Final conversation with Jesus and the angel, part 1
Sep 20, 2016
Revelation 22:5 is the proper end of the revelation given to John. It ends with the great revelation of the river of life flowing out to all. The tree of life is finally available for all, after being guarded by cherubim that were assigned to restrict man’s access to immortality since Genesis 3:24. The nations are healed by the leaves of the tree of life, and its fruit sustain them. The curse is removed from the earth (Revelation 22:3), which had been imposed since Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:17).
God lays claim to (and owns) all, for “His name shall be on their foreheads” (Revelation 22:4). Further, the full light of the knowledge of Christ shines throughout the earth, as the New Covenant promise is fulfilled, “for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them” (Hebrews 8:11). The climactic statement in Revelation 22:5 is “and they shall reign for the ages of the ages.”
Revelation 22:6 then provides us with an addendum to close out the book, bringing us back to the present (from John’s perspective):
6 And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place.
It is not fully clear who is speaking to John. The NASB assumed that it is an angel who says, “These words are faithful and true,” and hence, it does not capitalize the word he at the beginning of the verse above. However, as we read earlier (Revelation 21:5), the same words were spoken by “He who sits on the throne.” Either the angel was bearing witness to the One sitting on the throne, or Christ was repeating Himself.
The NASB also ends the quotation after the word true, whereas it seems more natural to me that the quotation continues through the verse and also through the next verse. This is how the KJV and also The Emphatic Diaglott see it. Christ spoke that entire passage:
6 … “These words are faithful and true; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place. 7 And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”
The statement, “I am coming quickly,” identifies the Speaker here as Jesus Christ. The “Red Letter” versions put this and the rest of the verse in red, but not the earlier words. It seems to me that the entire passage above ought to be in red letters. Yet this view is not crucial, because whether the words were spoken by an angel or by Jesus Christ, “these words are faithful and true.”
The angel mentioned in verse 6, who was “sent…to show His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place,” seems to be the angel who came forth in Revelation 21:9. This was the Angel of the Approaching Fullness of God, who stepped forward to reveal the final revelations of the bride, the New Jerusalem, along with the river and tree of life flowing out of the city, which reverse the curse and bring life to all. All of this revelation fits the name of the angel perfectly, for through him the truth of the Restoration of All Things is presented.
John Tries to Worship the Angel
Revelation 22:8, 9 says,
8 And I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9 And he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book; worship God.”
This was the second time that John was so overwhelmed that he fell down at the feet of an angel. The first time was in Revelation 19:10, after hearing the angel say, “These are the true words of God.” That particular statement carried great power, along with the later statement: “These words are faithful and true” that were spoken in Revelation 21:5 and 22:6. Full revelation truth, when comprehended, is overwhelming. Unfortunately, when such truth is spoken, it is usually veiled by Old Covenant mindsets, which hide the light and glory from most of mankind, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:13-17.
The angel identifies himself as a man, “of your brethren the prophets” and also a brother “of those who heed the words of this book.” An angel is a messenger and can be either a man or a spiritual being. A messenger of God is often both a man and a spiritual being (angel). This is because everyone is assigned at least one angel in whom is the word of God, that is, a particular portion of the word.
When all are restored to the purpose for which they were created, they and their angels will become one, and each person will be a manifestation of the word which they have become by their unity with their angel. The spiritual messenger thus operates through the earthly messenger as the medium between heaven and earth. Such earthly messengers are, in effect, the first fruits of the great marriage between heaven and earth, the beginning of the two becoming “one flesh.”
Such men may be thought of as fellow Memra, the Hebrew equivalent of the Logos, not in the full sense in which Christ is the living Word (total Word), but in the limited sense in which one becomes the manifestation of his or her own portion of the Word. Each one’s portion is defined and limited by the word that is in his or her angel(s).
So in the message to the seven churches, it is written, “to the angel of the church in Ephesus” (Revelation 2:1); or “to the angel of the church in Smyrna” (Revelation 2:8). The message was given to the sheliach tzibbor, the Hebrew name for the overseer of each church. The word of the Lord was written down by John and conveyed to each church overseer in order to give it to the church. The overseer, who (presumably) had absorbed his angel and was thus able to hear the word of the Lord, was called an angel.
We do not know if someone came to visit John on Patmos, or if the man was there already. If he was already there, it is likely that it was Prochorus, the disciple who, according to early church writings, gave up his freedom to accompany John and minister to him during his exile on the rugged island. Prochorus was one of the original deacons in Acts 6:5. Prochorus was to John what Joshua was to Moses.
Yet John does not seem to know this "prophet," so it is probably not Prochorus. The man/angel appears to be a glorified man, either from the past or from the future, who has fully absorbed his angel/word, thereby making him the angel of the Approaching Fullness of God.
Do Not Seal the Book
Letters were sent by messengers in those days and were sealed with wax and imprinted with a crest or signature from a signet ring. Such seals were to prevent people from reading the contents of the letter during the journey. When Daniel was given his revelation, God told him to “seal up the book until the end of time” (Daniel 12:4), when the journey of time was completed.
But John’s book was to remain unsealed, because Christ had come, who was worthy (authorized) to open the book (Revelation 5:5). When the book was opened, the immediate revelation was about the restoration of all things, the final end and fulfillment of God’s New Covenant vow, mediated by Jesus Christ. This restoration was revealed throughout the Old Testament, including the law of Moses and in the prophets (especially Isaiah); however, it was not clearly understood until Jesus came and the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost.
So we see that while John was on Patmos in the late first century, he was not to seal the book, “for the time is near.” Indeed, most of the early church had an understanding of the restoration of all things and the salvation of all mankind, at least for the first four centuries. After that, this “faithful and true” word began to be suppressed in the year 400, as I explained in my booklet, A Short History of Universal Reconciliation.
Because of this suppression and its replacement with the doctrine of eternal torment, championed by Augustine (354-430 A.D.), the church itself attempted to seal up the book and to prevent the people from knowing the truly “good news” (gospel) of the New Covenant. For this and other reasons, Revelation has remained a sealed book to most Christians throughout the past. But from God’s point of view, it was never meant to be a sealed book.
So the angel says in Revelation 22:11,
11 Let the one who does wrong still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy [rhuparos], still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.
The word picture behind being “filthy” is about being clothed in filthy garments. It is the same term used in the Septuagint (Greek) version of Zechariah 3:4, which speaks of Joshua the high priest:
3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. 4 And he spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy [rhuparos] garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.”
This shows the difference between the two garments that we wear. Paul tells us that the present garment of mortality is what we received through Adam, while the second is the garment of immortality that is currently being reserved for us in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1-4). Obviously, the “filthy garments” represent the natural (soulish) body, which, since Adam’s sin, is full of “iniquity.” So Joshua’s garments were replaced, and his iniquity was taken away.
When John heard these words in Revelation 22:11, he was back in his present time, when mankind was yet clothed in their filthy garments. Of course, in the legal sense, believers are imputed righteous, and so even though their heavenly garment is still reserved for them in the heavens, they are treated as if their filthy garments have been replaced by the robes of righteousness. They enjoy a positional righteousness through the feast of Passover, so that they need not be filled with guilt and fear over their iniquity, but rather can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).
In effect, John was told that until the final restoration of all things, life on earth was to continue, where many would remain filthy, while some would be classed as “righteous” and “holy.” It was a word that implied the need for patience. Even though Jesus said, “I am coming quickly,” His “quickly” is from a timeless perspective and ought not to be interpreted according to our short life spans.
And so more than 1900 years have passed since John heard the words of this revelation.
This is part 181 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones