This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on April 4th, 2010. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Rev 22.
Rev.22 — THE HOPE OF THE RESURRECTION
OT Background: I mentioned, when we looked at John’s vision of the New Jerusalem in Rev.21, that John’s vision was very much like Ezekiel’s vision of the restored Jerusalem (Ezek.40-42). Both men were taken in a vision to a high mountain from their exiles. Both were shown a restored Jerusalem. Both encountered a man with a measuring rod.
Now in Rev.22, John’s vision shifts to the river of life – and here again, there is an OT background for this vision – (Ezek.47:1-12). Ezekiel saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple and becoming a river. The river flowed into the sea where it made the water fresh, “so where the river flows everything will live.” Also, Ezekiel saw “Fruit trees of all kinds”, growing on both banks of the river. “Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fall. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” (47:12).
Ezekiel’s vision showed that, one day, the Temple would be a place from which God’s Spirit would flow – and that it would bring life to those who were lost (the sea of those under demonic influence).
We Celebrate The Hope of the Resurrection.
We Will Drink from the River of Life: “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, down the middle of the great street of the city.” John’s vision highlights the purity (clear as crystal), and the accessibility (down the middle of the street) of the river. We also know from Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek.47:1-12), that the river comes streaming out from under the throne of God – that it is, in fact, a picture of the Spirit of God.
This is a picture of life streaming out from God to us. This beautiful river will be our water source – what we drink – and it will quench our thirst (satisfy our deepest longings – see Ps.42), and sustain our lives and cleanse us. Somehow the River of Life will be at once and at the same time – Water of Life that we can drink, and God’s Spirit. It will be water that transforms us.
We Will Eat from the Trees of Life: “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.” Not only is the Tree of Life in the Ezekiel vision – it is obviously also from the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve fell, God removed the Tree of Life so that man would not eat from it and live forever in his sinful state.
The tree is planted on each side of the river – it receives its life from the river. Its fruit and leaves are for the healing of the nations. It is always bearing every month of the year so that the very food we eat will heal and strengthen our bodies and souls.
While the fruit of the trees will be a source of life and vitality, (and even the leaves will be healing), the second resurrection will not be a place of forgetfulness of our trials and struggles in this world. It will be a place of healing. The leaves of the tree will heal our sorrow over sin – they will heal the wrongs and the sufferings of life – both those which we have suffered, and those we have inflicted. They injuries and illnesses and sorrows of life are part of our earthly exile and slavery – but they will be healed and made right in heaven.
The Curse Will Be Removed Because We Will See God: “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. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”
Again, as we saw last week, the presence of God is in the city – and human beings can see God face to face. The mark of the first-fruits of the Spirit (with whom we were sealed – Eph.1:13-14 – which is a picture of the Passover mark on the door frames), is now revealed as the name of God on our foreheads. This not only shows that we belong to him – but the mark (like the Spirit within us now) is the completion of the change of our character. This is not so that we can see God face to face as much as because we will see God face to face. Our transformation as the bride of Christ will be competed when we see him.
Darkness Will Be Removed: “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.”
The city will be a place of light – of beauty. There are so many ways in which light is used in Scripture, that it is probably impossible to fully explore the depth of what it means that God will be the light of the city. Darkness is an image of blindness, ignorance, sorrow, sin and treachery. Light is an image of enlightenment and purity, of joy. At least in part, we can understand that Heaven will be a place of constant and overwhelming joy. A place where all that was incomprehensible will be understood. A place where treachery or sin or blindness will be impossible.
We Will Reign: “And they will reign for ever and ever.” Finally, we will reign. To the early church this is a promise that they will finally be free from evil earthly rule, and that they themselves will be the rulers.
What does it mean that we will reign? Surely that we will have meaningful work to do in order to establish peace and beauty and bring glory to God. Although these things are already present in the new Creation – it is clear that man will have dominion – just as he was given in the Garden of Eden – and work and purpose.
Therefore, Keep the Words of the Prophecy of This Book.
“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book” This morning, as we celebrate this great hope of the resurrection, and as we finish out the book of Revelation, we want to keep hold of our hope specifically as it has been revealed to us through this book. How we are to do this is laid out for us in the final verses of Revelation 22…
Keep Hold by Believing that God Will Set All Things Right: Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; let him who is holy continue to be holy. Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” Those who keep this prophecy live in the hope that evil will be judged and that justice will be done. We do not take it into our own hands to make people pay – we do not take vengeance – we wait for the Lord. As we have seen in this book, only God is just to judge people because only God can see the heart and the spiritual influences at work in people. We are engaged in a great battle against an enemy whose sole aim is to destroy souls who were made to bring glory to God. We must be willing to believe that only the judge of all the earth can and will do right when he comes to judge.
Keep Hold of Jesus: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” The whole book of Revelation, for believers, is about Jesus. Jesus is the judge of the earth and the hope of salvation. All of Revelation can be summed up (not minimized), as a prophecy that calls us to put our trust in Jesus – that lays out the blessings of doing so, and the curses of not trusting in him. So how specifically are we being called to put our trust in Jesus?
~ By Finding Our Complete Acceptance in Him: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates of the city. Outside are the dogs…” Who is given the right to the tree of life? to enter into the city? Those who wash their robes in the blood of Jesus. But there is more to this than first meets the eye. We think of washing away our sins – and that is valid. But the robes to be washed also allude back to Rev.19 – where the robes are the righteous acts of the saints.
We are being called here to wash both our sins and our good works in the blood of Jesus. Our good works, though we and others may be impressed by them, fall far short of the glory God made us for. We are called to be servants and to practice righteousness – but whether we do what is right or fail to, we still need to come to Jesus who makes even our acts of service, self-denial, repentance, kindness, etc… acceptable to the Father. Those who are not washed in this way are outside – and like dogs in OT Law, are unclean scavengers who eat detestable things.
We cannot, and must never think of this prophecy as a call, merely, to be moral. Morality falls short of the glory of God. This prophecy calls us to be washed in the blood as we put to death the drunken adulteries of this world – every evil practice – and follow Jesus.
~ By Allowing Jesus to Be the Root and Fruit of Our Righteousness: “I am the root and offspring of David. The bright Morning Star.” Jesus, here, is not saying that he was the physical ancestor of David (although he was the physical descendant). Rather he is saying that he is the root of the spiritual life we see in David – the man after God’s own heart. In other words, Jesus is telling us that he is the source of spiritual life.
We come to Jesus, then, to ask him to put us into service – to make us useful. He is the way, the truth, and the inner life. He is the one who is able to put right motives in our hearts for serving him – he is the one who is able to lead us into situations to be of service to him – who gives us grace in those situations. He is the root of our service – but also the one who gives us the grace to produce fruit in those situations. We keep the words of this prophecy by coming to Jesus as our root – who alone can make us people after God’s own heart.
And Live With Anticipation.
If You Believe Ask Him to Return: The Spirit and the Bride say “Come”! And let him who hears say “Come!” We have seen what there is to long for – the transformation of our spirits and bodies from living death to eternal, glorious life. We live in the hope of this resurrection. We long for Jesus to come back and to do all that he has promised. To that end, we should pray – “May Your Kingdom Come!”
If You Want to Believe, Come: Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life… The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people, Amen.
Let’s end the book of Revelation with this – the invitation of our Lord Jesus, who freely offers to us the water of life, salvation and eternal glory. Whoever is thirsty – whoever wishes to come – is welcome.