No More Curse

Posted: May 22, 2011 in Revelation

Revelation 22:1-7, “No More Curse”

Have you ever heard a story that sounded too good to be true?  Our news is filled with them – most recently from the false prophet Harold Camping!  (According to him, the rapture was supposed to be yesterday at 6pm & the end of the world was to follow in October.)  Although the Bible is extremely clear that we’re not supposed to attempt to set a date for the rapture (Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know…”) – the intent behind it is actually understandable.  After all, who wouldn’t want to know the exact date that Jesus will call us home?

The fact is that we don’t know & we won’t know.  Those who claim to have special insight as to a date are handing out stories too good to be true…and sadly, they actually turn people away from the truth as they turn the glorious gospel of grace into a false prophecy of disillusionment.  Yet the reality is that there is a story about the end-days that might seem too good to be true, but it really IS true – and that’s the story of the Bible!  Jesus really IS coming back – and He really IS coming quickly – and the redeemed earth that He promises really IS that good, completely free from the curse of sin!

John had written earlier about a new heaven & new earth, because the former heavens & earth had passed away.  We’ve already seen a description of part of this, as John looked at the city of New Jerusalem – the dwelling place of the Bride of Christ (us!).  It was amazing (built upon the promises of God) & it was holy (indwelt by the very glory of God).  So that’s part of the new heavens & new earth – but what about the rest of it?  Obviously we will have an eternity to explore, but John did get a bit of insight as to what the rest of the new creation will be like – which is described for us in the opening verses of Ch 22.  What we see is a creation that is absolutely perfect – restored to what God had originally created, yet even better than what God had created.  This is a land not untouched by the curse, but absolutely redeemed from the curse – never to be cursed again because there will never be a need.

Revelation 22:1–7 (NKJV)
1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

  1. John had introduced this river already (Ch 21:6).  Jesus had alluded to this several times in His ministry: The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:13-14)… Jesus will give rivers (torrents) of living water (John 7:37-38)…  The idea is plain: those who are thirsty for life will be satisfied only by Jesus who gives life.  The symbolism portrayed through the Holy Spirit comes to completion in eternity with this river of life.
  2. Note what’s being described here is not a symbolic river; it’s a real river.  The only reason to question its reality is if someone has a predisposed theological reason to doubt its existence.  The Biblical text is plain:
    1. We know the water’s quality: it’s “pure…clear as crystal”.  Not only is it free from any physical impurities, most importantly it’s free of any taint of sin.  This is water as how it was meant to be – clean & pure.
    2. We know the water’s essence: it’s the “water of life”.  Life (as we know it today) could not exist without water.  Our bodies are made up of 75% water as infants & decrease gradually over time (up to 45% of water).  The water of this river actually contains the abundant life that Jesus promised.  Better than any water on earth; this is the water given from God.
    3. We know the water’s origin: “proceeding from the throne of God & of the Lamb”.  This river doesn’t come up from a spring; it comes from God.  The water isn’t special because of the water; it’s special because of its source: God.
      1. Keep in mind that Jesus is the only one who can give this water.  If you want to drink of the river of life, you can’t go through Mohammed or Buddha or philosophy or any other source – you must go through Jesus Christ! (John 14:6)
  3. This is the 1st of several parallels we’ll see back to the creation account in Genesis.  When looking to the original Garden of Eden, we find a river there as well. Genesis 2:10–14  “(10) Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. (11) The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. (12) And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. (13) The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. (14) The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.” []  Of course those were real rivers – some of which we know, others of which cannot be indentified (probably lost in the flood).  Just as there was a real river in the Garden of Eden (that became multiple rivers), there will be a real river in the New Jerusalem – the new earth.
    1. This is a redeemed river, for a redeemed people!  Why a river?  Perhaps because we’re rooted in God, just as Psalm 1 proclaims: Psalm 1:1–3 “(1) Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; (2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. (3) He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.” []  A river speaks of nourishment & refreshment (imagine cool clean water on a hot & dry day) – we will be forever fully nourished by God.  We will not lack for any necessity.
  4. FYI – note the singular throne.  The river proceeds from the (singular) “throne of God and of the Lamb.”  There’s only one throne because there’s only one God.  Yet our one God is revealed in both God the Father & God the Son.  Jesus IS God.

