"The Time Is Near" (Revelation 22:6-21)
Revelation: The Time is Near
The Holy Spirit through John, the Apostle of Jesus, gave the book of Revelation (the last book of the Bible) to seven specific churches in Asia listed in Chapter 1.
“Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:11)
These churches are like Riverbend in some important ways – communities gathered to worship Jesus Christ and represent Him to the world. They too were living in the last days. They too faced a deceptive devil, a morally crumbling culture, the threat of persecution and ridicule, and the constant temptation to compromise loyalty to Jesus by giving in to sinful desires.
What’s God’s purpose for this book? What is it supposed to do for Christians facing such trials? We arrive today at the final section of Revelation, 22:6-21. The fascinating visions of earlier chapters have concluded. The big screen has gone dark. At center stage now are three characters: John, an angel, and Jesus. They offer a panel discussion to close out the book.
The purpose of this conclusion is hope. Specifically, this conclusion fixes our hope in Jesus.
I suspect that, at least once, you have reached a point when you said, “Life is hopeless.” I know I’ve said it. I’ve tumbled into ditches of despair and cried to Lynn and to God, “I have no hope.” In those times, I hate where I am but I’m too afraid to move. I’m the prison and the prisoner all at the same time. I know what Ann Voskamp means when she writes,
“Hopelessness rises when the pain of the past floods all of the future.”
Reflecting on such times leads me to this observation about hopelessness. It’s not that there is no hope. It is that what I’m hoping in is failing me. We are creatures who constantly hope. We are always imagining some future that we are sure will overcome past regret and present pain.
Our hope is whatever finishes the sentence that begins, “If only.” “If only I were married. If only I weren’t married. If only I were married to someone else or someone better. If only I had more money. If only I had a child or another child. If only I had different children. If only I could lose fifteen pounds. If only I had a better job or a better boss. If only my candidate would win. If only I could have a real vacation. If only I had a fancier house or a prettier lawn or a cooler car. If only people would like me or at least respect me. If only I were smarter, or in better shape, or younger. If only I didn’t have cancer.”
Hopelessness is misplaced hope. Revelation closes by pointing us to true and certain hope. Turn with me to Revelation 22:6 (p. 1042). Let me read these last sixteen verses and then point to three reasons why your hope must rest in Jesus.
And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Hope in Jesus because His Word is True
Three reasons why you should fix your hope in Jesus. First, hope in Jesus because his Word is true. You live in a world where the devil deceives, the culture distorts, and your heart’s desires are often confusing and corrupt. To sustain true hope, you need a completely reliable authority. The only perfect authority on which to base your hope is the Bible.
This passage teaches that Jesus expects his people to live by his book until He comes. Notice all the references in this passage to God revealing Himself in writing. The angel in V. 6, referring to the whole book of Revelation declares, “These words are trustworthy and true.” In v. 7, Jesus refers to “the words of the prophecy of this book” as he blesses those who keep them.
In v. 9, the angel calls Christians “those who keep the words of this book.” He refers again to “the words of the prophecy of this book” in vv. 10, 18, and 19 (slightly different wording). Jesus tells John specifically that he sent his angel to testify to John about these things for the churches. Jesus oversees the process of revelation so that his people can have a reliable book as their authority. Jesus gives his people a book.
And what is said here about Jesus’s book applies to the whole Bible. I conclude that from two phrases. The first is in v. 6. The angel refers to the Lord as “the God of the spirits of the prophets” who has sent his angel to John to write this book for the church. The prophets are the Bible writers. He recognizes John as a member of the Bible Writers’ Club. His book belongs next to all the others in God’s grand collection.
The second phrase is in v. 9. The angel reinforces the point by calling the prophets John’s brothers. Together they produce the book whose words Christ’s servants must keep. What is true about the book Revelation is true of the whole Bible.
So, then, the warnings in vv. 18-19 apply to the whole Bible. We must not add to it or take away from it. To try to add to it is to accuse God of failure. To try to take away from it is to accuse God of deception. On the one hand, He did not give us enough. He failed. On the other, He gave us more than we could handle. He deceived us. The Bible is perfect and complete. It gives us all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It is the perfect standard by which to evaluate all other ideas and actions.
The Bible is the book from Jesus. Look at the opening of v. 16. “I Jesus have sent my angel to
testify.” As God, Jesus oversees the whole process of revelation so that we can call the Bible the Word of God. V. 20 identifies Jesus Himself as the One who testifies to these things.
This does not imply that Jesus dictated the Bible to human beings. The writers of Scripture are prophets, not court reporters. God’s Word preserves the human author’s choice of words, literary styles, cultural intelligence, and many other features. But, through it all, God speaks. V. 6 introduces Jesus as “the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets.” The Bible is the book from Jesus.
The Bible is the book about Jesus. We make this point often at Riverbend, so I will be brief. I simply point to the command in v. 10. The angel tells John, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book.” This is the opposite of the Lord’s command to Daniel.
But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase. (Daniel 12:4)
Daniel prophesied about 500 years before Jesus came. God instructed him to seal his book because what he revealed about the end could not be understood. People could run everywhere gaining knowledge but never grasp the unifying truth … until Jesus comes. Jesus ushers in the end.
With Jesus “the time is near.” When He arrives, dies, rises, and ascends to heaven’s throne, the Bible makes sense. Because of Jesus, it is no longer a sealed book.
The Bible is the book with Jesus’s authority. Again, just one point here. Look at v. 11.
“Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” (Revelation 22:11)
This is a hard saying. There have been many attempts to understand it in its context. Let me suggest a partial interpretation that I encountered in my study this week. The angel is making a statement about Jesus’s authority. It is absolute. Nothing can alter his word. It doesn’t matter what people do. Let people do wrong. Let them do right. It won’t change Jesus’s plan. His Word cannot be broken.
