The Bookends of History, Revelation 22:18-21
Let me welcome everybody to Sunday morning here at Sugar Land Bible Church, moving now into our main service where we’re continuing our verse by verse study of the Book of Revelation. So let me invite your attention to the Book Revelation, chapter 22 and verse 18, and Lord willing, believe it or not, we’re going to try to finish the Book of Revelation today. The title of this particular message is The Bookends of History. And if you’ve been following along with us in the Book of Revelation, I think this is our 75th (believe it or not) message on the book. And so we can hopefully land the plane today and then I’ll try to announce what we’re going to study next because I know a lot of you have been asking me about that. I haven’t answered that question because I ask the Lord for the rapture to occur before we finish the Book of Revelation. So He almost answered the prayer request. Maybe He’ll answer it in the next hour, that He shut down the economies of the earth prior to us finishing the Book of Revelation. Maybe that’s like a second place to the rapture. [Laughter] I don’t know.
But we’re completely finished with the major section of the Book which deals with the futuristic vision that John saw two thousand years ago on the Island of Patmos. And we moved into the final two chapters of the Book which is a description of the new heavens and new earth, the New Jerusalem and here’s where we are in part three, wrapping up our thoughts with what is called the epilogue. The epilogue is sort of a way of concluding. There was a prologue, you might remember, in chapter one, verses 1-8 and so it says a prologue of the we would expect an epilogue and so that’s what we get here in verses 4-21.
The epilogue can be divided into three parts. Number one, words of comfort. Having covered those in verses 6-17, words of comfort. Number two, is words of warning which we’re going to look at this morning, followed by number three, words of benediction, just as there’s a benediction at the end of the church service typically there’s a little benediction at the end and once we finish that we will be finished with the Book of Revelation in terms of our teaching itinerary here at the church.
But notice first of all these words of warning. Notice how John, as he’s given this vision from an angel, ultimately coming from Jesus, notice how it ends. John says, [John 22:18] “I testified to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book. If anyone adds to them God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;  and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy God will take away His part from the tree of life and from the Holy City, which are written in this book.”
You’ll notice here that there’s a very strong warning against adding to the words of this book and there’s a very strong warning against subtracting from the words of this book. And that’s why I’ve entitled this message The Bookends of History because when you go back to the original command in the Garden of Eden what you see is it was a very simple command. It was probably the easiest job description a human being has ever received in all of human history. God told our forbearers, Adam and Eve, all the way back in Genesis 2:16-17, “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” So in essence what God says is do whatever you want to do just don’t eat from the tree of knowledge.
And isn’t it interesting how Eve probably receiving a misrepresented understanding of that very easy command from her husband, because remember when that initial command was given Eve did not yet exist. And the only way she could have learned that command, presumably, was from her husband. But notice how the two of them, Adam and Eve garbled the original command. They took something so easy and something so simple and they made it complicated by adding to it and subtracting from it.
Notice how Eve is sort of paraphrasing, if you will, the original command. “The woman said to the serpent from the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat.” Now you’ll notice that she just left out two words; she left out the word “any” and she left out the word “freely.” That’s why I’ve got them underlined here in the original command. And if that weren’t enough then she began to add to the original command. Genesis 3:3 says, “From the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat from it” now look at this, “or touch it, or you will surely die.” You’ll notice, going back to the original command God never said anything about touching it.
So you’ll notice here as He is paraphrasing the original command back to the serpent that He subtracts from the original command, removes the word “any” and “freely” and she adds to the original command by adding a layer of restrictions that God never added about touching the tree of knowledge. God never said anything about touching the tree of knowledge. What He told her not to do is eat from the tree of knowledge. And it’s not just Eve who does this; the serpent or Satan who enticed them did the exact same thing. Genesis 3:1 says, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’? God never said any such thing, that they couldn’t eat from any tree of the Garden. IN fact, they were told they could eat from any tree of the garden; they were simply told not to eat from the tree of knowledge.
