“And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.” (Revelation 22:8)
The phrase, “And I John saw these things, and heard them,” presents an impeccable witness. There is no more credible witness, that is, if that person is honest, than one who was at the scene of the situation and personally saw and heard. John saw many things, and he heard many things. In other words, he was, in essence, saying that he’d done his very best to give a proper account of what he saw and heard. He had not embellished it in any way, and neither had he limited, in any way, what he had been shown. He was saying that his testimony would stand up in any court of the land.
The phrase, “and when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things,” presents the apostle doing the same thing as he did in Revelation 19:10, but, as we shall see, the man here is different than the one in the previous verse. Why would John make the same mistake twice? I personally think that John was so overwhelmed by what he had seen and heard, as would be any individual, that he had difficulty putting everything in proper perspective. When these visions began to come, the first appearance was of Christ. John explained what he saw, and then said, “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:” (Revelation 1:17). With the first appearance being of Christ and the other appearances by men, who, evidently, looked very similar to Christ, it is my thought that the apostle hardly knew what to do. Due to the glory and the grandeur of it all, he tried to worship two individuals who were actually human beings. Neither would allow him to continue.
“Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God” (Revelation 22:9). The phrase, “Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not,” presents the same words used by the previous man when John had done the same thing (Revelation 19:10). The man would not accept worship and rightly so. I have made allowances for the great apostle; however, George Williams, in his Student's Commentary presents a different take on this situation. He says “The incurable enslavement of the human heart to idolatry notwithstanding, here again appears (Revelation 19:10; 22:8). If the wisest monarch (Solomon) whoever lived and who also was an inspired prophet and if the most beloved of the apostles were, by nature, idolaters, how needful is it for all Christian people to watch against the smallest beginnings of this evil.” This perspective may be correct, but concerning John the Beloved, I would certainly like to believe that it is not, but yet, probably one can say that idolatry is the greatest religious sin there is.
Idolatry thrives where it is least expected. For instance, millions make untold idols out of their churches, denominations, particular preachers, etc. And then, pet sins become idols to individual Christians. I personally believe that if the believer does not have a proper view of The Cross, it is virtually impossible to escape idolatry. Such a view places the individual in a proper perspective and, as well, gives Christ His proper place. A proper view of oneself and a proper view of Christ cannot be without the believer knowing and understanding the rudiments of The Cross. Unfortunately, such knowledge, at least at the present time, is almost nonexistent. Of course, John knew and understood The Cross, actually having learned it from the epistles of Paul. That’s the reason I say that the apostle was confused as it regarded him attempting to worship the particular man in question. Then again, it is quite possible that the man looked so much like Christ, so much like an angel, etc., that it would have fooled basically anyone. Whatever the case, I do not think any idolatry was in the heart of John.
The phrase, “for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book,” presents this man as different from the one of Revelation 19:10. That one said, “I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren.” The former one has the words, “the prophets,” referring to the fact that he, evidently, was one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. It could have been Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or even Daniel, and there were others as well. All of this tells us several things:
By the man using the term “and of them which keep the sayings of this book,” it tells us that he also eagerly awaits the fulfilment of these prophecies.
The phrase, “worship God,” means that God alone must be worshiped. Of course, that could include both God the Father and God the Son. They alone are worthy of worship. Because of what Jesus did at The Cross, The Holy Spirit, without fail, always directs worship to The Lord Jesus Christ, despite the fact that The Holy Spirit is also God. The reason for this is the price that was paid at Calvary’s Cross, so the record is that The Holy Spirit will not accept worship but will direct all to the Son of God and for the reasons mentioned.
“And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand” (Revelation 22:10). The phrase, “And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book,” refers to the fact that the things given in this book are meant to be known and understood. They are not hidden truths; they are simple and clear to all who will believe them, but they are hidden from those who refuse to believe (2 Corinthians 4:4).
It is Time
The phrase, “for the time is at hand,” speaks of the immediate fulfillment of events that were to happen in consecutive order from John’s day into eternity. The statement is somewhat different than the statement of verse 6:
Actually, the Book of Revelation has been in fulfillment from the very moment it was written, and it continues to be fulfilled, even as I write these words. As previously stated, it is the only book in the world that gives detailed accounts of futuristic events as it regards the spirit world. It is meant to be mastered by the saints of God, for this is one of the reasons that The Lord gave the book.
