The book of Revelations is John’s written record of a series of prophetic visions. The first three chapters read as a series of messages to specific churches, but also seem to be prophetic descriptions of various ages of the church.
Starting with Rev 4, John records a series of visions. Often people read these visions as if they are in strict chronological order. While individual visions may be internally chronological, each vision may stand on its own with regard to time. I tend to think of these visions more like the layers of the same onion. They don’t progress chronologically toward a point in time so much as progressing toward an ever clearer, purer, and better center. At this center is a defined image of the grand plan of our Lord. Certainly it culminates in a fulfillment yet to occur (from our perspective with respect to time), but certainly there are whole parts of the book long since accomplished as if they were a down payment on the events waiting to come to pass.
Much of what we see revealed in John’s recorded visions is found in one form or another in several other books of the bible. Some are better known than others. For example, the last several chapters of Ezekiel provide vivid descriptions what appears to be the coming Kingdom. Isaiah is full of Kingdom imagery, but Is 11 and Is 65 are especially powerful examples. Is 49 contains a mixture of images from the first coming of Jesus and the New Jerusalem kingdom. Is 54 speaks of it as do many other chapters of Isaiah’s book. Jer 31 declares the new covenant and Daniel has visions of its fulfillment. Parts of Daniel 12 read like a variation of the last chapters of Revelation. Joel saw the “Day of the Lord” with signs and wonders – some of which referenced the crucifixion, resurrection and Pentecost. Some of which seem to point to events still due to unfold. The last part of Amos alludes to it. Micah 4 prophesies the birth of Jesus as well as his future return. Zephaniah 3 is full of prophetic images of what seems to be New Jerusalem. Zechariah prophesies a man measuring much the way John prophesies the measurements of New Jerusalem. He also had visions of golden lampstands like John, four chariots similar to the four horsemen John saw, judgment, restoration, the coming of Jesus as a man and the coming of Jesus as King. The last chapter of the Old Testament, Malachi 4, describes in its own way the same things found in the last few chapters of Revelation. There are countless references throughout the Old Testament, not to mention the many parables and speeches of Jesus in the Gospels and the words of other NT authors such as Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and the author of Hebrews. By no stretch of the imagination does John’s revelation stand alone, unusual or unique in content. Where John is mostly unique is that his visions are our most recent sacred writings and the most intensely condensed visions focussed on the coming kingdom.
Preface 1: Revelation 20
In Rev 20 we see a period (1000 years) during which Satan is bound. Those who died for their faith in the Lord are resurrected and reign with Christ during this time. After this devil is released for a while. The nations rise against Christ, but fire from heaven consumes the enemies and Satan is thrown into a lake of fire with the beast and the false prophet. After this the rest of the dead are resurrected and judged according to whether their name appears in the Lamb’s Book of Life. If their name is found they live eternally. If not, they are thrown into the lake of fire. Death itself is thrown into the lake of fire and there is no more death ever again.
Preface 2: Revelation 21
In Revelation 21 we see another layer of the story. There’s a new heaven and a new earth. There’s a new Jerusalem that descends from heaven. God lives with man in this new city. This vision includes a promise to those who thirst and conquer and a dire threat of a fiery damnation death to faithless cowards and those who committed vile intentional sins. Yet another vision in Rev 21 describes New Jerusalem itself. Those who enter are only those whose name is found in the Lamb’s Book of Life. This vision segues into the final visions of Rev 22.
The River of Life and Tree of Life
Rev 22:1-2 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Ez 47:1-12 contains an extended vision of water flowing from the Temple. This passage also includes a reference to fruit trees on both sides of the river that are good for eating and having leaves that heal.
Zech 14:8 contains a reference to a river of living water flowing from Jerusalem. Half the water flows east and half west continuing in all seasons.
Gen 2:8-14 describes the garden of Eden, the rivers flowing from it, and the tree of Life. Rev 22:2 and these other related verses make it clear the tree of life from Genesis is a kind of tree rather than a single unique entity as one might assume from a casual reading of Gen 2.
In Jn 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Jesus is actually quoting Is 55:1. We are usually taught that in this passage the water Jesus offers refers to the life giving power of the Holy Spirit. While this is certainly true, it appears the term “living water” also has another more literal meaning. Paul explains we are resurrected (or changed) to new bodies which will be different and spiritual, yet they certainly are real bodies (1 Cor 15:44). Why wouldn’t the river be literal water as well as a word-picture figure of something spiritual we cannot effectively describe any other way?
