And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
Verse 1. - And he showed me a pure river. Omit "pure." "And" connects this part of the vision with what precedes (Revelation 21:9-27). It would have been better, perhaps, if the twenty-first chapter had included the first five verses of the twenty-second, so as to take in the whole of the description of the heavenly Jerusalem. But there is a break at this point, as is indicated by the repetition of "And he showed me," which points to a new phase or section of the vision. In the previous section (Revelation 21:9-27) the angel had showed St. John the city and its wails with their gates and foundations; in this section he shows him the river of the water of life, and the tree of life. The latter part of each section is occupied with the evangelist's own observations (Revelation 21:22-27; Revelation 22:3-5), for we cannot suppose that the phrase, "these words," in ver. 6, is intended to apply specially to anything in these particular sections. He is the angel mentioned in ver. 9, and again referred to in vers. 10, 15, 16, 17. Most probably the pronoun "he" in ver. 6 does not refer to the same angel as this one. River. The source of this stream, its course or channel, and its fertile banks, are mentioned or implied in what follows; but there is no reference to any estuary or mouth: eternity is the ocean in which this river is lost. Of water of life. Ὕδωρ ζωῆς is perhaps identical in meaning with "living water," ὕδωρ ζῶν, but is properly distinguished from it in translation. The two expressions are peculiar to St. John's writings in the New Testament; the genitival form, which is the more Hebraizing, only occurs in this book in Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:1, 17; whereas the participial and more classical form is confined to the Gospel (John 4:10; John 7:38). "Living water," in its simplest literalness, means such water as is pure, flowing, clear, fresh, and wholesome; not stagnant, or turbid, or salt. Hence it is a proper term for the water of a beautiful and fertilizing river. Here, however, the genitival form reminds us of the familiar expression, similarly moulded, "the tree of life," which inclines us to think that" water of life" signifies water possessing life giving powers, water which restores, refreshes, supports life, and is therefore to be compared with "living water" taken in its spiritual sense. Of this whosoever drinketh shall never thirst again; when it has been once received within the soul, it becomes a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14). Clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb; clear, or transparent. We seldom use the rendering of the Revised Version, bright, as an epithet of water. As crystal (see note on Revelation 4:6, the only other place in the New Testament where the word occurs). The source of the river was in the Divine throne, the seat of the Triune God and the crucified Saviour. All eternal life is derived from our heavenly Father by the Holy Spirit for the sake of the Redeemer.
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.
Verse 2. - In the midst of the street of it. This sentence appears to belong to the preceding verse, as in the Revised Version. For
(1) the καί, "and," which follows, seems the beginning of the fresh feature of the description (cf. ver. 1); and
(2) the account here given is evidently derived from Ezekiel 47, where the river is connected with trees, but no such mention is made of streets. And on either side of the river, was there the tree of life; and on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life. The beginning of the new sentence (vide supra). The singular "tree" seems intended to be understood generically of the whole of that class of trees. For this reason probably the LXX. renders the Hebrew of Ezekiel 47:7 by the plural "trees." We may see in this bountiful supply of the trees of life an image of the abundance of grace and life in store for the redeemed (cf. the description in Ezekiel 47.). Which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; rather, twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; i.e. one crop m each month. The number twelve signifies completeness (see on Revelation 4:9; 7:4-9, etc.). This fruit is yielded twelve times as often as ordinary fruit. The signification, therefore, is that there is an ever present supply. The fruit is not of twelve different kinds; the tree of life bears but one kind (cf. Ezekiel 47:12. "And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months"). And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (cf. Ezekiel 47:12, quoted above, "And the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine"). "The nations" are not the heathen, but the multitude of the redeemed, gathered out of every nation (see on Revelation 21:24). It is, of course, not implied that there is, in the new Jerusalem, any disease which needs healing, but the tree of life is put forward as the means by which the perpetual health and life and general well being of the inhabitants are sustained.
