Grace: that's the word that best sums up the whole message of Scripture. And that's the word John uses to conclude his divinely inspired Revelation. After spending 22 chapters sharing with us his apocalyptic visions and indescribable prophecies of the future, he leaves us with a promise for the present: God's grace is with us.
The Final Promise
In his book on Heaven, Stephen Lawson told the story of a Philadelphia law firm who sent a beautiful floral arrangement to associates who were opening new offices in the Baltimore area. When the flowers arrived, through a mix up at the florists, instead of congratulating the new achievement, the card read, “Our Deepest Sympathy”. When the florist was called and asked about the mistake, he said, “Oh now, I’ve mixed up the arrangements . . . which means the flowers that went to the funeral home said, “Congratulations on your new location.” / Stephen J. Lawson, Heaven Help Us (Navpress, 1995), p. 158
For Christians, that’s actually not bad theology.
Death is the doorway to your new location . . . and what a location.
The glory of God . . . sinless perfection in that eternal state . . . a glorified body . . . perfect service to God . . . and uninterrupted lives of undiluted joy and unceasing worship unto Christ our Lord.
And where would you go to learn of the glories of heaven;
- where would you go as a church to rediscover your mission on earth;
- where would you study to unravel the mysteries of prophecies;
- where can you see a description of God’s throne in heaven and his wrath poured out on earth;
- what book would you read that justifies the final judgment of Christ on all unbelief, and where do you find it described in all its horror;
- where do you hear the invitation for all to come and drink of salvation;
- why would those who drink, dare to believe that they will co-reign with Christ;
- where do you watch the progression of nations and the revival of Israel;
- where can you go to learn of new universe with a new earth where orchards grow and rivers flow along avenues of gold;
- where can you go to see the final day – the fulfillment of God’s promises and watch time morph into the everlasting kingdom?
One place sums it all up – you find all of that and more in the Book of Revelation.
The Revelation of John paralleled, explained and completed the prophecies of Daniel, Prime Minister of Babylon and prophet of God.
The Apostle John has been given a different setting from Daniel.
John is exiled on the island Patmos, an island used as a quarry mine by the Roman Empire, operated by hardened criminals and enemies of the state.
Daniel, the Prime Minister of Babylon, delivered end-time prophecies from the palaces of Babylon while John would deliver the final prophecies from the obscurity and austerity of rocky island surrounded by the Aegean Sea.
Isn’t it ironic, that the final prophecies of Christ’s triumph over the nations of the world would be delivered by an exiled Apostle, living in a cave on a forgotten island.
You can’t miss the irony. John is saying, “the cause and glory of the God I follow will triumph forever!”
It doesn’t look like it!
John, you don’t look like a winner, you look like a loser . . . perhaps you should consider switching sides.
Not on your life.
As John moves through his closing statements in Revelation 22, his epilogue has included a final invitation to come and drink the water of this truth of Christ if you’re thirsty.
The ticket to heaven is free – without cost – you just have to get your ticket while there’s still time.
John has included a final warning – don’t tamper with the text. Don’t be guilty of addition or omission.
It’s all or nothing . . . and no one sits in judgment of this book, this book sits in judgment upon all.
John writes in verse 18, I 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; 19. And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part form the tree of life and from the holy city . . .
Now don’t misunderstand. It is impossible to lose one’s salvation; to be unborn having been born again; it’s impossible to be unsealed, having been sealed by the Spirit; to be unjustified having been justified fully by Christ; to be unseated with Christ after having been seated already with Christ in the heavens.
So the warning for those who take away or add to the Bible is simply a way for us to recognize those who were never genuinely saved in the first place.
And the fact that they were never saved to begin with will eventually be demonstrated by a disregard for the word of God and a placement of their own word and their own opinion as equal to or greater than that of God’s word.
So we have this final warning which effectively allows someone to examine himself to see if he is in the faith.
