Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Re 22:1-21. The River of Life: The Tree of Life: The Other Blessednesses of the Redeemed. John Forbidden to Worship the Angel. Nearness of Christ's Coming to Fix Man's Eternal State. Testimony of Jesus, His Spirit, and the Bride, Any Addition to Which, or Subtraction from Which, Shall Be Eternally Punished. Closing Benediction.
1. pure—A, B, Vulgate, and Hilary 22, omit.
water of life—infinitely superior to the typical waters in the first Paradise (Ge 2:10-14); and even superior to those figurative ones in the millennial Jerusalem (Eze 47:1, 12; Zec 14:8), as the matured fruit is superior to the flower. The millennial waters represent full Gospel grace; these waters of new Jerusalem represent Gospel glory perfected. Their continuous flow from God, the Fountain of life, symbolizes the uninterrupted continuance of life derived by the saints, ever fresh, from Him: life in fulness of joy, as well as perpetual vitality. Like pure crystal, it is free from every taint: compare Re 4:6, "before the throne a sea of glass, like crystal."
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. The harmonious unity of Scripture is herein exhibited. The Fathers compared it to a ring, an unbroken circle, returning into itself. Between the events of Genesis and those at the close of the Apocalypse, at least six thousand or seven thousand years intervene; and between Moses the first writer and John the last about one thousand five hundred years. How striking it is that, as in the beginning we found Adam and Eve, his bride, in innocence m Paradise, then tempted by the serpent, and driven from the tree of life, and from the pleasant waters of Eden, yet not without a promise of a Redeemer who should crush the serpent; so at the close, the old serpent cast out for ever by the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, who appears with His Bride, the Church, in a better Paradise, and amidst better waters (Re 22:1): the tree of life also is there with all its healing properties, not guarded with a flaming sword, but open to all who overcome (Re 2:7), and there is no more curse.
street of it—that is, of the city.
on either side of the river—Alford translates, "In the midst of the street of it (the city) and of the river, on one side and on the other" (for the second Greek, "enteuthen," A, B, and Syriac read, ekeithen: the sense is the same; compare Greek, Joh 19:18); thus the trees were on each side in the middle of the space between the street and the river. But from Eze 47:7, I prefer English Version. The antitype exceeds the type: in the first Paradise was only one tree of life; now there are "very many trees at the bank of the river, on the one side and on the other." To make good sense, supposing there to be but one tree, we should either, as Mede, suppose that the Greek for street is a plain washed on both sides by the river (as the first Paradise was washed on one side by the Tigris, on the other by the Euphrates), and that in the midst of the plain, which itself is in the midst of the river's branches, stood the tree: in which case we may translate, "In the midst of the street (plain) itself, and of the river (having two branches flowing) on this and on that side, was there the tree of life." Or else with Durham suppose, the tree was in the midst of the river, and extending its branches to both banks. But compare Eze 47:12, the millennial type of the final Paradise; which shows that there are several trees of the one kind, all termed "the tree of life." Death reigns now because of sin; even in the millennial earth sin, and therefore death, though much limited, shall not altogether cease. But in the final and heavenly city on earth, sin and death shall utterly cease.
yielded her fruit every month—Greek, "according to each month"; each month had its own proper fruit, just as different seasons are now marked by their own productions; only that then, unlike now, there shall be no season without its fruit, and there shall be an endless variety, answering to twelve, the number symbolical of the world-wide Church (compare Note, see on Re 12:1; Re 21:14). Archbishop Whatley thinks that the tree of life was among the trees of which Adam freely ate (Ge 2:9, 16, 17), and that his continuance in immortality was dependent on his continuing to eat of this tree; having forfeited it, he became liable to death; but still the effects of having eaten of it for a time showed themselves in the longevity of the patriarchs. God could undoubtedly endue a tree with special medicinal powers. But Ge 3:22 seems to imply, man had not yet taken of the tree, and that if he had, he would have lived for ever, which in his then fallen state would have been the greatest curse.
leaves … for … healing—(Eze 47:9, 12). The leaves shall be the health-giving preventive securing the redeemed against, not healing them of, sicknesses, while "the fruit shall be for meat." In the millennium described in Eze 47:1-23 and Re 20:1-15, the Church shall give the Gospel-tree to the nations outside Israel and the Church, and so shall heal their spiritual malady; but in the final and perfect new Jerusalem here described, the state of all is eternally fixed, and no saving process goes on any longer (compare Re 22:11). Alford utterly mistakes in speaking of "nations outside," and "dwelling on the renewed earth, organized under kings, and saved by the influences of the heavenly city" (!) Compare Re 21:2, 10-27; the "nations" mentioned (Re 21:24) are those which have long before, namely, in the millennium (Re 11:15), become the Lord's and His Christ's.
