Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.The Water and the Tree of Life; the Service and the Kingdom of God’s Servants. Chap. 22 Revelation 22:1-51. pure] Should be omitted.
river of water of life] See Revelation 7:17, Revelation 21:6.
clear] Bright would perhaps be more accurate.
proceeding out of the throne &c.] In Ezekiel’s vision (chap. 47) the River proceeded out of the Temple, here out of the Temple’s antitype. We are also meant to think of the River that watered the ancient paradise, Genesis 2:10, and of such parallels to Ezekiel’s vision as Psalm 46:4; Psalm 65:9; Zechariah 14:8. The original type, of which these Prophecies are developments, is the fact that there was a natural spring, that of Siloam, in the precincts of the Temple at Jerusalem. We are not told here, as in the old Paradise, that the River is fourfold: but if the City stands on a pyramidal mountain (see on Revelation 21:16) it is likely enough that there is a stream running down each of its four faces, the throne which is the source being at the summit.
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.2. In the midst … of the river] The picture is, almost certainly, that the river runs along the broad high-street or piazza (see on Revelation 11:8, Revelation 21:21, and note that, if the mountain be pyramidal, the “street” is cruciform), and rows or plantations, all of the one tree, stand along the banks on either side. But the exact construction and punctuation is not quite certain: that assumed in the A. V. is not very likely. Either we may punctuate as the Revised Version, connecting “in the midst of the street thereof” with the preceding sentence, or else we should probably translate, “Midway between the street of it and the river, on this side and on that:” i.e. there is a “street” or boulevard on each side of the river, and parted from the river by a sort of quay, in the midst of which is a row of the trees. It can hardly be meant that there is a single plant of the tree, as in the old Paradise (Genesis 2:9), for how could one tree grow “on this side and on that of the river?” and the words would hardly bear the sense “in the midst of the street thereof and of the river, with them running on this side and on that of it.” It would be awkward to represent the tree as growing in the midst of the river: and though there is a difference between this Paradise and the old in the multiplication of the tree, it is all, as it should be, in favour of the new.
the tree of life] Genesis 2:9, cp. chap. Revelation 2:7; where the likeness, not the difference, between the arrangement of this Paradise and the old is brought out.
every month] Yet there can hardly be months and years when there is no moon nor sun. It is not, however, certain that this is the case here: see on Revelation 21:23. But the real meaning is, that the fruit is always in season, and never cloys.
and the leaves … healing] Ezekiel 47:12.
the nations] Those outside the city: see on Revelation 21:24. This is perhaps the only passage in Scripture which suggests that, even after the Day of Judgement, there may be a process of purification for those whom that Day finds in a state of salvation, but imperfectly sanctified. But though it cannot be denied that this passage suggests this, it would be very rash to say that it proves it. It is quite possible that it is only at their first admission to the new earth that “the nations” have any need of “healing.” Surely no one can doubt, that this need will be felt by almost all, perhaps by all, who are saved at the last. Even if they were what we rightly account to be saints on earth they need a “healing” of their surviving sins before they are fit for heaven. They may receive this at the moment of death, as most Protestants suppose, or between death and judgement, as (in different forms) was supposed by some of the fathers and by the modern Roman Church. But apparently the oldest belief was that the work would be done at the moment of Judgement; see Comm. on 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 : and this passage is quite in harmony with that view.
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:3. no more curse] The word for “curse” is rather peculiar; it is no doubt meant as a translation of that rendered “utter destruction” in Zechariah 14:11, of which this verse is a reminiscence.
the throne &c.] Implied already in Revelation 21:23 and Revelation 22:1. Interpreters compare the last words of Ezekiel cognate prophecy.
his servants] Note the singular pronoun, implying the Unity of the Persons named.
shall serve him] See Revelation 7:15, and note there.
And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.4. shall see his face] This is the locus classicus for what constitutes the blessedness of heaven, the “Beatific Vision.” It is intimated in Job 19:26 and in Isaiah 52:8, where there may be an allusion to the privilege of Moses, Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10. In the last verse of Psalms 17 it may be questioned whether the final and immediate vision, or an earthly foretaste, is intended; but Job 42:5-6; Isaiah 6:5 shew that it is only to “the spirits of just men made perfect” that the vision is endurable. In the N. T. we have the promise in St Matthew 5:8; 1 Corinthians 13:12; St John’s I Ephesians 3:2.
his name [shall be] in their foreheads] So in Revelation 14:1, where, according to the true text, we see that “His” still means the Name of God, both the Father and the Son.
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.5. there] Read, any more. See Revelation 21:25.
they need no candle &c.] Read, they have no need of light of lamp, neither of light of sun.
giveth them light] Read, shall give light upon them. Here end the visions.
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.The Confirmation of the Promise; the Error of the Seer, Revelation 22:6-116. And he said unto me] Who speaks? the angel of Revelation 21:9, or “He that sitteth upon the throne,” as in Revelation 21:5-8, or Christ as in Revelation 22:16? Probably, an angel speaks in the name of Christ: and this leads St John to fancy, as once before, that the angel is himself a divine person.
