A Preterist Commentary on Revelation 22: Summary and Highlights
In this Preterist commentary on Revelation 22, additional evidence is presented showing that the new Jerusalem exists right now! As explained in the commentary on Revelation 21, the new Jerusalem is the Christian church triumphant. And because the saints are “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13) “not of the world” (John 17:16) and have their “citizenship in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) the New Jerusalem is the Christian church depicted in the image of the Jerusalem that is in heaven mentioned in Hebrews 12:22 and Galatians 4:26. For a 1000 years after the Jewish War, Jerusalem grew to become an almost exclusively Christian city. This historical fact sheds light on why the church is called the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21 and 22. Thus the new Jerusalem represents the Christianized Jerusalem that was on earth during the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades portrayed in the image of the Jerusalem that is in heaven.
The Rise of Man
Revelation 22 Preterist Commentary Intro: “I’ll be Back!”
Revelation comes to a close with the promise, “Yes, I am coming soon.” C.S. Lewis, one of the greatest Christian apologists of the 20th century, felt that Jesus’ failure to return during the first century was Christianity’s Achilles’ heel.1 In Matthew 24, Mark 14:61-62, John 21:22-23 and several other places in the New Testament, Jesus promised to return in that generation. Despite Jesus’ “failure to appear,” many Christians still await his return their hope weakened by these mysterious verses. If Jesus had not returned when he said he would, can anything else he said be trusted?
Revelation 22 Realized Eschatology Commentary Intro: The Fact that Jesus Returned in His Generation as He Promised suggests that His Promise of Heaven can also be Trusted.
My purpose in writing this Preterist Bible Commentary has been to assure the faithful that Jesus was true to his promise. If what was described in the skies over Judea by the Jewish historian Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus is true, then Jesus had returned. The picture below is an artistic depiction of what was seen in the clouds at the start of the Jewish War according to Josephus and Tacitus. Notice that the army in the clouds seen at the start of the Jewish War shown in the picture below strongly resembles the aspect of the second coming described in Revelation 19 pictured above. See Historical Evidence that Jesus, the Son of Man, was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century and Jesus, the Son of Man, was Seen in the Clouds in A.D. 66.
If Jesus had returned when he said he would and it appears that he had, I believe, Jesus’ promise of bliss in the new Jerusalem can also be trusted. In this, the last chapter of Revelation, John continues his description of the new Jerusalem beginning with the river of life.
1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
Preterism and Revelation 22 Commentary: Though Centered in Heaven, the New Jerusalem with its Beauty, Peace and Bliss has an Earthly Shadow.
As explained in Revelation 21: A Preterist Commentary, the new Jerusalem is a symbolic depiction of the church described in the likeness of heaven. And as is also explained in the previous chapter, this idea is bolstered by a plethora of near-death experiences (NDE’s) which describe heaven much like the new Jerusalem is described in the last two chapters of Revelation.
Revelation 22:1-2 A Preterist View Commentary: What is the River of the Water of Life?
The river flowing from the throne of God and down the middle of the street of the city may be a symbol of the Holy Spirit as is implied in John 7:38-39: “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the [Holy] Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.”
Revelation 22:1-2 An “A.D. 70 Doctrine” Commentary: The New Jerusalem Mirrors Descriptions of Historical Babylon.
Throughout the Book of Revelation a contrast is made between spiritual Babylon which is apostate Jerusalem, God’s old, unfaithful lover, and the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22, the new bride of Christ. This parallelism appears to continue in descriptions of the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22. The New Jerusalem appears to mirror historical descriptions of the ancient city of Babylon. In Revelation 21:16 the New Jerusalem is said to be “laid out like a square” just like historical Babylon according to Herodotus:
Babylon . . . lies in a great plain, and in size it is such that each face measures one hundred and twenty furlongs, the shape of the whole being square; thus the furlongs of the circuit of the city amount in all to four hundred and eighty. Such is the size of the city of Babylon [emphasis mine].2
This parallel symbolism linking Jerusalem to Babylon also appears to be implied in Revelation 22:1-2 where a river flows through the middle of the New Jerusalem just as was the case with historical Babylon. According to Herodotus, Babylon was divided in half by the Euphrates which ran under the high fortified walls and through the middle of this historical city: “Babylon then was walled in this manner; and there are two divisions of the city; for a river whose name is Euphrates parts it in the middle.”3
Revelation 22:2 A Preterist Interpretation and Commentary: What is the Tree of Life?
