THE RIVER AND THE TREE OF LIFE, AND THE FINAL MESSAGE

(Revelation 22:1-21)

Now we’ve come to the final chapter of the book of the Revelation, and notice in verse 1, “Then he showed me a river of the water of life,…” – for this ideal of a river which the angel now shows him, John’s been drawing from Ezekiel 47:1 and following, a river that flowed out from the temple and went down to the Dead Sea, growing deeper as it went and bringing life everywhere. You might want to see Zechariah 14:8 and Psalms 46:4 as possible allusion to this ideal of a river in the end-time flowing out of the temple, flowing out of the throne, flowing out of Eden, and on and on. This ‘Living Water’ used in a spiritual sense is also an Old Testament metaphor in Isaiah 12:3; 49:10; Jeremiah 2:13; and 17:13. Now, notice as it says, “…clear as crystal,…” – means it’s pure and unmixed, and thus it flowed “…coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street.” – it’s the idea going back to Ezekiel 47:12. “On either side of the river was the tree of life,…” – this ‘tree of life’ was a symbol of all of God’s promises. Man tried to grab it, and that caused the whole problem in Genesis 3. But God wanted to give it to man, it’s an obvious allusion to Ezekiel 47:12. There are many references in Jewish apocalyptic literature about the ‘Tree of Life’. Notice the tree bears 12 kinds of fruits every month, “and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations”. Now what’s the cure for? It’s heaven, and there’s no more sickness, no more pain, no more death, no more sorrow. We really don’t know. Others say it’s just a reference back to Ezekiel 47:12. Others say it’s the idea of the Gentiles being brought in. You know, it’s like a parable, therefore you can’t push all the details in this last part. Now notice as it says in verse 4, “they will see His face,… – Moses couldn’t see God’s face in Exodus 33:20, but we’re promised that when we get to heaven, we will be able to see God’s face (cf. Psalms 11:7; 17:15; 1 Cor. 13:12). We’re going to be with Him, and it’s described in the metaphor of seeing Him face to face. Notice as it says, “…and His name will be on their foreheads.” – now, some say this refers to the idea of what’s on the miter of the high priest which is holy to the Lord. That may be, but in the book of the Revelation, we’ve seen that name on their foreheads seems to be a better reference to the fact that we belong to the Lord. Notice as it says in the latter part of verse 5, “…and they will reign forever and ever.” – notice it says ‘forever and ever’. Now here’s the promise made in chapter 2:26; a promise that we’re going to reign eternally, not a Millenial reign but an eternal reign promised to all the saints. Daniel 7:14; 7:27; Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:33; 2 Peter 1:11; Rev. 11:15 all promise an eternal reign. Now, who are we going to reign over? I don’t know all that. It’s a metaphor for us sharing with Christ His power, His prestige, His glory because we’ve trusted Him, and He has given us His righteousness. Hallelujah!

In verse 6 is the end of the book, and it’s kind of a loose connection of different things but it’s a very wonderful ending. By the way, it is amazing to me if you compare verses 6 and following, how many elements are very similar to Revelation chapter 1; although i think the book is a symbolic drama in apocalyptic literature. It starts like a letter, and ends like a letter with a drama in between. “And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets,…” – this sounds it leads back to chapter 19, and also could be the idea about the inspiration of the Old Testament, or the inspiration of the New Testament writers, or maybe the preachers of John’s day. We’re just not sure. Notice where it says, “…sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.” – this is very much like chapter 1 verse 1, where immediacy is the emphasis – the imminence of His return. “Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” – very much like chapter 1 verse 3, and this is the sixth of the seven blessings. Notice the word ‘things’ is called prophecy as it is in verses 10, 12, and 29, and we must interpret it like that. Now, John begins to fall at the foot of this angel. Why? Maybe he thought he was Jesus again. I just don’t know, but he did this backk in chapter 19:10 and was reproved for it. And the angel gives the same answer he did earlier. Notice in verse 10 it says, ““Do not seal up…” – now, back in Daniel 8:26 and 12:4 and 9, and also Isaiah 8:16, it said “seal it up” but here it says, “the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near”. You see that in verse 10, now verse 11, “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” – this seems to be similar to the parable of the wheat and the tares where the Landowner tells the servants not to pull up the weeds in the field, but to leave them until end of the age, where the Landowner Himself will separate the tares from the wheat, and it is God’s prerogative as it is only God who can change men – this is the idea here.

In verse 12, we have the ‘coming soon’ again of Jesus who calls Himself the “Alpha and Omega”. And then another blessing on verse 14 about those who have washed their robes much like in chapter 7:13, and 14. In verse 15, “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers…” – the dog is the Old Testament symbol of male prostitutes from Deuteronomy 23 used several times for wicked people. I don’t know what they’re doing here ‘outside the city’, unless ‘outside the city’ is an allusion to the Lake of fire. Now notice as it says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel…” – this is an obvious reference that the church is that is spoken to in Chapter two and three are still the object of John’s message. Any interpretation of this book that doesn’t take into account the seven churches has missed it. “I am the root and the descendant of David,…” – this goes back to the idea where Jesus is in the line of David. And then the final thing – notice the wonderful invitation: “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” – a Gospel invitation to anyone who hears; anyone who wants to, God will give it without cost, absolutely free (cf. Romans 3:24; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8), and it’s an allusion to Isaiah 55:1. Hallelujah! It’s free, and God wants to give it. But notice the warning in verse 18 and 19, “I testify to everyone who hears…” – some say that these 2 verses are an instruction to future scribes or copyists who will copy out the book. Yet John does not address this to copyists, but to “everyone who hears the words”. Of course this doesn’t mean that if you try to interpret it, and pray about it, and if you miss some point, God is going to kick you out of the book. This can’t be, because one verse like this can’t go against all the other promises. It’s given right after a promise to “come and that God will give it to us without cost”. He’s not going to take it away from us because we make a mistake. It’s for those who twist the message. It’s for those who intentionally mis-teach what this prophecy says, is the ideal of verse 18 and 19. Now the book closes with a promise from Jesus, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” And John says Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! It’s been 2000 years, why hadn’t He come? Well, i don’t know, but i tell you this – the longer waiting time we have, the more people can come to the Kingdom of God. The longer we have, the better chance the church has to fulfill her task. Honestly, i’m not sure if i’m praying for the Second Coming; though it’s going to be wonderful. For me, it’s going to be the end of too many people that i love and have tried to witness to that haven’t trusted Him. I want Christ to come back, yes because that will be a great day for me. I know there’s going to be a period of evil where persecuted Christians are longing for Christ to come. But let me tell you what i like; i wish Jesus would tarry a little bit longer so i could win more souls for Him. Just a little bit more time, just a little bit more chance.

I really think this book is an emphasis not so much on the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of the Second Coming, but on God’s great love for all men – God’s broken heart for lost men; His attempt to bring men back to Himself; His great encouragement for a church that’s going through persecution and problems. “I’m in control”, “I care for you”, He says. History is moving toward a climax. The God of creation is the God of redemption. He is the God of history. Trust Him, that’s what John says, and that’s how this wonderful, majestic, controversial, unique, and difficult book ends. May the Lord bless you!