Now, however, we have obtained conception; and we can realize the truth that is expressed here all the better.
Jesus is coming. He has told us how He would come. He would come accompanied by wars and plagues of famine and pestilence. And the nearer He would come, the more emphatically the power of opposition would assert itself. We have learned to see that history is actually carried out so as to point to the coming of the Lord. And therefore we say, “He is coming!” Others may be blind to the fact that the Lord is coming, but we say nevertheless, “He is coming; and we see Him come.” Besides, according to the text, He is coming quickly. Also this we can understand all the better. Nineteen hundred years have passed, and yet He has not arrived. But we understand that He is coming speedily nevertheless; He is coming quickly, very rapidly. He is coming as soon and as quickly as it is possible. If we will understand how rapidly Jesus is coming, we must take into consideration what must happen before His final coming. Let us use an illustration from the first World War, and, in fact, also from the recent, the second World War. When Germany pressed the Allies and pressed them hard, they were for a time in desperate straits. And longingly they looked for the coming of the Americans. The Americans said, “We are coming, and we are coming quickly.” But weeks and months elapsed before they actually did come. To the Allies in their desperate condition it seemed a long time before they actually came. Yet did not the Americans come quickly? Surely, they did; and they came as fast as it was possible for them to come. But think what was implied in their coming. Many, many things had to be prepared before they could come. An army had to be drafted and trained; money had to be raised; the army had to be equipped; the material, clothing and ammunition and other things had to be manufactured; ships had to be built. In view of all this, it was absolutely true that they were coming quickly. The same may be applied to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
From our point of view it may seem a long time. But look! The children of God must be gathered. The whole church, gathered from all nations, must be filled: not one of the elect may be lacking. Besides, the great apostasy must take place. Antichrist and all the power of iniquity must develop. Babylon must be realized. The world-power must be formed. Surely, all these things taken into consideration, we may surely say, “He comes quickly.” Things, especially in the last twenty-five or fifty years, are developing before our very eyes. We see Him come!
Realizing, however, that from our point of view the time may seem long, the Lord assures His church in this application repeatedly that He is actually and surely coming, that all that has been written in the book concerning this coming is absolutely true. For thus we read in verse 6: “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.” These words, according to the text, are faithful. They are faithful, that is, they shall prove to be real. They shall not disappoint those that read and believe; what is written in the book shall surely be realized. And therefore, they are not only faithful, but true. They are not mere fiction, a romance; but they are in harmony with reality. They are a revelation of the counsel of God that can never fail. And there is the most complete harmony between that counsel and these words of the book of Revelation. In the second place, this is solemnly assured by supporting the statement that these sayings are faithful and true by the name of the author. He is none less than the Lord God of the spirit of the prophets that revealed these things to the churches through the medium of the angel that spoke with John. God controlled the spirit of the prophets; and He controlled also the spirit of John when he received these visions. God revealed to him the entire truth concerning the coming of the Lord and concerning His coming speedily. They were not products of a fanciful imagination, but they were the revelation of the living God. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He stands above all time and history, and He is the Unchangeable. He is the cause and also the purpose of all history, and He alone absolutely controls it, even by our Lord Jesus Christ. He, the unchangeable and almighty God, is pledge for the truth of the statement that these things will come to pass, and that they will come to pass soon, so that it is certainly true that the Lord will come quickly. Jesus, the Root and Offspring of David, the bright and Morning Star, is the chief servant of the Lord. He is the Savior, Who once shed His lifeblood for His people, the Root and Offspring of David, Who once came as the realization of Old Testament prophecy. He is the bright and Morning Star, Who Himself is therefore the light of that eternal morning and will surely appear as the herald of morning, as certainly as the morning star appears in the heavens. Shall we waver in the sight of such witnesses? The wise of the world say, “You are demented. What you are teaching is absolutely contrary to fact.” The powerful of the world say, “You are a dreamer.” The rich of the world say, “You are a pessimist.” Whatever they say, we have the testimony of Jesus, of the almighty, everlasting, faithful Savior. Shall we exchange world-views? Never! Hence, Jesus is surely coming; and He is coming quickly.
This truth, that the contents of the book of Revelation are faithful and true, is impressed upon us, first of all, by. the mention of rewards and punishment. It is because of the tremendous certainty and significance of the fact that the truth of Jesus’ coming is impressed very seriously that the book must not be sealed, but must be open. This command comes to John in the tenth verse of this chapter: “And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.” The book, therefore, must not remain closed. The sayings of this book must never be sealed. It must be given to the church. And it must be espounded by the church in the midst of the world. They must read it, understand it, and testify of it. And if this is done, the result will be two-fold, as is the case with the entire Word of God. Always there are those that are saved and those that are hardened. The Word of God is always a savor of life unto life, but also a savor of death unto death. What is true of the Word of God in general is also and emphatically true of the book of Revelation. And when it is opened, there will be those that will have nothing of it, that will deny the truth of its contents. As I said before, they will say, “You dream. You are beside, yourself. You are a pessimist.” It will arouse the opposition of the wicked, of those that have no hope, or, whose hope is vain because it is only a hope in the present world. It leaves no hope for their vain dreams. Thus, it will arouse them to greater hostility and opposition, to more wickedness. But, on the other hand, it will also strengthen the faith and hope of the people of God. This is therefore inevitable. Why, then, must this book remain closed? Certainly, not because it will arouse the opposition, because it will reveal more wickedness on their part. No, the answer is in verse 11: “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.” Such is therefore the case with regard to those that read the contents of this book. This book will draw the lines. It will strengthen and emphasize the great difference between the people of God and the world. It will make the world more conscious of the great difference between its ideals and those of the people of God. It will also make the children of God more conscious of the same fact. And for the latter purpose the book may not remain closed, but must be open, so that all can hear and read, even though it will have this two-fold effect. Of course, there is also the responsibility connected with the reading and hearing of the sayings of this book. It is emphasized that the Lord will come with His reward, to render to every man according as his work shall be. Have we been more unrighteous and more filthy by the revelation of this book? We shall have no part with the tree of life and shall not enter into the eternal and glorious city of God. In the New Jerusalem are only those that have their robes washed, those that have by faith washed their robes in the blood of Christ. By that faith they have been sanctified and cleansed from all unrighteousness and from all filth. They are blessed, and they shall enter into the city and have a right to come to the tree of life. But without, in eternal darkness, are those that love iniquity. For thus we read in verse 15: “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” But there is more.
