I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book
The message of the book of Revelation is not just for the Seven Churches of Asia nor just for the saints, but is given to all who have ears to hear. The message is not conveyed in imprecise, generalized ideas, but by the very words of this book. This speaks of the verbal inspiration of the written text.1 Thus, John recorded, Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it [emphasis added] (Rev. Rev. 1:3+). Jesus Himself said, Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book [emphasis added] (Rev. Rev. 22:7+). The emphasis upon the written revelation of God is nothing new. Jesus and the apostles spoke extensively on the topic: the phrase, it is written, occurs 61 times in the NT alone.2 See commentary on Revelation 1:3.
This should be ample indication that there can be no Christianity without the Bible. The latest generation of believers, who have little desire for the Scriptures and even less knowledge of them cannot and will not survive as true Christians! They may call themselves Christians and even do works for the Lord. But Christianity without knowledge of Gods word is not Christianity. It is a deception and an imposter. Knowledge of the Scriptures is not optional, but absolutely essential! Without it, Christians are no different than the Elks, Masons, or any other group which undertakes beneficent works without knowledge of Gods priorities.
Without Gods word, Christianity is deception and bondage:
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John John 8:31-32) [emphasis added]This tremendous promise of true freedom has an important precondition: If you abide in My word . . . And where is His word to be found in our day? In the midst of emotional worship? In goose bumps we get in our devotional time? In the Scriptures! The Scriptures alone are the objective measure of Gods will and person. Without knowledge of the Scriptures, maturity is impossible and deception is the certain result. See commentary on Revelation 13:13.
If anyone adds to these things
The things are the events and facts which are recorded by the words of the prophecy of this book. Early on, God gave a general prohibition against adding to or subtracting from His inspired word (Deu. Deu. 4:2; Deu. 12:32; Pr. Pr. 30:6; Jer. Jer. 26:2). This principle applies to all of Scripture, including the book of Revelation.
The words of the inspired text are considered:
- Understandable to those who read the text in its plain sense.
- The primary source by which man can understand the requirements of God.
- A reliable means of understanding the way of eternal life.
These factors support a literal interpretation of the text using the Golden Rule of Interpretation. If the text were to be primarily figure or allegory, then how could it be possible for God to hold man accountable to a message so obscure?
That the specific words of Revelation are not to be sealed up stresses again that there is no hidden, secret meaning apart from the normal sense of the text. If the truth is not clear in those words then this command is nonsense. If the plain, normal understanding of the words of Revelation does not convey the meaning God intended its readers to grasp, then those words are sealed.3
God is surely capable of speaking plain words, through His angel and through John, to us, and we had better let Him say what He says. This is a book of revelation, not mystification, of apocalypse, not apocrypha.4Although the warning against adding or removing apply specifically to this book, by both implication and experience, the canon of Scripture is complete with the book of Revelation:
Chafer well concludes: The formal closing of the New Testament canon is at least intimated in Revelation Rev. 22:18+. The dissimilarity in the manner in which the two Testaments end is significant. All the unfulfilled expectation of the Old Testament is articulate as that testament closes and the last verse gives assurance of the coming of another prophet. But no continued revelation is impending as the New Testament is terminated: rather the announcement is made that the Lord Himself will soon return and the natural conclusion is that there would be no further voice speaking from heaven before the trumpet heralds the second advent of Christ. Of no small moment is the fact that since the canon of the Bible was divinely closed no attempts have been made to add to it.5
These two warnings against additions and subtractions in their context are concerned specifically with the book of Revelation, and the primary emphasis is not on the Bible as a whole. However, since the book of Revelation is the final revelation of Gods Word, the principle behind the warning can be extended to the Bible as a whole, for the Bible as a whole is complete only with the book of Revelation.6The main examples in our own day of those who add to the inspired text are numerous cults which append extra-Biblical writings to the text by elevating them on a par with the inspired Scriptures:
Examples of those who add are the numerous cults that accept other writings as inspired and authoritative and place them on equal grounds with the Bible (i.e., the Mormons with The Book of Mormon and Christian Science with their Key to the Scriptures).7
Some, such as Mohammed, have led whole nations away from the truth, and the total effect of all of them has been incalculably tragic.8God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book
These plagues are the various judgments of God which will be poured out during the Tribulation (Rev. Rev. 9:18+, Rev. 9:20+; Rev. 11:6+; Rev. 15:1+, Rev. 15:6+, Rev. 15:8+; Rev. 16:9+, Rev. 16:21+; Rev. 18:4+, Rev. 18:8+; Rev. 21:9+) and include receiving the wrath of God and being tormented in the Lake of Fire (Rev. Rev. 14:10+; Rev. 21:15+). Those who add to the words do so in order to modify Gods message to suit the dictates of their own heart. Like Israel of old, such a person will be separated for adversity, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Law (Deu. Deu. 29:21). This may also be an indication that attempts to add to the contents of the book of Revelation may increase at the time of the end and that those who participate in such activities will find themselves in the midst of the Great Tribulation. In any event, those who add to His words are no doubt destined for the Lake of Fire for eternal torment as described herein (Rev. Rev. 20:15+).
1 Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of the apostles, attested thus: The Jews would die ten thousand times rather than to permit one single word to be altered of their Scriptures. Rene Pache, The Inspiration & Authority of Scripture (Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Company, 1969), 164.
2 NT occurrences of the phrase, it is written : Mtt. Mat. 2:5; Mat. 4:4, Mat. 4:6-7, Mat. 4:10; Mat. 11:10; Mat. 21:13; Mat. 26:24, Mat. 26:31; Mark Mark 1:2; Mark 7:6; Mark 9:13; Mark 14:21, Mark 14:27; Luke Luke 2:23; Luke 3:4; Luke 4:4, Luke 4:8, Luke 4:10; Luke 7:27; Luke 19:46; Luke 24:46; John John 6:31, John 6:45; John 12:14; Acts Acts 1:20; Acts 7:42; Acts 15:15; Acts 23:5; Rom. Rom. 1:17; Rom. 2:24; Rom. 3:4, Rom. 3:10; Rom. 4:17; Rom. 8:36; Rom. 9:13, Rom. 9:33; Rom. 10:15; Rom. 11:8, Rom. 11:26; Rom. 12:19; Rom. 14:11; Rom. 15:3, Rom. 15:9, Rom. 15:21; 1Cor. 1Cor. 1:19, 1Cor. 1:31; 1Cor. 2:9; 1Cor. 3:19; 1Cor. 9:9; 1Cor. 10:7; 1Cor. 14:21; 1Cor. 15:45; 2Cor. 2Cor. 8:15; 2Cor. 9:9; Gal. Gal. 3:10, Gal. 3:13; Gal. 4:22, Gal. 4:27; Heb. Heb. 10:7; 1Pe. 1Pe. 1:16.
3 John MacArthur, Revelation 12-22 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2000), Rev. 22:10.