Like most of the other books of the New Testament, Revelation includes in its final chapter several closing words and final instructions. An angel delivers some closing statements from God to John in Revelation 22:6–11. In today’s passage, however, the angel stands aside and Jesus speaks directly to John and thus, through John, to his readers.
Our Savior begins with a powerful restatement of His deity and a reminder of His coming to judge creation. In Revelation 22:13, He emphasizes that He is “the first and the last” as well as “the beginning and the end,” comparing Himself to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (“the Alpha and the Omega”). Of course, this does not mean the Son of God had an actual beginning to His existence or will one day cease to be. These phrases, based on Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; and 48:12, mean that as God, He is before all things and is after all things. He is eternal and self-existent, depending on nothing else for His being.
Because He is God, He is “Judge of all the earth” (see Gen. 18:25), so He is coming to repay all for what they have done (Rev. 22:12). Since all have sinned, falling far short of the Lord’s glory (Rom. 3:23), this is bad news for everyone who has not washed “their robes” so as to have the right to enter the new Jerusalem and eat of the Tree of Life (Rev. 22:14). We find here a reference not to our ability to somehow make ourselves worthy of salvation but to faith in Christ. Those who have washed their robes have done so “in the blood of the Lamb” through the great tribulation (7:14). In other words, they are those who have held fast to Jesus by faith alone, persevering to the end. Ultimately, this is not their doing, however. They persevere because their names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from all eternity (17:8; 21:27). Outside the new Jerusalem are those whose names are not found in the book of life (20:15), and the list of those impenitent sinners includes murderers, sorcerers, and the sexually immoral (22:15). This list is not exhaustive, as other New Testament lists of those excluded from God’s kingdom show us (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:9–10). Probably the sins listed in Revelation 22:15 indicate the transgressions of those who compromise with persecuting regimes such as Rome against the church.
We can believe these words because they come from Jesus the Messiah (Rev. 22:17). In fact, because they come from Him, we must believe them (John 5:36).