It is important that we understand the time setting of Revelation 22:15. Before discussing the passage in detail, we need to realize that it describes a time AFTER the heavenly Jerusalem has descended to earth. We read earlier, in Revelation 21:1-2: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Verse 10 continues to explain that “the great city, the holy Jerusalem, [was] descending out of heaven from God.” Verse 27 continues that “there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”
It is important to understand that the heavenly Jerusalem will descend AFTER the events described in Revelation 20; that is, AFTER “anyone not found in the Book of Life” had been “cast into the lake of fire (verse 15). “Death and Hades,” that is, all physical humans not written in the Book of Life, had already been “cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (verse 14).
With this background, let us read Revelation 22:14-15:
“(14) Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (15) But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”
Revelation 22:19 adds that “if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book [better: Tree] of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
Since Revelation 22:15 talks about sinners who will be “outside” the heavenly Jerusalem, is it teaching that the souls of the lost ones are still roaming outside the city? No, because we read in an earlier passage, in Revelation 21:8, that those who have committed the unpardonable sin will have been thrown into the lake of fire, to be burned up and destroyed. [Revelation 21:8 reads: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”]
The lists of sins in Revelation 21:8 and Revelation 22:15 are very similar, indicating that these passages address the same kind of people. In addition, our Q&A’s in Updates 194 and 195, prove that people will not live forever in an ever-burning hell, but that those who permanently refuse to repent will be burned up and destroyed.
The Commentary on the Whole Bible by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, states: “As all the filth of the old Jerusalem was carried outside the walls and burnt there, so nothing defiled shall enter the heavenly city, but be burnt outside (cf. ch. 22:15).”
The Broadman Bible Commentary explains Revelation 22:15, as follows:
“The blessedness of the righteous is seen more clearly in John’s contrast with those outside. Outside does not mean that the wicked are milling around the exterior of the walls of the holy city. It means that they will never be inside the city; they are [or better: were cast into] the lake of fire (20:15). The term could have some reference to life in the present world; the righteous already know a habitation with God; the wicked are already outside.”
In fact, the Bible speaks repeatedly about those who are “outside” — who are not a part of the Church. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 reads: “For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore put away from yourselves the evil person.” Compare, too, Colossians 4:5 and 1 Thessalonians 4:12.
The Greek word for “outside,” “exo,” which is used in those passages and in Revelation 22:15, can also mean “without.” In Matthew 13:47-48, it is translated as, “away”: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to the shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad AWAY.”
The meaning is clear: Those who are “bad”; that is those who commit the sins, as described in Revelation 22:15, as a way of life, without a willingness to repent, will be “outside” or “without” or “away from” the holy city and the Kingdom of God. Many Scriptures show that those people will not inherit or enter the Kingdom (compare 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; and Ephesians 5:5). Please note that the lists of sins, as set forth in 1 Corinthians, Galatians and Ephesians, are very similar to the sins mentioned in Revelation 21:8 and 22:15, including sexual immorality, idolatry, sorcery, and murders. All these lists address the same kind of people.
Christ said in Luke 13:28: “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out [and thrown into the lake of fire, compare Matthew 13:41-42].”
Rather than teaching that the souls of the lost ones are “milling around the exterior of the walls of the holy city,” Revelation 22:15 teaches that they won’t be there. Moffat translates Revelation 22:15 in this way: “Begone, you dogs, you sorcerers, you vicious creatures, you murderers, you idolaters, you who love and practice falsehood, every one of you.” Other translations render the Greek word “exo”; i.e., “outside” or “without,” as “excluded.” Those who refuse to repent will be EXCLUDED from access to the Kingdom of God and the holy city. They will be destroyed in the lake of fire which is the second and final death, from which there is no resurrection back to life.