Based on the various descriptions from these three visions plus Jesus’ own words and the account of the garden provided by Moses it seems there will be enough of these trees of life to provide fruit for all who will gain eternal life. These trees and the flow of living water certainly appear to be literal, at least in some fashion.
Leaves from the Tree of Life Heal Nations
Rev 22:2b The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. We know Jesus had the power to heal. There are dozens of testimonies of his healing power in the gospels. We know Jesus healed what human physicians cannot, even raising the dead. We also know that after the Holy Spirit was dispensed in power at Pentecost the Apostles and other disciples were vessels through which the Holy Spirit supernaturally healed the natural. I will testify I’ve personally met people healed physically through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. I’ve heard testimony of many more who experienced or personally witnessed such healings.
To be healed implies being made whole, unbroken, and functioning once again as designed.
Healing of nations refers to more than mere physical healing. It means fixing the entire social system broken by the corruption of sin of individuals in the social systems. Peter and Paul argued in public. In our lives in our churches, even in the most united groups, there remain schisms. Stepping back we see clear divisions within the Catholic church and huge divisions among protestant denominations. If the Church (body of true believers) isn’t whole, united and functioning as designed then surely God intends to do a lot more than give the Holy Spirit to His believers living in corrupt bodies in a corrupt world. God intends to quite literally fix the individuals and thus fix the social system of all people. We as individuals will be restored to the condition God intended and we will function as a society as was originally designed. Unlike Adam’s change, we will change to be made impervious to the effects of sin (1 Pe 1:4). Jesus Christ is directly and personally responsible for this victory over sin, death, and corruption (1 Cor 15:54).
Fellowship of Eden Restored
Rev 22:3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. Gen 3:14-24 details the curse on humanity and the earth. Adam was ejected from Eden. With sin came division from the fellowship Adam enjoyed with God before the fall. What we see revealed in Rev 22:3 is the restoration of the fellowship and with it the restoration of earth to Eden like conditions complete with the tree of life. His servants will be glad and will worship Him. The servants mentioned here appear to be people who are removed from the tribulation (Rev 12:9-17)
The Worshiping Servants
Rev 22:3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. His servants will be glad and will worship Him. The servants mentioned here appear to be people who are removed from the tribulation. Rev 12:9-17 is a specific vision of John providing detailed insight about the servants and their worship. Zech 14:11 promises no more destruction, all will dwell in security. Mal 3:7 promises if we return to God, He will return to us. When we come into His presence He will abide with us. Mt 24:21-22 explains the tribulation will be cut short for the sake of the elect. It is these elect, it appears, who are mentioned again in Rev 12 and here in Rev 22:3. In Jn 6:45 Jesus says he will raise them on the last day. Is 65:8-9 talks about blessing a few and not destroying them all (Ref Mt 24:21-22) and those servants will be brought forth to possess His mountains and dwell there. While this may refer in one sense to the return of some Jews to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, Is 65 is heavy with messianic prophesy so these servants may also foreshadow the tribulation elect surviving servants.
The Good News of Rev 22:1-3
The redemptive work of Christ heals nations because it heals individuals. God loves us so much He allowed His to die at our hands on our behalf. He does this to His own glory, not because He is compelled by something greater than Himself or even His own edicts upon Himself, but because of His love. He loves each of us. He gives us eternal life, living water, and healing leaves but this is not even the best part. All of this is vanity without the relationship we enjoy with God through His son, Christ Jesus – the Anointed One Our Salvation. He gives us more than life, he lets us have that eternal life in His presence.
The Face of God
Rev 22:4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Jesus himself said no one has actually seen the Father except himself (Jn 6:46). Jesus also said that if we’ve seen him we’ve seen the father (Jn 14:9-10).
The Name of God
Rev 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it. And I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven and my own new name. With respect to Rev 22:4, we see from this passage in Rev 3 Jesus will put this name on the believer. Rev 14:1-5 specifies there are 144,000 with the name on their foreheads. Rev 7:1-8 provides a more detailed explanation that the 144,000 are 12,000 each from 12 tribes of Israel. It is interesting to note the tribe of Dan is left out of the list in Rev 7, instead Joseph (a.k.a. Ephraim (Nu 1:36)) and Manasseh are both listed. It isn’t clear if the innumerable multitude clothed in white glorifying God in Rev 7:9-12 are branded in exactly the same manner as the 144,000, but obviously those ushered into the presence of the Lord are vastly more than the roll call of 144,000. Whether the 144,000 is a literal or symbolic figure, I believe it is safe to say there’s no cap on the number who can believe, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and thus have the name of the Lord written on their hearts and minds. Finally, the word “forehead” used in Rev 22:4 is probably a euphemism for mind. When we become adopted heirs though faith, we are renewed beings (2 Cor 5:17) with renewed minds (Ro 12:2). Jesus said we must be born again (Jn 3:3), of flesh and of spirit (Jn 3:5) as promised in Ez 36:25-27.