Verse 4 of Genesis 3 “The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!” But God said wait a minute, you will die. So you’ll notice that the serpent, like Eve, is adding, verse 1 of Genesis 3, and subtracting, verse 4 of Genesis 3. And that’s why I’ve entitled this message The Bookends of History. It’s almost as if God is saying adding to and subtracting from My design revelation is what got humanity into the mess it got itself into. In fact, that mess was so severe that God had to send His only Son to die in our place. So adding and subtracting is what you got you into all the troubles that you got into costing my only so to redeem me back to myself. And since that got you into the mess that you got yourself into and I got you out of don’t ever do it again. Don’t ever add or subtract from the divine revelation I’ve given.
So what has happened at the beginning of the Bible is man and woman and the devil added and subtracted. And then what you have as a consequence to that, going all the way through biblical history and so what finally happens at the end of biblical history as God is giving His final word to mankind in the Book of Revelation. In the last chapter, in the very last verses is one final warning, don’t you ever do this again. And so those two warnings form sort of a bracket, if you will, Bookends if you will, of human history.
Now what we learn from the Bible when you look at those two book ends is God is not happy at all when His creation, His creatures assume the role of God Himself and get into the business of editing God. In fact, when people do that, and many, many people do that today, is it causes tremendous consequences, consequences that are so severe that God has to intervene to rescue us from that dilemma. We completely underestimate the price that is paid when we tamper with God’s Word in any sense. And yet that’s the story of the Bible; those are the two great book ends, or brackets if you will, of history. And it’s interesting that when you go through the Bible this warning about adding and subtracting doesn’t just appear there in Genesis and Revelation; it appears throughout the Bible.
Let me give you a few examples of that if I could. Deuteronomy 4:2, the time of Moses, God says through Moses to the nation of Israel, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I have commanded you.” Deuteronomy 12:32 says virtually the same thing, “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.” And then you see this in the time of Solomon, the third King of the United Kingdom who wrote the Book of Proverbs, Solomon, says the same thing. Proverbs 30:6, it says, “Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.”
There’s nothing more arrogant in the heats of wicked people than to get into the business of editing God. Can you imagine editing God, taking away something He said or adding something that He didn’t say? Can you imagine the arrogance of that? It’s like a five year old adding to or subtracting from core and key instructions from their own parents when a five year old is in no position to do that. And that’s what we have done with God and His truth and His Word. And that’s why the Bible begins and ends with a very stern warning against that, and everything in between those two book ends is the description of the consequences that humans experience when we do that very thing.
And so what you see in Revelation 22:18-19 is something that’s very, very severe. Backing up just for a minute, it says, “If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book,  and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” Now this prohibition and this command is so severe that many people will use this to deny the security of the Christian, eternal security, which we believe that the Bible teaches “once saved always saved.” Yet what if I as a Christian mishandle God’s Word, or don’t honor God’s Word properly, knowingly or unknowingly is my salvation somehow jeopardized?
And so many people teach a doctrine of insecurity that once a person gets saved you’re on probation and you really don’t know if you’re going to heaven or not because God can rip the carpet out from under you at will. And they haven’t any proof text that they try to use; many of those texts we’ve tried to deal with in the soteriology or doctrine of salvation studies that we have done here about a year or two or three years ago which you can find on our Sermon Archives. And when you go through those blessing you’ll learn that this becomes one of the passages that people use to say oh, my goodness, you can lose your salvation, because God says if you add or subtract you have no part in the eternal city or the tree of life and the very plagues of the book which are very severe will be added to you.
But what I want you to see is the context of Revelation 22:18-19. Verses 18 and 19 come after verse 17. Verse 17 is what we covered in our prior sermon together where God switches the subject and He’s speaking to unbelievers. How do I know He’s speaking to unbelievers? Because of the context of verses 18 and 19 which is laid out before us in verse 17. You remember what verse 17 said? “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” Now that is an appeal there, very clearly, to unbelievers and yet the Book of Revelation was written to seven believing churches, we’ve covered that. But here at the end of the book he switches subjects and makes a great appeal to the unsaved for them to come and receive the water of life. Obviously He’s talking directly to people who have not yet experienced the water of life which in the Bible is always depicted as salvation.