These sayings] Better, words—the phrase (except that the copula “are” is not expressed) is verbatim the same as in Revelation 21:5.
of the holy prophets] Read, of the spirits of the prophets: for the phrase, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:32.
to shew unto his servants &c.] Revelation 1:1.
Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.7. Behold] Read, And behold.
I come quickly] Spoken no doubt in the name of Christ, though hardly by Him. Cf. Revelation 3:11, and Revelation 22:12; Revelation 22:20.
blessed is he that keepeth &c.] Revelation 1:3. “Sayings” should again be words, as in the parallel passage.
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.8. And I John saw &c.] Lit. and I John [am] he that saw and heard (or “heard and saw”) these things. It is possible to connect these words with the immediately preceding sentence, regarding it, not as a continuation of the angel’s speech, but as the beginning of St John’s reflexion, “Blessed is he that keepeth the words, &c., and [blessed am] I John, who see and hear these things.” It was so understood by St Dionysius of Alexandria in the third century, and this construction is the easiest and smoothest grammatically. But few modern commentators accept this view: it seems inappropriate to the context.
I fell down to worship] As at Revelation 19:10. Some suppose that St John is here repeating his statement of what he did then, but it is far more natural to understand that he did the same again. The words “I come quickly” would even more naturally lead him to think that this angel was “He that is to come,” than the words of that angel (who may or may not have been the same as this) led him to think that he was the God Whose “true sayings” he communicated.
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.9. for] should be omitted.
thy brethren the prophets] It has been recognised in Revelation 22:6-7, that St John is a prophet, and shares in the special blessedness given to prophets. But at the same time “they which keep the words of this book,” though not prophets, share that blessedness with them. St Matthew 10:41 implies the same, though the form of statement is somewhat different.
And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.10. he saith] Still, probably, the same angel. He speaks still more unmistakeably in Christ’s person, now that St John understands beyond mistake that he is not Christ Himself.
Seal not &c.] Pointedly contrasted with Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:9. In Daniel’s time, both the coming of Antichrist and the deliverance from him were far off: Daniel was bidden to write what he saw and heard, but not to make it public, for it would be unintelligible till long after his own generation:—at least till the typical persecution of Antiochus, and the typical day of vengeance and deliverance of the Maccabees. But to St John’s readers, all was to be as plain as an unfulfilled prophecy ever can be: except one detail (Revelation 10:4) the whole vision is to be laid before the Church. It may be meant further, that the typical persecution of Nero was already within the Church’s experience, and that its typical revival under Domitian was to fall within the present generation.
for the time is at hand] Song of Solomon 1:3. Besides the fact that partial and typical fulfilments were nearer to St John’s age than to Daniel’s, it is intimated that the same age, the same dispensation under which St John and his readers lived was to last till the time of the end; while the Jewish age in which Daniel lived passed away long before the end. For in mere chronology the difference is slight: from St John’s day to the end is, as we know, more than 1800 years, and from Daniel’s more than 2400: in comparison with the longer period, the shorter can hardly be spoken of as short.
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.11. He that is unjust &c.] The sense is generally understood to be, “The time is so short, that it is too late to change: for good or evil, you must go on as you are;” a solemn and terrible irony, like “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” to the Disciples who had missed their opportunity. As that was followed by “Rise, let us be going,” so there is nothing inconsistent with this in the Church continuing to preach repentance to the unjust and the filthy. But in the Epistle of the Churches of Gaul (Eus. H. E. v. i. 53) the passage is quoted (not quite accurately, it is true) as though the sense were, ‘Let the unrighteous do more unrighteousness” &c.; a possible rendering of the Greek. Then the sense will be, that the world “must be worse before it is better”—that sin must come to its height, in order that the righteous may be made perfect. For “unjust” it would be better to render “unrighteous,” or else “just” for “righteous” below, as the two words are the exact opposites of each other.
be righteous] Read, do righteousness.
be holy] More literally, be sanctified.
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.The Witness of the Lord, Revelation 22:12-1612. I come quickly] Of course He Who “comes” is the Lord Jesus: but we are probably not to imagine that He is personally present—the angel still speaks in His name.
my reward is with me] Isaiah 40:10; Isaiah 62:11.
to give every man] Better, to render to every man. The source of the expression is in Job 34:11; Ps. 42:12. In the N. T. this retribution is ascribed to God in Romans 2:6, to the Son in His own words in St Matthew 16:27.
shall be] Read, is.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.13. I am Alpha &c.] Song of Solomon 1:8 (not 11). There the Father speaks, here the Son.
the beginning &c.] The true order seems to be the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
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.14. that do his commandments] Read, that wash their robes: cf. Revelation 7:14. The change from one reading to the other is in the Greek only one of a few letters; it seems uncalled for to charge the copyists who introduced the received reading with a wish to substitute justification by works for justification by faith. There are plenty of Scriptural parallels for the sentence, read either way: but there seems to be no doubt which way St John in fact wrote it.
that they may have right] Lit. that the right (or power, or license) may be theirs. The right of approaching the Tree of Life is a definite privilege, granted to a certain class, viz. those who “wash their robes.”