In the second verse, John sees the tree of life in the new Jerusalem. The Babylonian tree of life had seven branches like the golden lampstands in Revelation 1:20. Crafted to resemble a tree, each lampstand appears to have been fashioned to resemble and thus represent the tree of life (Exodus 25:31-38).
In Revelation 1:20, Jesus informs John that the seven lampstands are the seven churches. Thus the tree of life appears to be a symbol of the church. This idea is implicit in Matthew 13:31-32. Here the kingdom of God, the church, is likened to a mustard seed growing into a tree, presumably the tree of life. Paul also likens the kingdom of God to a tree in Romans 11:11-24 with each believer representing a branch. A symbol of the church, the tree of life is therefore present both on earth and in heaven. However, access to the tree in heaven had been withheld from the saints prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A Realized Eschatological View and Commentary of Revelation 22:3: The Curse in v. 3 is Death.
The curse mentioned in v. 3 appears to be the curse of Genesis 3:22-23. In this chapter, Adam sinned and was therefore expelled from the garden and not allowed to eat from the tree of life. After the fall of man, the descendants of Adam had also been deprived of this tree. These people had to await their redemption in Sheol before they could receive their inheritance in heaven as is implied in Daniel 12:13. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 reads, “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the gates of paradise were soon opened and man was and now is allowed to eat of the tree of life in heaven. For an explanation of how Jesus FULLY erased the curse of death and its implications for answering a common objection to old earth creationism see Why Isaiah 65:20 and Related Verses Imply that Physical Death Preceded the Fall of Man.
It is also possible that the curse of v. 3 may be the curse of the Law: “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law (Galatians 3:10).’” Of course, the curse of Genesis 3:22-23 is directly related to the curse of the Law as both kept men from perfect communion with God, something that Christ restores.
Revelation 22:2 A Full Preterist Commentary: The Fact that the Leaves of the Tree of Life are said to be “for the Healing of the Nations” may be a Symbol of the Resurrection.
The fact that the leaves of the tree of life are said to be “for the healing of the nations” may be a symbol of the resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 use the words sleep and asleep to describe the dead. Do the dead truly sleep before the resurrection? The Book of Daniel closes with the words: “You [Daniel] will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance (Daniel 12:13).” The Bible often implies that the dead sleep:
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness (Isaiah 38:18).
Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave (Psalm 6:5)?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death (Psalms 13:3)[.]
Similarly Ecclesiastes 9:10 says that in death there is neither working, planning, knowledge nor wisdom. In describing death, the Bible gives the sense that prior to the resurrection the spirit is confined to Hades and the earthly body sleeps as it returns to dust. In this state of decay the physical body in death cannot see, hear, think or move.
Thus when Jesus healed the blind and lame in the Gospels these actions similar to the raising of Lazarus from the dead seemed to symbolize the resurrection. While dead, the earthly bodies of the departed cannot see, hear, think or move. Thus when Jesus bestowed these abilities on the blind and lame in the New Testament, these miracles appear to prophetically point to the impending resurrection of these saints. In other words, Jesus did not perform random miracles, His actions always seemed to have prophetic significance as is the case with the healing of the blind and lame. For a few examples of the prophetic symbolism behind some of Jesus’ other miracles see Matthew 8:11-12, 28-32: A Preterist Commentary, Matthew 14:25-33: A Preterist Commentary and Matthew 21:19-46: A Preterist Commentary. I believe the same meaning is implied in the healing mentioned in Revelation 22:2. The leaves of the tree of life that heal the nations also appears to me to be a symbol of the resurrection to heaven. When the bodies of the departed saints prior to the resurrection laid senseless and immovable in the ground, the reference to the healing of the nations at the resurrection to heaven appears to signify a healing or restoration of these lost physical abilities as the spirit of the saints are clothed with new, perfected heavenly bodies once again able to see, think and act (1 Corinthians 15:35-55).
