By William R. Newell
Part Two: New Creation
We are now come to the closing words of this great book of prophecy, The Revelation; and, inasmuch as God ordered the arrangement of the books, they are also the closing words of the Bible.
We shall find exactly what we would expect to find: (1) The Lord giving His seal to the inspiration, authority, and absolute verbal accuracy of all things written in this book. (2) A solemn warning, therefore, against tampering in any way with its contents, either by addition or subtraction. (3) The bringing to the front finally, as was done in the closing books of the Old Testament (Zechariah 14; Malachi 3 and 4), of that great event which is the chief subject of prophecy—the Lord’s own personal return to earth.
The speaker here is Christ Himself (Compare verses 10, 16, 18, and 20). In whatever manner the revealing angel is used to convey the utterances (as in chapter 19:9, 10, etc.), the author is the Lord, as is evident in the words “I come quickly”—thrice repeated in this passage—(verses 7, 12, 20). Furthermore, the words “sent his angel” is not “has sent,” as a reporting angel would speak accrediting himself, but the historical tense as of the sender, Christ, Himself accrediting the agent.
Perhaps no book of the Bible has been more neglected, despised, added to and subtracted from, than this same book of The Revelation. Therefore, both the faithfulness and truth of the Author are again and again announced, whether by saints (15:3), or heavenly beings (16:7) or by angels (19:9; 22:9). But, also, in an even more emphatic way, the very words of this great book are over and over sealed as “faithful and true”: by God (21:5), by the Holy Spirit (1:10, ff) and here in the closing chapter no less than five times by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (verses 7, 10, 16, 18, 20).
We naturally and necessarily connect the close of this great book with its beginning (22:6 and 1:1): “the things which must shortly come to pass.” Also, we are bowed with awe at the title and actions of Deity in our blessed Lord. For in 1:1 it is Christ who “sent and signified by His angel”; in 22:6 it is “The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets sent his angel”; and He sets a final seal: “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things for the churches” (verse 16). Therefore, the Lord Jesus, the Eternal Word, was the direct Inspirer of the prophets! As He says also in verse 13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end,” whereas in chapter 1:8 we read, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” In this verse, as we have elsewhere noted, is gathered up all the revelations of God in the Old Testament: Adonai, Elohim, Jehovah, the Almighty. And “without robbery,” nay with the calm of Deity, our Lord declares Himself to be all these, in this final chapter of the Bible! Blessed is the man who in his heart of hearts, like Thomas, cries: “My Lord and my God!”
Note now the first of the three phrases—“I come quickly” of this final chapter. How absolutely all things have been committed unto our Lord by the Father, and with what quiet assurance He announces His own personal coming as the climax of the thousand pages of the Old Testament and the three hundred pages of the New. We are overwhelmed as we behold! Ah, what blindness is theirs who know not the second coming of Christ—those to whom it means nothing. To God and Heaven it means everything!
The word is startling: “Behold!” It occurs about two hundred times in the Greek Testament, and always announces what is striking and surprising (Matthew 1:20-23; 3:16; 21:5).125
Beginning at Revelation 1:7, “Behold” (idou) occurs in the Apocalypse 30 times, and at least seven of these are in calling attention to our Lord’s coming, or in preparation therefore.
“Quickly.” To the Lord, one day is as a thousand years. Therefore, to Him, His absence has not yet been two days long! We must learn to look at time as our Lord does; and in proportion as we surrender to His complete Lordship, we will be enabled to do this, and His coming will be to us an imminent thing. We will be saying with Paul, “We that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord.” “Quickly” (tachu) occurs seven times in The Revelation, and all but once (11:14) refers to Christ’s actions. It means the next thing on the program. We cannot believe that those who would have the Church looking for the Antichrist and the Tribulation rather than for Christ Himself, are fulfilling His command to watch—the command given to ALL (Mark 13:37).
We do not need to remark, of course, that the vain promises, however honestly made by the great ones of the earth, whether in Russia, Italy, Germany or America, can in any wise modify God’s specific word in 1 Corinthians 2:6: “The rulers of this age … are coming to nought.” We are down in the end-time, the feet of the great image of Daniel 2. We are looking for the Lord from heaven to catch us up in the clouds, and, after the Great Tribulation, to descend with all of the heavenly hosts; and like the stone cut without (human) hands from the mountain, to strike and utterly destroy Gentile world-power. “Behold, I come quickly” is the Christian’s watch-word; let the “slogans” of the uprising world-movements be what they may.
Now we note in verse 7 a blessing pronounced upon him that “keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book.” The word “book” signifies The Revelation, and is used seven times in this last section (7, 9, 10, 18 [twice], and 19 [twice]). All readily admit that The Revelation is a book; also that it is a book of prophecy. But alas, how few keep (meaning, “to guard as a treasure”) the words! “To tamper with the words of the prophecy of the book is to bring oneself under the divine lash” (verses 18, 19), just as to treasure them brings a special divine blessing for you.