Unjust and Filthy
“He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (Revelation 22:11). The phrase, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still,” proclaims the fact that men are building up their destinies by the actions and habits of their lives. So, slowly but surely, the power of being masters of our fate passes out of our hands. It is in this law of nature that the key to many of the darkest problems of the future may lie, but we must understand that The Word of God holds the answer and solution to all of these perplexing questions, whatever they might be. The Bible plainly states that first, second, third, and fourth opportunities are on this side of the grave. There are no second chances after death. Consequently, there is no such thing as purgatory taught in the Bible. There is no such thing as people getting right with God after they are dead. If they are unjust when they die, they will continue to be unjust forever. If they are filthy, morally speaking, when they die, they will be filthy forever. In Chapter 16 of Luke, Jesus told the story of the rich man and the beggar. The story is rather strange to us because we do not understand the Jewish culture of that day.
The Greatest Illustration of Life After Death
At that time, the Jews believed that if a fellow Jew was rich, that reflected the favor and blessing of God, and, most certainly, he was saved. If he was a beggar, such as Lazarus, that portrayed the curse of God, meaning the individual was lost. So, Jesus completely destroyed their doctrine by telling them that riches or poverty had nothing to do with one’s salvation. In this case, the rich man was lost. He was not lost because he was rich. He was lost because he did not allow the goodness of God (his riches) to bring him to God. Even though Lazarus was a beggar and had received no creature comforts whatsoever in his life, he was saved. He did not allow his poverty to keep him from God. Then, Jesus finished the story by giving the chilling account of Lazarus being in Paradise and the rich man being in hell. The prayer that the rich man prayed, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus,…” (Luke 16:24) is the only example in Scripture of praying to a dead saint. Let those who do this remember that such a prayer will avail the same as it did then, nothing. As the Word of God is closed with the last book of the Bible, The Holy Spirit is solemnly reminding us that, if we are basing our hope on the second or third chance after death, it is a fool’s hope. What we are before death is what we will be forever in eternity. If one is not washed in the Blood of The Lamb at the time of death, one will never be washed by the Blood of The Lamb.
The Cry of The Holy Spirit
In these closing comments, which serve as a typical direction of the entirety of the Bible, The Holy Spirit is telling the entirety of mankind that the unjust and morally filthy can be changed by the power of God. Man does not have to remain in this dilemma. Unjustness can be changed to righteousness, and moral filth can be changed to holiness. In fact, this is the very tenor of the Gospel. Jesus died on a cruel cross, thereby satisfying the demands of heavenly justice, which paid the debt of the broken law and thereby atoned for all sin. It was a fearful and frightful price that had to be paid for man to be saved. The two words, unjust and filthy, morally describe the human race. It is a result of the fall and is so deep-seated in man that it is his very nature, the sin nature. It cannot be changed or assuaged by the change of environments, education, or with money. In fact, man’s nature of unjustness and moral filthiness is absolutely unchangeable as far as man is concerned. It can be changed only by God and only by man accepting Christ and what Christ has done for him at The Cross. Otherwise, he who is unjust let him be unjust still, and he who is filthy, let him be filthy still.
Righteous and Holy
The phrase “and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still,” records that which the Spirit of God can bring about in a person’s life, irrespective of the fact that they have once been unjust and morally filthy. As stated, only the power of God can bring about such a state. Man, within himself, has no righteousness and, in fact, cannot attain to righteousness by any means, at least of his own machinations. A polluted spring cannot bring forth pure water, so man cannot change his situation by his own personal efforts. It doesn’t matter how many New Year’s resolutions he makes or his trying to turn over a new leaf, so to speak. He is doomed to continue in the direction in which he is, unless he turns to Christ. In other words, there is no such thing as moral evolution. Even though it’s possibly the greatest topic in America and the world today, it is a wasted effort, no matter the procedure. Man cannot gradually get better by situations and systems that he may employ, only God can better a person. In fact, it is impossible for an individual to be totally unrighteous one minute and completely righteous the next. It is all done by faith, and I speak of faith in Jesus Christ and Him Crucified (John 3:16; Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Upon turning to Christ, the miracle of transformation takes place. It is called the Born Again Experience (John 3:3). At that time, a work of regeneration is carried out by The Holy Spirit in one’s life, which sanctifies that person. This refers to making one clean (morally clean). It, as well, justifies one, which declares him clean. This is all done by faith in The Cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). This is the only way that a state of righteousness can be attained. Let the reader understand that because if any other way is proposed, it is a fool’s way. With righteousness comes a state of holiness, which refers to one being set apart exclusively for The Lord. This means that one is pulled away completely from unjustness and moral filthiness. A state of holiness or sainthood is instantly given to the believing sinner upon confession of Christ. It is not something that one works toward but that which is freely imputed. It is all made possible by what Jesus did at The Cross and faith in that finished work. Faith in Christ guarantees the standing of righteousness and holiness (Galatians 6:14). Faith in Christ alone attains righteousness and holiness, and faith in Christ alone maintains righteousness and holiness. Let us say it again, there is no such thing as moral evolution.
