God's Final Invitation
They have been compared by the most fastidious, dutiful, thoughtful, careful scholars through the centuries so that I can say to you, unequivocally, the Bible you hold in your hand, if you have formal equivalency, an actual translation, I can assure you, you have an accurate … an accurate Bible
The printing press didn’t show up till around 1500. Everything up to that time was copied by hand. Scribes understood the seriousness of what they did. There are some amazing stories about scribes, listen to this, copying down the Hebrew Old Testament who wrote one letter, left, and took a bath. Came back, wrote another letter, left, and took a bath, and did that until they had written the whole Old Testament.
There is another papyrus, they were writing on papyrus so they’re called papyri, there’s another one called the Bodmer Papyri in which we find John and Luke and it dates from 175 to 225. And then there’s the very famous papyrus called the Chester Beatty papyrus that has all four gospels and the book of Acts and it dates around 200. They go way back.
Here’s the amazing part. There probably shouldn’t be a lot of manuscripts from those early years. Why? Because second century in particular and the third century, for sure, was a time of immense Christian persecution, and an effort to stamp out Christianity by the destruction of Christians and Christian scriptures. But the Lord preserved these ancient texts, copies of those very close to the original.
Once you get into the fourth century, around 325, or so, you get Constantine making Christianity legal. The persecution ends and now manuscripts proliferate. They’re everywhere. And so by the time you pass say 325, the Council of Nicea, we begin to see manuscripts in abundance.
The two most important ones, one is called, it’s a Codex, this is called a Codex because it is a bound volume, rather than a scroll. The first one that is very important is called Sinaiticus and it’s about 350 and it’s the whole New Testament. The second important one is called Vaticanus, 325 and it’s the whole Bible.
Next to the New Testament there are more copies of Homer’s Iliad than any other ancient piece of literature. Oh, by the way, there are 643 of them … 643, small change compared to twenty-five thousand. And, oh by the way, the oldest one is from the thirteenth century A.D. and Homer wrote in the eighth century B.C. We don’t have anything even close to when Homer wrote. Who knows whether Homer ever said any of that?
Another familiar piece of literature to a student of history is the Golic Wars, Caesar fought Golic Wars. He wrote the Golic Wars, the history of the Golic Wars in the first century B.C. There are ten existing manuscripts of that, the oldest one is a thousand years after Caesar wrote.
Some of you may have heard of Herodotus, the Greek historian. He wrote history. In fact, Herodotus could be the father of historians, he was the son of the first historian. He wrote in the fifth century before Christ. We have eight manuscripts of Herodotus’ history and the earliest is 1300 years after he wrote.
One of the scholars that I’ve studied in years past, is a man named A.T. Robertson. You’ll see his name connected to matters regarding biblical scholarship. A.T. Robertson says, “The vast array of manuscripts has enabled textual scholars to accurately reconstruct the original text with … listen to this … more than 99.9 percent accuracy.” That’s pretty good. More than 99.9 percent accuracy.
Now you say, “You mean, in all of that there are no errors?” Oh, I didn’t say that. They made errors. They put in a wrong word, put in a wrong spelling, left something out, occasionally they even tried to clarify something, some of these scribes. But guess what, we have so many manuscripts, we know when they’re doing that. We know when we’re doing that. Plus, if something shows up in a later manuscript, and it’s not in any of the earlier ones, we know it was added later. It isn’t brain surgery.
The sinful world’s blasphemous rejection of Jesus Christ will reach its apex during the Tribulation. That seven-year period will see Satan promote to power the two most vile and evil blasphemers who will ever live: the beast (Antichrist) and the false prophet. To those two wretched, demon-possessed sinners will go the dubious honor of being the first people cast into the final hell, the lake of fire (19:20).
He pleads with Christ to return, subdue His enemies, judge sinners, and end the Spirit’s long battle to produce conviction in stubborn, hard-hearted sinners.
But the last view the world had of Jesus was of Him on a cross between two criminals, rejected, despised, and mocked. The Spirit longs to see His fellow Member of the Trinity exalted in beauty, splendor, power, and majesty. That will happen when Christ returns in triumph at His second coming.
Those who hear and obey the gospel will join with the Spirit and the bride in calling for the return of Jesus Christ, because they desire His glory—and their own deliverance from sin’s presence—in the realm of perfect holiness.
