True And Faithful - Rev. Herman Hoeksema
5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
In the preceding section we find the vision of the new heavens and the new earth and of the New Jerusalem. And in this vision John hears the words of the great voice out of heaven proclaiming, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men." A glance at the words of the passage we are about to discuss will tell us that there is no further vision here. Rather do we have in this passage a solemn affirmation and assurance by God Himself of the things which John had seen and heard in the vision of verses 1 to 4. The passage is characterized, except, perhaps, in verse 5-b, by the fact that in it we have direct speech, and that too, by the living God Himself. The contents are, in the first place, a statement that God makes all things new. In the second place, there is an injunction for John to write these words: for they are true and faithful. In the third place, there is a declaration that it is done, that it is come to pass, that it is all finished, and that God is the Alpha and Omega. And, in the fourth place, there is a designation of who shall and who shall not inherit these things: those who overcome, in contrast to the wicked, whose part is in the lake of fire.
The point of the passage is that the things which John has seen in the vision just recorded seem so remote, so far away and contrary to our present experience as the people of God in the midst of the world, that a special confirmation of them is necessary: these words are true and faithful! It is well worth our while, therefore, to consider this affirmation a little more in detail.
What Is True And Faithful?
The passage is introduced by the divine declaration, "Behold, I make all things new." Thus we read in verse 5: "And he that sat (ARV: "he that sitteth") on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new." And in verse 6 this is presented as actually accomplished. For there we read, "It is done," or, as the American Revised Version has it, "They are come to pass." The reference in verse 6 is to the renewal of all things which is proclaimed in the opening words of verse 5. Here, therefore, we have the primary answer to the question concerning the contents of the words which are true and faithful.
Evidently the declaration, "Behold, I make all things new," and, "They are come to pass," refers to the vision of verses 1 and 2. It serves to emphasize the truth that God, the sovereign Lord, is the Savior and Redeemer of all creation and that He will certainly cause all these things to come to pass.
In order to understand somewhat the significance of this solemn declaration and the necessity of it, let us remind ourselves of the tremendous import of the words, "Behold, I make all things new." God shall make all things in heaven and on earth new! They shall be new not merely in the sense that we can speak of something as being brand new, that is, unused. But they shall be new in character, different from the old things. There shall be a different earth and different heaven. There shall be different creatures and different relationships than there are in the present heavens and earth. The life of God's people in the new heavens and the new earth shall be altogether different and in that sense new. So different and unspeakably glorious shall all things be that we cannot even conceive of them now. According to Scripture, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. There are no adequate human terms to describe the glorious inheritance of God's people. There is no proper earthly language which can depict the real character, the unspeakable glory and beauty of that inheritance. Even as God's people are themselves become radically different from, other than, the world in which they sojourn for a time, so that future inheritance is not to be compared, except by way of contrast, in a negative way, by way of contrast to anything the eye sees and the ear hears here below, or anything that can possibly arise in the heart of man. For that inheritance is not earthy, but heavenly. And the heavenly things cannot be adequately expressed in earthy language. The new creation shall be in harmony with the glory of the resurrected Lord, the Lord from heaven. And as such it shall be wholly other than all that we ever experience in the present land of our pilgrimage; it shall be in contrast to all that the eye can see and the ear can hear and the heart can conceive in this world. Hence, as we remarked already in the preceding chapter, it is described in terms of the absence of "the former things." God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes; there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain. Or, as it is described in I Peter 1:4, the inheritance is incorruptible, and undefiled, and fadeth not away.
In the second place, to the words that are true and faithful belong the words of promise which are found in this passage concerning the believers' portion and place in the new creation. The text does not merely speak objectively of the fact that God shall make all things new, but it speaks words of promise. And again, these words of promise are presented here as spoken by God Himself. Thus we read in verses 6 and 7: "1 am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." In general, the promise is the promise of a blessed life in the new creation.
