According to the Bible, some of the last words of Christ were spoken through his angel to the Apostle John, exiled to the Aegean Island of Patmos.
But what are we to make of Jesus’ message when he says in 22:14, ‘Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”
What “divine instructions” was Jesus referring to in these last words? How many orders need to be kept, and with what degree of faithfulness? Why would our Lord leave us with words that raise so many questions?
I don’t know how to answer such questions apart from the conclusion that there is a story behind these words that needs to be understood. The reference to the tree of life clearly reflects back on what happened in the Garden when our first parents lost the right to eat of the tree of life when they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Admittedly this could sound like fiction to those who don’t know the terrible and wonderful realism of the rest of the story.
But, again, what are we to make of our Lord’s words that by keeping “commandments” we can enter back into a place where he walked with Adam and Eve before their rebellion? Doesn’t the history that follows show the inability of “commandments” to make either a nation, or any of its citizens good?
Yet by the time John got his revelation at Patmos, he had been a witness of real events that led him to write, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1John 3:23-24).
It’s interesting to see how repeatedly John in his Gospel (John 13:34-35; 15:1-12), and in his letters (1John 3:23-24; 4:21; 2John 1:5-6), focuses on belief in Christ, on whose merits we enjoy restoration to life… and on the “commandments/instructions” of Christ to love one another, as evidence of our relationship with him.
Isn’t it then the story behind the words that the Spirit of God uses to give us their meaning? And doesn’t it also follow, that by these last words, our Lord, himself, is urging us to return to that story to find out how to be sure of our relationship with him… and how to give others the evidence, and the benefit of what we have found?