10 I fell down before his feet to worship him. He said to me, “Look! Don’t do it! I am a fellow bondservant with you and with your brothers who hold the testimony of Yeshua. Worship God, for the testimony of Yeshua is the Spirit of Prophecy.” Rev 19:10 WMB
The Greek words translated testimony and testify have many translations depending on context.
The KJV translates martyria: witness (15x), testimony (14x), record (7x), report (1x) and translates the related verb, martyreō: bear witness (25x), testify (19x), bear record (13x), witness (5x), be a witness (2x), give testimony (2x), have a good report (2x), miscellaneous (11x). Those words give us a better overall understanding of testimony.
Theologians give us more insight into the meaning on the phrase: “The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.”
My go to first is Sam Storms. He is solid on the kingdom of God that is now and is to come in the New Heaven and New earth. The following is an excerpt from his article: A Study on Revelation 21:1-22:21—Part III. He begins by considering Revelation 22:6 “And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.” NASB
The Epilogue – 22:6-21
These verses serve as a formal conclusion to the book and are linked with Rev. 1:1-3 by a number of verbal similarities. Note, however, that whereas the introduction to Revelation pronounced a blessing on all who obey the words of this book, the conclusion declares a curse on all who disobey.
A.The Testimony of the Angel – 22:6-15
1.The conclusion introduced – 22:6-7
Cf. Rev. 1:1-3. Of special interest here is the reference in v. 6 to the Lord as “God of the spirits of the prophets.” Note several things about this phrase:
First, the word “spirits” is what grammarians call an “objective” genitive. The idea can be paraphrased: “God over the spirits of the prophets” or “God ruling or inspiring the spirits of the prophets.” In any case, God is clearly portrayed as sovereign over what prophets prophesy. God, as it were, owns, operates, and oversees the ministry of true prophets. This confirms what we see elsewhere, especially in 1 Cor. 14, that the prophetic is entirely dependent on God, always awaiting his anointing and activity. Prophets may prophesy at will, but they only receive revelation by the initiative of God. Thus, more so than with the gift of teaching, prophets are somewhat passive, being instruments or conduits for the revelatory word of God, whereas teachers are more active, drawing directly from the Scriptures and expounding what they interpret. This is, in fact, the primary distinction between the prophetic gift and the teaching gift: the former is dependent on a spontaneous revelation while the latter is dependent on an inscripturated text. However, this should not be taken to mean that the Spirit is not also active in the exercise of other spiritual gifts, such as teaching.
Second, is the word “spirits” a reference to the human spirit of each prophet or is it a reference to the Holy Spirit? Some find it problematic to suggest that the Holy Spirit would be mentioned in the plural. But remember: (1) the plural is used for the Holy Spirit in Rev. 1:4; 4:5; 5:6; and (2) when the human spirit is energized by a charismatic manifestation of the Holy Spirit (i.e., when a spiritual gift is in operation), Paul seems to have in mind both; in 1 Cor. 14 it is difficult to know when one should translated pneuma as “Spirit” and when as “spirit”. Gordon Fee simply renders it S/spirit.
Third, Paul uses the same terminology in 1 Cor. 14:32 (“the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets”; the only difference is that in Revelation the definite article appears: “the spirits of the prophets”). There he has in mind the control by the prophet of the manifestation of the Spirit. In other words, Paul is saying that, contrary to those who think prophecy is an ecstatic and uncontrollable phenomenon that overwhelms and overrides the will of the prophet, each individual is capable of consciously refraining from prophetic utterance in accordance with the rules and decorum for prophetic ministry in the church.
When John says that the angel was sent “to show His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place” he does not mean that Christians in general saw the visions as John did but “that they experienced the visions vicariously through John’s record of them” (Beale, 1126).
2. John’s second rebuke – Rev 22:8-9
This passage is virtually identical to Rev. 19:10, except that in the latter we read at the conclusion: “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
People have often wondered why John would be so nave as to fall at the feet of an angel and worship? Some have tried to dismiss the problem by saying that the word “worship” (proskunesis) need only refer to a normal gesture of respect, far short of genuine worship. Whereas the word can often have this meaning in the Bible, the angel’s response in v. 10b and his advice to John indicate otherwise. There are at least three answers to this problem, all of which bear a measure of truth.
·First of all, it may be that John, much like Daniel in chp. 10 of his prophecy, was overwhelmed with the brilliance and power of this angelic being. Let us remember that in 18:1 an angel is described as “having great authority” and so completely reflecting the glory of God that “the earth was illumined”.
·Second, in the Rev. 19:10 passage the angel has just pronounced an awesome beatitude on John and others who are invited to the marriage supper, immediately followed by a powerful declaration that authenticates its reality: “These are true words of God” (v. 9b). The impact of this statement may have been simply more than he could fathom. He may have thought that any spiritual being commissioned from the throne of God with such profound news was deserving of special reverence.
·Third, it has been argued that John’s desire was “to counter a tendency to angel-worship in the Asiatic churches to which he addressed his work” (Bauckham, 133). However, as Bauckham goes on to note, “in that case it is surprising that no reference to this aberration is made in the seven messages to the churches” (133).
But is there any other reason why the Spirit, through John, would include this story? Yes.
·First of all, note that it is the angel as the giver of prophetic revelation (this is especially emphasized in 22:8-9) that explains why John prostrates himself in this way. But “in rejecting worship the angel disclaims this status: he is not the transcendent giver of prophetic revelation, but a creaturely instrument through whom the revelation is given, and therefore a fellow-servant with John and the Christian prophets, who are similarly only instruments to pass on the revelation. Instead of the angel, John is directed to ‘worship God’ (Rev 19:10; 22:9) as the true transcendent source of revelation” (Bauckham, 134). As 22:16 makes clear, “the angel is mere intermediary, Jesus is the source of the revelation” (134). The angel wants to make it clear that when it comes to revelation, he belongs on the side of the creatures who receive it, while Jesus belongs on the side of God who gives it.
·Second, it may be that John is reinforcing in this story one of the principal themes of the entire book: namely, the difference between true worship and idolatry. Everyone in Revelation either worships God or the dragon/beast/Babylon. There is no third way or middle ground.
·Third, and related to the above, is the fact that “this passage presents an example of how easy it is to fall into idolatry, for which the judgment described throughout ch. 19 comes into play” (Beale, 947). If someone like John, who has been the recipient of such marvelous revelatory experiences as found in Revelation, can fall prey to this temptation, how much more should we be on the alert!
The phrase “the testimony of Jesus [cf. Rev1:2,9; 12:17; 19:10b; 20:4] is the spirit of prophecy” (found in 19:10 but not in Rev 22:8-9) deserves comment. The Greek would allow us to render the first part either of two ways: (1) “the testimony about Jesus,” or (2) “the testimony which comes from Jesus,” i.e., which Jesus himself bears or declares. The latter option points to the idea that all true prophecy has its origin in the words and acts of Jesus; the former option highlights the idea that all true prophecy consists in testimony or witness to/about Jesus himself. I.e., he is its content and focus (whether directly or indirectly).
The second half of this statement may mean that all true prophecy is inspired by the Holy Spirit (i.e., energized and sustained by him). Or it may mean that the essence of prophecy, the purpose and principle of it all, is bearing witness to Jesus. Or again, it may mean that the (Holy) Spirit is chiefly characterized by prophetic manifestations. Aune also suggests the possible translation, “the prophetic Spirit,” by which he would be referring to “the power that allows certain individuals to have visionary experiences and gives them revelatory insights not available to ordinary people” (3:1039).