One of the warmest words in the English language is “come.” In the original language, the form of that word used in our text today appears 636 times in the New Testament alone. The God of the Bible is a God who invites. Through the prophet God said, “Come” (Isaiah 55:1). Jesus himself said, “Come” (Matthew 11:28). The Holy Spirit and the church say, “Come” (Revelation 22:17). The angel, sent by Jesus and who appears in each scene in this passage, essentially says, “Come.” This angel acts like a heavenly escort showing off the glory of the new heavens and new earth.
Come: Examine the City
Inside of this new Heaven and new earth is a holy city (Revelation 21:1-4). God’s people can come to it because it has come to them—from above. John’s angelic escort showed John around this city that looked like the restored Garden of Eden. When John examined the city he saw no less than seven images (these images may very well be literal as well as figurative). Either way the images are “real.”
Those images are a river, a throne, a street, a tree, fruit, foreheads, and light. The river is a symbol of life, salvation, and purity. It comes from the throne of God—which occupies center stage in this new social reality (Revelation 4–5). It is very available since it flows down the middle of Main Street. The tree of life (which disappeared from the biblical narrative in Genesis 3) grows along the sides of the river. [We should not become overly concerned with how one tree could grow on both sides of the river. The point is that life is everywhere.] The tree of life—from which believers can eat again (Revelation 22:14)—grows 12 crops of fruit. How can one tree grow 12 different kinds of fruit? The key is in the symbolic number 12. The leaves of the tree heal the nations. The fact that the tree is back means that the curse in Eden has been reversed. God will be seen plainly and his identity will be stamped on the believers’ foreheads. And light will be everywhere. Where God dwells there is no need for sun or lamp. He is light (1 John 1:5). Is there a more beautiful place than this?
Come: Worship God
The angelic escort had shown John the city. Next the angelic escort carried on an extended conversation with John. The angel reminded John how trustworthy and true God’s words are. The angel also reminded John of how God inspired the prophets and sent angels to give testimonies (v. 16). The angel even quotes Jesus as giving the sixth beatitude of the book (v. 7). This beatitude repeats an earlier one about how blessed the person is who keeps (guards) the prophecy written on this scroll (1:3).
John was so overwhelmed with all the things he heard and saw that he fell down at the angel’s feet to worship. He was immediately corrected by the angel, who knew his place among the servants, prophets, and believers. He enjoined John to “Worship God!” At the end of the day that may be one of the most important imperatives in the whole Bible. Unlike what Daniel was told (Daniel 12:9), John was commanded not to seal the words of the prophecy because the time is near. Those who come to worship God will be holy and do right—not be vile and do wrong.
Come: Claim Your Reward
In this section the angel may be quoting what Jesus said. But it is more likely that Jesus is speaking for himself. Notice the first-person singular, “Look, I am coming soon.” And Jesus is bringing with him a reward (wages). The subject of rewards is a complicated one in the Bible. Do people saved by grace actually deserve (or receive) rewards? Is it not reward enough just to be in Heaven? Evidently rewards do not contradict salvation by grace. All people will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Rewards will be given based on the kinds of works performed (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
Believers must realize that any reward they receive is based on Christ’s person and work. He is described in at least six ways in this passage. The final beatitude of the book is placed not on people who worked hard but on people who washed their robes. They were allowed access to the tree of life and given permission to enter the city. Outside the city are all the evil people. Those on the inside were there because they responded to one word—come.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.