The Life Flowing Through God's City
This last chapter of Revelation is both a conclusion to the visions of the future, and a summary of the purpose of the visions, as they are read by churches through the generations until Jesus returns. It should be no surprise that the pictures of Revelation sometimes overlap; we think of everything in a linear time/space context but the Lord views everything from eternity. In this chapter, our God and Saviour Jesus Christ declares His character of grace - as we walk with Him towards and into His eternal presence. He is the Life-giver (v1-2), Healer (v2), Curse-reliever (v3-4), Light-giver (v5), Honour-giver (v5). He will come soon to reward those who love and obey Him (v7, 17, 20) because they have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus (v14). All those who have defied Him will have no place with Him (v15) but all who love Him will eagerly await His return (v17, 20). His Word is sacrosanct: it must be proclaimed undiluted and without anything added (v18-19). What a wonderful Lord we have.
The Holy City, the New Jerusalem, only has one great street which looked golden to John (Revelation 21:21) but also transparent. Now, this closer examination shows the street running with crystal clear water which was continuously running from the throne where God and the Lamb were sitting (Joel 3:18; Zechariah 14:8). It was life-giving water as Jesus had prophesied to the woman at the well (John 4:13-14); water to satisfy for ever, which echoes Ezekiel 47:1-6.
Alongside the river there was a tree which almost repeats Ezekiel 47:12: "Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing." The original tree of life was in the middle of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). After the Fall, access to it was prohibited and guarded by cherubim and with a flaming sword (Genesis 3:22-24). Now, the tree of life is in the middle of the street and on either side of the river! Everybody in God's city has free access to all who are thirsty for the presence of God (Revelation 22:17). In Christ, the curse of Eden has gone (Revelation 22:3); a better and everlasting Eden will come. Fruitfulness is the signature of this tree: abundance for the future and healing for the sins of the past.
What a wonderful Saviour! What a prospect of glory to come! We will be no longer trapped in a sad world of restless striving, working by the 'sweat of our brow' amid the 'thorns and thistles' until we die (Genesis 3:17-18). Instead, endless provision for an endless life, granted by the grace of God to all who have received new life in Jesus. This is not wishful thinking, a convenient myth or religious bribery. This is a true and God-authorised message; it must happen (Revelation 22:6). It is a seriously important message with a dire warning to any who take anything away from it or add to it (Revelation 22:18-19). This is a message for you, whoever you are and wherever you live and work: live each day in the light of the second coming of Jesus Christ. No obedience is too costly in the light of the glorious prospect of being with Him for ever.
© Dr Paul Adams