Seven reasons you should keep coming back to the book of Revelation (Rev. 22:6-21)


The book of Revelation is about the coming of Christ.  Of course, it is more than that, but it is ultimately about that.  All the book strains towards this end.  All the stuff about the conflict between the people of God and the enemies of God are set in the context of the coming of Jesus who will return to set all things right and finally destroy all his and our enemies.  The promises to the churches in chapters 2-3 are predicated upon his return and the full establishment of his kingdom.  The scroll that Jesus receives from the Father in chapter 5 as the Lion-Lamb is the scroll that contains God’s purposes for the end of history, an end that culminates in the return of Christ.  You see this in the cycles of judgment in chapters 6-16 – the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls of wrath.  They all end either right before or in the Second Coming of our Lord.  The persecution that you see waged by the dragon, the beasts, and Babylon against the people of God in chapters 17-19 is overturned in the Second Coming.  And then in chapters 20-22 we see the fruit of the Second Coming: the Millennium, the final battle and Final Judgment, and the eternal state in a new heaven and new earth.  

Revelation begins with a prologue in 1:1-8 and it ends in an epilogue in 22:6-21.  This epilogue reminds us that this book is again about the Coming of our Lord and how all of life is to be lived in light of this reality.  Reminders of the coming of Jesus punctuate this passage, often unexpectedly.  So, for example, in verse 7, our Lord interjects: “Behold, I come quickly.”  Then again in verse 12: “And, behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”  And the book ends with a promise of his coming and a prayer for his coming: “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (20).

As John brings the book of Revelation to a close, he reminds us not only about the main theme (the coming of our Lord) but also why we should listen to a book about the coming of Christ.  In the final verses of this book, he gives us at least seven reasons why the church in every age should hear the book of Revelation, listen to it, believe it, obey it, be inspired by it, receive encouragement and hope in its pages.

You might think this is something you would do at the beginning of a book.  But here John does this at the end!  Why?  I think he does so because, unlike many other kinds of books, this is not one that is meant to be read once and then laid aside.  I think he means for the church in every age and in every place to keep picking this book up to read it.  Well, we are at an end of our exposition.  But I hope you don’t think to yourself, “Well, I’ve heard these series on Revelation; now it’s time to move on!”  I hope you don’t do that.  Rather, my hope is that this series of messages has helped you to understand the book, even if only a little better, and to encourage you to keep interacting with it.  I hope that this will inspire you to read it and meditate on it and be built up in your faith by it.  I hope it isn’t as mysterious as it once was or as opaque as it might have seemed.  Of course I know that I haven’t made everything clear.  I haven’t removed all difficulties.  But I hope what we have done in this series of expositions is to clear a path for you to engage this book more frequently and more deeply and more meaningfully.

Revelation is meant to be read and believed.  Seven blessings are uttered throughout this book to remind us that this is not just about the duty of the Christian but about blessedness of the Christian. Revelation is meant to promote our holiness before God and our happiness in Jesus Christ.  John begins, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (1:3). And he ends in much the same way: “Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (22:7).  We are to read it and keep it, to understand it and obey its message to us.

So as we end this series of messages on Revelation, let’s end as John does: with an invitation to keep coming back.  Let’s consider the seven reasons he gives us to love this book and take it seriously.

Reason #1: Because this is a God-given book (6-7).  

“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. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (6-7).  It’s not clear whether it is an angel speaking here or whether it is our Lord himself,  But it really doesn’t matter because the angels simply communicate the message of our Lord.  The Lord gives it to his angel who gives it to John who gives it to the church.  So whether directly or indirectly, our Lord is speaking here. What does he say?  Well, I think you could summarize these two verses in this way: To hear this book is to hear God in Christ.  

“These sayings,” that is, the book of Revelation, “are faithful and true.”  They are not mixtures of truth and error.  They are not merely human attempts to tell us something about the transcendent.  They are faithful and true because they are the words of God.  We are reminded that this book is a prophecy and as such it shares the same characteristic as the rest of Scripture: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:19-21).

