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. 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. 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. 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.
The other day Pastor Holmes was reading this passage during one of the recent funerals here at Wanamaker Woods. I have memorized this passage. I have written songs about his passage. I have even in my youth translated line by line this passage from the original language. All of a sudden in that sacred space, where people were encountering God in the midst of their grief, I felt like I was hearing this passage for the very first time. I know it has been a powerful passage for people reflecting on their faith in the midst of death. I also have come to know that it is a powerful passage to reflect on as we journey right now through life in this world.
This vision of the future is full of echoes of Eden; a river, the tree of life, God’s presence with humanity; but there are a few important differences too. Instead of a garden we have a garden city. Instead of the sun fueling life, God is the sole source of life and light. The curse of death has gone and instead of just two people seeing God face-to-face, the nations enjoy His presence. God’s story ends with an expansion of where it began; the whole of creation in perfect peace(shalom) with God and itself.
Do you ever wonder why God gives us these pictures of the end (or new beginnings depending on how you look at it) in the scriptures. They seem to function in two major ways for the people of God. Firstly, they function as promise. Even as we struggle in a world that is groaning beneath the weight of brokenness and mortality, John’s vision brings future hope into our daily present. When you are daily taking it on the chin, you can keep your chin up because in the end Jesus wins the battle.
It also functions as paradigm. Since this is the kind of world God is preparing for us, we live towards that vision now. The book of Revelation shows us that the destiny of the community of God’s people is to be fully inhabited by heaven. As a follower of Jesus, filled with His Spirit, I am a forerunner, a citizen of this future hope here and now. I carry the shalom of God into a troubled world that desperately needs it. I daily pray…Your Kingdom Come Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and then I go out and seek to be an answer to prayer.
This morning as you think about the tree of life, with healing leaves. Where does someone I know, need God’s healing emotionally, mentally, physically or relationally today?
This morning as you imagine the river flowing from God’s throne, bringing life everywhere it goes. Where in my community are we experiencing death and decay? Picturing God’s life-bringing action as a river flowing into this place or problem, I pray for it now.
Would you close with me in reciting the Lord’s prayer today?
‘Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed by Your name,
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven…’