“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 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” (Revelation 22:1,2). The description of the river and tree of life is an obvious reference to Ezekiel 47 in which the prophet also saw a river proceeding from the temple, with trees on its bank with healing leaves.

Ezekiel 47

Revelation 22:1,2

“Water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple…It was a river” (vs. 1,5).

“A pure river of water…proceeding from the throne of God” (v. 1).

“There were very many trees on one side and the other” (v. 7).

“On either side of the river was the tree of life…each tree…” (v. 2).

“They will bear fruit every month” (v. 12).

“Each tree yielding its fruit every month” (v. 2).

“Their leaves [will be] for medicine” (v. 12)

“The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (v. 2).

The passage in Ezekiel 47 gives details that are not presented in the “outline sketch” of Revelation 22. First of all, the water increases the more it flows—it starts ankle-deep and ends up “too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed” (v. 5). Secondly, wherever the water from the temple flows, it brings healing—it is flowing into the deadly brine of the Dead Sea, and “when it reaches the sea its waters are healed” (v. 8). Thirdly, it brings new life to living things that are somehow dead—“every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live” (v. 9).

This picture should be considered along with the symbolic meaning of water in the book of Revelation—“the waters which you saw…are peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues” (Revelation 17:15). Add to this Jesus’ description of living water: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit” (John 7:38,39).

Putting this all together, it is possible that the river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” besides being a literal geographical feature of New Jerusalem, represents a continuing ministry of those who have been called out of “every nation, tribe, tongue and people.” They will go out from the throne of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, to bring healing to the universe which has been wounded by sin.

This is not to say that there are other sinful worlds, but there is no question that the effects of sin have not been limited to this earth. In the heavenly councils “when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan also came among them” (Job 1:6).[1] Until Satan and his fallen angels were defeated by Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and “cast out” of heaven, they were a full-time plague to the unfallen beings—“the accuser of our brethren…accused them day and night” (Revelation12:7-10). Just as Satan caused havoc on this earth, he caused it in the heavenly realms, so much so that John heard “a loud voice saying in heaven, 'Rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them…for the accuser…has been cast down” (vs. 10-12). “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now…The creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:22,21).

The whole universe has been traumatized by sin and the sophistry of the one who was once “the anointed cherub who covers” (Ezekiel 28:14). Those who have lived through the sin experience and emerged victorious will, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, be like a healing stream bringing refreshing, life-giving comfort to the traumatized creation. God is the great source of everything, and His nature is reflected in the law of the universe—selfless love, receiving in order to give. Redeemed human beings, created in the image of God and the recipients of the greatest outpouring of grace, will have the most to give.

Continue to next section: 22:3-5 THE FACE OF GOD

[1] It is clear that this is not talking about an earthly council, because Satan, when asked “From where do you come?” replied, “From going to and fro on the earth” (Job 1:7).