Unveiling the Symbolism in Revelation
In this vision we have seen that the new Jerusalem is not a natural city with its hustle and bustle of expectant bargain hunters and shrewd businessmen advertising their wares; neither does it have the sound and smell of endless traffic. Its symbolism is much more beautiful in its portrayal of the inner life of believers, the overcomers, the perfected church, the bride of Christ.
The Bible teaches very plainly that we have already come to the new Jerusalem. Therefore this vision is for now. In Hebrews 12:22-23 we read, "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect." It's so amazing to see all that is connected with the heavenly Jerusalem! It is a city because of the number of its inhabitants. The citizens of the new Jerusalem are the spirits of the righteous made perfect - the true church. It can also be said that they form the new Jerusalem.
THE RIVER OF LIFE
"Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb." (v.1) This river is called the river of the water of life because of its life-giving properties. It is not like the rivers on earth that have been polluted. The remarkable thing about this river is that man is unable to pollute it because its source is in God, and it remains in God. It is the outflowing of His life, and it is the foundation for His government, for it flows from the throne of God.
His throne is not a golden seat on a great raised platform in a distant heaven. Jesus said that heaven is the throne of God. (Matt. 5:34) A throne represents the dominion and the authority of government, and the throne of God represents God's dominion, government and authority. His authority is unlimited and universal, but at present it is especially evident in the life of the believer. Unbelievers reject His government and authority, but eventually they too will become believers and succumb to it. Those who receive His government, receive life. God's life is absolutely pure. It is the very life of God in the Spirit with all His life-giving properties.
This river symbolizes the life of the Holy Spirit within believers. Jesus spoke prophetically of this in John 7:37-39. "Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the scripture said, `From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
The river of life flows in the midst of the street or square. We already know that the street of gold (gold representing divinity), symbolizes our walk in the Spirit. Walking consists of movement. Our walk in the Spirit is our life in God with its continual development and growth. This life is not confined to going to church on Sundays. It includes every aspect of our lives - our home life, our business practices, our pleasures, our love life, our friendships, our prayer life and our intimacy with God! This river flows in the midst of the street or square. God is the source of this river, and it flows from His throne into our innermost being. God's rule or government by His Spirit is within us, so His throne is situated within us - not in a faraway heaven.
The river of life symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and He brings us the abundance of life that is ours in Christ! Notice that God's life is the source of our life, and His life is our life. His life is always one with His government and authority. It is one with His nature of love and grace. God's nature is always against unrighteousness and everything that looks like truth but isn't. This river is clear as crystal, and beautiful in its freedom from all impurities - from all lies and all deceitfulness. God's life has the power to do away with all the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life! Life does away with our greatest enemy, which is death!
Since this river flows in our innermost being, it brings every area of our lives into submission to God's authority and nature. We have become partakers of His divine nature, and therefore His nature is reflected in all that we do and say.
THE TREE OF LIFE
Where do we find the tree of life? In verse 2 it tells us that it is "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 Concordant Literal New Testament reads, "in the center of its square" instead of "in the middle of its street ".
What an interesting description of a tree! This is not the description of a natural tree. Have you ever seen a tree that grows on either side of a river? We can easily visualize two identical trees growing on either side of a river, but this is one tree! This verse does not say "trees;" it says "the tree of life". Neither can we visualize a tree that originates below the waterbed of the river and sends forth a tree trunk to either side. Therefore we know that this has to be interpreted spiritually.
How could one tree be on both sides of a river? This can only be said of the tree of life because it is in perfect union with the Spirit of God. This symbolism tells us that everything drawing its life from the water of the Holy Spirit brings forth life and bears fruit! It gives life to the whole city! God's life has no evil or corruption in it!
The tree of life is on both sides of the river, yet it is one tree! In the garden of Eden there were two trees: one was the tree of life, and the other was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the new Jerusalem there is no tree of the knowledge of good and evil; there is only one tree, and that is the tree of life! Since there is no evil in that tree, there are no choices to be made; there is only obedience! Those who eat the fruit of the tree of life walk in obedience to the government of God.
