Revelation (Part 26)

Revelation 21:9–22:5

Listen or read the following transcript as D. A. Carson speaks on the topic of the End Times from Revelation 21:9–22:5

2. What is symbolic.

Verses 9–21. At one level, much of the language already used has been steeped in symbolism, New Jerusalem and so forth, but in what follows, the interpreting angel in the vision goes to great lengths to make John reflect on particular elements of the symbolism, and the language is extremely symbol-laden. In verses 9–10, for example, he makes it abundantly clear that the wife, the bride of the Lamb, is the New Jerusalem.

That’s one of these clues again that you’re not dealing with, first, new heaven and the new earth; second, New Jerusalem; and third, a bride, as if the New Jerusalem is in the new heaven and the new earth and the bride is in Jerusalem. They’re all the same thing. They’re being looked at from different angles. In other words, we’ll gain a fuller appreciation for what is in store if we reflect on the symbolic descriptions that flesh out the vision.

The one new detail in verses 9–10 is the identification of the bride’s husband at the end of verse 9. “The wife of the Lamb.” In fact, it’s pretty obvious for anybody who knows the whole book that the identification is obvious. It is Christ. The intriguing thing is you’re still in the realm of mixed metaphor. Why don’t you say the wife of the groom or even the wife of the husband or the wife of Christ or the wife of Messiah? But the wife of the Lamb? Now suddenly she’s a ewe sheep.

You’re mixing your metaphors all the time in apocalyptic. You just have to come to terms with that and not try to be too literalistic or you just make hash of it again and again and again. She’s the wife of the Lamb not because you think of the Lamb primarily in terms of being a husband but because the Lamb is the one who is identified from chapter 5 on as Christ, who is also the lion, who brings about all of God’s redemptive purposes.

The one who brings about all of God’s redemptive purposes, by virtue of the fact that he is a lamb, is the one who enters into this perfect consummation of unity with the bride. That’s the logic behind it, but it’s all in such compressed, symbol-laden language you could make hash of this pretty fast if you tried to draw pictures or something.

From here to the end of the book, the Lamb is now front and center. Verse 14: “The twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Verse 22: “The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Verse 23: “The Lamb is its lamp.” Verse 27: “Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Chapter 22, verse 1: “From the throne of God and the Lamb.” Verse 3: “The throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city.”

So God and the Lamb, God and the Lamb, God and the Lamb. This is central now throughout the whole thing. That, as we shall see, is not accidental. Bear it in mind. Verses 10–14 in the original constitute one long sentence. John is transported in the Spirit to a high mountain, presumably one final vision or some new stage of ecstasy in his walk in the Spirit.

That he’s transported to a high mountain is simply to gain a vantage point from which he can see the New Jerusalem coming down. You’re not supposed to say, “Well, where is this mountain located? Does it belong in some other country or some other universe?” It just is confusing the symbolism. There’s nothing outside the new heaven and the new earth or nothing outside the New Jerusalem in this new language.

It is somewhat reminiscent, on the other hand, of Moses being called up on the mount of God to look at things from God’s perspective or Jesus, in visionary experiences with the Devil, being offered all the kingdoms of this world. Obviously, you can’t get on a mountain high enough to see them all. You can’t do it. It was a visionary experience.

He sees the New Jerusalem coming down, which is, thus, in some ways, a kind of antitype of the vision of Ezekiel in chapters 40 and following, of a whole new temple there too, but we won’t follow that track at the moment. This descent of the New Jerusalem coming down is merely an expansion of what we’ve seen in chapter 21, verses 1–8. Do you recall in chapter 21, verse 2, the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven?

So now again in verse 10: “He carried me away in the Spirit to a high mountain, and he showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” This is not another coming down. It’s the same one, only it’s now expanded a little bit so that there are more elements of the symbolism that are unpacked for us. In other words, more evidence that the book of Revelation is not particularly interested in being sequential in its thought.

So then what does John see? The city shines with the glory of God. Again, the language of the Old Testament is still heavily being used. This is drawn from Isaiah, chapter 60. Listen to this. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rests upon you.” This is addressed to Zion, another name for Jerusalem.

