This is our last study on the book of Revelation. What have we seen as we’ve studied this book? Well, we learned that this is a book about preparing God’s people for life in these, the last days. We’re living in the last days, which are the days which began with the Lord’s death and resurrection; and they’ll continue until he comes again. So, when the Bible refers to the last days, it’s not talking only about the future which is still far off from us; it’s talking about the days we’re living in now and which will culminate with the coming of Christ at the end. So, we’re living in the last days. And the book of Revelation was written to prepare the Lord’s people for life in these, the last days.
And we’ve seen how the book of Revelation is divided into groups of seven. First of all, in chapters 1 to 3, there were the messages from the Risen Lord Jesus to the seven churches. Those seven churches were real churches; but since the number seven signifies fullness and completeness, then the seven churches also represent every church in every generation. And so, to every church in every generation, the Lord was writing to warn us about some of the trials and temptations we’ll face in these, the last days. But he also wanted to comfort and re-assure us so that we’ll persevere through all the trials and we’ll stand firm against every temptation and we’ll remain faithful to him in these, the last days.
And then, after the seven churches, there were the seven seals in chapters 4 to 7. John saw into heaven and he saw the Lord God Almighty, holding a scroll which was sealed with seven seals. And then the Lord Jesus came forward and took the scroll and he began to open the seals. And the opening of the seven seals led to war and famine and plague and death on the earth; and, ultimately, to the great Day of Judgment when the wicked are destroyed. But as well as seeing the judgment of the wicked, John saw the church triumphant, kept safe in heaven, where they worshipped the Lord God Almighty and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb who was slain for them. And, of course, the war and famine and plague and death which John saw in that vision represent all the troubles and woes, all the sorrow and sadness, all the suffering which everyone experiences in these, the last days: the wars, the famines, the disease and death which surround us every day.
After the seven seals we read about the seven trumpets in chapters 8 to 11. And the seven trumpets — which were sounded by seven angels — announced how the Lord was going to punish the wicked with all kinds of temporal punishments in these, the last days. But, despite all that they suffered, the wicked still did not repent of the work of their hands; instead they continued in their rebellion until, of course, the seventh trumpet was sounded to announce the final judgment on the wicked and the salvation of God’s people.
And then, after the seven trumpets, there came the seven signs in chapters 12 to the beginning of chapter 15. The seven signs were about how the Devil persecutes the church and leads the unbelieving world astray in these, the last days. However, John also saw the church triumphant in heaven, singing a new song of praise to God; and he saw the coming judgment on the wicked, for they were made to drink from the cup of God’s wrath. And John saw the harvest of the righteous, gathered safely in to eternal life; but he also saw the harvest of the wicked who will be thrown into the winepress of God’s wrath.
And then, after the seven churches and the seven seals and the seven trumpets, we read about the seven bowls of God’s wrath in chapters 15 and 16. And these seven bowls were poured out on the wicked. Again, these represent the temporal punishments which the Lord sends on the wicked every day; and they culminate in the great Day of Judgment to come, when the Lord will come with flashes of lightning and rumblings and peals of thunder and a severe earthquake to judge the living and the dead and to condemn all those who refuse to believe in his Son.
So, seven churches; seven seals; seven trumpets; seven signs; and seven bowls of wrath. This is what these, the last days, are like: God is on his throne, in heaven, where he rules over all; and though it might seem that the world is in chaos, and though it might seem that the church is weak and vulnerable and under attack from persecutors; though it might seem like that to us, the truth is that the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb reign; and they’re working out their purposes. And in these, the last days, all of God’s people must remain faithful to him, persevering through every trial and standing firm against every temptation, because one day, the church militant on earth will become the church triumphant in heaven, where God will keep us safe for ever.
And then, from chapter 17 to the end, John tells us about two cities: there’s Babylon the Great and there’s the new Jerusalem. Babylon the Great represents this fallen world in rebellion against God and which is destined to perish along with the Dragon who represents the Devil and the beasts who are his allies and all those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. But the new Jerusalem represents the glorified church: God’s people whose names are written in the Book of Life and who have remained faithful to him throughout these, the last days, and who will one day be brought into the new heavens and the new earth where God himself will wipe the tears from our eyes and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things — this present world with all its sorrow and sadness — will have passed away.
So, there’s Babylon the Great — this fallen world — which is destined to perish; and there’s the new Jerusalem — all of God’s people — who will be glorified in his presence for ever. And since that is the end in view for all of God’s people, John is teaching us to remain faithful and to persevere in the faith and to be prepared to endure persecution and to stand firm against every wicked scheme of the Devil, because in the end it will all be worth it.
However, we haven’t reached the end of the book of Revelation yet. There’s still this last passage which runs from verse 6 to verse 21 of chapter 22. And so, we’ll turn to those verses now which really form the epilogue, or the conclusion, to the whole of this book.
