Neither Add Nor Subtract
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)”
These words, along with the positive words spoken at the beginning of this book, should call for us to give careful attention to God’s Word. Revelation 1:3 promises that those who read aloud and hear these words are blessed, and here at the close of the book we hear sobering penalties given to any who would take away or add to these words. The words at the beginning should move us to often be found in the Word, and these words at the end should caution us from treating what we read lightly.
These closing words are not meant to keep us from striving to apply God’s Word to our lives, nor are they meant to keep us from disagreeing with one another concerning its interpretation. What this warning is meant to do is to keep us from arrogantly claiming to know better than God’s Word, deeming ourselves to be more enlightened than these words written so long ago. When we hear a teacher say something akin to: “Well, yes, the Bible says that, but today we know so much more than they did then…”, that is a sure indication to step away.
It is popular for some to interpret the Bible through the ethic of love. This approach allows readers to pick and choose what parts of God’s Word they will follow and what parts they can conveniently discard. While such an ethic is convenient, it does not square with these sobering words that come near the very close of the Bible. While we may at times disagree in regards to our interpretation of a passage, we should never find a reason to add or subtract from the book of this prophecy.