GETTING THE MESSAGE/Favorable presence of the living God
Revelation 22:1-5 is the last vision the apostle John records for us in this book. It contains various symbols representing the blessedness of being in the favorable presence of the living God. The life of the redeemed eternally upon the new earth is more blessed than anything we can imagine.
In verse 1, the river of life flows through the middle of the city. It flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. There are fruit trees and “the tree of life on each side of the river.” These are images of the abundant life that Jesus said He came into the world to give to men. Life we could never have without Him.
To understand this better, we need to think back to the Garden of Eden which also had an abundance of fruit trees and springs of water, as well as the tree of life. God gave Adam and Eve a perfect garden, lacking nothing they needed. And God came to walk and talk with them. The sin of man led to death and expulsion from the garden into a world under the curse of sin.
At this point we need to remember God is a holy God. He is not like sinful man. He tolerates no sin; there is no darkness, no falsity in God. His holiness is His glory. It is also the attribute that sinful man slights the most. We sin so easily we think it is normal. We understand it causes misery, and we are not fond of it in others, except by way of making us look better in comparison. But sin leads to certain death.
God looks upon sin as a great evil. It destroys man in body and soul. Sin blinds us to the knowledge of God. This shows our need of salvation. Christ restores us to God by taking our sin upon Himself, suffering the just wrath of the Holy God against it. This promise of abundant life we see in Revelation 22 is the complete absence of sin and death and the joy of knowing God.
This blessedness of life with God begins in this world when one hears God’s sentence of death, then the promise of life in Christ, and believes. The Holy Spirit is given to the believer to convict, strengthen, and comfort in a world of afflictions. The world cannot find peace except by removing the affliction. The Spirit gives Christ’s people peace even in affliction and tribulation.
The believer has the promise of God, an incorruptible inheritance in Christ. This means close communion with God and the Lamb (Revelation 22:3-4). The closer we are to God, the more we will worship and adore God. Worship isn’t easy for us here. We take it too lightly. Thinking of your redemption and the promise of Christ will prepare you to worship.
In the world to come, all the redeemed with have perfect resurrected bodies, and there will be no sin in body or soul. And we will see God (verse 4). In the Old Testament, for a sinner to see God meant death, but there we will see Christ, and not in His humble state as a servant, but in His glory, and thus we will see God, not only with ocular eyes but the depths of our spirit.
This is the soul’s rest in God. We will be satisfied with the full and perfect demonstration of His love. We can’t be in any better estate. This is the goal of our faith, our hope, and our labors for Christ. Sin prompts us to seek after that which can never satisfy the soul but only deprive it. The right portion for our souls is being a servant of God and longing for the appearing of Christ.
We also see in verse 4 that the name of God is on the foreheads of His people. This means they are marked out by God as recipients of His mercy, children of God instead of children of wrath. This should move us to glorify God’s name and not our own. The great sin of men in the world is that they seek a name for themselves, not God.
The vision closes in verse 5 with the affirmation that there will be no more night. Rather, the Lord God will be their light. It is a holy, blessed place. There will be nothing to detract from the joy of the redeemed in the presence of God. In this dark world, without Christ as the light for the path we walk, we will be lost. There, believers will reside in the pure light of God, knowing God and enjoying Him forever.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.