“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to 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 may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you 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 wishes take the water of life without cost.
– Revelation 22:12-17, NAU
The epilogue of Revelation is found in 22:6-21. The opening paragraph of the epilogue (verses 6-17) provides a strong missionary emphasis. This passage establishes that the Christ is coming quickly, that He is divine, that the righteous and unrighteous have different destinies, that Christ has sent His angel to testify, and that the empowered church will take the gospel to the world. The mission of the church is very clear.
Verses 12-13: The Alpha and Omega
In verse 12 Christ proclaims that He is returning quickly and will reward every man according to what he has done. Christ follows this proclamation with the declaration (verse 13) that He is the Alpha and the Omega. Let’s examine each of these points.
First, John says Christ is coming quickly. Four other times in Revelation (see 2:5, 16; 3:11; 22:7) Jesus says His coming will be soon. Because it has been over 2000 years since John wrote, some people might doubt that Jesus is returning. On this point, Horton (p. 335) writes:
In one sense we already are in the last days. In I John 2:18 the apostle writes, “Children, it is the last hour.” As Horton states (p. 335), “It has been ‘last days’ ever since the inauguration of the age of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17). In other words, this is the last age, the last dispensation, before Christ returns to establish His millennial kingdom.” Of course, the very end of the “last days” is still to come. In due season, the consummation will take place.
Second, Christ will bring His reward with Him. Both the believers and the unbelievers will be judged according to their works. As Mounce (p. 393) states:
John is not teaching a doctrine of salvation by works. With regard to his entire gospel, John declares (John 20:31), “but these [truths] have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” The only way to be saved is through faith in Christ. However, even though they are saved through faith in Christ, the believers will be rewarded according to their works.
According to Ladd (p. 292): “From the perspective of the Apocalypse, patience in tribulation, steadfastness under persecution, faithfulness to Christ constitute the good works of Christians (13:10; 14:12).” Horton (p. 335) explains further that “The judgment will be based, not on the amount of the works, but on the spirit, motivation, and love a person showed while doing them (see Matthew 18:23-35; 25:14-30; I Corinthians 3:13-15; 13:3).”
Third, Jesus establishes who He is. Here, in this passage, He uses the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet to identify Himself as divine. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. Mounce (p. 393) makes these comments:
Concerning Christ, Horton (p. 335) says, “He is called the beginning, for God created all things through Him and apart from Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:3). Therefore, He was before all things (Colossians 1:17). He is the ending, for He will bring all things to their God-appointed consummation, or end.”
Verses 14-15: Two Destinies
In verses 14-15, John addresses both those who believe in Christ and those who do not. Those who do believe will have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Those who do not believe are outside the plan of salvation.
First, the destiny of the believers is to live eternally with Christ. A blessing is pronounced upon those who “wash” their robes. John uses a present tense, which indicates durative and continuous action. The believers keep on washing their robes. According to Ladd (p. 293):
Those who wash their robes have the right to the “tree of life.” Horton (p. 336) writes,
Second, the destiny of the unbelievers is to remain “outside” the plan of salvation. With regard to the word “outside,” Ladd (p. 293-294) writes:
Similarly, Horton (p. 336) states:
John names the some of the people who will remain outside. He says (verse 15) “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.” Concerning this list, Mounce states (p. 394), “Five of the six designations are also found in the slightly longer list in 21:8 of those whose lot is the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.” Such people do not have a right to the tree of life, nor do they enter the new Jerusalem.
Verse 16: The Angel
In verse 16 Jesus declares, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” Several points about these comments strike our attention.
First, Jesus authenticates the angel who testifies. The angel way sent by Jesus Himself. Mounce (p. 394) writes:
It was important that the testimony be written. Because John wrote, the testimony has been preserved for the churches of all ages. Now, the written Word is the basis of the proclamation.
Second, Jesus says, “I am the root and the descendant of David.” Some difference of opinion arises over this comment. According to one view, the “root” of David refers to “a shoot from the stump of Jesse.” The comments of Barnes are representative of this view. He writes:
Another view is that Jesus in His divine nature was the root or source of David, while in His human nature He was David’s offspring. In other words Christ was both David’s Lord and offspring (Matthew 22:42-45). Clarke’s comments are representative of this view:
Third, Jesus declares that He is “the bright morning star.” Here, “morning star” is a translation of the Greek word phosphoros which means “light bearer” or “source of light.” Phosphoros could refer to the sun or to the morning star. Both the NASB and the NIV translate as “morning star.”
