For I say to every man to whose ears have come the words of this prophet’s book, If any man makes an addition to them, God will put on him the punishments which are in this book: And if any man takes away from the words of this book, God will take away from him his part in the tree of life and the holy town, even the things which are in this book. Rev 22:18-19
Wow. We are in serious troubles.
When scribes in the ancient days copied the bible – handwriting, don’t forget that – not a tittle, not an iota was to be missing or added. Iota, the smallest character of the Hebrew alphabet. If they made a mistake, the whole page had to be rewritten.
It seems easy in the light of this to understand what our verse today is saying. Both orthographic mistakes as well as semantic changes – changes of meaning – introduced by them are either additions or subtractions of the word of God – and therefore lead to death.
But then came the masoretes. They added the vowels to the bible, as Hebrew only writes down consonants. Adding tons of tittles and points added to our understanding and took away ambiguities. Suddenly, it became clear that Moses, coming down from the mountain, had a shining face and not horns. Two words that only differ by a vowel. There are many medieval paintings of Moses with horns.
But on the other side, they introduced interpretative characters that led to some of the most deceiving misinterpretations of the bible ever. They introduced stop marks for the reader to breath when chanting the verses. One of them has been put in a very prominent place in Daniel – right between the 69th and the 70th week. For them, it was more than a breathing point, but they tried to change the meaning of the passage.
They tried to make believe that there is a break between week 69 and 70. Why? At their time, the Jews were equalled to the people of the antichrist. The reading of the prophecy in Daniel was: The prince Jesus would come, the Messiah, and after half a week be cut off – 3.5 years of ministry – and that Jesus stopped the sacrifices in the temple – by giving himself as the perfect sacrifice in no need of daily repetition.
The masoretes saw the pope of their time as the antichrist, and introduced this breathing mark to allow for an interpretation with a break, postponing the prophetic fulfillment of the last part of the prophecy into their time. We still do that today, and this little breathing mark set the foundation for our prevalent interpretation of Revelation. Left behind.
We see how dangerous the adding and subtracting is even on a character to character basis.
But is there more to this verse?
If it were meant literal in that sense, translations, study bibles, commentaries, even preaching, let alone believing in the prophetic now word of God would put us into serious danger.
There must be some deeper meaning to this.
The easy way out? Obviously, no other scripture – be it Talmud or the books of Smith – are to be held as as important or even more important as the bible. Obvious. But also a very limited view, an easy cop out.
But what is the deeper meaning of this verse then? Come on, get to your point.
Here we go:
If I take away a promise of the bible, we will not believe that we can have what the promise tells us. Example: if we say that God does not heal any more today, we will not expect healing nor ask for it nor put our faith into it – and therefore not experience it!
If we add to the bible, we will experience what we believe for. Example: if we say that God uses evil and sickness and disease to teach us, we will experience and welcome evil and sickness and disease in our lives. God loves me, because he teaches me something.
This holds true on a larger scale as well. If we add to the bible – by believing the masoretes and the teaching evolving out of their manipulation through Darby, Scofield, and Larkin, the three blind mice, believing dispensationalism – the world has to become darker and darker before the Lord comes back. And hey, we get what we believe, don’t we?
So don’t get all literal, all technical on this verse. Remember, it is not about the letter, but the Spirit. Adding to and subtracting from the spirit of the word, we will experience the consequences. It is that easy.
So next time you read a promise, apply it to your life. Next time you read about the Holy Spirit and his gifts, strive after them, especially prophecy, as Paul tells us. Next time you see offices in the bible that equip the body of Christ, pray that they would emerge in your area to bring both authority and teaching to your place.
But there is hope. Suffering the consequences of a misinterpretation of the word can easily be fixed. Change your thinking! Strive for the truth – who is a person, Jesus. Build the future with your words and speak the truth. And as your belief system changes, you change, and therefore your future.
There are many places for sure that I still add or subtract. But I hunger and thirst after Jesus. He will show me. Just as he will show you, if you let him.
Let’s go! Comments welcomed.