This warning concerns those who would deliberately tamper with the actual written words of this book. They are the ones who could not be saved and thus will not enjoy the blessings set forth for the redeemed.
There are also other ways in which the words of this prophecy can be seriously distorted to great detriment. By maintaining that only some of the words are faithful and true and that other words contain error, it becomes possible to dismiss those portions thought to be in error, thereby excising portions of the message of God:
Examples of those who subtract are those who refuse to accept the entire body of Scripture as Gods inspired Word and hold to concepts of partial inspiration or no inspiration.1
The cults add to the words of the book of this prophecy, the liberals take away from them, and both are regarded by the Lord as blasphemies deserving of the most serious punishment.2As we saw in our discussion of various Systems of Interpretation, it is also possible to seriously distort the message of the book, without changing the individual words, by means of incorrect interpretation. If the place of the book within the canon is unassailable, then the next means of attacking the message of the book is often by distorting the interpretation of the text in order to remove aspects deemed objectionable.
For example, if unfulfilled passages or prophecies are interpreted in such a way as to effectively relegate them to the past, then the import of what the words teach is lost on present and future generations. This is the travesty of the Preterist Interpretation which removes whole prophecies of benefit for the church and misapplies them to the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in A.D. 70. In a similar way, the Idealist Interpretation undermines the effectiveness of many passages in this book. Instead of describing future events in history, the passages are interpreted as teaching general spiritual principles with no specific application within real history.
It is not sufficient for the Church of God to merely protect the written wordsas important as that may be. She must also protect and maintain sound principles of interpretation so that the meaning of the words is the intended one originally given by the Holy Spirit through John. This has been a primary concern of our treatment of the book: a belief that the value of what was written is being undermined from within by Christians whose theology is incompatible with its plain meaning and who desire to reinterpret the book to suit their own notions and agenda for the Church.
This constitutes a most serious indictment and sober warning to any who would tamper with the Holy Scriptures. Lest anyone still object that it applies only to the Book of Revelation, it may be noted, historically, that the various atheists and humanists, as well as the motley array of modernists, liberals, higher critics, and other pseudointellectuals in Christendom who have rejected or questioned, ridiculed or allegorized away the books of Daniel, Isaiah, Jonah, Acts, Peter, or any other books of the Bible have also, invariably, done the same to the Book of Revelation, to the Book of Genesis, and the other books of the Pentateuch. The first and last books of the Bible have constituted a touchstone, as it were, so that the attitude of men and women toward those books always seems to determine their real attitude toward all the Scriptures. Therefore, the Lord had Moses stress the divine integrity of his writings (Deuteronomy Deu. 4:2) and John stress the inviolability of Revelation.3God shall take away his part from the Book of Life
Deficiencies other than typographical are not all Erasmus fault, or only partly so. He had the use of less than twenty manuscripts and used mainly only two or three. His only manuscript of Revelation lacked its last page; so Erasmus himself translated the Latin Vulgate back into Greek for the last six verses.4
Instead of ἀπὸ τοῦ ζύλου [apo tou zylou] (from the tree), the Textus Receptus (followed by the King James Version) reads ἀπὸ βίβλου [apo biblou] (from the book), a reading that occurs in no Greek manuscript. The error arose when Erasmus, in order to provide copy for the last six verses of Revelation (which were lacking in the only Greek manuscript of Revelation available to him), translated the verses from the Latin Vulgate into Greek. . . . The corruption of tree into book had occurred earlier in the transmission of the Latin text when a scribe accidentally miscopied the correct word ligno (tree) as libro (book).5Whether his part is taken from the Book of Life (Rev. Rev. 3:5+; Rev. 13:18+) or the tree of life (Rev. Rev. 2:7+; Rev. 22:2+, Rev. 22:14+), either way the one who takes away from Gods words will be excluded from among the saved.
from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book
The one who adds to Gods word receives plagues (Rev. Rev. 22:18+). The one who takes away has no part in the New Jerusalem and the many other blessings (e.g., the promises to the overcomer) which the book describes.