Millions of Christians have in their minds that such a state is achieved and maintained by obedience and in keeping of the commandments, etc. While, of course, obedience is exactly what must be, let the reader understand that, within one’s own capabilities, obedience is impossible. Now, let’s say it again because it’s so very important, it doesn’t matter who the person is or how consecrated to The Lord he may conclude himself to be, within his own strength and ability, there is no way he can properly be obedient to The Lord. It just simply cannot be done. To be sure, it can be done and, in fact, must be done but only in one way. Obedience to God, which is most definitely demanded, is gained only in Christ and what He has done for us at The Cross. What do we mean by that? All that we need to do as it regards the keeping of the commandments and our daily living, which constitutes our walk before God, has already been done in Christ, simply because it could only be done in Christ. Jesus has fully, totally, completely, and absolutely kept all of the commandments, and He has kept them perfectly. It was all done on our behalf. In other words, every single thing He did was done exclusively as our substitute. The truth is, we couldn’t do it ourselves, so our representative man had to do it for us, and He, to be sure, did it perfectly (1 Corinthians 15:45-47). Consequently, I am given His perfect obedience, for that’s exactly what He rendered to God. The first Adam rendered disobedience, and the last Adam rendered perfect obedience. As stated, it was done on our behalf, even as our substitute. When I exhibit faith in what Christ did at The Cross, everything He has done is made available to me. To be sure, this is all made possible to me by what He did at The Cross. Actually, in the mind of God, when I expressed faith in Christ, I was literally baptized into His death. That does not speak of water baptism but, rather, the crucifixion of Christ. This is the reason that His crucifixion is paramount in the salvation process. I was also “buried with him,” which means the old man, with all of what I used to be, is forever gone. I was, then, raised with Him in “newness of life” (Romans 6:3-5).
Now, let the reader understand that all of this is made possible in my life by what Jesus did at The Cross and that exclusively and in my faith in that finished work, understanding that it was all carried out at The Cross, in other words, that the old me died in that process. I am, then, to reckon myself dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ My Lord (Romans 6:11).
The passage I have just referenced represents our faith, but let the reader understand that it must ever be faith in The Cross of Christ. If it’s not faith in The Cross, then it’s faith that God will never recognize. I am dead unto sin, which means I am dead unto the sin nature, simply because of what Jesus did at The Cross and my faith in that great sacrifice. That is the bedrock of salvation and sanctification. Continuing to function according to my faith in the finished work of Christ, I have the assurance of the Word of God that sin shall have not dominion over me (Romans 6:14).
The Holy Spirit
With my faith anchored in the sacrifice of Christ, I am then guaranteed the help of The Holy Spirit, Who guarantees me victory in every aspect of my living for The Lord (Romans 8:1-2, 11). There is a law of sin and death that plagues the human race, and it is so powerful that man, in his own ability, cannot climb out of this terrible bondage. In fact, even if a Christian approaches it in the wrong way, he, as well, will be overcome. There is only one law that is greater than the law of sin and death, and that is “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:2). This refers exclusively to what Christ did at The Cross, which means that The Holy Spirit works within these boundaries and these boundaries alone. It only requires my faith in Christ and His finished work, which, of course, speaks of The Cross. Maintaining faith in that Great Sacrifice guarantees the continued help of The Holy Spirit and guarantees victory. That is the key to righteousness and holiness. The Cross! The Cross! The Cross!