For the second time (19:9, 10) John is overwhelmed. It is, we feel, in view of all that has preceded, and especially of the blessed announcement of the near coming of his Lord, that the Seer, overwhelmed, falls down to worship the revealing angel. Alas, our poor hearts turn perpetually to adore something short of God—the creature rather than the Creator.
The fidelity and humility of the angel abase and shame us. Though higher than man, he is a “fellow-servant” (sundoulos)—a word that wholly excludes independence, in which man glories. Note also how the angel remembers “the prophets,” those faithful servants of God, and also that the angels themselves are “keepers of the words” of this book of The Revelation. Doubtless Michael and his angels derive their very courage for the terrific conflict of chapter 12 from the revelation of certain victory given through John the beloved. How wonderful are the ways of God! Let us lay close to our hearts the angel’s words: “Worship God.” These words will search us out. Unless we are walking with God, other gods are holding our affections. The very glory of divine revelations may tend to turn our weak hearts away from adoration of the divine Person, Himself (Compare Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7).
We have here: (1) The Revelation is an unsealed, open book. (2) The fact that its clear and awful revelations will not change those who choose wickedness, is not to hinder its teaching; it will bless the godly. (3) The second announcement of “I come quickly.” (4) The second (and overwhelming) imprimatur of the Author of this book. (5) The blessedness of those that “washed their robes” in the blood of the Lamb (see 7:14), thus having the right to the tree and to the city.126 (6) The six great classes of those eternally excluded from the city (compare the eight classes cast into the lake of fire in 21:8).
1. Briefly, let us examine—The Revelation unsealed. Daniel was told to seal up his prophecy: “O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: for the words are shut up and sealed till the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4, 9). But inasmuch as we are now in “the last time,” “the last hour” (1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 2:18) and “the ends of the ages” have come upon us (1 Corinthians 10:11), God gave this book of The Revelation to our Lord Jesus Christ for us, as John has told us in chapter 1:1, 2. This very reason of the nearness, the next-ness, the at-hand-ness, of its time is given by our Lord for letting this mighty book remain unsealed—that is, open to all who will believe it and are willing to search the Old Testament Scriptures—“the Scriptures of the prophets”—to gain the understanding of its scenes and language. What a rebuke to the negligence, the neglect, the sneering, ignorant arrogance, shown by most of Christendom toward The Revelation! Our Lord Jesus may declare it an open, unsealed, understandable book; men say it is filled with “unintelligible language” and “mystic symbols.” Christ says: “Blessed is he that readeth”; men say: “Let it alone, you cannot understand it.” Some day all these will give an account of their insolent, insulting attitude toward this holy, open book of plain prophecy, given by God to Christ for us, and distinctly left unsealed. And “the time is at hand” with which its mighty language deals! This word “at hand” (Greek eggus) is used thirty times in the New Testament. It is illustrated in Matthew 24:32, 33 (translated “nigh,” “near”). Paul, looking for Christ, uses it in Philippians 4:5 “The Lord is at hand.”
2. Verse 11 is generally regarded as a mere sentence of finality on the state in which any soul is discovered at the Lord’s coming. But if we look carefully at its connection with the preceding verse, it would seem to be suggested by the words “Seal not up the words of the prophecy of this book.” The terms “do righteousness still” and “be made filthy still” seem to have the same significance of a life-choice, which you find in Romans 2:12—“as many as sinned.” The tense is the aorist, not the perfect; and indicates the choice of the man’s life, his whole life, viewed as a whole, so that we find in Revelation 22:11 those who have made the final choice of unrighteousness and are living in it. The word “unjust” (R. V. “unrighteous”) is made into a verb: “Let him keep-on-doing-unrighteousness” (for he has chosen it). Likewise, the one who has chosen righteousness, “let him keep on practicing (poieo) righteousness.” Paul, indeed, plainly declares: “We (indwelt by Christ) are a sweet savor (fragrance) of Christ unto God, in them that are being saved, and in them that are perishing; to the one a savor (fragrance) from death unto (deeper) death; to the other, a savor (fragrance) from life unto life” (unto higher life). The fact is, that The Revelation of Christ and His Gospel damns rejecters the more deeply (John 15:22-24). Just so the unfolding of the terrible visitations, plagues and judgments of the book of Revelation moves most men to deeper rejection and hatred of God’s truth. Witness the growing denial of eternal punishment in literal fire and brimstone, so undeniably asserted in The Revelation, but so desperately rejected by “modern” thought.
