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Revelation 22: Finding comfort in Heaven’s promise


Joseph M. Stowell, former president of Cornerstone University, recounts a compelling narrative in his book, Eternity, shedding light on the tragic bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in April of 1995.

In this poignant story, a survivor of the Oklahoma bombing shared her harrowing ordeal of being trapped beneath the rubble, grappling with despair as she struggled to free herself. Amidst the chaos, a coworker who had escaped initially provided solace, standing by her side with words of reassurance and support. However, when rumors of another potential explosion surfaced, all bystanders, including her comforting companion, were swiftly evacuated, leaving her feeling abandoned and overwhelmed with fear.

Amid the danger, the survivor faced a terrifying uncertainty, unsure if help would ever arrive. Yet, in a moment of profound relief, her faithful friend returned as promised, leading paramedics to her rescue.

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Stowell masterfully employed this gripping account to draw parallels to the struggles faced by believers in Christ, who often find themselves navigating a world fraught with chaos and confusion. He articulates, “Christ assures us that we are not abandoned and, in fact, have an assured future beyond this present world.”

This theme of promise and encouragement resonates deeply throughout the book of Revelation, particularly in its final chapters, 21 and 22. Here, Christ’s pledge to return is unwavering, offering believers the ultimate assurance of deliverance, safety, and eternal joy. The descriptions of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem’s unparalleled grandeur, its harmony and tranquility, and the profound anticipation of beholding the face of the Lord, instill an indescribable hope amidst life’s tumultuous trials. They serve as a steadfast reminder that, regardless of present circumstances, a brighter future awaits, where suffering will cease, and everlasting bliss will reign supreme.

Here is what the Bible says in Revelation chapter 22, verses 1 through 5.

“Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there — no need for lamps or sun — for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.”

Dr. Henry Morris, the author of the Revelation Record, is also the author of the “Genesis Record.” In the preface of his book, Morris contends:

“In a very real sense, the book of Revelation is the sequel to the book of Genesis, the two books together bounding all history and bounding all of God’s revelations to mankind. They constitute the alpha and omega of God’s written Word, the Book of Beginnings and the Book of Unveilings.”

Dr. Henrietta C. Mears in What the Bible is All About takes the same position, saying:

“Revelation is a wonderful way to finish the story that began in Genesis. All that was begun in the Book of Beginnings (Genesis) is consummated in Revelation. In Genesis heaven and earth were created. In Revelation, we see a new heaven and a new earth. In Genesis the sun and moon appear; in Revelation we read that there is no need for the sun or moon, for Christ is the light of the new heaven. In Genesis there is a garden; in Revelation, there is a holy city. In Genesis there is the marriage of the first Adam; in Revelation the marriage supper of the second Adam, Jesus Christ. In Genesis we see the beginning of sin; in Revelation sin is done away. So, we can follow the appearance of the great adversary, Satan, and sorrow and pain and tears in Genesis, and see their doom and destruction in Revelation.

Things are very dismal in this world today. No one living has ever known such uncertainty about the future of human events. But things were dismal when the apostle John, an old, old man, was exiled to the isle of Patmos. He had been banished for his testimony of Jesus (1:9). While on the island, John was forced to labor hard in the mines and quarries. But his Commander-in-Chief appeared to him and delivered a ringing message of ultimate glory.”

The description of the heavenly city in Revelation chapters 21 and 22 reminds us that no matter what we are going through, it will not last indefinitely and the best is yet to come.

My wife and I live in historic Smithfield, North Carolina, which was built on the banks of the Neuse River. Our home is only a few yards away from this river. The history of cities, like Smithfield, being built along the banks of rivers dates back thousands of years and has played a significant role in their development.

The Neuse River is no exception. Stretching approximately 275 miles, it’s one of the longest rivers in the state. It provides water for humans to drink and use agriculturally. Its surrounding wetlands provide vital habitat for a diverse array of wildlife, including fish, birds, and other aquatic species. The river has occupied a crucial role in North Carolina’s history, having served as a transportation route for Native Americans, European settlers, and to this day trade and commerce. Numerous other historic cities along its banks reflect its significance to the state’s advancements. It supports various industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism, contributing bountifully to the economy of communities along its course.

