The River of Life and Come, Lord Jesus!
Ezekiel's vision of the "River of Life" flowing from the Temple 14 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple:
(40:1-4a)"... the hand of Yahweh was on me. He carried me away: in divine visions, he carried me away to the land of Israel and put me down on a very high mountain, on the south of which there seemed to be built a city. He took me to it, and there I saw a man, whose appearance was like brass. He had a flax cord and a measuring rod in his hand and was standing in the gateway. The man said to me, 'Son of man, look carefully, listen closely and pay attention to everything I show you, since you have been brought here only for me to show it to you..."
(47:1, 12)"He brought me back to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream flowed eastwards from under the Temple threshold, for the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar." (vs 12) 'Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.'"
Ezekiel 40: 1-4a & 47:1, 12
"There is a river whose streams bring joy to God's city, it sanctifies the dwelling of the Most High. God is in the city, it cannot fall.."
"On the last day, the great day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried out: 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink! As scripture says, 'From his heart shall flow streams of living water.'" John 7:37-38
"It is not ourselves that we are proclaiming, but Christ Jesus as the Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. It is God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' that has shone into our hearts to enlighten them with the knowledge of God's glory, the glory on the face of Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:5 6
"If there is anyone who does not love the Lord, a curse on such a one. Maran atha." 1 Corinthians 16:22
Ezekiel Passages: Ezekiel chapter 47
Please read Revelation 22:1-7 The River of Life
Verse 1-2 "Then the angel showed me the River of Life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear. Down the middle of the city street, on either bank of the river were trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the nations."
Question: What positive image does water symbolize in the New Testament? Hint: see John 1: 32-33; 4:10-14; 7:37-39; 19:34; 1 Cor. 12:13; and 1John 5:8. Answer: God the Holy Spirit.
John 1:33 "I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptize with water had said to me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit."
John 4:14 "..no one who drinks the water that I shall give him will ever be thirsty again: the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water, welling up for eternal life."
John 19:34 "...and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water.
1Cor 12:13 "We were baptized into one body in a single Spirit, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as free men, and we were all given the same Spirit to drink.")
CCC#694: Symbols of the Holy Spirit: "Water. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit's action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As by one Spirit we were all baptized, so we are also made to drink of one Spirit. Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life." [Jn 4:10-14; 7:38 etc.]
Question: Why does the River of Life flow crystal-clear? Answer: see Rev. 21:27 "Nothing unclean may come into it [the City].."
Question: Therefore, if the River of Life represents God the Holy Spirit, what mystery of Christian faith is represented in 22 verse 1? Answer: The Most Holy Trinity: The Holy Spirit [the River of Life], God [the Father], and the Lamb [God the Son].
This passage also reveals a theological point that has been debated for centuries among Eastern and Western Rite Catholics known as the Filioque clause of the Nicene-Constantinople Creed. The Latin tradition of the Creed confesses that God the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son [filioque]." Eastern Rite Catholics expresses the Father's character as the first origin of the Spirit by confessing the Spirit as He "who proceeds from the Father," and affirms that He comes from the Father but through the Son. This passage "The River of Life rising from the throne of God and the Lamb" is one of the proof texts for Western Rite Catholics in support of the filioque clause because the River of Life flows both from the Father and the Son.
Belief in the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity as One holy and eternal God is a belief is central to Christian faith and which separates Christians from non-Christians. The Catholic Church, for example, does not recognize Mormon baptism as legitimate Christian baptism because Mormons do not believe in the unity of the Trinity as One holy and Eternal God. Instead, Mormans believe in a trinity of 3 different gods. (see the Mormon reference: History of the Church 6.474).
Please see CCC#s 232-267 for more information on the mystery of the Trinity:
CCC# 233: "Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: not in their names, for there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son, and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity.
CCC# 234: "The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the 'hierarchy of the truths of faith.' The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and means by which one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men 'and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin.'"
Verse 2: "on either bank of the river were trees of life". In the Greek the Tree-of-Life reference is singular, not plural. The more accurate translation would be: "..on each side of the River was Tree of Life." This reference clearly points to the symbolic and sacramental nature of this passage.
Question: What is unique about the fruit of this forest of the Tree-of-Life and what do the leaves symbolize? Hint: see Psalms 1:3; 46:5; and Ezekiel 47:1-12.
Answer: the leaves never wither (see Palsms 1:3), it bears continuously 12 months a year (remember the symbolic imagery of the number 12 is perfection of government and authority), and it heals (see Ezekiel 47:1=12 and Palms 46:5). The perpetual green of the leaves and the healing quality symbolizes the joy of eternal life while the continuous bearing fruit symbolizes the eternal nature of the life of the redeemed.