2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

  1. Not only is there a river, but there is a tree.  Again, hearkening back to Genesis… Genesis 2:8–9 “(8) The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. (9) And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” []  The difference here is that there’s no mention of a tree of the knowledge of good & evil.  Mankind has already tasted of that tree & it is not necessary.  That was the temptation that caused the fall & no longer is that temptation no longer present, it’s no longer a temptation.  Any temptation of knowledge that Adam had will be removed because our knowledge of God will be complete.  The thirst for knowledge isn’t wrong; it was taking the knowledge for himself outside of the command of God (centered in man’s pride).  Yet in heaven, that will no longer be an issue.  In Christ, we know things in part – but in heaven, we will know even as we are known. (1 Cor 13:12)
  2. Apparently, this tree will be huge & arch over the river of life (it’s on “either side of the river”) – definitely big enough to call attention to itself.  From the Biblical description, it seems that its large size is to bear enough fruit for all to partake & bear enough leaves for the nations to be healed.  Some scholars think that the singular “tree” could actually refer to a group (grove) of trees on either side of the river.  Whatever the case, there is enough of this tree to share among all of the people of God.
  3. Although most fruit-bearing trees are seasonal – this tree bears fruit perpetually, every month.  Although the text doesn’t specifically say, there’s an implication here pointing to everlasting life.  There will always be fruit from which we can partake – we will never be barred from it as Adam & Eve were (Gen 3:24).  
  4. Why would the leaves be needed for healing the nations? “Nations” = ἐθνῶν (~ethnic) – often a term used for “Gentiles” or simply, “peoples.”  All who dwell in eternity will be able to find their healing in the leaves of the tree.  Yet the question remains: in an existence where there is no sorrow, death, or pain (Rev 21:4), why would we need healing at all?  There are two kinds of health care: corrective & preventative.  Corrective is to put a cast on a leg that’s been broken; preventative is to strengthen the leg to where it will never break.  The preventative idea is more what’s implied here.  (Walvoord) “The word for “healing” is (θεραπεία) 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.”  It’s more than never getting sick; it’s being strengthened to a point where sickness is never a possibility.  It’s more than being comforted when grieved; it’s experiencing the grace of God in such a way where grief is completely alien.  Truly this is a tree from which we ought to be anxious to eat!
  5. Interestingly enough, Jesus had once cursed a tree (the fig tree, representing Israel) & He hung on a tree that was called “accursed” (the cross).  This tree is just the opposite.  This is a tree of blessing that will always bear fruit.

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.

