22:1 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, 22:2 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. 22:3 And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, 22:4 and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 22:5 Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.
Fee comments on how unfortunate it is that the chapter division has been made at this point: for these verses do not represent a new vision, but the climax of the narrative. Thus, the glorious city just spoken of is merged with a restored garden of Eden.
Paradise restored. ‘The eschatological restoration of primal Edenic conditions found in the OT prophets (Isa. 11:6–9; 65:17–25) became an important theme in apocalyptic thought. According to Rev. 2:7, the tree of life grows in paradise. The traditional river flowing out of Eden (Gen. 2:10) has become the river of life, and the trees of life grow on both banks of the river (inspired by Ezek. 47:1–12). The final goal of salvation is now realized (Rev. 22:3–5). The servants of God are finally able to see him (ordinarily unachievable; cf. Exod. 33:17–20; John 1:18), which means that they share his holiness and righteousness. His name is on their foreheads because they belong to him forever. In fulfillment of the promise made in Rev. 3:21, they will reign with him forever (Rev 22:5).’ (Harper’s Bible Commentary)
‘The first chapter of the Bible describes how God made the world; the last one shows how he will remake it.’ (Wilcock)
- Wrath of the Lamb, Rev 6:16
- Blood of the Lamb, Rev 7:14
- Book of life of the Lamb, Rev 13:8
- Song of the Lamb, Rev 15:3
- Marriage of the Lamb, Rev 19:7
- Supper of the Lamb, Rev 19:9
- Throne of the Lamb, Rev 22:1
(Pickering, Subjects for Speakers and Students)
The angel showed me – lit. ‘he showed me’, demonstrating the continuity with the end of the previous chapter.
The river of the water of life – ‘The miraculous river flows, in fact, through the length of Scripture. It nourishes the godly life of the Old Testament saints (Ps. 1:1–3; Je. 17:7, 8), and is explained by our Lord as the life-giving Spirit who is to be received only from him (Jn. 4:14; 7:37–39).’ (Wilcock)
”The tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit’ (Rev 22:2) some regard as ‘a sacrament of the covenant of works, and analogous to the bread and wine used by Melchizedek (Gen 14:18) and to the Christian Eucharist (Mt 26:29) in the covenant of grace’ (Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, 1960, p. 231). More probably it is a symbol of abundant life.’ (Jn 10:10) (NBD)
The city – Not just a garden, as in Gen 2, but a garden city. There is a total renewal of everything good that we associate with urban, as well as rural, life.
The tree of life – ‘What extraordinary imagery is this—trees with fruit for eternal nourishment and whose leaves will continue to bring healing, not to individuals in this case, but to “the nations,” those entities that have historically been at odds, and often in warfare, with one another.’ (Fee)
There will no longer be any curse – Cf. Gen 3:17.
‘The earth will be no more cursed, and will produce no more thorns and thistles; man will be no more compelled to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow; woman will be no more doomed to bear the sufferings which she does now; and the abodes of the blessed will be no more cursed by sickness, sorrow, tears, and death.’ (Barnes)
His servants will serve him – Morris says that the underlying verb (latreuousin) is suggestive of worship.
‘Whatever John himself understood by “serve him,” he most likely was simply using language from his current worldview, where royal servants live only to serve the king. Again we are confronted with the kind of language that makes sense as imagery, but which is nearly incomprehensible in terms of its getting fleshed out. At this point the reader is left with imagery alone, while one is again thrown back on the fact that God can be trusted, whatever else; and therefore one may be sure that this “heaven on earth” will be infinitely better, greater, and grander than present imagination is capable of grasping.’ (Fee)
This ‘is a great encouragement to us, for in heaven our service will be perfect. As we seek to serve the Lord here on earth, we are constantly handicapped by sin and weakness; but all hindrances will be gone when we get to glory. Perfect service in a perfect environment!’ (Wiersbe)
They will see his face – As Morris remarks, ‘To see the face of God was denied to Moses (Exod. 33:20, 23), but it is the privilege of all God’s servants in the holy city. The consummation of their bliss is the vision of God. There is nothing between him and them.’