There are two words used for the Cross of the crucifixion in the New Testament: stauros and xulon. The word stauros can refer either to wood of the tree itself (considered as the instrument of execution) or to the patibulum which is the upper crosspiece to which the victim's hands were nailed before the entire piece as nailed to the upright tree. In this passage the Greek word used is xulon which is the word 'wood' or 'tree' (as in a living tree) and which is also used in the New Testament passages with reference to the Cross of the crucifixion in Acts 5:30 ("..it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, whom you executed by hanging on a tree."); 10:39; 13:29; 1Peter 2:24 and here in Revelation 22. It is, in fact, likely the Jesus was crucified on a living tree as a fulfillment of the Old Covenant curse on anyone who is "hanged on a tree" (Deut 21:22-23; Joshua 10:26-27). Paul saw Christ's crucifixion as a fulfillment of the Old Covenant curse in Gal. 3:13.
Saint Ireaneus (m. 207AD) and other Fathers of the Church saw the Cross as the difinitive Tree-of-Life. The Tree-of-Life that was in the Garden of Eden was only a promise of the true Tree-of-Life that would be fulfilled in Christ's sacrifice for the sins of the world. In this imagery, the Covenants of God with His people come full circle. The first sign of the Covenant with Adam was the Tree-of-Life in the Garden of Eden, a tree that held the promise of eternal life. Now, in the last Covenant with the New Adam, man is redeemed through the Cross which has become the Covenant sign of God's abundant grace giving eternal life to redeemed mankind:
1st Adam/Tree-of-Life = eternal life for Adam à Jesus (#2 Adam)/Tree-of-Life = the Cross redeeming man to eternal life by Christ's blood atoning for the sin of Adam
As the 7th Vision continues, the Chalice Angel of 21:9 shows John "the River of Life". John's vision is clearly a parallel to the springs of water welling up out of the ground in the Garden of Eden to form a river which then parted into four streams that went out to water the earth (Genesis 2:10-14). This image is later repeated in Ezekiel's vision in Ezekiel chapter 47 of the New Covenant Temple. In the Old Covenant the people of God had to journey to the Temple in Jerusalem to be cleansed but the promise of the New Covenant is that a mighty river of grace and life will spill forth to cleanse the whole earth. Please read Ezekiel 40: 1-4 and then 47: 1-12.
Question: In Ezekiel's vision from where does the water flow? Answer: eastwards from
under the Temple threshold and from under the right side of the Temple.
You will recall that Christ is seated on the right hand of God the Father. You may also remember that the Old Covenant Tabernacle, and later the Temple in Jerusalem, was oriented to face the east. In front of the Tabernacle/Temple was a great bronze laver or basin [Exodus 30:17-21] which was called the "sea" in the Temple in Jerusalem [1Kings 7:23-28]. It was necessary for the priests to purify themselves with the 'holy water' before entering the Holy Place.
Question: What parallel is there between the bronze laver for ritual purification in the Old Covenant and the River of Life of God's Holy Spirit in Rev. chapter 22? Answer: In John's vision it is as though the bronze laver has been poured out to purify the whole earth as the Holy Spirit renews creation.
Question: In Ezekiel's vision there were "enormous numbers of trees on each bank of the river". How does this compare to John's vision?
Answer: In John's vision there is Tree-of-Life [singular] lining the riverbanks indicating that Tree-of-Life is the 'singular' and unique gift of salvation.
Question: How does John's vision of Tree-of-Life compare with Adam's Tree-of-Life?
Answer: The blessing, which Adam forfeited through sin, has now been restored in superabundance. What we have gained in Christ is so much more than we lost through Adam. As St Paul wrote to the Romans: "If death came to many through the offence of one man, how much greater an effect the grace of God has had, coming to so many and so plentifully as a free gift through the one man Jesus Christ! Romans 5:15
Question: Compare Rev. 22:2 and Ezekiel 47:12. What are the similarities? Answer: In both passages the Tree-of-Life is continuously bearing fruit in a never ending supply of life as Christ promised the "overcomes" in Revelation 2:7 "for those who prove victorious I will feed from the tree of life set in God's paradise."
Question: In both passages how will the Tree-of-Life transform the whole world? Answer: The leaves of the Tree are for the healing of the nations which have been redeemed and healed by the blood of Christ and who now follow the light of the Gospel.
Question: Is this a blessing reserved only for eternity?
Answer: No. The Tree- of-Life is sustaining believers now as they partake of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist and its effects continue into eternity.
Question: In His earthly ministry Jesus promised this gift of "living water." What were the circumstances under which that promise was given? Hint: see John chapters 4:1-14 and 7:37-39.
Answer: Jesus made this promise when He talked to the woman of Samaria when Christ the Bridegroom was courting Samaria the Bride (you will recall that in Scripture a bride is always courted at a well), and later during the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem He promised that "who ever believes in Me" would receive "rivers of living water."