The first reason for sinners to accept God’s final invitation is because it comes personally from the exalted, majestic, glorious Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord’s threefold identification of Himself repeats the same truth for emphasis. Since the original readers of Revelation spoke Greek, Jesus identifies Himself first as the Alpha and the Omega (cf. 1:8; 21:6). Alpha and Omega are, respectively, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Together with the parallel phrases the first and the last (cf. 1:17) and the beginning (the source of all things) and the end (the goal of all things), it expresses Christ’s infinity, eternity, and boundless life transcending all limitations. This threefold description describes the completeness, timelessness, and sovereign authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ further identifies Himself in His own words in verse 16. But before doing so He tells John, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you.” Though angels communicated the Apocalypse to John (v. 6; 1:1; 17:1, 7; 21:9), its source was Jesus. The expression “I, Jesus” appears only here in the Bible. It establishes that this final invitation in Scripture is not a human invitation, but a divine call issued personally to sinners by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apocalypse is addressed to the churches (1:11), but though it is written to believers (1:1), they are to proclaim it to the entire world (cf. 22:10).
Then, in an astounding, seemingly paradoxical statement, Jesus declares Himself to be both the root (ancestor) and the descendant of David. That phrase sums up the biblical teaching on Christ’s two natures; only the God-man can be both David’s ancestor and his descendant. In His deity, Christ is David’s root (cf. Mark 12:35–37); in His humanity, He is David’s descendant (2 Sam. 7:12–16; Ps. 132:11–12; Matt. 1:1; Rom. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:8).
Finally, Jesus describes Himself as “the bright morning star.” To call someone a star was in biblical times (as it is today) to exalt him (cf. Dan. 12:3). In extrabiblical Jewish writings, the coming Messiah was called a star (Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977], 395). Though Balaam was a greedy prophet for hire, God nevertheless used him to make an accurate prediction of the coming Messiah:
πλύνοντες τὰς στολὰς αὐτῶν
ποιουντες τας εντολας αυτου
ποιουντες τας εντολας
πλύνοντες τὰς στολὰς
Those who have experienced the washing from sin that marks salvation will forever have the right to the tree of life. As noted in the discussion of 22:2 in chapter 19 of this volume, the tree of life is located in the capital city of heaven, the New Jerusalem. This will be the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (2:7). Those granted access to the tree of life, will be allowed to enter by the gates into the city (cf. the discussion of 21:9 in chap. 19 of this volume).
Heaven is exclusively for those who have been cleansed from their sins by faith in the blood of Christ and whose names have been “written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (13:8). In contrast, everyone else will remain forever outside the New Jerusalem in the lake of fire (20:15; 21:8), because “nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27). As in 21:8, a representative (though not exhaustive) list of the type of sins that exclude people from heaven is given to John.
The inclusion of dogs on the list seems puzzling at first glance. But in ancient times dogs were not the domesticated household pets they are today. They were despised scavengers that milled about cities’ garbage dumps (cf. Ex. 22:31; 1 Kings 14:11; 16:4; 21:19, 23–24; 22:38). Thus, to call a person a dog was to describe that person as someone of low character (cf. 1 Sam. 17:43; 24:14; 2 Sam. 3:8; 9:8; 16:9; 2 Kings 8:13; Phil. 3:2); in fact, the first time blatantly impure sinners are called dogs is in Deuteronomy 23:18, where male homosexual prostitutes are in view. Sorcerers (from pharmakos, the root of the English word “pharmacy”) refers to those engaged in occult practices and the drug abuse that often accompanies those practices (cf. 9:21; 21:8; Gal. 5:20). Immoral persons (from pornos, the root of the English word “pornography”) are those who engage in illicit sexual activities. Murderers are also excluded from heaven in the list given in 21:8 (cf. 9:21; Rom. 1:29). Idolaters are those who worship false gods, or who worship the true God in an unacceptable manner (cf. 21:8). The final group excluded from heaven also includes everyone who loves and practices lying. It is not all who have ever committed any of these sins who are excluded from heaven (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11). Rather, it is those who love and habitually practice any such sin, stubbornly cling to it, and refuse Christ’s invitation to salvation who will be cast into the lake of fire.
The book of Revelation and the Bible close with one final reminder and a benediction. In His last recorded words in Scripture the Lord Jesus Christ, He who testifies to these things, affirms “Yes, I am coming quickly.” His coming is imminent, just as Revelation (and the rest of the New Testament) teaches. John speaks for all true believers when he responds, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, since Christians are those “who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). Scoffers may mockingly ask, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4). But things will not continue forever as they are. Jesus will return, just as Revelation predicts. If the certainty of Christ’s return to judge sinners does not motivate people to repent, then nothing will.
For the glorious, comforting truth is that those who humble themselves and accept God’s offer of salvation will find Him gracious. Fittingly, the last words of the Bible, the grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen, are an expression of God’s grace toward fallen humanity. The Lord of glory, as He promised in Scripture, offers heaven exclusively to those who, in light of His certain return, accept His gracious invitation and return to Him.