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Revelation 22:17–19

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (vv. 18–19).

Christ’s final words to readers in the book of Revelation include a reminder that our Savior is coming soon (Rev. 22:12). Just a few verses later, we read what seems to be a response, when “the Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’ ” (v. 17). Clearly, the Spirit and the bride are the Holy Spirit and the church. So, are they calling out for Jesus to fulfill His promise and to return?

Of course, both the Spirit and the church long for the coming of Christ. This longing finds clear expression in Revelation 22:20. Yet, that does not seem to be what is expressed in today’s passage. Instead, verse 17 apparently states an evangelistic invitation, calling unbelieving readers to come to take “the water of life without price” before it is too late. Salvation through Christ is the only way to eternal life (John 14:6), and this salvation is entirely free. We do not merit the water of eternal life or otherwise take possession of it by our works. All we do is receive it. It is a pure gift received by the empty hand of faith (Eph. 2:8–10). The gift is offered to anyone, no matter what they have done, no matter how great their sin. Jesus stands ready and willing to embrace all those who come to Him in faith, trusting in Him alone (Matt. 11:25–30).

After this evangelistic invitation, John issues a stern warning not to add to or take away from the words of his prophecy lest one become subject to the curses of the book (Rev. 22:18–19). Essentially, he calls for a preservation of what he has written exactly as it has been written. This warning has much in common with texts such as Deuteronomy 4:2 and is a necessary consequence of the book of Revelation’s being a revelation from God Himself. As the supreme and inherent authority over all, the Lord must be obeyed when He speaks. To try to alter His words in any way is to deny His authority and wisdom. Such an attempt at alteration, in effect, says that we know better than the Lord. Thus, while the warning in Revelation 22:18–19 applies first to Revelation, it must ultimately apply to every word of divine revelation, to every word of the Lord.

Without a doubt, intentionally adding to or subtracting from what God has revealed is among the most blatant expressions of unbelief and arrogance. Therefore, it is vital for the church to be led only by those who are committed to the Word of God, and indeed, to all of the Word of God. It is also incumbent upon all Christians to do their best to understand and apply all Scripture.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

We are not perfect, and we will misunderstand and misapply the Word of God from time to time. Thankfully, the Lord is gracious, and He forgives even this. However, that does not mean we should be lazy. Instead, as we are able, we should seek to be diligent students of Scripture, ever growing in our ability to rightly handle the Word of truth.

For Further Study
  • Deuteronomy 12:32
  • Ecclesiastes 3:14
  • Matthew 4:1–4
  • John 12:44–50

    Closing Words from Christ

    Come, Lord Jesus!

    Keep Reading The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus

    From the December 2020 Issue
    Dec 2020 Issue