Remember, by the time all the events of this Revelation have taken place, the believers will be enjoying the glory of heaven forever and all the unredeemed will be suffering the horror of hell forever.
This Bible is an open letter from God to mankind . . . but it is not an open ended letter for a prophet or priest or mystic or guru or visionary to go beyond the last period.
These are the last inspired words from God.
From the Apostle John’s Revelation to our day today, the Spirit now takes His word and speak to our hearts in agreement with its truths, but never beyond or above its truth.
The word of Christ dwells richly in us – calling the shots, literally acting as an umpire in our lives (Colossians 3:15-16).
And so we study it and memorize it and meditate on it and speak it and apply it and live it.
We are no longer asking God to speak . . . God has spoken!
And now we come to our last study . . . the last two verses recorded by John and, in fact, the last inspired words of God.
In this epilogue we have read a final challenge; a final invitation; a final warning.
- The Final Promise
And now we have a final promise; notice verse 20. And He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.”
Don’t miss this. This is the last recorded promise from the lips of Jesus Christ.
And this is the promise He chooses to deliver to us.
Imagine all the promises that He could have given as His final promise.
- I will see you through your suffering;
- I will carry your burdens;
- I will enable your obedience;
- I will delight in your worship.
These promises have all been delivered directly or indirectly by our Lord already. But this is His choice of a final promise.
And doesn’t this final promise absorb all the rest of them?
Don’t burdens and suffering and diligence and obedience and worship find their final meaning in His coming?
It’s true, isn’t it; our obedience, our perseverance, our mission, our diligence, our suffering all find hope and comfort in His soon coming.
One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race, ‘til we see Christ.
Here at the very end of the Bible, the Lord wants to speak to us directly, as it were, one more time and when He does, He reminds us that He is coming soon. / Edward Hindson, Revelation: Unlocking the Future (AMG Publishers, 2002), p. 227
The Lord has delivered this promise twice already in the closing chapter of Revelation – in verse 7 and in verse 12 and now in verse 20.
Three times, “I am coming quickly!”
You can’t help but catch on to the fact that He wants us to catch on to this fact.
The Lord doesn’t repeat Himself because He wanted 21 verses in this last chapter and He’s run out of things to say.
Oh no . . . you get the impression that He wants to impress our minds with this truth.
I am coming soon!
His coming is in stages and it will all happen quickly, in the light of eternity.
- He will come for His church and rapture her away (I Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15).
- He will then come sometime later with His bride to set up His kingdom (Revelation 20).
- He will then come with the redeemed of all time as the golden capital city of Heaven descends and rests upon a newly created earth (Revelation 21).
He effectively says here, it’s all going to happen before you know it!
In fact, when the Lord delivers this final promise in Revelation 22:20, He actually uses the present tense, grammarians refer to as a prophetic present. / Grant R. Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary: Revelation (Baker Academic, 2002), p. 797
As if to say, “I’m already on my way!”
And you’ll notice this third and final time the Lord says, “I’m coming quickly, He begins by saying, “Yes . . . you could render it, indeed!” Truly, I am on my way!
The next event in the parousia of Christ – the coming of Christ is the rapture of the church and it is so certain that Jesus Christ effectively says, “I’m on the move!”
The coming of Christ’s Kingdom to earth is so certain that Christ speaks with the certainty of the present tense – I’m on my way!
The coming of heaven and the creation of a new earth is so guaranteed by God that God says, “I’m already on my way!”
My friend, are you ready? Are you as ready as He is?
Jesus says I’m coming quickly . . . are you ready?
John says next in verse 20, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Jesus says, “I’m coming” and John says, Amen!
The word, amen is the transliteration of a Hebrew participle that means, “so be it.” / Renald E. Showers, Maranatha: Our Lord, Come! (Friends of Israel, 1995), p. 140
It indicates agreement with what the speaker has just spoken. We do that in church to this day . . . more or less.
Some people feel comfortable saying it – in fact, some pastors don’t like to preach without it – if it’s too quiet they’ll ask for a little feedback. They’ll say, “Can I get a witness?” And everybody will shout, “Amen!”
There’s nothing wrong with saying amen in the assembly – it tends to keep the entire congregation awake!
And I wouldn’t want to discourage it, so long as it doesn’t become a distraction, or a competition.
You don’t get points for your section. You don’t get out early if you give me 10 Amen’s? Amen? Your section has only 9 to go.
I remember when we met in the band room in Colonial’s early days. We could seat about 300 people on one of three tiered levels that formed a semi-circle. The front row of chairs was on the same floor level as the pulpit.
In those days we had a pulpit on the floor level as well, but I normally preached in front of the pulpit, walking back and forth with my Bible in hand.
That was when I was young and I could walk and preach at the same time.
Now I can only do one at a time.
I was preaching one Sunday morning to our congregation in that little band room and a woman was visiting that morning with her husband – I didn’t recognize her – they were sitting right in the middle on the front row and I said something early on in my sermon when I was right in front of her and she suddenly shouted at the top of her lungs, Amen!
I completely lost my train of thought. Had to start all over again . . . that was one long sermon . . . she never came back.
Let that be a lesson!
No, actually I consider an ‘amen’ here and there from a sincere heart, whether softly whispered or loud enough to wake up the person sitting in front of you a good response.
Just know that it is not directed toward me, but toward the truth spoken and ultimately to the Author of scripture.
It is verbal assent to the word of God and I hope your spirit says it much more often than your lips . . . I hope you live in an “amen state of mind”!
Saying and living with your whole being,
- Amen: Lord, I believe your word;
- Amen: this is the truth
- Amen: count me in on what you are delivering.”
Jesus Christ delivers this final promise to an old Apostle writing in a modified cave under severe living conditions while in exile.
He’s away from friends and family and his flock and Jesus comes to the end of this revelation and He says, “It’s just about over and I want you to know that I’m on my way,” and John says, “Amen to that!”
- The Final Prayer
Would you notice that what John does next is offer up the last recorded prayer in scripture.
You have Christ’s final promise and now you have the believer’s final prayer.
Notice, John says, “Amen . . . Come, Lord Jesus.”
The last recorded prayer from this believer’s lips is, “Well, come on Lord Jesus . . . come on!”
The words, “come, Lord” in the Aramaic language are the words, marana tha, which mean, “Our Lord, come.” / Kendell H. Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation (Holman, 1998), p. 429
Those words squeezed together give us maranatha – “perhaps the oldest creedal prayer in existence.” / Osborne, p. 797
Maranatha – Our Lord, come!
Would you expect John to reply any other way? This aged, 90 year old Apostle – weather beaten and war torn – and he has just seen the end of the age and the glory of God’s throne and the beauty of heaven . . . no wonder he responds, “Come on . . . Lord, let’s go.”
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about the coming of Christ for the church and he ended by saying, “Comfort one another with these words.”
By the way, having a positive anticipation of the coming of the Lord has a lot to do with the way you’re living.
You ever have your mother tell you, “Young man, just wait ‘til your Father get’s home.”
I heard that a few times . . . at least twice.
I didn’t love the appearing of my father. I was not comforted by that thought.
The sound of the car in the driveway was not a pleasant sound.
Or maybe, like my brothers and I who were up to mischief while our parents were away – we’d stand our youngest brother, Jonathan, up on the window sill where he could see over the bushes in the front yard and down the street . . . we had him watching for the appearing of our parents. The unexpected arrival would not be a good thing!
Jonathan Edwards resolved to never live in such a way as to be embarrassed should the Lord appear at that moment.
John writes in his letter, Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be; we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (I John 3:2-3)
Godly anticipation influences godly activity . . . and godly activity develops godly anticipation.