First of all, God's people shall inherit all things. Incidentally, whether we adopt the reading of the Authorized Version, "all things," or that of the American Revised Version, "these things," the meaning remains the same. For "these things" are the "all things" which shall be made new. There are several elements which we may notice here. In the first place, we shall inherit all things, that is, receive them as an inheritance. And it is characteristic of an inheritance that it is free and freely bestowed, that is, a matter of pure grace. In the second place, we may notice that this surely implies not only that all things shall be made new, but also that God's people shall be so changed as to be able to possess all things and enjoy them and use them; with all things they too shall be renewed. In the third place, we should pay special attention to the singular "he." Everyone of God's victorious children shall be an heirsof the whole world! And, finally, we may once more pay attention here to the utter inconceivability of this from the point of view of this present time. Here God's children are anything but heirs of the world; principally they are always deprived of all things. And in the days of the final manifestation of the antichristian kingdom it shall be literally true that they will have nothing; they will not be able to buy or sell. Yet in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ they shall inherit all things, and that too, in the new creation! These words are true and faithful!
The second aspect of the blessed life is that of perfect satisfaction: "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." This is evidently a promise to him that is athirst now, here in this world, but that shall be completely fulfilled when all things are made new.
As to the contents of this promise, we may note that it promises the water of life as a free gift of grace. And the meaning is that God will constantly supply all that is necessary to have and to enjoy eternal life. The life that is here spoken of is true, eternal life in fellowship with God. And water of life is all that is necessary to sustain and to replenish that life. It is evident that when the text here speaks of the fountain of the water of life, it uses figurative language. And the figure is not that of spiritual cleansing, which also occurs in Scripture, butsof quickening and refreshment and complete satisfaction, in which sense water occurs more than once in Holy Writ. In that sense, even as in natural life, water is essential; it is not a luxury, but a necessity. Hence, water represents that which is necessary for the sustaining and quickening and refreshment of the life of God's people, that which is necessary for them to have and to enjoy eternal life. From that point of view, it may be said, in the first place, that living water, or water of life, represents principally, and in its deeper sense, the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of Christ, by Whom all the spiritual blessings of salvation are bestowed upon the church as a whole, and upon believers individually. He is this living water which flows constantly out of God, through Christ, into the church, (cf. Isaiah 44:3; John 7:37-39). He, the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ, realizes unto us and within us all the spiritual blessings which are in Christ and which Christ obtained for us by His perfect obedience. He is the Spirit of life, the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge and revelation, the Spirit of holiness and sanctification. All the spiritual blessings of knowledge and wisdom, of life and glory, of righteousness and holiness, and all other riches of grace constantly flow from Christ in the
Spirit into the church and into the believers. And by these they live and are constantly refreshed unto eternal life. And it is this stream of spiritual blessings that is symbolized by the water of life.
These blessings flow from "the fountain of the water of life." This fount ultimately is God Himself: He is the eternal fountain. But this promise is realized through our Lord Jesus Christ, so that He may properly be said to be the fount of the water of life, even as He Himself said, according to John 7:37, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." Christ, the Christ of the Scriptures, the Son of God in the flesh, Who dwelled among us, Who revealed unto us the Father and spoke the words of eternal life, Who was delivered unto death for our transgressions, and was raised the third day for our justification, Who was exalted in the highest heavens, and Who received the promise of the Holy Spirit, Who, finally, on the day of Pentecost poured out His Spirit into the church to the end that His church might ultimately be gathered together in the final day in the new heavens and the new earth, - that Christ is the open Fount of the water of life. And of that Fount all the believers shall drink and shall be refreshed and quickened unto eternal life and be perfectly satisfied forever! These words are true and faithful!
All this shall be the portion of God's people in the son-relation, according to the text: "...and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." Essentially the promise of verse 3 is repeated here, but with a difference. The difference is, in the first place, that here the promise occurs in the singular, and therefore very personally. And, in the second place, the text here speaks of sonship. He that overcometh will be God's son and heir in perfection. He will be legally God's son, with all the rights of a son and heir. But also ethically and spiritually he will be perfectly God's son, like Him, conformed to the image of God's Son, as he is constantly sustained by drinking from the fountain of the water of life.
With respect to all these things John receives an injunction to write: "And he said unto me (ARV: "And he saith"), Write: for these words are true and faithful." Most likely these words of verse 5 are of the interpreting angel, since they contain an injunction for John to write, while all the rest of the passage must be understood as the direct speech of God in the hearing of John in the vision.
As far as the language of the text in the original is concerned, the words can mean either that John must write that these words are true and faithful, or that John must write down these words because they are true and faithful. In either case the essential meaning remains the same. And the reference is not only to the declaration which immediately precedes this injunction, "Behold, I make all things new." But the entire promise is embraced, and all that is included in this passage is affirmed to be true and faithful.