Those who eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, walk according to their own choices - and choice is disobedience, for its fruit is both good and evil, and none of it is to be eaten. Humanity has changed the rules by claiming that you can choose the good of that tree, yet avoid the evil. It does not realize that it is one fruit, and that it is both good and evil. The fruit looked good to Adam and Eve, so they ate it in disobedience! The tree of the knowledge of good and evil with its choices is not found in the new Jerusalem. There are no choices for those who dwell in God's government because they walk in obedience.
The tree of life bears twelve kinds of fruit and yields fresh fruit every month. The number twelve is important! The fruit is the result of God's government in us, and it always continues to be under the government of God! We know that the fruit (not fruits, for it is one fruit) of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23) These are different facets of the fruit of the Spirit, and they all function under the authority of God at all times. This is God's provision for us in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit!
Fruit is not for the life of the tree but for the nurture of others. As we bear the fruit of the Spirit, it will nurture those who eat it. For example, as we love God, we will also love others, and this love will bless the recipients of our love. Love covers a multitude of sins and forgives those who sin against us. Our love will nurture others even as Christ's love nurtures us.
Nothing is wasted in God's economy. Even the leaves of the tree have a specific function. They are for the healing of the nations! Leaves speak of life. The first sign of visible life in a tree is the sprouting of leaves. The first sign of life in us takes place when the Holy Spirit breathes His life into the dead letter of the scriptures, and makes them real to us. Without His life we remain in legalism, condemnation, and in the reliance on self-effort to obtain righteousness - and it can never attain to God's standard of righteousness! The truth brings light, and does away with the deceptions we thought were truth.
In order to identify the nations, we must remember that this is a book of symbols. Many of the keys to these symbols are found in the Old Testament. When the children of Israel entered the promised land, they had to contend with and overcome the nations that were possessing the land that God had given them. Spiritually speaking, after we become Christians we have to overcome our wrong thinking, ideas and imaginations that are possessing our land illegally. So the nations symbolize our thoughts and imaginations, for they are always against the Spirit and the knowledge of God. They want to keep us from believing that God is who He says He is, and that we are who God says we are. They foment fear and unbelief. Only when God's life reigns in us, are these wrong thoughts taken captive through our faith and trust in Christ and our obedience to Him.
"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5) As the life of Christ is manifested in us through our obedience, our mind will think God's thoughts and do His will. No philosophy or religious system or medicine can produce this healing. The life of Christ in us will change both our thinking and our imaginations, and they will become Christ-centered and filled with life. When the whole body of Christ demonstrates this healing, the ministry of the Spirit will come forth in Christ's power and authority! Can you imagine the tremendous impact this will have on traditional Christians and on unbelievers? I believe it will draw them to the light!
"There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads." (vv. 3-4)
There is no curse in the mind of Christ; the curse is in the Adamic mind. Christ took away the certificate of debt consisting of decrees that were against us. (Col. 2:14) There is no curse for those who function in the mind of Christ. The old Adamic mind functions in the letter of the law with its blessings and curses, but those who have the government (throne) of God within them are free of the curse. They are free to serve God and do His will, for they are not ruled by their old thinking.
"They will see His face." What does that mean? "They" refers to those who know who they are in Christ; they know that they are not living under a curse. Our face identifies who we are; it brings recognition. Those who are ruled by the mind of Christ will recognize that which is of Him! It is very hard to recognize a good counterfeit; it takes an intimate knowledge of the real to detect the counterfeit. In Hong Kong, where we lived for a good number of years, every large bill was scrutinized under a light to determine whether it was a counterfeit or an authentic bill. The light revealed the counterfeit. Only those who have an intimate knowledge of Christ can distinguish between the real Christ and the many faces that masquerade as Christ.
"And His name will be on their foreheads." They have a name - not a number. We hear a lot about the number 666 on the forehead, symbolizing the carnal thinking of man, but who wants to be a number? Overcomers have a name! The name of Christ symbolizes the nature of Christ. To have Christ's name written on our foreheads means that we have the thinking and nature of the Christ within us. Wearing the helmet of salvation protects our mind from receiving the lies of the enemy. As we function in the nature of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in all our actions, desires and interactions with people.
