Revelation 22: Eternity... And the River & Tree of Life

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Bible Study Series: Revealing Jesus in Revelation

Revelation Chapter 22: Eternity... And the River & Tree of Life! 

by I Gordon

Well, we made it. No, not heaven just yet. Believe me, that will be saying 'we made it!' on a whole different, out-of-this-world, scale! So, granted, the celebrations today are somewhat subdued in comparison, but we have made it in our series to the last chapter of Revelation. Thirty three messages down, two to go! This study will be from Revelation 22:1-11 and we will see some things here that were last seen in the opening chapters of the Bible.  So what will we focus on? We'll see...

  • The river of life mentioned flowing from the throne of God. Have we seen this before and what is the spiritual takeaway for today?
  • The tree of life makes a long awaited return! What three trees does the biblical story revolve around?
  • The glorious eternal state is described. What is the 7-fold state of perfection given in this chapter?  
  • And what would the angel showing John all these things want us to know for the here and now?

Let's start by diving in to the river of life!

The Life-giving River of Life

Rev 22:1-2 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb (2) down the middle of the great street of the city. 

In the last chapter we were given an amazing glimpse into the New Jerusalem. We saw that it descends out of heaven, giving light to the new earth. We saw that it was made from all sorts of precious stones, gold and pearls, and that the glory of God floods and shines through the entire city. So far everything has been incredibly beautiful, but what about the vegetation? What about some greenery? Oh it's got that too! There is a river of life flowing through this city that is as pure as a river has ever been! Now all rivers need to have a source and this normally begins with the melting glaciers and snow high in a mountain range. So what about this river... what is its source? In a word, God! This river comes directly from the throne of God and the Lamb! Do you think this is going to be a very special river? Yeah, you should! Just as there was a river that flowed out of Eden and watered the ground, so I believe this will be a literal river... but its life giving pure properties are unlike anything we have ever experienced on this planet! This is spiritual living water!

The Old Testament Background

Now there is Old Testament background verses that speak of a spiritual river even in the Messianic Kingdom age:

Zec 14:8 And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter.

Joe 3:17-18 Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her. (18) In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD's house and will water the valley of acacias.

Psa 46:4-10 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. (5) God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. (6) Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. (7) The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah (8) Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. (9) He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. (10) Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

The scriptures speak of living waters' coming from Jerusalem. 'A fountain flowing from the Lord's house'. 'A river whose streams will make glad the city of God'. Jerusalem hasn't ever had the river that is described in these passages. The Gihon Spring is currently the only water source for the city. But it will.... a glorious life giving river.  And it will all come about when the Lord Himself dwells and reigns from that city.

And of course there is a spiritual reality of this prophetic passage in the day in which we live. Water is obviously essential for the human body, Wilderness guides often go by the 'rule of 3' for the average person - That is a person can only go 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food and 3 hours without chocolate. Ok, one of those may be a personal addition and estimate. But the normal person can only go 3 days without water. It makes the grumbling of the children of Israel more relevant when you read 'they went three days in the wilderness and found no water.' (Ex 15:22). Now mankind's physical need for water points to our spiritual need for the Holy Spirit and you may remember someone who once said:

Joh 7:37-39 ..."If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. (38) "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" (39) But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

So God has given this great glimpse of what is to come for the believer, which we should rejoice and hope in. But also don't forget the living water for today, thanking God for His Spirit and life that He has given believers.

The Return of the Tree of Life

Rev 22:2 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.

So not only do we have the river of life, but the tree of life makes a long hoped for return as well! You will remember this tree from the garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were to eat from it but instead were deceived (and disobeyed) and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Thus, as I have written before, we could say that the entire Bible story revolves around three trees:

  1. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil - from which mankind ate, deciding that we can call the shots without the Lord and 'be like God' ourselves. Eating for this tree was the source of all our problems!
  2. The tree of life - which restores eternal spiritual life to the individual who eats from it. This tree provides the solution to our need.
  3. The tree of Golgotha - this is the cross. As scripture says 'Cursed is everyone hung on a tree' and thus Jesus became that curse for us so that we may eat, spiritually speaking (and literally in the future) of the tree of life once again! This tree provided the way to the solution, the way back to God who is life, for those wanting to partake from it! 
Our need of spiritual nourishment

