To His Own Word (vv. 16-17)
He Certifies His Word to Us
Our Lord now gives the last and final witness to his churches. This is as it should be, for he is the faithful and true witness. He is God’s word who has come down from heaven and speaks the word of God (John 3:34). He alone has the words of everlasting life (John 6:68). No one has seen the Father but him, and no one reveals the Father but him (John 1:18). He is thus the ultimate certifier of the truth and certainty of God’s word. This was his witness about the Old Testament Scriptures (John 5:47; 10:35), and it was his promise about the New (John 16:13). Now, he certifies this particular book. They are God’s word to us. If we hear and keep them, he will bless us. If we twist or ignore them, their curses will fall upon us. In our age of almost complete Pilate-like skepticism – “What is truth? – it is the Lord Jesus Christ who clears up our confusion. We must run from our own sinful thoughts and ways. Otherwise, we shall be forever lost in our dark labyrinths of sin and foolishness. Our Lord said to come to him that we might have abundant life. “If you continue in my word, you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8:32)”. We should not look to experts to certify God’s word before we submit to it. This is the devil’s path. Faith comes before knowledge, humility before understanding.
He Is the Savior and Light of the World
All of life is theological, and it is not the absence of theology that is killing us under secularism but a false and satanic theology. The true theology is that God made this world, and he made man in his own image. The living God defines us, and when we try to live outside his authority and word, we bring misery and destruction to our souls and societies. Since he made us, our lives are nothing but an existence in him and by him and for him. But we rebelled. And the entire last 6,000 years have been the unfolding of two very different stories. On the one side, there is the seed of the woman. This is all those who believe God’s promise of mercy in Jesus Christ. The other side is the seed of the serpent, all those who believe his lies, want to be like God and determine good and evil for themselves. The seed of the serpent always produces death – the empires of the past, the philosophies of Persia, Athens, and Rome, the apostasy of Judaism, and the beast of medieval Roman Catholicism were all for a time capitals of the city of man. They hate God and kill men who love the truth. They hated Jesus Christ, and they crucified him, the Lord of glory. They do the same to his followers to this very minute. They will not have Jesus Christ to rule over them, even though his kingdom is so gentle and beneficent and life-giving.
The real history is that God made a promise of life and salvation to Abraham and his seed, who is Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16). He renewed that promise to David, and a millennium later, his seed came, the “root and offspring of David,” who is the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant and who sits on David’s throne, the right hand of the Father in heaven. He is also “the bright and morning star,” which is another way of calling him the light of the world. He is the only Savior of the world. He is the promised crusher of Satan’s head. His seed, the children of Abraham, the disciples of Jesus Christ, always receive his word, for the Spirit gives them “the love of the truth that they might be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). Members of Satan’s seed may like aspects of the Christian philosophy or use Christian trappings and ideas to enrich themselves, but they hate God’s word. When confronted with self or Scripture, they will choose self every time. Jesus Christ came to confirm the Scriptures and to inspire his apostles by the Spirit to complete the revelation – not tradition, not man-originating philosophies, but the word of God. He alone can give that witness, for he is the Son and Christ of God. If you want to know the truth, confess before Jesus Christ your utter mental, emotional, and volitional leprosy and blindness. Cast yourself upon his mighty strength to clear up your confusion and bring light into your life. Surrender to that light and by his grace resolve to live by his word alone. You will bear fruit. Satan and his seed are a barren waste land – like trying to find living grass and healthy food in an amusement park – plenty of pleasure, nothing living. Christ and his seed are a living garden of truth and holiness by the indwelling Spirit.
He Invites the World to Come to Him
Four voices now respond to Christ’s word. First, the Spirit and the Bride, almost antiphonally, the one singing or confessing to the other, “Come.” It is the Spirit’s work to bear witness to the word of Christ, and the true church always responds to her Savior’s word in faith and love. Yes, Lord, we will come to you. Everyone who hears is invited to come to him. “Wisdom stands in the streets and utters her voice” (Prov. 1:20). The city of man and its citizens whisper and conspire in dark corners. Not so the church of Jesus Christ – her Savior, his word, his gospel, his cross – she openly boasts in them and wants to share God’s grace with the whole world. The thirsty are invited to come. Jesus Christ will give the water of life freely. “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1). The glory, beauty, grace, and salvation of Jesus Christ cannot be purchased with anything we possess. He purchased us by his precious blood. He paid the ransom price, and he invites the world to come to him – his Bride, all who hear, the thirsty. He invites us this morning. Come to Jesus Christ. He will chase away our darkness, fear, and doubts. He will atone for our sins by his once-for-all shed blood. He will present us faultless before the throne of God by his perfect obedience unto death. And have we become thirsty again, perhaps because we stayed away from the water too long or drank of the world’s poisoned streams of possession and pleasure, fear and strife. The Spirit is bearing witness to the word of Jesus Christ. Come. Come to Jesus Christ.
To the Danger of Altering his Word (vv. 18-19)
Add to His Word, God Will Add Plagues
Our Lord speaks with self-conscious and unquestionable authority. He did not offer pious advice or determine which way the public wind was blowing before speaking. Today, however, some of his professing friends imagine him more like a progressive guru, downplaying absolutes, a well of winsome suggestions and therapeutic advice. He is not this at all. At the end of Revelation, he quoted Deuteronomy 4:2. If you add to this word of mine, then God will add to you all the plagues that are written in this book. If you take away from the words of this book, you will lose heaven – your name in the book of life, membership in the holy city, and from all the blessings written in this book. Clearly, our Lord wants his church to keep and guard his word. Perhaps this is something of a closing canonical pronouncement upon the New Testament – not that Revelation was written last, but that it concerns the whole flow of history from his ascension to the new heaven and earth. In that sense, he is telling us that we live by his word in this era. Do not trifle with it, lose it with false interpretations, ignore it, or allow the text to become lost through indifference or ecclesiastical tyranny.
