1. And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
2. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
3. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.
4. And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
5. And there shall be no night there: and they need no candle, neither light of the sun: for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
Vs. 1-5,—These verses, being a continuance of the description of the “holy city,” naturally belong to the preceding chapter.—The angel proceeds to show John the source and current from which emanate all heavenly blessings, The allusion is to Ezekiel, xlvii. 1—12; but both he and John call our attention to man’s primeval state, when our first parents dwelt in Eden, This abode of the blessed is beautified and enriched with all the products, delights and attractions which are adapted to the refined senses of holy creatures,—“pleasant to the eyes, and good for food.” It is Paradise restored, by the “doing and dying” of the second Adam. It is also Paradise improved, having not only the “tree of life,” as the first had, but also, in addition, the “water of life.” The “tree of life” was to sinless Adam a symbol and pledge of immortality to himself and all his posterity whom he represented in the Covenant of Works. Now that heaven is procured for all believers by the second Adam, it is emblematically represented to our weak apprehension by directing our attention to the primitive and earthly Paradise. This is repeatedly done in Scripture. The Lord Jesus, before he expired upon the cross, said to the penitent thief, “Today shall thou be with me in Paradise. (Luke xxiii. 43,) Paul was “caught up” thither, (2 Cor. xii. 4;) and he calls the place “heaven,” (v. 2;) and in this book, (Ch. ii. 7,) the Lord promises,—“I will give to him that overcometh to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” The “tree” is an emblem of Christ, (Song ii. 8;) the “river of the water of life” symbolizes the Holy Spirit, (John vii. 38, 89;) for as the Son and the Holy Ghost proceed from the Father, the former by generation, the latter by emanation from eternity,—so “that eternal life which was with the Father” in the person of the Son, and purchased by the Son, is communicated by the Holy Ghost to all the redeemed by regeneration. (2 Cor. iii. 6; Rom. viii. 2.)—Thus, the eternal duration of life in glory “proceeds out of the throne of God and the Lamb.” On each side of the river “the tree of life” is accessible by the inhabitants; and the fruits of the tree, ripe in all months of the year, and adapted to every taste, each one may “put forth his hand” as he passes, “and take . . . . and eat, and live for ever.” (Gen. iii. 22.) Or, “the people that are therein” may “sit down under its shadow, and its fruit will be sweet to their taste.”—“The leaves of the tree” are for medicine, being preventive of all disease, so that “the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein are forgiven their iniquities.” (Is. xxxiii. 24.) “There shall be no more curse.” Satan gained entrance into the garden of Eden, and succeeded in entailing the “curse” Upon man, and upon beast, and upon the fruits of the ground; but he shall never be loosed again, or emerge from “the lake of fire,” to disturb the repose of that blessed society in heaven, (Ch. xxi. 27.) As the “throne of God and the Lamb” is one, (Ch. iii. 21;) so it is remarkable that the distinction of persons is omitted, as though the Father and the Son were but one person. True, Christ said, “I and my Father are one,” (John x. 30;) but he referred to unity of nature and purpose, not of personality; for, in consistency with this, he said also, “My Father is greater than I;” an assertion which must consist with the former, and which plainly involves personal distinction, (Ch. xiv. 28.)—“His name shall be in their foreheads.” Which of them? We have found Christ’s Father’s name “written in the foreheads” of a hundred and forty—four thousand saints militant, (Ch. xiv. 1.) While in conflict, “the world knew them not,” and the adherents of Antichrist “cast out their names as evil,” branding them as heretics; but now they are known to the whole universe, as the covenant property of both the Father and the Son, (Ch. iii. 12.)—“Behold, I and the children which God hath given me;” (Heb. ii. 13.) “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world. Thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. . . . . All mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.” (John xvii. 6, 10.)—There will be no intermission or interruption of service, “no night there,” no hidings of God’s countenance, no desertions; for “they shall see his face” in the “express image of the Father’s person,” be assured of his love;—“need no candle,” nor any earthly accommodation; “for the Lord God giveth them light; and they shall reign for ever and ever,” in fulness of joy and unalloyed pleasures for evermore. (Ps. xvi. 11.) How different is this heaven from the Mahometan paradise, which, if real, could gratify only carnal and sensual sinners! yet the imaginations of many, and their aspirations too, with the Bible in their hands, are little better than those of Mahometans or pagans. All speculations of heathen philosophers about the “chief good,” or the enjoyments of their imaginary gods, are so gross and brutish as to demonstrate the all—important truth, that “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John iii. 3.) And it is too evident that some modern philosophers are as little acquainted as Nicodemus with the humbling doctrines of the gospel. The society of learned men, making perpetual advance in natural science, especially in astronomy,—would seem to be the highest conception of happiness which too many modern philosophers can reach. They know not some of the elementary teachings of the Holy Scriptures; such as,—“Without holiness no man shall see the Lord;” and that this indispensable, preparation for heavenly felicity consists in “the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
The hundreds of diverse and conflicting opinions of learned writers on the summum bonum, or chief good, proves to demonstration, that without supernatural revelation and regeneration, man cannot conceive in what happiness consists. Thus far is the description of the heavenly state; and how little can we know, or even conceive of the glory and felicity of the upper sanctuary! We must still say with the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul,—“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (Isa. lxiv. 4; 1 Cor. ii. 9.)
