A hopeful universalism cult false teacher who operates from South India quotes a verse from the book of Revelation to teach that people who live in hell can move to heaven.(1) He quotes this verse: ‘The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty com; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.’ (2) However, this is a clear case of taking the verse out of context. We must read just above this verse to understand the context. Revelation 22:16 says that Jesus was talking to John, the author of the book of Revelation. He asked John to carry these messages to the ‘churches’ (The plural used the author was talking about actual local churches, see Revelation 22:16). The plural used indicates that John was to carry a message to the local churches still on the earth. And what message did he have to carry? This message: ‘The Spirit and the Bride (the local church still on the earth) had to say, ‘Come’ (to the sinner on the earth, who is lost) (Rev. 22:17)! Revelation 22:17 is a call to the local church which is being prepared as a bride of Christ (see 2 Cor. 11:2) get involved in the work of evangelism here and now, empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8 teaches the Holy Spirit was given to empower church believers for evangelism). Revelation 22:17 does not teach the cultic doctrine of hopeful universalism (the teaching that even those in hell will come to heaven). Rather, it is a call for Spirit-empowered evangelism for believer in the local church here and now. Jeremy Royal Edward confirms this interpretation of Revelation 22:17 when he wrote, “With its repeated invitation to come and take the living water as a gift (i.e., that is free grace: see Eph. 2:8-9), Revelation ends with passionate evangelistic appeal.” (3)
Another confirmation that Revelation 22:17 is taken out of context by hopeful universalist is what we read following that verse. Revelation 22:20 records the words: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” So, the evangelistic invitations like ‘come and drink’ is to be extended till the return of Jesus by believers of the local churches who are bride of Christ! After Jesus’ return, it will be too late to come to Him.
We also cannot interpret the book of Revelation 22:17 in a way the interpretation violates the clear message of the rest of the book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation mentions that hell punishment is forever repeatedly (Rev. 14:11; 20:10) and there is no way one can assume that Revelation 22:17 was opening a way for escape from hell into heaven as this cultic Chennai pastor suggests.
Let us return back to the Bible and challenge Bible-twisting cults. Let us not join hands with ‘dogs’ (in Revelation 22:15 stubborn hell-populating teachers are compared to ‘dogs’ – see Phil. 3:2 where Apostle Paul also calls cultic false teachers ‘dogs’) who will certainly land in the lake of fire outside the city (heaven), along with their followers, if they and their followers do not repent from false teaching practice and broadcasting.
(1) Jesudian Silvester, New Heaven and New Earth -07-04-2020 – Jesudian – End Times, YouTube, April 7, 2020: accessed September 15, 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsvJ43lZme0&ab_channel=JesudianSilvester
(2) Revelation 22:17 (English Standard Version).
(3) Jeremy Royal Edward, ed., HCSB Study Bible: Large Print (Nashville, TN: 2015), 2230.
(Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission, the G4 Mission. This is a reader-supported Indian ministry. Find out more at http://www.dukev.org).