The Leaves Are For The Healing Of All The Nations
Read : Revelation 22 : 1 - 6
An ancient legend tells of a king whose army was afraid to fight. The soldiers were frightened because, their enemy was too strong, their castle fortress was too high and their weapons were too mighty.
The King, however, was not afraid. He told his soldiers that he possessed a magical coin, which would foretell the outcome of the battle. There was an eagle on one side, and on the other, a bear. The king said he would toss the coin, and if it landed eagle-side up, they would win, but if it landed with the bear up, they would lose.
The army was silent as the king flipped the coin into the air. The soldiers held their breath as they watched, and shouted with joy when they saw the eagle face up. The army would win. Bolstered by this assurance of victory, the soldiers marched against their enemy's castle fortress, and won.
It was only after their victory, that the king showed his soldiers the coin. The two sides of it were identical.
Although this story is fictional, the truth it illustrates is reliable - assured victory empowers the army
Perhaps this is the reason that God gave us the Book of Revelation. Through it, God assures us of his victory. In it, we see God's divine program of redemption brought to fruition, and the holy name of God vindicated before all creation. Through this book, we, as God's soldiers, are given a glimpse of the final battlefield, where, at God's appointed time, the risen and ascended Lord Jesus will burst on to the world's scene. Then everyone will know that Jesus is Lord of the universe ! Those who love him will rejoice, greeting their Saviour with hearts overflowing into songs of praise.
However, his enemies will be filled with fear. Allied with Satan, the enemies of Christ will marshal their legions against Christ and his armies. But no-one can withstand God's wrath. Christ will win the battle, and the victorious Lord will vindicate the righteous, judge the wicked, and reigning victorious for ever. Jesus, born in a manger, the humble, suffering, Servant, is also the powerful, conquering, King and Judge.
Unlike the story of the coin though, the Book of Revelation is no trick, it contains no false hopes or unfounded assurances. When Jesus rose from the dead on the first Easter Sunday, it was because he had beaten Satan, and death, and all of Satan's tricks. On that day, Jesus won the war. Even though Satan still battles on, because of Jesus' resurrection, we are assured that at the end of time, Christ will return to rescue his people, and he will settle accounts with those who defy him.
Although Jesus gave this revelation of himself to John nearly 2000 years ago, during John's exile on the small, desolate, island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, the book still stands as a comfort and also as a challenge to God's people today. We can take heart as we understand John's vision, because this perspective on end-time events has meaning and relevance for the lives of all generations of Christians.
Looking at the reading, we heard that the angel showed John 'the river of the water of life'. That he describes this as a river, indicates that it is no meagre supply. 'Shining like crystal' conveys the idea of its sparkling brilliance. John believed that all life has its origin in God, and so, because the river flowed 'from the throne of God', John calls it the water of life. This water of life is a symbol of eternal life. It pictures the fullness of life with God, and the eternal blessings that come when we believe in him, and allow him to satisfy our spiritual thirst. You probably remember how Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, about the "water of life", in the same way.
John then goes on to tell us that on the side of the river is 'the tree of life'. This may be an allusion to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. Remember how, after Adam and Eve sinned, they were forbidden to eat from the tree of life. This was because they could not have eternal life as long as they were under sin's control. However, because of the forgiveness of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus, there will be no evil or sin in the new city. In the new city, everyone will be able to eat freely from the tree of life, because through Jesus, sin's control has been destroyed, and eternity with God is secure.
John tells us that the tree of life "produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month". Technically, as there will no longer be either sun or moon, there won't be any months, or even days, as we know them. But even so, John's meaning is clear, he is telling us that there is such an abundance of fruit from this tree, that the supply never fails.
Next, John tells us that "the leaves of the tree" are for the "healing of all the nations".
Christ has always been concerned about the nations of the world. Remember how he said that his Father's House was a house of prayer for all the nations. Or how he commissioned his Twelve disciples to go and preach the gospel to every nation. God's concern then, is not just for individual people, but also for all the nations.
So God is promising us that the nations of the world will be healed. We need to remember this promise, whenever we feel as though there is no hope for change, or healing or peace, whether it is in the Middle East, or Darfur, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Burma, or China, or - any of the so many places around the world, that are suffering because of internal or external conflicts, or oppression, or violence.
Of course, we recognise that true and lasting healing and peace for every single nation of the world will only happen in the Kingdom of God, but we can be sure that will happen. One day, all the nations will be healed. One day, there will be peace for the whole world. So we must never lose hope, and we must never stop praying for change and for peace.
Because, sometimes the Kingdom of Heaven does break through into our world here and now, and when it does miraculous, things happen ! Situations that it seemed could never change, do change. Places where conflict seemed never ending, experience peace. To know that this is true, we only have to remember of the fall of the Berlin Wall, or think of the peace that now exists in Northern Ireland, where former enemies are working together in legitimate government.
How ever and where ever it happens, when we see healing taking place within or between nations, or peace breaks out in a situation where once that seemed impossible, it is a clear sign of the Kingdom of God, not just coming near, but breaking through into our world. We must never forget that nothing lasts for ever in this world, and that there is always hope for improvement. It is now just a matter of time before the end of time, when all the nations will be healed, and they will be at peace.
Nevertheless, perhaps, through our prayers, and whatever else we can do to help, we may be able to assist the Kingdom of God to break through, into more places, more often, so that not all of the world's nations, or conflicts, will have to wait for healing and peace, until the end of time.