Revelation 22:18
For I testify to every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add to these things, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18-19) I testify unto every man that heareth.—Omit “For,” and read, I testify to every one that hears . . . The “I” is emphatic; it introduces the final warning; the revelation must not be tampered with. If any one shall have added to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if any one shall have taken away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his portion from the tree of life, and out of the holy city which are written (or printed) in this book. We may compare Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32. The words are a solemn protest against the spirit which handles rashly or deceitfully the word of God; which adds its own thoughts, or makes its wishes the parent of its interpretations; which dilutes the force of its warnings, or impoverishes the fulness of its promises. The right of continual access to the tree of life was the promise of Revelation 22:14; this right or freedom is forfeited by those who deal falsely or faithlessly by the words of Christ here. In a minor degree, it is true that those who leave this book unstudied and unprayed over, lose much spiritual sustenance and comfort. How much more do they lose who trifle with it, ignore its spiritual teachings, and sin against the laws of that kingdom whose progress it so vividly portrays.

Revelation 22:18-19. For I testify — Here the Lord Jesus adds a solemn admonition, not only to the churches of Asia, but to all who should ever hear or read this book. To him that adds to the things contained in it, shall all the plagues mentioned in it be added; and from him that takes away from the words of this prophecy shall the blessings spoken of in it be taken. And doubtless this guilt is incurred by all those who lay hinderances in the way of the faithful, in order to prevent them from hearing their Lord’s words, I come, and answering, Come, Lord Jesus. This may likewise be considered as an awful sanction given to the whole New Testament; in like manner, as Moses guarded the law, (Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32,) and as God himself did, (Malachi 4:4,) in closing the canon of the Old Testament. It is true, however, that this solemn caution particularly refers to this book of the Revelation. But, as Doddridge observes, “God forbid we should imagine every honestly mistaken criticism, where there is a question respecting receiving or excluding any particular verse, should affect a man’s salvation, in consequence of what is here said. Such a passage, however, should make men very cautious, that they may not rashly incur any censure on this account; though, undoubtedly, the terror of the threatening is planted against any designed erasement or addition.” It may be observed further on this verse, that since God threatens the plagues written in this book, and the loss of a part in the holy city, as what might be the portion of those who should presume to corrupt it, and such corruption might happen in any age of the church, — it is very evident that the holy city spoken of in the preceding chapter is a representation of the heavenly state to be enjoyed by all good men; how applicable soever it may seem to any glorious scene preceding the final judgment: and that Revelation 20:11-12, refers to the universal judgment.22:6-19 The Lord Jesus spake by the angel, solemnly confirming the contents of this book, particularly of this last vision. He is the Lord God faithful and true. Also by his messengers; the holy angels showed them to holy men of God. They are things that must shortly be done; Christ will come quickly, and put all things out of doubt. And by the integrity of that angel who had been the apostle's interpreter. He refused to accept religious worship from John, and reproved him for offering it. This presents another testimony against idolatrous worship of saints and angels. God calls every one to witness to the declarations here made. This book, thus kept open, will have effect upon men; the filthy and unjust will be more so, but it will confirm, strengthen, and further sanctify those who are upright with God. Never let us think that a dead or disobedient faith will save us, for the First and the Last has declared that those alone are blessed who do his commandments. It is a book that shuts out form heaven all wicked and unrighteous persons, particularly those who love and make lies, therefore cannot itself be a lie. There is no middle place or condition. Jesus, who is the Spirit of prophecy, has given his churches this morning-light of prophecy, to assure them of the light of the perfect day approaching. All is confirmed by an open and general invitation to mankind, to come and partake freely of the promises and of the privileges of the gospel. The Spirit, by the sacred word, and by convictions and influence in the sinner's conscience, says, Come to Christ for salvation; and the bride, or the whole church, on earth and in heaven, says, Come and share our happiness. Lest any should hesitate, it is added, Let whosoever will, or, is willing, come and take of the water of life freely. May every one who hears or reads these words, desire at once to accept the gracious invitation. All are condemned who should dare to corrupt or change the word of God, either by adding to it, or taking from it.For I testify - The writer does not specify who is meant by the word "I" in this place. The most natural construction is to refer it to the writer himself, and not to the angel, or the Saviour. The meaning is, "I bear this solemn witness, or make this solemn affirmation, in conclusion." The object is to guard his book against being corrupted by any interpolation or change. It would seem not improbable, from this, that as early as the time of John, books were liable to be corrupted by additions or omissions, or that at least there was felt to be great danger that mistakes might be made by the carelessness of transcribers. Against this danger, John would guard this book in the most solemn manner. Perhaps he felt, too, that as this book would be necessarily regarded as obscure from the fact that symbols were so much used, there was great danger that changes would be made by well-meaning persons with a view to make it appear more plain.

Unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book - The word "heareth" seems here to be used in a very general sense. Perhaps in most cases persons would be made acquainted with the contents of the book by hearing it read in the churches; but still the spirit of the declaration must include all methods of becoming acquainted with it.

If any man shall add unto these things - With a view to furnish a more full and complete revelation; or with a profession that new truth had been communicated by inspiration. The reference here is to the book of Revelation only - for at that time the books that now constitute what we call the Bible were not collected into a single volume. This passage, therefore, should not be adduced as referring to the whole of the sacred Scriptures. Still, the principle is one that is thus applicable; for it is obvious that no one has a right to change any part of a revelation which God makes to man; to presume to add to it, or to take from it, or in any way to modify it. Compare the notes at 2 Timothy 3:16.

God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book - These "plagues" refer to the numerous methods described in this book as those in which God would bring severe judgment upon the persecutors of the church and the corrupters of religion. The meaning is, that such a person would be regarded as an enemy of his religion, and would share the fearful doom of all such enemies.

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.

See Poole on "Revelation 22:13" For I testify to every man,.... These are not the words of a scribe, who having wrote out a copy of this book, added the following adjuration to it, to deter persons from adding to it, or diminishing it; for the book is not yet finished, and both Christ and John speak after this; and to insert such a passage into the text would be a bold and daring action; nor are they even the words of John, the inspired writer of it, but of the Lord Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, as appears from Revelation 22:16 who in a most solemn manner declares to every man, high or low, rich or poor, of whatsoever character, or however dignified, either in a civil or ecclesiastic way,

that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book read or explained,

if any man shall add unto these things. To "add" to the things contained in this book, is not to deliver, or write an exposition of it, in a modest manner, with a sincere view to give light into it, agreeably to the analogy of faith; for to expound Scripture, or to preach from it, consistent with it, is not to add unto it, but to give the sense of it; but then may it be said to be added unto, and so this book, when it is wrested and perverted, and a false gloss is put upon it, as the Pharisees did upon the law; and when unwritten traditions are made to be equal to it, or above it, as the same persons made the traditions of the elders, whereby they transgressed the law, and made the word of God of none effect, and so broke through the precept given, Deuteronomy 4:2 as do the Papists in like manner; and when men pretend to visions and revelations, and make them the rule of faith and practice, and to confirm things that are neither in this book, nor in any other part of the word of God; and when men interpolate it, and set up human fictitious writings upon equal authority with it; which shows the authenticity of this book, and of all the whole Scripture, and the perfection of it, whose canon is closed with it: the punishment of such a crime follows,

God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; the things threatened to the antichristian party, Revelation 2:22 the seven last plagues in which the wrath of God is filled up, which will be inflicted on the same, Revelation 16:1, the lake of fire and brimstone, into which the beast, the false prophet, the devil, and all wicked men will be cast, Revelation 19:20 see Proverbs 30:5.

{9} 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:

(9) The supplication of John (which is the third part of the confirmation) joined with a curse of abhorrence, to preserve the truth of this book entire and uncorrupted in two verses.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 22:18-21. The close of the book in which the prophet has communicated to the churches the revelation given to him. Instead of the commendation, accompanied by rich promises, of the prophetical book, which stood in the beginning,[4438] there appears here likewise a threatening corresponding to its Divine authority against all who corrupt it (Revelation 22:18 sq.). The prophet then once more declares, as a word of the Lord himself, the chief sum of the entire revelation, by, on his part, meeting this promise of the Lord with the believing prayer for its fulfilment (Revelation 22:20), and then concludes with the Christian farewell greeting, corresponding to the address to the churches (Revelation 1:4).

The threatening (Revelation 22:18 sq.) has developed from the allusion in Deuteronomy 4:2,[4439] but has been shaped (ἘΠΙΘΉΣΕΙ Ὁ Θ. ἘΠʼ ΑὐΤ. ΤᾺς ΠΛΗΓᾺς, Κ. Τ. Λ., Revelation 22:18; ἈΦΕΛΕῖ Ὁ Θ. ΤῸ ΜΈΡΟς ΑὐΤ. ἈΠῸ Τ. ΞΎΛΟΥ, Κ.Τ.Λ., Revelation 22:19), according to the standard of the preceding descriptions,—the threatened “plagues” being not only those described in ch. 16, which indeed in Revelation 15:1; Revelation 15:8, are co-ordinated as the last described in the former visions,[4440]—and is marked in its righteousness by the paronomastic mode of expression (ἐάν τις ἐπιθῇ