And so when He talks about verse 18-19 people adding and subtracting from the Word you have to put that into its proper context because He’s dealing with unbelievers. He’s talking about what unbelievers themselves actually do with God’s Word. So I wouldn’t take these verses as oh my goodness, I’m going to sweat it out, maybe I somehow mistaught God’s Word, mishandled God’s Word, God is going to take away my part from the tree of life in the eternal city. I don’t think that’s what He’s talking about because He’s dealing with unbelievers here. It’s an evangelistic appeal and He’s making that appeal He’s giving the characteristics of what unbelievers are like.
Beyond that as you continue to think about this it says very clearly there in verse 18, if somebody adds or subtracts from the Bible the plagues which are written in this book will be added to Him. [Verse18, “testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book.”] Now what plagues are we talking about? The very severe plagues that we’ve been studying as we’ve been moving through the Book of Revelation. And this obviously becomes a reference to unbelievers because unbelievers or those who experience the plagues are those who are left behind at the rapture.
So the reference to the plagues, experiencing the plagues in the book, who is going to experience those plagues that are written in this book? It would be those who are unbelieving at the point of the rapture and then our thrust into the tribulation period and being to experience these plagues, and that becomes yet another proof as to why I believe verses 18 and 19 is speaking to unbelievers here. But we teach what is called pretribulationalism, which is the belief that at the point of the rapture everyone that’s in faith alone in Christ alone will be supernaturally removed from the earth. You see it there at the very top of the screen depicted graphically or pictorially.
So who ae those left behind? Those left behind are unbelievers who will experience the plagues of this book. So all of this becomes evident as to why I don’t think you should live in a state of fear of the Christians thinking they’re on probation and God is going to rip salvation out from under you. He’s not talking to believers here. He’s talking to unbelievers, He’s evangelized them in a prior verse and He talks about those left behind, unbelievers, at the point of the rapture through the use of His expression “the plagues of this book will be added unto you.”
A very helpful book, I highly recommend it to you, on the subject of eternal security is the book by Dennis M. Rokser entitled Shall Never Perish Forever. I’m going to quote just a little bit from this book this morning. But he writes concerning these verses, “To unbelievers to add to God’s Word in this fashion, the Lord promises to ‘add to him the plagues that are written in this book.’ The plagues spoken of in the book of Revelation occur during that future period of God’s judgment on the earth known as the Tribulation. If anyone reading Revelation accepts the invitation of verse 17 and becomes a believer in Christ prior to the Tribulation period, that person will experience the pretribulational Rapture of the saints (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) rather than the plagues of the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). Therefore, the warning of Revelation 22:18 applies only to unbelievers.” Let me say that again. “The warning of Revelation 22:18 applies only to unbelievers. This is not a warning to believers to stay saved or to be rewarded for their perseverance.” [Dennis Rokser, Shall Never Perish Forever, p. 274]
And we have to go into this because there’s a lot of confusion out there related to how this particular verse is taught and if you don’t understand it correctly it’ll put you into a mindset of not eternal securities but insecurity. And if you live your life thinking God can rip the carpet out from under you at will then you’re not going to have the joy of the Christian life and you’re certainly not going to enjoy the assurance of salvation.
Dennis Rokser also says, “Verses 18-19 follow with a grave warning to unbelievers who would add to or subtract from the words of this book. Either adding to or taking away from the Word of God is characteristic of unbelievers who cannot simply accept by faith what God says in His Word. When God speaks, the response of the believing heart is simply ‘Amen.’ But the unbeliever does not accept what God says at face value, and so he must change the Word to suit himself.” [Dennis Rokser, Shall Never Perish Forever, p. 273]
In other words, what’s being described here is what unbelievers already do. They hear truth and yet they won’t allow that truth to change their lives, which is the point of truth, and so they interpret truth through their own grid of unbelief and in the process what they end up doing is adding things God never said and subtracting things that God said. A parallel passage you can find in 2 Peter 3:16-17. Peter writes this: “And also” concerning Paul, “in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” See that? They’re twisting the Scriptures and they’re doing so to their own destruction because the people that naturally will twist the Scriptures are people that were never saved to begin with.
