Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
The same angel then showed John a river of the water of life. The river was crystal clear, for there are no contaminants or impurities in heaven. The water is indicative of the living water of Christ, and, thus, it is pictured as emanating from the throne of God and the Lamb. He is the source of the living water. Those who drink of it in this life by putting their faith in Him will have access to Him and to the river forever (John 4:10, 7:38). God’s throne will be present in the New Jerusalem. Thus, at least in a way, heaven will have come to earth in the most complete way. The New Jerusalem descended to earth from out of heaven, and God dwells there. Jesus’ prayer of His will in heaven being done on earth (Matthew 6:10) has some fulfillment in the church age, even more during the millennial kingdom, but its ultimate fulfillment here. The river of life is in the middle of the street, which is of gold, for it symbolizes that life goes out from Jesus as promised to all in the city forever and ever. The tree of life on each side of the river adds to this imagery and reinforces the fact that eternal life is assured. Eating from the tree of life back after the fall would have been a disaster (Genesis 3:24), but eating of the tree of life in eternity is a guarantee of eternal bliss and satisfaction. The trees are seen producing twelve different kinds of fruit throughout the twelve months of the year. Thus, there is a sense of time in eternity, but it just goes on forever and ever. It doesn’t get boring or dull, for there are always new things to enjoy, learn, and explore. Thus, there will always be more things to glorify God for. This might be hard for people to understand because sinful pleasures get old and less satisfying with time (Hebrews 11:25). However, as the ever-yielding and multi-yielding tree of life suggests, godly pleasures are always new, fulfilling, satisfying, and eternally worth enjoying. Just as love within marriage grows deeper as both learn how to love one another better with time as God enables, enjoying God will only get more wonderful with time. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. People from every tribe, tongue, and nation will be there in this heavenly glory, and God will wipe away every tear and every sorrow (Revelation 21:4). There will be no brokenness, disability, or frailty in heaven, for Jesus will make all things new. The minds of the redeemed will be made new also, able to enjoy God forever and fixate upon His glory. All the remnants of sin, death, and pain will be lost forever. Relationships will be made whole, and joy will be made full.
3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.
In heaven, there will be no curse because sin and death have been done away with. The earth has been remade new with no effects of the curse. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in the New Jerusalem, and the redeemed will willingly and gladly serve Him there. They will see the face of God and live because they are without sin or blemish any longer. Previously, seeing the face of God would kill a person because of sin and their mortal flesh (Exodus 33:20). His name will be upon their foreheads because they belong to Him and reflect His name and glory. There will be no more night (Revelation 21:22-25) in the New Jerusalem. God Himself will illumine the redeemed and the city with His glory and presence so that the light of a lamp or of the sun will not be needed (Isaiah 24:23). The whole earth will literally be full of His glory (Isaiah 6:3). Jesus and His people will reign forever, for this eternal paradise has no end.
6 And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. 7 “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”
The angel told John that the words that he has heard and the visions that he has seen are indeed faithful and true because they are given by God. God sent the angel to John to show to him and to the saints of God in John’s time, in the present time, and in the time of the end what would take place. God didn’t leave people without a warning for the end, nor did He leave His people without a reason for hope in the end. He, the same God Who hinted at these future events as He spoke through the prophets of old (Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and others) has spoken in this revelation to John concerning the times of the end. These events will take place soon and not eons of time in the future. The timeline of Scripture is but thousands of years, and Jesus’ return is imminent. Believers are to live eagerly awaiting and anticipating the return of Jesus. Even though they do not know the hour or day (Matthew 24:36), they know the season, and the signs of the times are coming true with great rapidity (Matthew 24:4-14, Daniel 12:4). Jesus will be back soon, and a blessing will be upon those who listen to and heed the words in this book. A curse will be upon those who reject the truth of Jesus and who add or take away from this book (v. 18-19). God wants people to hear the truth about His Son and to be prepared for His return.
8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9 But he *said to me, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.”
John echoed what he said in chapter one that he is the one who heard and saw this revelation from God. He is a credible witness, for he is the same man who walked and talked with Christ when He was on earth the first time. He saw Him die and then saw His resurrected body. He saw Him ascend into heaven, and he was part of the apostles who helped lay the foundation of the early church (Ephesians 2:20). John made the same mistake twice (Revelation 19:10) of being so overwhelmed by the angel that he bowed before him. The angel quickly rebuked him and told him not to worship him but only God. Angels are also servants of God and servants of the saints. They are not to be worshipped. That John was open and honest about his own errors also lends veracity to his testimony. He faithfully related the events exactly as they happened, even when it cast himself in a poor light. Jesus Himself testified to the truthfulness of this prophecy (v. 20).
10 And he *said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.”
John was told not to seal up the words of the prophecy as if they could be filed away indefinitely and rendered useless, irrelevant, and not immediately applicable. The reality is that the time of Christ’s return is near such that those of John’s day and of the present day need to study this vision and be prepared for Jesus’ return (see also v. 16). The message of verse 11 is not that Jesus doesn’t want people to repent (2 Peter 3:9). Rather, the idea is that justice is coming. Heaven rejoices when a sinner repents, God is glorified when the righteous serve Him, and there is also joy in heaven when God’s just wrath is finally poured out. Verse 11 is a call and desire for the end to come so that all will get their just due and be recompensed according to their deeds, the righteous to life and the wicked to hell (v. 13). As Isaiah 3:10-11 says, “Say to the righteous that it will go well with them, For they will eat the fruit of their actions. Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, For what he deserves will be done to him.”
