THE RESTORED PARADISE (Revelation 22:1-5).—These five verses complete the description of the new heavens and new earth. The features of this last section reflect those of the first and forfeited paradise: the tree of life and the river that flows by the trees are here, and the happy and willing service of God is restored (Revelation 22:3-4), and the curse has disappeared.
(3, 4) And his servants shall serve him . . .—We turn from the city to the inhabitants. They are described as serving Him, seeing Him, and resembling Him. They shall serve Him: they shall offer Him the service of the priesthood—the word employed is that used of temple service. The word translated “servants” is the word which the Apostles used when they spoke of themselves as slaves of Jesus Christ, owned as well as employed by Him (Philippians 1:1; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 1:1). Their service here was discharged in the midst of discouragements and in difficulty; and they walked by faith, not by sight. Now the servants shall serve without hindrance or opposition, and they shall be encouraged by His immediate presence. “They shall see his face;” they shall know even as they are known (1 Corinthians 13:12); they shall see Him as He is. No wonder, then, that he should add (and observe that the thought is exactly that which occurs in the First Epistle of St. John (1 John 3:2): “His name shall be in (or, on) their foreheads.” The name stands for what God is in holiness and righteousness, purity and love. The name on the forehead indicates their resemblance to their Master. On earth the servants of God are changed from glory to glory into the same image (2 Corinthians 3:18). They aim to be perfect, as their Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48); but when they see God as He is they shall be like Him. His name is on their foreheads, for they behold His face: they wake up after His likeness, and they are satisfied (Psalm 17:15). There is a divine paradox in the double truth: those who are like God see Him, and those who see Him are like Him (Matthew 5:8). “There will come a time when the service of God shall be the beholding of Him; and though in these stormy seas, where we are now driven up and down, His Spirit is dimly seen on the face of the waters, and we are left to cast anchors out of the stern and wish for the day, that day will come, when, with the evangelist on the crystal and stable sea, all the creatures of God shall be full of eyes within, and there shall be no more curse, but His servants shall serve Him, and shall see His face” (Ruskin).
WORDS OF CONFIRMATION AND WARNING.
(6) And he said unto me . . .—It is the angel who speaks. (Comp. Revelation 21 and Revelation 22:9 of this chapter.) In Revelation 22:7 we hear the words of Christ Himself. These sayings (or, words) are faithful and true. The reference is to the whole book. The book contains the Revelation of the faithful and true witness (Revelation 3:14), whose words are faithful, trustworthy, and fulfilling the desire of them that fear Him. Nor is there reason to doubt this; for “the Lord, the God of the spirits of the Prophets—the God whose spirit moved the holy men of old to speak (2 Peter 1:21)—sent His angel to show to His servants things which must come to pass shortly.” (Comp. Note on Revelation 1:1.)
And when I had heard . . .—Or better, When I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who was showing me these things. Wonder and awe took possession of the seer, and for the second time he was about to offer unlawful homage to the angel-minister. (Comp. Revelation 19:10.) This twice offered and twice refused worship is full of teaching. To render to all their due is wise and seemly and Christ-like; to offer exaggerated homage to any is to invert God’s order, and to degrade by pretending to exalt man, whose true glory is that he is God’s creation.
“Thus, all characters
Must shrink or widen, as our wine-skins do,
For more or less that we can pass in them:
And added years give ever a new key
To fixed prediction.”
So, slowly, but surely, may the power of being masters of our fate pass out of our hands. It is in this law of our nature that the key to many of the darkest problems of the future may lie; and not without a solemn declaration of this law does the Book of Revelation close.
“For there is nothing in it as it seems
Saving the King; though some there be that hold
The King a shadow, and the city real;
Yet take thou heed of Him, for, so thou pass
Beneath this archway, then wilt thou become
A thrall to His enchantments, for the King
Will bind thee by such vows as is a shame
A man should not be bound by, yet the which
No man can keep; but so thou dread to swear,
Pass not beneath this gateway, but abide
Without among the cattle of the field.
For, an ye heard a music, like enow
They are building still, seeing the city is built
To music, therefore never built at all,
And therefore built for ever.”