The meaning of this solemn affirmation is not difficult to ascertain. These words are "true," that is, they are in harmony with reality. The implication is not, of course, that these words concerning the renewal of all things are more true than other words which are written in the Book of Revelation and which were revealed to John. But as we have already pointed out, from our present viewpoint the fact that God will make all things new seems so unreal, so remote, so contrary to all our present experience. Hence, for our sake, for the sake of God's children in the midst of this present world, it must be emphasized that they are real and that they will surely be realized. Just as in our everyday life someone might tell us about an event that is fantastic and well-nigh unbelievable, and when he detects on our faces the disinclination to accept what he says, he will add the affirmation that what he says is certainly true, so with respect to these things, things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and which have never arisen in the heart of man, things which are utterly contrary to all experience, it is affirmed that all these things are certainly true and will surely be realized just as they have been revealed to John. And remember, it is these very things which constitute the object of the believers' hope. That hope is not of this world; it is other-worldly. It is fixed on things which do not belong to the sphere of this present world and our present existence. Its object lies beyond death and beyond corruption and beyond this present time. It belongs to the things heavenly and abiding. It belongs to the sphere of the resurrection. Is that object real? Or shall the believer be ashamed when he discovers that after all those things on which he has always fixed his hope and his longing were mere fantasy? And the answer of the Word of God is: "These words are true!" For that reason they are also called "faithful." All these things concern the promise of God. For the renewal of all creation is the ultimate realization of the promise of the gospel. And as they involve the promise of the gospel, they therefore concern God Himself. Hence, they are faithful, that is dependable. God surely can and will fulfill them. They shall never fail. Even as God is faithful and cannot deny Himself, so His promise is absolutely dependable. His people, therefore, may rely on these words in life and in death. And John is instructed by the interpreting angel to place special emphasis upon the truth and faithfulness of these words, so that God's people may be reassured and strengthened in their hope.
It is not difficult to discover the reason and ground for this solemn affirmation and for the injunction to John to write.
That reason lies, in the first place, in the fact that they are the words of Him Who "sitteth upon the throne." Very beautifully is this expressed in the text. In the first part of verse 5 we read: "And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new." And immediately thereupon the interpreting angel says to John: "Write: for these words are true and faithful." In other words, the very fact that the words concerning the renewal of all things are the words of Him Who sitteth upon the throne is the guarantee of their truth and faithfulness; and it is at once sufficient reason for John to write and to emphasize their truth and faithfulness. We are reminded in this expression of the vision of the throne of God in Revelation 4, especially verses 2 and 3, (cf. Chapter XI for an explanation of this vision). Here we are briefly reminded that these are the words of Him Whose throne is there described. A throne is the symbol of royal sovereignty and majesty, and therefore, at the same time, of the supreme power of judgment. Here the throne stands for the absolute sovereignty of heaven and earth. For He Who sits on the throne is none other than the Triune God. He is the Lord, Whose is all power and authority. Nothing, therefore, is too wonderful for Him. And nothing can possibly prevent the realization of His Word, "Behold, I make all things new." Moreover, even as God the Lord is the True and Faithful One, Who is faithful, first of all, to Himself, so that He can never deny Himself, so His Word is true and faithful. It shall certainly come to pass, and His promise shall not fail.
In the second place, the Lord announces Himself as the "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." As we have already explained in connection with Revelation 1:8, alpha and omega are the first and last letters respectively of the Greek alphabet. The meaning of these symbols is further explained in the words "the beginning and the end." This Self-announcement of God serves to emphasize, therefore, that all these words are true and faithful. For His counsel shall stand, and He will do all His good pleasure. He is the Sovereign Creator of all things, the Fount out of which are all things. And in Him all things have their purpose. Even as all things are out of Him, so they also are unto Him. From the beginning He made all things with a view to the end: the alpha is connected with the omega, the one must inevitably lead to the other. And whatever lies between the alpha and the omega is through Him. He controls all things in such a way that His counsel is accomplished, His design is fulfilled, His end is reached. And that end is the "revelation of Jesus Christ," the firstborn of every creature and the first begotten of the dead, as the One in Whom all things in heaven and on earth are to be united forever. Then, in the new creation, the tabernacle of God shall be with men, and God shall be all in all, through Jesus Christ our Lord. As surely, therefore, as the end of all things must show that God is the Alpha and Omega, so surely are the words true and faithful, "Behold, I make all things new!"