“See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” Or again in the same chapter, Isaiah 60, verse 19: “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light.” There are Old Testament allusions to almost everything John says.

So now you have this city shining out with the glory of God, and its brilliance is like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, as clear as crystal. “Shining with the glory of God” means the presence of the Lord is powerfully there. Consider Ezekiel 43:5: “Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.”

The jasper, connected with the throne of God in chapter 4. “Clear as crystal,” the NIV says. I still think this is misleading. This sounds like it’s transparent, but at the time, the jasper, whether an opal or a diamond because they didn’t know how to cut them, was opaque. What it means is it’s shimmering. It’s sparkling. Not that it’s clear or transparent but that it’s shining with splendor.

The high wall with 12 gates with an angel at each gate (verses 12–13). Twelve means not only an abundant entrance, I suspect, but is reminding us again of the 12 tribes and of the 12 apostles. That is, all of the people of God enter this city. Again, remember the vision of Ezekiel 48, verses 30–34. The 12 gates of the New Jerusalem are named after the 12 tribes, only in John’s vision not just for the 12 tribes but for all of the nations of the earth (chapter 21, verses 24–27).

The 12 angels are gatekeepers, probably reflecting the picture of Isaiah 62:6 of watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem. The wall itself is not for defensive posture. I mean, who’s going to attack at this stage? It’s merely part of an ancient city, majestic, giving the impression of security. That’s what is meant. The whole place is secure.

The 12 foundations (verse 14). Apostles. Historically speaking, in other words, the church does rest on the apostles. All that we’ve learned of Christ has come down to us metered through the apostles one way or the other, directly or indirectly. In that sense, the church does rest as a foundation on the apostles. All of the people of God rest on the apostles.

In verses 15–17, an angel measures the city using a golden measuring rod. The reed was just over 10 feet long. The point here is its enormous size. There’s room for all, and it is not built like any city you’ve ever seen; it’s built like a perfect cube. What does that mean? You don’t build a city this way. It’s telling you again this is a symbol-laden vision. There is only one cube in all of Scripture. What is it? The Holy of Holies. That is, where God dwells, where God manifests himself in glory, whether in the temple or the tabernacle.

In other words, now God manifests himself in the whole city. You see, in ancient Jerusalem, God manifested himself once a year to a high priest, not in the court or the temple or the sanctum but only in the sanctum sanctorum, the Holy of Holies. Now the whole city is where God manifests himself. You’re back to this imagery of God being with his people, with all of his people. Not mediated through prophet, priest, king, or temple but all of the people of God.

The 12,000. There are a couple of things operating here, no doubt. A cube has 12 edges, of course. Some have argued for that, but don’t forget, 12 times 12,000 is 144,000, the number of God’s elect in Revelation 14. In any case, as someone has said, John is struggling to express by symbols the vastness, the perfect symmetry, the splendor of the New Jerusalem, and (I would add more) he’s casting it in language that reminds you that this is the locale of the presence of God. Whatever else the new heaven and the new earth is, it’s that.

The wall measures 144 cubits. Another 144, 12 by 12 again. Whether it’s 144 cubits high or 144 cubits thick it doesn’t say. The size means it’s about 1,400 miles on an edge, 1,400 miles high, not the wall but the city, which again is not literalistic. It’s not the 1,400 that’s important; it’s the multiples of 12 that are important. It’s their measurements that are important, not our linear equivalent, because it’s the symbol of the number that is important, not the exact linear length.

Then the spectacular building materials (verses 18–21). Jasper to speak of the shimmering glory of the presence of God. Even the wall announces God’s extravagant glory. The city is made of pure gold. There may be an allusion here to Herod’s temple, which had gold sheeting on the front of it that reflected the early morning sun’s rays so brilliantly people had to turn away. This is saying this is more spectacular yet. This is just sheerly glorious.

So pure is this gold it is compared with.… Not transparent crystal. You can’t see through gold, no matter how pure it is. That’s not the idea. It’s that it’s shimmery. It’s so pure it shines and shimmers and is a brilliant reflector. That’s the idea, not that it’s transparent. The foundation stones are decorated with all kinds of precious stones. The point is that the eternal dwelling of God is so superb it is ineffably, utterly breathtaking and beyond anything we can imagine.

