Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life…
In the Revised Version and the Authorized Version there is a notable difference of reading. In the former the text reads, "Blessed are they that wash their robes;" in the latter it is, "Blessed are they that do his commandments." But there is no real contradiction; for they that wash are they that will therefore obey, and they that obey are those who by their obedience show that they "wash their robes." For note -
I. WHAT IS IT TO THUS "WASH"? What does the expression mean? Some copies add on what is found in Revelation 7., "in the blood of the Lamb," and no doubt such washing is meant. But what does it all mean? Let it be remembered that by "Christ's blood is meant the spirit of his whole life - his love poured forth in sacrifice for men, his self devotion unto death for truth and righteousness' sake, all concentrated, fulfilled, and brought to the point when, on the cross, he bowed his head and died. Drink in that spirit, and you possess, not only hereafter, but now, eternal life. It is life, and it alone. Bathe your heart and intelligence, imagination and spirit, in the spirit of that life and death, till all it was and means flows through your whole nature and life as blood through your veins; wash all your outward life, your habits, your manners, your doings at home and abroad, all the robes of your life, in the spirit which made Jesus pour forth his blood upon the cross, and make them white and pure thereby. Then you will understand - no, not understand, but know - forever, and live forever by the truth that 'the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.'" In short, the possession of, and yet more the being possessed by, the mind and spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ when he shed his blood for us, is to be washed in his blood, and to have our robes made white therein. This, surely, is the meaning of this much misunderstood but precious word. Then note -
II. WHO THEY ARE THAT THUS WASH.
1. They were such as needed cleansing. The blessed were not always holy, but sin defiled as are we all.
2. They sought this cleansing. It does not come unsought. If we have no love for the cleansing it brings, we shall Bet have it. It cannot be hurried up in a moment at the last extremity of life, as too many think it can, and so leave seeking it till then.
3. And have obtained it. For it is said "they wash," that is, they come to him whose it is to impart this cleansing, and they gain it.
4. And this they continue to do. It is not an act done once for all. It is not true that "there is life for a look at the Crucified One;" there is the beginning of life in such look if it be genuine and real, but if the life is to continue and grow and develop, and become eternal life, we must be ever "looking unto Jesus;" it must be the habitual posture of the soul. Such are the blessed.
III. WHEREIN THEIR BLESSEDNESS CONSISTS.
1. "They have right to the tree of life."
(1) To its fruit, which in some mysterious way nurtures and preserves the life of the spiritual body as did the original tree of life, told of in Genesis, the life of the natural body. After man had sinned the perpetuation forever of that life would have been a fearful calamity, and therefore man was driven forth from the place where that tree stood, for the express purpose, so we are told, "lest he should put forth his hand, and take of the fruit, and eat, and live forever." But now that man, as seen in our text, is restored, because washed in the blood of Christ, perpetuated life may be given him, and it is given him. All that he lost by the first Adam is given back to him through the second. Paradise is more than regained. How can he, then, be otherwise than blessed?
(2) And to the leaves; those leaves which are said to be "for the healing of the heathen." They are without the city; for it is they who are told of, by their common characteristics, in the next verse. Without the city is not the same as the lake of fire, but within reach of the light that radiates and streams forth from the city. They yet need healing, and to minister to that shall, it is probable, be part of the blessed employ of the blessed in the holy city.
2. Their entry "through the gates into the city." As in triumphal procession, not in any concealed or forbidden way. But through the gates of pearl - the new and living way, which is Christ. Theirs is the greater salvation - salvation in fulness; an entrance "administered abundantly" into the kingdom of the Lord. For others there may be, there seems to be, a lesser salvation, a place without the city; a walking in its light, though not admitted within as its citizens. Thus is the living God in Christ the "Saviour of all men, but especially of them that believe." In other parts of this book, and of this and the foregoing chapter, many of the elements of the joy that belongs to the citizens of the holy Jerusalem are set forth; the ills that are here, but are not there; the blessings that are not here, but are there. Shall we be of these blessed ones? Have we come to Christ, and do we keep coming? That is to wash our robes, as is here said. God help us so to do! - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.