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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Revelation 22

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XXII.

The river of the water of life. The tree of life. The light of the city of God is himself. The angel will not be worshipped. Nothing may be added to the word of God, nor taken therefrom.

Anno Domini 96.


Verses 1-5

Revelation 22:1-5. And he shewed me a pure river, &c.— The first five verses of this chapter are a continuation of the description of the new Jerusalem. It is farther described with the river of life, and the tree of life, Revelation 22:2 as if paradise was restored and improved. A river flowing through the midst of the streets, and trees growing on either side of the river, are wonderfully pleasing and agreeable objects, especially in the hot eastern countries. Of the fruits there is such plenty, that all may freely partake of them at all seasons; and the very leaves are for the healing of the nations; by all which is signified, the blessedness of immortality, without any infirmities. Then, too, there shall be no more curse, as there is in this present world, ever since the fall of man: but the blessed inhabitants shall enjoy the so-much-talked-of beatific vision; shall live in the light of God's countenance, and serve him, and reign for ever, Revelation 22:4-5. See Ezekiel 47:1; Ezekiel 47:23. Both the waters of life, and the tree of life, are emblems of immortality: They that eat of the tree of life shall live for ever. Genesis 3:22. The trees of life are so planted in this description, that all the inhabitants may come at the fruit of them freely, and without hindrance. They yield their fruits so plentifully, and so constantly, that there can be no want even in so large and populousa city; and even the leaves have a sovereign virtue against all sorts of indisposition. The continual succession of fruits shews the endless duration of the happiness of the saints, which is maintained by the continual effusions of the divine grace and favour. As to the division of the growth of the fruits by months, I think (says Daubuz,) that this arises from the ancient custom of making distributions every month, of meat and drink to servants, or such as depend for their maintenance upon rich men. The kings of Israel settled such distributions to be monthly; and so contrived, that the tributes which were to serve for that purpose, were laid on by monthly accounts. See 1 Kings 4:7; 1 Kings 4:27. Instead of there shall be no more curse, Revelation 22:3. Bishop Sherlock would read, every curse shall cease. This part of the description of the new Jerusalem seems to point out to us how much greater the happiness of this state will be, than was the happiness of the first paradise. In this state, the faithful servants of Christ shall be in no danger of forfeiting their happiness, and losing paradise, as our first parents did: in this paradisaical state, they shall be a kingdom of priests unto God for ever. This evidently describes a state of happiness incomparably above the condition of this world, and only to be enjoyed in the heavenly Jerusalem.


Verse 6

Revelation 22:6, &c.— The prophetic part of this book ends in a perfect happiness of the faithful, great above all imagination, certain as the word of prophesy, and lasting without end; a powerful encouragement and persuasive to constancy in the profession and practice of pure Christianity, whatever difficulties or dangers might attend it. What follows, to the end, is the conclusion of the whole book, or a sort of epilogue, which confirms the truth of the prophesies contained in these Revelations; shews the importance and use of them; and is well fitted to leave them with strong impressions on the hearts of readers, to preserve them from a compliance with any corruptions of the Christian faith and worship, and to encourage their constancy in the ways of truth and righteousness.

He said unto me, These sayings, &c.— In the conclusion, the angel ratifies and confirms all the foregoing particulars by a repetition of the same solemn assurance which he had given, ch. Revelation 19:9 and Revelation 21:5 that these sayings are true and faithful; and he was commissioned by the same God, who had inspired the ancient prophets, to shew the things that must shortly be done; which would very soon begin in part to be fulfilled, and in process of time would all be completed. Behold, I come quickly, says he, Revelation 22:7. For we may observe, that the angel speaks sometimes in his own person, and sometimes in the person and character of Christ, whose ambassador and representative he was. Christ is said to come upon any notable and illustrious manifestation of his providence; and all these are but so many steps, to prepare the way for his last coming to judgment. A blessing too is pronounced (as in ch. Revelation 1:3.) upon those who keep the sayings of this book; and, as Vitringa devoutly wishes,

"May the Lord bestow his grace and favour upon us, who have employed some time and pains in the study andexplication of this book, that some part of this blessing also may descend to us!"


