22:14,15 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and that they may enter into the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the fornicators and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and acts falsehood.
(i) Those who wash their robes have the right of entry into the city of God; the King James Version has: Blessed are they that do his commandments. In Greek the two phrases would be very like each other. Those who have washed their robes is hoi ( Greek #3588 ) plunontes ( Greek #4150 ) tas ( Greek #3588 ) stolas ( Greek #4749 ), and those that do his commandments is hoi ( Greek #3588 ) poiountes ( Greek #4160 ) tas ( Greek #3588 ) entolas ( Greek #1785 ). In the early Greek manuscripts all the words are written in capital letters and there is no space left between them. If we set down these two phrases in English capital letters, we see how closely they resemble each other.
"Those who have washed their robes" is the reading of the best manuscripts, but it is easy to see how a scribe could make a mistake in copying and substitute the more usual phrase.
This phrase shows man's part in salvation. It is Jesus Christ who in his Cross has provided that grace by which alone man can be forgiven; but man has to appropriate that sacrifice. To take a simple analogy, we can supply soap and water, but we cannot compel a person to use them. Those who enter into the city of God are those who have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
(ii) There follows the list of those who are debarred from the city of God. We have already considered a very similar list in Revelation 21:8 of those who were cast into the lake of fire. The new phrase here is the dogs. This can have two meanings.
(i) The dog was the symbol for everything that was savage and unclean. H. B. Swete says: "No one who has watched the dogs that prowl in the quarters of an eastern city will wonder at the contempt and disgust which the word suggests to the oriental mind." That was why the Jews called the Gentiles dogs. There is a rabbinic saying: "Whoever eats with an idolator is the same as he who would eat with a dog. Who is a dog? He who is not circumcised." Andreas suggests that the dogs are not only the shameless and the unbelieving, but also Christians who after their baptism "return to their vomit." The dog may, then, be a symbol of all that is disgusting.
(ii) But there is another possibility. There is a strange phrase in Deuteronomy 23:18 . The full verse runs: "You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow." The first part is clear enough. It is forbidden to offer to God money that has been made by prostitution. But the wages of a dog is more difficult. The point is this. In the ancient temples there were not only female sacred prostitutes, there were also male sacred prostitutes; and these male prostitutes were commonly called dogs. Dog can denote a thoroughly immoral person, and that may be its meaning here.
Every one who loves and acts falsehood is shut out. Here is an echo of the Psalmist: "No man who practises deceit shall dwell in my house; no man who utters lies shall continue in my presence" ( Psalms 101:7 ).