Giancarlo Biguzzi, «The Chaos of Rev 22,6-21 and Prophecy in Asia», Vol. 83 (2002) 193-210
Interpreters of the Apocalypse agree that in Ap 22,6-21 disorder reigns and that, most of all, various voices in these verses interfere with one another, without care for rules which would produce a proper development. Therefore, chaos is undeniably in the text. But it is equally true that with some ease one can discern in the text an articulation in three strophes: the first and the third speak of the revelation received by John and of the transmission of that revelation to the churches by means of John’s book, while the second is concerned with the ethical life and its eschatological reward. All this reveals the anxiety of John about a relaxation of vigilance on the part of the churches of Asia, so that John consequently insists on the imminence of the eschatological Coming and labors to show the legitimacy of the demands of his book, especially before the eyes of his ‘brother-prophets’. It is the framework of their prophetic style, probably charismatic like that of the prophets of 1 Cor 14, which allows us to make sense of the interference and injection of various voices in these verses of the johannine Apocalypse; we find a similar style in certain other verses at the beginning and in the body of John’s book.
book shows clearly how much he had at heart that they might accept, and that he rather expected a cool reception.
II. The real addressees in Rev 22,6-21
1. Waiting for the Coming and the real addressees
The first interruption (v. 7) proclaims the imminent Coming (‘And behold, I am coming soon’) when John has just said that his book has a heavenly origin. Such an announcement is not for John; the addressees, on the contrary, are in need of it. In fact, John invites the hearer to keep and put into practice (threi=n) the words of his prophecy with the beatitude following immediately after (v. 7b). The average interlocutor John wants to persuade is the one reluctant to accept and keep (threi=n)15 the words of his book; this person is the real addressee, even if John claims to be addressing the servants of God or Christ (1,1; 22,6c), all the churches of Asia (1,4.9.11), or a single church (2,1.8.12 etc.). John then goes on to write that the Christ will bring the reward at his coming (v. 12): the reward will be according to one’s works (v. 12b) and, in particular, will eventually consist in the loss of the tree of life for ‘dogs, sorcerers, po/rnoi, idolaters...’ (v. 15). John’s real interlocutor, then, had ceased waiting fervently for the Coming and the eschatological reward. He (and not John!) was tempted to side with po/rnoi and idolaters.
All of this becomes even more evident in the second interruption or insertion (v. 17). When he writes: ‘The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!"’, John puts the ardent longing for Christ’s Coming on the lips of the ideal Church, that is the Church that heeds what the Spirit says to her (cf. 2,7.11 etc.), and who is preparing and adorning herself for her bridegroom (21,2) with the works of the saints (19,7d-8). But the le/gousin in the indicative of v. 17a, that is in the narrative-referential register, is in contrast with the hortatory register of the three following imperatives. In fact the ei)pa/tw of v. 17b, urges the hearer that he repeat the prayer: ‘Come!’, which is already on the lips of the pneumatic Church. The second and third imperatives are even more daring, since John, as he speaks, places himself in the very final