Now hear me on this, I’m not saying a Christian can’t make a mistake in teaching, certainly he (or she) can. I’m not saying that there are times in our lives as Christians where we sometimes try to deny what God says and quench the Holy Spirit. That can happen to a Christian but that’s not what’s being dealt with here. It’s dealing with a state of mind of the unbeliever who does this habitually, who does this routinely. In fact, they are so caviler with the Word of God that they demonstrate themselves to be unbelievers simply by their unwillingness to submit to divine truth. That’s really what the issue is here, submission!
Romans 8:7-8, speaks of how the carnal mind does not submit to God nor can it do so. It speaks there of those who are controlled by the flesh or the sinful mind cannot please God. [Romans 8:7-8, “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,  and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”] So an unbeliever their problem is they don’t want to submit to God so when they hear something from God they twist the teachings that has come to them from God. And that’s who’s being dealt with here and they’re being warned about this. And what’s the solution? The solution is verse 17, just to get saved. [Verse 17, “ You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.”]
You’ll notice also here this word part. Revelation 22:19, “If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part” now that’s the Greek noun meros, “will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city….” What does it mean “will take away his part”? Well, in the Book of Revelation a part of something is a future experience that people are yet to partake in. It’s used to describe believers and it’s used to describe unbelievers. Revelation 20:6 of the first resurrection says, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part” the same Greek noun meros, “in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” [New King James Version.] There it’s speaking of a future experience, in this case the resurrected body that the believer one day is destined to take part in.
Notice that meros is also used of unbelievers. Revelation 21:8 you’ll recall says, “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part” same Greek noun meros, “will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” So a part is a future experience that a person is yet to participate in. And when you look there at verse 19 where it says, “will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city” it’s talking about the future experience of the believer, the future experience of the Christian. And the one who is twisting the Scripture because he’s evidencing the fact that he is unsaved, will have no future experience in the eternal state, enjoying future experience tree of life and enjoying the Holy Spirit.
And in this series we’ve made reference to the eternal state; we have made reference to the tree of life that seems to be dispersed throughout the eternal city. We read about it in Revelation 22:2 where it says, “in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” The unbeliever has no future enjoyment of that tree of life; the believer does! But not so the unbeliever, they have no part or future experience with this tree of life. And the verse also says, and we used this slide, you might enjoy that animation where the New Jerusalem is descending to the earth. That was so neat, we’ve got to watch that a second time, don’t we?
So we learn from the Book of Revelation that there is an eternal city. I’ve said in this series that that eternal city exists right now. Galatians 4:26 describes it through the present tense is. [Galatians 4:26, “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” And yet it’s not fit to descend to the present earth because this earth has been corrupted by sin. It’s waiting for a new heavens and a new earth, and then that holy city will be an appropriate fit on that new heavens and new earth. And so it’s a wonderful promise that we are entitled to as Christians. That’s why the Bible says “For our citizenship is” where? It’s in heaven. Philippians 3:20. [“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;”]
And yet the unbeliever who is evidencing their unbelieving state because they’ve never received the water of life and consequently they’re taking Scripture and they’re constantly twisting it because the natural mind does not submit God’s Law nor can it do so. We’ll have no future enjoyment with either the tree of life in the eternal state nor that eternal city which is destined to come down from heaven. And so that’s the point that is being made here.
