Sunday, 19 September 2021
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; Revelation 22:18
Strong and direct words now come forth. It is not certain who is the subject. Though possibly the angel, or even Jesus, it is just as likely that it is John who makes the proclamation. Either way, the words begin with, “For I testify.”
This is the rendering of the Textus Receptus, but others simply say, “I testify.” However, the “I” is in the emphatic position, making it the strongest possible attestation. Next, the words are “to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book.” The verb is a present participle – “everyone hearing.” In essence, “if you are hearing, you should be paying attention to what I say.”
The word “hearing” includes the thoughts of hearing with the ears. It can also signify both “understand” and “pay heed to.” It is a general word where the meaning has to be considered based on the intent of what is stated. In this case, John is referring to all who hear in the sense of “paying heed.” And so, it could be someone who reads them to himself as much as hearing someone else read. And the warning is, “If anyone adds to these things.”
The meaning here is adding in visions, instructions, warnings, and so on. What has been received by John is what is to be retransmitted as it was received, without any addition at all. Further, this is surely only speaking of the book of Revelation, even if the principle applies to all of Scripture.
At the time Revelation was written, it wasn’t taken to a scroll room that held the other books of the Bible and added to them. Rather, it was a stand-alone book that was only later accepted as a part of the canon of Scripture. Therefore, the words now are only referring to Revelation. It is a thought similar to Moses’ warning in Deuteronomy –
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” Deuteronomy 4:2
“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” Deuteronomy 12:32
Later, it says this in Joshua –
“Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.” Joshua 24:25
Joshua’s revelation did not violate the words of Moses but rather added to the revelation of God. This is seen later in the prophets when they are explicitly told to write words revealed to them for the people to see and understand the Lord’s intention for them. John’s words are the word of the Lord. As such, they would eventually be recognized as such and added to the canon of Scripture.
As for the warning from John, for those who fail to pay heed and who would presume to do so, it says, “God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book.”
The idea is that of deserved retribution. The plagues of Revelation are brought upon the people of the world because they deserve it. As it said in Revelation 16 –
“For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
And You have given them blood to drink.
For it is their just due.” Revelation 16:6
Just as the world received its just due for rejecting Christ and rebelling against God, so will be the case for the one who presumes to add to the prophecies of Revelation.
Life application: Jesus’ warning is in contrast to verse 1:3 – “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” This blessing is restated and amended as was noted in 22:7. Those who “keep” the word that has been given will be blessed. Keeping then implies that it is received and held to without change or by misrepresentation. In 1 Chronicles 10:13, Saul, the first king of Israel discovered the consequences of not keeping God’s word –
“So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance.”
Time and again throughout the pages of Scripture, we are admonished to faithfully keep the word of the Lord. Jesus personally implored His audience to faithfully keep the words that have been given. He stood firm on the smallest letter or part of a letter as of absolute importance. In our hands as we read, or in our minds as we hear, come the very words of God that are recorded in the word of God. It is firm and fixed.
The only way to “keep” the word we have been given is to ensure that it is never changed, added to, taken from, or inappropriately manipulated. Because of this, the stern warning of this verse is given.
The Bible is God’s personal expression of Himself to us. He reveals Himself through nature, but that is only a general revelation. However, He reveals Himself specifically through Jesus Christ, who is discovered throughout the scriptures of the Bible. Seeing this logical connection, then we can grasp the importance of the Bible.
We could in no way change God, and attempting to do so would be both futile and stupid. In the same way, by changing God’s expression of Himself, we twist that which is otherwise perfect. Therefore, the words of Jesus make all the sense in the world. By adding to that which is God’s perfect intent, we rightfully receive the just punishment we are due.
It is important to note that varying translations of the Bible cannot be considered in this admonition. And yes, there is disagreement as to the source texts from which the Bible is translated, but it is the faithful translation, without manipulation, which is being considered here.
One cannot say, for example, that the King James Version of the Bible is the only valid translation and that all others are wrong. The Bible is given in three original languages – Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Any competent translator or group of translators will form a translation different than anyone else simply because of presuppositions, past experiences, understanding of the text, etc. What Jesus is speaking of is a direct and purposeful intent to change Scripture, not a willing desire to faithfully translate it.
Understanding this, it should be carefully considered that purposeful and willful misrepresentation of an analysis of the Bible is no less damaging than an addition to it. When someone knowingly takes verses – or parts of verses – out of context, it becomes a perversion of what was intended by God. In the end concerning this thought, the admonition of James is of immense importance – “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”
Let us each strive to carefully handle God’s word. Let us treat it as we would treat the holiness of God Himself because it is His personal and special revelation of Himself to us. Stand firm on the truth of the word and be ready to faithfully transmit it to others to the glory of God. In the end, this word reveals God’s plans to us, and how precious that plan is! It contains the promised coming, recorded coming, and anticipated return of our Lord, JESUS!
Lord God, Your word is precious and beyond compare. It is so rich, wonderful, and deep. Help us to handle it carefully and with the sense of awe and respect necessary to never diminish its value. Lord God, thank You for Your precious word which so beautifully reveals Your heart to us. Amen.