The Sermon for Sunday, May 22nd, 2022, Rogation Sunday
The Lessons: Psalm 67; Joel 2:21-27; Revelation 21:1-7, 22:1-5
The Text: Revelation 22:1-5
The Topic: The Healing of the Nations
Australian aborigines pictured heaven as a distant island beyond the western horizon. The early Finns thought heaven was a distant island ion the faraway East. Mexicans, Peruvians, and Polynesians believed they went to the sun or moon after death. Native Americans believed that in the afterlife their spirits would hunt the spirits of buffalo.
The Gilgamesh Epic, an ancient Babylonian legend, refers to a resting place of heroes and hints at a tree of life. In the pyramids of Egypt, the embalmed bodies had maps placed beside them as guides to the future world. The Romans believed that the righteous would picnic in the Elysian fields while their horses grazed nearby. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, said, “The day thou fearest as the last is the birthday of eternity.” Although these depictions of the afterlife differ, the unifying testimony of the human heart throughout history is belief in life after death. Anthropological evidence suggests that every culture has a God-given, innate sense of the eternal – that this world is not all there is.
(Randy Alcorn: Heaven. Tyndale, 2004)
In St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, we read that God’s invisible attributes, such as his eternal power and deity, are clearly seen since the creation of the world from the things that He has made (Romans 1:20). For example, when we see a beautiful aspect of nature, such as a crystal-clear stream flowing over rocks in the woods, we are reminded of God’s power, deity and perfection, despite the fact that there are other streams and rivers that are either muddy or polluted.
THE RIVER OF LIFE AND THE TREE OF LIFE
Here at the beginning of Revelation 22, we are given a beautiful picture of the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God. The angel showed St. John the river of the Water of Life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1). The Greek word used to describe the water usually means “bright” or “sparkling,” but here as applied to water, it means “clear.” This is a very important image for the life of God that he gives freely to anyone who comes to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The life power of the new heaven and the new earth that God will create is the river of the water of life, that is so pure and good. In the Gospel according to St. John, the rivers of living water are the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), whom God the Father gives to all who believe in His Son. In the middle of the main street of the New Jerusalem and on both sides of the river grows the Tree of Life, producing twelve fruits, each for a different month of the year (Revelation 22:2). On this earth there are seasons for various fruit, but the Tree of Life produces fruit every month of the year, throughout the year. This is a picture of the abundance of God’s life in the age to come. Both the fruit and the leaves of the Tree of Life bring life and healing. We might make the case that everyone who inhabits the new heaven and earth will be wholly sanctified and perfected, healed of all wounds. On the other hand, many saints have suffered deep wounds emotionally, and some physically, on this earth, and, though they have been saved by grace and faith, as well as brought into this new inheritance, they may still need to be perfectly healed, and that will be the purpose of the Tree of Life, its fruit, and its leaves. But this Tree of Life and its healing grace are not described in the Book of Revelation merely for our assurance of healing in the age to come, but for the present age. Even now, we must come to the Holy Spirit, the water of life, and to the Lord Jesus Christ to receive the healing from Him. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and to Him we must come daily for life and for healing.
Adam and Eve were cursed because of their disobedience and were banished from the Garden of Eden as a result of their sin, and cherubim with flaming swords guarded the way back to the Garden of Eden and to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24). Now Christ has become our life and the way to the Father, as well as to the Tree of Life.
Therefore, it is significant that in Revelation 22:3, we read that there will no longer be any curse. The curse of sin and all its consequences have been destroyed by Christ’s death on the cross. Instead, there is the blessing of God’s throne and the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ in the center of heaven and his servants worshipping God. The cross that was marked on their foreheads at Baptism is now replaced by the name of the Lord, and they will see his face. In this life and on this earth, no-one has ever seen God (1 John 4:12), but in the age to come the faithful will see God face to face. This is called the vision of the blessed, or the beatific vision. In this new universe of God’s creating, the Lord God illuminates everything, and there is no need for sun or moon (Revelation 22:5). Sharing in the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ, the saints will rule forever.
THE ENCOURAGEMENT THAT THIS REVELATION BRINGS
Knowing, then, that the Lord has provided tor the life and healing of all his people from all the nations of the world, let us confidently draw near to God in prayer every day, seeking and asking for that healing that the Lord gives us through the Tree of Life!
 p.164, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.