This issue of adding and subtracting from the Word of God is obviously a very serious issue; in fact, that is what characterizes the kingdom of the cults. Again, Dennis Rokser in his very good book puts it this way on this passage. “A common characteristic of cults and religions that profess to be ‘Christian’ is that they invariably add other books, creeds, council decisions, or ‘inspired’ writings of their founder or leaders to the Bible, and they put these on a par with God’s Word.” [Dennis Rokser, Shall Never Perish Forever, p. 274]
And beloved, that’s exactly the point! That’s exactly what’s being warned against here because the cults, not if they come to your door but when they come to your door, like the Mormons for example, will tell you that there’s a revelation of Jesus in North America. They try to argue that’s the stick of Joseph that’s described in Genesis 37 merging with the other stick. It’s a completely butchered out of context understanding of Ezekiel 37. But they will come to your door and they will try to convince you that what you have in your Bible is not quite enough, you need the other revelation of God, the manifestation of Jesus in North America. And so they want to add to the Bible The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great price, The Doctrine of Covenants and other such books.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses –same thing. Roman Catholicism, why is it that you can’t seem to see eye to eye with your Roman Catholic friends. Well, Roman Catholics are dealing with an auxiliary source of authority outside the Bible so to them authority comes from the Scripture, that’s fine, but they also have all of the counsels of church history on equal par with the Word of God, they have the Pope that allegedly speaks ex cathedra which means from the chair on equal with the Word of God. And so if you take your base of authority and expand it from these sixty-six books then obviously you’re going to come to different conclusions theologically.
And I’m trying to explain why this addition and subtraction against the Word of God is something that always should get your antenna up as a Christian. It should always concern you when people are telling you that what you have in the Bible is not quite enough. The fact of the matter is truth has been once and for all delivered to the saints, Jude 3. [Jude 3, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”]
And what we have in the Bible, 2 Peter 1:3-4, 2 Timothy 3:17 is a completed sufficient revelation for all matters of faith and practice. [2 Peter 1:3-4, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” 2 Timothy 3:17, “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”] There’s nothing to add to this book and certainly we don’t want to be guilty of subtracting from it either.
And by the way, my role as a pastor-teacher here at Sugar Land Bible Church is not to add to this book; I’m trying to explain what’s in the book but if I ever get to a point where we are adding to the book that’s the time to tune us out and to find another ministry that will honor the Word of God. This is very important because this is a common characteristic of false teacher. And consequently this is how we can test all things. There on the screen you see all of the verses I could think of which tell us as Christians not to turn our brains off but to screen everything we hear by God’s Word because what we have in the Bible is sufficient, it is enough. We’re not to add to it or subtract from it so if someone comes along and contradicts it you now have a base of authority by which you discern correct thinking from non-correct thinking, good from evil.
You might want to study sometime Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and Isaiah 8:19-20 all deal with that issue as does Galatians 1:8-9. [Deuteronomy 13:1-5, “Then we turned and went up the road to Bashan, and Og, king of Bashan, with all his people came out to meet us in battle at Edrei.  But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not fear him, for I have delivered him and all his people and his land into your hand; and you shall do to him just as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.’  “So the LORD our God delivered Og also, king of Bashan, with all his people into our hand, and we smote them until no survivor was left.  “We captured all his cities at that time; there was not a city which we did not take from them: sixty cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan.  “All these were cities fortified with high walls, gates and bars, besides a great many unwalled towns.”
Isaiah 8:19-20, “When they say to you ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?  To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”
Galatians 1:8-9, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”]
But one of the ones on the list here is Acts 17:11 which speaks of the Bereans who “were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word of God with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”
1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;”
1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits” now how do you test them? You test them through a complete sufficient Revelation, “to see whether they are from God, because” notice, not a few but “many false teachers have gone out into the world.”
Revelation 2:2 Jesus commends the church at Ephesus for following this very practice. He says, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;”
Think of the deception people would be saved from if they were continually putting all things to the test. And the problem with your average Christian today is they really don’t know that much about the Bible; they haven’t read it, haven’t investigated it. And so consequently anybody who comes along with the three G’s, Good looks, the Gift of Gab, and a Guitar, not that I have anything against guitars. But there’s so much God-talk today, spiritual-talk today from people a lot of the things coming out of the people’s mouths don’t have a shred of support in the Bible and people follow these people in mass and they find themselves in a place of deception. And since we have a sufficient canon of Scripture, a measuring read if you will, and since we’re not to add or subtract from it and since it’s enough and sufficient we ought to be screening everything we hear through the lens of God’s Word, including the things that we’re saying here.
