Thursday, 8 July 2021
And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10
The one speaking with John just stated that his words “are the true sayings of God.” Either misunderstanding what is being conveyed or misinterpreting what should be done with such a statement, John next says, “And I fell at his feet to worship him.”
It is unclear what John was thinking concerning the messenger. It could be that John thought he was deity and fell at his feet in order to worship him as such. This is seen at various times in Scripture, such as in Genesis 18:2 when Abraham bowed before the Lord and those with him. Or it could be that John assumed that a divine messenger, even if not God, was to be worshipped. Cornelius made this mistake in Acts 10:25 when Peter arrived with a divine message.
Whatever the case, John made an error in his thinking when he fell in worship. In response to John’s act, it next says, “But he said to me, “See that you do not do that!” The Greek is much simpler, saying, “See not.”
It is a direct expression that what John did is inappropriate. But equally important is that this certainly shows the authenticity of the account. John would not have written such words, putting himself into such an embarrassing situation if they were not true. With this in mind, the messenger continues by saying, “I am your fellow servant.”
In saying this, various meanings are possible. The first is that this is a heavenly angel, and yet he is placing himself in a comparable position to John, stating that angels are fellow servants in the service of God. Or it could be that this is a human who is conveying the message of Christ to John. The word translated as “angel” simply means a messenger.
The context determines the interpretation, and the interpretation here is actually not clear. In Revelation 22:16, it will say (probably speaking of this same messenger), “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches.” This is the same general thought as that given in the last book of the Old Testament –
“The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” Malachi 1:1
“Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:1
In Malachi 1:1, the name Malachi means “My Messenger,” coming from the word malak, meaning an angel (and thus a messenger). That is clearly speaking of the human prophet. In Malachi 3:1, the words “My messenger” are translated from the same word, malaki, used in 1:1. This is speaking of the coming of John the Baptist. The same word, malak, is then used when speaking of Christ, the “Messenger” of the covenant.
Understanding this, we can see that it is not perfectly clear that the “angel” referred to by Jesus in Revelation 22 is an angelic being. In fact, it appears that in all three instances – the prophet Malachi, John the Baptist, and the messenger of Revelation –humans might have been chosen to convey the message of God. As such, this one now speaking to John – if indeed a human – next says, “and of your brethren.”
Without being dogmatic, this tends to lean the entire thought of this messenger into the category of humanity. A heavenly angel could say this, but it appears he is saying that his servanthood is based on his humanity. Either way, he next says that the brethren (whether he is including himself in the term or not) are those “who have the testimony of Jesus.”
Of these words, Vincent’s Word Studies provides two possible options, saying, “Some explain as the testimony which proceeds from Jesus. Jesus, by imparting this testimony to believers imparts to them the spirit of prophecy. Others, the witness which is born to Jesus. The way of bearing this witness, the substance and essence of this testimony is the Spirit of prophecy.”
These two options are then revealed in various ways in different translations –
who hold to the testimony of Jesus – NIV
who testify about their faith in Jesus – NLT
who rely on the testimony of Jesus – BSB
who tells about Jesus – CEV
who hold to the truth that Jesus revealed – GNT
who rely on what Jesus is saying – ISV
who have borne testimony to Jesus – WNT
Whichever of the two options is correct, the ultimate point of the messenger’s words is that the message conveyed is one that is Christ-centered. As he is only a messenger and not the Lord, he exclaims, “Worship God!”
The words here clearly indicate that only God is to be worshiped. Any other being is created and is not God. Therefore, to worship anyone other than God is to fall into error. With that clearly and unambiguously stated, this messenger then finishes the verse with, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
What is being said here is not that there is only one purpose of prophecy, but that all prophecy is given to bear witness to the work of God in Christ. Every prophetic utterance in Scripture has a purpose, be it to foretell the future, to call the people back to a right relationship with God, to explain the dimensions of the building of the temple, or for whatever reason God determines.
However, each such prophetic utterance ultimately bears witness to the redemptive narrative which is focused and centered on Jesus. This may be typological, chronological, symbolical (such as in metaphor), and so on. But nothing that issues from God in prophecy will be stated unless it refers to and helps explain what He is doing in Christ. As such, no messenger of prophecy is to be worshiped unless that Messenger is Christ Himself. This is the point and purpose of what is conveyed to John.
Life application: This verse is one of the clearest indications of Jesus’ deity in the Bible. And yet, in order to dismiss it, cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses need to misuse and mistranslate what the Bible clearly teaches (they have their own translation of the Bible compiled with a set agenda against the Person of Jesus and who He is).
John, overwhelmed with the sight and concept of the marriage supper of the Lamb, falls at the feet of the messenger of the vision in order to worship him. But, in a clear and precise manner, he refuses the worship and redirects it towards Jesus. In the process of doing so, he proclaims, “Worship God!” In the Greek, as in the English, the “testimony of Jesus” brackets the state that God alone is to be worshiped.
What is implicit then is that Jesus is God. The angel states that he is only a fellow servant and one who bears the testimony of Jesus. It is this testimony that we are to direct our attention to, because that testimony is Christ-centered. Every word uttered in the Bible is either pointing to the coming Messiah or explaining and revealing Him.
Through the Bible’s prophetic utterances, we learn that Jesus Christ is God’s revelation of Himself. The Creator that we can’t know – except for how He has revealed Himself through creation (general revelation) – becomes known and intimate through the Person of Jesus (specific revelation). Here is the logical progression of the idea –
1) We cannot specifically know God apart from the Person of Jesus Christ.
2) We cannot, at this time, know Jesus Christ apart from what is contained in Scripture.
3) Therefore, what is written in the Bible is intended to lead us to Jesus and thus to a proper knowledge of God.
Because the Bible’s last book is entitled “Revelation,” we can be certain that all we need to know for our life, doctrine, and practice has now been given. And because this book ends with the complete restoration of all that was lost at the beginning, then we have the full assurance that we have the whole counsel of God in its pages. Thus, there is no further prophecy necessary, and thus there are no more prophets who foretell the word of God.
This is vitally important to understand because heretics such as Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, Mohammed of Islam, as well as a host of others throughout the ages, have proclaimed that they are prophets with a message from God. But these always lead away from Jesus, not towards Him, even if they proclaim Jesus in some sense.
God’s word is sealed, the testimony of Jesus is given, and only this is to be considered in our knowledge of, and obedience to, God. Yes, the spirit of prophecy is – wholly and entirely – the testimony of JESUS!
Thank You, O God, for the beautiful revelation of Yourself through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and for the description of this revelation in the pages of Scripture. You have given us everything we need to pursue You, to know You, and to then turn to You in worship and praise. Great are You, O God! Amen.