‘With no restrictions such as those that pertain to Moses (Ex 33:20, 23) or the high priests (Heb 9:7), the redeemed will be in Christ’s presence, beholding perpetually his glory (cf. Ps 17:15; Mt 5:8; 1 Cor 13:12; 2 Cor 3:18; 1 Jn 3:2).’ (EBC)
A final reminder
22:6 Then the angel said to me, “These words are reliable and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must happen soon.”
22:7 (Look! I am coming soon!
Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy expressed in this book.)
22:8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things, and when I heard and saw them, I threw myself down to worship at the feet of the angel who was showing them to me. 22:9 But he said to me, “Do not do this! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets, and with those who obey the words of this book. Worship God!” 22:10 Then he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy contained in this book, because the time is near. 22:11 The evildoer must continue to do evil, and the one who is morally filthy must continue to be filthy. The one who is righteous must continue to act righteously, and the one who is holy must continue to be holy.”
22:12 (Look! I am coming soon,
and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done!
22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the first and the last,
the beginning and the end!)
‘The New Testament constantly emphasises the fact of judgement on the basis of works, Rom 2:26 Rev 2:23. From the perspective of the Apocalypse, patience in tribulation, steadfastness under persecution, faithfulness to Christ constitute the good works of Christians, Rev 13:10; 14:12.’ (Ladd)
Cf. Rev 1:8; 21:6. ‘In Rev 22:13 the Son’s divinity is confirmed by applying to him what is said of the Father. In each of these cases the term refers to the eternal, dynamic and comprehensive activity of God or Christ in creation and salvation; that is, the origin, preservation and goal of all things are to be found in the Godhead.’ (cf. Rom 11:36) (NBD)
22:14 Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can have access to the tree of life and can enter into the city by the gates. 22:15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral, and the murderers, and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood!
‘Lying insults not only your neighbor, whom you may manage to fool, but also God, whom you can never fool. A truth-telling, promise-keeping God who “cannot lie” (Tit 1:2, NEB; also Nu 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29), and who wants to see in us his own moral image, naturally “hates. a lying tongue. a false witness who breathes out lies.” (Pr 6:16-19) Lying is part of Satan’s image, not God’s, and we should not wonder that “every one who loves and practices falsehood” should thereby exclude himself from God’s city (Rev 22:15; cf. 21:27). There is no godliness without truthfulness. Lord, have mercy!’ (J.I Packer, Growing in Christ)
“Dogs” – See Phil 3:2.
22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star!” 22:17 And 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 wants it take the water of life free of charge.
22:18 I testify to the one who hears the words of the prophecy contained in this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 22:19 And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.
‘It is often put to me that modern editions have taken large bits out of the Bible. Many people find this unsettling, particularly because Rev 22:19 warns against taking away from ‘the words of the prophecy of this book’. On the other hand, the preceding verse in Revelation contains an equally solemn warning against adding to the Word of God. It is as sinful to add to the text as it is to subtract from it. Now there are one or two places where we know that the text of the Authorised Version contains more words than the original, and scholars have taken these words out. But we also know how these extra words came in. An ancient scribe, faced with two variant readings, thought the best course of action was to put them both in. Rather than choose, he simply put them together. The process is called conflation, and is quite easy to detect. This all arises from the humanness of the Bible. The transmission of the text was left to copyists controlled by ‘God’s singular care and providence’ rather than by inspiration. These men, for all their meticulousness, made mistakes here and there. The task of the textual critic is to identify these minor blemishes and eliminate them.’ (McLeod, A Faith to Live By).
22:20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! 22:21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.
Come, Lord Jesus – ‘We do not think enough of Christ’s second coming. What would be said of the wife who, when her husband was away in another country, could be happy without him, and be contented to think rarely of him. On the contrary, the loving wife longs for her husband’s return. Oh, when will he come back! is her frequent exclamation. Wife of the Lamb, church of the Saviour, where is thy waiting, hoping, longing for the second coming of thy Lord? Is this thy blessed hope, as it was that of the primitive church. Oh Christian, are these not wanting here? Every morsel of that bread thou eatest at the sacramental table, every drop of wine thou drinkest, is the voice of Christ saying to thee, I will come again, and receive you to myself; and should draw forth thy longing desires, Come, Lord Jesus; even so, come quickly.’ (John Angel James)