Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
Many today have a good word to say for divorce. Many churches bless divorce. Many professing Christians speak well of it. They defend divorce. They approve it. They even advocate it. Divorce, they say, is necessary. It is permissible. It is right. It is beneficial.
Of course, they do not have a good word for every divorce. A few are too scandalous even for contemporary Christianity. But they do defend and approve many divorces. By no means do they limit their defense to divorce on the ground of the sexual unfaithfulness of one's marriage companion, the one ground for divorce according to Jesus Christ in Matthew 19:9. But they defend divorces that are obtained for other reasons--many other reasons.
Some are interested to justify their own divorces. Others are determined to excuse the divorces of fellow members of the congregation or of members of their family. Churches cave in to the pressure of divorces in the congregations, which keep pace with this evil in the world.
Some are outspoken in their defense of divorce. "You cannot make a blanket condemnation of divorce," they say; "divorce can be a good thing." Others approve divorce by simply remaining silent and accepting the sinner who has wickedly divorced. Some churches now speak well of divorce by adopting and publishing new decisions that open wide the doors of the kingdom of heaven to unbiblical divorce. Others, more subtle, bless divorce by refusing to discipline the members who divorce and by receiving those who have divorced into their fellowship. All have a good word to say for divorce.
Then they turn on those who will not say a good word about divorce, but instead condemn it as an evil. In sorrow or, as is more often the case, in anger, friends, relatives, and fellow church members ask, "Why are you so hard-nosed in condemning divorce? How can you be so unloving as to refuse fellowship with the one who has divorced?" Intense pressure is put on the saints to join in speaking a good word on behalf of divorce.
God's Old Testament Stand on Divorce
Authoritative for the saints is God's attitude toward, and judgment of divorce. Often the question comes up, "What is your stand on divorce?" Or, "What stand does your preacher take on divorce?" Or, "What stand do your churches have on divorce?" These are important questions. Every believer must take a stand--the right stand. Every preacher must take a stand--and make it known, sharply and clearly, to his congregation. Every denomination of churches must have a stand--distinguishing that fellowship of churches and assisting each congregation and each individual in that fellowship.
Decisive, however, is God's stand on divorce. This is revealed in Malachi 2:14-16, quoted above. "For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away," that is, divorce (v.16). The God of Israel, whose name is Jehovah, has nothing good to say of divorce whatsoever. He does not defend it, but rather condemns and prohibits it.
What makes this an especially powerful testimony is that it reveals God's attitude toward divorce in the time of the old covenant. The passage is God's Word by Malachi the prophet to Judah about the year 400 B.C. That was a time, it is widely supposed, when God was somewhat easier on His people in the matter of divorce. Everyone knows that divorce was practiced in Israel. Indeed, it is difficult to escape the impression that for present-day Christians, as for the Pharisees of old, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is the only text in the Old Testament Bible on marriage and divorce. All know too that Jesus in Matthew 19:9 states that during that time "Moses suffered," or permitted, men to put away their wives, although many conveniently ignore that the Lord added, "because of the hardness of your hearts."
In that age, the LORD God hated divorce.
He has not changed since then. The only change is that with the shining of the full light of the gospel His hatred of divorce is better known. It ought, therefore, to be more obediently acknowledged by the New Testament church in confession and in life.
Divorce is the Evil
God's prophet condemns a certain evil in Judah. Obviously it is an especially grievous sin. Those who are guilty of it are dealing treacherously. The evil is closely related to the sin exposed in verses 11-13 as "abomination" and "profaning the holiness of the LORD." It is a sin of husbands against their wives. What it is, verse 16 states: "putting away." The Hebrew word translated "putting away" is the word that is regularly used in the Old Testament of divorce. The grievous sin in Judah is that husbands are divorcing their wives.