There may be two other allusions here. The selection of stones is akin to the stones used in the breastplate of the high priest. It’s not quite the same but almost, which may be a way of saying that the whole city is shimmering with priestly function or stands already in the immediate presence of God or something like that.

There’s another possible allusion here. I’m not certain of this one, but several have pointed it out, and it probably is correct. Look back at verse 13. Notice the strange sequence of the points of the compass in verse 13: east, north, south, west. That’s not going around clockwise or counterclockwise or in the common “north, south, east, west.” It really is a very strange sequence: east, north, south, west. Why?

When the stones are placed around a square in the order given in verse 13 … east, north, south, west … and compared with the 12 signs of the zodiac, each of which has a stone equivalent, the order is the exact reverse of the path of the sun through the 12 signs. That could just be fortuitous, but I don’t think so. In which case, the vision insists that it has nothing to do with pagan speculations about the city of the gods or astrology or anything like that. It’s the opposite of all that. “Whatever God is doing in the new heaven and the new earth, it’s just the opposite of whatever you pagans are doing.”

The gates are made of great pearl. There may even be an allusion here to Jesus’ parable of the pearl of great price. You sell everything for this. You walk on streets of gold. Of course, that is so often taken in the most physical and literal sense by those who want wealth above all things, but the point is not so much the wealth as the sheer splendor of it.

Do you recall how in Solomon’s day silver was reckoned like stones it was so common? A lot of people had gold. This is another way of saying the same thing. This is so spectacularly perfect that there is nothing of the mediocre or of the slovenly or of the poor or of the broken in it. So the New Jerusalem, the bride of the Lamb, is steeped in symbolism. That’s what’s symbolic.

3. What is missing.

Verses 22–27. There is no temple. This is quite unlike the vision of Ezekiel. Ezekiel’s vision spends all the time on the temple, because it is still being configured in the categories of the old covenant. The reason there’s no temple is what’s important here. “The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” That’s not quite the same language as saying that the city is a cube, but it means the same thing.

Do you recall the whole city is a cube? That is, the whole city is the Most Holy Place. That’s where God is. Another way of saying it is there’s no need for a temple at all here because the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple. You could have said the whole city is the temple and the Lord God fills it, but to make it even more direct, there’s no temple here because the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple.

See, you’re not supposed to say, “Which is it? Is it this way or is it this way?” It misses the point. You’re mixing your metaphors to get across one driving idea. The driving idea that should, I hope, by now be coming clearer and clearer is that whatever is bound up with this is sheer, untrammeled, unqualified, God-centered divine self-disclosure. There’s no place now for ritual or priest.

In times past, the texts say again and again, “No one can look on me and live,” but now all who are there are so transformed they do nothing but remain in his presence all the time. The angels around the throne cover their faces with their wings as they cry, “Holy, holy, holy!” Now God takes up his abode with human beings in all the unshielded splendor and radiance of his being. Nothing masks it.

Then no sun or moon, we’re told. Why? For the glory of God gives it light. This is no more talking about the peculiar astronomical arrangements of the new heaven and the new earth than the absence of a sea is, in the first instance, describing the hydrological arrangements of the new heaven and the new earth. In both cases, it’s symbol-laden language to drive home a point.

In the case of the water, it’s bound up with chaos and sin and destruction in the fallen order. There’s none of that. Now with the sun, what’s the point? No sun or moon. Well, the glory of God is so spectacularly wonderful you don’t need any other help, thank you. Even the sun seems paltry in this light.

Thus, when you move to no night.… Well, if there’s no sun, of course there’s no night, because all our notions of night and day are bound up with the motions of the planets either revolving on their axis or rotating in their orbits around the stars. It’s not astronomical arrangements that concern John. It’s still the symbolism. The night in the ancient world was the time of danger. That’s when you shut the city walls. That’s when you’re more likely to get robbed or raped or attacked or beaten up.

