The text for this lesson is Revelation 22:1–5
- God pours out His love for me through Jesus, who wonfor me the gift of heaven and paints a picture of it for me in
- Law: The world tries to convince me that my eternal hope is a sham and that this life is all there is.
- Gospel: In the face of the world’s lies, Jesus, through John’s vision, assures me of the reality of my eternal home: a paradise without darkness or night where I, together with all those who believe in Christ, will reign forever with the Lamb who was slain.
- Revelation 22 is a picturesque description of what heaven will be like. This week’s Bible account is a continuation of John’s description of the new Jerusalem. The river of the water of life can be understood as the water of Baptism. It hearkens back to creation and the four rivers that flow from Eden. The tree of life grows also in the new Jerusalem and provides the sanctified people of God with the food of immortality that was denied them after the fall.
- Revelation (also called the Apocalypse of St. John) is probably the book of the Bible that confuses Christians the most (and perhaps intrigues them the most as well). Even at its best, the book’s imagery seems extremely strange. Sometimes, it’s just plain disturbing. On the other hand, the picture we have in this Bible account is one of the most familiar and comforting of all those we find in Revelation.
One definition of apocalypse is “an unveiling,” as when a new sculpture is made visible to the public for the first time. In the Book of Revelation, John has two things unveiled for him. First, he sees the reality of what is going on in Christian worship. Second, he sees what the future of the Church holds.
Revelation 22 is a continuation of the description of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21. A key point that we learn in this account is that heaven is a real, physical place for real, flesh-and-blood people. This is no picture of our dearly departed sitting on puffy clouds, strumming harps, and being freed from the physicality of the world. The new Jerusalem is a city. It has streets and houses and gates. And in our Bible account, it has a river, an orchard, and people.
The physical world is not intrinsically evil. It is a good creation of God that has been corrupted because the human beings who had dominion over it (Genesis 1:28) fell into sin. In the resurrection at the Last Day, all believers will be raised in perfect and incorruptible bodies that are not tainted by sin in any way and never can be. Since the new Jerusalem will be under the dominion of the Lamb and His servants, it will never see the corruption of our current world.
Revelation 22 is filled with the language of Genesis and of Holy Baptism. The river of the water of life hearkens back to the river that flowed out of Eden and divided into four rivers (Genesis 2:10–14). The river provides water for twelve groves of the tree of life. What man was barred from in Genesis 3 becomes his daily bread in Revelation 22. These groves each give their fruit for one month of the year so that the citizens of the new Jerusalem are always fed with the very best food.
We are also told that the Lamb’s name is on the forehead of all of His servants. This reminds us of our baptismal liturgy: “Receive the sign of the holy cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified” (LSB, p. 268).
In Baptism, we receive the triune name of God. It is poured on us with water, the water of life. We are marked for all eternity as belonging to Christ. In the new Jerusalem, John sees this reality. All of the Lamb’s servants are marked as belonging to Him. They are called by name, and they are His.
It is easy to miss or ignore the significance of verse 5. The servants of the Lamb “reign forever and ever.” Just as the Pevensies are born to rule in Cair Paravel in Narnia, so all baptized Christians are born in those baptismal waters to rule in the new Jerusalem. All human beings are born to have dominion over all creation. This does not end in the new creation. Instead, it is perfected there.