However, like many rivers, the Neuse is facing serious environmental challenges with pollution from agricultural run-off, urban development, and industrial activity.

Most cities throughout America have been constructed along the banks of important rivers, providing so much for so many, but unfortunately, most rivers, like the Neuse, now face serious environmental issues.

But as John Phillips writes in Exploring Revelation:

“Here … [in the heavenly city] is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. There is no muddy, filthy stream, but a pure and crystal river containing the very essence of life itself. It flows from the throne of God. That throne, such a source of terror to evil-doers, is the source of life to those who know and love the Lord. The Lord Jesus likened the Holy Spirit to a river (John 7:38), and no doubt he is the reality behind the symbol … Life [God’s life-giving water — that water which regenerates and refreshes the soul eternally] in God’s city is characterized by purity, pleasure, and prosperity, but all are directly linked to a right relationship with God’s throne.”

What could be more wonderful than to live where integrity, enjoyment, and abundance flow freely like a river without hindrance? This is the future of the saved!

Nevertheless, let’s get our feet planted back on the earth again momentarily to consider passages such as this one also present us with an ideal that serves to remind us of our responsibility to care for God’s creation. Jesus taught in the Model Prayer to pray: “May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

The current state of the Neuse River and others similar around the world highlight the importance of environmental stewardship and the need for more attention and collective action to address pollution and protect natural resources. Heaven’s crystal-clear river cascading from the Throne can likewise be understood to mean that purposely or carelessly contaminating and poisoning rivers and streams, is not God’s will.

This should not be taken as a blanket endorsement of the draconian government restrictions to combat so-called climate change. There are very reputable scientists such as Dr. Fred S. Singer in his book, Hot Talk, Cold Science, which presents compelling scientific data that unequivocally demonstrates that the alarmist narratives about climate change, primarily perpetuated by the media, lack scientific validity.

The Christian worldview simply says God has given humanity dominion over the Earth (Genesis 1:28), and with this authority comes the responsibility to exercise stewardship of the earth’s resources wisely, recognizing that we are accountable to him for our actions and impact on the environment and future generations.

The book of Revelation indeed speaks of climate catastrophes on the horizon, but these come at the hand of God’s wrath, not humanly induced carbon emissions. This planet belongs to God and he is not about to permit humanity to commit ecological suicide. The Bible’s prophetic scheme doesn’t allow for it.

This river which flows down the middle of the main street in the New Jerusalem is said to be flanked by the Tree of Life on both sides. The Tree of Life is first mentioned in Genesis as one of the trees in the Garden of Eden, alongside another tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:9). Later in Genesis, after Adam and Eve fell into sin by eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Genesis account says God placed a Cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life, lest they eat of it, and live forever in their sinful condition.

Apparently, in the Garden of Eden, the fruit from this tree possessed life-preserving properties. Like a fountain of youth nestled within the verdant confines of the Garden, the fruit of the tree bestowed an elixir of immortality, ensuring Adam and Eve’s perpetual existence.

In Revelation chapter 22, the Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem is said to bear twelve kinds of fruit and yield its fruit each month. Its leaves are said to be for the healing of the nations. This depiction seems to imply that the fruit of this tree imparts not only physical nourishment but in some manner is a contributing factor to the maintenance of the redeemed’s everlasting life. Admittedly, the text does not explicitly say this, but the context and descriptions of the Tree of Life in both Genesis and Revelation strongly suggest it.

Another exciting deduction that can be made about the River of Life and the Tree of Life is that there will be eating and drinking in the heavenly city. Of course, this could be deducted from what Jesus said at the end of the Lord’s Supper: “Mark my words — I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). Revelation chapter 19 and its account of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb point to the same conclusion. But here it’s mentioned again, and in this case, it emphasizes the joy of God’s pure and incorruptible diet, eating, feasting, and gathering together around food and drink — ambrosia — food so rich and abundant in elements it bequests eternal life.

