“Eschatology” (Part 31: The River and Tree of Life, Final Appeals


III. The Book of Revelation. X. The River and Tree of Life, Final Appeals (22:1-21). 1. The river and tree of life (22:1-5). a. The river of the water of life is a symbol of the Spirit of God. “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street” (Rev. 22:12). (i) The Spirit is sometimes referred to in Scripture as living water. (a) “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ 11 She said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?’ 13 Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life’” (John 4:10-14). (b) “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.”’ 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39). (c) It may be more accurate to say that He is the water that gives life. (ii) In heaven, and in the New Heavens and the New Earth, the Lord will pour His Spirit out on us and fill us to capacity with His love and joy. (iii) The fact that this water flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb shows that they are the source. (a) Through the Father’s electing love and sending His Son. (b) Through Christ’s work of redemption. b. The tree of life represents eternal life. “On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (v. 2). (i) We were introduced to the tree of life in Genesis 2:9. Adam and Eve lost their right – and ours – to eat from that tree when they sinned against God. (ii) But Christ is the One who now gives us access to that tree.

2 (a) Those who believe on Him, and who by faith overcome their sins, will be granted the right to eat from it. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). (b) Here we see the tree bearing the perpetual fruit of peace and healing standing as an encouragement to John’s readers, and to us, to persevere. c. The curse has been removed. “There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads” (vv. 3-4). (i) As we saw before, with the coming in of the New Heavens and the New Earth, the curse on the Old Creation is gone. (ii) Sin separated God and man, so that Paradise – which originally was on earth – was removed. But with the curse removed, God again dwells with His people. (a) In the New Heavens and Earth, we will worship and serve the Lord continually in His presence. (b) We will see His face – the Beatific Vision. (1) We all know how satisfying looking at something beautiful can be, e.g., a sunset, the Grand Canyon, etc.. (2) This will be the most beautiful sight possible. (3) The Spirit of God will remove everything from our hearts and minds that might spoil this view of God and allow us to see Him as He really is. (c) And we will be His people – His mark of ownership will be on us (the mark on our foreheads). d. His glory will illumine all things. “And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever” (v. 5). (i) His glory will be the source of all our light. (ii) And in the light of His glory, we will reign with Christ forever in His eternal kingdom. 2. The blessing pronounced on those who keep His Word (vv. 6-7). “And he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. 7 And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book’” (vv. 6-7). a. These things would certainly come to pass just as John had seen them, because the Lord is faithful and true. b. And they would take place shortly.

3 (i) We’ve seen the emphasis on how soon these things were to happen. (ii) This is why there is the repeated blessing upon the one who would listen and act on these words. (iii) We don’t live in that time frame of imminent judgment, but it is always true that those who hear and do God’s Word will be blessed. 3. John tempted to worship the angel (vv. 8-9). “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9 But he said to me, ‘Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God’” (vv. 8-9). a. John was so overwhelmed by the divine vision and message that he was tempted to worship the messenger. (i) We too need to guard ourselves against thinking too highly of human messengers. (ii) Notice that he was willing to expose his weakness in this area: one mark of genuine Christianity is humility – the willingness to confess our faults. (iii) We not only need to express our weaknesses to ourselves and to the Lord, sometimes we need to express them to others to encourage them. b. But the angel rightly forbids him. (i) Angels, though they are greater in power and wisdom than men, are still merely creatures and not God. (ii) Only God is to be worshipped. And so the angel exhorts him to direct his praise to its only appropriate recipient. (iii) We must worship God and Him alone. 4. Final exhortations and warnings (vv. 10-16). a. This prophecy must be read. “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near’” (v. 10). (i) The prophecy was not to be sealed up for a later time, because it was about to be fulfilled and God’s people needed to hear it. (a) Daniel was told to seal the words of the prophecy given to him because its fulfillment was still far in the future. (1) “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase” (Dan. 12:4). (2) “He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time’” (v. 9). (b) But John was not to seal up this vision because the time was near. (ii) This again reminds us that the common view today that Revelation is referring to a time still future to us – over 2000 years from the time of John’s writing – cannot be correct.


b. This prophecy must be responded to. “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” (v. 11). (i) The thrust of this verse may be that the time of fulfillment is so close, there won’t be time to change one’s direction. (ii) More likely, it has to do with how those who hear respond. (a) There will be those who hear, but refuse to change – the one who practices injustice must (or will) still be unjust. (b) But there will also be those who hear and repent, or who don’t need to repent – the one who practices righteousness must still practice righteousness. (c) “As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, ‘My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?’ He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time. Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand’” (Dan. 12:8-10). (iii) Each will be rewarded or punished according to how he responds to this message. “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying” (vv. 12-15). (a) Again, His coming is near. (b) And when He comes, He is intending to bring all things to their conclusion. (1) He will reward those who are ready with eventual entrance to the New Heavens and Earth. (2) He will punish those who aren’t with their portion in the lake of fire. (iv) The Lord wants His church to know for certain these things are true. “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (v. 16). (a) The Lord again identifies Himself – He is the root of David (the One behind David’s existence and calling), the descendant of David (the Son of David, or the Messiah), the bright morning star (the star that has risen from Jacob [Num. 24:17] who has risen with mercy and salvation [Luke 1:78; 2 Pet. 1:19]) – to endorse the testimony of the angel.

5 (b) His Word is true and must be heeded. 5. Invitation of the Gospel. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (v. 17). a. In light of the foregoing, there is an invitation to come and participate in the salvation He offers. b. The Spirit invites us to come. (i) He is the One who works through the message of the Gospel to engender faith in the elect. He makes the call of salvation effective. (ii) But, as we know from the rest of Scripture, though He works through the Gospel in everyone who hears it to one degree or another, He only works saving faith in the lives of those whom the Father has chosen and those for whom Christ laid down His life. c. The Bride invites us to come. (i) Perhaps this is referring to the glorified saints in heaven. (ii) The testimony of their blessedness is a compelling reason to come. d. Those who hear John’s message while on earth, and believe it, must herald it as well. This would include us in the present time. e. The qualifications of receiving this blessing are also given: (i) You may come if you’re thirsty. (ii) You may come if you desire to drink. (iii) All you need is to see your need of Him, and you are welcome. 6. Canonical curse. “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (vv. 18-19). a. Every word of God is sacred and is not to be added to or taken away from. (i) “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deu. 4:2). (ii) “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” (12:32). (iii) “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar” (Prov. 30:5-6). (iv) This applies to the whole of Scripture. b. If anyone should be so presumptuous as to add to the prophecy of this book, the Lord will assign him his portion in His judgment that is coming. c. If anyone takes away from these words, He will take away his part from the tree of life and the holy city.

6 d. In other words, such presumption is clear evidence that they are not converted. 7. Closing words and blessing. “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (vv. 20-21). a. A final warning that the Lord’s coming is imminent. (i) 2000 years is not imminent. (ii) But 70 AD was, and so John’s audience needed to be ready. b. John heartily agrees that he should come quickly. (i) This appears to refer to His judgment, not His Second Coming. (ii) John realizes that the Lord intends to execute His judgment swiftly and that it’s just, and so he desires that the Lord would glorify Himself through it, realizing as well that afterwards begins the growth of His glorious kingdom. c. He closes with a benediction on all those who hear and heed: that the Lord’s grace would be with them and enable them to endure what is coming that they might partake of the river and tree of life. Amen.


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