I Come Quickly
“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12). The phrase, “And, behold, I come quickly,” is not meant to portray the time of His coming but rather that the suddenness of the apparition of the Great Judge will be without warning. It can speak of two things, the Rapture of the Church or the Second Coming. At the Rapture, every saint of God will go to meet The Lord in the air. At the Second Coming, all saints of God who have ever lived from the very beginning will be with Him. The idea is that, when The Lord comes, it will be without warning. In other words, there will be no sign given as it regards the Rapture of the Church. It is something that will happen instantly. Paul said, and I quote the text from the Bible, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep (refers to believers who have died), that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope (this concerns those who do not know The Lord, who will have no part in the first resurrection of life and, therefore, have no hope for Heaven). For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again (the very foundation of Christianity is the death and resurrection of Christ; it is the proof of life after death in a glorified state for all saints and in that life, which, incidentally, will never end), even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him (this refers to the Rapture of the Church or the resurrection of all believers, with both phrases meaning the same thing, even as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 15. At death, the soul and the spirit of the child of God instantly go to be with Jesus [Philippians 1:23], while the physical body goes back to dust. At the Rapture, God will replace what was the physical body with a glorified body, united with the soul and spirit. In fact, the soul and the spirt of each individual will accompany The Lord down close to the earth to be united with the glorified body, which will then make the believer whole).
The Word of The Lord
"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord (presents the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church as the ‘word of the Lord’), that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord (all believers who are alive at the Rapture) shall not prevent them which are asleep (this refers to the fact that the living saints will not precede or go before the dead saints). For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout (refers to ‘the same Jesus’ which the angel proclaimed in Acts 1:11), with the voice of the archangel (refers to Michael, the only one referred to as such [Jude 9]), and with the trump of God (does not exactly say God will personally blow this trumpet but that it definitely does belong to Him, whoever does signal the blast): and the dead in Christ shall rise first (the criteria for being ready for the Rapture is to be ‘in Christ’ ,which means that all who are truly born again will definitely go in the Rapture): Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up (raptured) together with them (the resurrected dead) in the clouds (clouds of saints, not clouds as we normally thing of such), to meet the Lord in the air (the Greek word for ‘air’ is ‘aer’ and refers to the lower atmosphere or from about 6,000 feet down, so The Lord will come at least within 6,000 feet of the earth as it regards the Rapture, perhaps even lower, with all the saints meeting Him there, but He, at that time, will not come all the way to the earth, that awaiting the Second Coming, which will be seven or more years later): and so shall we ever be with the Lord (This presents the greatest meeting humanity will have ever known). Wherefore comfort one another with these words (this pertains to the future of the child of God, which is glorious indeed).”
The Second Coming
“And I saw heaven opened (records the final prophetic hour regarding the Second Coming, without a doubt, the greatest moment in human history), and behold a white horse (in effect, proclaims a war horse [Zechariah 14:3]); and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True (Faithful to his promises and True to his judgements. He contrasts with the false messiah of Revelation 6:2, who was neither faithful nor true), and in righteousness he doth judge and make war (refers to the manner of His Second Coming). His eyes were as a flame of fire (represents judgement), and on his head were many crowns (represents the fact that He will not be Lord of just one realm, He will be Lord of all realms); and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself (not meaning that it is unknown, but rather, it is unknowable; it will be unreachable to man, meaning that its depths cannot fully be plumbed). And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood (speaks of The Cross where Jesus shed his life’s blood, which gives Him the right to judge the world): and his name is called The Word of God (His revealed Name is The Word of God, for He revealed God in His grace and power to make Him known, so the believer can say ‘I know Him.’). And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses (these armies are the saints of God, in fact, all the saints who ever lived, meaning we will be with Him at the Second Coming), clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Revelation 19:11-14). Incidentally, the Second Coming will take place during the Battle of Armageddon, which will defeat the antichrist. Christ will then set up a Kingdom that will rule the world for a thousand years and then forever. He will rule from Jerusalem and will restore Israel to her rightful place, position, and power as the leading nation in the world.
The phrase, “and my reward is with me,” refers to the fact that it is The Lord who does the doing. As well, the word reward can either be positive or negative. Every man will be rewarded according to his conduct, and the eternal destiny of each will either be fixed as holiness or vileness. This is the spirit of the text. Jesus Christ is either Savior or Judge. It is all in Him. If men do not deal with Christ now as Savior, they will deal with him tomorrow as Judge, but deal with Him they shall. One way or another, all will deal with Him.
The phrase, “to give every man according as his work shall be,” tells us emphatically that our lifestyles will definitely produce a certain type of works. Let the following be clearly understood, good works will never produce proper faith, but proper faith will always produce proper works. Now, that is one of the most important statements that you, as a believer, will ever read. Let’s explain it further; most of the church world attempts to produce righteousness (that is addressed in verse 11) by works. That cannot be done. In fact, it is impossible for it to be done in this manner. What do I mean when I say that the church world attempts to produce righteousness and holiness by works? I mean that we do religious things, and we think that by the doing of those things, such will make us righteous and holy. That means that we have faith in those things, whatever they might be. Now, more than likely, the things of which we speak are not wrong but rather, right. In other words, they are good things. Please notice what Paul said, “Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good;…” (Romans 7:13).