This evil is closely related to the wickedness that is judged in verses 11-13: remarriage. The men of Judah are marrying "the daughter of a strange god," that is, heathen women of the nations around them. That Scripture describes these new wives in this way reminds God-fearing young men that the most important characteristic of the woman whom they marry is spiritual. She must be the daughter of the one, true God, the God whose name is Jehovah/Jesus. In the interests of new marriages with pagan women, the men of Judah are divorcing their Israelite wives.
Nothing has changed since the time of Malachi. Behind divorce lies the desire for marriage with another woman. In my 25 years as a pastor in the churches I learned to ask every man who poured out his tale of woe about his miserable wife and lamented that he had fallen out of love with her so that he could not live with her any longer, "Who is the other woman?" I do not recall that I was ever mistaken. The motive of divorce, usually, is lust.
Nevertheless, God condemns the divorce that precedes the remarriage. It is not remarriage, or even divorce because it leads to remarriage, that God here condemns, but the "putting away" as such. The result of the divorce is great sorrow on the part of the divorced wives. Theirs are the tears, weeping, and crying out of verse 13. The cause of these oppressed women, the LORD takes up in the passage. It is evident from this that no shame attaches to one in the church who has been unjustly divorced by her husband. God Himself sees her plight, pities her, and arises for her defense.
Equality of Judgment for Women
Although the Old Testament prophet condemns the divorcing of their wives by husbands, it is implied that wives' putting away, or leaving, their husbands is equally reprehensible. First, the statement concerning God's hatred of divorce is absolute and unqualified. He hates divorce, all divorce, not only that carried out by husbands. Second, as we shall see, the grounds given for God's hatred of divorce apply as much to the case of a wife divorcing her husband as to the case of a husband divorcing his wife. Take only the ground of treachery. It is as treacherous for a wife to divorce her husband as it is for a husband to divorce his wife.
In the days of the prophet, the position of the woman was such that it was unheard of that she would put her husband away. Today, it is different. There is equality of civil rights and of cultural possibilities for divorce. It is as common that the wife divorces her husband as that the husband divorces his wife. Many a husband's tears cover the altar of the LORD. There is as much need today to say, "Take heed, you wives, that you do not deal treacherously," as to address this warning to husbands.
The Strange Word "Hatred"
Toward this evil of divorce, the attitude of the LORD is hatred. In this Word, God reveals the attitude of His very being. There is in the text a prohibition of divorce: "let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth." Behind this prohibition lies the condemnation of the sin: treachery. And behind the condemnation is the divine hatred: "he hateth putting away."
The Holy Spirit inspired a strong word, the strongest possible, to express the revulsion of the Godhead toward divorce. "Hatred" is a strange word in our day, when it is common in the churches to speak only of the love of God. That God should hate a certain act is a strange idea in our day, when there is hardly any human conduct, no matter how perverse, that this "Christian" god--this idol in the churches--who is only love does not at least tolerate. But God Himself says of divorce, "I hate it." Jehovah, the God of Israel/church, the God who speaks in Holy Scripture, hates.
When He says that He hates divorce, He tells us something, not only about divorce but also about Himself. Hatred is the perfection of a God of righteousness. Righteousness expresses itself as hatred over against that which conflicts with that righteousness. The reason why the god of the churches cannot hate is not that it is so loving, but that it is unrighteous. Hatred is the revelation of God's love for Himself as the good and holy one against that which assaults His goodness and holiness. The reason why the god of the churches cannot hate, particularly divorce, is that it does not love itself as the good and the holy. It does not love itself as the good, because it is not the good. It is an abominable idol formed in the image of corrupt men and women who take delight in evil.
Divorce conflicts with the righteousness of God. It assaults His goodness and holiness. As such, it is hated by God. Hating it, He regards it as disgusting and wills its destruction.
Hatred of the Sin, Hatred of the Sinner
Nor does God hate this evil in such a way as to leave the evil-doer under His favor. This is a common opinion among church people. God hates the sin, but loves the sinner. He hates divorce, but loves the one who divorces. The practical effect of this unbiblical thinking is that a church or an individual pays lip-service to the wickedness of divorce, perhaps even decrying this great social ill of our time, while receiving those who are guilty of divorce into their fellowship.