12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Jesus tells John that He is coming quickly (see also v. 7 and 20). His return is not way off but nearer than most people think and recognize. People need to take heed to the words in this book and consider where they stand in regard to eternity. Christ will judge every man according to what he has done (Romans 2:6). The only hope of being found by God as righteous is to trust in Christ for forgiveness and to turn from sin to life (v. 14). He is the eternal God with no beginning or end, and He will have the final say. This means judgment is sure for unbelievers, but eternal life is equally sure for believers. Believers also can be excited about eternal rewards on account of their faithfulness (2 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Thus, there is great hope for believers, and they can be excited that His return is sooner rather than later. Their coming inheritance should motivate them to purify themselves as He is pure (James 4:8) and to want to use every opportunity to advance the kingdom of God on earth (1 Corinthians 9:24, Proverbs 11:30).
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
Jesus wants people to understand that the only way to gain entrance to the glory and paradise that is heaven is to wash their robes in His blood by confessing Him as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and trusting in Him to forgive them (1 John 1:9) and make them new in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). That is how they can enjoy the fruit of the tree of life and have eternal life with Jesus in heaven forever (Revelation 22:2). That is the only way that they can gain entrance to the New Jerusalem. Those who are outside of heaven are those who did not trust in Christ for salvation, and they are not known as belonging to Christ and as those who are pure in Him. Rather, they are known and measured by their deeds which include sorcery, immorality, idolatry, murder, and lying. They lie because they are children of the devil (1 John 3:10), and they love and enjoy the wickedness that they do. Their sin defines them, and it is who they are and what they do (1 John 3:8-9). They have no part with Jesus in heaven, and their only chance is to repent while they are still alive on earth. After that, it is too late.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
Jesus Himself sent His angel to give John this prophetic vision so that he could declare it to the churches at his time and for the present time. Jesus is coming back as King. He is the root and descendant of David (Matthew 1:6), the fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 9:7, 11:1; Ezekiel 37:24). He is the bright morning star, the One Who will light the New Jerusalem on His own. His Words are true and will come to pass. They are not merely John’s words (2 Peter 1:21) or the words of a rogue angel (Galatians 1:8-9), but the Book of Revelation is the very word of God.
17 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 wishes take the water of life without cost.
The bride in this verse is the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9), the dwelling place of the saints in eternity. Its glory, beauty, and wonder beckon the believer to stand firm in the present and to live for Jesus, looking forward to His return and the coming rewards. The Spirit of God Who testifies to the hearts of believers that they belong to God also beckons them to look forward to going there. Any who know Christ should beckon others to look forward to heaven and to flee the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7). Jesus wants His church to leave reading this prophecy with an eager anticipation for what is to come. Those who do not yet know Jesus and who thirst in their souls need to come and drink of the living water by turning from sin and putting their faith in Christ. The water that gives eternal life has no cost because Jesus paid it all. Salvation is not bought or earned, but Jesus made it possible because of His sacrificial death on the cross. The work of God is to believe in Him Whom He has sent (John 6:29, Romans 10:9-10). These will be granted of God to become His children (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8-9).
18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.
A critical test of salvation and genuine heart change is how a person receives the Word of God. Some people add to the Scripture or read their own interpretation or agenda into it. Others ignore certain verses because they are difficult, they make them uncomfortable, or they do not resonate with the culture of the day. Others come up with revelation outside of the Scripture and use it to, as they say, rightly interpret the Scripture. Any form of adding or taking away from the Scripture is a sign of a lack of faith and a heart that is held captive by the devil (Matthew 5:18, Luke 16:17). Those who can’t accept the Scripture at face value even though God has promised that His Word will endure forever (1 Peter 1:25) will find themselves outside of the gospel and salvation. They will have no part in eternal life and the New Jerusalem. In God’s mind, His preserved Scripture is sufficient to save (Luke 16:29-31), and it should be heard, listened to, and received.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Jesus testifies to the veracity and integrity of this prophecy, and He reminds both believers and unbelievers alike that He will return to the earth soon. There are not millions and millions of years to sort things out, nor is there some netherworld or purgatory for a second chance to repent. People must make a choice before they die, and their eternal fate will be judged accordingly. The response of the believer to Christ’s promised imminent return is “let it be, come soon, for You are Lord, Jesus.” Eternal life is a weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17) that far outweighs the entanglements (Hebrews 12:1) and passing pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25). His pleasures endure forever (Psalm 16:11), and they are worth persevering for in faith no matter the cost (Luke 14:25-33).
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
John’s closing benediction is to pray that the grace of God will sustain believers in faith and that they will keep their focus toward the glory of the coming age. It is also a petition and prayer for unbelievers to respond to the grace of God and be saved. God wants none to perish, and He will keep spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth, even during the tribulation period (Revelation 14:6-7). He is a gracious God, and believers everywhere ought to echo John’s prayer for grace to come to more and more. May it be.