Please turn to the Gospel of John chapter 7:37. In this passage Jesus has gone to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. It is also called the Feast of Shelters, or in Hebrew, Sukkoth (sukkoth is the plural of sukka which means 'booth'). Please refer to the chart of the Seven Sacred Feasts of the Old Covenant. This Feast was one of the three pilgrim feasts in which every man of the Covenant [13 years or older] was required to present himself before God at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Feast of Tabernacles followed 5 days after the Day of Atonement, which had been celebrated on the 10th day of the 7th month (there is an interesting parallel to the 10th day of the first month when the lambs for the Passover sacrifice were selected). In the Feast of Atonement the sin of Israel had been removed and its covenant relation to God restored. Now a sanctified nation could keep a holy feast of harvest joy in communion with Yahweh the Almighty.
The Feast Of Tabernacles was described by the Jewish historians Philo and Josephus (and in many passages of the Mishnah) as the "holiest and greatest" of all the Holy Feasts (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews , 8.4.1). It was the 7th feast celebrated in the 7th month. It was the feast that ended the liturgical year and it was celebrated for a
7-day period beginning on the 15th day of the 7th month (as the Passover Supper was also celebrated on the 15th of the first month) until the 21st, and the last day was followed by an 'Octave' on the 22nd , making the entire feast an 8 day celebration. This feast celebrated God taking possession of the Tabernacle in the desert at Mt. Sinai [Exodus 40:34-35] when God's people dwelled in booths in the wilderness, but the feast also pointed to the final harvest when Israel's mission should be completed and all the nations were harvested and gathered into the Lord's Holy Covenant.
The symbolism of the feast began with the building of booths in the fields and the celebration of the completed harvest for the year. This was, in fact, the time of the year when the grapes of the vineyards were harvested. During the feast 70 bulls were sacrificed to Yahweh representing the symbolic number of the 70 gentile nations. There was also the ceremony of the outpouring of water, which was considered of such importance that the festival was also referred to as the 'House of Outpouring' [Mishnah, Sukkah 5.1].
On the 7th day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the High Priest would lead a procession to the Pool of Siloam. The people would carry in their right hand the Lulabh (branches of willow and myrtle tied together with a palm-branch between them which was supposed to be in fulfillment of the command of Lev. 23:40 (these 3 are perhaps a foreshadow of Trinity). In their left hand each worshipper carried the Ethrog, a species of citron, the so-called 'Paradise-apple' representing the "fruit of the forbidden tree." When the procession reached to Pool of Siloam, the Priest filled a golden pitcher from the healing waters of the pool (see John 9:7-11). Then the procession returned to the Temple, timing their arrival just as the priests were laying the pieces of the morning sacrifice on the great Altar of Burnt-offering (Mishnah, Sukkah 3.8) towards the close of the ordinary Morning-Sacrifice service. A trumpet would sound three blasts announcing the arrival of the High Priest as he entered through the "Water-gate," which was named from this ceremony. The High Priest carrying the water would pass into the court of the Priests where he was joined by another priest who carried the wine for the drink-offering. The two priests then ascended 'the rise' of the altar where there were two silver funnels with narrow openings leading down to the base of the altar. The wine was poured at the eastern side and at the same time, the water was poured into the western opening of the altar. Immediately after 'the pouring', the great Hallel Psalms was chanted (Psalms 113-118 which was also chanted at Passover) to the accompaniment of the flute. As the great Levitical choir intoned the first line of each Psalm, the people repeated it, while to each of the succeeding lines they responded with "Halleluyah!" [Praise you Yahweh!]. When they came to Psalm 118 the assembly not only repeated the first line, "Give thanks to the LORD [Adonai] for He is good, for his faithful love endures for ever," but they also responded with "We beg you, LORD [Adonai], save us, we beg you, LORD [Adonai] give us victory!" (Ps. 118:25). Then again at the close of the Psalm the assembly called out "Give thanks to the LORD [Adonai] for he is good, for his faithful love endures for ever." As they repeated these lines, they also shook the Lulabh towards the altar. You may want to take some time to read Psalm 118. It is this Psalm verse 22 that Jesus quoted and identified as Himself when he said "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;" And then look at the prophetic importance of verse 25b "Blessed in the name of Yahweh is he who is coming!" The liturgical readings and the prescribed sacrifices followed the chanting of the Hallel Psalms. ( Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, pages 213-222; Mishnah, Sukkah: 1:1-5:8)
You might take a few minutes to reflect on the prophetic symbolism of this feast that pointed to the coming of the Messiah.
The celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles not only looked back to the time of the Exodus when God began to "tabernacle" with His Covenant people, but the feast also looked to future and the promise of the 'outpouring' of God's Spirit upon His people. The water symbolism was also reflected in the readings for the liturgy of this feast which included the Torah readings from Exodus 17:1-7 and from Numbers 20:7-11 when the children of Israel were sustained in the wilderness by the miraculous water God provided that flowed from 'the Rock' [please see the Christ is the Rock document in the charts section]. More than any other Holy Feast, the Feast of Tabernacles was regarded by the priests as a thanksgiving which pointed to the future (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p. 577).
