At this point in the book, the vision is over. These verses are an epilogue. An epilogue is a part of a book, at the end, that brings matters to a conclusion or drives home the point. In Revelation, the epilogue brings up the same themes as the prologue (introduction).
The first point of the epilogue is to vouch for the truth of the visions that have been given to John. The angel says we can trust these words and they are true. He gives us a chain of transmission of this truth.
In a criminal prosecution, the state must show a chain of custody of all evidence it offers to the court. For example, a crime scene technician may lift a finger print off of a glass. He puts the glass in a bag, seals it and signs it. He takes it to the lab. He gives it to the fingerprint expert who lifts and analyzes the print. The expert opens the bag, runs the test, puts the glass back in the bag, seals it and signs it. Then at trial, each person testifies to what they have done. That way the court knows the evidence is true and has not been tampered with.
This is sort of the same thing. We are given the history of the transmissions to know they are true. The Lord gave the visions, or the power to reveal them, to an angel. The angel showed them to John, and through him to us.
This statement references the statement of Jesus at the beginning of the book (in the prologue). Jesus called himself the “faithful witness”. (1:5) He also stated how the vision would be transmitted. He said Jesus sent an angel to John and John bore witness to it (1:1-2) John bore witness by writing it down.
The angel also said the purpose was to show his servants, believers, what must soon take place. Jesus followed this up by saying “and behold, I am coming soon”. (7) These days you seem to hear people put all the events of Revelation in the future. But it was, first of all, a word to those first century churches in Asia which were beginning to suffer under Roman persecution. Jesus showed them what would happen, and shows us what will continue to happen in this age, until God brings all matters to a conclusion at the end of the age with the return of Jesus. We do not know when that will happen, but we are told to live expectantly, as if Jesus could return at any time. This is the point of the Parable of the Ten Virgins. (Matthew 25:1-13)
Jesus also said “blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book”. ((7) This is the seventh and final blessing of the book. The first blessing was for the reader. (1:3) The last blessing is for the keeper.
Although parts of Revelation may be difficult to understand, we have seen many truths emerge. Foremost among those truths is that Jesus will return for us. We must keep these truths just as we keep the truths of other part of the Bible.
John also vouched for the visions. He said that he heard and saw those things. (8) Since John was the last living apostle and a revered elder in the church, believers are convinced to believe him. He even included his mistake of attempting to worship the angel as evidence that he told all of the truth.
The angel also gave John an instruction. He told John not to seal up the words of the prophecy. (10) The reason is that the time is near. In contrast, after Daniel saw visions, he was told “the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end”. (Daniel 12:4, 9) God revealed more to us in Revelation than he did in Daniel. He did it because it was closer to the end and God’s people needed to know more.
You would think that, having read the horrible end of God’s enemies, everyone would read this book, repent and be saved. But the Lord knew that would not happen. Thus, he says in verse 11, let the evildoer still do evil. In every decade, every century, every millennium, men and women will continue to sin and do evil. This is a reference to Daniel 12:10, which says “many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” Those who reject Christ will continue in sin and fail to understand the need for salvation. Paul wrote “The natural (not spiritual) person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) He also wrote “evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived”. (2 Timothy 3:13)
We certainly see this in our age. Although the gospel goes out regularly by television and radio, although books and articles about Christ abound, although songs are continually written proclaiming the way of salvation, people continue to commit evil. Abortion, slavery, pornography, sexual immorality, lying and theft are as common as ants.
But, while the evildoers continue to do evil, the righteous must continue to do right and to be holy. The brothers and sisters of our Lord must constantly reflect God’s holy nature with our own holy conduct. This is for his glory and to bring others to the saving knowledge of Jesus. (11)
Although the evil doers will continue, Jesus reminds us that he is coming and will judge sinners when he does. He will repay each one. He will bring “recompense”. (12) Recompense is reward or compensation. That is why he also says repay. He will repay the evil with eternal suffering. In Matthew 25:46, Jesus said the will go away into eternal punishment”.
They will not outlast him, for he is the first and last. He says this three ways for emphasis: Alpha and Omega; first and last; and beginning and end.