Verses 8-21

Revelation 22:8-21. John saw these things, and heard, &c.— St. John testifies himself to have been the person who saw and heard these things; and in his extasy falling into the same mistake which he had committed, ch. Revelation 19:10 he is gently corrected in the same manner by the angel; who orders him, Revelation 22:10 not to seal up this prophesy, as Daniel's was (ch. Revelation 12:4-9.); for the time is at hand;—some of the particulars would very soon be accomplished, as indeed all would in their due season: which he farther enforces, Revelation 22:11-15 with promises and threatenings, of rewards to the righteous, and of vengeance to the wicked. It was not thought sufficient to represent the angel speaking in the person of Christ, but Christ himself is also introduced, Revelation 22:16 speaking in his own person, confirming the divine authority of this book, and attesting it to be properly his revelation concerning the churches: The Spirit and the bride, Revelation 22:17. (that is, the spiritual bride,—the true church of Christ,) therefore receives it, and ardently wishes for its completion. The book being of this importance, a solemn adjuration is addedby Christ himself, that no man presume to add any thing to it, or take any thing from it, Revelation 22:18-19. He who testifieth these things, saith, Surely I come quickly, Revelation 22:20. He not only attests them to be true, but will also come speedily to accomplish them: to which St. John answers, and in him the whole church, Amen. Even so; Come, Lord Jesus! He closes all with the usual apostolical benediction, Revelation 22:21 wishing the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to the churches of Asia in particular, and to all Christians in general. The conclusion is truly excellent, as well as all other parts of this book; and nothing could be contrived to leave these things with a stronger impression upon the minds of the readers. In the whole, from first to last, appears the majesty of the divine Revealer,—the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the author and finisher of every good work, and of this more particularly. This is the sure word of prophesy, whereunto Christians, as St. Peter says, do well to take heed and attend. 2 Peter 1:19. Attention then to this book is recommended to us, upon the authority of St. Peter, as well as of the writer, St. John: a double blessing, as we have seen in the book itself, is pronounced upon those who shall study and observe it; first in ch. Revelation 1:3 and here again, ch. Revelation 22:7. Emboldened by which blessings, with Nehemiah we would pray, "Remember us, O my God, concerning this also, and spare us according to the greatness of thy mercy!" Nehemiah 13:22. We would observe with the pious and excellent Dr. Doddridge, our faithful and useful companion through the writings of the New Testament,—How sweetlyand delightfully the canon of scripture concludes, leaving as it were the music of heaven upon the attentive ear! O thou blessed Root and Offspring of David! O thou bright and morning star! impress on all our hearts these thy gracious words which thou halt condescended to speak from the throne of thy glory! thereby as it were to aid the weaknessof our faith in those which thou didst deliver while dwelling in mortal flesh: then did the compassionate Saviour proclaim from an eminence in the temple, to a crowded assembly, on a day of peculiar solemnity, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink; John 7:37. And now, behold he makes the same proclamation from his celestial temple; he points as it were to the fountainhead of happiness, to the springs of the water of life near the throne of God; and says, whoever will, let him come, let him take, let him freely take of this living water, Revelation 22:17. Yea, and not content with speaking this language by his Spirit only, he calls on his bride, to lift up her melodious voice, to publish this kind invitation. He calls on every one who hears it, to echo it back, as if the excess of his goodness overcame him, as if it were necessary to his happiness that men should accept of their own salvation.

With what sacred observance should these books be guarded, which contain a message of such infinite importance! of what dreadful curses are they worthy, who presume to add to what is already perfect, or to take away from that, which is in every part divine! Revelation 22:18. God forbid that any of us should ever presumptuously attempt to do it! And may we be preserved from those mistaken interpretations, in consequence of which we might teach the world, asby His authority, any thing which He has not dictated; or deny any thing which carries with it the stamp of such an authority! Have pity, O Lord, upon our weakness! Impute not prejudices which thou knowest we do not allow; and give us a greater penetration of mind, to understand the true sense of thy word; a simplicity of heart to receive it; an integrity, so far as the duty of our stations requires, to declare, and a zeal to inculcate and defend it.

Whilewearethusemployed,—oremployedin any other services which Providence may assign us;—whatever labours may exercise;whatever difficulties may surround; whatever sorrows may depress; whatever malice, misrepresentation, or calumny may vex us; may it be our pleasure to hear the Lord of our love proclaiming, "Behold, I come quickly:—I come to put a period to the trials and suffering of my servants. I come, and my reward of grace is with me, to recompense with royal bounty every work of faith and labour of love. I come to receive my faithful persevering people to myself, to dwell for ever in that blissful world, where the sacred volume which contains the important discoveries of my will shall be no more necessary; but knowledge, and holiness, and joy, shall be poured in upon their souls, in a more immediate, a more noble, and a more effectual manner;" Amen! even so, come, Lord Jesus! hasten the blessed hour to us, and to all the churches, so far as it may consist with thy wise and holy counsels; and, in the mean time, may thy grace be with us, to keep alive the remembrance of thy love, and the expectation of thy coming, in our hearts; and to animate us to a temper and conduct which may suit the blessings we have already received, and the nobler felicity after which thou hast taught us to aspire! Amen, and Amen.

