Part 10. The new heaven and the new earth (21:1—22:21)
10.3. Eden restored (22:1-5)
10.4. Epilogue (22:6-21)
† PICTURE: John sees more details of New Jerusalem. Then Jesus concludes the revelation to John by affirming what is recorded is true and that He will come again soon.
22:1 The garden of Eden described in Gen 2 is now restored to mankind. The angel shows John the river of the water of life flowing from God’s throne. It is a sparkling rush of pure water. It symbolizes:  the life-giving stream flowing from the presence of God,  the abundant life that God now gives to His people,  immortality,  the Holy Spirit.
The throne of God is now shared with the Lamb.
22:2 The crystal river flows down the centre of a wide avenue. It is bordered on either side by the tree of life. In Gen 2:9; 3:22, if Adam had eaten of the tree of life, he would have received immortality. The tree of life here is an allusion to the tree of life in the garden of Eden. Man may now legitimately enjoy the blessing, meaning that immortality is assured. The fruits are 12 crops in succession, not 12 kinds of fruit. It signifies abundant supply.
The leaves of the tree are described as having the power of healing. But since there is no more sickness, then what use has it? Some takes the word to mean “health-giving”, not for correcting ills which do not exist. Some take it to mean the complete absence of physical and spiritual want. [Note that the river in Ezekiel’s vision is bordered by trees that bring forth new fruit each month and whose leaves are for healing (Eze 47:12).]
“The nations” certainly do not refer to unsaved people living outside New Jerusalem because there is no more death (21:4) and unsaved people are not qualified to receive immortality. The phrase functions like “peoples” in 21:3, emphasizing the different nationalities of the redeemed community.
22:3 “Curse” is not the act of cursing but means “accursed thing”. Nothing will be under the curse of sin.
22:4 In the OT, no one can see the face of God, including Moses (Ex 33:20,23) and Isaiah (Isa 6:1-7). Now, there is nothing between God and His people. As the followers of the beast bore his mark upon their foreheads (Rev 13:16), so the faithful will bear the name of God upon their foreheads. It symbolizes God’s ownership and likeness to God.
22:5 The light of the sun and the moon will be replaced by the everlasting light of the glory of God (Isa 60:19-20). There will be one continuous day (Zec 14:7). While all the saints will reign for ever and ever, it is not said that they will reign over anyone. It simply describes a blessed and exalted state of sharing in royalty.
Because of man’s sin, paradise (the Garden of Eden) was lost. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, paradise (New Jerusalem, the new Garden of Eden) is regained. It brings us full circle to the original desires of God in His creation.
22:6 The last passage (vv.6-21) of Revelation contains 2 major themes: the authenticity of the book as a divine revelation, and the imminence of the end. There are great similarities between the Prologue and the Epilogue of Revelation: The book is a genuine prophecy (1:3; 22:6,9-10,18-19) by a duly commissioned prophet (1:1,9-10; 22:8-10) to be read in the churches (1:3,11; 22:18) for the encouragement of the faithful (1:3; 22:7,12,14).
The angel is the same angel from 21:9,15 and 22:1. He attests the genuineness of the entire revelation. The words are worthy of belief because they correspond to reality. The source of the revelation is the Lord who is described as “the God of the spirits of the prophets.” The spirits (note plural) are the natural faculties of the prophets (both OT and NT prophets), raised and inspired by the Holy Spirit. The words in the prophecy are described as “that must soon take place,” the same pharse as Rev 1:1 (see 1:1 for explanation of the meaning of imminence).
Torrance comments on the language of imminence, “The New Testament does not think of the difference between the presence of Christ here and now and His Second Advent so much in terms of a passage of time as the difference between the veiled and the unveiled. That is why the whole of the New Testament by an inner necessity of personal faith thinks of that day as imminent.”
22:7 The following passage includes different speakers: v.7 Christ, v.8 John, vv.9-11 the angel, vv.12-13 Christ, vv.14-15 John, v.16 Christ, v.17a the Holy Spirit and the church, vv.17b-19 John, v.20a Christ, vv.20b-21 John.
Mt 24:42-44 counsels every generation to be on the alert for the return of Christ because Christ is coming soon. In the interim, those who observes the words in this book (the prophecy) will be blessed.
22:8 John now attests that he has actually heard and seen all the things that are recorded in the book. His writing is not the result of any flight of imagination. Then, John repeated the error that he committed in Rev 19:10 by falling before the angel to worship him for his role as revealer and interpreter of God’s revelation.