Jesus’ Word That Important?
And yet, when most of us are asked if we know God’s word well, or if we read it regularly and prayerfully, or meditate upon his word, we must answer a bit sheepishly. Please understand that we are not “more saved” by being a Bible expert. The Father does not love us more if we read the Bible more. Our best works cannot get us into heaven, and our worst works cannot keep us out. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith, in the person and work of Jesus Christ. At the same time, knowing and keeping Jesus’ word is really an issue of how well do you want to know him? How much joy would you have in God? How much do you love him, so that you want to obey him? Yes, fundamentally, there must be some love for him that manifests itself in obedience to his word (John 14:17-21). But do we want to be better protected against the lies of the world? More bold in speaking our Savior’s gospel? More wisdom to live for the Lord? A deeper sense of our Father’s love and acceptance of us before his throne of grace? Know his Book. Note Jesus’ earnestness about his word. Remember that he adds plagues to those who add to his word and takes away their place in heaven from those who take away from his word by neglect and abuse. These are serious warnings. They are from our Lord. They reflect his desert battle with Satan, his agonies in Gethsemane, and his dying groans on Calvary – the Scriptures, the Scriptures, the Scriptures must be fulfilled. And if we love the Lord Jesus, we are going to be lovers and keepers of his word. We follow our Shepherd by hearing and heeding his word.
To Come Quickly (vv. 20-21)
To Deliver the First-Century Church
One of the tests of a true prophet from Yahweh is that the word he speaks in the Lord’s name comes to pass. Our Lord here promised to that generation that he would come quickly. The three seven-series of judgments – seals, trumpets, and bowls – have been the announcement of his coming on the clouds to judge Jerusalem in that generation. He kept his word. Remember that those first years were different than now. Satan was but recently cast out as the accuser of the brothers and went to make war against the Lamb’s wife (12:17). He was intent upon destroying the mother’s child as soon as she was born. This is the reason for the double vise – apostate Judaism sitting on the beast of the Roman Empire – false religion and totalitarian statism aligned to crush the only thing that can oppose them on earth – the faithful, obedient, confessing church of Jesus Christ. Our Lord promised to come quickly to help her, and he did. He turned the beast against the harlot. In the centuries immediately following, he dealt with the beast. He is the faithful and true prophet. We need not force his word to fit our elaborate time schemes. He told his disciples they would see Jerusalem’s walls a heap. They did. The high priest saw him coming on the clouds of judgment. He warned Jerusalem of imminent judgment for all the righteous blood she had shed. He is the faithful witness. He always keeps his word.
To Give Us Grace in Every Age
We have also seen that beginning in chapter 19, John is shown the future and progress of Christ’s kingdom from the fall of pagan Rome to the end, after the millennial reign of Jesus Christ, when he returns to consummate his kingdom and bring in the new heavens and earth. There is an implied promise that he will come to help his church throughout this period, however many centuries and ages elapse before he returns. He will come to give her grace to be faithful – if she will heed his word. Sad epochs of spiritual weakness, ecclesiastical tyranny, even apostasy, have resulted from the failure to keep his word and to replace it preaching with human traditions and ceremonies. Virtually all persecution has wolves aligning with civil power to beat up on Christ’s true lambs. What has brought the church through these dark times? Faithfulness to the word of Christ. His faithful wife has died not to build cathedrals and worldly monuments but to have and hold his pure word, without man’s corruptions and additions. And thus, we can expect him to come faithfully to us in our day to give us grace to be faithful, as we hold fast to him and his word. He gives grace and strength through the means of his word and Spirit, as we pray and hunger for him.
To Return to Create the New Heaven and Earth
Is there not perhaps another sense in which he here testifies that he is coming – to consummate and fulfill the last visions of the book, of a new heaven and earth, the great white throne judgment, and the unveiling of his perfect wife? His judgment upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was not the second coming. It was a specific coming for a specific purpose as specifically promised. We are looking for the new heaven and earth. Our Lord has promised to come as we saw him go – bodily, visibly, from heaven. He will return with a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet announcing the eternal jubilee for his faithful Bride. We have his promise, and we must keep oil in our lamps and live in holy expectation that he will return from heaven and destroy Satan with the brightness of his coming. The oil in our lamps goes out – hope, joy, wisdom, purpose, peace – when we are not praying and looking and longing for our Lord’s return. The coming of our Lord and the new heaven and earth he will create are the beating heart of our faith.
And We Respond: Come Quickly, Lord Jesus
The church longs for the return of Jesus Christ, the wife for her Husband – yes, Lord, come quickly. It is this desire – or the absence of it – that really distinguishes the weak from the strong believer – not how many books we read or conferences we attend, not will power or position or gifts or personal ministry – it is hunger for Jesus Christ. Our faith is about him – it is not about changing civilization or making men better. As good as any Christian people have been or will be in the future, it cannot be heaven and must be marked by the fall, sin, and weakness. Can you say with John and the whole church, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus?” We want him to come for true faith hungers for Jesus Christ, as the bride for her husband. He is our foundation for life, our strength, and our purpose for living. There is no one we love better than him. No one but he can fill our soul with life and good. This life at its best is a pilgrim’s path and battlefield. It is not our home, and to “depart and be with Christ is better by far.” Let this be our daily response, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and fears will subside. Earthly dreams will be balanced by heavenly expectations. Sin will lose some of its taste. The soul will sing more and complain less. He is coming. His grace will sustain until we see him.