True Meaning of Revelation 22:18 About Not Adding Things
One day, I was reading the Bible in the house when Sister Zheng suddenly came to visit me. She said happily: “Sister Li, I came here today to tell you some good news—the Lord Jesus, whom we have been expecting has returned, and He is carrying out a new stage of work.” So saying, she took a book entitled The Scroll Opened by the Lamb out of her bag, saying: “Look! This is the new word expressed by the returned Lord Jesus, the water of life that flows from the throne! …”
“What?” I immediately interrupted her. “The Lord has returned? And He has expressed new words? How is this possible? The Book of Revelation prophesies: ‘For I testify to every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add to these things, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book’ (Revelation 22:18). Here it clearly says that no one may add anything to the Bible, yet you say that the Lord Jesus has returned and expressed new words. Isn’t this adding things to the Bible?”
Seeing how serious I was, Sister Zheng said smilingly, “Sister Li, are you sure that ‘this book’ mentioned in the Book of Revelation refers to the entire Bible? We all know that the Book of Revelation was written by John after he saw a vision at Patmos Island about 90 years after the Lord. At that time, the New Testament didn’t exist. It was not until 300 years after the Lord that the New Testament was put together. Clearly, the book mentioned in Revelation was not a reference to the complete Bible, but was a reference to the text of prophecies known as the Book of Revelation.” Sister Zheng explained patiently.
Immediately, I opened the Bible up to Revelation and, upon seeing that verse, I got a bit stunned and thought: “I know this verse like the backs of my hands, so why haven’t I seen this before? This passage clearly says that nothing could be added to the prophecy, but it does not say that nothing could be added to the Bible. Besides, there was no New Testament when John wrote the Book of Revelation.”
Sister Zheng continued: “We all know that the Book of Revelation was written by John after he received inspiration from God, and that the things in it are all God’s words. The prophecy in Revelation 22:18 is actually a warning to us that we cannot add anything to Revelation, for that is distorting God’s words and is an offense to God’s disposition. Today, however, we misunderstand it and harbor the absurd belief that God cannot possibly perform any work beyond that which is in the Bible, and that God doing new work and speaking new words outside the Bible are additions to the Bible. We use this prophecy to delimit God’s work, so much so that we even condemn the work and word of God in the last days. Are we distorting the original meaning of God’s words when He said them? The Lord Jesus once prophesied: ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come’ (John 16:12–13). And it is prophesied many times in Revelation: ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Revelation 2–3). These prophecies are very clear: The Lord has kept many things from us and when He returns in the last days, He shall speak His words and guide us into all truths. Sister, if we go by our own understanding that the word and work of the returned Lord are additions to the Bible, then how shall these prophecies be fulfilled?”
Hearing Sister Zheng’s fellowship, I pondered for a while and said, “What you have fellowshiped is right. God gave revelation to John and let him write those words in order to warn later generations not to add anything to the prophecies in Revelation. He didn’t intend for us to delimit His work. I’ve actually read this passage many times over all these years of my belief in the Lord, but I’ve never understood the true meaning within.”
Sister Zheng went on to say, “Before, I didn’t understand this prophecy either, until after I read the Lord’s new words. In fact, we should know that the Book of Revelation is just a record of the vision that John beheld, and that it is a book of prophecies concerning the work God will do and the facts He will accomplish in the last days. Since they are prophecies, they are things that God Himself will do in the future, and the inside story and precise details could not possibly have been recorded in the Bible ahead of time. God telling us in advance about the things that haven’t happened yet is for us to watchfully wait for His time. For example, the Old Testament foretold the coming of a Messiah, saying: ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). At that time, the people of Israel who lived under the law all knew that the Messiah would come to save them and that a virgin would become pregnant and have a son. But as for the specifics of how the Messiah would come, how He would do His work and how the prophecies would be fulfilled, there was no detailed record in the Bible. It was only after the Lord Jesus became flesh to preach the gospel of the heavenly kingdom, required people to confess and repent, taught them to forgive, to love each other and to love others as themselves, and was crucified for man that those prophecies were truly fulfilled. But the work the Lord Jesus did and the words He spoke at that time hadn’t been clearly recorded in the Old Testament, so can we say that His words and work overstepped the Old Testament and were additions to the prophecies? Of course no one thinks this way. Instead, we all firmly believe that the Lord Jesus’ work accomplished the prophecies of the prophets and was the fulfillment of them. Similarly, in the last days, we should also treat the prophecies in Revelation in a correct manner. The Lord Jesus’ returning incarnate in the last days to express the word, do the work of judgment and chastisement, open the little scroll, and loose the seven seals is not an addition to the Bible, but the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Book of Revelation. Let’s look at some prophecies in Revelation: ‘And I saw in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders said to me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof’ (Revelation 5:1–5). These verses clearly tell us that the little scroll is sealed with seven seals and that only the Lamb is able to open it. This sealed scroll does not refer to the Bible because each of us owns a Bible and can open it and read it at any time. The little scroll is sealed and only God who returns in the last days is able to open it. Today, the Lord Jesus has returned and opened the little scroll, and He has expressed the words of life and revealed all the mysteries of the Bible, which has precisely fulfilled these prophecies in Revelation.”
I nodded my head and said, “Sister, what you have fellowshiped is indeed in line with the Bible, which has made me understand more clearly. The Book of Revelation is a book of prophecies about God’s work in the last days, yet the precise details are not recorded in the Bible. God’s doing new work when He returns in the last days is not an addition to the Bible, but the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Book of Revelation. Before, I have always held to my own notions, so when I heard the news that God had come to do new work and express new words, I thought of them as additions to the Bible and thus refused to seek and investigate. I was so foolish and ignorant!”
Nodding her head, Sister Zheng said, “It’s true. It says in the Bible: ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been His counselor?’ (Romans 11:33–34). God’s work is wondrous and unfathomable, and no one can fathom it. Our knowledge of God’s work can only go as far as what God has performed. Only when the prophecies are fulfilled can we genuinely understand the true meaning of them. Just like only when the Lord Jesus came to do the work of redemption through crucifixion did people know how the prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament were fulfilled. Prior to that, no one could imagine it with his own mind. Today in regard to the prophecies in the Book of Revelation, we should even more approach them in a correct way. It is prophesied in Revelation: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me’ (Revelation 3:20). ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna’ (Revelation 2:17). In fact, the Lord Jesus has long ago told us to soberly await His return and to listen for God’s voice in the last days. The wise virgins are the ones who listen to God’s voice and therefore welcome the Lord. Nowadays, only when we hear the Lord’s voice, read the little scroll opened by the Lamb and welcome the Lord’s return, can we truly attend the wedding feast of the Lamb, eat the hidden manna, and in the end enter God’s kingdom to enjoy His promise.”
Happily, I said, “Thanks be to the Lord! If not for your fellowship today, I would still misunderstand the prophecy in Revelation 22:18 and pay no attention to listening to God’s utterances. In that case, I would never be able to welcome the Lord’s return. I now have a way to receive the Lord’s coming! …”
» Extended Reading:
• Is Everything in the Bible God’s Word?