What does Revelation chapter 22 mean?At the end of chapter 21, John described the beauty of New Jerusalem. This depiction briefly concludes here.
John sees a river of the water of life. This contrasts with the pollution and decay seen during the tribulation. It also echoes the original state of the garden of Eden. Water and life are often intertwined in Scripture, especially in the writings of John (John 4:14; 7:37–38). This city also contains a tree of life, something from which fallen man was specifically barred after the fall (Genesis 3:22–24). The reference to the leaves being used for "healing" leads some to suggest that New Jerusalem will exist somewhere above earth prior to the end of the millennium, others see this as a symbolic reference to permanent, eternal health and life. Light, as well, is a crucial metaphor in the Bible, representing truth and knowledge (John 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Matthew 4:16). John also notes that all evil, darkness, and night are gone from this holy city (Revelation 22:1–5).
Revelation then ends its description of the future and returns to more immediate commands from Jesus. The angel commends what John has seen as accurate and worthy of trust. This is followed by a statement reiterating the idea that "I am" is coming soon. This might have confused John, seeing as the words are those of Jesus, but it had been the angel speaking up to that point. Perhaps in confusion, John starts to worship the angel, but is immediately corrected (Revelation 22:6–9).
John is then told not to "seal up" the words of Revelation. Unlike older prophets such as Daniel (Daniel 12:9), John's visions come when there are few remaining events left between the prophecy and its fulfillment. These words are to be shared and understood, not guarded. The reference to evildoers and the righteous is not an endorsement of sin. Rather, it's an expression that Jesus' return is inevitable and unavoidable. This might be stated as "people can do whatever they want to, but the time is near, and Jesus is coming soon." Likewise, we are reminded that those who demonstrate their rejection of Christ through persistent, unrepentant sin will find themselves separated from God (Revelation 22:10–15).
John completes Revelation, and the final words of the New Testament, by including another reassurance from Christ that these are His words, and His testimony. John appeals to readers to accept the offer Christ makes for salvation, echoing other such pleas in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 6:2; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Peter 3:9). John also warns against those who would add to or take away from the words of Revelation. This would include a literal editing of the text, but it also implies attempts to twist, ignore, or insert meanings or interpretations. While the dire warning is technically aimed at the book of revelation itself, that general principle is found elsewhere in reference to all of God's inspired Word (1 Corinthians 4:6; Luke 4:1–13; John 10:35). John completes his message with a final statement from Jesus proclaiming His imminent return, and a prayer for grace (Revelation 22:16–21).