We examine the final chapter in The Book of Revelation. Here we see the new city where God and man dwell together. We see the river of life flowing from the throne of God into the tree of life. There is no more curse. The believers will be serving and worshipping God. The scene is bursting with life, the result and reward of living as a faithful witness.
We come to the last chapter in the Bible. Here we are! Revelation 22. It’s anything but anticlimactic.
Last time, we looked at chapter 21 and saw that we were getting a description of the new Jerusalem, the bride that came out of heaven. We saw that this community, this city, is a bride, and the church is a bride, which makes sense because we are all together the bride, and we are all together in the city. And that makes a substantial degree of sense.
But then John started describing this place, this new earth and this new Jerusalem that’s 1500 miles square and 1500 miles tall.
There’s no temple in this city because God himself dwells in the city.
The real culmination of human history and of our lives is not so much that we go to heaven. Heaven’s more like a gathering place where the new place gets sorted out. And heaven is nothing more than a place where God is, and his will is done.
The real culmination is when God physically and in full presence comes to earth, and it’s the new earth that he inhabits.
Furthermore, we saw that the kings bring their glory and honor into this city, and the nations bring the glory and honor into this city. It’s the opposite of this Greek idea that we inherited that heaven is this mindless place where you pluck harps and stare into space.
We saw that there’s nobody going to come into this city that defiles or causes an abomination or a lie.
We postulated that it could well be that the lake of fire is nothing more than the presence of Jesus because he is the light. If we see something brighter than the sun able to light up an entire planet, based on everything we know of physics, that would be really hot and something that we couldn’t actually endure in our current bodies. It’s going to be a completely different place.
Now we go to chapter 22, and the angel is still giving a tour of this new earth to John. And he showed me—John—a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
God is in control
Here we have a very interesting picture. The headwaters of the main river, which runs through the main street, is actually the throne of God.
We’ve hammered on this point all the way through this book. The word throne shows up 41 times in this book. And the word king or kings shows up 18 times and reign, a half a dozen times.
This book is very much about who’s in charge, and who will be in charge. Which is so relevant because the events that he’s showing us a hint of, that are going to take place in the future, are very much events where the earth’s rulers become exceeding evil and wreak devastation on the earth. And for us who will be living there, whatever generation that is, we’re going to look at it and say, “This is out of control.”
What God is telling us in this book is no matter what we see, in terms of circumstances, it’s authorized. We saw the horsemen of the apocalypse come out and start wreaking their devastation on the earth. Every one of them was granted authority or given a crown. And all through this book, whether it’s a demon or an angel, they were authorized to allow these things to happen because God’s always on his throne.
And he’s not just on his throne during this age. He will be on his throne in the new earth as well.
River of life
From the throne is this river of life. We don’t know what the physics are going to be like in this new earth. It may be a whole new set of physics. But since we don’t know anything about a different set of physics, let’s just hypothesize using the world that we know today.
Rivers run downstream. They run from gravity. You’ve got a 1363 miles tall city, and you would think that the throne room would be somewhere on the upper floor. Aren’t the executive suites usually on the upper floors of these places?
And what this is, whether it’s a mountain complex or a building complex, we’re really not told. We’re told the wall has this amazing set of jewels around it and these stones. Maybe these gems are even alive. We don’t know.
But we see that this river of life is emanating from this.
I’ll go back to my Mount McKinley experience: Mount McKinley is the tallest rising mountain on the earth from 1000 feet at the base to 21,000 feet.
When I got to go around it in an airplane, I was just mesmerized by my desire to go down on that mountain even though it was dead. It’s a deadly place with that altitude and the snow and harsh weather and avalanches. It’s not a place you want to be.
But there’s a pull to go up it. People climb these things and risk their lives just to be a little bit higher.
Well maybe instead of having this deadly snow that provides the rivers, we’ve got God just generating the water coming out from under the throne providing the water from the rivers, and we get to go up on something much greater than Mount McKinley. And we get to go up, up, up, up, and the river’s there, and life gets more pronounced rather than less the higher we go up.
That’s kind of a cool thought, isn’t it?
I think C. S. Lewis saw something like this in his Narnia Chronicles because when you get to the last battle, the last installment of his series, the cry that they have when they come to Narnia, which is the new earth, is “Higher up and higher in!” And the higher up and higher in you go, the more there is to see because it’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
I suspect he got that idea from these words.
Not only is there a river in the middle of the main street, think about that for a minute. When you go to a major city, it’s not unusual for them to build stuff around the rivers. I’ve certainly seen that. But there’s all kinds of problems that come from that. You have to dredge it, and there are usually pollution issues and so forth. Flooding issues. They have to put in dams and so forth.
I don’t think they’re going to have this problem here.
Tree of life
And when you say there’s this tree of life on either side of the river, you kind of get the idea that this city is way more than just a city with some parks in it.
