So, let us continue by looking at the eternal peace that we will have through Christ there in that day. “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” We have here a scene portrayed of a renewed Paradise, which appears to be the commons of that eternal city. The scene reminds us of the description of the Garden of Eden but there is no serpent to beguile, no tree of knowledge to present a possible turning away from God, and only the prospect that we will there reign with God (presumably over all the newly created order – As Adam was to subdue the earth and reign over it) world without end, Amen! Paradise has been forever regained.
We almost get a feeling of peace as we read this passage of prophecy. We read of the pure river, the tree of life and its manner of fruit, the unbroken fellowship with the God and the Lamb, the absence of night, and so on. We cannot help but read about it without our souls answering and longing after it. Echoing the idea of Paul that all things be under God in that day, Zechariah saw that coming day in these terms: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one” (Zech. 14:6-9). And so we see the parallel of Zechariah in our text.
We begin with a consideration of the river: “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” We see the nature of this river, the appearance of the river, and of the source of the river. First, see the nature of this river. It immediately reminds us the one river that flowed through Eden and become four heads (a picture of the one God revealed to us by the four gospels), as described in the book of Genesis (Gen. 2:10). The angel showed John a river that was pure in its nature and it was known as the water of life. The water of life we have already seen (21:6). Christ gives us the living water. Christ is the living water and it is through Him and the Spirit that it is now springing up in our hearts unto everlasting life. This text speaks of our God and our Christ being our continual sustenance and the support of our life. God has life in Himself and Christ, the Lamb (as Himself Divine) has life in Himself. We will dwell with God and will be sustained in our life eternally by our access to Him (Ps. 1:3). Contrary to some false doctrine we will never have life in ourselves for we will not be God. The river is about the provision of need and we will forever drink for this peaceful supply (Ps. 65:9). Christ is this river. He is of nature pure. As the Word of God He is pure (Ps. 12:6, 19:8). It is great indeed to know that we who cannot make ourselves pure, but we find a source for our purity in the very flowing of the water of life. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). Again, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:3).
The appearance of the river is as thus: “clear as crystal….” Just as the transparency of the purified gold of the city and streets were described as clear so now is the pure river so described. We spoke of the crystal indicating wisdom (Job 28:17). We saw a sea like crystal before the throne in the fourth chapter (4:6) and now as it outflows into our eternal abode, out from the throne of God we see the river that flows thereof as pure and clear. Accessible to all in its beauty and clarity; ready to be partook with freedom by all who enter therein.
Then there is the source of the river: “proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” We continue to see the Lamb equated with the God, sharing a singular throne. And out of that throne we find our source of continued life and purity. It could come from no other place. Since we have already spoken at length about the water of life elsewhere, let us speak of it in connection with its accessibility. If flows from God and by the end of the chapter we are invited to take of it now. Oh, that I had a drink of the waters of Bethlehem (II Sam. 23:15). As David longed for the waters of home so do we long for the waters of eternity that we will freely enjoy. Just as the men of David through the price of their own blood brought the precious water of Bethlehem to him, so Christ through the price of His own life brought the water of Heaven to us that we may drink and live. One day we will be at the source of the well. We took a sip here that gave us eternal life and then we will satiate ourselves therewith. When we take part with Christ here and now we are drinking from this very same river. This river is flowing now for our benefit and the only difference between now and then is the level of our capacity to drink it in. There is an allusion to this river in the vision of Ezekiel when he saw a river flowing from the House of God. “Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side. And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over” (Ezek. 47:2-5). We wait to drink those waters coming immediately from their source. “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High” (Ps. 46:6). And so we are promised, “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures” (Ps. 36:8).
Continuing with the picture of regained Paradise we see again the tree of life. “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” The promise of Christ is that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled (Matt. 5:6). The water of life speaks to the filling of the thirst and now the tree of life speaks of the filling of the hunger. Continuing with the parallel passage in Ezekiel, as we read above about the river, his text continued to say this: “Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many. But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt. And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine” (Ezek. 47:7-12). Both Ezekiel and John invoke thoughts of a peaceful existence where life flourishes around us with the spirit of healing and all the needs of sustenance are readily supplied. The tree of life invokes the image of the Garden of Eden where man could freely eat of all the trees, including the tree of life in the midst of the garden. There man lived in peace with God who walked in the cool of the day with Him. This is our scene. Christ is wisdom personified and is therefore the picture of the tree of life (Prov. 3:18). It is worth mentioning that in the picture of Eden, not only is there no Serpent but there is no tree of knowledge. We will only have the greater portion of wisdom to feed on there. Sinful men do not seek wisdom, they despise wisdom and instruction. In doing so they lose true knowledge (Prov. 1:7 which leads to true wisdom, Prov. 9:10). Here we will feed on the summation of all knowledge. We will no longer need the seeking of knowledge for we will know even as we are known. We feed now only on wisdom which is Christ (I Cor. 1:30). We will enjoy the fruit of wisdom: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). So it is the life of Christ Himself that we will be partaking when we partake of this fruit. Once again we are confronted with the truth that our life will be sustained and held by the life of God. We will not be divine but will be kept in life by the divine. Our life will be preserved by the provision of God. We will be partakers of His nature forever.
