Seventh Sunday of Easter – Showing Our Understanding of Revelations

Revelations, Bible Story Windows at Table View Methodist Church,
Rev. Angus Kelly and Anika Van de Merwe, 2018–2019
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Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Revelations 22:12–21
May 29, 2022

Today, we read the closing section of “The Book of Revelation.” It reprises its key themes:

  • we should heed the revelation;
  • the end is near;
  • and the righteous will be rewarded.

It will also remind us that it is a letter and will refer consciously and effectively to its opening.

This section began a few verses before today’s passage.

“Behold, I am coming soon.”
Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.
It is I, John, who heard and saw these things

(Re 22:7-–8a)

Compare it to the opening of Revelations:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him,
to show his servants what must happen soon.
He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
who gives witness to the word of God
and to the testimony of Jesus Christ by reporting what he saw.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud
and blessed are those who listen to this prophetic message
and heed what is written in it, for the appointed time is near.

(Re 1:1–3)

John the seer is asking the reader if he or she has been convinced by the letter. Do they see that their lives and their church must be based on the experience of the Resurrection of Jesus? This was so important that it was a special revelation through Angels to John and the response to it will determine if one is included among the blessed or not. He has proclaimed as well that Jesus is Lord—that is the God of Israel—and will return to complete his work.

We begin today’s passage with:

Behold, I am coming soon.
I bring with me the recompense
I will give to each according to his deeds.

(Re 22:12)

The Lord is returning, and he will judge everyone according to how they have lived. He reminds us immediately that he has the power and authority:

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last,
the beginning and the end.”

(Re 22:13)

He has used this phrase before, most notably in the very beginning of
the letter:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,”
says the Lord God,
who is and who was and who is to come,
the Almighty.

(Re 1:8)

Here he explicitly emphasizes that it is the “Lord” God. Jesus is equal to the Father and thus his judgment will be just and final.

Those who have lived a life of righteousness will be deemed worthy of entering the new Jerusalem that we have discussed previously.

The next line refers us both to a previous section of Revelations and the Old Testament:

Blessed are they who wash their robes
so as to have the right to the tree of life
and enter the city through its gates.

(Re 22:14)

We read before:

“Sir, you are the one that knows.”
Then he said to me, “These are they
who have come out of the great ordeal;
they have washed their robes\
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

(Re 7:14)

The community of John the Seer has experienced persecution and expects that they will experience more. Washing robes in blood was a symbol that a Christian has participated in Jesus’s suffering. It is not exclusive to martyrs but includes everyone who has maintained their faith.

Thus, they can eat of the tree of life. This is eternal life which we must remember is not mere human life as we have known it repeated forever but the new life which Jesus offers us. The tree has been hidden since the fall of Adam and Eve.

He drove out the man;
and at the east of the garden of Eden
he placed the cherubim,
and a sword flaming and turning to guard
the way to the tree of life.

(Ge 3:24)

This tree is now in the New Jerusalem and only those who have been proven worthy who have “washed their robes” are able to enter properly
“through its gates.”

We are next reminded that Jesus is the source of revelation which is very much aligned with Jewish Scripture:

I, Jesus, sent my angel to give you
this testimony for the churches.
I am the root and offspring of David,
the bright morning star.”

(Re 22:16)

The Book of Revelations is noted for its use of the Old Testament. This is not a generic deity but the LORD of Israel.

Thus, he is descended from David whose father we remember was Jesse:

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand
as a signal to the peoples;
the nations shall inquire of him,
and his dwelling shall be glorious

(Isaiah 11:10)

And will be a light to them, among many references:

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.

(Is 9:2)

Jesus’ offer requires a response, the Holy Spirit, and the church as the new Jerusalem encourage the believer to cry for his return:

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband

(Re 21:2)

This is not a purely intellectual response but a cry of one’s being. We must recognize ourselves as a barren land needing nourishment. Isaiah understood this well:

Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.

(Is 55:1)

The life that we need can only be given by God and will only be given to those who want it desperately but voluntarily.

The two lines which follow are very Jewish and remind us that they are to be taken very seriously. It is meant to increase the formality and solemnity as the book nears its end.

I warn everyone who hears
the prophetic words in this book:
if anyone adds to them,
God will add to him
the plagues described in this book,
and if anyone takes away
from the words in this prophetic book,
God will take away his
share in the tree of life
and in the holy city described in this book.

(Re 22:18–19)

This reflects:

You must neither add anything
to what I command you
nor take away anything from it,
but keep the commandments
of the LORD your God
with which I am charging you.

(Dt 4:2)

This sets up the finale.

The one who gives this testimony says,
“Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen!
Come, Lord Jesus!

(Re 22:20)

Jesus is the source of the book and its teachings and prophesies. We begin today’s reading with “Behold” and the author makes it even more empathic by saying “Yes”. This calls forth the response of the Church: Amen— Yes—Come Lord Jesus.

It Is hard to know if we should read this with relief or disappointment. The kingdom of God is already here but obviously not yet in its fullness. The question of timing can be overly distracting. The main point is that how we have responded to the call of Jesus and how we have lived the life he showed us determine if we share eternal life of not. It is not the power of Rome but the power of love which will ultimately be important.

Revelations concludes with a line we do not read today.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all
the grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.

(Re 22:21)

It is liturgical and would have been said at the Eucharist most likely at its conclusion. Revelation was read at Mass as it is today. The early Christians like us would have experienced Jesus in the present through the Eucharist. It is often said that we judge the success of a Mass not by what we feel on the weekend, but how we act on the weekdays. We can perhaps say we understand Revelations not by what we know sitting in our armchair or kneeling in our pew, but what we do in the streets.