Why should you keep picking this book up and reading it?  You should do so because the words of this book are the words of God.  To hear the book of Revelation is to hear the voice of God.  It is the word of God whether you perceive it as such or not.  But what a blessing it is when we do in fact receive it this way!  Do you want to hear Jesus speak to you?  Well, open Revelation and read!  The “servants” to whom this prophecy is directed includes every believer in every age (Rev. 22:6).  Our Lord didn’t just deposit this word for a few NT scholars. He gave it for you.  In it you hear his word to you.  You hear him encouraging you to press on for the prize.  You hear him warning you of giving in to the devil, the beast, and Babylon.  “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (3:20).  What a precious promise!  Brother and sister, hear this book because to hear it is to hear the voice of God in Christ.

Reason #2: Because this is a God-centered book (8-9). 

We see the next reason in the next two verses: “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. 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” (8-9).  John was so overcome with the glory of what he had seen that he fell down and worshiped the messenger who showed him these things.  The amazing thing is that this had happened before (19:10).  But John falls down again and worships the angel who then promptly (again) rebukes him, telling him that he is just another fellowservant, and that he should worship only God.

Now we know that in John’s day the worship of angels was prevalent, so much so that Paul had to warn the Colossians against it (Col. 2:18).  But this angel does what a faithful servant of Christ ought to do: he points away from himself to the worship of God.  This little snapshot, this event, points us to one of the chief purposes of the book: it is to promote the worship of God alone.  It is to cause us, not to admire John or angels, but to admire God in Christ.  This book is valuable because it glorifies the Triune God: Father, Son, and Spirit.  We should hear the book of Revelation because to hear this book is to know God in Christ.

I want us to note again the implication here for the divinity of Christ. You cannot worship God if you do not worship Christ.   We say that Christ is God.  Some people say that the Bible doesn’t say that.  That of course is false because it does directly do exactly that in a few places (like Jn. 1:1; Rom. 9:5; Tit. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1).  However, the reason why the NT doesn’t often call Christ God in a direct way is that it primarily retains this title for the Father.  We have to remember that the NT authors didn’t have the precision of later Trinitarian language.  So how could you teach that the Father is God and the Son is God without confusing the persons of the Father and the Son?  The way the NT does this is to primarily call the Father God and to call the Son Lord.  Paul does this, for example, in 1 Cor. 8:6 when he says, “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.”  Lord is not a title for someone below God; to be Lord in the sense Paul is speaking of here is to share the very nature of God with the Father.  

But you also see the divinity of Christ emphasized in other ways.  You see it here throughout this book in that Christ is worshiped over and over and over again.  But as the angel reminds John, worship is only for God, not even for angels, however exalted.  What do we learn from this?  It at least means that Christ is not an angel.  It means that he is God with the Father and the Spirit.  The Book of Revelation is a very Trinitarian book.

You also see the divinity of our Lord in that statement in verse 13, where the one who is coming quickly (ver. 12) – clearly Jesus – also then declares himself to be Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last (ver. 13).  But this is language that God the Father uses for himself in chapter 1!  To worship God we must worship Christ, not as a lesser sort of deity but as coequal and coeternal with the Father and the Spirit.

Brothers and sisters, I want you to come again and again to this book, for it is a God-centered book that leads us to worship him.  We need that, especially in our day when man is worshiped, and the creature has displaced the Creator in our culture.  We need to see man knocked off his pedestal and to see God on his throne.  We need to see that God is God and we are not.  Revelation is amazingly helpful in creating worshipful hearts and lives.

Reason #3: Because this is a priority-shaping book (10-12).  

This is perhaps the most difficult part of the text and of this message.  Here is what John sees and hears next: “And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. 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. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (10-12).  

At the end of the book of Daniel, the prophet was told to do the very opposite of what John is told to do here: “And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Dan. 12:9).  However, the sayings in Revelation are not sealed, and the reason we are told they are not sealed is because “the time is at hand.”  What does that mean?

Well, the implication is that the time of the end is in fact at hand.  But what do you do with the fact that 2000 years has passed since John wrote this book?  Does it mean that John got it wrong?  Does this mean that this is not, in fact, a book from God?

