The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
18 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, 19 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.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen – Revelation 22:17-21 [ESV]
How long will be the line in heaven? The line of people asking Jesus about some nuance of the faith, some difficult-to-understand Bible passage, or some missing piece of information. Why did you put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden? How was it that the walls of Jericho fell at the blast of the trumpet? Was it just a timely earthquake? What about the dinosaurs? Where do they fit in? Maybe you’ll be in that line with your own question. It might be personal: Why did you let me go through that dark time in my life? Why didn’t I get that job? Why? How? When? Where were you when? The list goes on and on.
Sometimes we are more than tempted to read between the lines of the Bible, imagining how Judas felt and whether he had a last-millisecond change of heart, or what Jesus wrote on the ground when the woman caught in adultery was brought to him. It can be very frustrating to have to give up on knowing all the answers.
The biggest question, called the Crux Theologorum (the theologian’s cross), is simply this: Why are some saved and others not? The Lutheran answer is quite unsatisfying to those with inquiring minds: I don’t know. Check out this thorough explanation of the reason we say that if you do have an inquiring mind.
While the I don’t know answer may well be unsatisfying to those with inquiring minds, it is well-aligned with the warnings in this passage. Don’t add to God’s word. Don’t take away from God’s word. And there’s good cause for this warning.
We’re not God. We don’t have the wherewithal to speak things into existence. We cannot know all there is to know. We don’t see the whole panorama of history. We don’t have a full grasp of even our own sins or motives. We cannot take the place of God and try to improve on what he has revealed. Nor are we well served by taking out things that God has said. There are only two religions in the world: that which God has revealed in Scripture, and that which man imagines. God’s religion is the far better choice.
There is yet a more salutary reason for this warning. For it requires that we live by faith. And while we truly know precious little about God, the little we know is precious, and it invites faith. We are saved by faith. We are not saved by knowledge. We are not saved by understanding all mysteries. We are not saved by anything we may do, know, or understand.
We’re saved by God’s grace through faith. And filling in the blanks with our own imaginations is not a help to faith. Being able to say, “I don’t know,” is an act of faith, not an admission of theological ineptitude.
Don’t add to God’s word. Don’t take away from God’s word. Believe God’s word. Believe in God’s Word-made-flesh, Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth. And be saved. And at peace in the knowledge of what he has revealed: He loves us so much!