  1. Hallelujah, the curse is gone!  Question: “Umm…so what was the curse?” J  Back to Genesis… [BIBLE: Genesis 3:14-19]  The serpent was cursed (showing the prophecy of the Messiah) – the woman was cursed (giving her pain in childbirth & a subordinate role to her husband) – the man was cursed (making him labor over the land & determining that he would die).  Beyond the land & Adam’s single death, the full effect of the curse is found in Romans – Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— ” []  Romans 5 goes on to explain how just as sin & death spread to all men through one man, so is grace & forgiveness available to all men through one Man – the Man Christ Jesus.  The serpent (Satan) will remain cursed for all time as he suffers in Hell – but the effects of the curse given to Adam & his wife are redeemed through the Last Adam, the Lord Jesus.
  2. In Christ, because of the work of the cross & the resurrection, the curse is absolutely undone!  That’s true spiritually in the present for every single person who has trusted Jesus as Savior & Lord (immediately upon our justification…) – but it will be true to the fullest extent in eternity.  Today, we live as spiritually redeemed people in a physically corrupted environment.  In eternity, everything will be physically redeemed & perfect as well.
    1. Just imagine what this means!  No more sin – no more temptation – no more sickness – no more death – no more natural disasters – no more freak accidents – no more of any of the trials & tribulations of this life.  Today creation groans; tomorrow it will groan no more!  Today we fight against the struggles of our fallen flesh; in eternity our flesh will be fallen no more.  We will abide in glorified bodies in a glorified heaven & earth…
  3. What is one of the results of the curse being removed?  The throne of God & the Lamb can reside here again.  In the Garden of Eden, man enjoyed direct unfettered relationship with his Creator as Adam was able to walk & converse with God in the cool of the day.  Sin caused an irreparable rift – man was removed from the Garden & God no longer resided there.  Yet in eternity, all of that is undone – as the loud voice from Ch 21 said. [Rev 21:3, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.”]  We will DWELL with Him – God will DWELL with us…amazing!
    1. It’s difficult to truly understand the blessing here until we understand how rare of a privilege it is.  God had blessed Moses in an incredible way in that God described their own relationship in terms of friendship – speaking to one another face-to-face (Exo 33:11).  Yet even then, Moses could not gaze upon the full unveiled glory of God.  No one could look upon that & yet live (Exo 33:20).  In Jesus Christ, the disciples got the barest glimpse of what this would be as they heard Him with their own ears, saw Him with their own eyes, & handled him with their own hands (1 Jn 1:1).  Even then they only saw the glorified Jesus in but an instant during the Transfiguration (Mt 17:2).  To physically see & physically dwell with the fully glorified God is a most rare occurrence.  And yet that is EXACTLY what each person who has been born of the Holy Spirit (a Christian) will experience EVERY day for all ETERNITY!  Amazing!
  4. What will we do in eternity?  Serve God.  We mentioned this briefly last week…  Heaven is not an eternal lazy retirement plan in which we kick back on clouds of La-Z-Boy chairs & dream ourselves into everlasting boredom.  There will be NOTHING boring about eternity!  We will be serving God in glorious fulfilling work & ministry.

4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.

  1. Again, the reiteration of the result of God dwelling among us.  We “shall see His face.
  2. Not only will we see God, but we will have His mark of ownership upon us. Just as Jesus had a name no one knew written on His head at His 2nd coming, so will we have the name of God written upon our foreheads in eternity.  Even today we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. (2 Cor 1:22, Eph 1:13)  Even today we are known by the name of Christ…  In eternity, those spiritual realities will have a physical fulfillment with the name of God being written on our foreheads.
  3. Interesting contrast with the Tribulation.  During the Great Tribulation, the 144K of Israel were sealed by God (Rev 7:3) – the masses of the hordes of Antichrist had to take the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16)…all of this signified ownership/loyalty during days in which ownership meant life or death.  Yet in eternity, we’re still marked with ownership.  This time, it’s not in opposition to any enemy; it’s simply the mark that we forever belong to God. Understand that in eternity, it’s not as if we’ll belong to God for a time only to be tempted away by some other being (as Satan did with Adam in the garden).  Instead, we’ll forever have the mark of ownership by God – we’ll forever belong to Him with no chance ever of falling away from His loving hand!

