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Bible penngrovechurchofchristorgOver the past few Sundays, Churchmouse Campanologist has featured ‘forbidden Bible verses’ which are seldom heard or preached on in Sunday services.  To read past entries, click here. Now, here is a truly forbidden Bible passage in that verses 18 and 19 of Revelation 22 are no longer in the Episcopal lectionary.  Today’s reading comes from the  New International Version.   

Revelation 22

The River of Life

 1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. 6The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

Jesus Is Coming

 7“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”

 8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”

 10Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.”

 12“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

 14“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

 16“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

 17The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

 18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

 20He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
      Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

 21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

 

What is more essential to any form of life than water?  Our flora and fauna depend on it, as do we.  It is a universal axiom that no human being can survive for more than a few days without water.  Even today, clean water is prized throughout the world;  there are still countries which lack this precious, essential life-sustaining element.  In verse 1, the Angel reveals the New Jerusalem by indicating the ‘water of life’ first. Students of the Bible recall passages of the Old Testament which mention this great gift of God’s bounty: Isaiah 48:18, Zechariah 14:8, Ezekiel 47:1-9 and Psalm 46:4-5, which seems to have a direct correlation:

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.  God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.

This water comes directly from God.  Therefore, it will be not only pure but abundant.  Imagine the tree of life in verse 2 as you will, perhaps as a row of trees bordering the river on either side.  The tree means that God will restore all things, which Man may then fully enjoy.  The fruit of this tree will be restorative and healthful, bearing a full crop for each month of the year.  Taking all this in, it is hard to imagine that this same street was in Rev. 11:8-9 a scene of death and martyrdom.  Yet, now, the Lord has made this a perfect place for His people, who will worship Him through their work and service.  This will not be the same type of work and drudgery we know on Earth, but a blessed, joyful willingness to serve Him.  God’s people will be able at last to have the close relationship with Him for which they have longed.  Because sin, idolatry and woe are no more, they can now see Him face to face.  They will truly know Him in a way we do not know at present.  God’s perfection will reign in His administration of the New Jerusalem, in His peoples’s subordination and His transformation of Himself to them.

In verse 6, the Angel makes it clear that what these verses say is true — they are the Word of God.  The Angel adds in verse 7 that the Lord has said that when He comes it will be without warning — more in line with ‘suddenly’ or ‘unexpectedly’, perhaps, than ‘soon’, which would imply immediacy.  Therefore, we must be prepared to receive Him.  We are asked to receive this prophecy by readying ourselves for His arrival.

When St John falls down at the feet of the Angel in verse 8, the Angel makes clear that he is merely a servant and commands John to ‘worship God’.  If St John makes this mistake, we, too, must be on guard against worshipping God’s messengers.   

The command in verse 10 against ‘sealing up’ — ignoring or obscuring — this prophecy tells us that these verses are still pertinent.  Yet, the Angel reminds St John that not all will heed them.  So, however hard it is to do, we sometimes have no choice but to let sinners go their own way.  Not all will be saved.  Those who are righteous in the Lord will continue to be holy and await His Kingdom.  We see this again in verses 14 and 15, where ‘dogs’ refers to those who are morally impure.  They will be left outside, but will not care that their condemnation awaits them.  Note the mention of ‘magic arts’, which is lumped in with murder, fornication and idolatry as ‘falsehood’!  Let us pay attention to our leisure pursuits.

The Lord says in verse 12 that He is coming soon — a reiteration of verse 7.  The need to be ready is urgent, even if we do not know the day or the hour of His return.  Christ’s words in verse 13 tell us that he is the beginning (Alpha — first letter in the Greek alphabet) and the end (Omega — the last letter).  There is no salvation without Jesus Christ.  Hence, the importance for us to confess that Jesus is Lord — He alone has ultimate sovereignty.  He reiterates this in verse 16 and says that the Angel is speaking His words.  The Lord intends this message ‘for the churches’ — indeed, the whole Book of Revelation is intended for the churches. It is not for a few saints or Bible scholars to interpret — these words are for all of us

With that, we have those beautiful words in the open invitation of verse 17: ‘And let him who hears say, “Come!”‘  ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come!’  is in Aramaic ‘Maranatha!’  What a splendid day that will be.  Are we ready?

Now, come the crucial passages which The Episcopal Church have removed from their Lectionary:

18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Bible scholars say this is further indication that all of us can and should read the Book of Revelation.  We are to understand and heed its prophecy and messages.   

The final verses emphasise that Jesus will return and it will be at an unexpected, sudden moment (‘quickly’).  In closing, the faithful are reminded that God’s grace is with them always.

 

You can read more here and here.

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