What was Paul Talking About?
In this case, he’s speaking of the Ten Commandments as given in the law of Moses (Romans 7:10-12). Now, many Christians may read that statement and automatically dismiss it because they would say that the law of Moses has nothing to do with us today, etc. In a sense, that’s right, but in another sense, it’s wrong. Paul was writing here more so to the Gentiles than to Jews. So, if what he was saying was apropos for Gentiles then, and it definitely was, then it’s necessary for us presently. The apostle asks the question, “Was then that which is good (and he’s continuing to speak of the commandments) made death unto me?” His answer was instant, “God forbid.” In other words, he was saying that the commandments of God are not sinful, wicked, or wrong. So, I’ll say the following: The good things that we do, such as faithfulness to church, reading so many chapters each day in the Bible, paying our tithes, witnessing to souls, or setting aside so much time each day for prayer, are not bad things. In fact, they are right and are things that Christians should do. They are things that good Christians definitely will do; therefore, these things are good and not made death to us. So, the question becomes, what is happening here? Paul is saying that, even though the commandments do not bring death, if the believer thinks his efforts in trying to keep the commandments will make him righteous and holy, then his faith is misplaced, and spiritual death will definitely be the result. We can say the same thing as it regards the disciplines that I have just given. If our faith is placed in those things, even though the things are good within themselves, we will find that sin, that it might appear sin, will work death in us by that which is good (Romans 7:13). The problem is not the things we are doing that are good. But the problem is our misplaced faith. In other words, we are placing faith in those things, thinking that the doing of them makes us holy, when that is not the case at all. So, the result is failure, i.e., sin. Now, the Christian is left very confused.
This is the reason that Paul said, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Romans 7:15). The word allow should have been translated understand, for that is what it actually means. It would then read, “For that which I do I understand not.” What was it that the apostle didn’t understand? He didn’t understand why he was failing, considering that he was trying so hard not to fail. The believer must understand that Romans Chapter 7 is Paul’s experience before he was given the understanding of The Cross. In other words, out of this desperation The Lord would show him the meaning of the New Covenant, which was actually the meaning of The Cross. Paul gives us the meaning of the New Covenant, which was actually the meaning of The Cross. Paul gives us the meaning of the New Covenant in the entirety of his 14 epistles but especially in Romans Chapters 6 and 8. So, before he understood the message of The Cross, which brings victory within one’s life, he was trying to live for God by his own efforts. In other words, he was trying to keep the law by his strength and willpower, which he was unable to do. In fact, no one else can either.
That is why Paul said, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). So, we have Christians doing all types of good things, thinking that the doing of these things makes them righteous and holy. It does not! While The Lord will most definitely bless any believer for all the good things done, whatever they might be, still, that will not make anyone any more righteous or holy. So, we are not condemning the doing of good things, but rather, we are condemning faith placed in those good things. Without fail, our faith must be anchored squarely in Christ and what Christ did at The Cross. It doesn’t matter how much the Christian claims to have faith in Christ if he doesn’t understand that it is The Cross that makes possible everything we have from God. Then, in reality, his faith is in “another Jesus” (2 Corinthians 11:4). If our good works are produced by righteousness and holiness, then our reward will be great. If we are trying to produce righteousness and holiness by good works, then we will be on the short end of that proverbial stick. In other words, there will not be any proper reward.
Alpha and Omega
“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Revelation 22:13). The phrase, “I am Alpha and Omega,” presents the first letter in the Greek alphabet (alpha) and the last letter in the Greek alphabet (omega). It is another way of saying “the first and the last,” which includes all in between.
The Beginning and The End
The phrase, “the beginning and the end,” says the same thing as, “Alpha and Omega.” It doesn’t mean that Christ, as God, had a beginning, for He didn’t. Christ, as God, has always been, always is, and always shall be. When it uses these terms, such as “the beginning and the end,” it is speaking of whatever it is in question. In this case, it would be addressing itself to the great salvation process. Salvation began with Christ, and it will end with Christ, so that means that there is salvation in nothing else, which means that all the religions of the world are bogus.
