The theme of this passage is—
God has placed upon us personal responsibility for our treatment of His Word.
Dutch Preacher and a Little Dramatic License
One morning in the 1620s, in a little village church, a preacher named John Rogers was preaching on the subject of the Bible in the Christian’s life. He allowed himself some pulpit dramatics. First, he acted the part of God telling the congregation:
“Well, I have trusted you so long with my Bible; you have slighted it; it lies in such and such houses all covered with dust and cobwebs; you care not to listen to it. Do you use my Bible so? Then you shall have my Bible no longer.” And he took the pulpit Bible away.
Then he knelt down and impersonated the people crying to God: “Lord, whatever thou dost to us, take not thy Bible from us; kill our children, burn our houses; destroy our goods but spare us thy Bible.”
Then he acted God again: “Say you so? Well, I will try you a while longer; and here is my Bible for you” (replacing it); “I will see how you will use it, whether you will love it more, observe it more, practice it more, live more according to it.”
At this the whole congregation dissolved in tears. What had happened? Rogers, under God, had touched a nerve, reminding them of their need to pay close attention to the Bible because reverence for God meant reverence for Scripture and serving God meant obeying Scripture. (see Packer, below.)
John ends the book of Revelation with a warning and some encouragement.
I. John issues a warning about the consequences of adding to the Word of God. vs. 18
vs. 18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book… .
The form of this warning is taken from Deuteronomy 4:2—”You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.” (ESV)
Additions to the Bible are usually made by cults and false religious groups.
Cults add to God’s Bible as a Source of Authority
The first doctrinal pattern found in most cults is Addition. One should always ask the question of religious affiliation—
“Does this religious group add to God’s word with new Scripture or new interpretations of the Scriptures?”
“While almost every pseudo-Christian group will use the Bible in some fashion, they will usually say that the Bible…is not sufficient and must be supplemented by the cult’s own words.” They do this in one of three ways:
1. Some add to Scripture new, inspired “revelations” from God (e.g., the apocalyptic revelations of David Koresh of the Branch Davidians).
David Koresh taught that there had been various gospels throughout time (Seven Seals Manuscript, p. 6, Koresh). Based on 1 Peter 1:3-5, Koresh taught, that in the last days another new plan of salvation would be revealed (Seven Seals Manuscript, p. 6). The first seal (Revelation 6:1-2) according to Koresh, is “The Marriage of the Lamb.” (Based on Walker, below)
See A summary of Koresh’s Seven Seals Manuscript. (Picture above of David Koresh from Wikipedia).
2. Others add to Scripture by declaring that the Bible cannot be understood apart from the indispensable teachings of their group. See this for an example of Scripture Twisting Methods of The Cults.
The biblical text is re-translated, not in accordance with sound Greek scholarship, to fit a preconceived teaching of a cult. Example: The New World Bible translates John 1:1 as “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the word was a god.” (see Scripture Twisting, below. Any first year Greek student could refute that by referring to a grammar of the Greek New Testament.
3. Others actually insert additional books into the canon (e.g., Apocrypha or pseudepigrapha). See this link to the book of II Maccabees 12:38-45 as validity of prayers for the dead. See also Ecclesiastes 9:5 as validity of prayers for the dead. See Hindu Krishna prayers for the dead also. (Material above was constructed from Walker, see below.)
Preface to the Geneva Bible for the Apocrypha—
The preface to the Apocrypha in the Geneva Bible explained that while these books “were not received by a common consent to be read and expounded publicly in the Church,” and did not serve “to prove any point of Christian religion save in so much as they had the consent of the other scriptures called canonical to confirm the same,” nonetheless, “as books proceeding from godly men they were received to be read for the advancement and furtherance of the knowledge of history and for the instruction of godly manners.” (see Biblical Apocrypha, below.)