So it’s common enough that you find, as Paul says in his epistles, “Don’t be children of night, but be children of the day.” It’s symbol-laden language for saying, in effect, “This will be a time of unmitigated goodness.” Think of the prophecy of Zechariah, chapter 14, verse 7. “It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime, a day known to the Lord, a day when there will only be glory and light.”

Or again, Isaiah 60, verse 11: “Your gates shall be opened continuously.” That’s another way of saying it’s so safe there’s no problem anymore, nothing to be afraid of. Then verse 27. Another thing that won’t be there. We’ve seen no temple, no sun or moon, no night, no danger. Now, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

Have you ever thought what it would be like, at the greatest stretch of your imagination, to be really, utterly, unqualifiably clean? Never, ever to have uttered an unkind word; never, ever to have been arrogant; never, ever to have lusted; never, ever to have lost your temper in entirely unjustified anger; never, ever to have nurtured bitterness; never, ever to have lied. Those things are just the negative side. Always to have loved God with heart and soul and mind, always to have loved others like yourself. That’s the way heaven is.

It’s also a measure, if you think about those things, of how much more improvement we have to undergo before we get there. The Lord is still working in us from glory to glory I know, but at the same time, that final transformation is going to have to be a big one. We used to sing when I was a child a hymn that was already old then.

One thing I of the Lord desire,

For all my way has darksome been:

Be it by earthquake, wind, or fire,

Lord, make me clean!

Lord, make me clean!

“Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Thus, you’re really coming to the place where you do see how this is tied to the inaugural vision of chapters 4–5. The one who brings about all of God’s purposes for redemption and blessing is the Lamb.

Female: [Inaudible]

Don Carson: Could you hear the question? The question is, “Isn’t there no more evil left at this point?” That is, there could be no more question of evil entering at this juncture since it has all been put aside, so how could it enter? What I would say is that’s the whole point. In other words, it’s just a spatial way of making exactly that point. It’s a way of saying that the whole thing is characterized by utter absence of evil.

Because it’s pictured as a city, it’s cast in spatial terms. Nothing evil will enter it. It misses the point, then, to say, “Well, that means there could be evil outside that’s just hanging around that would like to get in but can’t.” That misses the whole point. If the city is the New Jerusalem, the city is the bride. Nothing will enter it, not because there’s something outside waiting to. It’s another way of saying the whole is characterized now by a complete want and absence of evil.

First of all, you notice that the sequence of those things is strange. You can either say it’s utterly random or it’s just possible that it’s chosen purposely. But when the stones that are mentioned here are placed around the square in the order of the points of the compass of verse 13, east, north, south, west.… When they’re put in that sequence all around and compared with the 12 signs of the zodiac, each of which has a stone, the order is the exact reverse of the path of the sun through the 12 signs.

I am sure that with this fine upstanding group of Christians, you would never read a horoscope, but if you do on occasion, just sort of to see what it says.… Not that it means anything, but you’d just like to see what it says for today at least, or maybe once in a while. Do you ever then start wondering way back in the bottom of your mind somewhere, “Boy, that one really was close today, wasn’t it? Pretty accurate, actually.”

From the Bible’s point of view, it is either a load of codswallop, as if the stars can dictate your destiny and future because of being born in some particular place (that is such a fatalistic view of reality), or it is something used by the demonic world itself, ultimately, to manipulate you into worshiping and fearing what you should not either worship or fear. If you serve a sovereign God who can be trusted, you don’t have to worry about stars. God made the stars.

Just as astrology has come back in a great deal in the Western world in the last 30 to 40 years (as people abandon belief in God, they’re opened up to belief in almost any sort of nonsense), so also in the ancient world belief in astrology was very common, and it may be here that John is taking a kind of surreptitious sideswipe at it as he goes by. “Our expectation is completely the reverse of anything yours is.” I’m not sure. It may be. Otherwise, it’s a singularly fortuitous arrangement.