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—of which the earnest shall be given in the millennium (Zec 14:11). God can only dwell where the curse and its cause, the cursed thing sin (Jos 7:12), are removed. So there follows rightly, "But the throne of God and of the Lamb (who redeemed us from the curse, Ga 3:10, 13) shall be in it." Compare in the millennium, Eze 48:35.
serve him—with worship (Re 7:15).
And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
4. see his face—revealed in divine glory, in Christ Jesus. They shall see and know Him with intuitive knowledge of Him, even as they are known by Him (1Co 13:9-12), and face to face. Compare 1Ti 6:16, with Joh 14:9. God the Father can only be seen in Christ.
in—Greek, "on their foreheads." Not only shall they personally and in secret (Re 3:17) know their sonship, but they shall be known as sons of God to all the citizens of the new Jerusalem, so that the free flow of mutual love among the members of Christ's family will not be checked by suspicion as here.
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—so Andreas. But A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "(there shall be no night) any longer"; Greek, "eti," for "ekei."
they need—A, Vulgate, and Coptic read the future, "they shall not have need." B reads, "(and there shall be) no need."
candle—Greek, "lamp." A, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic insert "light (of a candle, or lamp)." B Omits it.
of the sun—so A. But B omits it.
giveth … light—"illumines." So Vulgate and Syriac. But A reads, "shall give light."
them—so B and Andreas. But A reads, "upon them."
reign—with a glory probably transcending that of their reign in heaven with Christ over the millennial nations in the flesh described in Re 20:4, 6; that reign was but for a limited time, "a thousand years"; this final reign is "unto the ages of the ages."
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.
6. These sayings are true—thrice repeated (Re 19:9; 21:5). For we are slow to believe that God is as good as He is. The news seems to us, habituated as we are to the misery of this fallen world, too good to be true [Nangle]. They are no dreams of a visionary, but the realities of God's sure word.
holy—so Andreas. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "(the Lord God of the) spirits (of the prophets)." The Lord God who with His Spirit inspired their spirits so as to be able to prophesy. There is but one Spirit, but individual prophets, according to the measure given them (1Co 12:4-11), had their own spirits [Bengel] (1Pe 1:11; 2Pe 1:21).
be done—Greek, "come to pass."
Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
7. "And" is omitted in Coptic and Andreas with English Version, but is inserted by A, B, Vulgate and Syriac.
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. Both here and in Re 19:9, 10, the apostle's falling at the feet of the angel is preceded by a glorious promise to the Church, accompanied with the assurance, that "These are the true sayings of God," and that those are "blessed" who keep them. Rapturous emotion, gratitude, and adoration, at the prospect of the Church's future glory transport him out of himself, so as all but to fall into an unjustifiable act; contrast his opposite feeling at the prospect of the Church's deep fall [Auberlen], see on Re 17:6; Re 19:9, 10.
saw … and heard—A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac transpose these verbs. Translate literally, "I John (was he) who heard and saw these things." It is observable that in Re 19:10, the language is, "I fell before his feet to worship him"; but here, "I fell down to worship (God?) before the feet of the angel." It seems unlikely that John, when once reproved, would fall into the very same error again. Bengel's view, therefore, is probable; John had first intended to worship the angel (Re 19:10), but now only at his feet intends to worship (God). The angel does not even permit this.
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. Literally, "See not"; the abruptness of the phrase marking the angel's abhorrence of the thought of his being worshipped however indirectly. Contrast the fallen angel's temptation to Jesus, "Fall down and worship me" (Mt 4:9).
for—A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, Andreas, and Cyprian omit "for"; which accords with the abrupt earnestness of the angel's prohibition of an act derogatory to God.
and of—"and (the fellow servant) of thy brethren."