Some folks try to avoid such an implication by arguing that the “end times” pretty much ended around A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and that all this talk in the Bible about the coming of Jesus was just about his coming to judge the Jews for their rejection of the Messiah.  Though this does relieve the tension that comes from arguing the end has not come yet, there are massive problems with this view.  For one thing, it’s almost certain that John wrote this at the end of the first century, around 20 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, so he’s not predicting something that has already happened.  But even if you don’t buy that, to say that the coming of Christ is just his coming (invisibly) to judge Jerusalem is to deny the visible, bodily, glorious appearing of our Lord which is everywhere predicted in the New Testament, not just to judge his enemies but to bring about the fruit of his redemption for his people.  

I think there are two reasons why John says the time is at hand, and it’s not because the destruction of Jerusalem is right around the corner.  First of all, the “end times” were inaugurated by the first coming of Jesus (which was visible and bodily, leaving in a visible and bodily way, which is how he is coming again, Acts 1:11).  This means that in terms of God’s redemptive schedule, the next big event is the Second Coming.  We are in the last times because there is nothing that needs to happen on God’s part for the Second Coming to happen.  The next thing to happen in God’s redemptive schedule is in fact the last thing.

It is also appropriate to call the entire period between the first and second comings of our Lord the last times because, as John Piper argues in his helpful book on the Second Coming, once the events of the end begin to take place, it will not take long for everything to happen.   It will not take long for the Antichrist to arise and do his terrible things, and for the final tribulation to take place before Jesus comes.  In other words, we are always, in a sense, within a generation of the return of our Lord.  We are therefore to live always with a sense that the end is at hand – a sense, by the way, that is impossible if Jesus came in A.D. 70.  In other words, if the preterists are right, all this talk about being ready and watchful and so on because the Lord is coming back doesn’t apply to the church anymore and hasn’t for almost 2000 years.  Frankly, I find that incredibly hard to believe.

Another thing to consider is that, since this is God’s book, the timing is God’s timing, and a thousand years are with the Lord as a day and a day as a thousand years (2 Pet. 3:8).  Even for us, relative to eternity, it is a short time to the end when our Lord returns.

But the point is that we are to be always ready to meet the Lord.  And that is one of the great functions of Revelation: to hear this book is to be prepared to meet God in Christ.  You cannot read a book like this and not think of your life in light of our Lord’s return and the final judgment and the eternal state.  And that is good and healthy for us.  This is reality.  Our culture presses in on us to forget and to think entirely in terms of present passing things, to load our hearts with the cares of this world.  But then the message of Revelation comes and reminds us that the things that seem so important now will seem utterly trivial in light of eternity.  In other words, this is a priority-shaping book.  We need to live in light of the coming of our Lord.  As Jonathan Edwards prayed, so we need to pray: “Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs!”  This book is an urgent book; urgent not in the sense of making temporal things urgent, but urgent in the sense of making eternal things so, and that is so needed for us.

What does John mean, though, when he says, “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)?  Does he mean that it doesn’t matter whether a person repents or not?  No, of course not.  God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 16:30).  I think the point is that when the end does come it will come with such breathtaking rapidity that there will not be time to fix your life.  When the events that immediately precede the Second Coming truly begin to happen, there’s not going to be time to turn your life around.  Those who are unholy when the dominos begin to fall will be unholy when the last one falls and those who are holy will be holy when the last one falls.  This is just another way of saying that the end, when it comes, will come very quickly.  Not in the sense that it was going to happen a few years from when John wrote this, but in the sense that the events of the end will not take long to play out.  We need to be ready; we need to live ready.

Reason #4: Because this is a cautionary book (13-15).  

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 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. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (13-15).  Throughout history, some folks who claim to believe in the teachings of Scripture want to also argue that in the end everyone will be saved.  But this is not what the Scriptures teach.  The Bible doesn’t just contain promises of blessing.  It also contains warnings of judgment.  God will not only be glorified by the salvation of his people; he will also be glorified in the just destruction of his enemies.  We need to hear this book because to hear this book is to be warned of the terrible dangers of sin and apostasy away from God in Christ.  

And these warnings are given to us so that we will see that it just isn’t worth it to abandon the path of costly obedience for a few years of pleasing the flesh.  Now the path of obedience is hard.  Let’s be honest about that.  Jesus never promised us that we will be tip-toeing through the tulips all the way to heaven.  But they are blessed who keep his commandments, whatever the earthly cost, because those who obey Christ have a right to the tree of life, and enter through the gates of the New Jerusalem (14).  I will tell you, it won’t matter what the journey looked like that brought you to the eternal gates.  When you pass through them, you will say, “It was worth it all!”

