Revelation 22 Commentary

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“The throne is set right in the midst of the new Jerusalem, where the living waters stream from the throne of God (22:1) and God’s servants are marked with the divine name and will see God face to face (22:4).  God is no longer far off but immediate and manifest – very much part of that world of perfection and as evident in it as God was in paradise (Gen 3:8).  But (as Paul reminds us in 2 Cor 5:17) that new creation is not merely something to look forward to.  In Christ there is already the possibility, in the power of God’s Spirit, to bring about that new creation in individual lives, though with the clear recognition of the struggle of the birth pangs the whole creation must undergo before paradise can be revealed (Rom 8:1) […] There will be no temple in the new Jerusalem because the glory of God and the Lamb will pervade the whole city […] John’s vision is of a communal society, a reminder that biblical practice and hope center around humanity’s relationship with God and with one another […] The climax of the description of the new Jerusalem in 22:4 has the inhabitants sharing God’s character (Phil 3:20; 1 John 3:2) and seeing God face to face (cf. matt 5:8) […] All will share in the reign of God on earth  (22:5), fulfilling all the promises that have been made (1:6; 5:10; cf. Matt 19:28).”[1]

vv. 1-2 “So far the description has been of the exterior of the holy city; now the scene moves inside.”[2]

“Closely allied with this is the picture so common in Scripture of the fountain of life; we have it in Rev.7:17; Rev.21:6 in the Revelation. It is Jeremiah’s complaint that the people have forsaken God who is the fountain of living waters to hew themselves out broken cisterns which can hold no water (Jer.2:13).”[3]

“John takes his picture of the tree of life from two sources–from the tree in the Garden of Eden (Gen.3:6); and even more from Ezekiel. ‘And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing’ (Eze.47:12). Here again the rabbinic dreams of the future are very close. One runs: ‘In the age to come God will create trees which will produce fruit in any month; and the man who eats from them will be healed.’ ”[4]

The healing of nations The tree of life will produce abundant fruit for eating.  It will also have medicinal leaves for the final healing of the nations – these included in the new Jerusalem.  This symbolizes the completeness of Christ’s death in overcoming the effects of sin.  So powerful is the death of Christ that it completely and for all time removes the consequences of sin.”[5]

v. 3 “What curse comes to an end? This may mean that the curse placed on creation and humanity because of Adam’s sin has finally come to an end (Gen. 3:8-24), though the curse’s effects will be greatly curtailed during the earthly reign of Christ.”[6]

v. 4 “Names link the present and the future, whether it be in terms of judgment (13:8) or the foundations of the new Jerusalem (21:2, 14).  […] ‘Holding the name’ (2:13) is equivalent to maintaining the faith.  The sin of the nations is having followed the beast and then blasphemed the name of God (16:9).  But knowledge of God’s name is not a talisman, some kind of protective charm.  Possession of the name of God depends on appropriate behavior: not worshiping the beast or being intoxicated with Babylon.”[7]

v.10 “Soon…the time is near There are those who think John was mistaken to believe that Jesus would return quickly.  But probably the words underscore the immediacy, not the timing, of Christ’s return.  He can come at any time; every generation should expect his coming.”[8]

vv. 10-11 “The angel tells John what to do after his vision is over.  Instead of sealing up what he has written, as Daniel was commanded to do (Daniel 12:4-12), the book is to be left open so that all can read and understand.  Daniel’s message was sealed because it was not a message for Daniel’s time.  But the book of Revelation was a message for John’s time, and it is relevant today.  As Christ’s return gets closer, there is a greater polarization between God’s followers and Satan’s followers […]”[9]

“What, then, is the meaning of this curious passage which seems to say that men must remain as they are? There are two possibilities. (i) There comes a time when it is too late to change. In Daniel we read: ‘The wicked shall do wickedly’ (Dn.12:10). As Ezekiel had it: ‘He that will hear, let him hear; and he that will refuse to hear, let him refuse’ (Eze.3:27). A man can so long refuse the way of Christ that in the end he cannot take it. That is the sin against the Holy Spirit. (ii) The ancient commentator, Andreas, says that the Risen Christ is saying: ‘Let each man do what pleases him; I will not force his choice.’ This, then, would be another warning that every man is writing his own destiny.”[10]

v.13 “He is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. This is a repetition of titles used in Rev.1:17; Rev.2:8; Rev.21:6. There is more than one idea here.” (a) There is the idea of completeness. The Greeks used from alpha […] to omega […] the Hebrews from aleph to tau to indicate completeness. For instance, Abraham kept the whole Law from aleph to tau. Here is the symbol that Jesus Christ has everything within himself and needs nothing from any other source. (b) There is the idea of eternity. He includes in himself all time, for he is the first and the last. (c) There is the idea of authority. The Greeks said that Zeus was the beginning, the middle, and the end. The Jewish rabbis took over this idea and applied it to God, with their own interpretation. They said that, since God was the beginning, he received his power from no one; since he was the middle, he shared his power with no one; and since he was the end, he never handed over his power to anyone.”[11]

v.14 “Those who wash their robes are those who seek to purify themselves from a sinful way of life.”[12]