It’s one thing to say “Amen” in church – and it’s another thing to go out of here and live in such a way that you can pray, “Lord come anytime you’d like because I’m ready for you.”
One author wrote, That’s another way of saying, you live every day for His glory as if it’s your last. You work hard at your job and in your home and for your church as if it’s your last opportunity. You shine the light. You remain balanced, cheerful, winsome – why? You are anticipating His coming – today! / Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch (Word Publishing, 1994), p. 405
That’s what you would have found out on the rocky bluffs of Patmos, in the recesses of a cave, where on the Lord’s day, John was writing of things he could not even imagine.
And at the end of the Revelation, without any hesitation, John says, “Let it happen . . . Come Lord Jesus.”
And perhaps you’re tempted to say, “Well, what do you expect – John was given a tour of heaven; he was an Apostle; he was personally discipled by Christ . . . John had something we don’t have.
That’s one of the reasons I’m so glad John’s Revelation didn’t end with verse 20.
You have here the final promise of Christ; the final prayer of John and the final pronouncement from God through John.
- The Final Pronouncement
Notice verse 21. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.
There is a final promise . . . a final prayer . . . there is this final pronouncement.
Verse 21. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.
This is a subjective genitive which can be expanded to read, “May the Lord Jesus show all of you His grace.” / Robert L. Thomas, Romans: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 522
With this final pronouncement, the Spirit of God through the Apostle John gives us genuine hope.
- How are you saved and guaranteed a home in heaven? Grace.
- As a believer, how do you take one more step in the right direction? Grace!
- How do you treat others who also falter and fail both God and you along the way? Grace!
- What is sufficient to bear you up through every challenge and every valley you will face? Grace!
- How do you ever expect to escape the horrors of God’s wrath as described in this Book? Grace!
- How do you ever hope to receive any of the blessings revealed in Revelation – of heaven and joy and perfection and a glorified body and face to face worship of Jesus Christ your Lord? One word . . . Grace!
Think about the fact that every blessing outlined in Revelation is totally undeserved – these are the gifts of Jesus Christ to His own. / Sam Gordon, Revelation: Worthy is the Lamb (Ambassador, 2000), p. 456
John began this Book by saying in verse 4 of chapter 1, “Grace to you and peace.”
He now ends the Book in the same way – “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all – the word panton (pantwn) means – to everyone reading this Book – both believers and unbelievers alike.
In other words, John is hinting to those who are not yet saved – who hear this letter read in one of these 7 churches, or any church in any generation, “Listen, you accept the gospel of Christ by grace – you don’t deserve forgiveness – but that’s what grace means.
Grace as an acrostic – G.R.A.C.E. – can stand for, God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” Grace is unmerited favor from God to us.
To the believers listening to the letter being read, “Listen, John implies, you accepted the gospel of Christ by grace, now don’t forget that – live out the gospel in the strength of God’s grace and distribute God’s grace to everyone else around you – they don’t deserve your grace anymore than you deserve God’s grace – grace is something given to the undeserving . . . that’s why it’s called grace.
So, here in this great Book, grace has the first word and the last. / Hindson, p. 227
And it isn’t just any grace John pronounces on His world wide flock – it is the grace of, notice, the Lord Jesus.
The last word is really about Him.
This Book opened with the words, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” And the Book ends with the grace of this same Lord Jesus.
- He is the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10);
- His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9);
- He is able to make all grace abound toward you
(2 Corinthians 9:8)
No wonder John’s closing pronouncement, the final blessing from the Spirit of God through this old pastor does nothing more than entrust the church of his generation and every generation since into the hands of a gracious Lord.
To which we can only respond, with John, and with deep thanksgiving say the same last word of this Book – Amen. / Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (Tyndale, 1986), p. 489
It’s true . . . so be it . . . let it happen . . . we agree . . . and by the daily deposit of the grace of God we will live our lives in light of its truth and for the glory of our soon coming Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.