But the cults don’t do that, they’re always adding to the Bible. In fact, this is what the rallying cry was of Martin Luther in the Protestant Reformation. He talked about this Latin word, sola, which means by itself. And had Luther and the Protestant Reformers not insisted upon that word they could have gotten along hunky-dory with the Roman Catholic establishment. But they insisted on “alone” and this has to do with your base of authority. Sola Christus, Christ alone, Sola Fide, faith alone, Sola Gratia, grace alone, Sola Scriptura, which is what we’re talking about here, Scripture alone. And Sola Deo Gloria, the glory of God alone.
A cult will add something to each of these Solas, faith is nice but it’s faith plus works to get you justified before God. Oh, your Bible is nice but you also need these auxiliary sources of authority outside the text, and on and on we could go. And again, it’s taking the simple and making it complicated. Paul said to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I fear lest somehow as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus.” We spoke of this earlier, the easiest command they had in human history was the pre-fall command not to eat from the tree of knowledge and how the serpent came in and took what was so simple and made it complicated. And that’s what the kingdom of the cults do; they take what is easy to understand with the solas and they complicate it and they move you outside the authority of the Bible and they will move you into a works oriented method of salvation which is not how people get saved.
So what you have there in verses 18 and 19 is a part of the epilogue giving us not just a word of comfort but a word of warning concerning not adding to or subtracting from this book.
And now we come to the final two verses in the Book of Revelation, words of benediction. And notice what it says there in verses 20 and 21. “He who testifies to these things says “Yes, I am coming quickly. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all men. Amen.” Notice this word “quickly,” “Yes, I am coming quickly,” it’s that Greek word tacos, where we get the word tachometer, which measures speed.
And as we have mentioned before there is a repetition of words like this typically congregated at the beginning of the Book of Revelation and at the end of the Book of Revelation teaching that Jesus Christ is coming back quickly, sometimes what’s described as His coming is near or at hand. Some-times it’s described as it’s about to happen. So tacos is a word for quickly, engos is the word for near or at hand, and mello is the word of about to or on the point of. And of course people misunderstand this and they say well He had to come back in the first century. That’s true.
And consequently we have today growing in ascendency and influence the doctrine of preterism which is a Latin word that means past or gone by and these people think the Book of Revelation, most of which (some say all) has already been fulfilled in the first century. They don’t understand this is a futuristic vision. The way R. C. Sproul taught this doctrine very aggressively until his dying day and it’s not a matter of mishearing something he said on media, he’s got a full length book on the topic, the title of is The Last Days According to Jesus. The doctrine of preterism. Largely build through these so-called time texts that you find at the beginning of the book and the end of the book of Revelation, and yet what you have to do to make that system work is you have to take Revelation’s content and you have to dramatically spiritualize it, allegorize it, in my opinion take away from it, something we were just warned against, to make it fit some kind of local event back in the first century.
And there’s no reason to do that. When it says “I’m coming quickly” it’s completely possible to understand “quickly” as an adverb; an adverb modifies a verb. In English it typically ends in ly, in other words when Jesus is coming back He’s coming back fast. In fact, when Jesus comes back He’s coming back so fast there might not be time to repent. That’s why there’s the warning in verse 17 about come now and receive the water of life. And don’t be like a Scripture clipping unbeliever because once the second coming of Christ happens it’s going to happen so quickly, describing as an adverb how He’s coming that repentance no longer will be an option.
That word tacos can be used that way in Acts 22:18, leave “Jerusalem quickly” same word, tacos. [Acts 22:18, “and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’”] When you leave make sure you’re moving fast in other words. And engess and mello either in Philippians 4:5, “the Lord is near” or 1 Peter 5:1, “and who will share in the glory about to be revealed,” those are statements of imminence meaning that there is no prophetic time which has to transpire before the coming of Christ can take place. [Philippians 4:5, “ Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” 1 Peter 5:1, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed.”]