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:
Verse 3. - And there shall be no more curse; and there shall be no accursed thing any more. Nothing accursed exists in that city, because there is no sin there. The narrative here passes into the future tense (cf. Revelation 20:7). But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him; and the throne, etc. This is the consequence of there being no accursed thing (cf. Joshua 7:12, 13, "Neither will I be with you any more .... There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel"). God dwells in the city because all is holy. The throne of God and of the Lamb is one - God and the Lamb are one. Again, his servants, the servants of God and the Lamb (cf. John 10:30). They "serve him," as described in Revelation 19:1-7 and elsewhere.
And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
Verse 4. - And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. Another consequence of there being no accursed thing - no sin (see on ver. 3). All are pure it, heart, and therefore they see God. The same promise is made in 1 John 3:2. The last clause connects this chapter with Revelation 3:12, and shows that these who are here described are those who have overcome (cf. also Revelation 7; Revelation 14:1).
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.
Verse 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 there shall be night no more; and they need no light of lamp, neither light of sun: for the Lord God shall shine upon them. A repetition of Revelation 21:23, 25 (which see). In 21:23 we are told "the Lamb is the Light thereof;" here, "the Lord God shineth upon them." Again an assertion of the Divinity of the Son (cf. ver. 3). And they shall reign forever and ever. This prediction and promise ends the Revelation, as such. It is the reward placed before those who strive, in order to induce them to "overcome" (see on ver. 5 above, and Revelation 3:12).
And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
Verse 6. - And he said unto me. Probably the angel who has exhibited the vision of the holy city (Revelation 21:9); perhaps the angel of Revelation 1:1. The concluding portion of the book is now entered upon; it contains a brief summary of (or rather reference to) the chief events which have been narrated, and enforces the lesson which is intended to be taught, viz. that Christians should persevere in well doing amid all persecutions, for their reward is certain, and that the punishment due to the wicked will surely overtake them at last. The angel asserts the veracity of what is contained in the book (ver. 6; cf. Revelation 1:1, 2; Revelation 3:14); the time in which to prepare is brief (vers. 6, 7, 12; cf. Revelation 1:3, 7); the prophecy is to be communicated to others (ver. 10; cf. Revelation 1:1-3); God is eternal (ver. 13; cf. Revelation 1:8); the just are rewarded (vers. 14, 17; cf. Revelation 1:3); the wicked are punished (ver. 15; cf. Revelation 1:7); the prophecy is to be faithfully handed on (vers. 18, 19; cf. Revelation 1:2). These sayings are faithful and true. That is, all that has been conveyed to the seer (cf. the following verses). This is a repetition of Revelation 21:5; Revelation 19:9; Revelation 3:14; so also Daniel 8:26. And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets .... the things which must shortly come to pass. That spiritual part of the nature of the prophets, by which they are made to discern and to communicate God's will. The expression is used here in connection with the "prophecy" mentioned in the following verse. The greater part of this verse is worded exactly as Revelation 1:1. His servants; cf. the address to the seven Churches (Revelation 1:3, especially Revelation 1:11).
Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
Verse 7. - Behold, I come quickly (cf. vers. 12, 20; Revelation 3:11). The narration passes into the words of Christ himself, just as in ver. 12 and Revelation 11:3. Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. Because they are "faithful and true" (ver. 6). The command given in Revelation 1:11, 19 is now supposed to have been carried out (cf. the same words in Revelation 1:3).
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 shewed me these things.
Verse 8. - And I John saw these things, and heard them; literally, and I John [am] the [one] hearing and seeing these things. The absence of the verb (the present participle being used alone) indicates the person to whom the revelation is made, without assigning any specific period as the particular time when the revelation took place. The same statement is made in Revelation 1:1 (which see). "These things" are all that have been related in the book. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things; and when I heard and saw, etc. The tense here becomes aorist (vide supra). St. John has once before fallen into the same error, viz. that of paying undue homage to the angel (see on Revelation 19:10). The beatific vision overwhelms him with awe, and he is bowed down with his own humility.
Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
Verse 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; and he saith, etc. (cf. the words of Revelation 19:10). Here we have "the prophets;" in the former passage we have the "spirit of prophecy," in much the same sense; here, again, we have "them which keep the sayings of this book," in place of "that have the testimony of Jesus," in Revelation 19:10. In the latter case, also, there is little difference of meaning, since the "sayings of this book" are exhortations to a faithful bearing of "the testimony of Jesus;" those, therefore, "who keep" (that is, carry out) "the sayings" are those who "hold the testimony of Jesus." "The prophets" need not be restricted in meaning to either Old or New Testament prophets, but may include both. The direct inspiration of the message which St. John has to deliver is here asserted. In unison with the teaching of the Mosaic covenant, the angel commands to worship God alone (cf. Exodus 34:14, etc.).
And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
Verse 10. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. The visions being now complete, St. John is commanded to communicate them to the world (cf. Revelation 10:4, where a contrary direction is given). The last sentence is again a repetition of the assertion of the shortness of this our time of preparation (cf. on ver. 7). The revelation deals not with events far distant in the future, but with those immediately present; for this reason the message is to be communicated (cf. Daniel 8:26, where the reason given for "shutting up the vision" is that the visions "belong to many days to come," Revised Version).
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.
Verse 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; he that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still, etc. (Revised Version). These words seem to be used ironically, as was sometimes the case with the prophets (cf. Ezekiel 3:27; Ezekiel 20:39). The intention seems to be to stir men up to a realization of the nature of their conduct in continuing to reject the warnings of God. Note that the words immediately succeeding, as well as those immediately preceding, are connected with the judgment.
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Verse 12. - And, behold, I come quickly. Omit "and" (cf. vers. 7, 10, etc.; see also on ver. 11). Note also that once more the words are spoken as by Christ himself (cf. ver. 7). And my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be; as his work is, according to the best authorities. This is one of the fundamental truths enforced throughout the book; cf. the epistles to the seven Churches (Revelation 2:5, 10, 16, 17, 22, 26, etc.). Similar language is found in Isaiah 40:10; Isaiah 62:11. The infinitive phrase seems to be explanatory of the idea contained in the word μισθός, "reward;" the double nature of the reward being thus indicated.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Verse 13. - I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last; the Alpha, etc. Reverse the position of the two last phrases. These words, which appropriately open and close the book (cf. Revelation 1:8), occur (like those in ver. 11 above) continually in Isaiah (see Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12). All three titles are here combined, as if to finally gather up into one impressive assertion the titles hitherto used separately (cf. Revelation 1:8, 17; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 21:6). "The first title is symbolical; the second is borrowed from the Old Testament; the third is philosophical "('Speaker's Commentary').
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.
Verse 14. - Blessed are they that do his commandments. The Revised Version adopts the reading, οἱ πλύνοντες τὰς στολὰς αὐτῶν, "they that wash their robes," which is found in א, A, 1, 33, Vulgate, AEthiopic, Armenian, Primasius, and which is probably correct. The reading of the Textus Receptus, ποιοῦντες τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ, "they that do his commandments," is found in B, Syriac, Coptic, etc. The Vulgate adds, "in the blood of the Lamb," as in Revelation 7:14, which is, of course, the full meaning. The free will of man is implied in the active form of the participle. That they may have right to the tree of life; in order that they may have authority over the tree of life; i.e. the right to partake of it. Ebrard makes this clause dependent (as a consequence) upon "do:" "They do them in order that they may have," etc. Others attach this clause to "blessed: They are blessed because they may have the right," etc. Both significations may well be implied. "The tree of life" is that described in ver. 2, and promised "to him that overcometh" in Revelation 2:7. And may enter in through the gates into the city; by the portals; that is, in the natural way of people who have a right to enter.
For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Verse 15. - For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie; without (omit "for") are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicaters, etc. The article renders each term general in its signification (see on Revelation 4:11). "The dogs" are those who are described in ver. 11 as "the filthy;" the term is proverbial amongst Eastern nations as an expression for what is most degraded. The epithets in this verse occur (with others) in Revelation 21:8. A contrast is forcibly presented between these wicked ones here indicated, and those who have (in the preceding verse) the right to enter the city, owing to their purity obtained by washing their robes.