II. John issues a warning about the consequences of subtracting from the Word of God. vs. 19
…19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
Enlightenment-oriented Rationalists Take Away from the Scriptures
Subtractions from the Bible are usually made by liberal, enlightenment-oriented persons or churches. “Christians may differ on secondary issues such as the spiritual gifts, eschatology (end-times), mode of baptism, and church government but they always agree on the fundamentals of the faith. One of those fundamentals is the identity of Jesus Christ as God the Son. One can be wrong on secondary doctrines and still be a Christian. Anyone who puts their faith in a counterfeit Christ, however, is a victim of a deadly case of mistaken identity.”
The question must be asked of religious affiliations and literature—
“Does this religious group subtract from the Bible’s clear teaching about Jesus?”
Thomas Jefferson’s Mutilated Bible
…Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and he also created his own version of the Bible. Taking a penknife, he pored over the biblical text in Greek, Latin, French, and English and cut and pasted passages to create what we call The Jefferson Bible, 1820.
Thomas Jefferson cut verses from six copies of the New Testament to create his own personal version. Hugh Talman / NMAH, SI; from https://www.smithsonianmag.com
“To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.” (Thomas Jefferson, A letter to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803, Library of Congress).
“I made, for my own satisfaction, an Extract from the Evangelists of the texts of his morals, selecting those only whose style and spirit proved them genuine, and his own: and they are as distinguishable from the matter in which they are embedded as diamonds in dunghills.” (Thomas Jefferson, A letter to Francis Adrian Van Der Kemp, April 25, 1816, The National Archives).
The last verse of the Jefferson Bible, “There [in the nearby garden] they [Jesus’s disciples] rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.”
There was no resurrection in Jefferson’s edition. (See Kidd, below.)
What are we to think of a Jesus who does no miracles and was not raised from the dead?
C. S. Lewis on Christ as: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord of Glory
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity). (see Roat, A., below.)
These verses are taken as referring to the whole Bible. The Greek text reads ep’ auta—”on top of these things.” John is primarily warning against the altering of his book simply because the judgments and plagues are against the grain of society. Since Revelation comes at the end of the canon and Deuteronomy 4 at the beginning, it is taken secondarily to refer to the whole canon of Holy Scripture. Like literary “bookends” to God’s Word.
This verse does not teach that a person can lose his salvation. The way a person treats God’s Word demonstrates whether or not he is a true Christian.
III. Jesus Himself confirms the veracity of Holy Scripture. vs. 20
vs. 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
This is the third announcement of the imminent return of Christ. Christ adds “yes” to express the certainty of the event. John adds his affirmation—Come [Lord Jesus!]”
IV. Christ’s Church may experience suffering for supporting God’s Word, but Christ supplies the grace to endure it. vs. 21
vs. 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
God’s people will need his grace to live in such times as are described in the book. Revelation is a favorite book of the Bible in countries where persecution regularly occurs. They are not removed from suffering, and do not look for a return of Christ to remove them before persecution occurs.
This brings our studies in the Revelation to a close. I will pause a few weeks before going on to the next study.
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation)
Biblical Apocrypha. (1560). Geneva Version of the Bible. Accessed 23 September 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_apocrypha
Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.
ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com
Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).
Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.
Kidd, T. (2021). “The ‘Jefferson Bible’ and a Founder’s Deism.” Accessed 22 September 2021 from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/evangelical-history/jefferson-bible-founders-deism/
Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Packer, J. I. (1986). Your Father Loves You. Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers.
Poythress, V. (2000). The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing.
Roat, A. (2019). “What Is the Jefferson Bible?” Accessed 20 September 2021 from https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/what-is-the-jefferson-bible.html
Scripture Twisting. (2020). Scripture Twisting: Methods Of The Cults. Accessed 21 September 2021 from https://believersweb.org/scripture-twisting-methods-of-the-cults/
Trimm, J. (n.d.) David Koresh’s Seven Seals Teaching. Accessed 21 September 2021 from https://www.watchman.org/articles/cults-alternative-religions/david-koreshs-seven-seals-teaching/
Walker, J. (2013). “Patterns In The Cults” accessed 20 September 2021 from https://www.watchman.org/profiles/pdf/patternsprofile.pdf
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