The First and The Last
The phrase, “the first and the last,” is the same as the other two phrases. All of this is said for effect so that the reader will have absolutely no misunderstanding of Who Jesus actually is. The repetition of these glorious titles is not a mere idle repetition or designed to give a rhetorical fullness to the proceedings of this book. In fact, the repetition is closely allied with the preceding thought. Men will answer to Christ, to be sure, and irrespective of whether the world believes it or not, He is coming back to this earth. His reward being with Him signifies that it is to Him that the world will answer. As well, the term, “every man” guarantees that all will answer. In other words, it means exactly what it says.
“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14). The phrase, “Blessed are they,” presents the seventh and last beatitude in the entirety of the Book of Revelation. Those seven are as follows:
We will find here that the blessing promised as it regards this last beatitude is glorious beyond compare. In fact, the blessings of The Lord are always of infinite value. Understanding that, we should want and desire those blessings more than anything else. Blessed in the Greek is makarius and means “fortunate, well off, happy.”
The Blood of The Lamb
The phrase, “that do his commandments,” should have been translated, “who wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” The Greek text used for the King James version of the Bible was the Textus Receptus and is the text that Erasmus, the famous renaissance scholar, published in AD 1516. It was the first New Testament Greek text ever published. It contains the statement, “Blessed are they that do his commandments.” But that is not the way that John originally wrote it. He originally said, “Blessed are they who wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” Query: So, why has it changed? It was evidently changed by a particular scribe, whomever he may have been, because he said to himself that no man can be saved just by trusting Jesus. One cannot go to heaven and enter through those beautiful gates just by washing his robes in the blood of the Lamb. “A man has to earn heaven,” said that particular scribe to himself. So, the scribe took upon himself the authority to change the statement.
Scholarship and Archeology
Since 1516, the world of scholarship and archeology has discovered thousands of earlier Greek texts. In fact, there are presently over 4,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, with each manuscript containing all the books of the New Testament or portions of the books. Besides this overwhelming collection in Greek, scholars have discovered more than 8,000 Latin versions and more than 1,000 other versions of the New Testament, with some of them going back to as early as AD 300. By comparing these thousands and thousands of manuscripts, scholars can easily find the original text the apostle wrote. The overwhelming evidence is that, in this particular passage, he said, “Blessed are they who wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” So, once again, we come back to the question of ,why did this particular scribe change the Gospel message from one of faith and trust to one of obedience and works? The answer is simple, there is the everlasting tendency in a man to try to merit, to try to achieve, or to try, by self-advancement, to find his way into Heaven. That is a weakness of human nature, and it is seen everywhere in religion.
The Doctrine of Merit
Regarding the following, I quote W.A. Criswell. This system of merit represents the great religions of the world. It represents much of Christianity. Many churches in Christendom believe that we are saved by works, that a man toils his way into the Kingdom of Heaven, that he deserves Heaven as a reward after he has done certain things that he thinks are acceptable unto God. Certainly, the great religions like the hindu, the confucian, and the buddhists, are religions of works. The hindu will keep his hand raised up toward heaven until it becomes stiff, or he will lie on a bed of coals or spikes, or he will crawl on his knees from one city to a shrine miles away, seeking to deserve the pardon of God. This same kind of merit system is seen in the Christian faith as well. So much of Christianity is built around the doctrine of trying to deserve the favor of Heaven. A man is saved, says one preacher, by trusting in Jesus and by being baptized. Another preacher says a man is saved by trusting Jesus and doing all kinds of good works. Another says a man is saved by believing in Jesus and taking The Lord’s Supper. Yet another says a man is saved by trusting in The Lord Jesus and becoming a member of the church and by being obedient to all of the commandments of the church. The doctrine of merit is a reflection of human pride. The falsely proud, conceited man says ‘I can do this assignment myself. I can merit heaven myself. I can work out the problem of sin by myself, and when I am saved, it is because I have done it. Look at me. Here I am walking golden streets, going through gates of pearl, mingling with the saints of God because I did good. I obeyed commandments. I kept laws, and I did great things. Therefore, I am here in the presence of God.’ That is the religion of the flesh. That is the religion of human pride, and that was the religion of the scribe, who, when he found this passage in Revelation, changed the text from one of washing robes in the blood of the Lamb to one of doing commandments.
