The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 170

Eternal Life

(Revelation 22)

     In this final chapter of the Holy Scriptures, John continues with his description of the holy city and then, as it were, ushers us on into the eternal ages to come.   When he closes with a last postscript of invitation, warning, and prayer, the book of God is complete.  This climactic revelation will terminate God’s written Word to man.  All we need to know will have been revealed and recorded, and now we must simply await the fulfillment.

     Finally we can begin to comprehend in some small measure the Lord’s “unspeakable gift” of eternal life (2 Corinthians 9:15) to sinners who had earned the wage of eternal death (Romans 6:23).  Having heard and believed the “word of life” (Philippians 2:16), we have feasted on the “bread of life” (John 6:35) and drunk deeply of the “water of life” (Revelation 21:6), assured that our names are indelibly inscribed in the Lamb’s “book of life” (Revelation 3:5).  We no longer walk in darkness but have the “light of life” (John 8:12), knowing that soon we shall receive the “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10) and have access forever to the “tree of life” (Revelation 22:14).

No More Curse

     The omniscient, omnipotent God had a great and holy, eternal, and unchangeable purpose for His creation, established in His heart before the world began.  The temporary intrusion of sin and death can never thwart or deter that purpose.  Finally, in the counsels of God, the time has come to renew and fulfill that purpose.  The great curse has been removed from the creation, and the kingdom of God has come.

Revelation 22:1.     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.

     Thus far John had described only the external beauties of the holy city, with merely a glimpse of the golden streets, inside its walls.  Now we enter into the city itself, acquiring at least an introductory insight into the splendors that have been prepared for our enjoyment there.

     Most prominent of all is a mighty river of clear sparkling water, coursing down from the center and apex of the city.  Although the text does not say so, we are probably justified in inferring that this river (like the river in Eden which was its typological forerunner) parts “into four heads” (Genesis 2:10), which in turn descend from level to level, providing abundant water for every need (aesthetic as well as physiological) of the residents of the city.

     Eventually its four distributaries will, presumably, reach ground level and then flow out through the four walls of the city, north, south, east and west, whence it, like the eyes of the Lord, will “run to and fro throughout the whole earth” (1 Chronicles 16:9).  Since there is “no more sea” (Revelation 21:1) the inexhaustible waters of this mighty river will supply whatever hydrologic needs the new earth may have.  There surely will be an abundance of luxurious grasses and herbs and trees everywhere, as in the original “very good” created world (Genesis 1:11, 31), and the whole earth will be a well-watered paradise of abundant resources and fulfilling ministries for the servants of God.

     It is noteworthy that the same phrase, “clear as crystal,” is used to describe the water as was used for the previous jasper stone in the walls of the city (Revelation 21:11) and the light radiating from them.  Similarly the “sea of glass” at the heavenly throne was “like unto crystal” (Revelation 4:6).  The emphasis throughout is that these heavenly entities are free of all impurities, clear and sparkling in radiance, bespeaking the character and the glories of their divine Creator.

     But most notable of all is the source of this mighty river of life and its living waters.  There is no sea from which waters are raised by the sun, as in the present hydrologic cycle (Revelation 21:1) and thus no rainfall to supply the river with its flow.  Rather, it proceeds “out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,” high at the central pinnacle of the holy city.  Evidently the mighty Creator is continually creating the waters, then sending them forth to give perpetual life and cleansing and beauty to the city and its inhabitants, and then on out into the uttermost parts of the new earth.  It is water of life, and there is no more death.

     This marvelous fountain of an infinitely great deep was, in type, first opened on another central pinnacle, the inner cross on Mount Calvary.  “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34).  Medical men through the centuries have speculated as to the source and nature of this “water” which emerged with the shed blood from the side of the Savior; it seems to have been essentially a unique phenomenon.  But whatever may be its precise physiological explanation, it surely speaks typologically of the great water of life which the Lord had promised Nicodemus (John 3:5), the woman at the well (John 4:10-14) and the multitudes at the feast of tabernacles (John 7:37-39).  The blood of the Lamb must be poured out in order to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29), but simultaneously a fountain of cleansing and refreshing must be opened, that the Spirit betokened by the water (John 7:39) might evermore indwell and guide and energize all the redeemed of the Lamb.

     “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.  And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth…. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” (1 John 5:6, 8).