ἐπιθήσει ὁ θεός ἀφέλῃ

ἀφελεῖ).[4441] The threatening is presented in the most formal way, παντὶ τῲ ἀκούοντι τοὺς λόγους, κ.τ.λ., i.e., to every one who, through the reading in the church, hears the prophetic discourses written in the present book.[4442] From this personal designation it results, at all events, that the threatening with the curse is not directed against inconsiderate transcribers;[4443] but on the other hand, Ew. i. and De Wette improperly press the expression τ. ἀκούοντι, when they refer the threat to the danger that what is received only with the ear in oral communication is easily falsified, and thus a distraction of Christian hope could be produced. Then the threatening must by its injustice create offence.[4444] But the ἀκούοντες come into consideration, not as mediators of the literary tradition, but as those who are to appropriate “the contents” of the prophetical book, revealed to them by God,—notice that ἐάν τις ἐπιθῇ ἐπʼ αὐτά, is first said,—for their own wrarning and encouragement, and are to maintain it in its purity, and to act accordingly. These fall under the curse when they arbitrarily falsify the revelation of God that has been given, because they will not approve the righteous ways of God, which are here described,[4445] and consequently call down upon themselves the wrathful judgments of God, which impend over unbelievers.

ὁ μαρτυρῶν ταῦτα, Christ. Cf. Revelation 1:2, Revelation 19:10. With a word of the coming Lord himself, which contains the very marrow of the entire revealed testimony given to the prophet,[4446] he concludes his book, not, however, without sealing with his Ἀμήν his believing acceptance of the Lord’s promise,[4447] and expressing his own longing for the Lord’s coming, in the sense of Revelation 22:17.

[4438] Revelation 1:3.

[4439] LXX.: οὑ προσθήσετε

καὶ οὐκ ἀφελεῖτε, κ.τ.λ.

[4440] On τ. μέρος αὐτ., κ.τ.λ., cf. Revelation 21:8. Ewald: “Shall withdraw fellowship.”

[4441] Cf. Revelation 11:18.

[4442] Cf. Revelation 1:3. Ew., Dc Wette.

[4443] Vitr., Züll., Bleek, etc.

[4444] De Wette. Cf. also Luther, Introduction of 1522: “Besides, I think that it is entirely too much that he severely commends and threatens with respect to such a book of his own, more than other holy books, as though it were of much more Importance.”

[4445] Cf. Revelation 15:3 sq., Revelation 11:17 sqq.

[4446] Cf. Introduction, p. 28.

[4447] Cf. Revelation 5:14, Revelation 19:4.

The epistolary closing wish (Revelation 22:21) corresponds to the dedication (Revelation 1:4 sqq.) whence also the πάντων obtains its limitation. This is expressed incorrectly in the addition τῶν ἁλίων, but correctly in the ὑγῶν. Rec., Luth.Luther strongly objected to the extravagant threat of this editorial note. The curse is certainly not only an anti-climax like the editorial postscript in John 21:24-25 (both indicating that either when published or when admitted to the canon, these two scriptures needed special authentication) but “an unfortunate ending to a book whose value consists in the spirit that breathes in it, the bold faith and confident hope which it inspires, rather than in the literalness and finality of its disclosures” (Porter). But the words are really a stereotyped and vehement form of claiming a canonicity equal to that of the O.T. (cf. Jos. Ant. xx. 11. 2, τοσούτου γὰρ αἰῶνος ἤδη παρῳχηκότος οὔτε προσθεῖναί τις οὔτε ἀφελεῖν ἀπʼ αὐτῶν οὔτε μεταθεῖναι τετόλμηκεν). They are adapted from Enoch cvi. 10 f. where the author expects his book to be a comfort and joy to the righteous, but exposed to perversion and alteration: “Many sinners will pervert and alter the words of uprightness” instead of refusing to “change or minish aught from my words”. Similar threats to careless or wilful copyists especially in frenaeus (Eus. H. E. Revelation 22:20), and Rufin. pref. to Origen’s περὶ ἀρχῶν (cf. Nestle’s Einführung, 161 f.). This nervous eagerness to safeguard Christian teaching was part and parcel of the contemporary tendency to regard apostolic tradition (cf. Revelation 18:20, Revelation 21:14, etc.) as a body of authoritative doctrine, which must not be tampered with. An almost equally severe threat occurs in Slav. En. xlviii. 7–9, 56. (also Revelation 3:3), so that the writer, in this jealousy for the letter rather than for the spirit, was following a recognised precedent (R. J. 125 f.), which was bound up with a conservative view of tradition and a juristic conception of scripture (Titius, pp. 206 f., Deissm, 113 f.). Rabbinic librarii got a similar warning in that age (cf. Bacher’s Agada d. Tann, i. 254), and Christian copyists, if not editors, required it in the case of the Apocalypse, although apparently they paid little heed to it, for as early as the time of Irenæus there were serious discrepancies in the copies circulated throughout the churches. John had himself omitted a contemporary piece of prophecy (cf. on Revelation 10:4). But he explains that he was inspired to do so; this verse refuses to let others deal similarly with his book.

