The closing chapter of Revelation describes the New Jerusalem. John tells us who will be included and who will be excluded from the city. In Revelation 22:6-17 a strong invitation is given to all men everywhere to believe in Christ. We, as believers, are to participate in issuing that invitation around the world. Several points about this passage stand out.
One, Christ is coming quickly with His reward. We must be prepared.
In verse 12 Christ proclaims that He is returning quickly and will reward every man according to what he has done. Christ follows this proclamation with the declaration (verse 13) that He is the Alpha and the Omega. In other words He is the divine Son of God.
Christ will bring His reward with Him. Both the believers and the unbelievers will be judged according to their works. The reward will be spiritual blessedness for the righteous but judgment for those who are evil. John is not teaching a doctrine of salvation by works. The only way to be saved is through faith in Christ. However, even though they are saved through faith, the believers will be rewarded according to their works.
We must be prepared for Christ's coming. We must strengthen our faith, be fully committed to Him, and obey His commands. Because we are in Him, we will be saved, but we will be rewarded according to our works. Our faithfulness will not go unrewarded.
Two, the righteous will enter the gates of the city. We become righteous through faith in Christ!
A blessing is pronounced upon those who "wash" their robes. The saints are not those who have achieved a human righteousness of good works, but those who wash their robes. The martyred but redeemed church is described in Revelation 7:14 as those who "have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." The blood of the Lamb cleanses them from all sin.
John uses a present tense, which indicates continuous and ongoing action. The believers keep on washing their robes. We continue daily in exercising our faith. Our eyes are always on Jesus. And because we wash our robes, we have the right to the "tree of life." To all we say, become righteous through faith in Christ. He is the doorway to salvation.
Three, unbelievers will remain outside the city. Because they do not believe in Christ, they are lost.
Unbelievers do not live according to God's commands. They will remain outside the city-the New Jerusalem. Taken literally, we might picture them as living just ourside the gates. But, in reality, they will have their destiny in the lake of fire (21:8). They will suffer eternal punishment and will be separated forever from the blessings of God.
John names some of the people who will remain outside. He says (verse 15) "Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying." Such people do not have a right to the tree of life, nor do they enter the New Jerusalem.
Probably there is no more difficult message for the mind of modern man to accept. Even those who do not believe in life after death, and those who do not believe in heaven and hell, often strongly oppose the idea of eternal punishment. For them there are no dividing lines between the destinies of men.
Four, the Spirit and the bride say, "Come." Let us participate in inviting the world to come to Jesus!
In verse 16, John speaks about a grand invitation to come to Christ. He says, "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.'" The "bride" is the church, which is made up of the redeemed of all ages. Then he says, "And let the one who hears say, 'Come.'" The one who hears is a part of the church. Those who have responded to the gospel say "Come." This is God's ongoing and ever present invitation. It is issued to every person, everywhere.
The invitation is addressed to those who are thirsty and those who would take of the water of life without cost. One more time the gospel appeal goes out to all who will listen. The Lord is seeking out those who thirst for the truth and who will drink of the water of life. When we proclaim the Word, we must do so with the conviction that we will find the thirsty souls, that they will respond, and that the spiritually parched lips of those who hear will be watered.
The opening paragraph of the epilogue to Revelation is an invitation to the world to come to Christ. John presents the entire story of the future with this emphasis in mind. He is an evangelist and spares no effort to draw men to Christ, the Savior of the world. Ever and always, the invitation is simply "Come." We must not complicate it. The one who is thirsty just needs to come to Jesus and partake freely of the water of life. This is the incredible gospel that we preach.