So that’s a much better way to understand these words rather than to understand them as somehow time expressions opening the door to the doctrine of preterism. So He says I’m coming back quickly and you’ll notice this word, “Amen,” and then you see it repeated at the very end there, verse 21, “Amen.” What does that even mean, “Amen.” It means it is certain. That’s why sometimes when the preacher is preaching and someone will say Amen, they’re saying it’s certain. Of when we’re praying someone will conclude the prayer by saying “Amen,” in other words, it is certain. “Truly, truly this is going to happen” in other words. “Surely this is going to happen.”
Jesus is recorded as having used that word many times, as His words are recorded for us there in John 5:24. “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears my words and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and does not come into judgment but has passed out of death unto life.” Notice Truly, Truly, Amen, Amen, and what it’s revealing to us is this will happen exactly like it says, it WILL transpire exactly like it says. And what does John say? He who testifies to these sittings says, “I am coming quickly, Amen.” Now look at John here, “Come Lord Jesus.”
Now think about everything that John has been shown in this book. Think about the horrific judgments that are described in this book. Think about how the judgments in this book, when you parallel Revelation 6 with Revelation 9 describe a destruction of half of the world’s population. I mean, if John knows all of these things are coming wouldn’t he sort of be inclined to say Oh Lord, not quite yet! I think a lot of us as Christians are like that, Oh Lord, we know it’s coming but you know, I’ve got my plans and just not quite yet. But John, who actually saw these things in vivid detail said Lord, just come, because John was able to see what these events will accomplish.
What will they accomplish? They will accomplish. What will they accomplish? They will accomplish eviction of Satan from planet earth, the establishment of God’s kingdom, the ushering in of the eternal state, and that latter section of Revelation is so compelling to John that he’s able to sort of satisfy his emotions and feelings and thoughts concerning the horrors of that precedes and he’s saying that end result is so powerful, that end result is so good, that end result is so glorious he just doesn’t know what to say other than “Come, Lord Jesus.”
It’s interesting that the Book of Revelation, chapter 10:10 he was told, as part of his instructions, to consume a scroll. And it says this: “ I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth” now what he’s consuming here is the message of God as we have taught, “it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, but my stomach was made bitter.” Why was his stomach bitter? Because he sees these judgments. Why was it sweet? Because of what these judgments will produce, the eviction of Satan, the establishment of God’s kingdom and the ushering in of the eternal state.
And he measures the two and he says the sweetness is greater than the bitterness. The Lord, if this is the way it’s got to be done then bring it on. It kind or reminds me of what our Lord prayed there in Gethsemane. If it’s true Lord let this cup pass from me;” But then Jesus sees what I think is going to be accomplished through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. He says, “nevertheless Lord, painful as it is, not My will be done but Thy will be done.
Let me ask you a question; what kind of Christian are you? Is that your heart today? Are you saying “Come, Lord Jesus.” Or are we so sort of implanted in this world that Jesus has to bother us to the point where we don’t want to see the upheaval and we say Lord, I know you’re going to do this but not for a few years, I’ve got my plans. May we be like John who just says Lord, come! And in fact, in 2 Timothy 4:8 this is why there’s a special crown at the Bema Seat Judgment given to the Christian who is longing for the appearance of Jesus Christ. [2 Timothy 4:8, “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”]
Why would God at the Bema Seat Judgment, the crown of righteousness award Christians who are longing for the appearing of Jesus Christ? For the simple reason that not every Christian is longing for that. Some sort of have a standoffish attitude, not today Lord. So for the one that says Lord, just come they are given this crown at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ.
He continues on in verse 21 and it says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all men. Amen.” I can’t emphasize that word “grace” enough; it’s the Greek word charis which means unmerited favor. Favor coming to a human being which they do not deserve, because let me tell you something folks, if you don’t get grace you know what you get? You get the Great White Throne Judgment, where we’re judged by our works, to determine the degree of punishment in hell. That’s justice. I don’t want justice from God. What I need from God is grace. I don’t plan on standing before God one day citing why it’s just for Him to let me into heaven, because I know that my self-righteousness doesn’t add up at the end of the day. I plan on standing before God asking in the unmerited favor or grace of God. And you’ll notice what it says here. Look at this, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words if you don’t have Jesus you don’t have grace.