Inferences.Let us again contemplate the new Jerusalem with new and growing delight. Let us raise our eyes to the water of life, which issues from the throne of God and the Lamb: to the tree of life, which grows on its banks, and produces such a variety of fruit, both for food and refreshment, and for the healing of the nations; to that more excellent paradise, in which there shall be no curse, where, from the throne of God and of the Lamb, shall be scattered ten thousand blessings on all his servants; who shall there serve him, with everlasting, with increasing delight, being admitted to see his face, and exulting in their having the name of God written upon their foreheads: which they reckon a brighter and nobler ornament, than the most glorious crown, or diadem, without such an inscription, could be. These are the words of truth and faithfulness; and, as such, may our faith embrace them, and our souls ever rest upon them.

O that we may feel our thirst after this water of life, our hunger after this fruit of the tree of life, powerfully and perseveringly excited. We shall then in both respects, be satisfied in the proper season; and, in the mean time, God will send us some refreshments, during our continuance in the wilderness. And O, may divine love, and every genuine regard to God and the Lamb, prevail and govern in our hearts; and may our lives be devoted to that service, in which we hope our eternity will be employed. Have we not already, as it were, received the mark of God in our foreheads? Have we not solemnly enlisted ourselves to fight under the banner of Christ? Have we not, in repeated and most affecting solemnities and ordinances of his own institution, declared our desire of being for ever devoted to him? O let us ever remember the sacred engagement. Let holiness to the Lord be written on our hearts, as well as on our foreheads. Let all our affections, and all our faculties, all our possessions, and all our pursuits, be consecrated to God. To bear this name and inscription, will now, even in this dark and benighted world, shed a glory around us. It will be as a sacred guide to our ways, it will cheer and animate our hearts, it will bring down to us many a delightful foretaste of that world, where (if faithful,) in his light we shall see light, and where we shall reign with him for ever and ever.

Again, Let us be very thankful, that the words of this prophesy are not sealed from us; but that truths, in which we have so important a concern, are so plainly published and proclaimed. The time is near, when a seal will be set on the characters of men: blessed be God, he who is now unrighteous and polluted, may be purified and reformed, justified and saved. Adored be that grace, that waits so long upon sinners! But the divine long-suffering towards them will have its period: yet a little while, and Jesus comes, to render to every man according to his works. May we then be fixed in a world of immutable holiness and happiness!

The Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, has discovered to us many evangelical truths in this mysterious book. He has directed our eyes to himself, even to the Lamb that was slain to redeem us to God by his blood; and has shewed us the saints in glory, laying down their crowns in his presence, and ascribing the praise of all their salvation to him; but he has shewn us nothing that is inconsistent with the necessity of real and universal holiness. Yea, he himself proclaims those alone to be entitled to enter the gates of the new Jerusalem, and to eat of the fruit of the tree of life, who do God's commandments. Let us not, therefore, deceive ourselves with vain words, nor attend to any who would sophisticate the word of God, and, fixing their view only on some detached passages of it, enervate, by their unguarded interpretations, its general scope and meaning. Let us, in reviewing scripture, observe what God commands and requires, and compare it with what he forbids, that we may thereby impartially judge and try ourselves. And how free soever we may be from any of the grosser crimes here enumerated, such as fornication, murder, and idolatry, let us not allow ourselves in the love and practice of any thing inconsistent with the immutable rule of righteousness and truth; as well knowing every allowed and continued indulgence of that kind, to be utterly irreconcilable with a well-grounded hope of inheriting eternal life. May it please thee, O Lord, to inscribe all these laws upon our hearts; that our joy, in the hope and prospect of the promised blessedness, may rise in proportion to our acquaintance with thy unerring word, and to the impartiality and diligence with which we trace the actions of our lives and the affections of our hearts by a comparison with it, and reduce them to a holy conformity to its precepts.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The angelic guide further leads the apostle to view some other emblematical glories of this celestial city.

1. He shews him a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God, and of the Lamb, the figure of those eternal consolations, and that vital influence, immediately derived from communion with the Fountain of eternal bliss.

