Adding to or Taking Away From God’s Word

(Revelation 22:18-19)

Mike Johnson

Revelation 22:18-19 says, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” 

The writer has specific reference to the book of Revelation in these two verses. Would this principle apply to Revelation only? Can we “add to” or “take away from” other books of the Bible? Indeed, we cannot! If we are not allowed to “add to” or “take away from” one book of the Bible, it stands to reason we cannot “add to” or “take away from” any book of the Bible, especially in light of the teaching of such passages as Galatians 1:6-10, Jude 3, and II John 9.

Consider the following example. The Bible teaches the Lord’s Supper consists of unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine. To add potatoes as an element of the Lord’s Supper would be wrong, as doing so would be adding to God’s Word. To take away the fruit of the vine from the Lord’s Supper and only have the unleavened bread would be wrong as that would be “taking away from” the Scriptures.

How much can we “add to” or “take away from” God’s Word and still be acceptable to God? Is just a “little” error acceptable? 1 Peter 4:11 says, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God. . . .”

The Bible also teaches the Word of God will be the standard by which we are judged when Christ returns (Jn. 12:48). Christ will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:30-31), and judgment will be according to our deeds (II Cor. 5:10, Rom. 2:6). These facts should motivate us to abide by the teaching of God’s Word.

The New Testament is our authority today (Eph. 3:3-4; I Cor. 14:37; 1 Thess. 2:13; 4:2, 3, 8) It is essential we have authorization for all we believe, teach, and practice. Can you prove your practices and beliefs by the Word of God?