As the way Walter Martin put it, If you don’t have Jesus you get Moses, you’re evaluated by the standard of the Law. You can’t find the unmerited favor of God, favor coming to a person that’s completely learned deserving in some other source, other than Jesus Christ. It’s kind of like the ark, it’s typified by the ark prior to the flood. The ark was a symbol that the judgment of God was coming to the flood waters but it was also made out of wood as an offer of grace. You went into the ark, you were spared from the judgment. And what a picture that is of our Savior crucified on wood 2,000 years ago as a symbol that judgment is coming. God can’t wink at sin and turn the other way when sin occurs but He has provided grace or unmerited favor in Jesus Christ. And just like getting into the ark was necessary, appropriating by faith this wood that was crucified on is necessary to receive grace. We appropriate not the Word of course but what Jesus did on the wood, where He bore the wrath of a Holy God in our place.
And I love how it ends here, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with” who? Just a select few, right? It doesn’t say that, it says “with all.” I am a very strong believer, I wish we had time to look at all those passages; you can look those up on your own, but I’m a very strong believer in the universal atonement of Jesus. In other words, the death of Christ is not just for a select few as Calvinism (sadly) teaches, Five Point Calvinism. It’s not just available for the elite. It’s not just available for the apostles, it’s not just available for a particular strand of Christianity, some kind of denomination. It’s for the whole world.
In fact, 1 John 2:2 clearly says that Christ died for the whole world not just for us. John says but “the whole world. [1 John 2:2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”] You’ll see the same thing in 1 Timothy 4:10 [“For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”] A couple of passages that I underlined there which accentuates the universal atonement of Jesus Christ, perhaps stronger than the others, but all of them when you look at them teach this very important fact that the world is savable.
Every single human being on planet earth right now is savable. But they’re not saved of course until they appropriate by faith what Jesus did for them. That’s why we conclude all of our sermons here at Sugar Land Bible Church with an invitation to be saved. And I really don’t know how to improve on the indication that’s given in verse 17 so I just use that as our invitation. “The Spirit and the bride say “Come. And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” The invitation is “Come.”
It’s without cost meaning you have to receive it as a gift. And the only way you can receive a gift from God is by faith alone. Good works, good intentions, trying harder, won’t get us anywhere with God. But receiving as a gift what He has done will get you the grace that you need to stand as a mere sinner before a holy God. And usually I say if there’s anybody that needs help with this I’m available after the service to talk. Obviously I can’t do that today because I’m in an empty building but we hope and trust that many people are watching online. And if you have any ambiguity about your salvation send us an e-mail, would you? Put a comment there on Facebook or You Tube or whatever it is you’re watching and let us help you with salvation.
And you really don’t need our help when you think about it because it’s a message not from us to you; it’s a message from God to man that the world is savable and by simply trusting, which means believing or relying upon what Jesus did for us 2,000 years ago we are made right before a Holy God. And that takes us to the end of our study on the Book of Revelation. The epilogue, words of comfort, words of warning and words of benediction. It’s really hard for me to leave the book that I’ve been studying for so long trying to teach it. You sort of feel like you’re saying goodbye to a close friend. But I hope that you keep the Book of Revelation close by you as you study it on your own and grow in the grace and the riches of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A lot of people have been asking what I plan on teaching next, as I mentioned before I hoped that the rapture would occur first, but I’m still here and you’re still here so that means the teaching ministry of Sugar Land Bible Church will continue. And so since we’re all kind of living in a troubled time right now being cooped up in our homes with this corona virus it’s so easy for the Christian to not walk in joy. And so consequently I thought what we’ll do is take a shot at maybe a smaller book that will minister to people in the midst of this current crisis, how to walk in joy despite negative circumstances and so that’s a hint to all of us that we’re going to be moving into the Book of Philippians over the next few weeks as we (as Christians) study that verse by verse and in the midst of adversity follow the specific instructions that the Apostle Paul gives us for how to have joy in the midst of adversity. So we’ll be starting the Book of Philippians next week.
Well, we went through a benediction today and here’s our benediction, number 6, verses 24 and 26. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. God bless you.