divine worship to the angel, but rather honor to a superior. Even so, in the New Covenant age that is no longer appropriate. Angelic superiority over man was intended only to be temporary, an expedient after Adam forfeited his responsibility as guardian of the sanctuary (Gen. 2:15; 3:24). Now that Christ has ascended to the Throne, His people are saints, with access to the sanctuary as God’s counselors and confidants; indeed, says St. Paul, the saints are destined to rule not only the world but angels as well (1 Cor. 6:1-3). The angel, though exalted and powerful, is no more than a fellow servant of the apostle and his brethren the prophets – the other members of the Christian Church, all those who keep the words of this book. The believer is a member of the heavenly council, and is able to worship God face to face (cf. v. 4). Again, this shows that the blessings enumerated in these closing chapters are not reserved for the consummation alone, but have already been granted to God’s people; otherwise, the angel would have accepted St. John’s act of reverence. We have direct access to God’s Throne.
That this incident had to be repeated almost word-for-word demonstrates both the centrality of this concern to the apostle, and how hard it is for us to learn it. It may well be said that the most important teaching of the Book of Revelation is that Jesus Christ has ascended to the Throne; and the second most important lesson is that we have ascended to heaven with Him.
10 And he said to me: Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Again the angel emphasizes the imminence of the prophecy’s fulfillment. For this reason St. John is forbidden to seal up the words of the book. We have already had occasion (on 10:4) to contrast this with the command to Daniel to “conceal the words and seal up the book until the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4). Because his prophecy spoke of the distant future, Daniel was ordered to seal it up; because St. John’s prophecy refers to the imminent future, he is ordered to set it loose. “Indeed, these are the very days for which Daniel wrote, and St. John has been inspired to ‘unseal’ him.”
11 Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy. The great battle of the first century was reaching its climax, and the angel calls for the differentiation of the righteous and the wicked, the attainment of “epistemological self-consciousness” through differing responses to God’s grace; it constitutes a prayer “that the world may come out black and white, so as to be ripe for judgment.” Self-consciousness on both sides of the contest is always a prelude to judgment (cf. Ezek. 3:27: “He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse”).
12-13 The Lord again promises the imminence of His coming judgment on Israel and deliverance of His Church: Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done (cf. 2:23; 20:12-13). Christ had promised that this would be the result of His first-century Coming in His Kingdom (Matt. 16:27-28). Confirming the promise with an oath, He swears by Himself as the Lord of history, the sovereign Controller of all things: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
14 Continuing to speak through the angel, Christ pronounces the Seventh Beatitude of Revelation: Blessed are those who do His commandments, the present participle emphasizing the ongoing duty of obedience. God requires not just a one-time profession of faith, but a continuing life of repentance and confessing Christ. Obedience characterizes the redeemed, as St. John declares elsewhere:
And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His Word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6)
These alone have the right to the Tree of Life (promised to the overcomers in 2:7) and may enter by the gates into the City (promised to the overcomers in 3:12). Again, we should note that the nations of the earth will enter into the City (21:24-26), which means that the nations and their rulers will be characterized by righteousness, by the world-conquering faith of the overcomer.
15 Christ provides another catalogue (cf. 21:8), a sevenfold one this time, of those who are excluded from blessing, banished outside the City, into the fiery Gehenna (Isa. 66:24; Mark 9:43-48). First are mentioned the dogs, scavengers that are regarded with disgust and revulsion throughout the Bible (cf. Prov. 26:11). In Deuteronomy 23:18, sodomites are called “dogs,” and Christ equated dogs with the unclean nations (Mark 7:26-28). St. Paul applies the term, in what must have been a shocking reference, to the false circumcision, the Jews who had betrayed the Covenant by rejecting Christ (Phil. 3:2) and have thus joined the heathen and the perverts. That is probably the reference here (cf. 2:9; 3:9). God does not give what is holy unto dogs (Matt. 7:6). The other categories mentioned in this verse, the sorcerers and the fornicators and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying, are also listed at 21:8, 27. Christians have renounced all these ungodly actions by their baptism to newness of life.
16 I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches; the word you is plural, meaning that St. John’s audience is directly addressed by the Lord; and the message is for the churches generally (“all the saints,” v. 21). Christ repeats the lesson of 5:5, that He is the bringer of the New Covenant, the “Charter for Humanity” through which all nations will be blessed: I am the Root and the Offspring of David, both the Source and Culmination of the Davidic line. Hengstenberg comments: “Because Jesus is the root, he is also the race of David. In him alone is the race preserved; while otherwise it would have vanished without a trace. The race of David is more than his offspring; it indicates that the race of David should, save for Christ, have ceased to exist. The race of David is here brought into view in respect to the unconquerable strength and everlasting dominion promised it by God (comp. Luke 1:32-33). What he testifies, in whom the glorious race of David culminates, will assuredly go into fulfillment.”