Verses 6 and 7
And in verse 6 we read how the angel who had been speaking to John said to him that ‘these words are trustworthy and true’. So, we can rely on what he’s saying, because everything he’s saying is true. And then he goes on to say that the Lord sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. Well, that reminds us of what we read right at the beginning of this book, because in verse 1 of chapter 1 we were told that this is the revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him in order to show her servants what must soon take place. And if you can remember back to the start of these studies I said that the phrase ‘what must soon take place’ is significant, because it echoes what we read in the book of Daniel.
In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar had his dream of a large statue, made of gold and silver and bronze and iron and iron mixed with clay. And then a rock was cut out of a mountain — cut not by human hands — and it struck the statue and broke it into pieces. And the rock became a great mountain and filled the earth. And Daniel was able to interpret the dream to show how, just like the statue in the dream, all the kingdoms of the world will come to nothing. But another kingdom will come, a heavenly kingdom — signified by the rock which was cut out of the mountain without human hands. And this kingdom — which is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus — will fill the earth and will endure for ever.
That’s Daniel 2. Now, in verse 26 of Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel if he could interpret his dream. And Daniel replied that no wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery of the dream. However, he said:
there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the latter days [or the last days].
Daniel was talking about how this fallen world will perish and God’s kingdom will last for ever. However, whereas Daniel said it would happen in far off days, this angel in Revelation is telling us that it will happen soon. And, if you jump down to verse 10 of Revelation 22, you’ll see how the angel told John not to seal up the words of this prophecy, because the time is near.
These things will happen soon and the time is near, because already the Lord Jesus Christ has come to earth, to suffer and to die for the sins of his people, and to bind up the Devil and to set his people free from our sin and misery, and to set up his kingdom on the earth. He’s already done so much of what is necessary; and the next big thing to happen, the next big milestone to occur, is when he comes again. That’s the next big date on God’s diary. And so, since that’s the next big date in his diary, since that’s the next big milestone to occur in the history of our salvation, then this angel is able to say that these things will happen soon and the time is near. It’s near because there’s nothing else in God’s diary between the time of the Lord’s resurrection and ascension to heaven and the day when he will come again to judge the nations.
And so, in verse 7 John hears the words of the Lord Jesus saying:
Behold, I am coming soon!
It won’t be long now, because in a sense there’s nothing more to do until he comes again. And so, since he’s coming soon, blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book. What does it mean to ‘keep’ the words of the prophecy? I have lots of books at home which I’ve read. And after I’ve read them, I put them up on the book shelf; and often I forget all about them. I forget what they’re about and what the author said. I sometimes forget whether or not I’ve read them. We’re not to do that with the book of Revelation. We’ve been studying it for the few weeks and we’re learned lots of marvellous things about the Lord and about how to live as his people in these, the last days. We’ve learned lots of things about the future and our great hope. Wouldn’t it be a terrible thing, now that we’ve finished this book, if we forgot all about it and if we never thought about these things again? And so, we’d switch on the news and we’d hear about some terrible event in the world; and we’re begin to worry that the world seems out of control; and we’d wonder where we’re going and what we’re heading for. And we’d worry like that, because instead of keeping the words of this prophecy, we’d forgotten what the Lord has revealed to us in this book about how the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are seated on their throne, ruling over all things, guiding and directing all things until the day when Jesus Christ comes again. If we forget what’s in this book, then we’ll only worry all the time. And if we forget what’s in this book, then we’ll forget to heed its warnings to persevere and stand firm. So, instead of forgetting this book, we need to keep it: keep it in mind, keep it in our thoughts, believe what it says about the Lord who is in control of all things; and obey what it says about standing firm.
Verses 8 to 12
In verses 8 to 12 we read how John fell down and began to worship the angel who had been showing him these things; perhaps he had mistaken the angel for the Lord Jesus. But the angel quickly stopped him, explaining that he was only a servant like John, and the Lord God is the only one who should be worshipped. Well, it’s perhaps a reminder to all of John’s readers, and especially those readers who face persecution, that we must never bow before any other god, but must remain faithful to the only true God.
And then the angel told John not to seal up the words of this prophecy, because the time is near. So, what John had seen in these visions was not to remain hidden, but was to be made known to God’s people, so that we would be ready for the coming of the Lord and would stand firm until everything foretold in this book comes to pass.
And sadly, in these, the last days, there are some who will remain just as they are. So, despite hearing the gospel, despite hearing what Christ has done to redeem sinners from this present evil age, some who do wrong will continue to do wrong and some who are vile will continue to be vile. We’ve seen this before, haven’t we? Back in chapter 9, we read about the seven trumpets, announcing the temporal punishments which the Lord sends on the wicked. And we read how the wicked still did not repent of their wickedness. Despite the warnings they received of a future judgment, they did not forsake their sins and turn to the Lord for mercy. And so, even when people hear the gospel and are commanded to repent and believe, many will not change their ways or turn to the Lord.
