Day 23. Healing River from the Throne of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1-2)

Audio (9:22)

'Throne of God,' stained glass , artist: Betti Pettinati-Longinotti, main window, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, High Point, North Carolina.
'Throne of God,' stained glass , artist: Betti Pettinati-Longinotti, main window, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, High Point, North Carolina.

In Revelation 21, John has described in detail the Holy City, Zion, with its perfect cubic shape, its 12 gates and 12 foundations, and all of its glory. At the beginning of Revelation 22, we have a final paragraph about the Holy City, and then final invitations, warnings and promises, as the book draws to its close.

We see a reference to the Lamb in Revelation 22:1.

"1  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life,
bright as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
2  through the middle of the street of the city;
also, on either side of the river,
the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit,
yielding its fruit each month.
The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (Revelation 22:1-2)

Access to the Tree of Life Restored

John is describing the re-creation of the Garden of Eden and its Tree of Life. Remember when man sinned? God said,

"'Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever,' ... therefore the LORD God ... drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life." (Genesis 3:22-24)

The way to this Tree of Life was barred. But Jesus has opened up the way, and as Revelation 22:2 says, "The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." The Lamb brings eternal life to the nations of the world. Hallelujah!

We could spend more time on the Tree of Life, but I'd like to consider especially, "the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Revelation 22:1)

Zechariah's Vision of Waters Flowing from Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:8)

The Sons of Korah write about this river in a wonderful prophetic psalm.

"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,122
the holy habitation of the Most High." (Psalm 46:4)

Joel sees a similar vision of the Last Days.

"A fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD
and water the Valley of Shittim." (Joel 3:18, ESV)

The NIV translates it, "and water the valley of acacias."

John's vision of the river of life flowing from the throne also echoes apocalyptic visions of some of the late post-exilic prophets. Zechariah writes.

"On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem,
half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea.123
It shall continue in summer as in winter." (Zechariah 14:8)

"Living waters" refers to flowing waters, as opposed to still water that might be held in a cistern. But the phrase also contains the suggestion of "the water of life," that is, life-giving water that we see in our Revelation passage, and observed on Day 10. This won't be just the result of a good rainy season, but will continue both summer and winter, forever!

Ezekiel's Vision of Water Flowing from the Temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12)

Ezekiel describes a vision in the new temple of water flowing from the temple.

"He brought me back to the door of the temple,
and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple."
(Ezekiel 47:1)

The farther away from the temple you go, the deeper it gets -- ankle-deep, then knee-deep, then waist-deep, then deep enough to swim in (verses 2-6). The water flows down to the Dead Sea and makes it alive and full of fish like the Mediterranean (verses 8-10). Then Ezekiel describes the trees next to the river, which sounds a lot like the trees in John's Revelation.

"And on the banks, on both sides of the river,
there will grow all kinds of trees for food.
Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail,
but they will bear fresh fruit every month,
because the water for them flows from the sanctuary.
Their fruit will be for food,
and their leaves for healing." (Ezekiel 47:12)

Healing Leaves (Revelation 22:2)

I love the last line of Revelation 22:2 about the leaves of the fruit tree nourished by the living waters.

"The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (Revelation 22:2d)

Just like in Ezekiel's vision, the leaves of the trees that grow alongside this river of life are for healing. In our day, we often rely on pills to relieve our ailments, but from ancient times special leaves were used in a poultice to relieve soreness and inflammation, kept in place with a cloth. The leaves of this tree, nourished by the living water from the throne, are used to heal the nations.

As I write this, our world is self-isolating while the COVID-19 virus decimates our cities. We have no medicines or vaccines to protect us at present, only isolation. How we need healing! But the healing our world needs -- even more than physical healing -- is the healing of our souls. There's an African-American spiritual that draws from Jeremiah 8:22.

"There is a balm124 in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul."

Heal the nations, O Lord, I pray! Bring them to the feet of the Lamb and heal them!

Rivers of Living Water from Our Hearts (John 7:37b-38)

If you recall, Jesus uses this figure of "rivers of living water" to describe the Holy Spirit that will be given to all his disciples.

"Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:38)

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My friend, you have within you the life-giving Spirit of God, an immense power only limited by your faith. Look to God to release its flow to the people around you. Back in the days of the Jesus Movement, we used to sing a chorus that expresses this healing flow:

"I've got a river of life flowing out of me,
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see,
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free.
I've got a river of life flowing out of me.
     Spring up, O well, within my soul.
     Spring up, O well, and make me whole.
     Spring up, O well, and give to me
     That life abundantly."125

This experience of the life-giving power of the Spirit is ours now, an earnest, a guarantee of the fullness that will come when we are in God's very presence (Ephesians 1:14). Claim it for yourself now! And let this healing flow from the throne of the Lamb bring healing to those around you.


Father, thank you for your healing waters that flow within us, straight from the throne of the Lamb! Thank you for your Holy Spirit. Soothe us, we pray, quench our thirst, and then let your river flow out of us to heal your hurting world. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Day 23 Meditation (Revelation 22:1-2). What is the significance of the source of this healing stream? In what ways can "living waters" flow through you to bring healing to others?


(References and Abbreviations)

[122] "River" in the first line is nāhār, "river, stream," from nāhar, to flow, stream." It is used especially of torrents of water in the Psalms, and of the great rivers -- the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers (R. Laird Harris, TWOT #1315a). "Streams" is peleg, "channel, (artificial) canal," here "irrigating canals from river, metaphorically" (from pālag, "split, divide") (BDB 881).

[123] The eastern sea is probably the Dead Sea -- which won't be dead when this happens. The western sea is the Mediterranean Sea.

[124] "Balm" in Jeremiah 8:22 is ṣārî, "a kind of balsam" (TWOT 1967a). It is an aromatic resin that found widespread therapeutic usage in the ancient Near East (Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11; 51:8; R. K. Harrison, "Balm," ISBE 1:406).

[125] "There's a River of Life," by Betty Carr Pulkingham (1928-2019) and L. Casebolt, Kaitlyn Scott, ©1971, 1975, Celebration.

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