Regarding Revelation 22:19
© C. O. Bishop 3/5/15 (In response to a question)
That is a pretty hard passage, if taken as a single verse; to treat it carefully, I want to begin a few verses earlier…let’s look at Revelation 22:16-20. Also, it is important to remember that this is God’s Word…not just a dream, or anything. So it ALL has to be true, and it ALL has to hold together. We can’t just take bits and pieces and interpret in light of our opinions.
In the previous one and a half chapters John has described the vision of the Holy City. 22:15 is the final comment about it. We saw that all those who previously rejected Christ (and who have subsequently been judged guilty and cast into the Lake of Fire) are permanently excluded from fellowship with the Living God, which is the whole character of the Holy City—eternal fellowship with God. No believer is ever characterized by his sins, in God’s eyes. He said of Israel, (Numbers 23:21) “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel”. (Really? This is immediately after he had destroyed a whole bunch of them because of sin!) This is the position of the believer with God. He does not see us as sinners, and never will.
In verse 16, the narrator shifts back to a point of view from which he addresses the whole book, just as he did in the introductory passage (1:3), where he established the blessing of God to all who read (or hear) and respond in faith (faith is an obedient response to a revealed truth). He makes a present day invitation to all hearers to “come”—this is the invitation of the Lamb and the Bride (the present day church) to unbelievers, to come to Christ, in repentance and faith. It is not the same as verse 20 where Jesus says “Surely I come quickly”. This is an invitation to “whosoever will”. Notice, too that the hearers are ordered to continue to repeat that invitation: “Let him that heareth say ‘come.’” (That’s us! This is the final command to be a witness!) The Bride can only say “Come!” while she is still on earth. This is our day to serve. This is our opportunity to work with Jesus in “holding forth the Word of Life”.
Then comes the warning: The contrast to the blessing of 1:3, and the invitation of 22:17, here in 22:18, 19, is the consequence for those who do the opposite; those who do not come, who do not believe, and who do not obey by faith.
No believer would deliberately add to the scriptures, I think (hope): especially these tribulation saints who are already risking dying for their faith. And that brings us to an important point. Part of the curse is one that can only occur during the tribulation. How can the plagues of the tribulation (those written in Revelation) occur at any time other than during the tribulation? They are all specific to that seven-year period. That makes me think that the warning is specific to that time, as well. Another part of the curse could happen at any time: we will address that next:
We want to consider what the “Book of Life” is: I am not assuming that it is the same as the “Book of Life” in 13:8—that one is called the “Lamb’s Book of Life”, and contains the names of all the saved. The one at the Great White Throne judgment, on the other hand, in 20:12-15, seems to be the same book as this one in 22:19. I believe that book to be simply the “book of the living.” I may be mistaken, but consider this: At the Great White Throne, who is there?
Only the lost and only the dead are present to be judged (20:12). Death and Hades gave up their dead; the sea gave up its dead. Which dead? The unrighteous dead…the resurrection of the righteous had already happened, and the living wicked had just been destroyed (20:9). This is the final sentencing for the unrighteous dead, from all generations, all the way back to Cain. So, all of the righteous are alive and eternally saved, while all of the lost are dead, and awaiting eternal judgment. This is the final cleansing, in chapter 20.
After the Great White Throne, we saw the Holy City, and the eternal state of the righteous, with God. After the vision of the Holy City, the narration returns to Christ. No more future vision, but a present invitation, and a warning.
The warning is evidently primarily to unbelievers, particularly to false teachers. The threat is not that “a believer may be removed from the Lamb’s Book of life”, but that “a person who tries to alter the content of God’s Word may lose his physical life” as a result…be “removed from the book of life”, as in Chapter 20.
If it is a believer (I suppose it is possible) then they are simply taken home. Remember Balaam: he was a genuine prophet, but he went after the money, and helped the Moabites and Midianites corrupt Israel—so when Israel destroyed their enemies, he died with the enemies. But that did not change his position. The saddest thing, to me, is that the only legacy Balaam is remembered for is the evil he did. Virtually no one remembers that he was a genuine prophet, and a man of God. This is a heavy warning for pastors today, too. If we fall into sin, then that is what will be remembered by the World. Is repentance possible? Sure…but the consequences are permanent.
The evidence is strong that the only ones to whom the rest of this curse will actually happen are the unbelievers of the time when the plagues occur…the tribulation years. Otherwise it would be difficult for any of those plagues to be inflicted on them; as they are mostly world-wide plagues.
My conclusion: believers are safe in Christ, and unbelievers are already condemned. (John 3:18; 1st Corinthians 15:22) That is how I see the passage. The invitation is to unbelievers to repent and escape that judgment. The warning is stern, but does not threaten a believer.