The prophet plainly exposes this popular notion as false. Verse 12 declares that the LORD will cut off the man who does this, that is, marries a heathen woman after he has divorced his wife, from the tabernacle of Jacob. God will excommunicate him from His fellowship, from eternal life.
Not only the divorcing and remarrying sinner, but also the person who offers an offering for him while he goes on in his sin, the LORD will cut off: "and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts" (v.1 2b). This is the church member today who tries to talk the divorce right, who fights to keep the divorcing friend or relative in the church, and who thus attempts to get him safely under the blessing of the cross, even though he lives impenitently in the sin of divorce.
According to verse 13, the LORD refuses the worship both of the divorcing men in Judah and of Judah herself, who tolerates this iniquity in her fellowship: "he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand." The reason is that the altar of the LORD is covered with the tears, weeping, and crying out of the divorced wives. The treacherous husbands are responsible. By permitting divorce, the entire congregation becomes responsible. All public worship comes under the divine interdict. All that the LORD can see on the altar of public worship in the church on a Sunday morning is the misery of the abandoned and divorced wives. In that misery, He sees the treachery, unrighteousness, and unholiness of the divorcing husbands. The Heidelberg Catechism warns the congregation of this very thing when it teaches that God's "wrath (is) kindled against the whole congregation," if the congregation admits to the Lord's Supper anyone who shows himself unbelieving and ungodly (Q. 82).
The hatred of the LORD for the sin of divorce goes out as wrath against the sinner and against all who connive at the sin. His wrath interrupts all fellowship with and worship of Himself. It will eternally destroy the sinner, if he does not repent. It will remove the church's candlestick out of its place, if the church does not repent.
Such is the hatred of the LORD for divorce according to His own Word.
It is the LORD, the God of Israel, who hates divorce. Not every god hates divorce. Not every god who claims to be the God of Israel hates divorce. One test, therefore, of a church's God is this:
Does He hate divorce?
Does He hate it in the preaching?
Does He hate it in church discipline?
Does He hate it in consistorial and synodical decisions?
Does He hate it in the lives of the members?
In all the thinking and life of the church can you hear the echo of His own forceful Word, "I hate putting away"?
The Familiar "Wherefore?"
"Why?" we ask. "Why does God hate divorce?"
Judah raised this question also. In fact, the men who were putting away their wives asked "why?" The passage on the LORD'S hatred of divorce begins with their question, "why?": "Yet ye say, Wherefore?" (v.14). They asked why the LORD "regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand" (v.13). They asked "why?" concerning this judgment of the LORD, even though they knew very well that they were divorcing their wives in order to marry heathen women. Their question, therefore, was really the question, "Why does the LORD hate divorce?"
The question was a challenge. Judah wanted to argue with the prophet about divorce. The men in Judah liked to justify their divorce. In the argumentative question was the determination to say a good word about divorce. Formally, the book of Malachi is structured by this rebellious "why?" in response to the Word of the LORD, with the subsequent explanation by the LORD's prophet. But this does not take away from the fact that by its "wherefore?" Judah actually raised objection against the LORD'S condemnation of divorce.
This is exactly what we find in our day. When we condemn divorce and, especially, when we carry out the condemnation in our personal lives and in church discipline, we meet with this challenging, and often angry, question, "Wherefore? Why this strong condemnation of divorce?" Although the question is addressed to us, in reality it is directed against God: "Why does the LORD hate divorce?"