Please keep this information in mind as you read John 7: 37-39 when Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Please read this passage.
Question: What connection is there to this passage in John's Gospel and the liturgical readings for the Feast of Tabernacles?
Answer: Jesus is telling the assembly of the Old Covenant Church that this "living water" will come from Him, that He is 'the Rock'.
Question: Remember the Song of Witness that Moses and Joshua were commanded to teach the Children of Israel in Deut. 32 which was sung at each daily sacrifice? How would Jesus' statement connect with this song?
Answer: Jesus is stating, in God's Temple in Jerusalem, that He is Yahweh!
Question: Does this understanding of the liturgy of the Feast of Tabernacles help you to understand the priests' outrage and their desire to kill Jesus?
Question: Is there a passage in the New Testament that clarifies Jesus' statement at the Feast of Tabernacles? Hint: see 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. Answer: In this passage from Corinthians St. Paul tells us that it was Christ Himself who was the Rock from which God's Covenant people received life-giving water. He is the Rock that sustained them in the wilderness, and He is also the Rock of Deut. Chapter 32: the Song of Witness sung at every daily Sacrifice, which identified God as The Rock!
Question: In John 7:38 Jesus says: "As scripture says, 'From his heart shall flow streams of living water.'' To what Old Testament Scripture passage is Jesus referring? Answer: Ezekiel 47:1-2. Jesus is identifying Himself as the Temple prophesized by the God's holy prophet Ezekiel from which the waters of eternal life will flow from the "heart" of the Temple to heal the world. We learned in Rev. 21:22 that God and the Lamb is the Temple.
This message of Jesus from John's Gospel would have been a shocking revelation to the Church assembled for this sacred feast. They would have understood exactly what he was saying: He is God who gives salvation and eternal life.
Question: Remembering the purpose of this final Holy Feast, what connection do you see between the Feast of Tabernacles and the vision that John is experiencing in chapter 22? Comment on each aspect of the celebration of the Feast, ie: living in booths, the 70 bulls of sacrifice for the gentile nations, the 'outpouring of water', etc.
Answer: The Feast of Tabernacles is being fulfilled now in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the Gospel flows out to redeem the gentile nations of the world (represented by the 70 bulls sacrificed for those nations). In Christ's resurrection the great harvest of souls has begun, bringing the redeemed to the heavenly assembly. But it will be fulfilled and culminated in the Second Advent of Christ'in the final Feast of Tabernacles.
God's plan of salvation for the Church as a Covenant people and for mankind can be seen in the Old Covenant system of Sacred Feasts. In the Old Covenant Sacred Feast system Passover was celebrated with the first harvest offered during the Feast of Firstfruits (barley harvest) within the week long celebration of Passover and then the feast of Pentecost completed the grain harvest with the harvest of the wheat. Each of these feasts foreshadowed the passion and resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost: Passover/ The First Eucharist, Unleavened Bread/ the crucifixion of Christ, Firstfruits/ the resurrection of Christ. Fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits (in the Biblical system, Rabbinic Judaism has changed the date of this feast so that it will not be fulfilled in Christ's resurrection to the day after Passover) came the Feast of Pentecost which resulted in 30AD in God the Holy Spirit coming and indwelling the New Covenant Church waiting in the Upper Room in Jerusalem on the very morning of that pilgrim feast!
Between the cycle of feasts came the long summer harvest. The last three feasts were the Feast of Trumpets, the Feast of Atonement and, at the end of the liturgical cycle of feasts, Tabernacles completed the yearly harvest with the harvest of the grapes. Within these Holy Feasts were have the symbol of the promise of Eucharist = the bread and the wine, over a thousand years before the birth of Christ!
It has long been my theory that if the first 4 feasts were fulfilled in Christ's first Advent, then the last 3 must be fulfilled in His Second Advent (please refer to the Chart on the Seven Holy Feasts). Is it possible that the Feast of Trumpets [Rosh haShanah] will be the fulfillment of His Second Coming? ("At the signal given by the voice of the Archangel and the trumpet of God, the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and only after that shall we who remain alive be taken up in the clouds, together with them, to meet the Lord in the air..." 1Thess 4:16-17). Will the next feast in the cycle, the Feast of Atonement [Yom Kippur] be fulfilled in the Great Judgment and will the last feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, be the creation of the new heaven and the new earth and the New Jerusalem that we see in Rev. chapter 22?
The Feast of Tabernacles is certainly fulfilled in John's vision of the New Jerusalem in chapter 21-22. In a sense, as we have seen the layers of fulfillment in John's vision. The promised fulfillment of this feast began with the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit at the second Great Pentecost in May of 30AD. At Pentecost God's Spirit filled and indwelled the Church and the Gospel message began to flow out to all the Gentile nations calling them back into the family of God (prefigured in the sacrifice of the 70 bulls at the Old Covenant Feast and the 'outpouring' of the water symbolizing the Spirit of Yahweh). John's vision of the River of Life (God the Holy Spirit) and the fruitful Tree-of-life (eternal life) is now realized in all its fullness in this heavenly liturgy of the Feast of Tabernacles when the family of God, comprised of all the faithful of humanity, is united in the Most Holy Trinity.