     As water flowed from the side of the Lamb on the cross, so a pure river of water of life will flow from the Lamb on the throne, and all may drink freely of the water of life forever (Revelation 22:17).  Even now, the waters of baptism symbolize, to those who enter them, the cleansing blood (1 Peter 3:21; 1 John 1:7) and the enveloping Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), participation in the atoning death and glorious resurrection of their Savior (Romans 6:3-11). 

Revelation 22:2.     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.

     Not only the river with the water of life but also the tree with the fruit of life is there.  This is apparently the same tree that God had planted in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9), whose fruit possessed such remarkable life-preserving properties that God had to withdraw it from man’s use after Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:22-25).  Now, however, though it had been withheld from sinful men and women, it is made freely available in the new earth to “him that overcometh” (Revelation 2:7), a characterization of all who participate in the first resurrection and who, therefore, are not subject to the judgment of the second death (Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14, 15).

     Surprisingly, the tree bears twelve different kinds of fruits, one for each month of the year.  Whether this was true of the first tree of life in Eden the Scripture does not say, but the inference at least seems to be that the trees of the first garden and the last garden are the same.  In any case, this tree is a most marvelous creation of a loving God, with its genetic instructions beautifully programed for this perpetual variety.  Yet every variety of its fruit carries the same life-sustaining ingredient, whatever that may be, imparted to it by its Creator.  Actually, the word “manner” is not in the original, the phrase merely reading “twelve fruits,” so it is possible that it could be understood as “twelve crops of fruit,” but the more natural implication seems to be that of “twelve kinds of fruits.”

     The biblical lands abounded in fruit trees, and frequent reference to them is made in the Scriptures.  However, it is rather surprising to note how few different kinds of fruit are actually named in the Bible.  There are grapes, figs, apples (some think the Hebrew word for “apple” may have referred actually to the apricot), pomegranates, melons, and olives (if olives are considered a fruit), and that is about all. Although dates are not mentioned as such, the palm tree is often mentioned, and these almost certainly were date palms.  In any case, the tree of life will bear about twice as many different kinds of fruit as are recognized by name in the Bible.  And all are healthful and, not doubt, delicious.

     Note also the implicit teaching that the actual time cycles will continue on forever.  The fact that months are identified as such in the New Jerusalem indicates that the orbital and rotational motions of the earth will go on as God established in the very beginning and that the moon likewise will continue orbiting around the earth.

     Still another noteworthy aside is that the leaves of the tree of life have great value also, serving to bring healing to the nations.  Some translators feel it would be more appropriate to translate this word (Greek therapeia) as “health,” since it seems unlikely that the immortal peoples of the new earth would actually need healing, either physical or spiritual.  However, the word basically meant “cure” or “service” in its original usage, and is translated “household” in Luke 12:42 and Matthew 24:45, referring to the staff of servants.  In this case, the passage might be read: “the leaves of the tree were for the service of the nations.”  The chemical ingredients of the rich foliage of the trees might be available for innumerable uses in the economies and industries of the nations of the ages.  Possibly it is the economy of the nations which is to be kept healthy by the leaves of the tree.

     Furthermore, the tree is not rare, but prolific, growing in profusion all over the world.  In the New Jerusalem, it grows along the esplanade in the center of all the golden streets and lines both banks of the cascading river.  Presumably outside the city it grows along the shores of all the multitudes of distributaries of the mighty river as they spread out through all the world.

     The tree of life!  No wonder it has been used through the ages to symbolize so much that is good and wholesome.  This is especially seen in the Book of Proverbs.  “[Wisdom] is a tree of life to them that lay hold on her: and happy is every one that retaineth her” (Proverbs 3:18).  “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30).  “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).  “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4).

     Wisdom, righteousness, happiness, helpfulness, hopefulness, wholesomeness – all brought to mind by the tree of life!  It is not possible for us to comprehend now how such a tree and its fruit and leaves can really be and do all that the Scriptures imply; but God’s promises are true.

     Finally, the necessity to continually partake of the life-giving fruit from the tree and water from the river will be a continual testimony to the people of the new earth that their Creator and Savior is Himself the source of life and breath and all things.  And this knowledge and this requirement will never become a burden but will always remain a joy and a delight.

Revelation 22:3.     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.

