The question arises as to whether or not Evangelical Christians properly interpret Revelation 22:18-19 as a defense against the beliefs members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints possess. To the modern Christian, many are taught that Revelation 22:18-19 is a warning against adding to or taking away from God’s Holy Word. Thus, well-to-do Evangelicals continue to use this passage as a means to dissay a Latter-day Saint Christian’s foundational beliefs in:
- Joseph Smith and his prophetic calling
- Translation, transmission, and publication of the Book of Mormon
- Translation, transmission, and publication of the Pearl of Great Price
- Transmission and recording of revelations and instructions published in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Mainly, the text of Revelation 22:18-19 is used to prove that the Book of Mormon has added to, and in some cases diminished, the teachings of what is contained in the Bible.
In many conversations, in person or online, someone always brings up Revelation 22:18-19. Typically, it is asked as a question: Doesn’t it say that we are not to add to or take away from God’s established word? Other times, it is a statement of defense: The Bible says we are not to add to or take away from His word.
Understanding the proper interpretation of Revelation 22:18-19 will either prove or disprove the modern Evangelical mindset.
who wrote revelation, When was it written, and to whom?
The first question is to ask who authored Revelation. It is a simple answer, and found in most Study Bibles. The Apostle John wrote Revelation. In fact, outside of the Pauline Epistles, the Bible contains the Gospel of John, 3 Letters (or epistles) attributed to the Apostle, and then Revelation.
Most scholars agree that Revelation was written while the Apostle John was on the Island of Patmos. What is in disagreement is whether Revelation was written on the eve of the Destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD) or later in 95 AD.
Regardless, the Book (or in Greek scroll) was written as a letter to the 7 churches of Asia. This is recorded in Revelation 1. The Seven Churches comprise chapters 2-3. The remaining chapters provide information that pertains to the Parousia of Christ.
Properly interpreting revelation 22:18-19
Towards the end of Revelation, the Apostle John provides this warning:
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, ESV)
According to Preserved Word Ministries, we find this statement:
To keep us from accepting a counterfeit Bible, God has warned us of those who change it. The primary culprits include Satan, hardened sinners, heretics, false prophets, false teachers, and false apostles, along with their followers (ignorant as they may be).
Unfortunately, many Evangelical Christians accept the idea that Revelation forbids any additional scripture or revelation being added to the 66 canonical books that make up our present day Bible. And this interpretation is erroneous. Here are the following reasons Evangelical Christians misuse and misinterpret Revelation 22:18-19.
eIsegesis verses Exegesis Interpretation
The most prominent error, when evangelizing Latter-day Saint Christians, is the biased and prejudicial interpretation of the text. This is known as Eisegesis. The biased and prejudicial viewpoint involves the following aspects:
- God’s word only contains the canonicity of the 66 books
- God’s word contains all the necessary prophecies
- Other passages speak to warnings of this kind
- God’s word is established and the Gates of Hell shall never prevail
There may be other factors that lend toward a person making a false interpretation. These are the main ones I have encountered over the years.
Instead, the proper way to interpret Revelation 22:18-19 is by the means of exegesis. Meaning, that we make a critical investigation of the text to understand what it is saying.
We already established the who, what, when, and where aspect of Revelation 22:18-19. Let us now look at the context of the two verses.
There are some things that become apparent in the text itself. First, the apostle does not state that the warning applies to an entire canon of 66 books. His warning is specific to the prophecies of this book.
I mentioned earlier that the Greek word actually translates to Scroll. More specifically, the Greek word is βιβλος = Biblos and means paper, scroll, or book (See, Strongs Concordance #976 and Abarim Publications).
Thus, we have the warning pertaining specifically to the scroll, papyrus, or paper that John wrote Revelation on. And it is more specific – it is pertaining to prophecies contained in Revelation (Revelation 4-21).
It is a confident conclusion that when John gave this warning, it was very specific to the prophecies contained within the scroll he wrote. This scroll went out to the Seven Churches of Asia. Despite this, many Evangelical’s object and attempt to spiritualize that John was writing specifically to the 7 Churches. And that it is specific to the Prophecies of Revelation. However, it is applicable to the entirety of the Bible as God’s word.
The problem with this viewpoint is that minimizes the reality of John’s warning.
Plagues and diminished heavenly reward
Another question comes up when we critically examine and investigate Revelation 22:18-19. Not only does the apostle warn against adding to or subtracting from the Prophecies of Revelation. He attaches a curse and punishment that comes as a consequence of this behavior:
- God will add to the person the plagues written in this book
- God will take away that persons portion from the Tree of Life and in the Holy City
Since the accusation is laid against Joseph Smith, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to have added to and/or taken away from God’s word – when did the plagues of Revelation occur? What does it mean that a person’s portion from the Tree of Life and the Holy City be taken away from them? And notice that it does not say all – it only says a portion of it is diminished and/or taken away.
To the Evangelical Christian – be careful when attempting to use this passage as a means to discredit the Latter-day Saint Faith. A critical and thoughtful examination of the text reveals that your present interpretation is false. Revelation 22;18-19 cannot be used as a proof text to say that Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, or any other of our standard works and teachings have added to what God has said.
More to the point, the Book of Mormon actually clarifies and enhances the revelation of who Jesus Christ is and His mission and purpose. This is why it is referred to as Another Testament of Jesus Christ as it stands as a witness to Christ and the message of the Everlasting Gospel.
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