Now look at  what it says about the tree of life: it bears twelve kinds of fruit and it bears fruit each month!1 This might possibly appeal to my taste buds for some would say I like fruit. I'm not sure where they get this from but down the backyard of my house I currently have blueberries, guavas, mulberries, avocados, feijoas, apples, persimmons, mandarins, oranges, lemons, plums and ugli-fruit. Excessive? Maybe, but definitely tasty! But what I don't have is a tree that yields different types of fruit and does so every month of the year! I'll keep an eye out in the garden center but I haven't seen a 'tree of life' advertised so far! And I don't think I will because trees need time to recover after producing their crop2. Some of these fruits are only available for a few weeks and then the tree goes into rest and recovery mode! But not so the tree of life. Why? Because it is fed and nourished constantly by the river of life and we saw what the source of that is... the throne of God! This picture also points to the spiritual reality and our need to be constantly sustained by the Lord Jesus. It reminds us of a couple of well known scriptures in the Old Testament:

Isa 40:28-31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. (29) He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. (30) Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; (31) but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Psa 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. (2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (3) He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

So where are your roots? What are you feeding on today? If it is in God's word and His Spirit you will be tapped into the source of spiritual life that flows from God and you will be fruitful.

Who are the nations and why do they need healing?

Now there are a couple of tricky thoughts in this verse that I'll raise3. It says that 'the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations'. So who are the nations in the eternal state? And as there is no sickness in this eternal state (Rev 21:4), why do they need healing? While not being dogmatic (as scripture doesn't spell it out), here are some thoughts:

The nations -The nations could speak of those that didn't join Satan in his final rebellion and deception at the end of the Kingdom age (Rev 20:7-10) and are allowed to live on in the new earth. The Bible doesn't speak of their resurrection (though they would be given a new body for the eternal state). It is possible that they are sustained perpetually by feeding on the tree of life. An alternative thought is that the word translated 'nations' simply means 'gentiles' or 'peoples' and it simply speaks of the peoples that have come from various nations and now live in the New Jerusalem.      

The healing - The leaves of the tree of life are said to be for the healing of the nations (or 'peoples'). Bible Prophecy scholar John Walvoord writes well on this stating:

The word for “healing” is therapeian, from which the English word therapeutic is derived, almost directly transliterated from the Greek. Rather than specifically meaning “healing,” it should be understood as “health-giving,” as the word in its root meaning has the idea of serving or ministering. In other words, the leaves of the tree promote the enjoyment of life in the new Jerusalem, and are not for correcting ills which do not exist. This, of course, is confirmed by the fact that there is no more curse as indicated in verse 3.
John Walvoord,  The Revelation of Jesus Christ

The Perfection of the Eternal State

Rev 22:3-5 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. (4) They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (5) There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

I like these verses because they give a 7-fold state of perfection: 

Perfection in the Eternal State
  1. There is no curse - perfect environment and holiness - there will be nothing to tempt or cause harm ever again.
  2. God and the Lamb will dwell in the city - perfect fellowship and communion - there will be no separation between God and His people ever again.
  3. We will serve Him - with perfect service (finally) and joy! - there will be no boredom, lack of motivation or weakness in serving God ever again.
  4. We will see His face - perfect intimacy and closeness - there is no veil, sacrifices, or restrictions on the presence of God ever again. 
  5. His name is on our foreheads - perfect identity and ownership - there will be no doubts or lack of belonging ever again.
  6. There will be no night or sun for the Lord is the light - perfect holiness, manifestation and understanding - there will be no hiding of God's glory ever again.
  7. We will reign forever and ever - perfect inheritance and perfect rulership - there will be no end to our reign with Christ as this new story begins!

