Rev. 22:18 – I testify to everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. 19 And if anyone takes away from the words of this prophetic book, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city, written in this book. 20 He who testifies about these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen. (HCSB)
If anyone adds to them
The Book of Revelation ends with a sobering warning. Verses 18-19 read, “I testify to everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of this prophetic book, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city, written in this book.”
It’s doubtful that this passage applies to the entire canon of scripture, which at the time of John’s writing is not yet closed. More likely John is making it clear that the Book of Revelation must be read in its fullness – the foreboding warnings of wrath and the glorious promises of the new heavens and earth – without any tinkering with the text.
The HCSB Study Bible, however, cautions that “the wording does imply that all Scripture should be guarded as sacred, never tampered with. The immediate context in Revelation is of a ‘new Eden’ [vv. 1-5]. Also, in Genesis 3, Eve added to the Word of God [Gen. 3:3] and the Serpent took away from what the Lord had said [Gen. 3:4]. As a result, this ‘biblical bookends’ effect of Rev. 22:18-19 and Gen. 3:3-4 infers that, just as Genesis is the first book in the Bible, Revelation is the last” (p. 2230).
Although the warning of Rev. 22:18-19 is specific to the Book of Revelation, the principle applies to anyone who seeks to intentionally distort God’s Word, according to Got Questions Ministries: “Moses gave a similar warning in Deuteronomy 4:1-2, where he cautioned the Israelites that they must listen to and obey the commandments of the Lord, neither adding to nor taking away from His revealed Word. Proverbs 30:5-6 contains a similar admonition to anyone who would add to God’s words: he will be rebuked and proven a liar…. We must be careful to handle the Bible with care and reverence so as to not distort its message” (gotquestions.org).