Rev 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Rev 22:1-5 contains a series of wonderful descriptions of the new Jerusalem: river of life, plenty of fruit for all from the tree of life, healing, no more cursed land or people, Jesus will be there, believers will serve and worship him and will see his face, and last but not least there will be no more darkness.
Rev 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. According to Gen 1:1-3, God created time and the earth, then he created light and divided light from dark. In Rev 22:5 we see the promise of eternal light. Those granted eternal life in the presence of God’s Lamb will forever be in the light. We know the dark is divided from the light and all choose to live in darkness are cast out from the light into the outer darkness (2 Pe 2:17). Jesus is the light of the world (Jn 8:12) and to all who believe is given the promise of Rev 22:5.
Rev 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. To say the residents of New Jerusalem will reign forever is a big promise. Speaking to his disciples Jesus said, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” (Mt 20:26-27) To be given much we must give much. To reign with Christ we are responsible to submit ourselves fully to him, to his will, to his service. Loving others is serving him (Jn 14:21). As Peter wrote: But you are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pe 2:9) Our reason to serve is the promise, not only of what is to come, but of what we have even here. We belong to Christ (Jn 14:20). By this we enjoy not only an inheritance set aside for us, but we have the Holy Spirit as a deposit here and now. This Holy Spirit is our helper (Jn 14:16) and the mechanism of our direct access to Jesus and all his power (Mt 16:19).
The Good News of Rev 22:4-5
Rev 22:4-5 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. When we admit Jesus is our Lord, submit to his supreme and absolute authority, and commit our lives to his service we then come to know Jesus also as our eternal Savior. As our master there is little he asks (Mt 11:30). We all have specific purposes (Eph 2:10) and we are given certain gifts to accomplish the service we are meant to do. This is all from God and all for good (1 Cor 12:4-7). When we love him we will serve him (1 Jn 2:3) and we’ll be able to do it by the power he grants us (Lk 11:10). In this life we have the Holy Spirit to not only empower us, but to give us a taste of being in the company of Jesus. When we are resurrected and our names are found in the Lamb’s Book of Life we will then experience the incredible wonder of being in his presence, to be in the presence of pure love (1 Jn 4:8) and pure holiness (Col 1:22). We belong to him. No more darkness. No more tears. Instead, love. Better than any temporary false sense of power Satan can grant, we will reign with Jesus Christ who is the Alpha and the Omega, Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, King of Kings and Lord of Lord forever and ever. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Rev 22:7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” We don’t know when Jesus will return to change us and establish all these wonders, but we know it will happen (1 Thess 5:24). We aren’t told we have to understand all the prophesies of Revelations, but according to what the angel told John we will be blessed just by reading and keeping the words of these prophesies in our hearts and minds. As for me, I know I’m blessed every time I contemplate the hope I have as revealed through these writings.
Get Off Your Duff
Rev 22:12 Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. Every book of the bible tells us things to do. We aren’t saved by what we do (Eph 2:8-9), but when we are saved we be doers (James 2:17) obeying our Lord (1 Jn 5:2). We can either serve our Lord Jesus and be paid the good wage of life or serve ourselves and be paid with death (Jn 3:18). For our eternal sakes let us remember the wisdom of 1 Pe 4:10 which says As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
Get In or Get Out
Rev 22:14-15 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. Believe or don’t. Live or die. The tree and river of life in the presence of pure love and illumination or the eternal lake of fire. Choose this day who you will serve.
The Good News of Revelation 22
Rev 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Jesus frequently said “to him who has an ear let him hear.” John testified of the Good News. Jesus himself spoke to John and gave him this Good News. The Spirit testifies and the Spirit is a gift to us. It helps us testify. We testify to feed the sheep (Jn 21:17) and to make disciples (Mt 28:19-20). If we belong to Christ then what we hear we will do. After we’ve obeyed in this life, he says “Come” to us when we are resurrected. The bride is the body of believers and all who are saved welcome all others who are saved in perfect unity (1 Cor 1:10). The offer is simple – believe and come have your thirst quenched. Only the blood of Jesus covers all sin and only a relationship with Jesus satisfied our greatest need for spiritual completeness. When we come to him we become complete because his gift is without price to us (Ro 3:25). He paid it for us because he loves us so (Jn 3:16).