Male: In verses 24–26, it talks about the nations bringing their splendor into it. I’m thinking in terms of Christ and the temple and the glory and the lamp. In what sense, especially in verse 26, is there a glory of the nations that’s being brought into it? Obviously, the nations in the Old Testament usually refer to the apostate people. Obviously, it probably has to be believers here. So what’s the glory that they’re bringing?

Don Carson: The question is in verse 26 in particular, what is meant by “The glory of the nations is brought into it”? There are really two or three things bound up with that. One could say, “Where are they coming from if they’re just bringing into it?” Then in the Old Testament, the nations are regularly the pagan nations. What are they doing here?

Well, in the first place, that they are coming into it in the context where everything is pure is another way of saying that this is not just a Jewish confab. This is another way of saying what you’ve already seen in chapter 5. You have people from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. So this is the holistic, or in the language of Ephesians 2, you have a whole new humanity made up of Jew and Gentile. It’s another way of getting at that.

That they should be called nations.… It’s harder to be sure of that one, but it may be that in this whole new heaven and new earth on the last day, there will be this wonderful ordering of society, just a small glimpse of it. In other words, it’s possible that all it means is every tongue, tribe, people, and nation and nothing more, but it may be that we’re not just going to be collections of individuals in the new heaven and the new earth but ordered arrays of people enjoying one another’s nationality and differences for all eternity. It may be. I’m not sure.

In terms of coming into it, again, it is simply part of the symbolism bound up with the city. The point is it’s not that sometimes they’re outside of the presence of God and then sometimes they come into the presence of God, but rather all of those who actually do come up to it are, in fact, the people of God, and they all enjoy this. They all come into the city. That’s the point. Then later on the in and out. We’ll look at that in a moment.

Then the glory is likewise, I think.… First, in terms of the larger construct of biblical theology, whatever we bring to God we have first received from him. On the other hand, just as in the old covenant it was considered a wonderful thing in Solomon’s reign or in the latter end of David’s reign.… When the other nations were subdued around them, the other nations brought their tribute to David or to King Solomon, and thus they were bringing their glory, their substance, their weight (glory actually means weight) in homage to David.

Now in terms of the broader theology, both under the old covenant and the new, it would still be acknowledged that that is first and foremost a gift from God, but the fact that it should all come up to David makes David at the center or Solomon at the center or whatever. So also here. Just as the angels in chapter 4 are doffing their crowns as a way of indicating their utter dependence upon God … whatever kingly rights they have are derived … so also the nations bring all their glory. Whatever they have they bring in tribute. I think that’s what is meant.

It is another way of saying that the God-centeredness of everything is acknowledged. It’s a bit like the end of Philippians 2 in another way, that every knee shall bow. I know some have tried to read in this that this is God’s love of the spectacular cultural differences, and all of the different cultures are bringing their two cents’ worth into heaven. That may be true, but I doubt that’s what this is all about.

In other words, I don’t think heaven is being portrayed here as primarily a place with wonderful cultural divergencies, although that may well be true. The whole vision here is God-centered. The whole point here is God-centered again and again and again. We’ll come to that point in just a minute. It’s tribute. It’s acknowledging that all they have is from this God.

4. What is central.

Chapter 22, verses 1–5: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb …” There you are again: God and the Lamb. “… down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”

What is central then? Two things. First, the water of life from the throne of God and of the Lamb (verses 1–3). Clearly, this language is being drawn from a number of Old Testament passages. Paradise, the garden of Eden, the Tree of Life. Only now this Tree of Life is producing luscious fruit all the time, and you have ready access to it all the time, 12 months a year.

It’s watered by this stream that flows from the throne of God, which doesn’t mean the throne is sort of parked over an open spring which is sort of hidden by the throne and the water sort of percolates out from underneath. No, it means the source of life is God himself. See how God-centered everything is? It flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

That is, apart from the work of the Lamb (you’re back in chapters 4–5 again), the edicts, the purposes of God and blessing and judgment held out in the scroll in the right hand of the majesty on high wouldn’t have taken place. The Lamb who comes from the center of the throne and opens the scroll has brought all this about. The water of life flows from the Lamb and from God, their throne.