So which of those pushes your buttons? Yeah ok... all of them! But which do you long for the most? To me the most amazing one is that we will see His face. I just can't imagine coming before my Savior and seeing Him face to face. Especially with a face that shines like the sun! But just looking into the eyes of the One who gave up everything so that I could inherit all, will be crazy. And I know at the start I'll simply be bowed down, looking at His feet before ever thinking of looking at His face!  Concerning seeing His face Charles Spurgeon writes:

By which I understand two things: first, that they shall literally and physically, with their risen bodies, actually look into the face of Jesus; and secondly, that spiritually their mental faculties shall be enlarged, so that they shall be enabled to look into the very heart, and soul, and character of Christ, so as to understand him, his work, his love, his all in all, as they never understood him before."
Charles Spurgeon

I like both of those but especially the second thought. We will look into the heart and character of Christ and understand, like never before, what He did to fulfill a plan agreed to before the foundation of the world!

Now you may recall that the curse was said to be removed in the Kingdom age for Zech 14 states: 'And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one... and there will no longer be a curse, for Jerusalem will dwell in security.' (Zec 14:9,11) But there is still sin in the Kingdom age for the 'sheep' amongst the nations will be allowed to enter into the Kingdom and live in their natural fallen bodies. But in the eternal state all sin is gone, forever. Thus when it says here that there is no more curse it means that there will be no sin, no ungodliness, no cause for any judgment... only perfection for then on eternally. It is about now, with the thought of eternal holiness and joy in your mind, that I can see your brain starting to overheat and smoke seeping out of your ears. And mine too! Eternity is a difficult thought to grasp. In fact we can't. But we like it! And believe it. And hope in it for it is true.   

Think also on the fact that in eternity there is no night. Some of us like a good snooze but that is only because we get tired. But God doesn't get tired and He doesn't sleep. And neither shall we. Now if the thought of having no sleep is already making you feel sleepy... well, remember that believers will have a body that does not wear out, does not get dozy at the end of the day, does not have eyelids that slowly start to grow heavy and slip down in the evening hours... or anything of the like! It will be an eternal day with the light of God illuminating heaven and earth and the energy of God sustaining all believers. This is all coming saints!

Words that can be trusted!

Rev 22:6-9 The angel said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place." (7) Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book. (8) I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. (9) But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!"

Now in view of all that John has just been shown, it is interesting to note the reaction right now of both the angel showing John these things, and John himself.

  • The Angel - He says 'these words are faithful and true!' Such was the glory and scope of this vision of the new heaven and the new earth, that the angel needed to say it again - This is all true. This is all trustworthy. This is your future. We need that reminder. Maybe the bills are stacking up; maybe your health is failing; maybe you are struggling with the evil day in which we live; Maybe you are struggling with loneliness or are watching people prosper while feeling overlooked. Whatever it is, we need to look up again and remember that these words of what is coming for the believer in Christ are faithful and true. And they will soon take place. This is not story time. These are the words of God.
  • The Apostle John - He reacts to what he has seen by falling down at the feet of the angel to worship him! Oooops! No doubt John was overwhelmed by what he had seen but this is not the first time he had done this! You may remember that in Rev 19:10, when John saw the bride of Christ and the wedding of the Lamb, he was overcome and fell down to worship the angel at that time. That was met with a pretty swift 'do not do that! Get on your feet! I am a fellow servant so worship God alone!' So poor old John... overcome with this vision he has gone and done it again and is met with the same 'do not do that' message!4 But I like what the angel says here - 'I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!' - It is a cool thought that whether it is church age believers like you and me, or Old Testament prophets, or angels performing their unseen duties for the Lord throughout all ages... we are all on the same team and are all servants of God, who alone is worthy of praise and worship. 
Keeping the words of this book
Note also that the angel speaks of God's people as those that 'keep the words of this book'. This is similar to Jesus' words just earlier in verse 7 where He says "Behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book." (Rev 22:7)

So how do you keep or heed the words of the prophecy in this book? What are we to do?

  • Firstly start by reading the book of Revelation, as we have been doing, for there is a specific blessing in reading its words (Rev 1:3)
  • Secondly set your mind on the eternal matters that Revelation deals with. For in doing so you will be fulfilling the command to set your mind on the things above! (Col 3:2)
  • Thirdly live in the light, hope and expectation of Jesus coming and allow that to be a motivation in making the most of the time you have, making choices that live on into eternity.
  • Fourthly, allow the thought of Jesus' soon return to result in personal purity as John commands in his epistle where he states: 1Jn 3:2-3 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. (3) And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

Now you will note that Jesus also speaks in verse 7 to declare that He is coming quickly. This is actually repeated three times in this one chapter by the Lord so it must be important. In fact, it is important enough to be the focus on our next, and last message, in this series. So I'll save the points for then!  