     What has been made evident before, and is obvious in the very nature of things, is here rehearsed again, as though such a glorious truth cannot be contained and must burst forth repeatedly in its wonder.  The agelong curse is gone.  There is no more death and no more sin.  The earth and its inhabitants, indeed the entire creation, are henceforth to thrive in fullest vigor forever.  None will ever age, nothing will ever be lost, all work will be productive and enduring.  The entropy law, the so-called second law of thermodynamics, will be repealed.  Information will nevermore become confused, ordered systems will not deteriorate into disorder, and no longer will energy have to be expended merely to overcome friction and dissipation into nonrecoverable heat.  Entropy will from now on be conserved along with energy and mass and momentum.  Though “time” will continue on forever, “time’s arrow” will no longer be directed downward.

     “The throne of God and of the Lamb” has already been mentioned (v. 1) as the source of the mighty river of life.  Now it is noted again, this time as the displacement of the curse.  How could the creation possibly continue under “the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21) when both the divine omnipotence and His redemptive grace are manifested at its very heart?

     What a wonderful revelation also is the final declaration of this verse!  “His servants shall serve him.”  There can be no higher privilege than the service of the King of creation; and in this very service we are thereby His kings and priests, exercising dominion for Him and conveying knowledge about Him throughout His creation.

     Life in this future world will not be merely a life of rest and singing, but rather a life of productivity and teaching.  No doubt, there will also be abundant occasion for fellowship and testimony, for singing and playing harps.  Every redeemed believer will have abundant time to meet and learn to know every other believer.  What a thrill it will be to listen to Noah describe his experiences on the ark, to share the passion and vision of John the Baptist, to hear the testimonies of the martyrs.  Each of us will have his own story to tell, his defeats and victories, and finally his overcoming faith, despite all its weaknesses and failures, redeemed by the Lamb.

     But there is also work to do.  Eternity is before us, and infinity surrounds us.  We shall have an eternity of time to explore and discover the secrets of an infinitely varied and limitless cosmos.  Perhaps each of us will be assigned an entire galaxy to explore and develop for the glory of God.  Then each will share with the others what he has found and what he has accomplished and all will rejoice together.

     Or, perhaps more likely, each will develop and use more fully the particular talents entrusted to Him by the Lord in this world and also have opportunity to learn and develop those skills he desired but could never attain before.  Obviously the nature of our future service for the Lord can only be the object of reverent wonder and speculation now, but we can be sure it will be joyful and satisfying service, whatever it is.

     Space travel will be commonplace, of course, in that day, even though it will always be impossible in any significant degree in this present world.  The nearest star is four light years from the earth and the idea that people could travel from the earth to a star in a space ship operating under the laws of the physical universe is simply a delusion.  With the force systems of the known universe (it is a uni-verse, not a polyverse!) this idea will always be mere science fiction.  The four basic types of forces are known to be the gravitational forces, electromagnetic forces, nuclear forces and “weak” subnuclear forces.  All matter must operate in force fields of gravity and electromagnetic force, and these are such as to render it impossible for sizable bodies of matter to move from one body to another at velocities even remotely approaching the speed of light.  It would certainly take many human generations for a space ship designed under the most advanced technology conceivable ever to travel even from the earth to the very nearest star.

     But these limitations will not apply to spiritual bodies.  They will not be constrained by gravitational or electromagnetic forces but as in the case of angels, can “fly swiftly” (Daniel 9:21).  Our spiritual bodies will be somehow like those of angels (Matthew 22:30) and even like that of Christ’s resurrection body (Philippians 3:21), so that we, like they, can move—not instantaneously, of course, but very rapidly—across the cosmos.  Thus, our future service for the Lord of glory may well include assignments in any part of the vast universe.

     But home will always be in the New Jerusalem, where Christ is.  There also is where the mansions are, which He has prepared for us (John 14:2), and there is where we shall always return. 

Revelation 22:4.     And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.

     It is the Lamb whom we shall serve, and it is the Lamb to whom we shall report concerning that service.  Though He is King of the universe, He will always be accessible to His servants, for He loved them and died to be their Redeemer.  Never will He hide His face from them, nor will they ever fear to enter His presence.  As the Lamb, He has taken away their sin and there is nothing between each soul and the Savior.  Again and again will they “enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise.” (Psalm 100:4).