Keeping the commandments, or at least our thinking that we keep them, can never cleanse one single sin. In fact, all the good things we might do, as helpful as they might be and as commendable as they might be, can never cleanse from sin. If one thinks about it just a moment, it becomes crystal clear that works cannot cleanse from sin. The idea behind a works religion is that we owe a debt, and the works that we perform pay the debt. Unfortunately, our way of thinking is way off. It’s like trying to pay a billion-dollar debt with a few pennies. It simply cannot be done. Sin cannot be cleansed in that manner and cannot be cleansed at all. While sin is definitely a debt, it is far more than a debt. It is a bondage and an enslavement, and it carries with it a power that must be addressed, which cannot be done merely by payment. For instance, all the money in the world cannot cure cancer or AIDS. You could stack $100 bills all over a person afflicted with these diseases, and it would do no good. You could, in fact, pay any amount of money, and the payment of such would have no effect on these diseases. For these diseases to be affected in a positive way, which means to be cured, there has to be a medicine that is stronger than the disease, which will kill the germs that are causing the affliction. Money cannot do that or any type of works, for that matter.
It is the same with sin. It is definitely true that Jesus paid the price. The price that He paid made it possible not only for God to wipe the slate clean, in other words, to erase the debt, but it also made it possible for The Holy Spirit to attack the very source of sin. That’s why Paul said, “But if the Spirit (Holy Spirit) of him (God The Father) that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11). Sin is a spiritual problem and has to be addressed by spiritual means, which is The Cross of Christ and The Holy Spirit. The cause of sin is a diseased, polluted, unregenerate, blasphemous, wicked, and ungodly heart. I realize that most people do not like to think of themselves in that vein, but what I have said is correct; that can only be changed by regeneration, and regeneration can only be brought about by what Jesus did at The Cross and our faith in that finished work (John 3:16; Romans 5:1-2; Romans 6:3-14; Romans 8:1-2, 11; Colossians 2:14-15; Ephesians 2:8-9, 12-18). The forgiveness and cleansing of sin lie strictly in the mercy, goodness, love, compassion, and forbearance of God. All the burnt offerings in the world and all the commandments that a man can keep can never suffice to blot out the stain of sin in his soul. The prophet said, “Ho, every one that thirsteth (is thirsty), come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live;…” (Isaiah 55:1, 3)
How was Abraham justified? If Abraham was justified by works, he then would have room to boast in that event. The patriarch could say, “Look what I have done. I have merited salvation, and I deserve Heaven.” However, Paul answered that Abraham could not boast before God. For, God knew his heart, and He knows our hearts. Listen to this, you can take the sweetest, purest, and finest girl in the world and put on a screen all the secrets of her heart and of her life, and she will blush with indescribable shame. That is the same with every human being. That’s the reason the scripture says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. No person, that is, if he is in his right mind, can boast before God. So, how was Abraham justified? The scripture plainly says, “…Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). Then, the Holy Spirit, through Paul, said, “But to him that worketh not (depends not on works), but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). This is the only way the human being can be saved. It is altogether by faith and, more particularly, faith in Christ and what Christ has done for us at The Cross. If we try to come any other way, we automatically shoot ourselves down, so to speak. In fact, our works of righteousness, in God’s sight, are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It is, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration,…” (Titus 3:5).
The great Protestant Reformation came about over this very thing, this doctrinal difference. There was a monk by the name of Martin Luther, who attended the services of Saint John Lateran’s Church in Rome. In front of the church of Saint John Lateran is a building housing what is called, “scala santa”, the holy stairs. It is supposed to be the same set of stairs up which The Lord Jesus walked into the judgment hall of Pontius Pilot. On the stairway are supposed to be the blood drops of The Lord Jesus. In order to preserve the stairs and the blood drops, the stairs are covered with wood, with little glass holes to exhibit the blood drops. As people climb the stairway on their knees, they kiss those little glass holes where the blood drops of Jesus are supposed to be. This is supposed to merit them something as it regards salvation. So, in order to achieve salvation or whatever it is that they desire, the people climb up those steps hour after hour trying to work their way into the Kingdom of God by penance. Martin Luther was doing that. He was climbing those same stairs, kissing those same spots when, about halfway up, something happened in his heart. He recalled the great text of Habakkuk 2:4, “…the just shall live by his faith.” It is said that Martin Luther stood up, turned around, and walked down the steps. He went to Whittenburg, Germany, and there, on the door of the church, he nailed his 95 Theses, and that was the beginning of the Reformation. No, the words that John wrote are, “Blessed are they who wash their robes in the blood of The Lamb, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Tree of Life
The phrase, “that they may have right to the tree of life,” proclaims the fact that this right can be attained in only one way, and that is by washing their robes in the blood of The Lamb, i.e., trusting in Christ and what He did for us at The Cross. What we are addressing here is the very heart of the Gospel. What is it that gives us the right to claim Christ, to claim salvation, or to claim a home in Heaven? We maintain that there is only one thing that gives us that right, and that is what Our Lord did at The Cross and our faith in that finished work. What He did on The Cross was all done on our behalf. We believe this and this alone is the passport to the great privilege of being born again (John 3:3). It is the blood of Jesus Christ alone that cleanses from all sin (1 John 1:7). It has been said the best who have striven and conquered were victors, not by their own might, but by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11).