And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
10. Seal not—But in Da 12:4, 9 (compare Da 8:26), the command is, "Seal the book," for the vision shall be "for many days." The fulfilment of Daniel's prophecy was distant, that of John's prophecy is near. The New Testament is the time of the end and fulfilment. The Gentile Church, for which John wrote his Revelation, needs more to be impressed with the shortness of the period, as it is inclined, owing to its Gentile origin, to conform to the world and forget the coming of the Lord. The Revelation points, on the one hand, to Christ's coming as distant, for it shows the succession of the seven seals, trumpets, and vials; on the other hand, it proclaims, "Behold, I come quickly." So Christ marked many events as about to intervene before His coming, and yet He also says "Behold, I come quickly," because our right attitude is that of continual prayerful watching for His coming (Mt 25:6, 13, 19; Mr 13:32-37 [Auberlen]; compare Re 1:3).
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. unjust—"unrighteous"; in relation to one's fellow men; opposed to "righteous," or "just" (as the Greek may be translated) below. More literally, "he that doeth unjustly, let him do unjustly still."
filthy—in relation to one's own soul as unclean before God; opposed to holy," consecrated to God as pure. A omits the clause, "He which is filthy let him be filthy still." But B supports it. In the letter of the Vienne and Lyons Martyrs (in Eusebius) in the second century, the reading is, "He that is lawless (Greek, 'anomos') let him be lawless; and he that is righteous let him be righteous (literally, 'be justified') still." No manuscript is so old. A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, Andreas, and Cyprian read, "let him do righteousness" (1Jo 2:29; 3:7). The punishment of sin is sin, the reward of holiness is holiness. Eternal punishment is not so much an arbitrary law, as a result necessarily following in the very nature of things, as the fruit results from the bud. No worse punishment can God lay on ungodly men than to give them up to themselves. The solemn lesson derivable from this verse is, Be converted now in the short time left (Re 22:10, end) before "I come" (Re 22:7, 12), or else you must remain unconverted for ever; sin in the eternal world will be left to its own natural consequences; holiness in germ will there develop itself into perfect holiness, which is happiness.
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
12. And—in none of our manuscripts. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Cyprian omit it.
behold, I come quickly—(Compare Re 22:7).
my reward is with me—(Isa 40:10; 62:11).
to give—Greek, "to render."
every man—Greek, "to each."
shall be—so B in Mai. But B in Tischendorf, and A, Syriac, read, "is."
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
13. I am Alpha—Greek, "… the Alpha and the Omega." A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Origen, and Cyprian transpose thus, "the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Andreas supports English Version. Compare with these divine titles assumed here by the Lord Jesus, Re 1:8, 17; 21:6. At the winding up of the whole scheme of revelation He announces Himself as the One before whom and after whom there is no God.
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. do his commandments—so B, Syriac, Coptic, and Cyprian. But A, Aleph, and Vulgate read, "(Blessed are they that) wash their robes," namely, in the blood of the Lamb (compare Re 7:14). This reading takes away the pretext for the notion of salvation by works. But even English Version reading is quite compatible with salvation by grace; for God's first and grand Gospel "commandment" is to believe on Jesus. Thus our "right" to (Greek, "privilege" or "lawful authority over") the tree of life is due not to our doings, but to what He has done for us. The right, or privilege, is founded, not on our merits, but on God's grace.
through—Greek, "by the gates."
For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
15. But—so Coptic. But A, B, Hippolytus, Andreas, and Cyprian omit.
dogs—Greek, "the dogs"; the impure, filthy (Re 22:11; compare Php 3:2).
maketh—including also "whosoever practiceth a lie" [W. Kelly].
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. mine angel—for Jesus is Lord of the angels.
unto you—ministers and people in the seven representative churches, and, through you, to testify to Christians of all times and places.
root … offspring of David—appropriate title here where assuring His Church of "the sure mercies of David," secured to Israel first, and through Israel to the Gentiles. Root of David, as being Jehovah; the offspring of David as man. David's Lord, yet David's son (Mt 22:42-45).
the morning star—that ushered in the day of grace in the beginning of this dispensation and that shall usher in the everlasting day of glory at its close.
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.