The prophet answers the question by explaining that divorce is treachery. Three times in the passage, divorce is described as "dealing treacherously." Treachery is an especially base and contemptible form of sin. It is the conduct of the traitor, who betrays the love and trust of those to whom he is closely bound in the bonds of friendship. In the state, he is a Benedict Arnold, or a Vidkun Quisling, or the Dutchman at the beginning of World War II who uses his position to give over his country into the power of the enemies. In the church, he is the Reformed minister or professor who secretly works to sell out the churches to theological modernism or to Arminian free-willism. In the history of redemption, he is Judas Iscariot, who used his intimacy with the Lord to give Him over into the hands of His foes. Ultimately, treachery finds its origin in Lucifer, son of the morning, who used his exalted position among the angels, servants of God, to instigate revolution against God in heaven and then to turn the earthly creation against its Creator.
In marriage and the family, the traitor is the man who divorces the wife of his youth, in order to marry another who is probably younger, prettier, sexually more attractive. Today, the traitor is as well the faithless wife who abandons her husband for a more appealing man.
Why does God hate divorce?
Because of what divorce is! Divorce is despicable, perfidious treachery. The LORD hates divorce because divorce is hateful. As even a sinful world holds the traitor in contempt, God hates divorce.
As treachery, divorce is hurtful and destructive. The traitor always works the grievous harm of those whom he betrays. His purpose is to destroy. The Dutchmen who helped the Nazi invaders, and then collaborated with them, did untold damage to their country. They intended nothing less than the destruction of the nation as a free, sovereign state. The heretical Reformed theologian ruins his churches and leads many members to perdition. Judas' betrayal of Jesus meant shame, pain, and death for the Lord. Nor did His knowledge that the betrayal was ordained by God prevent the grief of soul, that the one who betrayed Him was "mine own familiar friend" (Psalm 41:9).
Malachi points to the destructive nature of divorce when he charges, in the words of the King James Version, "one covereth violence with his garment" (v.16). The Hebrew is difficult, but the correct translation is: "he covered his garment with violence." The reference is to the man who divorced his wife. Divorce is an act of violence. It is oppressive and injurious. By divorcing his wife, the man covered himself, in the sight of God and man, with the violence of his act. Just as when the LORD looks at the altar where divorce is permitted, all that He can see is the tears, weeping, and crying out of the deserted wives, so when He looks at the man who has divorced his wife, all that God sees is violence.
Why does the LORD hate divorce? "Wherefore?" Because, as treachery, divorce is destructive.
Betrayal of the Wife
First, divorce betrays and thus injures the man's wife. As Jesus Christ will do in Matthew 19:3-9, the prophet takes his startingpoint in God's institution of marriage as recorded in Genesis 2:18-25. God made the husband and wife "one" (v.15). This is the work of God in every marriage: the two become one flesh. By virtue of this marvelous, mysterious work, God binds husband and wife together in the most intimate fellowship. Malachi describes a man's wife as "thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant" (v.14). The essence of the marriage-relation is friendship. Biblically, "covenant" is a bond of communion. In the communion of the marriage-covenant, a man's wife is his "companion," his friend.
Divorce, then, is a man's betrayal of his closest friend. As the wife of his youth, the young woman gave herself to him, body and soul. She entrusted herself to him completely. As a woman in marriage, she depends upon him. Treacherously, he forsakes his trusting friend and lover.
This does her grievous injury. Her divorcing husband hurts her as no other human can. There are her physical, bodily needs. There is her anguish of soul. Worst, there is her vulnerability to relations with another man, which would mean her eternal ruin, as the Lord warns in Matthew 5:32: "and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." Her traitor-husband aims at her destruction.
Commenting on the phrase in Genesis 2:22 that literally states that God "built" a woman from the rib of Adam to be his wife, Martin Luther wrote:
There are not only men who think it clever to find fault with the opposite sex and to have nothing to do with marriage but also men who, after they have married, desert their wives and refuse to support their children. Through their baseness and wickedness these people lay waste God's building, and they are really abominable monsters of nature. Let us, therefore, obey the Word of God and recognize our wives as a building of God.