The prayer of Revelation 22:17 is answered in Revelation 22:20, which repeats the assurance of the messiah’s speedy advent. This μαρτυρία Ἰησοῦ, in the prophetic consciousness (Revelation 19:10), is specifically eschatological. The close and sudden aspect of the end loomed out before Judaism (cf. 4 Esd. 4:26, 44 50, Apoc. Bar. xxiii. 7, lxxxiii. 1) as before the Christian church at this period, bat it was held together with calculations which anticipated a certain process and progress of history. The juxtaposition of this ardent hope and an apocalyptic programme, here as in Mark 13:5-37; Mark 13:4 Esd. 14:11, 12, is one of the antinomies of the religious consciousness, which is illogical only on paper. In Sanhed. 97 a, a rabbinic cycle of seven years culminating in messiah’s advent is laid down; whereupon “Rab. Yoseph saith, There have been many septennial cycles of this kind, and he has not come … Rabbi Zera saith, Three things come unexpectedly: the messiah, the finding of treasure-trove, and a scorpion” (cf. Drummond’s Jewish Messiah, 220).—Κύριε. The Lordship of Jesus is defined as his right to come and to judge (Revelation 22:12), which is also the point of Romans 14:9-12 (cf. Kattenbusch, ii. 609, 658 f.). Ἔρχου, κύριε is the Greek rendering of the Aramaic watchword of the primitive church (cf. on Revelation 22:17), which possibly echoed a phrase in the Jewish liturgy (cf. on 1 Corinthians 16:22, and E. Bi. 2935, 2936).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.Revelation 22:18. [249]ΜΑΡΤΥΡῶ ἘΓῺ) See Appar. on this passage.[250] In Revelation 22:18-19, there is a most severe testimony, a most weighty admonition to all hearers of the Apocalypse. If any man shall add, there shall be added upon him plagues: if any man shall take away, from him shall be taken away blessings. Repayment in kind [talio]. It is more grievous, as it appears from the annexed threatenings, to add, than to take away: though many critics actually show that they entertain a contrary opinion, being more timid in the erasure than in the admission of glosses. To change, is at once both to add and to take away. First, any hearer may offend in this matter, when he endeavours to pass off as Apocalyptic writings which are not such, or suppresses those which are truly Apocalyptic. An unskilful expounder, who is blind and rash, offends, and especially if he deems himself to be endowed with a singular prophetical gift and faculty. An unfaithful translator and copyist, who writes out the text incorrectly, exceedingly offends: for while the text is uncorrupted, especially at the foundation, the offence of the expounder and of the hearer may be corrected; but when the text is corrupted, the injury is much greater. Yet in all these modes the offence may be committed in a greater or less degree, the faithful being hindered, so that they cannot learn to hear the Lord’s I come, and to answer Come, and thus to enjoy the truth and fruit of the whole book or of the separate parts and portions, and to recognise the glory of Jesus Christ: Revelation 22:17; Revelation 22:20. Nor is theirs a slight fault, who perversely, unfairly, and unseasonably bring forward mysteries, and produce in the world and its princes envy and suspicion towards the kingdom of God. It is not the modest endeavour, joined with the desire of progress, and not blocking up the way to the truth arising from other sources, which is here condemned; it is profane boldness, arising from carnal sense, which is condemned. And John especially forewarned Cerinthus, who afterwards incurred this censure. This clause applies to the case of all the books of Holy Scripture: comp. Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; but it especially applies to the Apocalypse, the crowning point of prophecy, which was exposed to peculiar danger, and the minute and admirable connection of which might be disturbed or obscured by the change of even a single word. The separate parts of this book, guarded as it is by so severe an interdict, are of great moment. The extraordinary multitude of various readings in the Apocalypse cries aloud, that all have not at all times acted with religious caution in this matter. [In this very interdict, about the not adding or taking away, I have noticed twenty-four varieties of reading introduced by copyists.—Not. Crit.] Thanks be unto God, who has preserved to us marks and traces of the genuine reading through the dangers of so many ages!—ἐάν τις ἐπιθῇ, κ.τ.λ., if any man add) To add, according to the interpretation of Lange, is to put off to the future those things which are already accomplished: to take away, is to regard future things as already accomplished. Comm. Apoc. f. 250. Let another see, that he does not add; I am on my guard, that I do not take away.

[249] Ἔρχου, Come) The whole matter hinges on this, that you may confidently and with joy be able to hear the announcement I come, and to reply, Come. But if you have not yet attained to this, take care that you do attain to it.—V. g.

[250] So ABh; but Rec. Text, συμμαρτυροῦμαι γάρ: and Vulg. “contestor ego.”—E.

ὁ ἀκούων, he that heareth) The Spirit and the bride saying, Come.—V. g.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.
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