Revelation 22:2 A Preterist Commentary: The Fact that the Leaves of the Tree of Life are said to be “for the Healing of the Nations” is also a Symbol of Forgiveness.
Of course the dead cannot enter heaven at the resurrection unless they are forgiven of their sins. That said is there any Biblical link between healing and forgiveness? I believe there is. Forgiveness of sins is symbolized by being healed in 1 Peter 2:24: “’He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’” Forgiveness of sins is also physically symbolized by healing in Mark 2:1-12. In Mark 2:5 Jesus forgives the sins of a paralytic man. Then Jesus goes on to say, “Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home (Mark 2:9-11).”’ Then, of course, the man got up and walked (Mark 2:12). Like 1 Peter 2:24, Mark 2:1-12 also clearly illustrates the fact that healing signifies or symbolizes forgiveness. I believe that the healing mentioned in Revelation 22:2 also signifies or symbolizes the forgiveness of sins. This symbolism should not be surprising since as stated above the departed saints cannot be resurrected to heaven unless their sins are forgiven.
4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
Revelation 22:4 Full Preterist Commentary: The Mark of God is the Antithesis of the Mark of the Beast.
Here the servants of God are given a mark similar to the one given to the Jewish people upon receiving the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 6:6-8. These Christian saints are marked with the name of God on their foreheads distinguishing them from the unfaithful Jews of Revelation 13:17. In Revelation 13:17, the unfaithful are marked on their foreheads with the name of the beast or the number of his name. Once in a marriage covenant with God, the unfaithful people of Israel are given the mark of the beast as a sign of their adulterous affair with Rome.
5There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. 6The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” 7“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”
Revelation 22:7 Full Preterist Commentary: If soon means Two Thousand Years and Counting, then there is a Discrepancy between this Verse and Habakkuk 2:3.
In v. 7, Jesus promises to return soon. If soon means two thousand years and counting, then there is a discrepancy between this verse and Habakkuk 2:3. Here the prophet writes, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” This prediction was recorded approximately sixty-six years before its fulfillment in 539 B.C. at the fall of Babylon. In this verse, sixty-six years is considered “lingering.” See Daniel 8:26 in Daniel 8: A Preterist Commentary. In v. 7, however, Jesus says that he will come soon. Jesus was true to his promise.
8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” 10Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.”
A Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 22:10: The Scroll Opened in Revelation 6 is Presumably the same Scroll Sealed in Daniel 12:4.
Here John’s vision comes to a close in much the same way as Daniel’s. Verses 10 and 11 are virtual quotes of Daniel 12:9-10 with one important difference: At the end of Daniel’s vision, Daniel is instructed to close up and seal the scroll until the time of the end (Daniel 12:4). John is told to do the opposite. In v. 10, he is commanded not to seal up the words of the scroll. The scroll opened in Revelation 6 is presumably the same scroll that was sealed in Daniel 12:4. This scroll was the source of both John’s and Daniel’s prophetic visions. The fact that John witnesses the opening of this scroll indicates that he must have been living in the end times, since as is stated in Daniel 12:9, the scroll was to remain sealed until the time of the end.
A Fulfilled Eschatology Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 22:11: Why is John Told to “Let Him Who Does Wrong Continue to do Wrong” in Revelation 22:11?
In Revelation 22:11 and Daniel 12:10 both prophets are then told that the wicked will continue to be wicked. The implication of this statement is that they are not to worry if their vision does not bring about repentance. If evil men are not convinced to repent even if a person were to rise from the dead (Luke 16:31), they would certainly not be persuaded by prophetic visions.