Verses 3-4 "The curse of destruction will be abolished. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads."
Question: What is the "curse of destruction" that will be abolished? Hint: see Deut 28:15-68. Answer: the Covenant curses would be abolished.
This first line is the fulfillment of a prophecy by the post exile prophet Zechariah whose prophetic ministry began circa 520BC. The book of the prophet Zechariah is one of the most important prophetic books giving detailed Messianic references that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus the Messiah. In Zech 9:9 Zechariah prophesizes Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; in 9:11 the prophecy of Christ's passion: "As for you, because of the blood of your covenant I have released your prisoners from the pit.." And in chapter 13:1 "When that day comes, a fountain will be opened for the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to wash sin and impurity away." And then in chapter 12 Zecheriah prophesizes the Last Battle and the splendor of the New Jerusalem and makes the prophetic promise in verse 11: "People will make their homes there, The curse of destruction will be lifted; Jerusalem will be safe to live in."
Question: But how was the curse removed? Hint: see Gal 3:13-14.
Answer: Jesus took the curse of the Law upon Himself to save us: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake since scripture says: 'Anyone hanged is accursed', so that the blessing of Abraham might come to the gentiles in Christ Jesus, and so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
Question: In Revelation 22:4 the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem who carry the name of the Lamb are called by what title? What is the significance of this title? Answer: They are called His "servants". This expression is primarily used to describe prophets in Scripture (for example in Rev. see 1:1; 10:7; 11:18; 15:3; 19:2, 5; 11:6, 9). Now all Yahweh's people are prophets because He has put His Spirit upon them. It is as Moses prayed in Numbers 11:29 "If only all Yahweh's people were prophets, and Yahweh had given them his Spirit!"
Question: Why do His servants see His face? Answer: St Paul wrote in 2 Cor 3:18 "And all of us with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit." There is no longer any veil of separation between Yahweh and His children like there was in the Old Covenant. Like the prophet Moses who saw God face to face and whose face reflected God's luminous glory (Exodus 34:29), we too shall see Him face to face in perfect communion. That the citizens of the New Jerusalem carry His name is to say that they reflect the glory of God because they bear the image of the glorified Christ.
Question: Why do they have His name written on their foreheads and what is the symbolic reference to the Old Covenant priesthood? Answer: Since they are now a royal priesthood, like the priests of old who wore the sacradotal plate bearing the name of Yahweh, His servants, the "Overcomers", are now sealed with His name and serve Him in His Temple!
Verse 5 "And night will be abolished; they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever."
Circa AD 57 St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome: "The Night is almost gone, and the Day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." (Romans 13:12)
Question: What was the Age of the world's dark 'Night'?
Answer: The Age of the Old Covenant was the time of the world's dark 'Night' that Paul wrote about in his letter to the Roman church. But with the Advent of Jesus the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Old Covenant (established with the destruction of the Temple in 70AD) the Holy Place would be fully opened up and we would receive the "Age of Light" when Christ established His Church as the New Covenant Israel. It is through the New Covenant that Jesus Christ gives the healing waters of redemption and the Light of salvation to the world.
Question: What is the difference between this reign of God and the Lamb in chapter 22 and the millennium reign of chapter 20?
Answer: Even though the Catholic Church does not support a literal 1,000 year reign reflected in the chapter 20 references to a millennium, it is clear that, although symbolic as a "perfect" order of time, the millennium reign is for a certain time not an infinite time. At the END of time, however, the royal priesthood shall reign not just for a "millennium," but for an eternity. It is what the prophet Daniel wrote about in Dan 7:27. This is the "everlasting kingdom." This is also the "eternal life" as opposed to the eternal punishment" that Jesus prophesized in Matthew 25:45-46 "In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me. And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the upright to eternal life."
Verse 6-7 "The angel said to me, 'All that you have written is sure and will come true: the Lord God who inspires the prophets has sent his angel to reveal to his servants what is soon to take place. I am coming soon!' Blessed are those who keep the prophetic message of this book."
This is still the 7th Chalice angel who is John's angelic companion. In this passage the 7th angel recounts the central message of this book by testifying that the words (and the visions) John has received are both "sure" or trustworthy, and "will come true," in other words they cannot fail to be fulfilled.
"the Lord God who inspires the prophets" Now all God's New Covenant people are prophets in the sense that like the prophets of the Old Testament who were privileged to ascent into the presence of God in the heavenly council chamber, we have all, as baptized believers, ascended with Christ and in the celebration of the Eucharist are united with our heavenly brethren in divine worship.
"what is soon to take place. I am coming soon!"
