Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, down the middle of the citys street. And on either side of the river stood a tree of life yielding twelve crops of fruit, one for each month of the year; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
The book of Revelation stands as one of the most seriously misunderstood and misused books of the Bible. Over the centuries, its strange, vivid and highly-colored imagery has led some to dismiss it as impenetrable and others to relish it as a detailed blueprint for earths destruction.
Revelation defies both of these interpretations. Instead, its primary revelation is of a faithful God who draws all peoples, all nations, to a new heaven and a new reality. The river of the water of life, bright as crystal flows directly from God, in a glowing reflection of the life-giving waters that stream throughout the pages of the Bible, from its first book to its last. Nourished and nurtured by this water, the very leaves of the tree of life, planted so tenderly by God at the creation, now serve as healing balm, as calming shade, in the New Jerusalem.
Here at the climax of the book and of the Bible itself we catch a glimpse of the wondrous new world to which God draws us. And that vision is indeed a revelation an image of harmony and wholeness, of healing and embrace, of fulfillment and hope.
Susan Wilds McArver teaches at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina.
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