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.
sentences with subjects and verbs which are in the positive, and has consequently to be translated with an adversative conjunction: sed, or sed contra.
The meaning of the four-sentence verse is decisively enlightened by the four e!ti, which give the value of continuous action — which in itself is proper to the present imperative — to the four aorist imperatives. The translation, then, of v. 11 is: ‘Let the evildoer continue doing evil and let the filthy one continue being filthy, but let the righteous one continue doing right and let the holy one continue being holy’. The four e!ti perfect further the meaning of the imperatives since they connect the verse where they are found, both with the preceding and with the following one, by means of the eschatological motif. The previous verse ended with the assertion that ‘The time is near (e)ggu/j)’ (v. 10b), while the following one has the promise of the imminent Coming (cf. the taxu/) and of the reward (v. 12). Verse 11 then says to the evildoer and to the filthy one to go on practising evil and filthiness for the short xro/noj which is left before the kairo/j (v. 10b) and before the Coming (v. 12a). John obviously does not intend encouraging anybody to do injustice or impurity with his first two imperatives; on the contrary, it matters to him that the Christian not consider with envy those arrayed on the other side. One has to imagine, then, that not a few Christians had a secret or open envy of the libertines, and were tempted to yield to compromise, syncretism, or apostasy. John says to such addressees that they not be enticed, but to leave the unjust and the filthy to their destiny16.
This is why in the following verses (vv. 12-14) John connects the theme of the Coming with that of the reward, both positive and negative. Verses 22,12-13 state that the Christ comes, that He comes soon, that He comes with the reward ‘according to each one’s works’ (v. 12), that He is not only ‘protological’ (the Alpha, the First, the Beginning), but ‘eschatological’ as well (the Omega, the Last, the End) (v. 13). The following v. 14 begins revealing what is meant by a reward ‘according to each one’s works’. Here too John speaks to Christians