“In Eden, Adam and Eve were barred from any access to the tree of life because of their sin (Genesis 3:22-24).  In the new earth, God’s people will eat from the tree of life because their sins have been removed by Christ’s death and resurrection.  Those who eat the fruit of this tree will live forever”[13]

v.15 “This phrase shows man’s part in salvation. It is Jesus Christ who in his Cross has provided that grace by which alone man can be forgiven; but man has to appropriate that sacrifice. To take a simple analogy, we can supply soap and water, but we cannot compel a person to use them. Those who enter into the city of God are those who have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”[14]

v. 16 “Jesus is both David’s ‘Root’ and ‘Offspring.’ As the Creator of all, Jesus existed long before David.  As a human, however, he was one of David’s direct descendants (Isaiah 11:1-5; Matthew 1:1-17)” [15]

“‘I am the bright morning star,’ he says. To call a man a morning star was to class him very high among the heroes. The rabbis, for instance, called Mordecai by that name. More than that, this would recall the great Messianic prophecy: ‘A star shall come forth out of Jacob’ (Num.24:17). This would awaken other realms of thought. The morning star is the herald of the day, which chases away the darkness of the night; before Jesus the night of sin and death flees away.”[16]

v. 17 “There is the invitation of the Spirit and the Bride. The Bride, we know, is the Church. But what are we to understand by the Spirit? It may be the Spirit who is operative in all the prophets and who is always calling men back to God. Much more likely, John uses the Spirit for the voice of Jesus himself. The regular ending of the letters to the seven Churches is an invitation to hear what the Spirit is saying (Rev.2:7,11; Rev.2:17; Rev.2:29; Rev.3:6,13; Rev.3:22). Now, the speaker to the seven Churches is the Risen Christ; and, therefore, quite clearly there the Spirit and the Christ are identified. ‘The Spirit and the Bride say: Come!’ probably means that Christ and his Church join in the invitation to accept all that he has to offer.”[17]

vv. 18-19 “This is far from being an unique ending to an ancient book. It is, in fact, the kind of ending that ancient writers commonly added to their books. We find similar warnings in the Bible in other places. ‘You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it; that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you’ (Deut.4:2). ‘Every word of God proves true […] Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you, and you be found a liar’ (Prov.30:5-6)”[18]

vv. 20-21 “Revelation closes human history as Genesis opened it – in paradise.  But there is one distinct difference in Revelation – evil is gone forever.  Genesis describes Adam and Eve walking and talking with God; Revelation describes people worshiping God face to face.  Genesis describes a garden with an evil serpent; Revelation describes a perfect city with no evil.  The Garden of Eden was destroyed by sin; but paradise is re-created in the new Jerusalem.  The book of Revelation ends with an urgent request: ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’ In a world of problems, persecution, evil and immorality, Christ calls us to endure in our faith.  Our efforts to better our world are important, but their results cannot compare with the transformation that Jesus will bring about when he returns.  He alone controls human history, forgives sin, and will re-create the earth and bring lasting peace.”[19]

“There is both pathos and glory in the way in which the Revelation ends. Amidst the terrible persecution of his day, the one thing that John longed for was the speedy return of Christ. That hope was never realized in the way in which he expected, but we can never doubt that Christ nevertheless abundantly kept his promise that he would be with his own even to the end of the world (Matt.28:20).”[20]


[1] Christopher C. Rowland,  “The Book of Revelation”,  New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998) 729-730.

[2] William Barclay, The Bible Library CD-ROM, (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Ellis Enterprises, 1998) notes for Revelations 22:1-2.

[3] William Barclay, The Bible Library CD-ROM, (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Ellis Enterprises, 1998) notes for Revelations 22:1-2.

[4] William Barclay, The Bible Library CD-ROM, (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Ellis Enterprises, 1998) notes for Revelations 22:1-2.

[5] The Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1984) 1733.

[6] The Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1984) 1734.

[7] Christopher C. Rowland, “The Book of Revelation”,  New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998) 725.

[8] The Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1984) 1734.

[9] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (co-published by Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991) 2334.

[10] William Barclay, The Bible Library CD-ROM, (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Ellis Enterprises, 1998) notes for Revelations 22:10-11.

[11] William Barclay, The Bible Library CD-ROM, (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Ellis Enterprises, 1998) notes for Revelations 22:12-13.

[12] Life Application Study  Bible, study notes (co-published by Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991) 2334.

[13] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (co-published by Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991) 2334.

[14] William Barclay, The Bible Library CD-ROM, (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Ellis Enterprises, 1998) notes for Revelations 22:14-15.

[15] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (co-published by Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991) 2334.

[16] William Barclay, The Bible Library CD-ROM, (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Ellis Enterprises, 1998) notes for Revelations 22:16.

[17] William Barclay, The Bible Library CD-ROM, (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Ellis Enterprises, 1998) notes for Revelations 22:17.

[18] William Barclay, The Bible Library CD-ROM, (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Ellis Enterprises, 1998) notes for Revelations 22:18-19.

[19] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (co-published by Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991) 2334.

[20] William Barclay, The Bible Library CD-ROM, (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Ellis Enterprises, 1998) notes for Revelations 22:20-21.

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