"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him." Rev. 22:1-3

In the previous chapter, we had the sublime description of Heaven as a City, the palatial residence of the glorified Bride of Christ—a city without temple, without light of sun or moon, or material luminary, yet resplendent with eternal radiance. Here we have conjoined to it a restored Paradise, with its crystal river and perennial Tree of Life. Earth's two holiest spots, Eden and Jerusalem, are thus employed in blended symbol, further to image forth a bliss which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived. The verses form a befitting climax to the series of preceding visions. How often have they been listened to by the dying believer, cheering him in his passage through Jordan, tuning his voice to his closing earthly song, until its notes mingle with those of the Seraphim!

Let us seek to gather from them a few additional thoughts, under new emblems, of the nature of the coming Heavenly bliss—a few additional glimpses of the Everlasting Home. The reader must bear so far with repetition; although under varying imagery, some of the same characteristics recur with which we are already acquainted. The inspired Painter loves to delineate over and over again the same subject, only rendering it under new aspects.

The first thought here regarding the happiness in reserve for the saints of God in their future Heaven is, that it is a divinely-originated happiness. John sees this River of the Water of Life "flowing from the Throne of God;" it has its fountain-head there. Could the simile possibly have been suggested by the only river-source with which he was familiar in Palestine, and which had to him the holiest of memories; that which no traveler who has seen it can ever forget—the welling up of the Jordan in the cavern at the base of giant Mount Hermon ('the kingly mountain'), itself the most glorious emblem in that land of sacred symbol of the Throne "Eternal in the Heavens?" Proceeding from the footstool of this mountain-throne, the Jordan river, from the gush of its pure stream, might well suggest the words, "the river of the water of life."

This, too, is the first feature in the vision which arrests the attention of the apostle; for, although the scenery on either side of the river occupied the foreground of the picture (nearer his point of vision,) yet, before entering on its description, he follows the Stream to its source. He sees it rising up from the foot of the Throne of God! And this will form one of the great elements of joy to the ransomed saints above, tracing all their wealth of bliss and glory to its origin in the free sovereign grace and love of Jehovah! Except for His sovereign grace, there could have been no river, no harp, no crown, no song. By the grace of God they are what they are!

Moreover, not only does the vision tell that God is the author and source of all happiness in heaven, but that He Himself constitutes heaven's happiness! It is an emanation from Him—its beams radiate from the great central Sun. Let the proclamation be sounded in the upper Sanctuary—'There is no God'—and the joys of Heaven would terminate. Annihilate that majestic Throne, and the river would cease to flow; the blessedness of angels and the Redeemed, would be at an end. There may be, and there doubtless will be, other joys; but God Himself will be to His Ransomed their "exceeding joy." Jerusalem of old had no river. No Tigris, or Euphrates, or Tiber washed her walls, or flowed through her environing valleys. The Jordan was at a distance, and the Kedron was a winter torrent, which left a dry channel all summer long. But she had a nobler equivalent and compensation—"The glorious Lord will be to her in the place of broad rivers and streams." This, in a loftier sense, will be true of the Heavenly Jerusalem—"GOD is in the midst of her." The song of earth will be the song of eternity, "all my springs are in You," "with You is the fountain of life."

A second element in the Heavenly bliss of the redeemed, spoken of in these words, is that it is a happiness derived from, and dependent upon, the atoning work of Christ. The river proceeds from "the Throne of God and of the Lamb." And it is again added, in verse 3, "But the Throne of God and of THE LAMB shall be in it." 'The Lamb' denotes in this Book, as we now well know, the sacrificial name of Jesus. While we are reminded by "the Throne of God" of the purposes of love in the adorable Trinity from all eternity, we are specially reminded that the redeemed, as they crowd by the banks of the River of Life watching its outflowing, will trace up all their covenant privileges to the Savior who died for them, and make this their eternal ascription, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, for You have redeemed us unto God by Your blood!" They will see every gem of their crown, resplendent with His atoning work and righteousness. They will understand then the full meaning of that expression of Paul's, where Heaven is spoken of as "the purchased possession."