3. Our Lord connects the second, “Behold, I come quickly (verse 12) with that individual reward He retains in His own hand to bestow personally: “My reward is with me” No saint of either Old or New Testament has been rewarded finally yet. And the Lord will not commit even to Michael or Gabriel the giving of the reward for the least service rendered to Him! Precious thought! Be “always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord.”
4. We have already noticed the first voice of Deity in verse 6 and have called attention also to the second in verse 13: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
The fact of the absolute deity of our Lord Jesus Christ could not be more strongly affirmed. Everything stands or falls with this doctrine. Christ is “God before and after all; and filling duration.”
5. In the simple words pronouncing “blessed” those who avail themselves, through faith, of the infinite, cleansing power of the blood of Christ, how much is wrapped up! Notice, it is not the declaration of the Judge in justifying the ungodly who believe, that is in question here (that is Romans); but it is the cleansing effect of the shed blood of Christ, fitting the believer’s person to come to the tree of life and to enter the very home of God, the New Jerusalem. Faith, true faith, involves not only a righteous standing, but the removal of all defilement from the person of the believer: both justification and cleansing. Christ said: “Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you”; or, as Paul writes in Colossians 1:12: “Giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” To the weakest and humblest believer both of these things belong. The right (exousia) to the tree of life and to the city thus forever and ever rests on faith in the blood of Christ. How simple, yet how glorious!
6. Now as to those excluded: “the dogs”—unclean (as Isaiah 66:3; Matthew 7:6); cruel (Psalm 22:16, 20; Jeremiah 15:3); utterly profane (Deuteronomy 23:18); sin-loving (2 Peter 2:22); to be guarded against by saints (Philippians 3:2); “the sorcerers”—direct dealers with the Devil and demons; “the fornicators”—those who have chosen this uncleanness; “the murderers”—those who chose hatred—violence and slaughter—(so far, sins against man). Now “the idolators”—those serving and worshipping the creature, thus hiding away from the Creator; “and everyone that loveth and practiceth (poieo) a lie”—those shutting out the truth of God, who hide in the darkness that they may love and do falsehood: who refuse to be made sincere before God.
What a list! Here, it is exclusion from the city where the blessedness will be. In 21:8, it was their judicial consignment to the lake of fire as banished from God, whose “tabernacle” was now “with men.”
How blessedly comforting that our Lord takes His personal name here at the close of the book! “Thou shalt call his name Jesus.” As He lay in the lowly manger of Bethlehem, that name was given to Him. God, the Father, will see to it that at that Name every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:10). But here He uses it in all the loving tenderness of old. In His announcing Himself as both the root and offspring of David, both His deity and His birth at Bethlehem are in view. He is both David’s Lord and his son. And we are distinctly told by Paul that He was “born of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3); we are to remember Him the Risen One as such (2 Timothy 2:8): “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel.” It is part of the Pauline revelation (for the twelve imparted nothing to Paul). Nevertheless, although His royal throne and kingdom come through David and are connected with Israel on earth, we have a nearer and more blessed revelation: “I am the bright, the morning star.” Our Lord is coming, indeed, as the Sun of Righteousness to rise upon the darkness of this world and reign in the millennial kingdom. But it is yet “this darkness”; although “the night is far spent, and the day is at hand.” Yes, the day is not here— but lo, the harbinger of the day, the Morning Star! It shines in the night, but it prophesies the coming sunrise. “The assembly (ecclesia—the Church) sees Him in the now far spent night as the Morning Star, recognizes Him, while watching for Him, according to His own Word, in His bright heavenly character—a character which does not wake a sleeping world, but is the delight and joy of those who watch. When the sun arises, He will not be thus known: the earth will never so know Him, bright as the (coming) day may be” (Darby). If you have never seen the morning star, I beg you get up long before day some morning, gaze upon it, and be taught what our blessed Lord means or should mean to every real saint!
The blessed Holy Spirit, during our Lord’s absence, having in care all the spiritual needs of all the saints, knowing all the counsels of God—and how they are connected with our Lord’s appearing—continually utters, “Come.” He breathes, “Come” toward Him who is awaiting the Father’s moment, there at God’s right hand. Also, the Bride, because she is the Bride—all the Church, all the Body of Christ, not part of it—says instinctively and from her heart, “Come,” to her Bridegroom on high.
There is also the exhortation to every uninstructed hearer, who may read or hear read this great book of The Revelation with its mighty consummation in Christ’s second coming—he is exhorted to join the Spirit and the Bride in inviting Him back: “Let him that heareth, say, Come.” And then, if any one is athirst, it is the same old tender welcome of Matthew 11: “Let him come.”
