“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book,” Revelation 22:18, 19.
These two verses have long been a bone of contention among scholars and theologians. Arguments abound as to whether or not God was speaking of just the book of Revelation when He pronounced this curse or if He was including all of scripture. What’s more, translators don’t always agree on whose narrative this is.
To obtain a better perspective on the subject of who’s speaking, let’s turn back the pages to the beginning of the Book of Revelation. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified [it] by his angel unto his servant John:” Revelation 1:1. As we read the very first verse written in this book we are immediately confronted with a very obvious detail. The ancient Greek word translated Revelation is apokalupsis (apocalypse). The word means “a revealing, or unveiling.” What does the Book of Revelation reveal? It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This book is Jesus’ Revelation in the sense that it belongs to Him. He is the one doing the revealing. It is also Jesus’ Revelation in the sense that He is the object revealed; Jesus is the person revealed by the entire book. The way I see it, Jesus is doing the narration, John wrote it down, but as it was dictated to John by our Lord Himself. So with that premise in mind we can proceed to my next point, which is the curse.
The curse in and of itself indicates there is a high price to pay for tampering with The Book of Revelation and the scriptures in general. I’ve had some well argued conversations on this subject myself. That’s why I decided to do some research into the whole idea of tampering with God’s word.
I’m sure that most Christians have seen how doctrines can become distorted just by taking verses out of context. We also see how false religions and cults are formed as scripture is added to and subtracted from. That’s why God says to leave His word as it is written. Nothing could be more obvious or plainer. I believe the pronounced curse of Revelation 22 is all inclusive, but whether we believe this to be the case or not it no one should ever change God’s word in any way. I’m speaking, of course, about the original manuscripts that were written a few thousand years ago. Our English Bibles aren’t always as accurately translated as we would like, and so occasionally we must access the Hebrew and Greek text to get a more thorough and detailed picture of God’s word. In all our studies, whether they are in the ancient languages or in our current language, we should always pray
This solemn promise of a curse indicates that The Book of Revelation can be understood just as it is written. Why would God place a curse on His Holy word if He knew we couldn’t understand it anyway? But because God knew in advance that evil man would try and manipulate His word for their own personal use and gain, He went ahead and placed that curse on any action that would add to or take away from His word. We see these final verses as a finale to the whole of canonical Scriptures. Since the argument rages on we should take a look at other passages in the Bible to affirm the opinion that God was speaking about all scriptures when He placed such a serious curse at the end of His final Revelation.
“Every word of God [is] pure: he [is] a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar,” Proverbs 30:5, 6. Change His word, take away from His word, add to His word and He will certainly take you to task. God gave us His word complete and we are to read and study it as a whole. Various people tend to glean the understanding they wish to glean from God’s word and instead of looking at it as a complete work they allegorize or dismiss much of it as antiquated and not befitting our world today. Those who tamper with His word have their own agenda and are arrogant in their self-confidence, so much so that they feel they are equipped intellectually and spiritually to determine what is true and what is not true pertaining to the Word of God.
“Thou hast commanded [us] to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” Psalm 119:4, 5. Precept upon precept, line upon line that is how we are admonished to teach and keep His word, never should we presume to take it upon ourselves to change anything about His word. “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? [them that are] weaned from the milk, [and] drawn from the breasts. For precept [must be] upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, [and] there a little: Isaiah 28:9, 10.
When we teach others the word of God we are actually held to a higher regard and as such we are responsible to teach correctly. Bible teachers who stray from the simplicity of scriptures who change the inerrant word of God or use their skills to interpret His word falsely will be severely judged. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction,” 1 Peter 2:1.
“And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God,” Luke 4:4. Jesus is the bread of life – Jesus is the word of God and we live by His word and His word alone. We are taught those two very important facts throughout the Bible. God will not stand idly by while fallible man adds to or takes away from His word. Another very important fact that needs to be addressed and inserted here is that of sufficiency. His word is sufficient just as the work Jesus completed on the cross is sufficient. Accordingly, as with God’s word, we aren’t to become mathematicians when it comes to the sufficiency of the cross either.
I spoke about the cults earlier. Huge deceptions are being laid as a new foundation. We see a new era emerging on the scene called “post-modernism” which doesn’t allow for the truths as taught in the Bible. Truths that some of us still hold to today. Now we are told that we must learn new truths and re-design Christianity to conform to our ever growing and changing culture. We must make major changes in God’s word to pacify this new breed of post-modern Christians. “…that ye might learn in us not to think [of men] above that which is written…,” 1 Corinthians 4:6
Paul spoke of the written word in numerous letters to the various churches as well as to Timothy and the others. The written word in Paul’s day was primarily The Old Testament, although a few of his own letters were being circulated, as well as some of the Gospels. Interestingly, even in Paul’s time he had to contend with those who would add to or take away from God’s word. He was witness to men disparaging the word of God and adding their own words to what was already written. This heresy continues today, and for the most part is being accepted as truth by those who are ignorant when it comes to the Bible because they refuse to read and study for themselves.
So what is the answer to the argument concerning adding to and taking away from God’s word? Does it only refer to The Book of Revelation or is it for the entirety of scripture? Those who make the argument that God’s curse written in these verses is only referring to the Book of Revelation have never read the other scriptures that address the same heresy. They are basically parroting others from whom they’ve heard saying the same thing. Parroting, especially when it comes to the Bible, is very dangerous because after awhile as unstudied people parrot a deceiver that lie can seem as truth as it is spoken over and over again and with enough conviction. People are always willing to be deceived. Following a liar is getting more and more pervasive in our culture today.
At any rate we aren’t to add to or take away from any portion of the word of God, and that means in any sense or in any fashion. What we are to do is to study His word continually. And when we have a question about what we are studying, we can go to the numerous Bible helps available. We will be held responsible for studying the correct text and if that means accessing the Hebrew and Greek to get the true meaning, so be it. It should actually be a pleasure to learn more about our God who created us in His image and who loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die in our stead.
Read God’s word with no other agenda other than that of becoming more familiar with His will for your life, and the curse in Revelation 22 will never fall upon you. The Bible represents sixty-six books, and as I’ve pointed out, from Genesis to Revelation we find it to be one integrated design. In that respect we must conclude the curse includes the entirety of scripture.
God bless you all,