Each gate of this 'City of the Crystal sea' will bear the inscription, "You are not your own, you are bought with a price." No, more, it recalls one of the truths of a former vision, which we need not again expand, the perpetuity of the exalted humanity of the Savior. Though His throne is spoken of here, denoting His Deity and kingly Sovereignty, it is the Throne of THE LAMB. He will still be known in the midst of His redeemed Church as the sacrificial victim of Calvary—not only the Brother in our nature, but as "Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood!"

The next thought these words bring before us, is also one with which previous visions have made us familiar, that the heavenly happiness will be pure in its nature. It will be the happiness of holiness. If we take the River as symbolic of the believer's bliss, its purity specially arrested the attention of the Apostle. "He showed me a pure river of the Water of life;" and in verse 3 it is said, "there shall be no more curse." The greatest curse of all, is the curse of sin. That curse will be at an end; and the Redeemed will know, in all its beauty and fullness, the truth of the beatitude, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

How present happiness and peace are marred and polluted by impurity! The breath of sin blurs the windows of the soul; the curse of sin blights the fairest flowers in the earthly garden. The corruption of the heart, like the wind on the surface of the lake, disturbs its loveliest reflections; and every stream that flows from it is ruffled and troubled too. Many a man, with all the world can give to make him happy—riches, honors, fame—is wretched, because of the venom of some serpent-sin, which he has nurtured and fondled, to the destruction of his own peace! The moral virus has tainted his whole life and being—he has become the slave of his lust and is therefore miserable. Look at the world around us—what a scene of fretfulness and agitation! How unlike the divine picturing of the Seer of Patmos! Mark sin's 'plottings and counter-plottings'—its envyings and slanders—its frauds and ambitions—its feuds and hatreds—and intense love of self.

By that pure River of Life there will be no such disturbing causes—"no curse" (or "accursed thing"); but one vast community of holy beings pervaded by one law—the law of love. We shall be happy, because holy; heaven will be found to consist in assimilation to the divine character in its holiness—the blending of the human with the divine will. "It does not yet appear what we shall be" (there is much regarding the circumstantials of heavenly bliss which remains unrevealed); "but (this) we know, that when He shall appear we shall be like Him." "And," adds the Apostle, "let every man that has this hope in him, purify himself even as He is pure." Think once more of this often reiterated qualification of heavenly citizenship. It is "a pure river of the water of life" on whose banks the Redeemed are to recline, and of whose streams they are to drink. "Without holiness no man can see the Lord."

A fourth element of future Heavenly joy suggested in these words is, that there shall then be a full disclosure and revelation of all that is mysterious in earthly dispensations. What often makes the river of earth dark and turbid, is the mystery of the Divine dealings. We watch that river in its flow, or gaze down into its channel, but all is muddy, baffling, perplexing—"Your judgments are a great deep." But John, as he gazes, sees not only a pure river, but it is translucent—it is "clear as crystal." In God's own light he sees light—all will be revealed then. Every 'why' and 'wherefore' will be resolved—every "needs be" will be interpreted and explained. As we stoop over the crystalline depths, the ascription often before uttered through tears, will be then made with jubilant voice, "Righteous are you, O Lord;" "We have known" (and now believe) "the love of God to us!"

A fifth characteristic of future Heavenly happiness here suggested is its diversity. The figure of the River is now changed to that of a Tree. "On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." Unlike the fruit-bearers of earth, which had only their annual crop and no more, it is fruit-yielding each successive month of the eternal year—it has its twelve fruit harvests. That Tree is Christ! We read of the Tree of life in Eden lost. Here we read of it again in Paradise regained. No flaming sword now guards the way. It stands in the open street, free to every glorified citizen—the pledge and guarantee of his immortal joy. In Jesus, this ever-living Tree, there is found every kind of exalted happiness; bliss suited to the varied tastes and capacities and spiritual longings of His ransomed people. All are pictured as being congregated under its majestic shadow, gathering the food they most desire; and no sooner is one crop gathered—than lo! the branches are anew laden and the baskets anew filled.

