Commentary on Revelation 22:1-5

Notes (NET Translation)

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life – water as clear as crystal – pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations.

Chapter 21 used the imagery of a city to describe the people of God in the eternal age to come. That description now merges with a description of Eden restored. The tree of life (Rev. 22:2) is once again accessible (Gen. 3:24). The curse (Gen. 3:14-24) has been reversed (Rev. 22:3). Instead of hiding from God (Gen. 3:8) the redeemed can see his face (Rev. 22:3).

The river in 22:1 alludes to the river out of Eden (Gen. 2:10-14) and the sacred river of Ezek. 47:1-12. The river of the water of life cannot only be seen through, it is also without impurity. God and the Lamb occupy the same throne (it is a singular noun). They are the source of the water of (eternal) life (cf. John 4:10-14; 7:37-39; Rev. 7:17; 21:6; 22:17). The tree of life bears an abundant variety of fruits (a different kind of fruit each month?). This emphasizes that God’s provision is ever new and more than adequate. The healing nature of the leaves indicates an absence of physical and spiritual want and fulfills the promise in Rev. 2:7. That it is for the healing of the nations may point to the lack of conflict between once warring nations and peoples. At the very least it refers to the conversion of the nations throughout the present age.

3 And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, 4 and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

God’s servants will worship him in the new Jerusalem instead of disobey him like Adam and Eve. To see God’s face is the greatest blessing (Ex. 33:20, 23; Num. 6:25-26; John 1:18). It is to know him as he is (1 Jn. 3:2). The name on the forehead of the redeemed indicates they are owned by God and reflect his nature. It is a fulfillment of the promise in Rev. 3:12.

5 Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.

There is no darkness in God (1 Jn. 1:5), meaning no evil or sin.

Here and in 21:23, 25 the thought may be that there will literally be no sun or moon in the sense that God does not create these luminaries in the new cosmos because his own light will replace them. But it is just as possible that these same luminaries will be created again, but God’s light will outshine them. The focus is not so much on a comparison of aspects of the literal creation of either the old or new world with God’s luminescent glory. As we have seen, the language is figurative (see on 21:1, 23–26), and the main point is that nothing from the old world will be able to hinder God’s glorious presence from completely filling the new cosmos. Likewise, nothing from that fallen world will be able to hinder the saints from unceasing access to that divine presence. The same conclusion is valid for the interpretation of the absence of the “sea” in 21:1 and the nonexistence of “night” in 21:25 and 22:5a. (Beale 1115)

The reigning of the saints with God fulfills the promises of Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21 (cf. Dan. 7:18, 27; Luke 22:30; 1 Cor. 6:2-3; 2 Tim. 2:12).

At the risk of extracting overliteral precision from the picture here, it may nevertheless be profitable to consider that there is a sense in which there are subjects over whom the saints rule. They participate in the judgment of unholy people and angels at the last day (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:2–3; Rev. 2:26–27; 17:14; 19:14). The saints will exercise this aspect of their rule forever in that the punishment involved in this last judgment will last for eternity (see on 14:10–11; 20:10). There is still a sense in which the saints rule forever, even if the last judgment is construed as only a one-time event and not an ongoing activity into eternity. That is, they exercise sovereignty over the new creation in a way similar to how Adam was to rule “over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28; Psalm 8). The original Adamic commission did not assume that Adam’s rule entailed dominion over other righteous humans. It is probably presupposed here that the new creation will take some kind of material form and contain creatures to rule over. And even if there are no animals to rule over, it is probable that God’s people will rule over holy angels, since angels were included in the creation over which Adam was to reign (Neh. 9:6; Heb. 2:5–7) and since they will exist alongside the redeemed in the eternal state. Christ fulfills the role of the last Adam in order, partly, to rule over, in corporate solidarity with his people, the eternal new creation, which includes the holy angels (Heb. 2:5–16), who exist merely to be servants of the redeemed (Heb. 1:14; cf. Rev. 21:12). But exalted believers are different from the first Adam in that, whereas God only commissioned him to rule, now God promises that his people certainly will reign without end. (Beale 1116–1117)


Beale, G. K. The Book of Revelation. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.

Boxall, Ian. Revelation of Saint John, The. Black’s New Testament Commentary. Baker Academic, 2009.

Fee, Gordon D. Revelation. Kindle ed. New Covenant Commentary Series. Cascade Books, 2010.

Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. Revised. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Osborne, G. R. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.