My previous post highlighted the bookend-like use of the first and sixth beatitudes in the book of Revelation. Now it is time to wrap up this series by exploring the seventh and final beatitude. Here is the verse:
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Revelation 22:14, ESV).
When reflecting upon this last beatitude, it is important to recognize who benefits from it. The answer comes in the first clause: “…those who wash their robes…” (Rev. 22:14a, ESV). It goes without saying that the surrounding context fleshes out their identity. In the very next verse, the apostle John lists behaviors that exemplify people who have not washed their robes and reside outside of the city, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:15, ESV). This section of scripture reminds the reader of the apostle Paul’s list reagrding the works of the flesh found in Galatians 5:19-21. He contrasts these with the fruit of the Spirit, which give evidence of a life transformed and obedient in the Spirit. Basically, those who wash their robes do not exhibit the lifestyles depicted in Rev. 22:15 or in Gal. 5:19-21. There is one more point to highlight about Galatians chapter five. Paul concludes the section about the works of the flesh by declaring that those who practice them “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21b, ESV). This is exactly what the apostle John depicts in Revelation 22:15 where the unjust live outside rather than inside the city.
Because I see a parallel between Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 22:15, this casts more light upon the meaning of the clause “those who wash their robes.” I believe that it is clear from the context of Revelation chapter twenty-two that this clause describes all those born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3 & 5, ESV). If this is the case, then anyone who is born again may rightly see himself or herself as the recipient of this last beatitude in Revelation. A natural question at this point is the extent of the beatitude’s inclusiveness and exclusiveness. The gospel must go out to everyone in the whole world, which is the inclusive aspect known as the general call; however, the blessings attached to it only benefit those who receive it by repentance and faith (Romans 1:16-17; Ephesians 2:4-9, ESV). This is the exclusive part of the gospel sometimes referred to as the effectual call. There is one more piece of evidence linking the clause, “…those who wash their robes…,” with the believer’s conversion. The apostle John uses it earlier in the book of Revelation to describe the great multitude redeemed from every tribe, language, people, and nation (Rev. 7:9 & 14, ESV).
If this beatitude grants blessings to all those who are born again, then it behooves God’s people to embrace them, to know them. One piece of the blessing comes in the form of the tree of life. This is a direct reference by the apostle John to the same tree found in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9, ESV). In book of Genesis, the tree of life promises eternal life for all those worthy to partake of it (Gen. 3:22, ESV). Because Adam and Eve sinned against God, the Lord guarded the way to the tree of life; however, in the New Jerusalem, this is no longer the case since all those enjoying eternal life have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb (Gen. 3:24; Rev. 7:14; 22:14, ESV). Through Christ, sin and its curse have been removed from the redeemed and the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21:4, 27; see 2 Timothy 1:8-10, ESV). What God the Father held out as a promise to Adam and Eve in the Garden has reached its ultimate fulfillment through the Son in the new creation. If this does not cause one’s heart to leap for joy, then I doubt that anything will.
Before ending this post, I want to touch upon the other portion of the blessing where those who wash their robes “…may enter the city by the gates” (Rev. 22:14b; see Isaiah 35:8, ESV). This verse fulfills the passage in Hebrews where the redeemed throughout all of history yearned for a better country being prepared by God (Hebrews 11:14-16, ESV). If I may toss in something even more astounding, this promise of entering the city had been an expectant hope of those in the Old Testament. Back in the Psalms, there is the following verse: “This is the gate of the Lord; and the righteous enter through it” (Psalm 118:20, ESV). More than likely, this passage would have been sung by the Old Covenant people in adoration of God. His people praise him in the present, and this continues into the eternal state. What this emphasizes is that there is no end in sight for praising the everlasting God. The reasons for praising him are manifold, which only causes awestruck wonder within me like the Psalmist: “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me” (Psalm 116:12, ESV)? Somehow I think that every believer will find that question to be unanswerable in the New Jerusalem.