It is also possible that John was told to “[l]et him who does wrong continue to do wrong” because by the time in which John had witnessed this vision the Gospel had already been preached throughout the world as indicated in Colossians 1:23: “This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.” Thus John is instructed to let the wicked continue in their unrighteousness because according to Colossians 1:23 these people had already been given sufficient time to repent and had failed to do so.4 Therefore John must have been given his vision immediately before its fulfillment as is stated in the preceding and following verses: “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near.” (Revelation 22:10.) “Behold, I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:12.) The above mentioned vs. therefore imply that Revelation was probably written sometime immediately before A.D. 66.
12“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 16“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
A Preterist Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 22:15: The Earthly and Heavenly Fulfillment of v. 15 . . .
Recall that the New Jerusalem is the reign of the Christian church in heaven and earth. This Christian reign on earth manifested itself quite literally when Jerusalem grew to be ruled and settled almost exclusively by Christians during the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades. That being said, the sinners who are outside the New Jerusalem who are referred to in v. 15 are those who are outside of the church as well as those consigned to outer darkness in the afterlife.
Revelation 22:16 Preterist Commentary: What is the Significance of the Morning Star?
First century Romans believed the greater one’s status on earth, the brighter the star their spirit would become in the heavens.5 Here Jesus identifies himself as the morning star. Possibly the same star that guided the magi to His birthplace in Bethlehem, this star is an apt symbol for the resurrected Christ. Survivors of clinical death who have had near-death experiences (NDE’s) have often reported that spirits will illuminate in direct proportion to their righteousness. Thus spirits in heaven will shine brighter than those in lower dimensions with spirits in hell being almost completely black. The fact that Jesus is the morning star, the brightest star in the sky, is an appropriate symbol of his status as the light of the world. Living a life free of sin, Christ shines brightest of all.
A Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 22:14: Adam is “Everyman.”
According to v. 14, only those whose robes have been washed clean by the water of the Holy Spirit are permitted to eat from the tree of life.6 The significance of this verse reverberates back to Genesis 2 and 3. Here Adam and Eve disobey God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and as a result are expelled from the Garden of Eden. No longer able to partake of the tree of life, they eventually die. Interestingly, Adam is not a proper ancient Hebrew name. It is an English rendition of the Hebrew adham, a word meaning mankind. Adam is Everyman. And his, is everyone’s story.7 The punishment for sin is death; and like Adam, all men die. The rest of the Bible charts the story of mankind’s redemption. In the New Testament, humanity is offered freedom from sin; and in the last two chapters of the Bible, the saints are once again permitted to eat from the tree of life.
The Bible begins with the Garden of Eden and ends with the new Jerusalem, the pages in between chart mankind’s pursuit of their creator. The fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 and 3 is also our story. Through the wisdom recorded in the pages of the Bible, we are given the knowledge we need to erase the curse by faith in Christ and by doing so escape its penalty: passing from death to life on our journey to God in the new Jerusalem.
17The Spirit and the bride say, Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.8
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
A Covenant Eschatology Commentary on Revelation 22: Conclusion
In this fulfilled eschatology commentary on Revelation 22, the reader is once again exposed to evidence from the Bible and NDE’s that the new Jerusalem is a symbolic depiction of the reign of the church described in the likeness of heaven.
- C.S. Lewis “The World’s Last Night,” The Essential C.S. Lewis 1960, 385, cited in http://libertytothecaptives.net/cslewis_fruits.html. (December 2008).
- Herodotus The History of Herodotus 1.177-178.
- Ibid., 1.178-180.
- Roger Beck, personal correspondence, 19 October 2017.
- Frederick H. Cramer, Astrology in Roman Law and Politics (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1954), 78 cited in Jacques M. Chevalier, A Postmodern Revelation: Signs of Astrology and the Apocalypse (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), 66-67.
- This verse echoes Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22:11-13.
- Marcus J. Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Literally (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001), 69.
- Vs. 18-21 are likely editorial additions. John’s vision and my commentary end with an invitation to come and drink the water of life.