John’s visions in Revelation 20-22 brought Revelation to completion as a literary unit and did the same for the whole of the storyline of Scripture. The visions John saw referenced figures and imagery from Genesis to the latest prophets of Israel. In reading Revelation 20-22, John’s audience was able to read the Bible’s story of God’s fulfilled redemptive plan.
(1) In Rev 20:1-3, 7-10, John referenced Satan as the ancient serpent, recalling Genesis 3 and Ezekiel 38-39. The serpent was the craftiest animal God created and the serpent tempted Eve to doubt God (Gen 3:1). Eve ate the forbidden fruit because she believed the serpent’s lie that if she ate, she would be like God, knowing good and evil (Gen 3:2-4). John saw an angel bind Satan with a chain for 1,000 years so that Satan would be prohibited from deceiving the nations (Rev 20:2-4). John wrote that after the 1,000 years, Satan would be loosed. True to his character, Satan would deceive the nations so that they would gather against God’s people, thinking that they could destroy the saints dwelling in God’s city (Rev 20:7-10). John’s vision of the vast army that Satan gathered included imagery from Ezekiel 38-39, where the prophet saw God gathering a vast army to come against Israel so that He would be known as holy when He destroyed by cataclysm and earthquake those opposing His people. In John’s portrayal of the great final battle, God allowed Satan to be released so that he could lie to the nations and gather them against His people, underscoring God’s supremacy over evil throughout Revelation.
(2) In Rev 20:12, 15; 22:12, John understood that judgement would be rendered according to each one’s deeds recorded in books, recalling the prophets’ references to the function of record books in judgement. Isaiah proclaimed the destruction of Edom, saying that the Lord had ordered in books the number of wild animals that would inhabit the land of Edom after He destroyed them (Isa 34:16-17). Jeremiah confronted the people of Judah because they listened to deceptive prophets and had deceptive hearts. He told the people that the Lord knew their hearts and would render judgement based upon each one’s work, according to what he deserves (Jer 17:10). When Daniel saw the Ancient of Days take His throne to judge the fourth beast, “the court was convened, and the books were opened” (Dan 7:10). The angel revealing God’s mysteries to Daniel told the prophet that despite the distress that would come upon God’s people, all those whose names were found written in the book would escape (Dan 12:1). John wrote in Rev 20:12, 15 that when he saw God seated on His throne with the dead standing before Him, books were opened; anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire, condemned by their deeds recorded in the book of works. When Jesus spoke to John in Rev 22:12, He told the apostle that He was coming soon to judge each according to their works.
(3) In Rev 20:14; 21:4, John saw the demise of death and mourning, echoing Isaiah’s prediction of the Lord’s acts on the day of salvation. Isaiah prophesied that on the day when the Lord saved His people, He would destroy death forever and wipe every tear dry (Isa 25:7-8). John watched as death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire, where the beast, the false prophet, and all those whose names were not written in the Lamb’s book of life will dwell forever and ever (Rev 20:14). After Death had been destroyed, mourning and tears of grief would cease (Rev 21:4).
(4) In Rev 21:1, John saw a new heaven and a new earth, recalling Isaiah’s prediction that God would make all things new. Isaiah proclaimed that in the day of salvation, the Lord would create a new heaven and new earth with the result that all past events would be remembered no more (Isa 65:17). Isaiah proclaimed that just as the new heavens and the new earth will endure forever, so the offspring of His people will endure forever (Isa 66:22).
(5) In Rev 21:3, 22-23, John wrote that God would dwell among His people, echoing the prophets’ predictions that God would redeem and dwell with His people in the new covenant. Isaiah prophesied that the Lord would dwell with His people as an everlasting light (Isa 60:19-20). Zechariah noted that after the Lord went out to fight against the nations, His holy ones would gather to Him and day and night would cease (Zech 14:3-7). Jeremiah proclaimed that the new covenant would not be like the covenant God made with Israel when He brought them out of Egypt. Rather, the Lord would write His law on the hearts of His people, and on their minds, forgiving their sins forever and dwelling among them (Jer 31:31-34). Ezekiel saw a vision of dry bones coming to life when the Spirit of the Lord blew upon them and heard the Lord proclaim, “My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be My people. When My sanctuary is among them forever, the nations will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel” (Ezek 37:27-28). The voice John heard speaking from the throne in Rev 21:3 heralded the new covenant promises of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. John saw no temple or lamp in the New Jerusalem because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple and they illuminate it (Rev 21:22-23).
(6) In Rev 22:1, John saw a river of living water flowing from God’s throne through the new city, echoing Ezekiel’s prophecy of a river flowing from the new temple. In Ezek 47:1-12, Ezekiel recorded his vision of a river flowing out of the temple, nourishing the trees that live on both sides of its banks. The angel speaking to Ezekiel told the prophet that the fruit of the trees would be for food and the leaves of the trees would have medicinal value. John wrote that the trees surrounding the river in the new city produced twelve kinds of fruit and its leaves were for the healing of the nations (Rev 22:2).
(7) In Rev 22:11, the angel told John that the prophetic words he had written would confirm the righteous and the unrighteous in their spiritual conditions, recalling God’s words to the prophets regarding their ministries. When the Lord called Isaiah to prophetic ministry, He told him that his messages would harden in unbelief those that did not have eyes to see or ears to hear (Isa 6:9-10). When the Lord called Ezekiel, He told Ezekiel to proclaim, “Let the one who listens, listen, and the one who refuses, refuse—for they are a rebellious house” (Ezek 3:27). The angel speaking to Daniel told him that while many would be cleansed and purified, the wicked would go on in wickedness and spiritual dullness (Dan 12:10). Like Daniel, John was told, “Let the unrighteousness go on in unrighteousness; let the filthy go on being made filthy; let the righteous go on in unrighteousness; and let the holy go on being made holy” (Rev 22:11).
(8) In Rev 22:16, Jesus identified Himself as the One fulfilling the messianic roles prophesied by Balaam and Isaiah. Though Balaam faltered as a prophet (Num 22:22-35; 31:16; 2 Pet 2:15; Jude 11; Rev 2:14), he foretold of a day when a star and a scepter would arise from Jacob and subdue Moab, Edom, and Seir (Num 24:17-19). In Isa 11:1-2, Isaiah prophesied that the Lord would anoint with His Spirit One who would come from the line of Jesse, the father of King David (1 Sam 16:1). Isaiah said that the nations would seek after the One from Jesse’s line and all who sought Him would know the glory of His resting place (Isa 11:10). After John received the visions from an angel, the Lord Jesus Himself appeared to John and told the apostle that He was coming soon to judge each one according to what they had done. Jesus said, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star” (Rev 22:16).