THE LIGHT OF LIIFE
"And there will no longer be any night; and they will no longer have any need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever" (actually, "for the ages of the ages.") (v.5)
"And there will no longer be any night, and they will no longer have any need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun" This phenomenon does not refer to a time in a physical heaven after we die. This is for now! "Night" symbolizes darkness and ignorance. Ignorance is not stupidity. A stupid person won't use the knowledge he has, but an ignorant person lacks knowledge. In Acts 17:30 Paul said, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent." Repentance takes us out of our ignorance and darkness, and brings us the light of Christ. The mind of Christ brings us into oneness with the will of God.
The light of the lamp symbolizes man-made light. The word "light" also means understanding. We hear expressions such as "the light of understanding shone in his eyes," and "he suddenly saw the light," meaning that he suddenly understood. So the light of the lamp symbolizes man's philosophy, and the light of the sun symbolizes natural understanding of spiritual realities. Christ Jesus is the true light, and He does away with man's philosophies and religious systems in which shadows and darkness exist.
In God's glorious light there are no shadows and there is no darkness - there is only light! In the natural light of the sun there is always day and night and there are shadows. If we only function in natural knowledge, we will never see God's glorious light; we will only see Him in shadow and in limitation. Only the Holy Spirit of truth can give us spiritual understanding. As we abide in Christ, we are filled with His light. There is no darkness in Him! His light does away with our natural understanding of spiritual realities! Those who are filled with the light and understanding that is in Christ will reign with Him for the ages of the ages.
"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 soon take place." (v. 6) This is a confirmation of what was communicated to John by Jesus Christ in Rev.1:1. At the very beginning of this revelation it says that God "sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John_"the things which must soon take place." When God communicates revelation to us, He always confirms it. God is so faithful in confirming His words to us!
"The things which must soon take place." The natural mind constantly looks for the fulfillment of prophecy in historical events instead of seeing its spiritual significance. Everything spiritual must have its fulfillment in people - not in history. This spiritual understanding has to take place in us so that the nature of Christ becomes visible in us at this present time. This brings about the revelation of Jesus Christ to the world. It has to come through His people, even as the revelation of the invisible God came to us in Jesus Christ.
"And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book." (v.7) We know that Christ is always with us, and that He has promised never to leave us. Yet here He says that He is coming quickly or swiftly (Concordant Literal). When Christ comes to us personally, He comes quickly, suddenly, speedily or unexpectedly. His understanding comes to us with the speed of lightning. His comings are like lightning, for suddenly illumination floods our soul. His coming to be glorified in His saints will be no exception. Suddenly that which was an enigma to us becomes so clear. In every new revelation of Him, we say that He came to us. Although we are not always aware of Christ's presence, yet He is always with us. With each new revelation that we receive of Him, we become aware of His presence, and we say that He came to us.
However, in 2 Thess. 1:10 we have the promise that Christ is coming again, not to reveal Himself to us, but "to be glorified in His saints on that day and to be marveled at among all who have believed - for our testimony to you was believed." He is not coming in the physical body of a man to whisk His people up to heaven. He is coming to be glorified in His saints! What a glorious revelation!
After Jesus Christ was resurrected, God gave Him authority over all things, and seated Him far above all heavens! In His humiliation He remained obedient, even to the point of death. He is worthy to receive honor and glory forevermore! This is the glory of our Head, for we are all members of His body. Here He comes to be glorified in His saints, that is, in His body! He is coming to fill His church with His power and anointing! We have enjoyed a measure of anointing, but think of how an unlimited anointing in the believers will affect the unsaved! It will expose religion for what it is, as well as all the painful, unhealthy spurs that have grown out of Christianity and its traditions. As people learn truth, they will learn to follow the Lord!
Christ Jesus is coming again! However, He is not coming to take away sin, nor is He coming in the physical form He had when He walked and taught in Judea and Galilee. He is not coming to rapture His church so she can escape tribulation. He is coming to bring a greater revelation of Himself in the overcomers to deliver all of creation. We know that Jesus came again in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and this promise to come again was written many years later. Therefore this promise does not refer to His coming again in the Holy Spirit, but in His sons! Pentecost gave us the down payment of our inheritance, and at Christ's coming again to be glorified in His sons, we will receive the fullness of the Spirit. The manifestation of the sons of God will deliver all creation from its bondage to corruption. We look forward with great anticipation to this wonderful event!
