Does Revelation 21-22 fit what happened in Rome two thousand years ago? Or does the book now speak of the final judgment to come? I think that the answer is both. It’s hard to say that it has no relevance to the Roman situation since we are told yet again in 22:7 that this return will come very soon. Remember how in Revelation 20, we talked about the idea that Satan will have times in the future that he will regroup and return to try to destroy the people of God. In a similar way, there will be time after time that God will rescue his people and let them join his victory. In that way, the book of Revelation is a pattern that is repeated throughout history. It makes sense that in the final Judgment Day that it will be a more complete version of what God has been doing all along.
Revelation 22 has many beautiful images of how the remaining damage that has been done by evil will now be completely undone. The image of crystal clear water pouring forth for the people of God is an image of life. Some think this indicates the Holy Spirit while others are reminded of Eden’s rivers or Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman that he would give her living water. What’s clear is that this water is a source of life and blessing. Those who drink it will never thirst again. The tree of life reminds us of Eden, where God’s garden provided everything humans could want, before death or sin ever entered the creation. And not just any fruit, but 12 kinds of fruit for each month (12 times a year). Again, the number 12 reminds us of God’s people and we are supposed to realize that God is feeding his people and providing for them abundantly.
The curse will be lifted. The curse immediately leaves me thinking of men working the land for food and women having pain in childbirth, but Revelation 22 doesn’t connect the lifting of the curse to either of those aspects. Immediately after the curse is lifted we are told of an intimate relationship between God and his people where they can see his face and his name is upon their foreheads. This is the fulfillment of communion and the relationship that is desired.
The book ends with several promises that all of this is true and will soon come to pass. The letter, as soon as John finished it, was not to be kept secret, but sent throughout the churches warning them. While some have said that Revelation uses images to keep Romans from understanding it, these final verses seem to contradict that. There is an invitation that those who are outside the gates might listen and “come.”
At the end of the day, every single one of us has a choice. This is good news and bad news in this. The bad news is that God will honor our choice and give us what we ask for. The good news is that God will honor our choice and give us what we ask for.
My prayer is that God will give me rivers of crystal clear, life giving water. And my prayer is that you will ask for the water too. Because that water washes all the pain of the dragon and the beasts away. It heals. It gives life. It fills you with the love of the one who created love.