Betrayal of the Children
Second, divorce betrays and thus injures the man's own children. The prophet points to this as a reason why God hates divorce when, in answer to his own question, "And wherefore one?" he writes, "That he might seek a godly seed" (v.15). One of God's main purposes originally with the institution of marriage was the bringing forth and bringing up of children--godly children (Gen. 1 :28). This was God's purpose with the marriages in Judah, as it is still usually God's purpose with the marriages of believers. In our marriages, He seeks a "seed of God," as is the literal translation of verse 15. By His own covenant grace, He finds this "godly seed" among our children also. He begets them by His regenerating Spirit. He then rears them within the godly home by means of the cooperating father and mother to be godly children.
These children are precious to the covenant God of Judah/ church, their heavenly Father. They must be precious also to married Christians.
In every way, the godly seed are the fruit of faithful, peaceful marriages.
Divorce is betrayal of one's own children, whom the divorcing church member must view as God's children. This ultimate treachery is ruinous for the family, causing the children untold and indescribable physical, psychological, and spiritual harm, as even the world belatedly begins to recognize. Apart from the extraordinary operations of God's grace, divorce destroys the children spiritually and eternally. The divorcing husband or wife is willing, not only that his or her own children be destroyed but also that the seed of God be destroyed.
This is the reason why much of the outcry of the "evangelical" churches against abortion rings hollow in my ears. Loud in their condemnation of the killing of the world's babies by abortion, these same churches are perfectly silent about the destruction within their own fellowship of thousands and millions of their own children and young people--children and young people of professing Christians--by divorce.
It has happened that members of the church, obviously determined to divorce, having poured out their tale of woe concerning their miserable marriage, asked, finally, "You don't expect us to stay together just for the children, do you?" My answer was an immediate, enthusiastic, "Yes! Yes, indeed! By all means! If you will not stay together for any other reason, stay together for the children! What a noble decision, that you deny yourselves and your own personal pleasure for the sake of the children! Here is a place to start!"
Betrayal of Marriage
Third, divorce is a kind of betrayal of the institution of marriage itself. Divorce in the covenant community strikes out violently against everything that marriage is and signifies. The passage in Malachi is not only one of the strongest denunciations of divorce in all of Scripture, but also one of the most glorious descriptions of marriage. Marriage is an institution of God: "Did not he make one?" (v.15) It is a relationship between one man and one woman: "the wife of thy youth" (v.14). By God's ordaining and power, it is a relationship of such intimacy that the two become one: "Did not he make one?" (v.15) Implied is that marriage is for life. In accordance with this unique oneness, the actual life of marriage is delightful friendship: "thy companion and the wife of thy covenant" (v.14). A main purpose is the production and rearing of godly children: "That he might seek a godly seed" (v.15).
Only a fool fails to respond to this institution by exclaiming over the goodness and wisdom of God that are evident in it and by living in it as God requires. To enjoy it is a gift.
This good, wise, holy institution has equally remarkable significance It signifies the bond of fellowship between God and His elect church in Jesus Christ ( Ezek. 16; Eph. 5:22ff.). This is brought out in the passage when the prophet calls the earthly bond of marriage by the name of the spiritual bond between the LORD and His chosen people: "covenant" (v.14). Marriage is the divinely appointed symbol of the covenant between God and His church in Jesus Christ. So does God bind each elect personally and the entire elect body of the church to Himself by the Holy Spirit on the basis of the redemption of the cross that we are united with God by becoming one flesh with Jesus Christ. God and His church are no longer two parties, but one party. We are His companion, very really the "wife of (His) covenant." God has married us. This is the real marriage.
In His own marriage, God is faithful. He is faithful to His own marriage-vow, to be a Husband to this wife. He is faithful to His wife, to us. He will not, He does not divorce His wife, not in her Old Testament form as Israel and not in her New Testament form as the church. He never divorces her in the sense of breaking the bond, so as to marry another. He never divorces her in the sense of separating her from Himself forever ( Jer. 3; Ezek. 16). He does not divorce His wife even though she has given, and still gives, Him ample and just cause by her spiritual infidelities.
His covenant is unbreakable.