The scriptures show us that God revealed Himself progressively throughout the ages. In Christ Jesus we have received a perfect revelation of the Father. (Heb. 1:2-3) Now the world is to receive a perfect revelation of Jesus Christ when He comes again to be manifested in His sons. The revelation of Jesus Christ in His sons brings glory to Him.
"Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book." A prophecy is an anointed word from God. It does not necessarily predict future historical events; it may be a word of encouragement, direction, warning, or a combination of all these things. This revelation of Jesus Christ came from God. (Rev. 1:1) God gave this message to Jesus Christ so that He could show His bondservants the things that must shortly take place. These things need to take place in those who are His bondservants (not in history), so that they can be a revelation of Christ to the world. We are blessed when we pay attention to His words and obey them, for they are God's way of changing us into the exact image of Christ! The blessing rests on those who are obedient!
"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. But 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.'" (vv. 8-9)
John heard these things with spiritual ears. Hearing God takes place when we understand and obey the message. It was evident that the multitudes to whom Jesus spoke were only hearing with physical ears because they did not understand the message. We all need spiritual ears to understand a spiritual message. John understood the message and was filled with awe!
John was so overcome with this vibrant message that he wanted to worship at the feet of the messenger. The first time this occurred was in chapter 19:10, and he was told not to do that. He was only to worship God! To our great surprise, he tried it again, and received the same rebuke: "Don't do that. Worship God." Maybe we shouldn't be surprised, because often we also need more than one rebuke.
How hard it is for us to refrain from hero worship! We want to worship Jesus as a physical man; we want to walk on the same ground He walked when He was on earth (a physical impossibility), and identify with His physical activities. We don't want to identify with His spiritual struggles and victories. Hero worship is so much more enjoyable! There is also the temptation to idolize a great speaker or prophet or faith healer. We believe this message contains a solemn warning for us to refrain from hero worship.
We are not to worship the messenger. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is the messenger, and as such He will not receive worship. He said, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth..You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only." (Jn. 4:24; Luke 4:8) God is spirit, and we cannot see spirit. So the worship of a seen object or person is prohibited. We are only to worship God! We are not to worship Jesus, the man who walked the streets of Galilee. It was the anointing, the Christ within the man Jesus, that performed the miracles, and that gave Him the words of truth and life. Jesus identified with us as our brother, a fellow servant of those who heed the message of this book. But now we no longer see Him as a man, for it is "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
"And he said to me, 'Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.'" (v. 10) In other words, don't keep this prophecy a secret. It is all about the great victory that is ours in Christ; it is about the change that He produces in us! When our mind is transformed we are able to think the thoughts of Christ. We are not to keep this transformation a secret in our heart; if we do, it will go down to the grave together with our body. It is to be revealed in our everyday life! Whenever God opens our heart to hear His words, that is the time set for us to reveal it in our life - in our words and in our actions. God's timing varies with individuals for He does not open everyone's heart at the same time.
"Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy." (v. 11)
The wrongdoers are not to pretend that their wrongdoing is right, and the filthy ones are not to pretend that their filthiness is cleanliness, and the unrighteous are not to pretend that they are righteous, and those who claim to be righteous must also be righteous. If they claim to be righteous when they actually are unrighteous, their righteousness is a pretence. The righteous are to be righteous in all their thoughts and actions and interactions with people, and God's holy ones should keep themselves holy and separated from all evil. Here God is telling us that we are not to pretend we are something we are not. God hates hypocrisy. Christ's harshest words were against the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees.
"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." (vv. 12-13) The promise to come quickly is repeated. Then He says that His reward is with Him. What is His reward?
Here John was shown that we are God's reward! In Ephesians 1:18-19 we read, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might." (Emphasis ours) God's great reward is having man in His image! In Genesis 1 we see that God purposed to make man in His image, and in the last chapter in Revelation we see that He has accomplished His purpose!
How amazing it is to see that all who have received the new humanity in Christ are the firstfruit of God's great reward for giving His Son for the salvation of humanity! Jesus said that the Son of Man is coming again. He is not coming as an individual; He is coming as the corporate Christ - as the Son of Man, Christ and His body; Christ with His bride! Creating for His Son a bride who will fulfill all His desire, is the firstfruit of God's great salvation that He has achieved for all humanity in Christ!