And, as if that were not wide or free enough, there is this joyful final word from the Lord’s own lips, “HE THAT WILL, LET HIM TAKE THE WATER OF LIFE FREELY.” It is as if the Lord had said to His beloved John, “Preach the glad tidings at the very close—the water of life, the tree of life, the eternal home of God, the New Jerusalem—offer them all things freely” The Greek word “freely” is our dear old Greek word “dorean” (Romans 3:24; John 15:25)—“gratuitously,” “without a cause in us why it should be given. We are all invited to take this infinite, infinite boon—”the water of life.” Oh! may not unbelief shut any reader or hearer out from the FREE GIFT of God, which is ETERNAL LIFE!
Here is the most solemn warning in the whole Bible against tampering with the words of God. If judgment came upon the wicked king Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36) because he cut out with his pen-knife and burnt the predictions of evil uttered by Jeremiah against Jerusalem, how much more awful will be the doom of those who add to or take from a book given by God to the Lord Jesus, who Himself, as it were, with His pierced royal hands, stamps it over and over, with the great seal of high heaven! And especially when that One to whom all” judgment has been committed, warns us not to trifle with even its words! An old Puritan preacher used to say, “There are just two things I desire to know: The first, Does God speak?—the second, What does God say?”
Let anyone who considers detracting from the meaning of the words of The Revelation, or refusing to believe that these things written therein will literally come to pass, and that shortly, reflect carefully upon the words, “God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: God shall take away his part from the tree of life and out of the holy city.” Fearful thought!
Notice these phrases—all in this last chapter: “The words of the prophecy of this book” (verse 7); “The words of this book” (verse 9); “The words of the prophecy of this book” (verse 10); “The words of the prophecy of this book” (verse 18); “The words of the book of this prophecy” (verse 19); “Written in this book” (verse 19). Beware lest the jealousy of God burn like fire—for he has exalted his Word above all his Name (Psalm 138:2).
And then mark also: “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify” (verse 16); “I testify unto every man that heareth” (verse 18); “He who testifieth these things saith” (verse 20).
Our Lord not only jealously guards the Words, but also announces Himself as the Witness to the Words:
This is now the third announcement by our Lord of His speedy return. The first (verse 7) was connected with our guarding as our treasure this book of The Revelation. The second (verse 12) was connected with the reward He personally is bringing to His servants.
But this third and last announcement is the simple one of the fact. This renders it supremely important. It makes the second coming of Jesus Christ to this earth from heaven the great event of the future!
Christ’s death on the cross was the foundation, making possible the fulfillment of all the counsels of God.
Again, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the next most important fact. For His coming, His descent, made effectual to us the salvation purchased at Calvary, and keeps back (“hinders”) the manifestation of the iniquity of earth, and Satan’s man of sin, until the Church, the Body of Christ, is caught away.
But all now awaits this transcendent event: His “coming again”—and “quickly”!
The word “behold” (idou) has given way to the Greek word of absolute affirmation (nai); “actually”—“for a fact”—“surely”—“certainly”—“I am coming, quickly.”
John, the beloved, replies for the whole Church, “Amen: come, Lord Jesus.” No unwillingness to have God’s will done on earth as in heaven possessed the heart of the apostle; no plans of his own, however earnest, held back the eager call of his heart to the Lord to come; no concern for those yet unsaved who might be near and dear, or for whom his soul was burdened, could for an instant invade the inner sanctuary of his soul where he awaited his Lord from heaven! And so should it be with us! In Revelation 1:7 God had spoken the first prophetic word of this book of The Revelation: “Behold, He cometh with the clouds,” and, “Even so, Amen!” was the Spirit’s seal to this striking testimony, and now, at the close, John in glad inspiration, cries aloud to the Lord Jesus to come!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
As you know, the Old Testament ends with the word “curse,” for it is the warning given an earth whose future hangs upon that of Israel—upon the conversion of the remnant and upon the receiving of the preaching of Elijah (evidently one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11), just before Christ should return. The law could make no absolute promise, and so God’s Word by Malachi ends, “Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
But now Christ has come and put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And, although the book of The Revelation has had to uncover the fearful rebellion of the earth, and the necessary and dire judgments of God; yet upon those who have believed, to His saints, the benediction of divine favor rests. Just as Christ lifted up His hands and blessed them over against Bethany, at His ascension, so all His saints are now—under His pierced, uplifted hands of blessing. Amen!
125 The best help in the study of the Bible is the “Englishman’s Greek Concordance,” one volume (of the New Testament); and the “Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance,” two volumes (of the Old Testament), published by S. Bagster & Sons, London. These volumes, although now somewhat expensive, are indispensable to one determined to find the real meaning of Scripture. EACH ORIGINAL WORD WITH ALL ITS OCCURRENCES may be seen at a glance with a full line from each verse quoted.
126 The reading “do his commandments” is now generally agreed to be a false reading, and it would constitute a false ground of any divine favor, which is based on the work of Christ.