We see the access of the tree of life, the variety of the tree of life, the continuity of the tree of life, and effect of the tree of life. First, the access of the tree of life is seen in the place it is found which is twofold. It is in the midst of the street and on either side of the river. This means that the tree of life was directly connected to the water of life. The tree was planted by the river that flowed from the throne of God. It is situated and thrived in such a way that we can only see it as a provision of God; a tree planted by the river of water that brings forth its fruit in liveliness and health. The fruit is enlivened with sap from the throne of God itself. And the tree grows on either side of the river. There is no need to cross any boundaries to take part of the fruit. “But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart…” (Rom. 10:6-8). The full promise of the law of God being nigh unto man, the spirit of which was quoted by Paul above. “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it” (Deut. 30:11-14). And if the description of being on both sides of the river is not enough to speak of its accessibility (presumably the tree of life is one organism that sprouts on both sides of the river) and we see that it is in the middle of the street. Whether this is meant to describe a parallel highway or something else is of little consequence to the meaning. God has made His provision to us accessible.
Then there is the variety of the tree of life; it bore twelve manner of fruits. There is no monotony in eternity. Things are constantly new, they are made new. This is especially true of the spiritual blessings and provisions of God to us. They are forever different to our experience. There is not one taste that we have as we taste of God and see that He is good but it pleases our palates in ever differing ways. There is no greater variety or pleasure than that provided to us by God. It is an expression of the Godhead in Christ, in whom all fullness dwells.
And then there is the continuity of the tree of life in that it will yield “her” (hearkening back to the wisdom of God – Prov. 3:18) fruit every month. There is no end of the supply. The fruit is picked in time for another harvest to come behind it. The fruit is always budding and the fruit is always ready to eat. God provides eternally for our life and our sustenance.
Then there was the effect of the tree of life: “and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” That is the promise of Ezekiel that “the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine….” This does not mean that there are diseases for there is no sickness or sorrow or death anymore. If man would have been able to eat of the tree of the life in the Garden of Eden he would have lived forever (Gen. 3:22-24). Thank God that we were by His grace kept away from the tree of life while in our sin. It is a hideous thing indeed to live forever in sin and its experiential knowledge. But we will be fully redeemed and we will be able to find constant renewal from the healing leaves thereof. We must be held in life by the constant renewal of the life of God. It is because of this great and eternal provision that there will be no sickness, sorrow, pain, and death. This belongs to the nations of the saved. We experience this only spiritually when we partake of Christ now but we will experience this in all realms of reality when we get to that healthful shore: “for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Ps. 42:11). Again, we pray with the psalmist, “God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah. That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him” (Ps. 67).
Next we see the removal of the curse. There shall be no more curse. This truth is both retrospective as it looks at the removal of the curse and it speaks of the eternal expectation that from that point forward there will be no more curse. The retrospective aspect of this declaration looks back to the implementation of the curse upon mankind at the fall and the work of the Lamb to bare and remove that curse. The word curse is first used in the book of Genesis when it was laid upon Satan as the Serpent. It was immediately followed by the first promise of the coming of Christ as the seed of the woman (intimating one that was virgin born) who would through suffering destroy the serpent and all his work (Gen. 3:14, 15 – the indication was that the world would be divided between those that were of the seed of the women, that is of Christ, who were not to under the curse and thus that were of the seed of Satan [see Eph. 2:2, 3] who would be destroyed with him). In that same context, in which mankind became fallen from their state, it was declared that the curse also fell on the earth or the ground (Gen. 3:17). From that we can speak of the groaning of the creature under the curse. Paul stated this: “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:19-23). From that point the term curse speaks of the permanent bearing of punishment due to sin. Cain was irretrievably cursed after his murder of Abel and his refusal to seek acceptance through the Lamb (Gen. 4:11). “For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off” (Ps. 37:22). The final curse will be laid upon many one day as they must forever bare the judgment of their sins: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…” (Matt. 25:41). These are forever known, in connection with the original curse, as cursed children (II Pet. 2:14).
The removal of the curse has to do with the whole work of the Lamb. When the curse was pronounced it was balanced with the promise of a Savior and Redeemer. In the third chapter of Genesis it was also pictured of how that Savior would destroy the works of Satan. To cover the shame of sin God made man coats of skin to cover their nakedness. Blood was shed, presumably the blood of a Lamb. The religion of substitution began in the Garden of Eden and from that point lambs were brought to altars to die so men could live (Gen. 4). One day Jesus was walking by the river Jordan and John the Baptist pointed at Him and declared “Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Christ took away the curse that has been declared upon sinful man by bearing it upon Himself. Paul stated this: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them…. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree…” (Gal. 3:10, 13). Our sins, our works of iniquity, earned the declaration, “Depart from me ye cursed.” But Christ “his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree….” And “hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust…” (I Pet. 2:24, 3:18). As such we look in retrospect to the removal of the curse.