     And as they go out to “serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2), they will go in His name, clearly identified as His servants with His name in their foreheads.  This may be in the form of the divine seal, as was the case with the 144,000 witnesses during the tribulation (Revelation 7:3), or it may be engraved upon a golden plate suspended from a kingly crown, similar to the mitre and the golden plate described in Exodus 28:38 as “upon Aaron’s forehead,” in his capacity as high priest during the days in the wilderness.  It may be simply in the impartation of the very character and appearance of the Lord, for they will have been “conformed to the image of his Son” and “shall be like him” (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2).  Whatever precise form this identification may take, it will be a high privilege finally to share perfectly “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16) and for this fact to be evidenced by His name on our foreheads forever!  “I will write upon him my new name,” the Lord had promised those who would overcome the world and not deny His name (Revelation 3:8, 10, 12).  His name will thus become our name and we shall be joint-heirs with Him of the whole creation.

Revelation 22:5.     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.

     Still further commentary on the characteristics of life in the New Jerusalem is given by John here, although the same facts had been mentioned previously.  In verses 23 and 25 of the previous chapter, the unceasing light from the city, emanating directly from the Lord Himself, had been noted.  There, however, the viewpoint was from outside the city; here it is inside.

     Those who are in the city will enjoy perpetual sunlight.  Never will there be clouds or storms, and never will there be any darkness.  In our new bodies, we shall presumably have no need for sleep, although there will be ample time and opportunity for rest and leisure activities.  In fact, the very nature of life in that day is called rest.  “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.  For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9, 10).  In stark contrast is the existence of those in the lake of fire: “they have no rest day nor night” (Revelation 14:11).

     Even inside the dwelling places, there will always be ample illumination.  No lamp is needed for inside lighting, even as neither sun nor moon is needed for outside lighting.  The glory of God’s presence (Revelation 21:23) is the light of that new world, and no other light is ever needed there.

     The dwelling places are called “mansions” in John 14:2, a word which is used only one other time in the New Testament, and in the same chapter, when Jesus said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).  Thus, in the New Jerusalem, the Father and the Son will dwell in the very mansion (Greek mone) which has been prepared by the Lord Jesus Christ for each believer.  Not only will God and the Lamb be seated on the glorious throne, but they will also, in some sense, reside in the home of each of their servants.

     Presumably every saint will have his or her own individual mansion.  It would, of course, be impossible for us to live in the same family groupings we have shared in this life.  All of us belong to the families of our respective parents but then we also have established families of our own, and so have our children.  In one sense, it will be recognized by all that everyone in the city belongs to the family of Adam—who will himself also be a resident there as the patriarch of the whole human race.  Mother Eve will be there too, the “mother of all living” (Genesis 3:2), and there will, indeed, be a great family reunion.

     It may be possible that husbands and wives will, in some cases, continue to live together in the same heavenly abode, but this is uncertain.  In answer to the tongue-in-cheek question of the Sadducees about the woman who had been married seven times, the Lord said:  “In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).  There are many different marital situations in this life that would be impracticable to perpetuate in the future life.  Many people have been married more than once, and many have never married at all.  In many cases, one partner in a marriage may have been a believer, with the other dying unsaved.  At various times, in the past, some godly women have been members even of polygamous households.  There are probably at least some instances where Christian men and women have lived together without a marriage ceremony.

     Although the divinely-ordained arrangement has always been that of a permanent union of one husband with one wife (Matthew 19:4-6), there have been so many and varied exceptions to this rule throughout the centuries that it would be impossible to establish a universal continuation in eternity of all the same marriage relationships that have existed on earth.

     On the other hand, it seems at least possible that, in those husband/wife unions which have been established and maintained on earth in accordance with God’s commandment, the Lord may well allow them to continue together in the same union and in the same mansion forever, serving Him in some capacity where such a relationship would be consistent with God’s purposes for their future ministries.  The Lord has blessed the institution of marriage (Genesis 1:29), Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding (John 2:1, 2, 11), and the Lord has even chosen the human marriage relation to be a portrayal of the union of Christ with His own people (Revelation 21:9).  Thus, it may well honor Him to have such an institution perpetuated forever, not for all those who are saved, but for those whose homes can continue to bear this same testimony and to serve Him effectually through this means.  The Scriptures have apparently left this question unanswered in any direct way, however, so dogmatism is impossible.

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