In view of the end... remember Revelation!

Rev 22:10 And he *said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 

Now the angel has finished speaking to John and instructs him to not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. So what exactly does this mean? 

Why is Revelation 'unsealed'?

You may remember that Daniel was told the opposite. He was told that the words of his prophetic book would be sealed up until the time of the end:

Dan 12:9 He said, "Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time

The thought of sealing up a book means to postpone its disclosure. Many of the prophetic events of Daniel await the end time and specifically the Tribulation period. While there has been tremendous blessing and revelation from this book in recent years, it will be all the more during the Tribulation period where 'many will go back and forth (through the prophetic scriptures), and knowledge will increase.' So why is Revelation unsealed?

  • Revelation is unsealed because it contains important information for the seven churches throughout church history. So while we believe that the vast majority of the book speaks of future events, it was written in such a way that each generation has been able to apply it to their own day. So, for example, the coming 'beast' was often seen as a Roman emperor or the Papacy at different times in church history. And those being persecuted could gain courage and hope for what awaited them in heaven as they endured that persecution and sometimes matrydom.  
  • Revelation is unsealed because it specifically emphasizes the Lord's return and this has always been 'imminent'. So unlike the book of Daniel that had prophecies 'sealed up until the end time' Revelation says that 'today could be the day'. Or, as the angel said, 'do not seal up the words for the time is near'. Thus, it allowed each generation, going right back to the first century when it was written, to live with the hope and expectation of seeing the Lord's return. And if past generations believed this, how much more should we now that we live in an age that has seen the nation of Israel return to their land and can see the nations turn against them as prophecy foretold?
  • Revelation is unsealed because it was to be actively read and promoted amongst the churches, as stated in the blessing in Revelation 1:3 for those that hear and heed its words. So how sad it is that so many churches don't do this! Despite this command and blessing of God, many have sealed Revelation. It is ignored, actively avoided, or spiritualized away into nonsense in many churches today. "We don't want to be too controversial now do we?" But it was not meant to be this way. It was given to grant great hope for the believers for the Lord's coming and the glories that are to follow.

Now the last verse in this passage that we will focus on today is verse 11 and it is, on the surface at least, well, a little odd.    

A final warning and exhortation!

Rev 22:11 "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."

Now at face value, this verse sounds a little odd. Why? Because you would think that it would say 'let him who does wrong, repent and believe.' 'Let the one who is filthy, wash his clothes in the blood of the Lamb.' But no... it says let the one who does wrong still do wrong and the one who is filthy still be filthy. What is the thought here? It is a warning given to those that are reading or hearing the words of this prophecy that if you have got to this point and are still doing filthy and doing wrong, then nothing will change them. The quote Walvoord again on this:

In effect, he advocates status quo for both the wicked and the righteous. By this he does not mean that men should remain unmoved by the prophecies of this book, but rather that if the prophecies are rejected, there is no other message that will work. If the warnings of the book are not sufficient, there is no more that God has to say. The wicked must continue in their wicked way and be judged by the Lord when He comes.   

One of the scary things we have seen during this series in Revelation are the times when there was a clear judgment of God and instead of humbling themselves and crying out for salvation, the wicked have cursed God and shaken their fist at Him (Rev 9:20-21, Rev 16:9-11). The reality is exactly as the Bible has always declared - that apart from the miraculous saving work of God, 'the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?' (Jer 17:9). Thus, this is God's final word to mankind and if mankind constantly hardens their heart towards God, despite having heard these warnings, then God hardens them in their decision (as He did Pharaoh before judging Egypt at the time of the Exodus) and says continue in your wrong and filthy ways. 