On the other hand, it won’t matter how much you were able to feed and please your flesh on earth if your end is the one described in verse 15.  There are some who argue that one of the things that makes hell to be hell is the company there.  There is no common grace in hell.  There is no restraining mercy in hell.  Just “dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”  William Jay’s words are fitting here: “The covetous and the cruel, the hypocrite and the profligate, the scoffer and the formalist, the swearer and the slanderer, are all in various directions going the downward road, and will meet in the same place of torment. There is something inexpressibly dreadful in the thought of mixing with such society. And when we consider the number of the damned, their malignity, their mutual accusations, their hatred of each other, their freedom from all the restraints which check the bad and vile while here, their power to curse and tear each other, under the empire too of the devil and his angels — who would not cry, ‘Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men.’” 

My friends, we need to keep coming back to hear this.  As the puritan Thomas Brooks put it, the devil loves to present the bait and hide the hook.  But Revelation shows us the hook.  We ought to thank God for that.

Reason #5 Because this is an inviting book  (16-17).  

But the Bible not only warns, but it also warmly invites us to fellowship with God in Christ.  We need to hear this book because to hear this book is to be drawn to God in Christ.  We need that.  Here is what we read next: “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. 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” (16-17).

There are some Christians who have imbibed the notion that to have a warm assurance of their salvation is somehow presumptuous and sinful.  They have been brought to believe that part of godliness is to be in doubt all the time when it comes to the assurance of God’s love for them.  But here’s the answer to that; it’s right here in these verses.  Christ revealed these things to the churches.  He wants us to know about the future glorious state because he has told us about them.  Why?  So we would view them like a starving person looking on others sitting at a table enjoying a sumptuous feast?  Has he put food in front of us only to tie our hands so we can’t partake?  No!  He has revealed these to us so that we would taste and see that the Lord is good.  He has revealed them to us so that we would believe his promise and enjoy the assurance of his love to us which these promises assert.  Surely we cannot believe that God has laid up these things for us and yet believe he does not truly love us.  Surely we cannot believe that God has revealed the future glory and then think that he won’t get us there.  No, let us with Paul say, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

We know that he will do this for us for he is “the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.”  He is the one promised as far back through the prophesy of Balaam and then in the covenant with David.  He came, he lived for us and died for us and rose from the dead for us, and we can be sure that he will come again.

What if you are not a Christian?  What if you are outside and you want in?  What if you are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for peace with God?  Well listen to verse 17: “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.”  What are the Spirit and the bride (the church) saying?  They are saying to you, “Come to Christ.”  The one who hears the gospel is supposed to tell others: “Come!  Come and take that water of life freely!”

So I just want to do that right now.  Is the Lord dealing with you?  Have you come to see yourself as a sinner and worthy of God’s judgment aren’t sure he will receive you?  Well, the answer is here, isn’t it?  These are not my words; they are God’s words, and his word to you is to come and take the water of life freely.  “Freely” means you don’t buy it, you don’t earn it, you don’t become worthy of it.  Christ was worthy for us.  We are not accepted because we are acceptable; we are accepted in Christ alone by faith alone on the basis of grace alone.  Come to him and find life!

Reason #6: Because this is a sufficient book (18-19).  

John goes on to give us yet another reason to give our attention to this book.  We should do so because it is a sufficient book.  Here’s what he says next: “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: 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” (18-19).  Here is how we can summarize the content of these two verses: to hear this book is to hear exactly what you need to hear about the coming of God in Christ.