This statement is a proclamation of Christ’s uniqueness. He is the only God and the living God. He claims to be God as the Father is God, using the same language with which the Father described himself in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 41:4, God said “I, the LORD, the first and the last; I am he.” In Isaiah, he said “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.”
After speaking of judgment of the wicked, Jesus reminds us of the reward to the righteous. They are blessed. They are those who wash their robes. (14) Earlier we were told that those in heaven were those who washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. We wash our robes by receiving Jesus as savior, having his righteousness imputed to us. The bride (the church) wears fine linen, bright and clean, that has been given to her. (19:8) These have the right to eternal life, symbolized by the right to the tree of life. They have eternal communion with God, shown by their right to enter the city by the gates. (14)
All the nonbelievers, the wicked, will be outside the gates. He gave a representative list of sorcerers, the sexual immoral, murderers, idolaters and liars. (15) This is the same list that appeared in 21:8 in the vision of the new creation.
We believers have committed some of those sins, but received forgiveness from Jesus. Those who have not received Jesus are outside the heavenly city. In fact, they are in the lake of fire since their names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (21:27)
In 22:16, Jesus again verifies the truth of the message of Revelation. He said he sent an angel to testify to these things for the churches. This shows us again that the original recipients of this message was the Asian church in the first century. Jesus claims to be the Messiah. He is the root and descendant of David. This relates to the Old Testament promise of God to David that a king would sit on this throne forever. It is also a reference to Isaiah 11, where God promised to raise up a king from David’s line, a shoot from the root of David, who would be wise and just and mighty.
Jews understood that the Messiah would be a descendant of David. That is why Matthew, writing primarily to Jews began his book with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David. (Matthew 1:1) He knew that he must show Jesus was of the line of David before any Jew would entertain the thought of his being Messiah. It is why blind men proclaimed him “Son of David” when they asked to be healed.
Jesus also said he was the “bright morning star”. (16) I think there are scriptural references here. First, Numbers 24:17 said a star would come out of Jacob. 1 Peter 1:19 speaks of the morning star rising in our hearts as metaphor for the second coming of Christ. The morning star is Venus. You can see is shining brightly in the east before the sun rises. It is the sign of a new day when the light of the sun dispels the darkness of night. Christ’s return is the beginning of a new day when darkness is forever dispelled and the light of his glory illuminates the new creation for us.
Having given a description of the fate of the lost and the reward of the saved, Jesus issued an invitation. He said let the one who is thirsty come and receive the living water. It is the invitation Jesus gave in John 7, at the Feast of Booths, when he said the thirsty should come to him and drink living water. It is the same invitation of Isaiah 55:1 for everyone who thirsts to come to the waters. No money was required; it was furnished without cost.
We, the church, long for Christ’s return. We long to see his face. We long for the removal of sin and the end of persecution. We long for eternity in his presence. And so the church, the Bride, says “come”. And the Spirit joins us and says “come”, for the Spirit lifts our prayers to God and intercedes for us. The word for “come” in Aramaic is “maranatha”.
There is a warning attached to this book in addition to the blessing. (18) The warning is to anyone who would add to or take away from the prophecy of the book. The warning is dire. Anyone who adds to the book will receive the plagues described in the book. Anyone who takes away will not receive eternal life.
This is a principle of God’s word. The Old Testament contained a warning not to add or take away from the law. Deuteronomy 4:2 says “you shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord that I commend you.” Deuteronomy 12:32 says “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.”
We do not have the authority to say something is not a sin if God says it is. Churches and denominations who bow to the culture and deny parts of God’s law sin by doing so.
Likewise, we do not have authority to say something is a sin if God does not. The Pharisees were guilty of this and Jesus condemned them. Legalistic denominations which add sins to God’s law are likewise sinning by doing so.
And, we do not have the authority to deny the prophecies of the Book of Revelation. It says Christ will return, so we must believe it. It says there will be a new heavens and new earth, so we must believe it.
The last words of Jesus were “surely I am coming soon”. John said “amen, come Lord Jesus!” This book was written to give us hope for the future. It was also written to sharpen our focus on Jesus and to long for his return.
Come Lord Jesus!