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.
Verse 16. - I Jesus have sent mine angel. Here our Lord himself asserts what was at the very beginning set forth (Revelation 1:1). The revelation proper being now ended, the epistolary form in which the book opens is now resumed. Either our Lord himself is here the speaker, or the angel speaks in his name (cf. vers. 9, 10, 12, etc.). To testify unto you these things in the Churches (ἐπὶ ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις). The Revised Version translates, for [margin. or over] the Churches (cf. the expression in Matthew 24:33). Probably this preposition is used as expressing the idea of motion towards, especially from above, which is contained in the fact that the message is from heaven to the Churches. Dusterdieck, Hengstenberg, and others would translate, "concerning the Churches." Ἐν, "in," is found in A and some other manuscripts. Some cursives omit the preposition entirely. This gives another possible reading: "to testify these things unto you, the Churches." I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the Bright and Morning Star. Omit the second "and." (On "Root," see on Revelation 5:5; for "Morning Star," cf. Revelation 2:28.) At the word "David," the manuscript 1, from which Erasmus compiled the Textus Receptus, ends. In order to supply the remainder, which is deficient, Erasmus retranslated the Vulgate Version into Greek. The Greek, therefore, of the Textus Receptus from this point onwards is the Greek of Erasmus.
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.
Verse 17. - And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. These words are best understood as uttered by the writer. The Holy Spirit working in the Church, through whom she is bound to Christ as his bride, and the Church herself, eagerly welcome the fulfilment of Christ's promise made in ver. 12. (On "come," cf. Revelation 6:1.) And let him that heareth say, Come. The Church in her corporate capacity welcomes her Lord; so, also, let each member in his individual capacity, who hears this "testimony" (ver. 16), be desirous of the advent of his Master. And let him that is athirst come; athirst for the water of life (cf. Revelation 21:6). And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Omit "and." Again the active participle indicates the voluntary nature of the action; though the living water be freely given without money and without price, it is not enforced upon any.
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:
Verse 18. - For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book. Omit "for." The pronoun "I" is emphatic. Here is the solemn appendix or seal of the veracity of the book, somewhat similar to the prefatory words in Revelation 1:1-3. This is the fulfilment of the duty laid upon St. John in Revelation 1:1, not an announcement of our Lord himself (cf. the wording of Revelation 1:3). If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; cf. the command in Deuteronomy 4:2, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it" (Revised Version). "The plagues that are written in this book" are those of the seals, the trumpets, the vials, the doom of Babylon, etc.; cf. the command of St. Paul to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:13), and cf. also what is said in 2 Timothy 2:16-18 concerning the heretical teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus.
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 the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Verse 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 the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book; from the tree of life; i.e. that mentioned in ver. 2 and in ver. 14, where also the city is mentioned. Even from the things written in this book seems to be the real meaning of the last clause; not merely the tree and city which are written, etc. Just as the evils set forth in the Apocalypse are declared in ver. 18 to be the portion of those who add to the book, so those who take from the book are deprived of those blessings which have been constantly referred to in the book.
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Verse 20. - He which testifieth these things saith - viz, the Lord Jesus, as in ver. 16 - Surely I come quickly; yea, I come quickly. As the book opens, so it closes with this promise. This is the anchor and stay of the faithful, the sound of an alarm and a warning cry to the wicked. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Omit "even so." Thus in calm and patient hope the apostle answers his Lord. So the writer who delivers the message is the first to proclaim his belief in what is herein contained.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Verse 21. - The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen; the grace of the Lord Jesus be with the saints. Amen. So the delivery of the message was commenced (cf Revelation 1:4; cf. the form in 1 Thessalonians 5:28). Bearing in mind that the theme of the book is the conflict between good and evil, we may well conclude our study of it by joining in the prayer of the author, that the help of the Lord Jesus may be on the side of his saints to enable them to overcome, and then receive their reward.