So all that supports this new heaven and this new earth, all that supports eternal life, all that supports the people able to be pure and to enjoy the unshielded glory of God, all comes from the throne. No one is there saying, “See? I’m better than you are. I have a better service record. I tried harder.” It’s all supported by the Lamb, by the throne, by God himself.

Then, in case we’ve missed it (verses 4–5), what medievalists would have called the beatific vision. That is to say, the vision of God. “They will see his face.” All through the Bible, whenever the texts speak of people seeing God, it’s always qualified, because around it nearby is some emphasis on “No one can see my face and live,” or something like that, but now they will see his face.

“His name will be on their foreheads.” That’s language we’ve seen all the way through. They are perfectly secure. They belong exclusively to him. No more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun. We sing this sometimes unthinkingly.

Face to face with Christ my Savior

Face to face—what will it be

When with rapture I behold him

Jesus Christ who died for me?


Only faintly now I see him

With a darkling veil between,

But a better day is coming

When his glory shall be seen.

I have occasionally told you stories of what I have been listening to in my car cassette machine on my way up here, and sometimes it has been very apropos. I almost brought in a tape tonight sung by Johnny Cash that actually mentions “666.” It’s really quite amusing. But I didn’t. I restrained myself. There is another tape I’ve been listening to that is immensely appropriate here.

Are you familiar with Roger Whittaker? He sings folk songs. Not many American folk songs (some of those too), but a lot of English and British folk songs, some Scottish ballads and folk songs from around the world. Have you ever heard his ballad of Cape Breton? You start talking about Cape Breton and you’re getting close to home now. “Sing me a song,” he says. Then in the third verse he says:

If my time could end perfectly,

I know how I’d want it to be,

God’s gift of heaven would be made up of three:

My love, Cape Breton, and me.

The first time I heard Roger sing that I thought, “My dear, Roger, you don’t know God,” because from the biblical perspective, he has just about defined hell. God isn’t at the center. I define my heaven even: “My love, Cape Breton, and me.” If you have to put up with that for all eternity, I guarantee you’re going to start another war.

Heaven in all of the vision here, the driving thrust of all of it again and again and again.… Has it not been the centrality of God? So the aim is not to think through this passage and say, “Well, if the gold isn’t literal, what kind of streets will we be walking on?” It just misses the whole point. The whole point is the centrality of God.

I even worry sometimes when all that Christians can talk about with respect to heaven is going and visiting their deceased loved ones. That’s a legitimate hope. I’m not criticizing it. I criticize it when that’s all they think about. Heaven isn’t designed primarily so you can visit your grandmother. It’s designed in the first instance for us to be reconciled to and enjoy the glory of God.

This glorious prospect, then, should give God’s people full confidence in the world, even in the face of death. In particular, this prospect calls us, first, to settle on enduring treasure, the knowledge of God; second, the pursuit of purity (Revelation 21:7 and 27), because nothing impure will enter there; third, to deepen the links of Christian fellowship, because after all, in that context we’re a city, a social entity; and fourth, to praise the Lamb.

First, to settle on enduring treasure, Recall I began with Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6: “Store up treasures in heaven.” Settle on enduring treasure, the knowledge of God. Second, to pursue purity. Third, to deepen the links of genuinely Christian fellowship. The prospect is not splendid isolation, Lone-Ranger fulfillment, but a new city. Finally, to praise the Lamb. I think the best way to finish this.… I’m just going to read the rest of the book. There are only a few verses. Most of them are easily explained. Let the text have its own power in your ears.

“ ‘Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.’ I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!’

Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.’ ‘Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.’

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” Let us pray.

In the midst of disputes about this symbol or that, Lord God, grant at very least that we may see what is central, what is unyielding to the burning message of this book, so that we hear afresh the words of the exalted Christ saying, “Yes, I am coming soon,” and may we, the bride of the church, join the Spirit in our generation saying, “Come! Come! Whoever is thirsty, let him come, and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”

Grant that we may see Christ, the Lamb of God, from whose throne flows the water of life, and hear him say, “I, Jesus, am the Root and the Offspring of David and the bright Morning Star. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the Tree of Life and may go through the gates into the city.” For Jesus’ sake, amen.