Wednesday, 1 September 2021
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 22:2
The previous verse noted the water issuing forth from the throne of God and of the Lamb. John next notes, “In the middle of its street.” The meaning of these words is unclear. Some take them together with the previous words, while others connect them with the following words –
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life–water as clear as crystal–pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. (NET)
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 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. (NKJV)
Either way, the street is that which is referred to in verse 21:21, saying, “And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” Regardless of the translation, the next words continue the thought, saying, “and on either side of the river.” Therefore, what is to be stated next is either both in the middle of the street and on either side of the river (a median strip and verge strips), or only on the sides of the river (verge strips). If the former, then the river runs parallel to the street.
However the layout actually is, John next says, “was the tree of life.” There is a river running from the throne and through New Jerusalem. There is a great street, and certainly lesser streets going off through the entire massive city. In this setting, there is this tree of life.
Albert Barnes makes the entire thought a general statement, thus saying, “that in the street, or streets of the city, as well as on the banks of the river, the tree of life was planted. It abounded everywhere. The city had not only a river passing through it, but it was pervaded by streets, and all those streets were lined and shaded with this tree. The idea in the mind of the writer is that of Eden or Paradise; but it is not the Eden of the book of Genesis, or the Oriental or Persian Paradise: it is a picture where all is combined, that in the view of the writer would constitute beauty, or contribute to happiness.”
Regardless as to how the trees are placed, there will be access to them for all. This then is the true return to paradise that has been anticipated since man’s expulsion –
“The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:8, 9
“Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:22-24
Man was placed in Eden where the tree of life was, a tree that would sustain him forever. However, in his disobedience, his hand was withheld from obtaining the fruit of this tree, and he was driven out of Eden and was destined to die. Now, access to the tree is restored. Eternal life is offered to man. The way to have access to this tree has already been stated –
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7
In other words, for those who come to Christ and are saved by Him (meaning overcoming), the offer becomes reality. Man is guaranteed this upon belief (Ephesians 1:13, 14). Someday, the offer will (not maybe!) become reality. This is a promise from God who cannot lie. With this stated, John next says it is the tree of life “which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.”
The meaning is probably not as the KJV states when it says, “twelve manner of fruits.” Rather, it is one type of fruit that comes forth monthly, as stated by the LSV, saying, “yielding its fruit according to each month.”
Bullinger notes that the number twelve signifies “perfection of government, or of governmental perfection.” It “is the product of 3 (the perfectly Divine and heavenly number) and 4 (the earthly, the number of what is material and organic).” As such, the fruit symbolizes the union between the divine and the earthly.
The symbolism tells us that what proceeds from God is united to that which is available to man. The two stand in harmony together. As God is eternal, so man is granted eternal life in this new and permanent governmental arrangement. Along with this, John then notes that “The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
The idea of the symbolism here is not that there are those outside who are to be healed, but that those inside are continuously healed. As the tree bears fruit throughout the months, it means that the tree always has leaves. The idea being conveyed is seen in the words of Revelation 21:4 –
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Pain requires a cure to be alleviated. The symbolism of the leaves is that there is continuous healing and pain will no longer be a part of the human experience. Living in the presence of God in the New Jerusalem will be a very sweet deal.
Life application: Again, the words of this verse take the reader back to Ezekiel 47 where the comparable passage from the millennial reign of Christ is noted –
“When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. 8 Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. 9 And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. 10 It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt. 12 Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.” Ezekiel 47:7-12
Although there are similarities between these verses and those of Revelation 22, there are several differences between what is planned for the New Jerusalem and what will exist during the millennium. The first thing to note is the mentioning of the “Great Sea.” Revelation 21:1 says that there will be “no more sea.” Refer to that commentary to get a better picture of what this may allude to.
Another point of distinction is that the waters “are healed” and that the “swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt” during the millennium. There is no indication of a need to “heal” the waters in the New Jerusalem because they are a part of the new order of things that exist without any defilement. There is also no record of waters that are unhealed.
These patterns are certainly referring to is the spiritual state of things in the world. The river of Eden went into four riverheads including one called the “Gihon.” During the times after the flood, the Gihon wasn’t mentioned again until the time of David (1 Kings 1:33) and was only noted a few times after that. The Gihon during this period was a teeny spring below Jerusalem.
This is a picture of the teeny amount of true religion which was seen on the face of the earth, whereas the rivers Tigris and Euphrates in the area of Babylon are immense, symbolizing the immense amount of false religion on the earth; Babel picturing this false religion.
In the millennium, Isaiah 11:9 notes –
“For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.”
In fact, according to Zechariah 14:8, the river which proceeds from Jerusalem will be so large…
“That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem,
Half of them toward the eastern sea
And half of them toward the western sea;
In both summer and winter it shall occur.”
This river then, issuing from the spring Gihon, is a picture of the spiritual state of the world during the millennium. However, sin and death will still be present during that glorious period, and thus, as Ezekiel notes, the comparable state of the waters at the end of the river – the “swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt.”
In the New Jerusalem, the waters will flow continually for eternity, and they will be perfectly pure, without the note of unhealed waters. This then is a picture of a completely pure spiritual state. There will be no unsaved, there will be no false religion, and there will only be absolute holiness and purity.
What was lost is restored. There will never be a time that the tree of life fails, just as the water which flows from the throne will never fail. As healing is realized in Jesus, there will be no need for a process of healing, but rather there will be continued and uninterrupted health – for all eternity.
All of this and more will be available to believers in Jesus Christ. Now, even at this time, those who have called on Jesus are spiritually seated in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-7) and have complete and eternal access to the Water of Life and the Tree of Life.
This positional state will be fully realized at some glorious day in the future, and it can only come about by placing one’s faith and trust in Christ Jesus alone. There is no other way to be reconciled to God. If you have never trusted Jesus for your healing and restoration, make the call today. Great things await the redeemed of the Lord! Indeed, today is the day of salvation. Call out to God for healing. Call out to Him through JESUS!
Lord God, how astonishingly wonderful it will be to live in Your presence, to see Your light, and to receive the unceasing stream of healing waters which flow from You. Great and glorious are Your promises, and we have faith that every one of them will come to pass exactly as Your word states. And Oh! How we wait for that wonderful day! Hallelujah and Amen.