The Great Separation
In contrast, look at God's word to the righteous: 'let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.' That is, let the wicked be wicked and the righteous, righteous. God desires that there is a clear division and separation between the two! We find ourselves in a point of church history that is often characterized, at least in the West, by the last message to the Church of Laodicea. And as we saw in the study on that church, it was and is a worldly church. In other words, it looks a lot like the world and desires similar things to the world. 
Yet God desires that there is a great separation in this age and for what is to come. There should be a clear division between the world and the people of God... a clear division between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. A worldly church is like the trumpet that gives an unclear sound causing confusion amongst it hearers and is of no use to the wicked or the righteous. It doesn't draw or convict the world for they have already been into worldliness all their live. And it isn't of any use to the true sheep, for they want to grow close to God and desire what He desires. So who does it attract? Goats. As Charles Spurgeon said 'A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats!' 


So, what have we seen? 

  • We have seen the purest of all rivers will be seen and experienced in the eternal state for the river of life shall flow with life giving living water, right from the throne of God itself! 
  • We have seen that believers shall eat of the fruit that is produced every month from the tree of life. Yes! The tree last seen in the garden of Eden is set to make a comeback and it is fair to say that you may see me sitting under that tree, eating. And if there is a job going to serve as the tree of life fruit tester, I will be putting my hand up for that one! 
  • We have also seen the perfection of this eternal state... no curse, no separation from God, no night or darkness (in any form that that comes!) but instead there will be face to face contact with Jesus and the light of God illuminating everything in the universe as we serve and reign with Christ! As I have said before, bring it on!
  • And we have heard the angel stating, for those that are thinking that this all sounds like a fictional story or fairy tale, that 'these words are faithful and true.' And the angel certainly knows what he is talking about for He brought these prophecies directly from the One who is true and cannot lie! 

So, in view of all these things, draw near to God believer. In view of all these things, thank Him for who is and what He has planned. Let the wicked be wicked, but let the righteous be righteous.  And may there be a clear division and separation between the two! May it be clear on whose side you are on!

God bless.


  1. The Old Testament background to the tree of life in this passage is Eze 47:1,9,12: The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar... where the river flows everything will live... Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing."

    But note again that this is a Messianic Kingdom passage. So there will be healing and life coming from Jerusalem in that day as Jesus reigns. And those that go up to Jerusalem will find healing and well-being. But it is on another level again during the eternal state.

  2. Although I did read about the Noni tree. The what? The Noni tree. Here is what I read (and I have no idea if it tastes at all good but I just found it interesting that it fruits all year): 'The Noni tree, known scientifically as Morinda citrifolia grows in shady forests, as well as on open rocky or sandy shores of rivers. It matures in about 18 months, and begins to bear between 4 and 8 kg of fruits every month. "The amazing thing about this tree, it fruits all year round even in the dry season " 

  3. The description of where the tree of life is has caused confusion. The tricky part is that it is said to be on both sides of the river leading some to believe it is a series of trees. Bible prophecy scholar John Walvoord leans towards a single tree writing:

    Verse 2,  because of its somewhat obscure presentation, has caused some difficulty to expositors. The verse declares that the tree of life is in the midst of the street and at the same time on either side of the river. The street mentioned is clearly the street of the city... The visual picture presented is that the river of life flows down through the middle of the city, and the tree is large enough to span the river, so that the river is in the midst of the street, and the tree is on both sides of the river. It would appear that the pure river of the water of life is not a broad body but a clear stream sufficiently narrow to allow for this arrangement.  
    John Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ

    In contrast, Charles Spurgeon wrote:

    "The picture presented to the mind's eye would appear to be that of a wide street, with a river flowing down the center, like some of the broader canals of Holland, with trees growing on either side, all of them of the same kind, all called the tree of life. I do not know how we can make the figure out in any other way." 
    Charles Spurgeon

    What do I think? I believe there will be a single Tree of Life as it is always presented in scripture in the singular. But, to be honest, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that you and I are there to enjoy the tree... or trees!

  4. An application of this verse and thought, concerning who we can and cannot worship, can be seen in these two useful quotes: 

    No created being should ever be worshipped. This is in contrast with Jesus, who receives the worship of angels (Heb 1:6) and of men (Mat 8:2, 14:33, Joh 9:38).
    David Guzik

    If it was wrong to worship this glorious heavenly messenger, in and through whom came forth the very voice of Jesus, how can it be right to worship and pray to the Virgin Mary, to whom is assigned no such dignity or office? The impulse and intention may be devout and good; but it is a great mistake."
    Joseph Seiss

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