He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” Revelation 22:11
John was just instructed to not seal up the words of the prophecy of the book. And the reason was given, “for the time is at hand.” Now, and with that understanding, this verse is given. The verbs are in the imperative mood. They speak of the future, as if in a prophecy. It is almost spoken forth in an ironic fashion.
Such words follow after the words of prophets, like Ezekiel and Zechariah, who cite the Lord in this manner, such as –
“Thus says the Lord God. ‘He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.’” Ezekiel 3:27
“Then I said, ‘I will not feed you. Let what is dying die, and what is perishing perish. Let those that are left eat each other’s flesh.’” Zechariah 11:9
Thus, the words refer to a state of certainty that will exist at the time the previous verse spoke of (“the time is at hand”). There is a point where the decided state of all people will be realized. Thus, what is stated does not mean that someone in one of the categories cannot change his state now. It simply refers to the fact that the state exists, and some will find themselves in it. Understanding this, the words begin with, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still.”
The verb used here signifies doing wickedly. As such, it should read, “He who is unrighteous, let him be unrighteous still.” There is a time when those who are unrighteous will be set in that state forever. For example, when an unrighteous person calls on Christ for forgiveness of sins, he will turn from his unrighteousness. However, another person who is unrighteous may die in that state. Such a person is who is referred to – “let him be unrighteous still.” In other words, it means “he will be unrighteous henceforth.” There is no possible change.
Next, it says, “he who is filthy, let him be filthy still.” The word is rhuparos. It is an adjective found only in James 2:2 and then here. It is derived from the noun rhupos found only in 1 Peter 3:21. That speaks of grease-filth, dirtiness, and squalor which Peter equates to the state of moral filthiness. The adjective thus signifies moral filth. Of this, John Gill states, “all mankind are originally, naturally, and universally filthy, or defiled with sin. Some are cleansed from it by the blood of Christ, others are not; and these will continue polluted, nor will the fire of hell fetch out the filthiness of their hearts and nature.”
The words next turn to the thought of “he who is righteous, let him be righteous still.” This is the state of that which is judicially approved by God. That can only come through the cleansing power of His Christ. Thus, one who stands justified before God in this state will remain in that state forever. The filth of sin has been forgiven, the state of righteousness has been imputed, and the person is forever purified to come before God.
Finally, the words state, “he who is holy, let him be holy still.” The first three categories were in the active voice – “be [unrighteous],” “be filthy,” and “be righteous.” This one is now in the passive voice, and thus it should rightly be rendered, “he who is holy, let him be made holy still.”
Man does not make himself holy, but rather he is imputed the holiness of Christ. For the person who has come to God through Him, his sanctification is made complete. He is made holy. This thought is reflected in such verses as –
“that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:16
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11
The states of man spoken of in this verse can be changed in a person’s life, but only while he lives. Hebrews makes it clear in the words, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). May those who read consider their state now, while they have a chance to do so. And then, may they respond according to the call of God in Christ.
Life application: Three types of people are mentioned in this verse. Two fall into a negative state, and they are headed toward destruction. The third has taken the right path. As noted, the imperative mood is put for the future; it is not a command but a warning. So, to paraphrase, look at the words in this light – “Let the wrongdoer be made unjust; let the filthy person be made vile; and let the righteous person be made holy.”
Those who are wrongdoers and who fail to see the error of their way will end in the judgment of the unjust. As such, their state will continue for eternity. There will be no change to their character forever and ever.
The first category, those who are unrighteous or unjust, is well explained by Paul’s words in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans –
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” Romans 1:18-23
Those who fail to come to Christ, will never be cleansed from their state but will continue on in their corruption for all eternity.
The second category speaks of those who are vile or filthy. Paul’s letter continues on describing their vulgarity –
“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” Romans 1:24-27
The logical progression is from unrighteousness to vulgarity and filth. It goes from an unconcerned mental state accompanied by corresponding actions to a belligerent mental state accompanied by such actions. The book of Proverbs shows us a classic example of such a person who has so suppressed the knowledge of God and of righteousness that her life has become vile and even antagonistic towards morality –
“This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, And says, ‘I have done no wickedness.’” Proverbs 30:20
The third category refers to those who are righteous; they will be made holy. However, these people are not righteous in and of themselves. They had to come to Christ from an unrighteous state. When they came to Christ, they did so by understanding their own unrighteousness and thus their need for a Savior. If they were unrighteous, then they needed Christ. When they came to Him, He bestowed His righteousness upon them.
Therefore, it was an imputed righteousness, not an inherent one. Those who have come to Him will be made holy. They are the ones suitable for entrance into the city which God has prepared for them. They are covered by Christ, and they will be glorified to be like Him. Let us thank God for His provision found in our Lord JESUS.
Oh God, we are thanking You today for Your righteousness which will lead to our glorification. We know that what we deserved was hell, but You have granted us heaven instead. Thank You for Jesus our Lord. Hallelujah and Amen.