It is in this light, in the third place, that we must understand the words, "It is done," or, "They are come to pass." The reference is to the things which John saw in the vision in verses 1 to 4. There John saw the new creation and the new Jerusalem. Here it is stated by the Lord God Himself, the Alpha and Omega, Who sitteth upon the throne, that they are come to pass, that the promise of God is completely realized. The victory is accomplished. It is now fully evident that God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of all things. It is revealed that old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. It is revealed in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ that God the Lord is the Savior and Redeemer of His people, and the Redeemer and Renewer of all creation. For though now we see not yet all things put under Him, nevertheless we see Jesus, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor!
True And Faithful: For Whom?
The promise, therefore, is sure to all God's people.
Not for all are these promises.
For true and faithful are also these words, vs. 8: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."
In these words are designated those who shall not inherit all things, but whose part shall be in the lake of fire. Notice that they are classified, first of all, as the fearful. These fearful are very likely the nominal Christians, men who must be looked for in the church. They are afraid. In the world they must suffer tribulation if they belong to the people of God. But they love the world and their own life and their position. And when they are threatened with persecution and tribulation for Christ's sake, they become afraid and become unfaithful. In the second place, there are the unbelieving. They are the professed unbelievers, the hostile powers of Antichrist, who openly reject the gospel and oppose Christ. They are the abominable, that is, those who are filled with the abominations of the great whore, Revelation 17:4. Moreover, that they are filled with those abominations becomes manifest in their walk. For they walk as murderers, as whoremongers, as sorcerers, that is, as deceivers and those who trust in vanities, as idolaters, and liars, who hate the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. They have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. The first death is, of course, the death of these unbelievers and sorcerers and idolaters and liars in this present life, ending with physical death. Really they are dead now. They never lived. But that death is finished when they die the physical death. And therefore, now they are in the first death. But when they shall have been cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, that is, hell, they shall be in the second death. And that second death is not annihilation, but, according to all Scripture, is everlasting desolation and anguish, the dreadful experience of the wrath of God without end. These words are faithful and true! There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked!
Positively, the promise of the water of life as a free gift of grace is for "him that is athirst." That is, it is for the spiritual man in Christ, for him that longs for God and His righteousness. For the reference is, of course, to spiritual, not to natural thirst. And this spiritual thirst implies, in the first place, that there is in a man's soul a profound consciousness of his sinful state, of his own lost condition, of his being devoid of all righteousness, and of his being full of sin and corruption in himself, so that he is damnable before God. It implies, secondly, that he deplores his sin in true repentance, that he longs for forgiveness and for deliverance from the power and the dominion of sin, longs to be clothed with righteousness. It signifies, too, that he recognizes Christ as the Fount of living water, as the fulness of righteousness and life out of which he must drink and longs to drink. He yearns for the full Christ and all the blessings of salvation, for forgiveness and righteousness, for wisdom and knowledge, for light and life eternal! To such an one, who through the grace of God is spiritually thirsty, the promise is true and faithful: God shall give him to drink from the fountain of the water of life freely. He shall be satisfied forever when God shall make all things new!
In the second place, the recipients of this blessed promise are designated as those who are victorious: "He that overcometh shall inherit all things." This is the very opposite of the fearful. The presupposition is that there is a battle to be fought, that is, the spiritual battle of faith. In that battle we must suffer for the cause of Christ. We may not all be called to sacrifice our lives upon the altar ofsfaithful confession. But we surely must all fight and endure suffering for Christ's sake. And in that battle against sin, the world, and the devil and his whole dominion, we must overcome. Not in our own strength, not by sword and cannon, but spiritually, in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and through faith, we must overcome. And to him who thus overcomes, who by the grace of God endures to the end, the promise is: "He shall inherit all things."
Let us, therefore, not have our part with the fearful and unbelieving. For they shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. Come out from among them, and be not partakers of their sins. Seek not your satisfaction in this present world, but at the Fountain of the water of life. For His Word is true and faithful, "Behold, I make all things new."
He that overcometh shall inherit all things!
And the thirsty soul shall be forever satisfied at the fountain of the water of life!