The Gates into the City
The phrase, “and may enter in through the gates into the city,” proclaims the eternal abode of the Redeemed. The right to live in this city and to live there forever is strictly because of the grace of God. The means of this grace is The Cross of Christ. It is attained by faith. In retrospect, the commandments of God are definitely to be kept. However, if we set out to keep the commandments by using any tactic at our disposal, we will fail every single time. The Lord Jesus Christ has already kept all the commandments and did so perfectly. In fact, He did this in His earthly life simply because we could not do it for ourselves. He also addressed the commandments that had been broken by every single human being, and He did so by paying the full penalty by giving His life on The Cross. When we come to Christ and make Him our Lord and Savior, in the mind of God, we are literally placed “in Christ” (Romans 8:1). Consequently, His victory become our victory. His perfect obedience becomes our perfect obedience. Listen to what Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). In this one passage, Paul tells us that he lives this life by the faith of the Son of God, which refers to what Christ did for us at The Cross and our faith in that sacrifice. In essence, he said that if he does not try to live his life in that manner, which refers to all the commandments being kept but tries to do so another way, he will “frustrate the grace of God” (Galatians 2:21). Most definitely, we are supposed to keep all of the commandments. However, the only way this can be done is by Christ living through us and in us. He does this through the power and person of The Holy Spirit. He functions in our lives totally and completely within the parameters of what Christ did at The Cross and in our faith in that finished work. The Bible definitely demands obedience, but it’s obedience in the realm of Christ and never obedience in the sense of our own works, etc.
“For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Revelation 22:15). From all of this, we learn that Jesus saves from sin and not in sin. In fact, the basic foundation of The Gospel is the changed life. Claiming that we are saved but then continuing on in these types of sins listed here makes bogus such claims. Those who practice such sins will not have the right to the tree of life or to enter in through the gates into the city. Incidentally, the “dogs” listed here are not the canine variety but rather, homosexuals.
The phrase, “For without are dogs,” refers to homosexuals. “Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog (homosexual), into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God” (Deuteronomy 23:18). In Hebrew, the word dog is keleb. It means a male prostitute, homosexual, or sodomite.
The phrase, “and sorcerers,” has to do with all types of witchcraft, incantations, spirits and fortune telling.
The phrase, “and whoremongers,” pertains to all types of immorality. Actually, this is the great sin of the present age. Immortality is rampant. It is so rampant, in fact, that almost half of the babies born in this nation are born out of wedlock.
The phrase, “and murderers,” pertains not only to killing in cold blood but as well murdering one’s reputation through gossip, etc.
The phrase, “and idolaters,” pertains to placing anything above God or on a par with God. To be frank, idolatry is one of the most oft committed sins. Millions claim that in order to be saved, one has to belong to his or her particular church. This is idolatry. Others claim that water baptism must be joined to faith in Christ. This is idolatry. As one can see, the list is long. To escape this sin, we must place our faith exclusively in Christ and what Christ has done for us at The Cross (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 2:2).
The phrase, “and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie,” refers to anything that is untrue. We are being told here that we cannot live a life of sin and expect to gain the rewards of salvation.
The term “without” is meant to refer to eternal hell. The idea is that the person is not merely outside the New Jerusalem. He is confined to eternal hell and confined there forever and forever.
Never be sad or desponding
If you have faith to believe
Grace for the duties before thee
Ask of your God and receive.
What if your burdens oppress thee?
What, tho your life may be drear?
Look on the side that is brightest;
Pray and your path will be clear.
Never be sad or desponding;
There is a morrow for thee;
Soon you shall dwell in its brightness,
There with The Lord you shall be.
Never be sad or desponding;
Lean on the arm of your Lord;
Dwell in the depths of His mercy,
You shall receive your reward.