Question: Is the 7th Angel Christ or is the 7th angel speaking on behalf of Christ? Answer: it is difficult to know the answer to this question but there are scholars who have suggested that Michael the Archangel is actually an angelic manifestation of Christ. His name means "Who is like God." It is an interesting question. We have seen Christ represented several times in this book as a heavenly messenger.
In any event, the angel is repeating the theme of this prophecy: the imminent coming of Christ!
Question: Would you care to guess how many times the Greek word erchonai = 'come' or 'coming' is used in Revelation? Answer: 7 times is a good guess but it is not the correct guess because it is used 7 times in Chapter 22 alone! But the word is used to express the immediacy of Christ's coming in 1:7; 2:5, 16; 3:11; 16:15; 22:7,12, & 20 , which = 8 times! But this announcement is not the imminent Coming of Christ in His Second Advent but the promise of His imminent Coming, His Parousia, as the King in Judgment on Old Covenant apostate Israel in answer to the cry of the saints and martyrs. This warning of His judgment is not to be taken lightly and so here is the 6th Beatitude which repeats the promise of the 1st Beatitude in Rev. 1:3 "Blessed is anyone who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed those who hear them, if they treasure the content, because the Time is near." This other expressions of immediacy "The time is near (or close)" is repeated 5 times: 1:1; 1:3; 1:4; 1:9; & 22:11.
Please read Rev. 20:8-21 O, Come Lord!
Verses 8-9 "I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. When I had heard and seen them all, I knelt at the feet of the angel who had shown them to me, to worship him; but he said, 'Do no such thing: I am your fellow-servant and the fellow-servant of your brothers the prophets and those who keep the message of this book. God alone you must worship.'"
I would say in this instance at least, the 7th angel is not Christ because this angel places himself as equal in status to John.
Question: How many times has John identified himself by name in this prophecy? Hint: it is not 7 times!
Answer: 5 times: 1:1 twice; 1:4; 1:9; 22:8. 5 is the number of grace.
For the 5th time John identifies himself as the one who "heard and saw", the same familiar expression he has used repeatedly in this prophecy.
Question: This is the repeat of what earlier experience? What are the similarities? Hint: see Rev. 19:9-10. Answer: In Rev. 19:9 an angel gives the 4th Beatitude and then John falls at the feet of the angel only to be told that this action of prostrating himself is inappropriate.
Question: We discussed in chapter 19 that to fall or prostrate before an angel or a human superior in status was not unusual in the Bible. Once again the heavenly messenger is emphasizing that now redeemed man has access to the presence of God and has become a "fellow-servant" with the angels. He also reminds John that as a member of the heavenly council he is able to worship God face to face.
Verses 10-11 "This too he said to me, 'Do not keep the prophecies in this book a secret, because the Time is close. Meanwhile let the sinner continue sinning, and the unclean continue to be unclean; let the upright continue in his uprightness, and those who are holy continue to be holy."
Question: Contrast this command of the angel to John with the command to the prophet Daniel in Daniel 12:4 as well as the command to John in 10:4-5 when he was told not to write down the words of the 7 claps of Thunder. Why was Daniel commanded to conceal the words of his prophecy and to "seal up the scroll" until the end of time? Answer: Daniel was commanded to seal up the prophecy because it concerned the distant future, but because John's prophecy concerns the imminent future and therefore he is ordered to reveal all that he has been told! The only part John cannot reveal is the message of the 7 Thunders, which is most likely a prophecy of the distant future/ 2nd Advent. This is another indication that the major action of this book took place within John's lifetime.
Question: Looking at verse 11, what time frame is referenced here? Is it the distant future or John's present or the time of the Church between John's time and the future? Answer: It cannot be the future time of the New Heaven and New Earth when everything in creation is reconciled to God because at that time there is no sin. This reference is the time when mankind must make a choice: to be for Christ or against Him. It must be the Age of the Church from John's time progressing through history. It is the prelude to judgment that Ezekiel spoke of in Ezek 3:27 "He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse."
Verses 12-13 "Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me, to repay everyone as their deeds deserve. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
Here is another promise of the imminence of His coming judgment on Israel. This is what Jesus spoke of in Matthew 16:27-28 "For the Son of man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each one according to his behavior. In truth I tell you there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming with his kingdom."
Once again we are back in John's time with the imminent destruction of the Old Covenant and the establishment of the New Covenant Church. And as He has done before in establishing covenants with Abraham and with the Children of Israel in the Sinai Covenant, God swears an oath Himself as the Lord of history and the sovereign keeper of the Covenant: "I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
Question: Where have these titles been used before in Revelation?
Alpha and Omega
Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13
First and the Last
Revelation 1:8; 1:17; 2:8; 22:13
Beginning and the End
Revelation 21:6; 22:13
Verses14-15 "Blessed are those who will have washed their robes clean, so that they will have the right to feed on the tree of life and can come through the gates into the city. Others must stay outside: dogs, fortune-tellers, and the sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters, and every one of false speech and false life."