17. Reply of the spiritual Church and John to Christ's words (Re 22:7, 12, 16).
the Spirit—in the churches and in the prophets.
the bride—not here called "wife," as that title applies to her only when the full number constituting the Church shall have been completed. The invitation, "Come," only holds good while the Church is still but an affianced Bride, and not the actually wedded wife. However, "Come" may rather be the prayer of the Spirit in the Church and in believers in reply to Christ's "I come quickly," crying, Even so, "Come" (Re 22:7, 12); Re 22:20 confirms this view. The whole question of your salvation hinges on this, that you be able to hear with joy Christ's announcement, "I come," and to reply, "Come" [Bengel]. Come to fully glorify Thy Bride.
let him that heareth—that is, let him that heareth the Spirit and Bride saying to the Lord Jesus, "Come," join the Bride as a true believer, become part of her, and so say with her to Jesus, "Come." On "heareth" means "obeyeth"; for until one has obeyed the Gospel call, he cannot pray to Jesus "Come"; so "hear" is used, Re 1:3; Joh 10:16. Let him that hears and obeys Jesus' voice (Re 22:16; Re 1:3) join in praying "Come." Compare Re 6:1, 10; see on Re 6:1. In the other view, which makes "Come" an invitation to sinners, this clause urges those who themselves hear savingly the invitation to address the same to others, as did Andrew and Philip after they themselves had heard and obeyed Jesus' invitation, "Come."
let him that is athirst come—As the Bride, the Church, prays to Jesus, "Come," so she urges all whosoever thirst for participation in the full manifestation of redemption-glory at His coming to us, to COME in the meantime and drink of the living waters, which are the earnest of "the water of life pure as crystal … out of the throne of God of the Lamb" (Re 22:1) in the regenerated heaven and earth.
And—so Syriac. But A, B, Vulgate, and Coptic omit "and."
whosoever will—that is, is willing and desirous. There is a descending climax; Let him that heareth effectually and savingly Christ's voice, pray individually, as the Bride, the Church, does collectively, "Come, Lord Jesus" (Re 22:20). Let him who, though not yet having actually heard unto salvation, and so not yet able to join in the prayer, "Lord Jesus, come, "still thirsts for it, come to Christ. Whosoever is even willing, though his desires do not yet amount to positive thirsting, let him take the water of life freely, that is, gratuitously.
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:
18. For I testify—None of our manuscripts have this. A, B, Vulgate, and Andreas read, "I" emphatic in the Greek. "I testify."
unto these things—A, B, and Andreas read, "unto them."
add … add—just retribution in kind.
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. book—None of our manuscripts read this. A, B, Aleph, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "(take away his part, that is, portion) from the tree of life," that is, shall deprive him of participation in the tree of life.
and from the things—so Vulgate. But A, B, Aleph, Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas omit "and"; then "which are written in this book" will refer to "the holy city and the tree of life." As in the beginning of this book (Re 1:3) a blessing was promised to the devout, obedient student of it, so now at its close a curse is denounced against those who add to, or take from, it.
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
20. Amen. Even so, come—The Song of Solomon (So 8:14) closes with the same yearning prayer for Christ's coming. A, B, and Aleph omit "Even so," Greek, "nai": then translate for Amen, "So be it, come, Lord Jesus"; joining the "Amen," or "So be it," not with Christ's saying (for He calls Himself the "Amen" at the beginning of sentences, rather than puts it as a confirmation at the end), but with John's reply. Christ's "I come," and John's "Come," are almost coincident in time; so truly does the believer reflect the mind of his Lord.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
21. our—so Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic. But A, B, and Aleph omit.
Christ—so B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas. But A and Aleph omit.
with you all—so none of our manuscripts. B has, "with all the saints." A and Vulgate have, "with all." Aleph has, "with the saints." This closing benediction, Paul's mark in his Epistles, was after Paul's death taken up by John. The Old Testament ended with a "curse" in connection with the law; the New Testament ends with a blessing in union with the Lord Jesus.
Amen—so B, Aleph, and Andreas. A and Vulgate Fuldensis omit it.
May the Blessed Lord who has caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, bless this humble effort to make Scripture expound itself, and make it an instrument towards the conversion of sinners and the edification of saints, to the glory of His great name and the hastening of His kingdom! Amen.