The text continues from Chapter 21 when it says, “Then the angel showed me…” (see also 21:9). Revelation 22 is a continuation of the vision given to John in Chapter 21. We have previously seen that this is a vision of the New Jerusalem, which is the bride (21:2), the church of the Lord Jesus Christ coming out of heaven. The text also continues to speak of the street of the city, which was also mentioned in 21:21. What is new and striking in this section of the vision is the imagery of the garden of Eden – the first paradise of God.
Vv. 1 : Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, (see Gen. 2:10) 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 ( see Gen. 2:9) with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. Reference in the revelation to John with respect to the tree of life was previously made in Christ’s message to the church at Ephesus (Rev.2:7) : “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
We have here a picture of the paradise that was once lost through man’s disobedience in Genesis 3 as it is now restored, and dare I say , improved ! Again, I would remind you that we must not be tempted to think of John’s vision here in terms of a literal river, a literal tree and a literal garden. This is all very symbolic language, and we have now seen time and again that this all refers to the new Jerusalem – the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, as she now appears in her new and glorious environment of the new paradise. Admittedly, the word ‘paradise’ is not found here, but the details given here are certainly drawn from the picture of that first paradise.
This river of the water of life, which is bright as crystal flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city holy city, New Jerusalem. On either side of the river, there is found the tree of life - and note (!) not just one, but many. The river is lined with trees. This tree of life bears twelve fruit, providing a monthly harvest. And then, we are also told that that the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations. The nations had been referred to earlier in Rev. 21:24 .
In order to understand the meaning of this vision we must consider the original paradise – the garden of Eden. It was an idyllic garden designed and planted as a habitation by God for man. But don’t get lost in the idea of a beautiful garden! The greater picture here is that this garden served as an ideal place for fellowship and communion between God and the man whom God had created in His image. This was the place where God’s Adam would serve his Creator in keeping and cultivating the garden. That is the fundamental idea. Now if we understand that paradise was an ideal meeting place between God and man, then it is not difficult to make the connection with the New Jerusalem the church , the bride of Christ – the new paradise, the new and restored dwelling place of God with man ! This is the perfect and ultimate fulfillment of the first paradise. In that sense the first paradise in which Adam lived was only a shadow of the things to come.
The second paradise is the dwelling place of all those sons and daughters of Adam, who subsequent to the fall in Genesis 3 have been purchased and redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ ! They are His beloved bride - the church – a vast multitude that no one can count ! This, dear brothers in sisters in Christ is the goal of our history. The city of God, the new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ is the grand plan of God. This is the plan of “the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 3:9,10). This “… is the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebr. 11:10; see also v.16 ). The new Jerusalem is the fulfillment of the first paradise. The new Jerusalem is the fulfillment of the OT land of Canaan promised to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and the people of Israel.
The heavenly Paradise will not simply be a re-make of that first paradise. It will be a fulfillment of that, and therefore it will be even better. Think of it like this. When Adam was created by the Tri-une God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity was still the pre-incarnate Son. Then came the fall, and then Jesus came in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4,5) . He came as the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-49) to redeem and restore His people, chosen before the foundation of the world (Eph.1:4), and Paul says that here we shall bear the image, not of the earthly Adam, but we shall bear the image of the heavenly man. The first Adam was a shadow of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first covenant of God with Adam was exchanged for the better, New Covenant in the blood of Christ. (Hebrews 8:1-13). The temporal Sabbath is replaced by the Sabbath of eternal rest (see Hebrews 4:9-11). The first Paradise will be superseded by something for more glorious! It will be a place of perfect worship and fellowship with God , and there will be no potential hindrance to that.
Please notice that the new paradise has no tree of the knowledge of good and evil! Only the tree of life grows there. There will be no challenge as was connected with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the first paradise. The possibility for man to sin is now banished, for through the Lord Jesus Christ, sin and its wages , death, has been banished and thrown into the lake of eternal fire.
The river of the water of life, crystal clear, pure, undefiled is symbolic of the constant flow of life by which the glorified people of God shall now live with the perpetual help of the Holy Spirit . In that regard we are reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus in John 7:37-39 : “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
This river flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It is a Trinitarian source. The source is from God through Christ and through the Holy Spirit. This life-giving water flows perpetually into the church – the New Jerusalem. This river of life flows through the midst of the street of the city. It flows through the heart of the glorified church sustaining her with the grace of God.
The tree of life: In the first paradise the tree of life had a two-fold significance. (i) it gave earthly life to man (see Genesis 3:22). Apparently the tree had the power to supply Adam with continual life even after he had sinned. The tree not only sustained Adam’s physical life, but it also represented the spiritual nourishment by which Adam y lived in fellowship with God. But, as a result of sin, this heavenly fellowship was interrupted, and the Lord God cut off the way to the tree of life, and Adam died both physically and spiritually, being no longer sustained by that tree of life. Such was the significance of the earthly tree of life.
Now if we bear that in mind , then we can easily make the connection with the tree of life in Revelation 22. The tree of life here symbolizes the life of true heavenly fellowship with God restored forever and ever.
The tree of life is said to bear twelve kinds of fruit. By now we know that 12 is the number of perfection and completion. There are twelve OT patriarchs, twelve tribes, twelve apostles, two times twelve ( 24 ) elders, twelve times twelve thousand (144 000) saints. This tree bears a fullness of fruit, and it bears it continuously and so the church is well supplied and nourished and never lacking by the food she receives from this tree.
Furthermore we read : “The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 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. 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.”
Finally, the text tells us that the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. This cannot mean that there will still be sickness in the New Jerusalem. 21:4 makes that clear. This is simply a figurative way of saying that no sickness of any kind can ever enter into the city of God and afflict the nations there. Sickness and death will not exist in the New Jerusalem because of this constant life which flows from God in Christ through the Spirit into the church.
In the rest of this passage the glory and bliss of the New Jerusalem are further spelled out.
1. The church finds its central significance in God and the Lamb: the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city; God will be worshiped ; they will see His face ;His name will be on their foreheads ; the Lord God will be their light !
2. Verse 3 : There will be nothing accursed in that city. Sin and death and all the enemies of God and is people are conquered. The kingdom of heaven which Jesus came to announce and proclaim is here. The will of God is now done by all. And where the will of God is done, there can be no curse.
3. verse 4: "And they shall see his face." In the new creation there shall be the revelation of God in the face of Jesus Christ in the most direct and highest possible sense of the word. Now, we see dimly, by faith in the Scriptures – like through a dark glass. There, however, we shall see face to face ! John says : “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) This means that we shall see Christ as He is, and we shall see Him always, and through Christ we shall see the face of God forever. We shall never forget God again . This is implied in the fact that His name shall be in their foreheads.
4. verse 5: see also Rev 21:23 & 25. In our present world we live so to speak by the light of the sun, or even, as the text reminds us, by the artificial light of man, the light of a candle. Without light there is no possibility of knowledge. But in the new creation, there will be no need of physical or artificial light to help us to study and gain knowledge. As we said in connection with Revelation 21, the point of the text is not that there will be no natural night, or no natural sun or moon. The point is that these will not be necessary as a medium of knowledge. God Himself God gives us the light of understanding - the light according to which we shall know and walk directly, in every sense of that word. Knowledge will not be a hidden thing. It will be direct !
And so , finally, our text speaks of the everlasting reign of the saints : "and they will reign for ever and ever". This is our hope of the saints whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.Breath taking! AMEN !