The proof is the cross of the eternal Son in human flesh. Although the cost of His marital faithfulness to His bride, and the necessary way of this faithfulness, is the death of His own Son under the divine wrath as atonement for the sins of the bride, God is faithful in marriage. The issue of divorce and remarriage is settled for the believer at the cross of Jesus Christ.
The LORD hates putting away. This is the kind of God He is. In His very nature, He is the "divorce-hating God." The other gods can approve divorce, even advocate them. At the least, they can tolerate them. Not He! Not the God whose name is Jehovah! Not the God of the covenant of grace! Not the God made known in the incarnation and atoning death of Jesus Christ!
All of this--institution and significance--is betrayed and ruined, at least as regards intent, by the man or woman in the church who divorces his wife or her husband, except, of course, it be for fornication (Matt. 5:31, 32; 19:9). Divorce is hateful because it is ruinous of marriage. God hates divorce because He loves marriage. In His love of marriage, He maintains it. He maintains it in the instance of each and every marriage. Against the one who attacks the institution by divorcing his wife, God defends and maintains His institution by being "witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously" (v.14). This means judgment for the sinner. He will not escape.
The Word of God to the church from this revelation of God's hatred of divorce is not, first of all, the forbidding of divorce in our own lives. It is not any law whatever.
It is, rather, the message of the gospel. It is glad tidings that rejoice our hearts. It comes straight out of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God will never cast us away. If for a time, in our experience, He separates us from Himself on account of our sins, He will take us back, renewing His marriage with us. He will be our God forever, embracing us, honoring us, blessing us, as our Husband in Christ. We will dwell with Him everlastingly, as His bride.
Others may groan at this "sharp" Word, or studiously ignore it, or go to work on it to make it conform to their wishes and to the actual conditions in the churches today. As for us, we love this vehement Word as the very gospel of our salvation, "The LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away." Our response is, "Hallelujah!"
"Be Ye Imitators of God!"
Then there is the calling to the church to conform her attitude and conduct to the nature of her God: "Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth" (v.15; see also v.16).
The church must adopt the same attitude toward divorce that God has. She has no choice in the matter. No study committee is necessary, or permitted, to determine what the church's attitude will be. The matter is decided. The church of God hates divorce. She clearly and forcefully expresses this attitude in her preaching, by her discipline, and in the decisions of her ecclesiastical assemblies. No one can doubt that the church hates divorce.
Each member must share this attitude. Shall my God hate divorce, but I love it?
Shall my God condemn divorce, but I approve it, or tolerate it?
In his hatred of divorce, the individual member is called to break off fellowship with those who practice and live in the treachery and violence of divorce.
Shall my God excommunicate from His presence those who divorce, but I hobnob with them as friends?
We are ourselves forbidden to divorce. This lends urgency to the calling of the young people of the church to marry only in the Lord, to marry one who shares their (and God's) high estimation of marriage, and to marry with the carefulness that comes from knowing that this woman or man is the one woman or man with whom they will live until death parts them.
Divorce is not an option for married Christians whose marriages are troubled. There may well be, indeed there undoubtedly are, marriages in the congregations that are troubled, even deeply troubled, troubled to the point that one or the other or perhaps both are giving some thought to divorce as the way out. God slams this door tightly shut. The "way out" of the troubled marriage is the way of repentance; confession of sins; forgiveness; reconciliation; the will to love, or to submit; and changed behavior.
Hard, you say?
Extremely difficult, you object?
Not nearly so "hard" and "difficult" as it was for God to maintain His marriage with you at Golgotha. Besides, nothing right and God-pleasing is impossible for us who carry out our calling, not by our own strength but by the mighty grace of God in us.
In light of God's hatred of divorce, every married Christian is to guard against the evil of divorce in his marriage. He does this by taking heed to his spirit. The great threat to marriage is not in the bedroom. It is not in the body. It is in the husband's spirit. There he is to cherish his own wife as one flesh with him by God's wonderful work and as his companion, his friend, in the covenant of marriage. There he is to esteem his children, and grandchildren, as the seed of God. And there, in his spirit, he is to adore God, who is faithful to him in the real marriage, the covenant of grace.
