A higher “Amen”
Look at verse 7.
7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7–ESV)
I have put them in red because they are the words of Jesus. Stamped on the words of the angel are those of Jesus. He says, “amen” to the things which the angel has said. That is a validation of it. God the Father sent the angel to John and after the angel did God’s bidding Jesus spoke his confirmation.
He will be coming, but in the meantime, blessedness comes by keeping, guarding, protecting the words told here. At the beginning of 2017 when I was deciding whether to teach through the book of Revelation I had some trepidation. I was a little leery of taking on the challenge of this book. Our Christian culture places Revelation in a creaky bucket, or admonishes us to “take it with a grain of salt.” Having peered deeply into the verses, I have learned that there is a lot of salt in it.
The word “keep” implies a guarding, a protecting, and this is a phrase which Jesus himself gave. So, we must not discount this book or put it outside our mental fences. Remember that all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, training and correcting in righteousness. This book is no exception. See how that concept nicely fits with a muse, with the spirits of the prophets?
John’s near cardinal sin
8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” (Revelation 22:8-9–ESV)
John’s attempt at angel worship is so odd. Go back in your mind to the spiritual stature and experience of this Apostle. John the Baptist, his first mentor, pointed out this Lamb of God to John the Apostle decades before these visions. From their John the Apostle walked with Jesus, observing miracle upon miracle. He was in the closest human circle to Jesus. The transfiguration of Jesus happened before John. He was at the crucifixion and the tomb very shortly after the resurrection. When God sent the Holy Spirit, John was there as he was throughout the growth and development of the fledgling church. He survived the persecutions of the Romans and at the point where he dropped before the angel in worship-effort he had witnessed almost the entire body of the Revelations God was giving him.
So, why would a person in that situation worship anything other than God? This falling before the angel is tantamount to violating one of the two greatest commandments of God through Moses and of God through Jesus.
My answer to this is two-fold. First, this event reveals a worship reflex. Second, moments in our lives can trigger that reflex. For John, this mature Christ-follower, the intensity of seeing the New Jerusalem, all its implications, and hearing the voice of his long-beloved Jesus that is what it took. The moment overwhelmed him. It triggered, evoked even, worship.
In another book of the New Testament Paul wrote the following: at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord. That, too, will be an evoked response. It will not induce salvation, however, but merely submission. Even the God-deniers like Voltaire and more recently the late Stephen Hawking will find this reflex inside of themselves. John knew it was in his own mind, but it got evoked in an awkward place.