22:9 Just as before, John is prevented from carrying out his intention by the angel who says a very similar line as 19:10. The message is clear: angels are not to be worshipped.
22:10 The angel continues his message from God and tells John not to seal up the prophecy. This is in contrast to Daniel who was told to “close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end” (Dan 12:4). The reason for this new instruction is that the end is imminent.
22:11 The end is so close that there is no longer time to alter the character and habits of people. Those who do wrong will continue to do wrong, and those who are morally unclean will continue in their vile condition. The time arrives when change is impossible because character has already been determined by a lifetime of habitual action. The deliberate choice of each man has fixed his unalterable fate.
22:12 Christ once again announces that He is coming soon (see v.7). He also declares that the distribution of rewards is on the basis of works (Jer 17:10; Ro 2:6; 1Pe 1:17). The Greek word (misthos) has the idea of “wages”. How a person lives his life provides the ultimate indication of what that person really believes.
22:13 In 1:8 and 21:6, God identified Himself as the Alpha and the Omega. Now the risen Christ applies the title to Himself, clearly identifying Himself as God.
22:14 The next two verses are apparently teachings of John. Those who wash their robes in this life will be blessed. In Rev 7:14, “they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” The word “washed” was aorist, denoting an action belonging to a specific point in time. Here the word “wash” is in present tense, suggesting continuous washing. While living in the present world, we need to ask for God’s pardon of our sins everyday. Those who do so will have the right to the tree of life which symbolizes immortality. Passing through the gates of the eternal city symbolizes entering into the presence of God.
22:15 Again, John warns that 6 classes of people will not be able to enter the eternal city. Five of the 6 classes are already found in Rev 21:8. The only class not found in that verse is “dogs” which is used in the Bible to describe various kinds of impure and malicious persons. In Dt 23:17-18, the term descibes a male cult prostitute. In Php 3:2, it applies to the Judaizers. The word “outside” does not mean wicked people will be living outside the heavenly city. It means exclusion, that is, totally excluded from eternal life.
22:16 Jesus pronounces that the prophecy is given to the churches. The plural “you” indicates that it is intended not only for John.
The “Root and Offspring of David” is a fulfilment of Isa 11:1,10. The bright Morning Star symbolizes that it is the morning of eternity.
22:17 There are 4 invitations in this verse. The first two can be interpreted as directed to Christ inviting Him to return. However, it is more likely that all 4 invitations are for non-believers inviting them to take the free gift of eternal life.  The Holy Spirit and the church invites the world to come.  Those who hear and accept the invitation should repeat the invitation to others.  Those who are in difficult life situations (thirst) should come.  Those who wish to have a full and abundant life should come. The gift of eternal life is a free gift for anyone to simply take.
22:18 The severe warning is for the members of the 7 churches of Asia where the book was to be read aloud. They are warned against wilful distortion of the message in this book. Those who do so will be under severe judgment in the form of plagues. In severe cases, it may even endanger their salvation. It is not unlike Paul’s stern words in Gal 1:6-7 to those who would pervert the gospel.
22:19 John is claiming that the prophecy is equal to that of the OT.
22:20 For the third time in this chapter, Jesus again insists that He will be coming soon. In response, John representing the whole church says: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. “Amen” is the transliteration of a Hebrew or Aramaic participle meaning “confirming”. “Come, Lord Jesus” is the earliest confession of the church. It is the equivalent of the transliterated Aramaic in 1Co 16:22, maranatha.
22:21 For an apocalypse to end with a benediction is unusual. Its presence may be accounted for by the fact that since it began as an epistle, it would be appropriate to close with a benediction. It is pronounced upon all who have listened to the book as it was read aloud in the churches of Asia.
The book serves to assure the Christians that God is sovereign and His eternal plan for mankind will certainly be accomplished. During the interim, there will be hostility and opposition against God. But the human world system (Great Babylon) will eventually fall. Those who hold fast their faith, even in the face of persecutions, will enjoy eternal life in New Jerusalem in the presence of God. All believers are encouraged to remain faithful to their trust and wait expectantly for the return of Christ.
† After recording the authentication of the prophecy recorded in Revelation by the angel and by Jesus, John warns those who tries to add or delete the prophecy of serious consequences. While the warning here applies originally to Revelation and to the 7 churches, it is generally true for the whole Bible and for all believers. We must respect the authority of the Bible, God’s Word for us. To do the opposite will bring disaster.
† Readers of novels often want to know the ending by turning to the last page of the novel. Someone uses this analogy in a truthful saying: “While struggling with evil in this life, I turn to the last page of the Bible and alas, we won!”