This man will not divorce.
By David J. Engelsma
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
A short study of Revelation 22:18-19
If our church is indeed a church where the true Gospel is preached, then you can count on it that the Devil and his angels are pounding at the door, trying to break in. The Devil does not stand idly by when the true Gospel is preached. We need to know that the wolves are at the door. These wolves are not the secular world. They care less whether we preach the true Gospel or not. But the religious world does. To most of them the Gospel that we preach is an offense, it is a threat. It is my job to feed you with the Word of God in such a way that you can defend yourselves against the wiles of the Devil. There is not much time left. I am older than anyone of you. And so, it is my job to prepare you so that you can stand on your own and make wise decisions in my absence. That is why I need to warn you for many false Gospels that are the result of ignorance concerning Revelation 22:18-19.
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.
What is God saying here?
You do not have to be a genius to understand these words. God says: “This is the End. Don’t tamper with it. The Word of God is now complete. No more messages from God are to be expected. This is the last message from God to the last of the Apostles just before he died. No more prophecies from God will be added.”
Paraphrased God says very plainly in Revelation 22:18, “If anyone comes to you claiming that he or she has a new message from God, which has come to that person in a dream, or in a vision, or in an angel visitation, or in a tongue, or even if not a word was spoken but that person saw a comforting light somewhere in the middle of the night, or saw any other supernatural manifestation from God, then know that this person is lying, for God will not give any more Divine revelations or messages; that person is a false prophet, and I have not send them, and he or she deserves to be tormented in the Lake of Fire, so that the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever”.
Therefore if anyone comes to you claiming that he or she has a new message from God, that person has added to the Word of God, the Bible, for the Bible is this One Book that God mentions in Revelation 22:18.
Here, on the last page of the Bible, God gave a last warning that the Bible is now complete; no one should add words to it, and neither will God add any more words to it. We must realize that the Bible portrays the image of God, and whosoever has additional Divine revelations has added to the words of the Bible, and is guilty of tampering with the image of God. Moreover, if any man shall take away from the words of the Book of this prophecy, God shall deny him entrance to the New Jerusalem, for he or she has also tampered with the image of God.
Did you notice how God has turned these words around?
In verse 18 God said, “the words of the prophecy of this Book”.
In verse 19 God says, “the words of the Book of this prophecy”.
The prophecy and the Book are interchangeably used, indicating that the prophecy of Revelation is an integral part of the Bible, and the Bible is the Book that contains all these prophecies from God. Always the entire Book is in view, because the Bible is One Book.
If anyone comes to you with the theory of evolution, then understand that if you believe this theory you have in your mind crossed out the first 11 chapters of Genesis, and you are guilty of having tampered with the image of God, even though it was only in your mind.
Someone modifies the doctrine of sin, and claims that the root problem of sin is essentially a weakness or a helplessness, or an inability to trust anyone, and therefore an inability to love or to be loved. And thus people possess a poor self-image and are beset with a tragic sense of their own worthlessness. Therefore people are without self-esteem, and so they are desperately unhappy about themselves. Perhaps you have met someone who believes these ideas. They are preached in many churches in this country, but they rely on human wisdom; not the wisdom that comes from God. And mentally they have taken many verses out of the Bible; verses that deal with the total depravity of man.
The list of examples I could give is endless. What it boils down to is that people have in their mind added to or taken away from the Word of God, but when confronted they deny that they have ever added to or taken away from the Bible.
This is a problem that is as old as the Bible is. Already in Deuteronomy 4:2 God said, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you”.
God anticipated that the children of Israel would tamper with the Word of God. But Deuteronomy 4:2 is not as strongly worded as Revelation 22:18-19, because Deuteronomy 4:2 only concerns the commandments of God. We also read in Proverbs 30:5-6 the equivalent of Revelation 22:18, where God says, “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”.
