Revelation 22: 17 – 21
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
An art historian was a few years was ago doing some research on a little known medieval illuminated Bible, a bit like the Book of Kells but not as famous. Using modern day photographic techniques he discovered a short note written in very small handwriting incorporated into the border decoration of a page. It was an unsigned note from the Monk who had created it saying “This is the last page I have to do Thank God! Being bent over in this dark cold draughty damp work room for months has just about killed me” In some accounts it includes some good old Anglo-Saxon vernacular just to emphasise his misery. I suppose that was long before the days of suffering for one’s art was considered a badge of honour.
John here nearing the end of his long life (it is generally accepted he lived the longest of all the Disciples and indeed outlived Paul, Luke and Mark) living as an exile on a small island off Crete he writes down his great visionary book. It must have been a long and hard labour firstly to address each of the Seven Churches then to put into words his great vision of the Kingdom of God.
Yet here in the final passages he is far from complaining about his working conditions here he is proclaiming the great news of the Gospel, come and hear, come and drink come and never be thirsty again for the life giving water of Christ can never be exhausted. As the hymn has it in Christ alone my hope is found, as he stands in victory, a victory we all have a share in.
John then ends with a “warning” and this being Revelation people have got themselves into an apocalyptic tizwaz about his words for ages. There is no need to do this. This was a not an uncommon form of ending to scrolls in the ancient world where everything had to be copied out by hand in rooms where rows of scribes wrote out hard copies. It was common for the authors of the originals to leave gentle reminders to these scribes not to alter the text in any way or to add complaints about the air conditioning!
Paul when writing to the Galatians warns against anyone who preaches a Gospel contrary to the truth. Really that is what John is reinforcing for it is not the wording of the truth but the actual truth that must be preserved, the odd typo can and will be excused.
Finally John signs off with a Blessing and it is fitting that the last words of the Bible are a prayer for God’s Grace to be with us all.
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, from your word we glean purpose for our lives, may we ever seek better ways to serve you so we may accomplish all you have in mind for us.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,