Many words to describe the book of Revelation: mysterious, frightening, complicated, hard to understand, easy to disagree about. Hard to believe, though, the Originator intended it to be that way. Especially considering how book begins, and ends. First stated through pen of inspired author, then reaffirmed by the Lamb himself: blessing promised to those who gain a working understanding of its contents:
Rev. 1:3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
Rev. 22:7 “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
Gonna take a risk here, especially in highly individualistic American culture: promise of blessing not directed to individual Christians in isolation. Message itself is given to the local church, promise given to believers in that context. That is evident from 1:3 as well as 22:16.
“Blessed is he who reads” – singular – “and those who hear” – plural. One reading, a group hearing; epistle written to church(es), one copy present in church, read by pastor to congregation. God knew time would come when each individual member could/would have own Bible, could have directed promise to be written so as to include that. But he didn’t. Not only promise given to believers in local church setting, entire message of book directed to the local church.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things in/for the churches.” Lord Jesus himself makes it explicit who he was speaking through and to – through his angel, to John, ultimately for the local church. Yes, Jesus loves individuals and died to redeem individuals; but…. the church is his bride, he is the head of the church, he gave himself for the church, he cherishes the church, he spoke by the Spirit to the churches 7 times in Revelation.
Is important: This book was explicitly written to be read aloud in the church, heard and heeded. If the church wants to experience blessing of God, behooves us to pay attention to this last book of the Bible, know what it says, understand what it means, heeds its warnings, obeys its commands.
A. God’s final blessing v.16-17
Not surprising that book ends the way it does; began with repeated warnings to churches – look out for deception, especially from Satan. Theme continues throughout, embodied in attempts of dragon, beast and false prophet to counterfeit the real. So why should we believe what is said? How can we know what’s in here is true? The source categorically identifies himself using names that describe his true identity and authority.
Alpha and Omega (13) has required knowledge to accurately declare what will take place in future. The one who began it all, who will bring it to an end, who decreed the end at the beginning and all things leading up to it, he has authority and power necessary to make it turn out as he has said.
Root and offspring, bright morning star (16) in a word, the Messiah. The one in whom all God’s promises would be fulfilled. Confirms what his apostles had been saying for a generation, adds incredible weight to conclusion of the Bible. This really must be the last chapter if we’re not waiting any longer for the Promised One. When he declares “this is what’s left”, no more and no less, puts a stamp “THE END” at bottom of page.
The word isn’t used but “blessing” is clearly indicated for those who respond to the imperative “Come”. Structure of thought here is significant: Spirit and bride say “Come!“; then, him who hears: say “Come!” Remember, this book is Christ’s message to the church; it ends with important instruction about what the church should be doing while waiting for his return. Spirit and bride together issue the gospel call – church issues call to repentance that is heard with ears; Spirit issues call that is heard with the heart. The church’s job is to faithfully proclaim the gospel message and issue the call. The one who hears and responds in faith to the gospel also has a job: pass word along, add his/her voice to that of the church in calling others. Word proclaimed also must include warnings present in this book – fearsome judgment and an indescribable future for those who fail to heed God’s call.
Then comes the promise of blessing: the one who has thirst, desire for water of life will have his thirst fully quenched. What makes a real blessing – water has already been purchased, it is offered free of charge. It is provided as a free gift. How cruel it would be of God to give thirst, desire for something, then withhold what would satisfy. PTL he doesn’t do that. Also means we know since God is supplying the water (eternal life, ’cause the water fountain is in heaven) it will never run out. We can’t call too many into the kingdom!
B. God’s final curse v.18-19
If Revelation is indeed final installment of God’s Word written down over period of 15 centuries, then warnings apply to this book directly and indirectly to whole Bible as well. Also should be taken as warning against adding/taking away with respect to meaning as well as content. How Revelation/revelation is handled is of great importance to God. Ones who felt heat of Jesus’ anger the most were Pharisees who added and added to God’s word, making it oppressive and burdensome for those who tried to obey it (see Matt. 23:4; Luk. 11:46).
Few evangelicals would argue for adding to / removing from actual text of Revelation. Have high enough view, great enough regard for Scripture as word of God to not do that. But many would not be as careful when it comes to meaning. Can go to two extremes – minimizing message so it fails to accomplish Jesus’ purpose: encourage the saints, warn the wicked. Other extreme: adding to message details of time and sequence, applying message to times or people not intended by Jesus.
God gives stern warning – eternal condemnation for one who wilfully, knowingly, with intent distorts truth of Revelation. While warning may not apply specifically to ones who do these things out of ignorance, poor understanding, still should take warning VERY seriously. Those who have opportunity to teach this book especially out of all 66 should pay close attention to how they handle it. Must not avoid it, that would be to forfeit great blessing; instead must by aid of Holy Spirit do all they can to teach while being faithful to content and intent of text.
C. God’s final reminder v.20-21
One last reminder that Lord Jesus will return quickly – suddenly – without warning. That should add level of urgency to our labors in the Gospel. Can’t count on next week or tomorrow or even rest of this day; must be making most of each moment, each opportunity God gives us for influence and witness. Also means we shouldn’t give impression to others that they have all time in world to come to repentance. Call to respond to Gospel expects immediate response – not a “let me think about it” but rather “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
Ought to be desire of all believers for Lord Jesus to come back NOW! But for right reasons: church is full, Jesus will be glorified, our work is done, time has arrived to make all things right. At the same time: between rock and hard place, just like Paul – Phil. 1:22-24Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer:I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far,but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body.” NET
Come, Lord Jesus. The whole of Revelation is meant to stir our longing and prayers for the full realization of God’s purposes, which is to take place at the Second Coming. Revelation fittingly ends on this note. Poythress
In the meantime: grace of Lord Jesus to be our portion. In very closing words last reminder that our part in all that is promised the saints due not to own merits but God’s grace. Our perseverance through promised trials only possible because of Lord Jesus’ strengthening grace. If we are indeed overcomers and guaranteed a heavenly and eternal inheritance, it is all because of grace. Truly we have been loved with an everlasting love and led by grace to know that love.