The purpose of His coming is "to render to every man according to the work he has done." Why is God so keenly interested in handing out rewards for the work we are doing? We find the answer in Gen. 15:1 where God spoke to Abram saying, "Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward." (KJV) Is there any reward that is greater than the Lord Himself? He is our greatest reward! Christ is the anointing, and His anointing in us increases as we obey Him. The works that flow out of faith are works of obedience, and they are rewarded with a greater anointing - with more of Christ. He always appears to us as the Christ. Unbelief is disobedience, and there is no reward for that. Disobedience carries within itself its own penalty. Only God-directed works are rewarded.
This wonderful announcement that Christ comes to reward His faithful ones, is followed by the declaration that Christ is everything we need! In the opening chapter of this book, Christ said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega", and in the closing chapter these words are repeated. The Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and the Omega is the last letter. All the words that we need for communication are formed from the letters of the alphabet. Similarly, everything we need in life is found in Christ Jesus! He is our sufficiency for all our natural and spiritual needs!
Christ Jesus is the first and the last; He is the beginning and the end. He is the Word of God. All things were made through Him, so we know He was before Adam. He has always been, for the Word is God. However, in His identification with humanity as the Son of Man, He is the first, the prototype of a new humanity. He is also the last, for all things find their consummation in Him. Everything in us that is not of His nature is eradicated or consumed by God's fire. God's consuming fire is not a physical fire; it is a spiritual fire that consumes all our dross and all our self-will. Only His nature in us remains! It is "the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe" that is able to accomplish this. (Eph. 1:19) The almighty power of God in the Holy Spirit is the strength of His might! His power is unlimited! What a mighty God we have!
"Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter the gates into the city." (v. 14) Why do we need to wash our robes? The white robes that we have received are robes of righteousness. How do they get soiled? They get soiled when we try to add our own works of the law to the righteousness that we already have in Christ. Therefore they have to be cleansed of all self-righteousness and self-effort, for the works of the law produce pride, and do not attain to God's standard. The natural mind tempts us to think that we are better than others because of something we have done. It tells us that we are better because we fulfill all the requirements of a good church worker, etc. But nothing we do can merit access to the tree of life. It is only the righteousness of Jesus Christ that qualifies us to partake or eat of that fruit! Christ alone is our passport; He alone is our righteousness! (1 Cor. 1:30) Nothing of self can be added. Any addition disqualifies us from entering in.
How do we wash our robes? In 1 John 1:7 we read, "But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." The correct rendering of Lev. 17:11 states that the soul is in the blood. The blood (soul) of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. Our cleansing takes place as we walk in the Light - not by self-effort! Light reveals what is hidden in darkness; it reveals our lusting and desire for self-glorification and all the things that feed and enhance the self-life. As we receive the soul of Christ, we receive His thinking, His desires, His emotions, His attitudes and His will - His very nature! Living in Christ's righteousness and grace cleanses our robe of all unrighteousness.
"Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying." (v.15) The statement, "Outside are the dogs," does not refer to canines. In Jewish tradition the Gentiles or unbelievers are called dogs - and unbelievers have no way of getting into the new Jerusalem. They have to become believers in Christ Jesus before they can enter in, for He is the door. Unbelief keeps us from having faith in Christ.
The word sorcery comes from the Greek word PHARMAKIA, and our English word pharmacy has the same root. "It primarily signifies the use of medicine, drugs and spells; then, poisoning; then sorcery." (Webster's Dictionary) Sorcery is the use of an evil supernatural power over people, and is usually accompanied by incantations that appeal to occult powers. Sorcerers use occult powers to supposedly keep demonic power away from people. Their claim to mysterious powers and their many incantations draws a lot of attention to themselves.
How does this apply to us internally? Do we believe in a power other than God's power? Do we believe in carrying good-luck charms, like a four- leaf clover and/or a rabbit's foot? Do we use expressions like "touch wood" to ward off evil? Do we believe that there are two powers - God's power and Satan's? We need to know that there is only one power, and that is God's power! The devil's so-called power is rooted in lies and deception, and therefore is not a true power. Truth destroys his power. Jesus told Pilate that he (Pilate) would not have any power over Him if it had not been given him from above. Therefore, any thoughts, feelings and emotions that would misdirect us, and cause us to place our confidence in anything other than God's power has to be put away. Sorcery has no place within the bride of Christ. She knows the power of God; she knows that He is sovereign. She will not receive the lies and deception the devil spews out of his mouth.
