A visitor to our website had a question regarding Rev 22:18. Here is what the verse says:
“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.”
The question was: Does this verse prove people can lose eternal life?
Two issues need to be addressed.
First, the plagues do not refer to hell. In the book of Revelation, the plagues are judgments poured out upon the earth and people because of their sin. People experience many negative things, including death. John is saying that anybody who adds to the words of God in the book are in danger of experiencing God’s judgment in their life.
Second, the verb will add is different in the majority of manuscripts (MT) of Revelation. It is an aorist infinitive in the MT, and that means it is more of a request (may God add to him the plagues…). John is asking God to judge/discipline any person who adds to these words. John wants the reader to take seriously what is written in the book of Revelation.
John is telling the reader to take the Word of God seriously. I don’t think I am going too far to say that the same thing is true for any book of the Bible, not just the book of Revelation.
Meredith Kline has made a good comment on this point, even though he was not a Free Grace advocate. He said these words in Rev 22:18 are similar to the words in the Law of Moses that said God would curse disobedience and bless obedience. But none of these curses dealt with going to hell.
Unfortunately, some have taken the words here to refer to going to hell and even the loss of salvation. I was reading a commentary that said the one who tampers with the book of Revelation—and by that he meant teaching contrary to its message either in its morals or theology—will not only experience the plagues mentioned in the book of Revelation, he will also “forfeit any right to salvation in the Holy City.” This particular author does not see it as a request by John, but something that will happen to all who commit this sin.
I don’t think we have to look at many commentaries to understand that this view is all too common. That is why the purity of the gospel of eternal life is so important. When we come to a verse like this, even if at first we don’t know what it means, we know what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean we can lose our salvation or go to hell if we have mishandled the Word of God. This is because the Bible makes it clear that we receive eternal life as a free gift apart from works. Since it is eternal, we cannot lose it.
This verse is a good verse to remind us of that. It also reminds us that we should always interpret verses that we have questions about in light of the clear teachings of the Bible.