And as you know, “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone”.
What is the main problem with adding or taking away from the words of the Bible?
There Is No Fear of God Before Their Eyes (2 Peter 1:20-21, 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
In the second letter of Peter God addresses the problem of false teachers who quietly shall bring into the church damnable heresies.
Why will they do that?
It is because there is money to be made in those heresies, and moreover, “There is no fear of God before their eyes”.
2 Peter 1:20
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
2 Peter 1:21
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Verse 20 says that we may not approach the Bible with our own interpretation. We may not come to our neighbor and say, “Whatever the Bible means to you is the truth for you”, for the next verse says that the words in the Bible are words from God. God spoke in old time through the mouths of holy men of God, and what they said and what they wrote are words that were given them by God the Holy Spirit.
Therefore we may not invent an interpretation that comes out of our own mind, or invent an interpretation that came from the culture of those days. It must be an interpretation that harmonizes with the remainder of the Word of God, for God cannot lie. And thus we must approach the Bible with awe and respect, and with fear and trembling, as if God was speaking to us personally.
A passage that is often quoted in support of 2 Peter 1:21 is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, where God says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works”.
What it all boils down to is this:
God spoke the words of the Bible, and we better listen carefully, or else we may be guilty of contempt of God. At any time that we encounter a passage that we must understand, or a problem that we face in our life we must ask:
What did God say?
What is God’s opinion about this matter?
Holy men of God spoke and wrote the words that God moved them to write. In the Old Testament God’s words were written in Hebrew, and in the New Testament God’s words were written in Greek. We have in our hands the KJV, which is as close as possible a word by word translation out of the Hebrew Masoretic Text and out of the Greek Textus Receptus. These are the two most reliable documents of the Word of God.
Which God Are We Worshipping? (John 1:1, Revelation 19:11-13, James 3:1)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Here in this verse the Lord Jesus Christ is called “The Word”, the Logos. Moreover, when God says “the Word was God” He underscores that Jesus Christ is not only the Son of God, but He is fully God.
In many other parts of the Bible God identifies “the Logos” with the Word of God, the Bible. And thus we come to recognize that the Bible, the Word of God, is identified with the Lord Jesus Christ. God confirms this conclusion in Revelation 19:11-13, where Christ appears as the Judge of all the world, and He is given the name: “Word of God”
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
What does this tell us about the Word of God?
It tells us that the Bible, the Word of God, from cover to cover, is a description of the Lord Jesus Christ. And now the adding or taking away from the Word of God enters into the equation. The Bible is our Authority. Not only is it a description of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it also has become the Authority that we obey. If then we would add or take away from the Bible we would produce another authority over us, and thus another god which rules over us.
Let us consider a vivid picture of our actions:
When we add to the Bible by claiming additional messages from God, like the Roman church has done through the centuries by adding the utterances of the saints as if they were inspired by God, then we have changed the face of Christ.
Every time we add another message from God, it is as if we have produced another lump on the face of Christ, and thus we have produced another god, which does not look at all like Christ.
Every time we take away from the Word of God it is as if we have gouged out a piece of flesh out of the face of Christ, and thus we have produced another god, which does not look at all like Christ. And thus we would engage in the sin of idolatry. The sin of idolatry is the sin that God hates most of all.
Revelation 21:8 says that idolaters have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. And the false teachers who have created these idols, who lead others with them into Hell, shall receive the hottest place in Hell according to James 3:1. And thus we can see that the doctrine of Revelation 22:18-19 is a most useful doctrine, for it gives us the discernment to know right from wrong. This is the sharp edge of the sword of the Spirit. This is the most useful tool God has given us to defend ourselves against the wiles of the Devil and against all the evil forces that try to persuade us to come to their side. Even if one day we would stand all alone, we would still see right from wrong. Praise God that He has given us this tool of discernment.
By Alfred Chompff