Usually if some people live in a city, if they have the means to do so, it’s normal for them to have a country place not that far out so they can get away from the city. They like the city because it has lots of people; but they want to get away from the city because it’s such a hubbub.
Here it appears you’ve got the ability to have your cake and eat it too. Both are there. Because in this picture, right near the throne room, which you’ve got to believe is the center of activity in this city, is this amazing river with these trees with fruit.
And not only are the trees there just for appearance, which is normally what you’d have in a city, they harvest these things. Look, the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Apparently this is an active farming operation going on in the middle of this city. We don’t see that in our world. The farming always happens way outside.
Furthermore, it looks like we still have seasons, but there are twelve of them because there is one new fruit every month. That’s a cool idea. Have you ever been in one of those fruit-of-the-month deals where they send you a different kind of fruit every month? Here it is! You get a different fruit every month. There’s no winter, spring, summer, fall anymore. It’s like growing season one, growing season two, growing season three, all the way to twelve.
And there’s no night, so things are growing all the time.
Not only that, the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Now that’s an interesting statement, isn’t it? Because we’ve already seen in the new earth there’s no more sickness and no more pain. And we saw that the nations bring their glory into the city. So we’ve got nations of redeemed people.
Why is it that you need healing in a place where there’s no sickness? Here’s one possibility: We’re still dependent in this new city. But if you take your leaves every morning, you don’t ever get sick.
In our world, one of the main problems medical professionals have is noncompliance. You prescribe something, and your patient won’t take it. You ask your patient to do something, and they won’t do it. We have an engineer that we interviewed, and he was, I think, an occupational therapist or something like that. We asked him why he wanted to change careers. He said, “Because nobody would do what I prescribed to them. I would work with them, tell them to do this, and you’ll get better, and they wouldn’t do it. It’s futile!” He wanted to work with machines that can’t argue back.
Perhaps that’s what it is. But whatever it is, there’s not going to be any sickness, and these trees are providing the healing preemptively. And not just of a few people, but of the nations.
No more curse
And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
This is a very interesting statement because we deal with the curse every day. That’s where our futility comes from for the most part. And he’s saying here instead of the curse, we’re going to have the throne of God.
So we have to ask the question, how is it that the throne of God being present solves the curse?
Let’s look at the curse for a minute. Looking back at Genesis 3:15. This is God speaking to the serpent at this point.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
To the woman He said:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
How is it that the presence of God on the throne and having servants who serve him overturn this curse? I suggest several things: One is what we talked about last time. The energy balance. We spend most of our effort on capturing energy and focusing the energy on something that is reconfigured somehow.
We take a fruit from a tree, and we have to go and use energy to take the fruit off the tree, take it to our table, cut it up, and eat it.
Why do we need to eat it? So we’ll have energy to go back and pick another piece of fruit off the tree, right?
Where’s the energy coming from in this place? Directly from Jesus! And the energy appears to be something that we bask in. I wonder if we’re not able to take that energy in directly. So we’re going to have some aspects like a plant, like a sunflower or something.
We obviously will be able to eat as well. But, Jesus seemed, when he had his resurrected body, he seemed to be able to eat. But he could also do things like walk through walls. It’s going to be a little different deal.
The way plants work is they have a certain amount of energy. And they can either direct their energy into producing seeds and thorns, protection, or into fruit. And if they direct their energy into seeds and thorns, then they’re really better at multiplying than the ones that direct their energy into fruit. So which plant is going to grow all by itself? See how that works?
What we have is an energy balance problem. And when Jesus is there on the throne, and we don’t even need the sun anymore because with all of the energy coming from Jesus, that seems clear that we don’t have an energy problem anymore. That would be one way that the thorns and seeds problem could be solved, the weed problem.
And when we have a world where service is the main way we interact with one another, we take care of the curse that was pronounced on relationships.
What is the relationship problem? I want to control you. I married you so you would make me happy. Now I need to fix you so you make me happy. And that doesn’t work. And when we do marriage classes, it’s all about, let’s both serve God, and then we can really have a great relationship. That’s the core of all Christian marriage teaching.
This is going to be a world where the leaders are all overcomers. And how do you become an overcomer? Learn to serve sacrificially by faith. And when you learn to serve sacrificially in a way that says, “I know it doesn’t seem like this is a great thing to do, but I believe it’s a great thing to do because of what God’s told me,” that is how you get this reward of being an overcomer, and that’s who’s going to be in charge of the place, these people who are radical servants. You’re going to have a whole world where serving is the key. And that eliminates that part of the curse.
This place gets better and better as we look at it, doesn’t it? There won’t be anybody advertising on TV trying to get you to do something that’s stupid anymore, for example.
No more curse, and his servants shall serve him. And how does God want us to serve him now in this life? What’s the main thing he wants us to do? Serve one another. Two great commandments, right? Love God. If you love God, what do you do? Do what God tells you to do. What does God tell you to do? Serve others. There’s going to be an earth where that is happening every day.