5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

  1. Ch 21 already mentioned that the sun & moon were no longer needed to shine in the New Jerusalem because the glory of God illuminated the city…  Here, the emphasis isn’t totally on the glory of God (though it’s certainly implied!), but rather the result of the brightness of His glory has upon the people of God.  Notice it’s not so much that the sun is not there, but that the sun is not needed.  We will “need no lamp nor light of the sun.”  God will give us all the light that is ever needed.
  2. There is a spiritual aspect of this that is absolutely true today.  So often, people attempt to find “enlightenment” in all different sources.  They look to drugs or philosophy or intellectualism…  They look to false religion or ritualistic practices – all in hopes of finding some sort of light.  It’s simply not there.  The only source of true light is the light of the world.  Writing about Jesus, John wrote in his prelude to the gospel account – [BIBLE: John 1:4-9]
    1. Outside of Jesus Christ, everything else will always fall short!  Of all people in the world, Christians should know this.  Yet how often do we find ourselves attempting to add to the light offered by the Lord Jesus?  “Sure I read the Bible about the rapture, but I also need to look for these codes that take me to the exact date…” “I know what the Bible says about prayer, but I also want to add ‘the law of attraction’ to it.  Oprah said it was ok…”  “I know what the Bible says about marriage, but surely Dr. Phil can understand my individual situation better…”  Don’t be fooled.  JESUS is the light of the world – Jesus alone.
    2. Question: “So how do I know what outside sources to trust?  Surely it’s ok to read other books?”  Sure, it’s ok.  But the primary question for you to ask is this: is the author upholding the truth of Scripture, or replacing it?  Is this teaching submitted to Jesus, or supplanting Him?  If in the author’s opinion, Christ is not sufficient, then that’s a great indication that the author is not worth reading.  Why?  Because Jesus is the light of the world.  God is the one who gives us light.
  3. Notice that we don’t only serve; we reign.  “And they shall reign forever and ever.”  Typically we hear those words & might think of Handel’s Messiah regarding Jesus Christ – “And He shall reign forever and ever” (c.f., Rev 11:15).  Yet as much as that is true about our Lord & Savior, it is also true about us.  Because we are in Christ (Eph 2) & because we have been given the right to become the children of God (Jn 1:12), then we are blessed to be His joint-heirs (Rom 8:17) – and that carries with it all the privileges it implies.  As Jesus reigns through eternity, His people will reign with Him.
    1. Question: “Reign over what?  At this point we’re all one people & there is no more enemy.”  Great question – and it’s one that the Bible leaves a bit unclear.  Perhaps it’s a reference to reigning over stars & galaxies – perhaps a reference to reigning over angels (we know we will judge them – 1 Cor 6:3).  There’s much we could speculate & imagine.  At the end of the day, this is something that the Bible leaves unanswered.  Which is just as well – the knowledge of it would probably blow our minds anyway.
    2. Can you comprehend the fact that throughout eternity you will be reigning with Christ?  It’s completely amazing that God would choose to save any of us, despite our rebellious warring ways.  It’s doubly amazing that God would give us the spirit of adoption & bring us into His family.  It’s completely incomprehensible that God would go beyond that and entrust us with the responsibility of government & stewardship.  Some of us can barely be entrusted with what little God has allowed us to have in this life (we so often squander what we’ve been given!)…yet we will be reigning with God?!  There’s an incredible contrast here with vs. 3: In verse 3 we serve God as slaves; in vs 5 we reign with God as kings.  Oh the amazing grace and empowerment of our Lord Jesus Christ!

6 Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.

  1. As the visions wrap up, John receives a wonderful affirmation: it’s all true.  This wasn’t the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy wakes up to the realization that everything she saw was just a dream; on the contrary – everything John witnessed was true.  All the words that he received from the Lord were “faithful and true.
    1. Keep in mind that ALL the words of God are “faithful and true!”  Every word that is recorded for us in the pages of Scripture is faithful & true – we can trust our lives upon it!
  2. The same God who gave visions to the prophets of old (Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc.) is the God who gave these visions to John.  “Holy prophets” is better translated “spirits of the prophets” – meaning that God ruled over their words & visions because He inspired the words that they wrote. All these words are true because they carry with them the authority of Almighty God Himself.
  3. Don’t miss the fact that these things must “shortly take place.”  No, this isn’t a reference to date-setting – nor is it a reference to preterism (which teaches that all the visions were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD…the visions were given AFTER that date).  It’s a reference to imminency. 