This explains why Jesus steps in and speaks in v. 12. “I am coming. Soon. I will judge. All are accountable to me.”
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13)
“My word will stand.”
The Bible is the book that leads us to worship Jesus. Catch the significance in John’s response in v. 8. In v. 7, John hears Jesus bless those who obey his book. John is blown away at receiving Jesus’s word.
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, (Revelation 22:8)
The angel stops him in v. 9 and tells him, essentially, “You have the right response – worship. But you have the wrong object. Worship God, worship Jesus, H’s right here.”
In other words, don’t worship the means of God’s revelation, Worship the God who reveals himself. Christians do not worship the Bible but the God of the Bible. We don’t worship Jesus’s book but the Jesus of the book.
Let me steal a great illustration I heard this week. Think of yourself as a pilot in a plane. Your goal is to land the plane at night. You cannot do this without the lights on either side of the runway. Everything else is darkness. So you focus on those lights to land on the runway. If you try to land on the lights you would crash the plane.
The Bible is the set of runway lights. Christ is the runway. Our goal is to land on Him, not the lights. But we cannot land on Him without the lights. We have no hope without His Word. In a world of confusion, deception, and compromise, hope in Jesus because his word is true.
Hope in Jesus because He is Coming Soon
Second, hope in Jesus because He is coming soon. What would be hopeless is thinking that we can or must usher in the kingdom. Hopelessness is the pressure to produce Paradise.
Instead, we find true hope in Jesus’s promise that He is coming soon. It echoes three times in the passage. V. 7 – “Behold, I am coming soon.” V. 12 – “Behold, I am coming soon.” V. 20 – “Surely, I am coming soon.”
Jesus’s point is that He will come to usher in the kingdom on earth. He will right wrongs. He will judge evil. He will reward righteousness. “You don’t have to do these things. What you must do is keep my word. Obey what I write. Be faithful to me in a world that refuses Me.”
The criticism Christians face is that such teaching will cause us not to care about this world. If Christians are just waiting for Jesus to come back, they will not work for justice or pursue peace or defend life, or care for creation.
But the opposite is true. In v. 7 we have the promise that Jesus is coming soon followed by a blessing for obedience.
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”(Revelation 22:7)
Christians promote and pursue what is good now simply because we love Jesus not because we are going to produce heaven on earth. We seek justice, peace, and human flourishing as means of worshiping Jesus not to get the results we want.
A parent says to a child, “Clean your room, and then we’ll get ice cream together.” If the child completes the chore merely to get ice cream, he turns his parent’s promise into a bribe. But, if the work is done from a desire to honor his mom or dad and the enjoyment of time with his parent, that is a healthy motivation.
We do not obey Christ because we hope to make our world perfect. That would make Jesus a means to an end. We keep His Word because we love Him. Our true hope is that one day we will be with Him. Instead of hoping to produce paradise around you, hope in Jesus because He is coming soon. Those who have this hope join John to say, as v. 20 does, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.”
Hope in Jesus because His Grace is Free
Jesus’s words are trustworthy and true. His book is the basis of true hope. He promises to come soon. You don’t have to hope to make things perfect. And you don’t have to hope in your goodness. Hope in Jesus because His grace is free. V. 17 rings with the invitation of free grace.
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)
If we had to earn a place in Christ’s kingdom our hope would be not in Christ but in the false hope of our performance. If our message to a confused and corrupt world is that you need to do better, then we offer hope not in Christ but in the false hope of moral improvement.
The Spirit here is the Holy Spirit. He fills the church so that the Bride (a reference to Christ’s redeemed people) joins the Holy Spirit in saying to the world, “Come. Come to Christ. He is your only true hope.” We have gathered as a church today as a witness to the world that the only true hope for the world is Jesus Christ.
In the next phrase of v. 17, “the one who hears” refers to the individual believer, the one who has truly heard the call of Christ and responded. He or she as a member of the church says to friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors, “Come. Come to Christ.” The Holy Spirit will work in the heart of a genuine believer to make him or her a witness for Jesus. Recall Jesus’s words in Acts 1:8.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The Lord does not command us to be witnesses but declares that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be his witnesses. We fail often. We quench and grieve the Spirit. But he has a purpose for us. He will use his redeemed people to proclaim the gospel.
And the gospel is a message of free grace. It is good news for those who know that they are spiritually thirsty. “Come and take.” Stop trying to satisfy your thirst by drawing from empty wells. If you desire life then come and take the water of life from Christ without price. It’s free.
You must come to Christ completely. If you think you still need water from other wells then you do not yet know that you are spiritually thirsty. To come and take from Christ is to abandon all hope for salvation from other wells. Those who are still drinking from other wells, in the words of v. 15, still love and practice falsehood.
In v. 14, Jesus blesses those who wash their robes. Earlier in 7:14 we learn that this refers to washing in Christ’s blood for cleansing from sin. We do not put clothes in the wash unless we first acknowledge that they are dirty. So, only those who see themselves as spiritually filthy will come to Jesus for his cleansing. He does not demand righteousness as a condition for coming to him. He provides righteousness freely for all who do come to him.
Relying on personal discipline or self-improvement strategies is an empty hope. Christ’s free grace is true hope. And it is that grace that is the final blessing. “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.”
If you do not have Christ, may his grace show you your sin and lead you to find life in Him. Do not walk away from the only hope you have for life.
If you do have Christ, may his grace sustain your hope. He has grace for you to endure when all other hope is lost. He has the grace for you to enjoy his blessings and not put your hopes in them. He has grace stored up for you when the time comes to die. “’Tis grace has brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us home.”
Hope in Christ because his Word is true.
Hope in Christ because He’s coming soon.
Hope in Christ because His grace is free.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.