But, on the other hand, in these, the last days, those who do right should continue to do right, and those who are holy should continue to be holy. The Lord’s people should remain faithful and obedient and should continue to walk in his ways, believing that the time is near, because the Lord says again in verse 12 that he is coming soon. He is coming soon; and when he comes, he will reward his people according to what we have done.
None of us deserve any kind of reward from the Lord, because we’re sinners who sin against him continually. And yet how wonderful: because not only does he pardon us and accept us for the sake of Christ who died for us; but he also promises to reward us for what we have done to serve him in the world. We don’t deserve any reward from him, because whatever we’re able to accomplish has been done through him and with the help of the Holy Spirit. But nevertheless he promises to crown our weak efforts. And so, once again, God’s people are encouraged to remain faithful, to stand firm and to do God’s will here on earth, because in the end, he will reward us for our obedience.
Verses 13 to 17
And look at the contrast which is laid out for us in verses 13 to 17. First of all, the Lord Jesus declares that he is the Lord of history: the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. So, he rules over the beginning and the end and over everything in between. And in the end, those who belong to him and who have washed their robes — which is a picture for how we’re washed and cleansed of our guilt and become righteous in God’s sight for the sake of Christ who died for us — those who have washed their robes receive the right to the Tree of Life and may go through the gates into the city. Remember how Adam was shut out of the Garden of Eden so that he could not eat from the Tree of Life? But the day will come, when that restriction will be removed, and all of God’s people will be allowed to enter in and to take from the Tree of Life and live for ever.
And here’s the contrast: those who have been washed will enter in and become part of the city, the glorified church. But outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. And isn’t that interesting, the way he ends this list of sins? It ends with those who love and practice falsehood. He’s perhaps referring to those who heard the truth about God and salvation, but who, instead of loving the truth, and instead of loving the true God, preferred what is false to what is true. And in the end, in the end, they will be shut out of the glorified church; they’ll be kept away from the Tree of Life. For them, instead of eternal life in the new creation, there’s only everlasting torment in the lake of fire.
And so, John is saying to those who profess faith: Remain faithful and stand firm; don’t give in and don’t give up the true faith, because in the end you’ll enter in and become part of the glorified church; and you’ll get to eat from the Tree of Life. So, don’t give up the faith and end up suffering the fate of those who never believed.
And then, in verse 16, the Lord tells us that he’s the root and offspring of David. In other words, he’s God’s Anointed King who will rule for ever. And then he refers to himself as the Bright Morning Star. The morning star appears in the sky just before sunrise. It therefore signifies that the night is over and a new day is about to dawn. And so, the Lord Jesus is saying to us that when he comes again, it will mean that a new day will have dawned. The darkness of this present world will be over, with all its sin and shame, and all its sorrow and sadness, its death and mourning. It will be over. The former things will have passed away when he comes again. And a new day, a new age, will have come when he makes everything new. And so, just as we might look forward to the morning, when we can get up and begin a new day, so we’re to look forward to the coming of the Lord, when we’ll be freed completely from sin, and there’ll be no one and nothing to hurt or harm us, and we’ll enjoy perfect peace and rest in the presence of the Lord.
And then John hears the Spirit of God and the Bride which is the church in heaven, issuing the invitation:
And let him who hears also say:
So, we’re to say to one another:
Come! Whoever is thirsty — thirsty for the water of life — let him come.
What a wonderful, open invitation. Sometimes we want to go somewhere, but we can’t afford a ticket; or there are none available. But here’s an invitation which is open to all who wish to come:
Whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
This is God’s gracious, free gift to his people: eternal life in his presence.
Verses 18 to 21
This is all so wonderful. But the book ends with a warning. And it’s a warning to those who would want to tamper with this book. No one is to add to it; and no one is to take from it.
This is God’s word to his church in every generation. So, we’re not to add our own words to it; and we’re not to cut from it anything God has said. If anyone adds to it, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. If anyone takes from it, God will take from him his share in the Tree of Life. And instead of adding to it, or taking from it, we’re to believe it and keep it and we’re to look forward to the coming of the Lord, who tells us once again at the end of this chapter that he is coming soon. And so, since he is coming soon, the church in every generation repeats the words of John:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Come and make all things new; come and free us forever from our sin and misery; come and bring us into the new heavens and the new earth; come and fill us with everlasting joy; come and fulfil all your promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob so that all of God’s people will come into the place you have prepared for us to enjoy your presence for ever and ever.
And in the meantime, while we wait for the day to come, John reminds us that the gracious help of the Lord Jesus Christ will be with us always. So, we’re to look to him and rely on him for the help and strength we need to stand firm and to be ready for his coming.