Immoral people do not accept God's principles of right and wrong behavior, and therefore do not live in conformity with them. They chase after that which is lewd and obscene because their heart is not right with God. Physical immorality is easier to detect than mental and spiritual immorality. Mental immorality is the nourishing of the desire for wrong behavior, and spiritual immorality is to accept the praise and honor that only belongs to God. If we receive it for ourselves, we are actually robbing God. This is immorality!
Murderers kill. Is there anything in us that kills the word of God? Most Christians do not realize that it is the flesh, the carnal mind that always opposes the Spirit and tries to kill the word that comes from the Spirit. Cain and Abel are our first examples. Cain would not listen to God, so in spite of God's warning he killed Abel. Carnality does not obey God, so no carnality can enter God's rule. Believers have the mind of Christ, but they don't always allow that mind to rule them. The mind of Christ always believes God and delights to do His will.
Idolaters don't worship God; instead, they worship their own images of God. In 2 Cor. 10:5 we read, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." We are to cast down all our imaginations that are against the knowledge of God, and believe His declaration of who He is. We cannot know God unless we believe that He is who He says He is. Our own ideas of who God is, are not valid. We can imagine Him to be a God of love who would never cause us to suffer. But this is not the God of the Bible. Love wants what is best for us, and if suffering and difficulties will help us to grow and make us strong, God will give them to us. Our Father's love includes discipline and restoration. If we worship a different god, he is a god of our imagination, and we are guilty of idolatry even though we don't actually have any physical idols in our house.
We commit idolatry when we worship something other than God. If we have an excessive devotion or admiration of anything other than God, we are committing idolatry. If we chase after or accept other gods, like money, honor, culture, intellectualism, etc., we are guilty of spiritual idolatry.
Those who love and practice lying are also outside, for they exemplify the devil's nature. Jesus said that the devil is the father of lies. (Jn. 8:44) Here we see the great divide, the great contrast. The devil never speaks truth, and Jesus only speaks truth. In fact, Christ is the truth! The devil's kingdom is one of lies, and Christ's kingdom is one of truth. Lies have no foundation, but truth does have foundation. The two kingdoms can never be merged or united, for they are opposites; they strive against each other. Lies can never do away with truth; they can only hide truth until truth exposes the error.
Do we love truth or the error we thought was truth? Loving truth will cause us to be willing to leave our comfort zone - the lies we thought were truth. In 2 Thess. 2:10 Paul writes that people receive "the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." If we do not love truth, we will prefer to remain in our comfortable pew, and glory in the lies that promise an easy life. Believing the truth is like swimming against the stream - against the mainstream thinking of religious humanity. Believing the truth is difficult, because liars will persecute the truth. Liars fear the truth because it reveals their immoral living. Truth frees us from the lie, and brings us into the kingdom of truth where there is peace, joy, righteousness and love! In Christ there is no error or darkness! .
"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." (v. 16) This message is for the churches; it is not for those who are outside the church.
In spite of the fact that humanity had rejected, tortured and killed Jesus without cause, He continues to love and forgive. His identification with us enables Him to bring us into the new sinless humanity that is ours in Christ. His words and His testimony as written in this book come in the authority of truth, and therefore are to be heeded and obeyed.
It is interesting to note that Jesus has a two-fold identification. Not only is He the descendant of David, but He is also the root of David. On the basis of His royal birth as a descendant of David, He has the legal right to the throne. But how can He be both the descendant and the root without claiming identification with humanity and with God? It is impossible! He is the root, the source of David's kingly lineage, and He is also the source of our life and kingly lineage!
He is also the bright morning star! The morning star is the harbinger of the light of a new day, and therefore a light-bearer. It is visible in the eastern sky, it gives light and direction to mankind before the sun makes its appearance, and it announces the arrival of a new day. This portrayal is used figuratively of Christ and His spiritual light. However, natural man is blind to spiritual realities; he does not have an organ adapted for its reception. Only Christ can give him the capacity to see spiritually.
