By Mark Scott
Israel is a dry land in the midst of various bodies of water. Our older son purchased a T-shirt in Israel for his oldest son that reads, “Med Sea, Red Sea, Dead Sea.” To the south is the Red Sea. To the west is the Mediterranean (Great) Sea. To the east is the Dead Sea. In addition, to the north is the Sea of Galilee. Running down through Israel is the Jordan River. Whatever it touches is green. Whatever it does not touch is brown. Israel, like other Middle Eastern countries, knew the value of water. Not surprisingly part of John’s vision into the land of no more tears involved water.
Since John wrote‑ Revelation, we should expect that he would use his typical double-meaning language. John knew of physical water (John 4:7) as well as spiritual water (4:10). The same was true as John peered into more of the details of the New Jerusalem.
What Is There
Revelation 22:1, 2
What is there is water. The same angel who spoke to John earlier (Revelation 21:9) now showed him the river in this eternal city. This river has special spiritual qualities. It teems with life. It is clear as crystal like the rest of the city. Most importantly, the source of the river is God himself (Genesis 1:10; Ezekiel 47:1-12). God is the source of life (John 10:10). This river runs down the middle of the great street of the city, indicative of the fact that life permeates outward from God to his people in this city.
What is there is a tree. This tree (described as a grove of interconnected trees like Colorado aspens) is spoken of as one tree (reminiscent of Genesis 2:9). Like the river, it teems with life. This tree is extremely productive. It bears twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. Like the river and the tree itself, the leaves on that tree also teem with life. The leaves heal the nations that stream into this city. Heaven is a place of incredible life.
What Is Not There
Two things cannot exist in this city. The first is the curse. What was brought into the old heaven and old earth due to sin (Genesis 3:17-19) is now eradicated. With the curse of sin totally gone, the inhabitants of the city (servants of God) are freed to see him, bear his name on their heads, and serve him. With the curse forever gone, nothing will hinder believers from serving God fully.
The second thing not in the city is night. In fact, there will be no more night. This may be another good example of John’s double meanings. Physical darkness will be banished, since God is there and he is light (Revelation 21:23). But spiritual darkness will also be banished, since God is there and his character cannot allow moral impurity to exist in his presence (1 John 1:5; Revelation 21:8). The servants of God now share fully in his moral purity. This allows them to reign forever and ever with their God.
What Is Important
Revelation 22:6, 7
With life embraced and darkness banished in this eternal city, what could possibly remain for these servants of God living out their existence in the old heaven and old earth? Maybe just one thing—perfect obedience. The same angel mentioned above repeats the theological affirmation: These words are trustworthy and true. The angel invites John to take the truthfulness of what he saw to the bank.
God gave his inspired message (literally, Spirit) to his prophets (inspired spokespersons like John the apostle) via his angel (messenger from Heaven) to show the servants what would soon take place. Then the Lord (the great I Am) himself declares that he is coming soon. The word soon gives us pause. How soon is soon? Two thousand years does not seem to be soon to us. The word can be translated “quickly,” but that may not help much either. Perhaps the best resolution is that God’s soon is different than our soon.
This we know: a blessing awaits the one who obeys the prophetic word in the book of Revelation. This is how the Revelation began (Revelation 1:3). Obedience brings blessing in this life and the life to come. That is something to be thankful for this week.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.