7 “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

  1. Is Jesus’ return really imminent?  Absolutely – we have His own words on the matter! “Behold, I am coming quickly!”  There’s no doubt that Jesus is coming (even if it wasn’t on May 21).  Don’t let the mockers dissuade you, nor the date-setters discourage you – Jesus IS coming quickly.  Objection: “But it’s been 2000 years?  Surely if Jesus said He was coming ‘quickly,’ it means He would have done it by now.”  Two answers to that:
    1. “Quickly” could be a reference to how fast everything will take place once it all begins.  It will indeed be quick.  7 years of Tribulation in light of 1000 year kingdom with eternity following is pretty quick (relatively speaking).
    2. More likely, Jesus is speaking from His eternal perspective.  We need to remember that Jesus is God & He has always existed – the entire scope of human history is a blip compared with His ever-existence.  “Quick” is certainly a relative term when it comes to God.  To Him, a thousand years is as a day & a day as a thousand years (2 Pt 3:8).
    3. Don’t miss Jesus’ obvious point here.  We need to be ready for Jesus to come at any time!  Harold Camping was tragically wrong & foolish to set a date…but it would have been wonderful if he happened to have guessed correctly.  We ought to want Jesus to return at any moment (yesterday would have been nice!) – and more than that, we need to be ready for Him to return at any moment.  We need to be stewards of what God has given us (children, finances, responsibility) as if Jesus’ return isn’t for another 100 years; we want to be morally & spiritually prepared as if Jesus’ return is this afternoon.
  2. What’s one way to be ready?  By keeping the words of the prophecy of Revelation. How exactly do we “keep” these words of prophecy?
    1. By believing them.  There are many who would ignore the book of Revelation or pass it off as being too fanciful or symbolic – just the imaginations of John as he was writing against the Roman emperor.  Don’t fall into that trap.  This is a book about Jesus Christ.  It speaks of His righteous wrath upon evil, and His soon coming for His people.  Believe it & wait with anticipation!
    2. By obeying them.  Granted – the book of Revelation is not a rule book, nor is it filled with a lot of plain instruction (compared with a book like James, or 1 John).  But it does have instruction to the Church.  “But I thought the Church would be with Jesus during the Tribulation?!”  We will be – but don’t forget that Jesus dictated 7 letters to the Churches of Asia before the prophecies about the Great Tribulation ever began.  Each one of those 7 letters had instructions to Christians to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus & endure during trials.  Keep those words & stand firm!
  3. What happens when we keep these words?  We’ll be blessed.  We’ll experience the blessing of God in our daily walk with Jesus Christ.  We’ll experience the fellowship with God that we long for – we’ll be empowered by the Holy Spirit as we endure trials – we’ll be motivated to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those that are lost.  We’ll truly be blessed beyond measure as the servants of the Living God!

Conclusion:
What a day that will be!  In eternity when we see Jesus face-to-face in all of His unveiled glory & we partake in the restored Creation – the redeemed Creation…better than what Adam & Eve experienced because it had been bought with the blood of Jesus Christ.  The curse will forever be gone – all because of the One who had become a curse for us when He hung upon the cross.

Understand that this is a better promise than even the Millennial Kingdom.  There will be aspects about the 1000 year reign of Jesus Christ that are undoubtedly astounding – yet during that time, there will still be death & there will still be remnants from the curse.  Yet in eternity, it’s all done!  Every remaining fallen aspect about this world will be done away with, forever.  More than that – every remaining fallen aspect about your flesh will be done away with, forever!  Never again will you deal with the temptation of sin.  Never again will you deal with the grief of guilt.  Never again will you witness loved ones fall away.  We will be with our Savior & He will be with us in a world that He has planned & prepared for us since before we could possibly imagine.

So Christian: hold on until that day.  Persevere!  Heaven is worth the wait!  This isn’t a pie-crust promise in the Bible; these words are true & faithful – you can bank your eternity upon them. 

If you’re not yet a Christian (meaning that if you haven’t had a moment when you surrendered your life to Jesus as your personal Lord & God) – then I’m sorry to tell you that this future is not for you.  Outside of Jesus Christ, the future is infinitely more grim – as everyone else shares Satan’s fate in the lake of fire.  Please know that is not what God desires for you!  God loves you & wants you to be saved!  God sent Jesus to the cross specifically so you could join with Him in the new heavens & new earth in eternity.  But His gift of grace is a gift that must be received – it’s not enough to hear the good news; you must respond to it. 

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