In 2 Peter 1:19 it says, "So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." Christ is the fulfillment of the prophetic scriptures concerning His coming into the hearts of believers. Christ's coming to earth announced the arrival of a new day, and this new day began when the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost!
"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." (v.17( This verse brings us the sweet strains of a new message. The Spirit and the bride are in perfect harmony, bringing an invitation for all to come and drink of the water of life! This invitation comes from the Spirit and the bride (the perfected church, the overcomers). At the present time this invitation is going forth from the Spirit to those who are chosen of God. But praise God, the time is coming when it will go forth to all peoples and all nations! At present the firstfruit is being perfected into the image of Christ, but we know that the harvest follows the firstfruit!
The water of life is to be handed out without any cost to the recipient. The words of life are to be given out freely. The understanding God has given us is to be heralded and distributed without cost. It is not to be merchandized! Freely we have received and freely we are to hand it out free of cost. If we don't abide in God's admonition, the greed factor takes over, truth is sacrificed, and the gospel becomes intellectualized and entrenched in rituals and traditions. In order for the money to come in, evangelists and pastors and ministries frequently yield to the temptation of becoming people-pleasers. Yielding to this temptation causes them to lose their anointing, and brings them into a bondage or slavery to people. God wants complete obedience; He also wants us to trust Him to supply the needed resources for the work to which He has called us.
"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; 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." (vv. 18-19)
The words of the prophecy of this book are true, and the prophecy is complete. There are to be no additions or subtractions. Those who add to, or subtract from the prophecy, have need of more cleansing. Anyone who adds to it will have to undergo more of the plagues that are described in this book. Our additions will bring more of God's addition of plagues that are needed to cleanse us from all our carnal thinking. God will achieve His goal for each of us, and use as many plagues as are needed to achieve perfect cleansing of all our wrong thinking!
If anyone takes words away from this book, God will take away his part from the tree of life. Why did Adam and Eve lose their access to the tree of life? Didn't they take away from the words God had given them? God had told Adam that he would die if he ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. Through unbelief that promise was disregarded. A subtraction took place, and they were barred from the tree of life. Our subtraction from His word brings God's subtraction from the tree of life. We can only access that tree by functioning in the truth! Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. There is no other way!
"He who testifies to these things says, `Yes, I am coming quickly.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." (v.20) This is the third time in this chapter that Jesus says He is coming quickly. Quickly does not refer to a time interval, but to His manner of coming. What a blessed assurance to know that He is coming quickly. He comes to us with the speed of lightning in every new revelation of Him that we receive. Those who have an intimate knowledge of Him have experienced this. We are in Christ, but He is also being formed in us. The revelation of Christ in the overcomers is His coming again. Christ brought the revelation of God to the religious community and to the world, and now we are to bring the revelation of Christ to the religious community and to the world.
"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen." (v.21) Some early manuscripts say, "with all saints" instead of "be with all". This emphasis on grace is characteristic of Paul's epistles, but not of John's earlier epistles. It is a beautiful ending to John's revelation. We have been saved by grace - not by works! The divine influence of the grace that we have in Christ is always to shine forth in our lives. Grace does not withhold love and forgiveness. Our love is not curtailed by the evil actions or slights targeted against us. Since we have freely received God's grace and forgiveness, we need to freely extend grace and forgiveness to others.
"Amen" means, "So be it." John adds his approval to everything written in this book. This is a true rendition of the revelation given him by the Holy Spirit.
In closing we would just like to say that we have spent many hours researching the meaning of the Greek words used, reading, listening to tapes by various speakers, meditating and listening to the Spirit. We have learned many things in this labor of love. It has been such a blessing to learn that this book is not about external events in the years to come, but about the things that are currently happening within us as a result of God's processing that is needed to change us. It truly is a revelation of the Christ within us! It has blessed us to know that God's processing will continue until Christ's humanity shines forth from us. We also rejoice that God's fire is not a literal fire, but a spiritual fire burning away all that is corruptible. It is also a blessing to know that and that the word "touchstone" does not mean torment, even though it has been translated in that way. This study has opened our eyes to see that God's salvation is so much greater than we had ever dreamed, and we pray that you will also be blessed with greater understanding and intimacy with our Lord!