For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.15. For] should be omitted.
dogs &c.] The articles should be expressed, “the dogs, and the sorcerers (see on Revelation 9:21, Revelation 21:8), and the fornicators, and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone that loveth &c.”
maketh] Or doeth: the word is the same as in St John’s I Ephesians 1:6. To do the truth or a lie is a great deal more, for good or evil, than merely to say it. In that passage, the false Christian’s falsehood lies altogether in what he does, not in the privileges he claims, which would be truly his, if not belied by his life.
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.16. I Jesus] Here only does our Lord reveal His Name, though from Revelation 1:13; Revelation 1:18 onwards, it has been obvious that He is the revealer; as was expressed in the title, Revelation 1:1. Whether He is personally present, however, is doubtful: the words are His, but it is probably still the angel that speaks them.
mine angel] Would our Lord say this of any angel of the Lord, because “all things that the Father hath are His.” Or has our Lord, as Man, an angel of His own in the same way that His saints have? St Luke 22:43 seems as if He needed and had, in the days of His flesh, such angelic guardianship as is implied in St Matthew 18:10 : and this passage is at least consistent with the view, that His angel appears in His form, as St Peter’s was supposed to do, Acts 12:15. It is very ably argued by St Augustine (de Cura pro Mortuis), that if any apparitions after death or at the moment of death are really objective and supernatural, they must be ascribed to angels, not to the spirits of the dead. But we must remember that our Lord’s state is not the same as that of His departed servants. He is already in the body of the Resurrection, and so conceivably visible. And there can be no doubt that He appeared in His own risen body to St Paul, and probably to St Stephen. It may be, therefore, that He now appears personally to St John, at once superseding and authenticating the previous ministry of the angel.
the root and the offspring of David] He bears the former title in Revelation 5:5, where see note. The latter is substantially the same as the familiar one, “the Son of David.”
and the bright and morning star] Both “and”s should be omitted. There may be a reference to Numbers 24:17, or to the title of “the Day-spring,” St Luke 1:78, and perhaps Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12. In Revelation 2:28, though the words are more nearly the same as here, the sense is different: see note there.
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.The Spirit and the Bride, Revelation 22:1717. And the Spirit &c.] “The Bride” is, it is here implied, the Church on earth, imploring her Lord about to come to her. But the Bride throughout this book has been the perfect or heavenly Church; notice the identification of the Church in both states. Notice also the identity of St Paul’s doctrine, and in part of his imagery, Galatians 4:26 : Ephesians 5:25 sqq. “The Spirit” is, as in Romans 8:26, the Spirit dwelling in or inspiring the faithful: the Spirit says, “Come!” when He teaches the Bride to say it.
Come] The word is (in the true text) the same here as in Revelation 6:1; Revelation 6:3; Revelation 6:5; Revelation 6:7.
let him that heareth say, Come] The prayers of the Church are prayed, not preached; yet they do serve for instruction to those who only “hear” them: by hearing they are educated to join in them. Cf. Colossians 3:16.
let him that is athirst] Isaiah 55:1.
come] Correlative to the “coming” of Christ to us is our “coming” to Him. The invocation “Come!” in the earlier clauses is certainly addressed to Him, so that this does not express the answer to it. But it is evident (even more evident in the Greek than in the English) that the thought is present of the one coming being correlative to the other. We come to Christ, that we may learn to “love His appearing,” and be able to cry to Him “Come,” instead of fearing it.
and whosoever &c.] Omit “and”: the last clause of the verse is rather explanatory of the preceding one than coordinate with it.
freely] i.e. “without money and without price:” see on Revelation 21:6.
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:The final Testimony of the Seer and his Benediction, Revelation 22:18-2118. For I testify] Omit “for.”
If any man shall add &c.] Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32. The parallel of those passages proves, that the curse denounced is on those who interpolate unauthorised doctrines in the prophecy, or who neglect essential ones; not on transcribers who might unadvisedly interpolate or omit something in the true text. The curse, if understood in the latter sense, has been remarkably ineffective, for the common text of this book is more corrupt, and the true text oftener doubtful, than in any other part of the N. T. But it may be feared that additions and omissions in the more serious sense have also been frequently made by rash interpreters. It is certain that the curse is designed to guard the integrity of this Book of the Revelation, not to close the N. T. canon. It is not even certain that this was the last written of the canonical books.
unto these things] Better simply unto them: an unemphatic pronoun being used. Though it cannot grammatically refer to “the words of the prophecy,” i.e. it no doubt does so refer ungrammatically.
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.19. out of the book of life] Read from the tree of life.
and from &c.] “and” should be omitted, the sense being, “from the Tree of Life, out of the Holy City, in short, from all the good things written &c.”
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.20. Surely] The word is that rendered Even so in Revelation 1:7, and in the next clause here, and which might be better rendered Yea. It should be omitted in the next clause, so that the whole will read, “He that testifieth these things saith, ‘Yea [in answer to the prayers of Revelation 22:17] I come quickly.’ Amen: come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.21. our Lord Jesus Christ] Read only, the Lord Jesus.
with you all] We should read either only with all, or more probably with the saints. Many authorities omit “Amen” here, as after the benedictions ending many of St Paul’s Epistles.