But the declaration that there is no more curse also speaks of an eternal expectation. First, there is the eternal removal of all that offends from that realm. “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity…” (Matt. 13:41). There will only dwell righteousness in the new heaven and the new earth. And in that eternal city, where we will freely drink of the water of life and will freely eat of the tree of life, nothing that is accursed shall be there. The curse was removed from us that we may dwell in its absence forever. Secondly, there is eternal security taught for us here as well. There will be no more curse in that we will not live in a realm where it is possible for us to live under any curse. It cannot be said that we have taken of any accursed thing and therefore have made ourselves accursed (Josh. 7:12). Eternity is not probationary but permanent and secure. The mirror text to this declaration is found in Zechariah. “And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited” (Zech. 14:11). Held by grace forever for there is no more curse.
Continuing with the theme of eternal peace we find eternal purpose: “but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him….” We keep running into this dynamic where the Lamb is made equal with God and shares a singular throne. There is no question that John is teaching us, being presented by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that the Lamb is divine and of the Godhead. We have seen this truth multiple times in the last two chapters and they serve to confirm the deity of Christ who is worthy of our worship. The truth that the throne of God and of the Lamb is in the city is presented here as a fact in contrast to removal of the curse. There is no more curse “but” the throne is there. The meaning therefore is clear that there is no possibility that God can ever again be opposed to the nations of the redeemed because He has permanently, through the ever present work of the Lamb as our mediator and our advocate, taken residence with His people. There will forever be nothing between us and God. And then we have the end of the progression of this verse. We go from no curse to perfect fellowship between the nations and the throne to joyous service toward God. His servants shall serve Him (God and the Lamb spoken of as one). Now, let us consider this truth; heaven or eternity will be a place of service. They shall see Him and they shall serve Him. We were created to work and we can find no satisfaction outside of work and the greatest satisfaction is the work of God. Adam, after being created, was placed in the garden to work. And it was a joyous work where there was no curse and God was present to walk with him in the cool of the day. Glorious employment! The pride of men like Jude and James and Paul were inherent in their epistles. The greatest things that they could say of themselves was that they were the servants of Jesus Christ (James 1:1, Phil. 1:1, Rom. 1:1, Jude: 1). Solomon rightly said of the subject of labor and service: “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God…. Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion…” (Ecc. 2:24, 3:22). We shall not only be known as His bride, we shall take on the honor of being His servants. We will “Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2). This does not intimate that God is a hard taskmaster or that He has some great need for us to fulfil. It means that we will have the joy of living in obedience to Him in His presence. We will have the joy of giving Him glory and working in His creation for His glory. We, as created in the image of our Creator, will have an eternal outlet for creativity and productivity. We will be able to do all for the glory of God (I Cor. 10:30). The fact that we serve the Lord in joy now will not be different in eternity. As soon as we pass from this life to the life to come we will find the joy of this service (Rev. 7:15). And we will enjoy it forever.
Our text continues and says “And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.” The serve Him and they see Him. Moses cried that he might see the glory of God and could only see His hinder parts. We will see the fruit of the blessing of being made pure for we shall see God (Matt. 5:8). The declaration of John in his first epistle was this: “we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2). To this Paul added, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Cor. 3:18). And David Himself waited for this very thing: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Ps. 17:15). We shall be face to face with our dear Lord and Savior that day (I Cor. 13:12).
We shall serve Him and see Him and then we shall also holy unto Him. And thus will He delight in our service. We are kings in that we reign with Him as stated in verse five below. Here we are priests. We have the name of God in our foreheads as the High Priest had “Holiness to the Lord” on their foreheads. We shall all approach unto God through the Lamb as the High Priest did. We will forever be His, bearing His name, seeing His glory, and doing His service. This ought to excite us. We are His temple and He has been pleased to place His name there (I Kings 8:29). We will be perfected saints, set apart wholly to Him. Again, this is the promise to the overcomer (Rev. 3:12). We will be exalted servants. We shall be known to be so by the bearing of His name.
Such is our peace: feasting and drinking from the life of God freely, completely secure in the blessings of God, and having eternal purpose in the presence of God through the Lamb. It is in such an eternal environment that we will enjoy the eternal day that was made for us by God. “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” In the mouth of two witnesses a matter is established and we have the second witness that there will be no night there (see 21:25). In the light of that eternal day we will reign for ever and ever. We are made kings and priests unto God through Christ and will subdue the new creation under us and reign over it to the glory of God. We can stand amazed in thought of the great feets of industry that will be created by us for the glory of God. There will be no need for artificial light or even created light. We will work under the light of God alone. His knowledge will cover all endeavors. We will not see things through the dim light of our own studies nor through the distorted light of rising and setting suns. We will see things for what they are in the light of God and will rule over them. “For the Lord giveth wisdom…” (Prov. 2:6). What a great day is coming. There will be no dimness of light or setting sun to limit our work for the glory of God or our creativity for Him. “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth” (Ps. 8:3-9).