The Way It Happened

Revelation 22:18-19, Do Not Add to the Scriptures

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Someone recently pointed these verses out to me, and asked if they provided any deterrence to the idea of my writing a book about Revelation. It hadn’t crossed my mind, so I had to answer “no,” but let’s look at what they mean. In particular, does John warn us about adding or subtracting from the book of Revelation, or from the Bible as a whole?

Well, that part is easy: There was no New Testament when John wrote these words, nor was there any current intention of building one, so far as we know. It took centuries for Christians to finally settle on which books would make up what we now call the Bible.

And if you consider John words to be inspired, then this is all the more reason to deduce that John meant only Revelation. Many more books were written after Revelation that found their way into the Bible. Scholars don’t all agree on the dating of N.T. books, but the most obvious are I and II Timothy and Titus, which describe events and concerns that simply did not exist at the time Revelation was written. Jude and II Peter are also most likely 2nd-century writings.

But what did John mean? There are two points we need to consider in determining John’s meaning:

1.    John was absolutely certain of Christ’s immediate return. He promises this over and over in Revelation.

2.    John sees himself a prophet, presumably the world’s final prophet. Verse 22:9 leads us to this assumption.

We conclude, then, that John believed nothing more needed be written as Christian inspiration; his book was the final fulfillment, the explanation of it all, the eschatological wrap-up. 2,000 years later, we know it didn’t work out that way, so … yeah, we’re probably safe in writing expository books about Revelation!

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