This is the 7th Beatitude. The New American and the Revised Standard translations read: "Blessed are those who wash." In any event, the use of the present participle in the Greek emphasizes the ongoing and continual duty in the obedience of faith.
Question: How do we become one of those who wash their robes clean? Where have you seen a similar statement about robes before? Hint: see Rev. 7: 13-14.
Answer: we wash our robes clean in the Blood of Christ. It is His blood that wipes away our sins and cleanses us unto righteousness. Rev. 7:13-14 "One of the elders then spoke and asked me, 'Who are these people, dressed in white robes, and where have they come from?' I answered him, 'You can tell me, sir.' Then he said, 'These are the people who have been through the great trial; they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.'"
Question: What 2 privileges does this give them and where have you seen these promises given elsewhere in the book?
Answer: #1. The promise to feed on the Tree-of-Life and #2 to enter the gates of the City. These promises are found in Rev. 2:7 and 3:13 as promises to those who persevere.
"to enter to gates of the City" is reminiscent of the restrictions of the Old Covenant where the Gentiles were forbidden to enter the Temple proper under pain of death. Now, with the revelation of the "Mystery of Christ" (see Ephesians 3:1-9), gentiles have access to the Covenant and the blessing of Abraham is finally fulfilled in that "all nations would be blessed." (also see Rev. 21:24-26).
Question: Does this come about through a one-time profession of faith, say for example, in adult baptism. Is that all that is required by God? Hint: read 1 John 2:3-6. Answer: No. The use of the present participial in this passage in Rev. 22:14 and John's teaching in 1 Jn 2:3-6 indicates that God requires a continuing life of repentance and obedience of faith which is realized through acts of mercy and love.
Question: What is "the city " where they will enter in? Answer: the New Jerusalem of 21:9
Question: Looking at verse 15, we are given a 7-fold list of those who are excluded from the blessing. Who are those who are excluded?
Answer: 1. Dogs: throughout the Bible dogs are regarded as unclean scavengers. The Jews referred to gentiles in general as "dogs" (see Mark 7:26-28 and Matt 7:6). St. Paul even applied the term "dogs" to the false Jews who had betrayed the covenant by rejecting Christ in Philippians 3:2 and had therefore become like unbelieving gentiles.
(The rest of the list is also included in Revelation 21:8, 27).
2. Fortune tellers: those who use the occult to tell the future
3. Sexually immoral
6. Everyone of false speech
7. Everyone of false life
Verses 16 "I Jesus, have sent my angel to attest these things to you for the sake of the churches. I am the sprig from the root of David and the bright star of the morning."
The word "you" is plural. This message is for the entire Church as she is symbolized by the 7 churches in Asia Minor.
"I am the spring from the root of David" Other translations read "I am the root and the offspring of David.
Question: What is the meaning of this statement? See Rev 5:5 and Isaiah 11:10, Romans 15:12. Answer: Jesus is a direct descendant of the great King David to whom God promised "his dynasty would rule forever." He is both the source (the root) and the culmination of the Davidic line.
Question: What is the significance of the reference to "the bright star of the morning" or as other translations read "the bright Morning Star." Hint: see Rev. 2:28 and 2 Peter 1:19.
Answer: this reference to the Morning Star helps us to understand Jesus' statement to those who "prove victorious" in the church of Thyatria when He promises them "And I will give such a person the Morning Star." He is the Morning Star.
Verse 17 "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come!' Let everyone who listens answer 'Come!' Then let all who are thirsty come: all who want it may have the water of life, and have it free." The New American translation reads: "let all who desire it accept the gift of life-giving water."
Look at the wonderful symbolism here: The Holy Spirit and the Church call for Christ to come in salvation and judgment! We are reminded once again that John's entire prophecy is set in the heavenly liturgy as, in response to the Spirit and the Bride, the heavenly assembly calls out "Let everyone who listens answer 'Come!' And then Christ offers His invitation to come to Him and drink of the salvation for eternity that only He can offer.
Question: What is the price of His offer? Answer: It is without cost. It is a free gift. The word in Greek is dorean [do-reh-an'], which means gratuitously, without cost, freely, or free gift.
Question: Why is salvation a free gift? Answer: Because Christ paid the cost on the Cross. We are justified as a gift by His grace. Romans 3:23-24 "No distinction is made: all have sinned and lack God's glory, and all are justified by the free gift of his grace through being set free in Christ. God appointed him as a sacrifice for reconciliation, through faith by the shedding of his blood, ..."
Verses 18-19 "This is my solemn attestation for all who hear the prophecies in this book: if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him every plague mentioned in the book; if anyone cuts anything out of the prophecies in this book, God will cut off his share of the Tree-of-Life and of the Holy City, which are described in the book."
