Let’s read this verse from the King James Version: “Blessed are they THAT DO HIS COMMANDMENTS, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” This is also the way it reads in the New King James Version. But in MANY other translations it reads like this: “Blessed are those WHO WASH THEIR ROBES, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city” (New American Standard Bible). 

As you can see, in the NASB there is no mention at all of “doing God’s commandments.” Instead, the criterion for entering into the gates of the heavenly city is for those “who wash their robes.” What does that mean? We find the answer in Revelation chapter 7 where the Apostle John saw a great multitude of people CLOTHED WITH WHITE ROBES (verse 9) and he was asked, “Who are these ARRAYED IN WHITE ROBES, and where did they come from” (verse 13)? In verse 14 we read, “And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and WASHED THEIR ROBES AND MADE THEM WHITE IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB.’” All believers in the Lord Jesus Christ know exactly what this means, for the Bible clearly teaches us that it is only through the “blood of Christ” that we can be “cleansed of our sins” and “redeemed to God” by the virtue of the blood. We read in 1st John 1:7 “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” In Revelation 5:9 it says, “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You (Jesus Christ) are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have REDEEMED US TO GOD BY YOUR BLOOD out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.’” Because the believing sinners is “cleansed from all sin” and “redeemed to God” we are seen as “clothed with the garments of salvation” and “with a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). The salvation we have through the death and blood-shedding of Jesus Christ is what gives one the “right to the tree of life, and to enter in through the gates of the city.”

In closing, even though most textural authorities agree that this (the NASB rendering) has the correct reading, there are some who maintain that the KJV and the NKJV is the correct reading of this verse. If that is the case, it still does not teach that one must “do God’s commandments to be saved.” The fact is the sinner who has been cleansed from their sins and redeemed to God WILL DO HIS COMMANDMENTS as the “fruit of salvation.” Every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has a desire to obey the commandments that have been given to us by Jesus Christ. These are NOT the Ten Commandments that were given to the nation of Israel who were “under the law.” These are the commandments Jesus gives to every believer who has been “saved by grace” and are “not under law but under grace” (see Romans 6:14). Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, YOU WILL KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS.” The Apostle John said in 1st John 2:3 & 5:3, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS…For this is the love of God, that WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS. And His commandments are not burdensome.”  (458.5)  (DO)