Revelation 22:19

Monday, 20 September 2021

and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. Revelation 22:19

Two differences in source texts are found in this verse. The first is that rather than “God shall take away,” one text says, “may God take away.” Also, one says, “Book of Life” and all others say, “Tree of Life.”

With that noted, the words continue from the previous verse, saying, “and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy.” It is just as wrong to take away from the word of God as it is to add to it. Such a person would assume the place of God, knowing better than He does what should be conveyed to the hearers of the word. What this is surely referring to is an intentional striking out of words, thoughts, or verses with the intent of changing what is presented.

It is without a doubt that scribal errors will come into any text unintentionally. Further, things are lost in translation. A translation of a translation will only increase that error. This must be attributed to unintentional human error, but not intentional manipulation. For those who would willingly manipulate the word, “God shall take away his part from the Book of Life.”

As noted, the words here either read “Book of Life” or “Tree of Life.” The latter certainly seems more likely based on the fact that it has been mentioned in connection with New Jerusalem in verses 22:2 and 22:14. Either way, the meaning is basically the same. This brings in an obvious problem with the doctrine of eternal security – a doctrine clearly taught in Scripture.

One explanation is that based on the source text, the words (as noted above) correctly read, “may God take away.” If this is so, then it is an appeal by John for it to be so, but it does not logically follow that God will do so. The calling down of an imprecation by a human does not necessitate that God will respond accordingly. If one is eternally saved, only a loss of rewards would be the result.

Another option is that such a person was never saved and never will be saved. A person may intentionally change the word of God while thinking he is already secure, but who has been following a false gospel (see Galatians 1:6-8) all along. To follow a false gospel, such as Mormonism, is to never have been saved in the first place. A person who is saved, and who simply forgot that it is so (e.g., see 2 Peter 1:9), would have no reason to change the word of God. He isn’t even thinking on such things. A person who is truly saved would also have no intention of purposefully changing the word.

And finally, with the word now complete and in the canon of Scripture, the word is sealed. It cannot be changed. As the most published document in human history, there is always suitable evidence concerning its contents.

Despite being a difficult thing to pin down, the doctrine of eternal salvation is clearly defined elsewhere in Scripture, and it is that which must be considered first when then considering the intent of this warning. And the warning next continues with, “from the holy city.”

The promise of access to the Tree of Life presupposes access into New Jerusalem where the Tree of Life is. To be restricted from the city means that the Tree of Life is denied to that person. The verse then ends with, “and from the things which are written in this book.” This speaks of all the other blessings promised to those who “overcome,” and who are deemed as saved believers of the Lamb of God. Whatever sure and blessed promises are given to God’s people, they will be withheld from such a person being referred to now.

Life application: The promise of eternal life stands for those who call on Jesus, but for those who have hardened their hearts and falsely manipulate God’s word, there will only be death. Jesus is the One through whom eternal life is granted. It is the Bible that reveals Him to us. Should someone purposefully change the very word which reveals Him by adding to it or subtracting from it, then a faulty view of Jesus may be the result. Therefore, those who then receive what has been manipulated will call on a false Messiah through a false gospel. This is the severity of what may occur when God’s word is misused.

The consequences are immense, and the warning has been given. Let us always be careful how we handle this precious gift. May we never twist or manipulate what He has given to us. Let us live in His presence and cherish the beautiful word of God all of our days. It is the word that tells us of God in Christ. Yes! It tells us of JESUS!

Lord Jesus, Your word is glorious and it is what we need in order to know You and Your wonderful gospel message. Help us to hold fast to it and to stand firm upon its precepts. May we rightly handle it and carefully present it to others all our days. Thank You for Your precious and eternal word. Amen.