For me these are the most solemn and terrifying words of the prophecy and every teacher of Scripture must tremble at these words. In a very real sense these words embrace and conclude all Scripture. These words of Christ speak with the same authority that Moses recorded when God declared, concerning the words of the Law in Deuteronomy 4:2 "You shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish anything from it.." These are words that should make every Bible translator tremble as well! From the Law of Moses to the prophecy of Revelation "words" were to be added by God's holy prophets but the truth of the revelation of Holy Scripture is that it is One unchanging Word, Jesus Christ. Now, with the end of John's visions the conclusion of Scripture is announced: adding or removing words is forbidden. These are the Last words of the unchanging Word.
Verses 20-21 "The one who attests these things says: I am indeed coming soon. Amen; come, Lord Jesus. May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen
Question: How many times in this chapter has the imminence of Christ's coming been emphasized? Answer: Three times: 22:7; 22:12 and 22:20.
The cry: marana tha, O Lord, Come! (rendered "come, Lord" in this passage) Reflects the cry of the Saints and prophets under the altar of God in chapter 6:9-10 and indeed the cry of the Saints down through Salvation History. It represents our yearning for the Second Advent of Christ but also for the justice He brings as He continually "comes" in judgment throughout history just as He came in judgment on Old Covenant Israel and held them accountable for the blood of the prophets they had shed.
Question: There is only one other place in the New Testament where this Aramaic phrase is used. Where is it?
Answer: in 1Corinthians 16:22 where the cry reflects the Church's specific request for the Lord to come bringing judgment (hence: maranatha anathema"). We also have evidence from the Didache, the first catechism of the Church written sometime between 50-120AD, that this cry was part of the liturgy of the Eucharist of the early Church and that the faithful would cry out marana tha during the Consecration of the Host. Actually this Aramaic phrase (you will recall that Aramaic was the common language of the people at the time of Christ) has two translations depending on the division of the letters: maran atha means "the Lord is coming" while marana tha is translated "O, Lord, Come!"
"May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all" The cry of maranatha is for judgment for Christ's enemies but the prayer is also for grace for all the saints.
Amen! As we discussed in Rev. 3:14 the familiar word Amen is an oath declaring God as the Trustworthy King and at the same time calling down upon oneself the curses of the Covenant if one fell away from the oath we take as believers in Christ through the Sacraments. Did you know that the Latin word sacramentum, from which we get our word 'sacrament', actually means "oath"? Our "Amen" is our solemn recognition that we would have no grace except for the fact that Jesus Christ is our "Amen," our Trustworthy King who underwent the Curse for us by sacrificing Himself on the Cross for our sins. So in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist, when the Church calls out the Great Amen in one voice, we should call out with such force that all the earth should tremble! Amen, halleluyah! Christ is King!
A question many people ask about the Bible is "What value is there for people today in a book written centuries earlier to people who lived as contemporaries of the different authors of the books of the Bible?" St. Paul answered this question for us when he stated a fundamental principle of Biblical interpretation that is relevant to all generations. St. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All scripture is inspired by God and useful for refuting error, for guiding people's lives and teaching them to be upright. This is how someone who is dedicated to God becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work."
In other words, God's judgment on Old Covenant Israel for her disobedience and rebellion can happen to us if we do not persevere in faith and works of mercy. The message is clear that if even the first man and woman or the first Covenant Church can be broken off from the branch of the Tree-of-Life, then, so can we. Paul addresses this danger in Romans 11:20-23 "..they through their unbelief were broken off, and you are established through your faith. So it is not pride that you should have, but fear; if God did not spare the natural branches, he might not spare you either. Remember God's severity as well as his goodness: his severity to those who fell, and his goodness to you as long as you persevere in it; if not, you too will be cut off."
The Book of Revelation and indeed the entire Bible is authored by God (CCC#105). These books are written teaching the truth of God without error (CCC# 107) through human writers who were inspired by God the Holy Spirit (CCC# 101-106). The answer to the question about the relevance of the Bible to people today is that it is a continuing lesson for the Church of all ages from Mt. Sinai to Vatican Hill. Salvation is a life time journey for each individual Christian as well as a journey through history for God's Church. But if we persevere as individuals and as a Covenant people, if we are faithful, if we continue in the mission of the Gospel, then the promises of the Covenant are ours and we will bathe in the River of eternal Life and with confidence we can call out "Maranath", Come Lord!
Do you realize that you have received a blessing from Christ for persevering in the study of this holy book? Do you remember the blessing that Jesus gave in Revelation 1:3? It applies to you: "Blessed is anyone who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed those who hear them, if they treasure the content, because the Time is near." Blessed is ___________who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed is __________who hears them! This blessing is yours. Put your name in this verse and claim it!
In September we will begin the study of the Gospel of St. John. Until then may God continue to bless you in your studies of the Holy Word of God.
Catechism of the Catholic Church page 31
CCC# 105: "God is the author of Sacred Scripture. The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy Mother church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself."
CCC# 107: "The inspired books teach the truth. Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures."
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.