In Numbers 24:17, Balaam prophesied of Christ under the symbols of a star and a scepter; Christ’s scepter is promised to the overcomer in Thyatira (2:26-27), in an allusion to Psalm 2:8-9; then, as the promise to the overcomer continues, Christ offers Himself as the Morning Star (2:28), and that promise is repeated here, partly in order to complement the promise of Light in verse 5, and partly in keeping with other connections which this passage shares with the Letters to both Pergamum (the mention of idolatry and the allusion to Balaam) and Thyatira (the mention of sorcery and fornication).
17 And the Spirit and the Bride say: Come! This is a prayer to Jesus, the Spirit inspiring the Bride to call for Him (cf. Cant. 8:14: “Hurry, my beloved!”) to come in salvation and judgment, even as the four living creatures called forth the Four Horsemen (6:1, 3, 5, 7). The liturgical response is then set forth: And let the one who hears say: Come! Finally, the expression is inverted (cf. 3:20-21, where Christ first asks to dine with us, then invites us to sit with Him), for the certainty of Christ’s coming to us in salvation enables us to come to Him for the Water of Life: And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the Water of Life without cost. The expression without cost is dōrean, meaning as a gift, used by Christ in a particularly telling reference: “They hated me without a cause” (John 15:25). Our salvation is free, “without a cause” as far as our own merit is concerned; its source and reason are wholly in Him, and not at all in us. We are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
18-19 Now Jesus states what many regard as the most solemn and terrifying words in the entire prophecy: I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Tree of Life and from the Holy City, which are written in this book (cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32; 29:20). Rushdoony comments: “In a very real sense, Revelation concludes Scripture. It speaks deliberately as a final word. Moses, in Deuteronomy 4:2, declared, ‘Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it…. ‘ Words were to be added by others, but the revelation would be one unchanging word. Now, with the conclusion of Scripture, adding or removing the ‘words’ of the book is forbidden; words can no longer be added. The self-conscious parallel and alteration are too obvious to be accidental. The last words have been given of the unchanging word.”
20-21 He who testifies to these things, the True and Faithful Witness, says: Yes, I am coming quickly! In this closing liturgy, the Church answers: Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! The Church asks for judgment; she specifically requests her Lord to come (Maranatha!), bringing Anathema for all His enemies (1 Cor. 16:22), but with grace for all the saints. As we saw on 3:14, the familiar word Amen is an oath, a calling down upon oneself the curses of the covenant, and a solemn recognition that we would have no grace at all but for the fact that Jesus Christ is our “Amen,” who underwent the Curse for us. Therefore, as St. Ambrose exhorted, “What the mouth speaks, let the mind within confess; what the tongue utters, let the heart feel.”
 See M.D. Goulder,”The Apocalypse as an Annual Cycle of Prophecies,” New Testament Studies 27, No.3 (April 1980, pp. 342-67.)
 On the symbolism associated with the Dead Sea (the site of Sodom and Gomorrah) see David Chilton, Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1985), pp. 52f. For another illustration of the difference between the ‘static’ grace of the Old Covenant and the ‘dynamic’ grace of the New Covenant, compare Hag. 2:10-14 with Mark 5:25-34.
 The word cross (stauros) can refer either to the tree itself (considered as the instrument of execution) or to the patibulum, (the upper crosspiece to which Christ’s hands were nailed, and which was then nailed to the tree). For a discussion of this whole issue, see Ernest L. Martin, The Place of Christ’s Crucifixion: Its Discovery and Significance (Pasadena, CA: Foundation for Biblical Research, 1984), pp. 75-82.
 St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, v.xvii,3.
 Johannes Schneider, in Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 10 vols., trans. Geoffrey W. Bromily (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964-76), Vol. 5, pp. 40-41.
 Meredith G. Kline. Images of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1980), pp. 54f.
 Milton Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ in the Canonical Scriptures (New York: Eaton and Mains, 1898), p. 471.
 Moses Stuart, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 2 vols. (Andover: Allen, Morrill, and Wardwell, 1845), Vol. 2, p. 390.
 Austin Farrer, The Revelation of St. John the Divine (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1964), p. 225.
 See Gary North, “Common Grace, Eschatology, and Biblical Law,” Appendix C (below).
 Farrer, p. 225.
 See Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1973), pp. 89f.
 E. W. Hengstenberg, The Revelation of St. John, 2 vols., trans. Patrick Fairbairn (Cherry Hill, NJ: Mack Publishing Co., n.d.), Vol. 2, p. 373.
 It seems most strange that, of all places, these two verses should have any variant readings at all; yet, in fact, there are, not one, but at least thirteen separate points in dispute! See Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, eds., The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982).
 Rousas John Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come: Studies in Daniel and Revelation (Tyler, TX: Thoburn Press,  1978), p. 225. Italics added.
 St. Ambrose, On the Mysteries, 54.