The contents of the book of Revelation is not only impressed by the mention of reward and also of punishment. But it is also impressed by a threat to those that assume an unbelieving attitude toward the contents of this book. This we find in verses 18 and 19: “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.” Surely, this cannot apply to the imperfect understanding of believers. After all, the words of the book remain a prophecy, with all the difficulties contained in it. We realize clearly our own feebleness in understanding perfectly all that is implied in this prophecy. But these words refer to a conscious attitude of unbelief. They are addressed to him that heareth the words of this prophecy, who therefore becomes acquainted with its contents. He can change the book so as to suit his own fancy and his own purpose, so that after all the kingdom of the world is confused with the kingdom of God in Christ. He can do that by adding unto the book or by detracting from the book. The book can indeed be so augmented and can be so abridged that the light of the truth of this prophecy is bedimmed, particularly the truth that Jesus is coming. And the punishment that is threatened is, negatively, that he shall be deprived of his part with the tree of life and of his part in the holy city. Of course, this must not be interpreted as if there were a falling away from grace. All Scripture emphasizes very clearly that such a falling away is impossible. God preserves His people. And through the power of God’s preservation they certainly will persevere. Nevertheless, it is possible to go through that experience, to imagine without any basis in Scripture that one shall have part with the tree of life while actually he never had a part with that tree and with the holy city at all. And, of course, in the end he will find that his name is not written in the book of life and that his part in the holy city was only in his own imagination. Positively, these verses teach that he shall participate in all the plagues of the wicked, to the very last, in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.
Finally, we find in this passage a beautiful response to the prophecy of this book, and especially to the truth that Jesus is coming. This is expressed as a fact. The text says, in the first place, that the effect of this revelation of the coming of the Lord upon the church as a whole is that she responds and eagerly says, “Come, Lord.” We find this, in the first place, in verse 17. There we read: “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.” And again, in verse 20 we read: “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” In verse 17, therefore, we read that the Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And we understand, of course, that they are not to be taken separately, as if the Spirit of Christ and the bride separately express this longing for the coming of the Lord. This is impossible. The Spirit is the Spirit of the Bridegroom. That Spirit of the Bridegroom dwells in the bride, that is, in the church. Hence, it is through the Spirit that the bride says, “Come.” Under the influence of this revelation the bride says, through the Spirit, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Naturally, the bride receives a picture of the glory of the Bridegroom and of the time when she shall always be with the Bridegroom. She is conscious all the more through the prophecy of this book of her present misery, of her tribulation, which she must and does suffer in the midst of the world. She is conscious of her present separation. She is conscious of her sinfulness. And when she looks through the words of the book of this prophecy at the glory that shall be revealed to her, she calls out, under the influence of the Spirit of the Bridegroom, “Come, yea, come, Lord Jesus.”
This general response comes from the bride as a whole. The church organically in principle always longs for the coming of the Bridegroom even though she may not always be equally conscious of this longing for the coming of the Lord. But also individually believers do not always partake in this sigh of longing. Hence, to him comes the admonition, or exhortation, “And let him that heareth say, Come.” And again: “And let him that is athirst come.” And once more: “And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” This is at the same time a test for us as a church and as individual believers. The question is: do we participate in this response? More or less, as the book was explained to us, did we say sometimes, “Come, Lord Jesus; yea, come quickly.” But in the first place, as these words are an exhortation, we must turn away from the world and its lusts. We must look forward in hope to the blessed day that the Lord shall come. And it is only in that hope, which certainly can never fail, that we are able to say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” And finally, to that individual child of God comes the glad evangel, “Take of the water of life freely.” This water of life, as it flows forevermore in the New Jerusalem, is promised to us. It is for him that is athirst. There may be among God’s people those that fear and doubt, and wonder whether they shall partake of the blessedness and the glory of the New Jerusalem. O, they are indeed thirsty. They long for the perfection which shall be revealed to us in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, they have nothing to bring, absolutely nothing. And therefore the exhortation is very significant: “Come, and take of the water of life freely.” That is, have absolutely nothing of yourselves. Have all things only in Christ Jesus. Then indeed, you shall not only look at the water of life. You shall not only be athirst. But then you shall listen to this exhortation, “Let him come and drink of the water of life freely!”
Finally, we have at the close of the book a testimony of John, first of all, in verse 8: “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 fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” John evidently is so overwhelmed by the visions he had received, and especially by the vision of the New Jerusalem, that he falls down to worship. Surely, that worship was mistaken, as is explained by the angel. And the angel corrects him. But the impression is indeed comprehensible. He is overwhelmed, and he accepted all that he saw and heard by faith. And finally, John himself says, in verse 20, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” If that may be the result of our discussion of the book of Revelation, the result that we have grown in the knowledge of the glory of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, grown in the faith and in the hope and longing and in the strength to renounce the world, to wash our robes, and to walk in the midst of the world in that hope eternal, and therefore also in sanctification of life, it will be sufficient. And at the very close of the chapter the apostle pronounces the blessing upon the church: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”