Now before I go on, I need to correct a misapplication of these verses that is often made by King James Only advocates.  (I used to be one, so I know about these arguments.)  They will take these verses and use them to argue that any translation that omits a word or phrase or verse that is in the King James version is violating the principle of this passage (and in danger of the warning here).  But that is not true.  The reason why another English version might differ from the KJV has nothing to do with what John is talking about here.  The fact of the matter is that every translator or translation team has to do textual criticism; that is, they have to decide when there are variants among the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts which reading is correct.  And some people just come to different decisions about which reading is correct.  No one is trying to omit or add to God’s word here; in every case they have just come to a different decision as to which reading is authentic.  Even the KJV translators had to do this.  Desiderius Erasmus, the Roman Catholic scholar who gave us the Textus Receptus on which the NT of the KJV is based, had to do textual criticism (some of it quite sloppy, by the way).  This text is not about textual criticism which is just a fact of life when you are dealing with the manuscripts behind the Bible and the NT in particular.

Rather, this is about a much more serious thing.  It is a warning against those who refuse to obey the words of Scripture, whether Revelation or Genesis or whatever.  When we reject God’s word for our own path, we are doing one of two things.  We are either adding to God’s word or we are taking away from God’s word.  Sin comes from a heart that does not want to accept what God has written and so it adds to it – like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day who put burdens on people that were hard to bear, legalism.  Or sin comes from a heart that doesn’t like what God’s word says and so it deletes it: like a person who says, “I don’t like what the Bible says about adultery and so I’m just going to delete that from my moral consciousness; I’m just going to ignore it.”  That is a very serious thing.

It is living in rebellion against the sufficiency and authority of God’s word.  It is a life that rejects the attitude that Paul taught Timothy to cultivate: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:14-17).

This is serious because those who reject God’s word by adding to it or taking from it will find that “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.”  Oh, my friends, that is incomparably serious.  My friends, we need to read this book because it reminds us that God’s word is true and sufficient for our faith and obedience and that it is a serious thing when we tamper with it out of unbelief and disobedience.

Reason #7: Because this is a prayer-creating book (20-21). 

Finally, we should read this book because it is such an inspiration to prayer, and because it helps us to pray for the right things.  You can’t read this book and take it seriously and spend your days drooling over a Bentley.  You can’t read this book and take it seriously and hunger and thirst after human fame and popularity.  Rather, to hear this book is to create a heart of prayer to God in Christ.

So here are the final verses, not only in Revelation, but also in the Bible: “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (20-21).

On what do you base your prayers?  What ought to encourage us to pray?  Should not God’s promises be that encouragement?  And do not we see that here?  “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen.”  There is God’s promise.  “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”  There is the godly man’s plea.  

This prayer is important because embedded in this prayer is every other prayer.  To want the Lord Jesus to come is to want his kingdom to come in his fulness.  But you can’t pray that and not want his kingdom even now to take more root in your own heart through growth in godliness and in the hearts of others through conversion and sanctification.  To want the Lord to come is to want him to be glorified by all, but you can’t want that and not desire for his glory to be published even now.  To want the Lord to come is to desire his fellowship but you can’t want that and not seek it even now.  To want the Lord to come is to want the vindication and full blessing of the church, but you can’t want that and not want to see the church prosper even now.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this prayer is that it expresses – when we pray it sincerely – our love for Christ.  We want him to come because we love him.  We love him because he is worthy of our love and affection and devotion.  We love him because he is our Savior and Lord, our Shepherd and our King.  

Brothers and sisters, this is the kind of heart that we need.  We need to be people who are animated by this burning desire to see our Lord return.  He has promised it.  Let us long for it.

The final words are another prayer: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”  I am so thankful that this is the way the Bible ends.  How does it end?  It ends with a prayer for the presence of Christ.  What we need he gives.  More than anything else, we need the grace of our Lord.  He will give it and he will be with us.  

This is why we need to read this book.  Because it is an God-given book, and it gives us God’s truth.  Because it is a God-centered book, and it gives us what we most need, which is a proper view of God.  Because it is a priority-shaping book and gives us a God-centered perspective, showing that what is most urgent are not the claims of this world but of the next.  Because it is a cautionary book and gives us needed warnings, warnings that we might be tempted to ignore without it.  Because it is an inviting book, bringing us into fellowship with the Lord, which is where our ultimate joy is to be found.  Because it is a sufficient book that tells us what we need to know for faith and obedience so that we can live a life that pleases God.  Because it is a prayer-creating book that actually brings us into the presence of God.  We need all these things.  We need to hear its truth and promises and warnings and invitations.  So, brothers and sisters, let’s keep coming back to this book.  


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