6. And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
7. Behold, I come quickly; blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
Vs. 6, 7.—The angel assures the apostle and all who read, that “these sayings are faithful and true,” however sublime and incomprehensible; however, incredible to infidels; however contradicted and misinterpreted by antichristian apostates and enthusiasts. They are all from “the Lord God of the holy prophets,” from Jesus Christ and God the Father, (Ch. i. 1.)—All prophets who wrote any part of the Bible, were “holy men of God.” (2 Pet. i. 21.) Of “these things” some were “shortly to be done;” and all in regular series would be accomplished in due time.—”Behold I come quickly.” Christ is the speaker here, and declares that each one is “blessed who keepeth the sayings . . . of this book.” This benediction was pronounced on such at the beginning of this Revelation, (Ch. i. 3,) and it is repeated by its immediate divine Author, to encourage all to study it. This blessing is not to be expected by any who merely read or hear, but by those only who keep the “sayings of this prophecy.” Its Author foreknew its enemies and corrupters.
8. 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 showed me these things.
9. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow—servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
Vs. 8, 9.—A second time, John attempts an act of idolatry! While we may wonder at this, let us not fail to admire the wonderful wisdom of God in permitting his servant to fall, as he did in the case of our first father Adam, that he might take occasion more fully to display his glory in “bringing good out of evil.” The Apocalypse is directed chiefly against that primary feature of the great Antichrist, idolatry. This was part of “the mystery of iniquity which did already work” in the time of the apostles, (Col. ii. 18,) and was to be fully developed afterwards. (2 Thess. ii. 4.) This second rebuke of an apostle, by one of the most exalted of creatures, for ever answers all arguments of Papists or others, who plead for, or palliate the “worshipping of angels” or souls of men. Idolaters worship angels and souls when absent, as though they were omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent; thus giving the glory to creatures of these divine perfections: whereas this heavenly messenger, when present, keenly resents this indignity to his and the apostle’s adorable Creator and Lord. Once more the angel directs John and all men to join him and all the heavenly host in observing “the first and great commandment,”—“Worship God,” (Ch. v. 11—14.) This angelic rebuke, leaves Papists for ever without excuse; and consequently all others who deny the supreme deity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and yet worship him.
10. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book; for the time is at hand.
11. 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.
12. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Vs, 10-12.—Christ himself addresses John in person. He had done so at the beginning of these glorious scenes of the future, (ch. i. 8.) Now he appears again in glory, though not described as before, that be may thus authenticate and close the vision.—“Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” Why is this? The reason is assigned, because “the time is at hand” when they shall begin to be verified in actual history. The case was different in Daniel’s time, who was inspired by the same omniscient Spirit to predict the same events. “O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the vision, even to the time of the end.” (Dan. xii. 4.) If the vision of the empires of Persia and Greece was to be “for many days,” (Ch. viii. 26,) then the rise, reign and overthrow of the Roman empire, were still more remote. No wonder that Daniel, with becoming humility but intense interest inquired, “O, my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?” Such was the subdued anxiety of other prophets. (1 Pet. i. 10.) And here we may once for all notice the three distinct periods mentioned by Daniel, as measuring the duration of the Roman empire, the Romish apostacy, and as they bear upon the promised and desirable millennium. The two prophets, Daniel and John, agree in fixing and limiting the domination of the Antichrist to 1260 years. This agreement has been already pointed out. The Lord, however, to allay the laudable anxiety of his “greatly beloved” servant Daniel, makes mention of two other periods of time, 1290 and 1335 days or years, (Ch. xii. 11, 12.) Now, when we have manifold assurances that the great apostacy shall terminate with the close of the 1260 years, we may venture humbly to suppose, that the next thirty years may be occupied in the conversion of the Jews, and the remaining forty-five in the effectual calling of the residue of the gentile nations; so as to bring the kingdoms of the earth and the church of Christ to perfect organization and visible harmony, and the whole population of the globe into voluntary and avowed subjection to the Lord and his Anointed,—to perfect millennial splendor, the nearest approximation to heaven. (Rom. xi. 25, 26; Ps. cii. 15, 16.) But “who shall live when God doeth this?” (Num. xxiv. 23.)—The divine Author of this book, having given to mankind a complete and sufficient revelation of his will, containing invitations and warnings, at this juncture gives intimation that obstinate sinners shall at length be left to the consequences of their own free and perverse choice, “unjust and filthy still;” no further means to be employed for their conviction; but those who have embraced the offer of the gospel, shall be confirmed for ever in holiness and happiness,—“righteous and holy still.”—He also repeats the assurances of his sudden appearance to reward “every man according as his work shall be.” The recompense which he brings will be of debt or justice to the impenitent unbeliever; but wholly of free grace to the believer; for the works of each class shall follow them, as decisive evidence of their respective characters, (Ch. xiv. 13.)
13. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
V. 13.—The Lord Christ here declares and asserts the eternity of his personal subsistence and official standing, as an all—sufficient guarantee of his ability and authority to deal with the righteous and the wicked, as also to bring to pass all events by his providence which are here predicted. The same guarantee he had given at the beginning of the Apocalypse, (Ch. i. 8.)
14. 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.
V. 14.—Those who “do his commandments,” are believers, (John xiv. 15,) and no others can obtain a “right to the tree of life”—all the blessings of Christ’s purchase. for “without faith it is impossible to please God,” (Heb. xi. 6;) and “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” (1 John v. 3.) “By the deeds of the law,”—keeping the commandments, whether moral or ceremonial, “shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God,” or merit a “right to the tree of life,” or to “enter in through the gates into the city.” This right, power, or privilege, is confined to those, and to those only, who “receive and believe on the name of Christ.” (John i. 12.) They who serve the Lord Christ, are entitled to the reward of the inheritance, (Col. iii. 24:) and in keeping of his commandments, there is great reward. (Ps. xix. 11.) This reward is of grace, not of debt to any of the children of Adam: “not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Rom. xi. 6; Eph. ii. 9.) And when the last elected sinner, pertaining to the whole company of the redeemed, shall have been called, justified and sanctified, then “with gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the King’s palace.” (Ps. xlv. 15.)
15. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers; and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
V. 15.—“Without are dogs.”—These characters have been excluded by the righteous and unalterable sentence of the judge of quick and dead, having their part in the “lake of fire:” for there is no intimation here or elsewhere, of any purgatory or intermediate place, with the delusive hope of which, those who “love and make lies,” flatter themselves and their blind votaries. Oh, that such “sinners in Zion,” and out of Zion, “might be afraid!”—that timely “fearfulness might surprise these hypocrites!” that they might ponder those awful questions!—“Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa, xxxiii. 14.)
16. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches, I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
V. 16—This is the “angel” whose ministry the Lord Christ was pleased to employ in making known to the church through his servant John, most of the discoveries of this book, (Ch. i. 1, 11.) Many other angels have indeed been employed by the Mediator as the ministers of his providence; but this one seems to have been the principal all along. None of these heavenly messengers, however, was found competent to reveal the purposes of God, (Ch. v. 3.) To this work the eternal Son of God alone was found adequate by nature and office,—the “Lamb that had been slain.” Christ has a personal property in the angels, as he is their Creator and Lord; and as they are his creatures and willing servants “mine angel.” This is perfectly reasonable; for he is the “Root of David” in his divine nature; and the “Offspring of David,” in his human nature, (Rom. i. 3.)—God—Man, Mediator. And here let it be remarked, that in speaking or writing of our Redeemer there appears to be no scriptural warrant for the popular phrases,—“the union of the two natures,”—“Christ as man;” or, “as God.” These expressions militate against the unity of his divine nature and personality; and are calculated,—we do not say intended, to mislead or confuse the mind of his disciples. “In him,” personally, not in the Father or the Holy Ghost, “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. ii. 9.)—By John the descent of Christ’s human nature is traced through David here, because of the Covenant of Royalty; by Paul, he is represented as being of the “seed of Abraham,” by reason of the more extended relation involved in the Covenant of Grace. (Heb. ii. 16.)—He is also “the bright, even the morning star.” This may be in reference to the less luminous “stars in his right hand (Ch. i. 16, 20,) and by way of contrast with them: but he takes this name chiefly to intimate that he is the Author of all supernatural illumination, whether in the kingdom of grace or of glory: “The Lamb is the light thereof,” (Ch. xxi. 23.)
17. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth, say, Come, And let him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
V. 17.—Here is the unrestricted universal call of the gospel, to “come” to Christ for eternal life.—”We do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world,” (1 John iv. 14,)—The invitation is manifold and pressing. “The Spirit” by the word and conscience says, “Come.” “The Bride,” the church militant and triumphant, says, “Come,” Every one “that heareth” the invitation, is warranted to say to others, “Come.” Let every one that “thirsts” for true and lasting felicity, “Come.” If any one be in doubt, whether his desire be spiritual or not, it is added for his encouragement, as well as sufficient warrant,—“Let whosoever will, take of the water of life freely.” Any sinner of Adam’s race may “wash and be clean,” in that “fountain open for sin and for uncleanness;—may with confidence and pleasure, “draw water from the wells of salvation. (Zech. xiii. 1: Isa. xii. 8.) Who can resist these calls, invitations and persuasions, and be guiltless? or who can devise easier terms of reconciliation to an offended God, than are here addressed to the chief of sinners?
18. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of, this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Vs. 18, 19.—“For I testify.”—He who is “the faithful and true Witness” closes this book of prophecy, with a solemn and awful sanction. These tremendous threatenings by the “Lord God of the holy prophets,” may well cause all who read or hear to tremble: for who can abide his indignation?— While the “prophecy of this book” is primarily intended, all other parts of the Bible are included in this solemn conclusion: for doubtless our Lord in—tended the Apocalypse to be a close to the whole canon. The threatening is twofold, corresponding to the criminality. Learned, bold and irreverent biblical critics; enthusiasts and pretenders to new revelations, are in danger of these judgments. “The plagues that are written in this book,” are such as will utterly destroy the presumptuous sinner who “adds to these things.” And he that impiously “takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy,” exposes himself to the like awful punishment, “God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”—Tremendous doom! All that which he seemed to have shall be taken away. (Luke viii. 1.8.) Great will be the sudden and unexpected loss!—These awful denunciations, however, have special reference, like the rest of the threatened judgments in this book, to the great, continued and defiant impieties of the apostate church of Rome. She has “added” her traditions to the Scriptures, as part and principal part, of the “Rule of Faith!” She has “taken away” the Scriptures from the body of her people; or shut them up in an “unknown tongue,” so that “every man may” not “hear in his own tongue wherein he was born, the wonderful works of God.” (Acts ii. 8, 11.). This is one of the articles in Rome’s indictment here; and whatever modern infidelity or spurious charity may suggest, this theft of God’s word, and robbery of his people, is not to be expiated with burnt offering or sacrifice. And he who scans all time, foresaw this attempt of the dragon and his allies to deprive the church and the world of the “lively oracles;” therefore, as he promised a blessing on the reader of this book, as it were on the title page, here in the close he appends a malediction, that all who read or hear, may be deterred from such sacrilege.
20. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly: Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
V. 20.—“He which testifieth these things” is the Lord Jesus. Again he reminds all to whom these presents come, of his certain and speedy appearance. These frequent assurances are not “vain repetitions.” They are intended to strengthen, the faith and counteract the despondency of the saints, and to alarm the consciences of his enemies. (2 Pet. iii. 3, 4, 8, 10; Jude 14, 15.) To this “promise of his coming,” John responds in the name of the whole church, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” to fulfil these predictions, in their promises and threatenings; “to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe? “So shall they ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. iv. 17.)
21. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
V. 21.—These are also the words of John. He had just been addressing the “Lord Jesus,” and his next words are addressed to the “seven churches,” (Ch. i. 4, 11,) or to all who read or hear the words of this book: but especially the church general. This is a concise form of the “apostolic benediction,” (2 Thess. iii. 18,) which is sometimes amplified, by naming the Father and the Son; or, at other times, the three divine persons. (2 Cor. xiii. 14.) However, “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” is originally from God the Father, procured for us by Jesus Christ, and communicated to us by the Holy Spirit. And unto the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, let equal, undivided, and everlasting glory be ascribed, by all the subjects of his regenerating and sanctifying grace, “throughout all ages, world without end.” Amen.