The presence of the River of Life and the Tree of Life will forever testify throughout eternity that the Lord alone is the source of existence.

In Heaven, there will be no more curse on the Earth as there is now. In Romans 8:22, the apostle Paul taught that all of creation currently “groans.” He explained that the effects of sin extend beyond human behavior and impact the entire created order. The apostle stressed the anticipation of redemption and restoration from the curse, both for humanity and creation, and Revelation chapter 22 foretells the fulfillment of this stupendous hope.

Morris, who incidentally was not only a tremendous theologian but a Creation Scientist, wrote about this passage, saying:

“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, and all work will be productive and enduring. The entropy law, the so-called second law of thermodynamics, will be repealed. Information will never more 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 momentum. Though ‘time’ will continue on forever, ‘time’s arrow’ will no longer be directed downward.”

Indeed, how can anything that materializes out of death, which is separation from life’s source, continue in the presence of the Throne of God and the Lamb? It shall be no more!

Furthermore, God’s servants shall serve him. Dare we think that heaven is a place of proverbial rocking chairs and ceaselessly doing nothing? In the New Jerusalem there won’t be any engagement in meaningless activities or distractions: no mindlessly scrolling on social media, no daydreaming, no procrastination, no binging on cable television shows, no long periods of playing video games to while away the boredom. Everything that’s done in heaven will be laced with constructive excitement, focus, and fulfilling purpose.

F. Olen Hunt Sr., author of Heaven is My Home, challenges our thinking in his book, arguing that heaven is a place of advancement and progress. Hunt contends:

“Heaven is not a place of idleness. God will use the talents of every arrival to their fullest ability. You cannot get all in this life; no man ever has, though millions and millions have tried; so, another life fulfills the needs, desires, and capacities of man. Heaven is a place of fulfillment, of all their holy dreams and realization of their noblest hopes. Music will be at its highest. Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with oratorios, whole compositions, will be sung and heard at their best. The undiscovered, undeveloped, and unrealized greatness of men in time, will be at the highest perfection in heaven. Music is only one of the areas of man’s unrealized potential that will be developed to full beauty and expression. Science will be developed in eternity; it will never be exhausted in time. The heart settles with finality all that arises in the mind.

Heaven is a place of growth and development, as well as fulfillment, of all that man was created for, and of which sin has robbed him.”

In the celestial city, we can expect a well-organized administration and structure. The concept of nations and governance is suggested, consequently, individuals will have specific roles and responsibilities.

The New Jerusalem, a literal city of unmatched beauty where the people of God may come and go, down to the New Earth and back, perhaps to other galaxies for exploration and discovery, will be an experience of ineffable wonder. Nevertheless, each of these blessed privileges granted to the saints will only be incidentals to the pleasure of looking into the face of God.

To look into the face of God is to have every longing of the human heart gratified. It is to be purged of every fault and imperfection. We shall be perfect for we shall see him as he is (I John 3:2). When looking into his face, every desire shall be transformed to pursue only what is the highest, the holiest, the most noble, and true.

When we look at him, we shall experience the essence of unconditional love, the essence of connection and bonding, the essence of serenity and peace, the essence of completion and self-actualization, the essence of wisdom and knowledge, the essence of virtue, order, and beauty — no thirst of human yearning will go unquenched — no hunger of the inner self will go unmet — all will be satisfied by one look at him.

To look at him is to have his name written on our foreheads — to be thoroughly owned by him — to be gladly identified with him — to bask in the warmth and light of his presence forever more.

Just as the survivor of the Oklahoma Bombing found tremendous solace in the faithful return of her rescuer, so we too may find the greatest comfort in the promises of Christ’s Second Coming. It is the ultimate assurance, that despite the trials of this world, no matter how intense, an unspeakable rapturous future, one beyond our wildest imaginations, awaits those who place their trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and the salvation of their souls.

Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.

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