The planets Mercury and Venus are both morning and evening stars. Most of the time, the morning star refers to Venus. This star can be seen at certain seasons of the year just as the day dawns, and it reflects light. When Venus appeared as a morning star, the Greeks called it Phosphorus. When it appeared as an evening star, they called it Hesperus.
Jesus uses “morning star” as a figure of speech to apply to Himself. In his comments on Revelation 22:16, Robertson (p. 486) writes:
Verse 17: The Invitations
In verse 17, John writes, “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 wishes take the water of life without cost.” Some writers refer to the entire verse as the invitation. However, as Mounce points out (p. 395), “Verse 17 consists of four invitations.”
First, two different views are held concerning these invitations. Some writers hold that the first two invitations are appeals to Christ to return. Taken this way, the Spirit and bride, as well as the one who hears, urge Christ to return. Other scholars hold that these two invitations are given by the Spirit and bride and by the one who hears to the world to come to Christ. The last two invitations are uniformly held to be addressed to the world. Let the one who is thirsty come, and let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
It seems to me that the first two invitations, like the last two, are addressed to the world. Mounce agrees with Ladd, who makes the following case (p. 294-295):
Second, the opening half of verse 16 stresses the role of the Spirit and the church in witnessing. The Spirit and the bride say to the world, “Come.” The one who hears is a part of the church. Those who have responded to the gospel say “Come.” Thus, the invitation goes forth to come to Christ and believe in Him. Horton (p. 338) comments as follows:
This chapter has already drawn attention to the Father (22:6, 9) and to the Son (22:16). Now it focuses on the work of the Spirit. This last mention of the Holy Spirit in the Bible draws attention to the greatest work and ministry of the Spirit in the Church Age. In view of Christ’s witness to the things prophesied in the Book of Revelation the Holy Spirit inspires the Bride, the whole Church, to join Him in the invitation, the same invitation prophesied by Isaiah as a result of the suffering Servant’s work in Isaiah 53, calling everyone who thirsts to come (Isaiah 55:1-11). Together they keep on saying “Come!” throughout the church Age.
The work of evangelism that needs to be done before Christ returns can be done as it should be done only by believers empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5-8; 2:4). That is, for the invitation to be effective the Spirit must do the real work, and the Church must cooperate with the Spirit, not merely as a body, but as individuals. Then, everyone who hears (hears and responds) has the responsibility to join in spreading the invitation.
Third, the invitation is addressed to those who are thirsty and those who would take of the water of life without cost. One more time the gospel appeal goes out to all who will listen. The Lord is seeking out those who will thirst for the truth and who will drink of the water of life. When we proclaim the Word, we must do so with the conviction that we will find the thirst souls, that they will respond, and that the spiritually parched lips of those who hear will be watered.
The opening paragraph of the epilogue to Revelation is an invitation to the world to come to Christ. John presents the entire story of the future with this emphasis in mind. He is an evangelist and spares no effort to draw men to Christ, the Savior of the world. The evangelist does not work alone; the Spirit of God empowers John and all other believers to tell the story. Ever and always, the invitation is simply “Come.” We must not complicate it. The one who is thirsty just need to come to Jesus and partake freely of the water of life. This is the incredible gospel that we preach!
For Further Study
Barnes’ Notes. Biblesoft, 2003.
Clarke’s Commentary. Biblesoft, 2003.
Dyer, Charles H. The Rise of Babylon. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1991.
Horton, Stanley M. The Ultimate Victory. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1991.
Ladd, George Eldon. A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972.
Lenski, R. C. H. The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966.
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids: Willliam B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977.
Newport, John P. The Lion and the Lamb. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1986.
Ramsay, W. M. The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia. 1904.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.
Swete, Henry Barclay. The Holy Spirit in the New Testament. London: Macmillan and Company, 1910.
Tenney, Merrill C. Interpreting Revelation. Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978.
Walvoord, John F. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Chicago: Moody Press, 1966.
Copyright © 2006 By George M. Flattery