Previously, John has looked on the eternal city and, on the people living there. Now he concludes with the sources of life that bless the garden-city, the New Jerusalem: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (v. 1).

There are many biblical antecedents to this vision, but two stand out. The first was the river that “flowed out of Eden to water the garden” in Genesis 2:10. The second was the river that “was issuing from below the threshold of the temple” in Ezekiel’s vision of God’s end-times temple (Ezek. 47:1). We see the first river flowed “out of Eden” and Ezekiel’s river flowed from the eastern temple door, the river of the New Jerusalem flows “from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (v. 1). The clear point is that the sovereign reign of God in history is the source of the life and refreshment that flows to His people in eternity. Since it is the throne not only “of God” but also “of the Lamb,” we see that grace flows from the sovereign will of the Father by means of the saving death of His Son.

John provides details regarding this river of life. He says that its water is “bright as crystal,” depicting the purity of life that God gives and the cleansing effect of the grace that we receive by faith. John adds that the river flows “through the middle of the street of the city” (v. 2). Earlier, we saw a street of “pure gold, transparent as glass” (21:21). Apparently, the river flows either atop or beside the main thoroughfare, showing that divine life streams in the heart of the eternal dwelling place of God’s people. Here is fulfilled the promise of Revelation 7:17: “The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water.”

Ezekiel’s temple vision showed the stream beginning at the temple doors as a trickle, then growing finally so deep that it could not be crossed (Ezek. 47:1-12). This depicted the increasing power of God’s grace as it advanced in redemptive history. As it flowed to the east, Ezekiel saw brackish water becoming fresh, trees lining its banks, and fish swarming with life. Ezekiel said that on its banks “there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fruit every month… Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing” (Ezek. 47:12). John picks up this language to show that Ezekiel was foreseeing not a future physical blessing for the physical land of Israel but rather the vitality of life that God has in store for His people in the New Jerusalem.

The Genesis account of the garden highlighted not only the river flowing out of Eden, but also the “tree of life…in the midst of the garden” (Gen. 2:9), which conveyed eternal life to those who eat from it (Gen 3:22). Now John sees this Tree of Life growing on both sides of the river. Most scholars think that this image depicts not a single great tree but a grove of trees that give life, lining the banks of the river.

Ezekiel saw trees whose “fruit will be for food,” and John notes their fulfillment in the New Jerusalem: “the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month” (v. 2). The fact that “twelve kinds of fruit” are yielded “each month” indicates both the variety of blessings and their perpetual availability. There is an abundant provision of spiritual life and grace to meet every imaginable need.

Verses 1-2 shows the ultimate accomplishment of salvation by the sovereign will of the Father and the atoning death of the Son, culminating in the outflowing provision of eternal life. Verses 3-5 depict the eternal application of redemption for those who come to Christ in faith. For them, the curse of sin will give way to the blessing of grace, eternity will be spent basking in the knowledge and service of God, and those joined to Christ will reign with Him forever and ever.

When Adam and Eve first sinned against God, they fell under the curse of His just wrath. As a result, they were cast out of the garden and barred from the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:22-24). No longer would they enjoy personal fellowship with God and serve as His people. When John says, “No longer will there be anything accursed” (v. 3), he declares that the entry of sin has been remedied and reversed. Now believers will enjoy the bounty of God’s grace, which is richer in Christ than the joys of the original garden. We live now in the age when sin has not yet been removed. But by confessing our sins and bringing them to the cross for forgiveness, we escape the curse of sin and enter into the life of the children of God. The penalty paid by Jesus has restored us to God, and one day soon its effects will be cosmically removed for life in the New Jerusalem.

The chief result of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin was their alienation from the presence of God. The chief blessing of the eternal glory is, correspondingly, the return of God’s presence to His redeemed people. John thus writes that “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it” (v. 3). God’s throne dominates the visions of Revelation. At first, John was permitted to peer into heaven to see the vision of God’s throne (4:2). Now, at the end of the story, he sees “the throne of God and of the Lamb” in the very midst of His people.

This statement shows that redemption is a restoration to the presence and blessing of God, as well as to God’s kingly rule. The calling for God’s throne to reign in your life through obedience to His Word is a sign of your return to His favor. It is those under a curse who are left to wander in the blasted lands east of Eden, free to govern their own lives in folly and sin. Those who are placed under the authority of God’s Word are those no longer cursed by sin but blessed by grace. Just as the curse of sin was removed by God’s sovereign will and the Lamb’s atoning work, His blessing is sustained by the enthroned presence of God in His truth and grace.

Not only will we enter into blessing of God, but we will spend eternity growing in our knowledge of Him. John writes: “They will see his face” (v. 4). In this life, you will probably never meet a famous general, a head of state, or even a popular movie star. But if you belong to Christ through faith, you will see God’s face. Indeed, the mark of a mature believer is an increasing desire to see God’s glory in heaven and to be closer to Him now.

In addition to seeing God’s face, believers will have “his name” written “on their foreheads” (v. 4). Whereas the mark of the beast signified loyalty to the tyrannical Antichrist, here the mark of God signifies the loyalty of those who belong to Him. In as earlier vision, the sealing of God’s name on His people indicated His care for their souls (7:3), in contrast to the unbelieving world marked with the sign of the beast. Moreover, the name of God stands for His character, which is reflected in the holiness of the glorified saints. God’s mark indicates His ownership, His covenant union, and His acceptance of all who bear His name in eternity. None who bear His name will ever be forgotten or lost.

John repeats in verse 5 his earlier statement that “night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light.” Everything belonging to the old order will have gone, including both nighttime with its dangers and temptations and the celestial light needed for daytime. In the New Jerusalem, God’s presence will always be their light. John concludes: “And they will reign forever and ever” (v. 5). Thus, at the end is fulfilled God’s first calling for His people. God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion” (Gen. 1:26). Sin made slaves, but God intends by grace to make us kings.

Through union with Christ in faith, you are destined to reign with Him in the land of glory. Of the one who conquers, he said, “I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21). This being true, why should sin reign over you now (Rom. 6:12)? Why should you succumb to anxiety, even in the midst of great trials, when God has sent His Son to die for your sins and has promised that you will reign with Him forever? Remembering that John wrote the book of Revelation to churches facing terrible persecution for their faith and testimony to Christ, why should you fear to speak boldly the truths of God’s Word, and especially the gospel offer of salvation?

There is a crown for you, together with a portion of the glory of Christ for you to display in this world. If you come to Jesus for salvation and yield yourself to His reign in this life, then the final words of John’s vision will come true for you: the Lord God will be your light, and you will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:1-5 Study Questions:

According to John, what is the purpose of the leaves on the tree (v. 2)?

From the start of the book, we were told that the Lamb’s followers were to be a royal priesthood, and now we see what this means. It is from the city, the city which is the bride, the bride which is the Lamb’s followers, that healing, restorative stewardship is to flow. This is how the creator God will show, once and for all, that His creation was good, and that He Himself is full of mercy. How might we begin to participate in this healing, redeeming work today?


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