"There is a river, the STREAMS (the manifold streams) whereof make glad the city of God." How different from earth! There, often when one stream is dried, all is dried. One awful misfortune comes, and the heart pines and withers, and nothing else can fill up its aching voids; one gourd is smitten, and nothing can reanimate its drooping, withered leaves. Even those on earth whose worldly cup has been fullest, who know best what joy is, how short-lived, how unsatisfactory, after all! How it palls on the worn-out appetite, if it have no higher and nobler element in it!

But in Heaven the blessedness is ever new. Its characteristics are—abundance, variety, perpetuity. "You are complete in Him." The Tree, the River, the Leaves, seem beautifully to harmonize with the successive emblems, which, in a preceding vision, describe the happiness of the glorified. Is it the Tree and its abundant fruits? "They shall hunger no more." Is it the River of living water? "They shall thirst no more." Is it the shadowy overcanopying Leaves with their healing influences? "The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat." The believer's bliss being a covenant one, and divine in its origin (flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb), is changeless and inexhaustible! No darkness can cloud it—no rock of human vicissitude can impede its current. It flows on, and on, forever, "to the ages of the ages!"

Once more. The words indicate another constituent element in the happiness of Heaven (which has also been anticipated in a previous vision), that is, the activities of a glorified life, "and His servants shall serve Him." Heaven is not to be a blank existence. Even on earth there is a blessing in the law of labor—a blessing wrapped up in the very curse, "In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread." The most wretched of lives is a life of compelled idleness. The most joyous is a life of active usefulness—the apostolic combination of diligence in business with fervency in spirit. And the same law will hold good in Heaven. It will be no dreamy, sentimental, Mohammedan Paradise. The Redeemed will be engaged serving God in active ministries of holy love. "They rest," and yet "they rest not." They rest in the perfect peace of God, the realized possession of His favor. But they rest not, in the labor of a faithful service. Their highest happiness is in doing His pleasure. They "serve Him day and night in His temple."

What a pleasure on earth, a faithful servant experiences in doing the work of his master well! Even when such fidelity may be little deserved, or such labor poorly requited, it is rendered cheerfully from a sense of duty. What infinitely higher and purer joy will those Redeemed Saints in Heaven have, in serving ONE all worthy of their love, and who has infinite and surpassing claims on their regard! Then, at least, shall they serve Him with a devotion that never flags, a constancy that never falters, a singleness of eye and aim which admits of no deflection or deviation, a zeal which knows no decay. Duty will be transformed into delight. God's service will be its own noblest recompense. The cry of the old champion, as he first girded on his armor, will be the joy of eternity, "Lord! what will you have me TO DO?"

How are we affected by these renewed glorious picturings of a future Heaven? Is it to us a pleasing prospect, that all the evils once brought in by Sin are to be removed—that the unstrung tuneless harp is to have its old harmonies revived—that our lost Eden is to be more than restored, for it is to be restored without the possibility of failure or fall. We have been again specially reminded of Heaven's main moral characteristic. If this passage had described nothing but material beauty—the River, the Tree, the luscious Fruits, the Golden-paved streets, these would all (in themselves) fail to satisfy the aspirations of the Redeemed Soul. But "I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness." "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have right to the Tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the City."

Nor are these spiritual blessings (symbolized by the Tree and its abundant fruitage) blessings reserved only for the future. They are ours now. We are invited now to partake of these fruits, and to repose under that shelter. "Christ who is our Life." Life is now alone found in Him; out of Him is death—the curse. Like the emblem of this Heavenly vision too, He is accessible at all times. The Tree bears fruit every month. Every month of life's momentous year we may come to Him. Youth may come to Him in spring. Manhood may come to Him in summer. Even Old age may take shelter under these glorious branches. When other trees of existence are bared and stripped by winter blasts, He is filled with leaves, a refuge from the storm and a covert from the tempest.

In the bright months of prosperity, in the dreary months of adversity; in months of sickness when laid on the lone pillow; in the dark months of bereavement, this Tree is stretching forth its sheltering arms of mercy, that every weary, wandering bird may be screened from the gathering tempest. God grant that we may experience in part now, and in their glorious reality for evermore, the fulfillment of the Psalmist's exulting words, "He who dwells in the secret place of the most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty!"