Week 31 The Story
They Will See His Face
Imagine the anguish you would feel is this scenario were your story: you built a home for your children, planted a vineyard in the surrounding fields, provided everything that your children would need to live and be happy, but despite all that, one of your children kills his brother. Then another one of your children takes grapes from the vineyard, makes strong wine, and gets himself good and drunk. To your astonishment the bedrooms you built for your children’s safety become dens of adultery and smut. The children continue to kill each other, steal from each other, and lie to one another, and as things get worse and worse they begin to proclaim that they have no father. They have the gall to assert that you, the builder of the house in which they live, the one who fathered them and gave them life, do not exist at all. Imagine the pain of having your own children defile your home, declare that they have no father, and shout that they hate you.
God created this world as a cosmic temple. Contrast the holiness and cleanliness required of the priests who enter the temple with the abominable filth that humans have spread all over this planet that God made to display his glory. Even those of us who trust in Jesus and try to live by the Bible fall miserably short of the glory of God’s holiness. What would you do if you were God? How would you react to the ruination of the house you built, the misuse of the gifts you gave, and the defiling of the masterpiece – the crown of all creation – the human body and person?
Our God and Father has initiated a cosmic rescue operation. His plan is to save through judgment, to show justice and mercy, and then to bring those he saves into a new heaven and new earth.
Do you want to know how things are going to turn out? Do you want to know what the future holds? Do you wonder whether there is any hope, any resolution, any restoration?
If there is something that makes trusting Jesus and being faithful to His Word worth preserving through the worst thing that could possibly happen to us, we need to know what it is, right? If there is something that will bring cleansing from all defilement, healing from every wound, the satisfaction of every longing, and an intimacy that will swallow up every alienation, we need to know about that, right?
Revelation 22:1-9 declares that God is going to keep his word and return those who trust him to a new and better Garden of Eden.
We saw the temple-city descend from God, full of glory, in 21:9-27, and now in 22:1-9 we will see that the temple-city is a new and better Eden. God will heal every hurt, and those who trust him will see his face. They will enjoy his presence. After this passage the book closes in 22:10-21.
Revelation 22:1-9 falls into two parts: Part 1: vv. 1-5 the River, the Tree, and the Presence; vv. 6-9 keep the words.
There is no break in the action between the end of chapter 21 and what we see in chapter 22. John has been describing the New Jerusalem in chapter 21, and the description continues in chapter 22, focusing on Edenic aspects of the temple city. We read in 22:1, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. This matches the river that “flowed out of Eden to water the garden” in Genesis 2:10. There was and is no river flowing in the literal city of Jerusalem, but Ezekiel saw water issuing from the temple in Ezekiel 47:1. Psalm 46:4 says, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,” and Zechariah 14:8 promises that “living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem.” Jesus offered “living water” to the woman at the well in John 4:10-14. And this fulfilled in 22:1 by the river of the water of life . . . flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb.
We read in 22:2 that his water flows “through the middle of the street of the city.” So it seems that the street is a wide boulevard with a river running through its center. Verse 2 continues by moving from “the water of life” to “the tree of life”: “. . . also, on either side of river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” The river fulfilled Ezekiel’s prophecy, and the tree does the same. We read in Ezekiel 47:12, “And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, not their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
Ezekiel 47:12 describes trees planted by streams of water whose leaves do not wither and whose fruit does not fail. This is an unmistakable allusion to Psalm 1. When we put these texts together, we see that those who do what Psalm 1 commends – delighting in the Law of the Lord and mediating on it day and night – become like the new heaven and new earth, where the river of living water makes the soil rich for the tree of life whose leaves do no wither. Those who delight in the Bible and meditate on it day and night are like the tree of life. Their leaves don’t wither, and all they do prospers.
Just as we cannot live without water, we cannot live without food. So just as there is a “river of the water of life” in 22:1, there is “tree of life” in 22:2. There is a glorious variety in the fruit of this tree: “twelve kinds of fruit.”
As “the river of the water of life” matches the river flowing out of Eden in Genesis 2:10, this “tree of life” matches “the tree of life” . . . in the midst of the garden” in Genesis 2:9. The river and the tree are about food and water, and they signal a return to a new and better Garden of Eden.
The last phrase of 22:2 tells us that when the redeemed enjoy the new and better Eden, old hurts will be healed. The nationalism, the racism, the acrimony, the bitterness, and the long history of warfare will be healed. Revelation 1, 2 corresponds to and goes beyond what we see in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:9, 10.
In the last phrase of 22:3 the pronouns “his” and “him” are both singular, and they point back to “God” and “the Lamb” in the previous phrase in verse 3. So you have two person, God and the Lamb, referred to by the singular pronouns “his” and “him” in verse 3, and verse 4 continues by referring to “his face” and “his name.” each of these singular pronouns refers to God and the Lamb. There are two persons, but the pronoun is singular. This is because of what Jesus declared in John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.” The New Testament clearly teaches that the Father and Jesus are two persons who share one nature. They are two, and they are one. John’s understanding of this reality is reflected in his grammar, the singular pronouns refer to two persons – God and the Lamb.
Of course, the Holy Spirit is also God. They are three, and they are one. Worship him for the unity in diversity. Worship him because He is beyond your understanding. Praise Him that He is above you. Know God, and lose yourself in the wonder of who He is!
In this city whose wall is made of jasper, whose gates are twelve massive pearls, whose street is of pure gold, the inhabitants worship the Creator rather than created things. All the disorder at work in this world is finally set right. The wealth of the city, the pure water of life, the twelvefold fruit of the tree of life, and the nation-healing leaves all point to the One who made these things. Rather than becoming idols, these things spur the servants of God to worship the One who is worth, God himself.
God is the best thing about this new and better Eden, and John teaches that reality even in the way that he organizes what he has to say about this Edenic temple-city. He has saved the best for last. The last thing that John describes in 22:4-5 will be the best part of being there: “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will reign forever and ever.” The Lord said to Moses in Exodus 33:20, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”