Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:14
Manuscripts vary in this verse. Both of them are in the present tense. Some say, “those doing His commandments,” and some say, “those washing their robes.” Doing, or keeping, the commandments is referred to in verses 12:17 and 14:12. The washing of robes is noted in verse 7:14.
Though the translations are greatly different in wording, they are similar in thought. Doing the commandments of Christ refers to doing those things that are necessary for salvation, meaning accepting the gospel. First and foremost, it is to trust Him alone for salvation.
Washing one’s robes carries the same general meaning. One is stained with sin, but in receiving Christ, he is purified. The symbolism is that of standing in a right relationship with God, purified from all sin, and therefore justified because of what Christ has done. The idea is also conveyed in Revelation 3:5 –
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
Either way, the idea is that of receiving the imputed righteousness of Christ. It is in this that the words state, “Blessed are those who do [doing] His commandments [or: are washing their robes].” This is the seventh and final time that such a blessing is stated in Revelation. All seven, listed together now, say –
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Rev 1:3)
“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,” says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” (Rev 14:13)
“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” (Rev 16:15)
“Then he said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’” (Rev 19:9)
“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Rev 20:6)
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev 21:7)
Blessed are those who do His commandments [or: wash their robes], that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (Rev 22:14)
Of these who do as is now stated, it says, “that they may have the right to the tree of life.” John 3:16 simply states –
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
If this is true, and if it is the “tree of life” that allows man to live forever (as is seen in Genesis 3:22), then the tree of life is a picture of life in Christ. This is why the gospel is called a stumbling block. It is so simple that people trip right over it. As humans, we attempt to rely on ourselves when things get dire. And the most dire state we can be in is that of death leading to hell. It is against our nature to say, “I will trust another to save me.” But that is what the gospel is. It is a message that we are in sin, we cannot save ourselves, but Jesus can. We are to put aside our own works and simply believe. When we do this, we receive the right to the tree of life, “and may enter through the gates into the city.”
Access to New Jerusalem signifies access to the presence of God. It is the state that Adam had before the fall. It is a place where man can intimately fellowship with Him, and where we will be able to worship and serve Him in the most intimate way. This is promised again to any who will simply do as the word instructs. And that is to have faith in what God accomplished in the giving of His Son for us.
Life application: Wonderful restoration! This is a major theme of the Bible. Man fell. Because of his disobedience, certain rights and privileges were lost. Jesus came to restore those to His people. However, there is more than just a one-for-one restoration. Man has the knowledge of good and evil which he lacked when he was created. Further, man has an understanding of the depth of God’s love because of the biblical story.
Without the fall, we never would have understood the extent to which God was willing to go for His creatures. What a wonderful, glorious story we have in God’s entrance into humanity through the Person of Jesus. Today we see the restoration of two concepts that were lost in the fall. The first is, as was noted in Revelation 22:2, the tree of life. The second, which was looked at in detail in Revelation 21, was access to New Jerusalem through the gates of the city.
Here is the Genesis 3 account referred to above –
“Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:22-24
Man gained the knowledge of good and evil, and lost access to Eden and to eternal life. Now, at the end of the Bible, man retains the knowledge he gained and receives the right to both eternal life and access to the city of God. It is “restoration plus.” As you may note in Genesis, an angel was placed at the east of the Garden of Eden which guarded the way to the tree of life.
It is noted in Revelation 21:12 that in the New Jerusalem there will be angels at each of the 12 gates. This signifies that access is still guarded, but that it is possible to enter. How and to whom is this possible? It is to those who receive Jesus, thus accepting God’s offer of peace and reconciliation. In the end, Jesus explains what is necessary to do what God expects and thus to have garments of white –
“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’” John 6:29
When faith is placed in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God, a person moves from unrighteousness to righteousness; from being sin-stained to being sinless; from being at enmity with God to being adopted into God’s family. It is by faith alone that this occurs. And thus, we see the marvel of God’s plan for the people of the world. It is a plan of reconciliation and restoration accomplished solely by the grace of God. What a wonderful story of God’s love. Thank God for JESUS!
O Lord God! How could You look upon us, Your fallen creatures, and see anything worth restoring? But You have, and what You did came at the highest price of all – the cross of Jesus. As David asked so long ago – “Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord?” Apparently so, but it is beyond comprehension. Wondrous are Your ways, O God. Amen.