2. The tree of life, the emblem of Jesus the Lord of life and glory, here spread its branches on both sides the river; or several in a row were planted on the river's bank, yielding perpetual fruit, new every month; and the very leaves are for the healing of the nations; intimating the rich provision of unceasing delights which is here made for the faithful, and their perfect preservation in soul and body from all decay or infirmity.

3. No curse can there enter; the eternal felicity and impeccability of the saints are secured; and before the throne of God and of the Lamb they shall pay their unceasing adorations, enjoy the beatific vision of the God of glory, and bear his bright image on them, as visibly as if his name was engraven on their foreheads.

4. No night is there; nor need they the sun or a candle, where the Lord God is their everlasting Light: and they shall reign with him for ever and ever. O blest abode! my soul, aspire after it, and eager press for an entrance into this everlasting kingdom of thy God and Saviour.

Secondly, We have,

1. A solemn ratification, given by the angel, of the certainty of these events. These sayings are faithful and true: he was sent expressly from the Lord Jesus to reveal to St. John the things which would begin shortly to be accomplished, and continue fulfilling until the end of time.

2. The Lord Jesus himself speaks, or the angel speaks as his representative: Behold, I come quickly; prepare to meet me; the whole period of time is comparatively short and momentary: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophesy of this book, faithfully adheres to the gospel word, and confidently expects the fulfilment of the promises.

3. Overcome with what he heard and saw, and scarcely himself through rapture, St. John fell before the angel; but again is reproved and prevented: angels are but our fellow-servants.

4. The Lord, or his representative angel, again addresses him, and bids him not seal up the prophesies of this book, but deliver them to the church, the time for their fulfilment now approaching: and when they are accomplished, men's everlasting state will be fixed unchangeably. He who in the great day is found filthy and unjust, must remain so for ever under the wrath of God; and he that is found righteous in the Lord, and made holy by his Spirit, shall be eternally blessed.

5. The adorable Jesus repeats his assurance for the comfort of his faithful people. Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his works shall be, whether good or bad. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last; the great Origin of all things, and the ultimate End for which all things were created; and what I say may be depended upon as the words of invariable fidelity: hear them therefore with attention and regard. And, since my nature and perfections are immutable, see that the necessary change be made in yourselves in order to your obtaining that happiness of which your sins may now render you incapable. And it will shortly appear how blessed are they that do his commandments, and approve their fidelity to God, that they may have right, through the promise, to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city, partaking of all the inconceivable blessedness prepared for the faithful: while those who shall be found disobedient, unholy, or profane, shall be eternally excluded from these bright mansions. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie; whoever lives and dies under the guilt of any of these things, perishes irrecoverably.

6. The Lord Jesus confirms to him what the angel had told him. I Jesus, your Lord and Master, have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in, or concerning, the churches; and their future state and condition. I am the root and the offspring of David; as God, his root; as man, his offspring; and the bright and morning star, leading my faithful people in paths of everlasting peace.

7. The Spirit and the bride say, Come, welcome the Saviour, and wait the fulfilment of his promise. And let him that heareth, even every faithful soul, take up the word and say, Come. And let him that is athirst for spiritual blessings, come: and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely; and out of these wells of salvation, the scriptures, let him draw the living streams of grace and consolation. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophesy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, now the canon of revelation is complete, by new pretended visions, or wilful perversion of their meaning, 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 prophesy, 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,—an awful sanction, which guards the sacred records, and binds the heaviest vengeance upon those who dare, by base adulterations, add thereto, or diminish therefrom.

Thirdly, The Lord Jesus closes his Revelation,

1. With a solemn confirmation of the whole. He which testifieth these things, saith, Surely, I come quickly, certainly and speedily, for the comfort and salvation of my faithful people.

2. The apostle, in the name of all the saints, professes his confidence in the promise. Amen! Lord, I believe; fulfil it in due season. Even so be it; come, Lord Jesus, and bring to us complete and final salvation!

3. He concludes with his benediction. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all! May you experience the riches of his free and unmerited favour and love; be strengthened by his Spirit mightily in the inner man, to stand faithfully in the evil day, comfortably and confidently persevering in the truth; may you, when all your conflicts end, enter into that eternal state of rest and blessedness which is here revealed. Amen! Such are my prayers for thee, Reader; may we now, without ceasing, be found uniting our supplications before a throne of grace; and together may we meet around a throne of glory, and spend a happy eternity in the praises of our adored Jesus! Amen!

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 22:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/revelation-22.html. 1801-1803.

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