1] And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2] 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. 3] And there was no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4] They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5] 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. (NKJV)
These verses continue and finish the description of “the new heaven and the new earth” begun in chapter 21. So far we’ve seen something of the New Jerusalem and of the inhabitants of the new earth. Now we see something of the blessings of that eternal life.
In Psalm 46:4, the Psalmist wrote, There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. We believe this is a prophetic reference to “the pure river of water of life” John described in v. 1. By the way, this river flows “out of,” not “by,” the throne, as one religious song used to put it.
However, John describes some things the Psalmist didn’t mention. V. 2 might be translated, “Between its avenue on this side and its river on that side was the tree [or, wood] of life bearing fruit twelve times, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree [or, wood] were for the healing of the nations.”
John describes what we would call a lush, beautiful park. The Greek word is, “paradise,” hence the title. As in the beginning, God fellowshiped with our first parents in a park, so throughout eternity He will do so in the New Jerusalem.
The leaves of the tree are for the “healing” of the nations. The Greek word is where we get our word, “therapy”. I don’t understand what might be involved in that thought, but Adam and Eve ate before the Fall. Our Lord ate in His resurrected body, though it wasn’t necessary to His well-being. Though the saints will have glorified bodies, there will be others who, though perfect and sinless, will have ordinary physical bodies, which perhaps will need some care. As I said, I don’t really know.
V. 3-5 gives us the reason why eternity will be perfect for God’s people: “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.” Never again will the glories of Heaven be marred by the intrusion of rebellion. “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” Only once or twice in Biblical history have men been allowed anywhere near to the God of heaven and that was only very briefly. Here such association will be forever.
There are records of men having been caught up into heaven and telling their stories. I make no judgment on these stories, but after being caught up into the third heaven, Paul wrote that he heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful to utter, 2 Corinthians 12:4. The ESV translates this, he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. There is only one source of “heavenly things” and it’s not the minds or experiences of mere men. Besides, these things “cannot be told.” How could we? What do we have in this life or world to compare?
It will be a time of continual day, with no need of artificial light, v. 5. Cf. 21:23. We will have the “true light,” that One who said, “Let there be light…,” Genesis 1:3. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all, 1 John 1:5.
We live in a time when Christians are increasingly disregarded, even despised. In some countries, the tag is a death sentence. Somewhere in this world, a brother or sister may be killed while you read these words. We won’t read or hear about them because, in the world’s eyes, they’re not important, maybe even deserve to die.
The time is coming when that won’t be true: “they shall reign forever and ever.” The devil will not forever have his way in this world.
This verse closes our view of the future. Vs. 6-21 deal with other things. We only have a brief glimpse of things which must shortly take place, v. 6. Again, we don’t believe the angel was telling John that these things would happen soon, as we’ve said elsewhere.
They will happen.