Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
What are your goals for life? Go to school? Get a job? Get married? Raise a family? Own a home? Retire comfortably? Serve your Lord? … Probably in some way or another we all have goals. What is your ultimate goal? If I may be so bold I would like to make a suggestion based on Revelation 22:1-5 – Make Your Goal Glory – I’m talking about eternal glory. Let’s look at why.
Visions the New Jerusalem – Revelation 20 & 21
To understand the “why” we go back into Revelation 21 and a vision the Apostle John describes there. Jesus has returned. Satan and his allies are defeated and done away with. Jesus has raised the dead and judged both the living and the dead. The present earth and the heavens have been destroyed by fire and a new earth and new heavens have replace them.
Things are different there than they are here and now. “The old order of things has passed away (21:4).” As Jesus pointed out in the gospel there will no longer be the institution of marriage.
John saw the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem coming down from heaven as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. John said that when measured it was 1,400 miles long, 1,400 miles wide, and 1,400 miles wide – a perfect cube. The wall of the city was over 200 feet thick and made of jasper; the city itself made of pure gold. Twelve kinds of gems that would make a jeweler drool, adorned the foundations of the walls. The doors of the twelve gates of the city were made of a single pearl and are never closed. There were no lights or lamps but no darkness. God gave the city light as he did the world before he created the heavenly bodies. Nothing unclean is in the city and only God’s people dwell there – people from every race, tribe, and language.
This is a vision of God’s Church in glory – big enough for all believers, beautiful, and blessed.
Inside the City – Paradise Restored – Revelation 22
John’s guide, God’s angel, then took John inside the city described in chapter 21. There he sees the throne of God the Father and God’s Son, Jesus, the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world. John can actually see them in their glory as we all will when we are with them in glory. In 1 John 3 John said of God that we shall see him as he is. Think of Peter’s assessment of seeing Jesus glorified on the Transfiguration – “Lord, it’s good to be here.” In glory we will never wonder about the presence of God or what God is doing in our lives. We will see him in glory as we are with him in glory.
From the throne of God the Father and God the Son flows the river of the water of life. This is the river of God’s undeserved love. It brings complete life. In it flows full forgiveness. It contains the righteousness of Christ in which we are clothed. It provides freedom from sins curse and eternal life.
NIV11 has the river of life flowing down the middle of the great street of the city of God and has two trees of life, one on each side of the river. Other translations, for example the New King James Version, punctuate a little differently have one tree of life between the great street of the city and the river of the water of life.
Whether what John saw was one way or the other, what matters is that we are seeing Paradise restored along with the access to the Tree of Life that was lost when Adam and Eve fell into sin. With the emphasis on the River of the Water of Life and Access to the tree or trees of life God is telling us that in his Church glorious and triumphant there is life that never ends.
This is also communicated with the fact that the tree or trees of life bear twelve crops of fruit, one for each month. Never are those in heaven lacking when it comes to eternal life.
John also mentions the leaves of the tree or trees of life. Right now the mention of leaves is almost enough to create anxiety in me because I’ve been dealing with so many leaves for so many weeks having a lawn in the woods. (Anyone want to buy some leaves.) But the leaves of which John writes are not anxiety-raising but anxiety-removing leaves. They are for the healing of the nations (v.2). No longer will there be any death, there will no longer be any disease – spiritual, mental of physical. There will be perfect health as we have glorified souls and bodies.
John continued his description of what he saw in the vision. He wrote, “3 No longer will there be any curse. “ Literally John wrote, “And everything cursed will not be there.” Think about this in light of St. Paul’s words to the Galatians: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them (3:10).” We shouldn’t be there. We haven’t been and done everything God wants us to be and do according to his law. We haven’t been holy. We haven’t perfectly obeyed God. We deserve God’s curse and everlasting condemnation. But as Paul continued in his Letter to the Galatians, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (3:13).” As a result, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1).” Free from sins curse through Christ, we can be there – in glory.
What also won’t be in the new heaven and earth and of course God’s church triumphant, are all the effects of sin and God’s curse on the earth after the fall of sin. There will no forces of evil and no destructive forces of nature to wreak havoc on our new home, the home of righteousness.
“The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. “ We’ve already focused the on the visible presence of God. John adds that we who get to see God – here called his servants but elsewhere in Scripture also sons and daughters, children of God, beloved, holy people, a royal priesthood – will serve or worship him not just with praises but with eternal lives perfectly lived to God’s glory. With God’s name on their/our foreheads we are his forever. We will live in the light of God’s glory – never having to deal with inner or outer darkness. As God reigns over all forever, we will reign with him – “They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
Fix & File This Vision in Your Minds
As long as John lived and was in his right mind, do you think he ever forgot this vision of glory? This was something that he filed and fixed in his mind. It was a source of comfort, strength, peace, and hope.
File and fix this vision in your minds. Remember it when you lose loved ones who believed in Christ. Right now they are only souls, what they are experiencing is something similar to what John saw in the vision. When Jesus returns and raises their bodies, this is the glory that both body and soul will experience.
File and fix this vision in your minds. Remember it when you’re dealing with your own death. This is the glory that awaits you – not because of you but because of Christ. This is your future forever.
File and fix this vision in your minds. Remember it when Satan and your sinful nature are tempting you to stray from God and give up on your Savior. Satan has nothing that even comes close to what God has in store for you in Christ. Even though Satan may tell you he can give you all, all he can give you is trouble and eternal torment with him for eternity.
Last week I met three of my four sons and close family friend, Dustin, in Salt Lake City. Son Joel, couldn’t be there because he’s traveling to South America this week. On Saturday we decided to climb a mountain not far from where my son, Jesse, lives. When I woke in the morning I could tell that I didn’t feel quite right. But I thought, “I’m not going to not go because I’ll hear a lot of comments about getting old and over the hill. … ‘Dad can’t cut it anymore …’ and stuff like that.” So I went. Things went pretty well until the last part of the climb. The elevation change was getting to me. Whatever I had was getting to me. A couple of time I thought, “I’m going to stop right here. I’ve had enough. I quit.”
Do you ever feel that way with life? File and fix this vision in your minds. Remember it when it seems like life is hard and you feel like giving up or even ending life yourself. It reminds you of the glory God has awaiting you that is forever. The God you wants you to have this is also with you to get you through the things you will endure along the way. Don’t give up! Hang in there in faith!
Thinking about being with my sons on the top of the mountain and the fantastic view I would get there, I forged on and made it to the top. It was worth it.
But being on top of a mountain is nothing compared to being with God and all his people in glory. Make glory your goal. This is God’s goal for you. This is why God chose you in Christ. This is why God redeemed you in Christ. This is why God set you apart in Christ. Make glory your ultimate goal.