Probably the most intimidating book of the Bible is the book of Revelations. It is written in a style of writing known as apocalyptic literature. This means that just about everything written is done so by using symbols and imagery. This imagery and the subject matter are what makes Revelations so daunting a read.
Most people and scholars see the book of Revelations in a futuristic linear view. This means that some time in the future Event A will come before Event B which will come before Event C and so on. While it is not my intention to go into the entire layout of the book, I only mention this to point out that this is not the view that I take. I see Revelations as cyclical book with ever widening cycles until all of human history and future is encompassed. It is with this view I would like to examine Revelation 22:1-2.
Since Revelations is apocalyptic in nature, it can only be understood by understanding the symbols and imagery. I am a firm believer in the concept of letting the Bible interpret the Bible. While this is not always feasible, I do believe that it is the best place to start.
The first major imagery we are confronted with is the river of the water of life. So searching the scriptures we find that Jesus, makes a similar reference in John 7:38-39. In this reference, it is clear that Jesus is refering to the Holy Spirit as rivers of life. If we apply this imagery to Revelation 22, what we would say is that from Jesus out of the throne room of God, the Holy Spirit is flowing.
The next major piece of imagery we have is the tree of life. This symbolism immediately brings to mind Genesis 2:9. In that instance, the tree of life seems to be an actual tree. Is that what we are dealing with here? Not so fast, lets look a little more. In Psalm 1:1-3, Solomon paints a picture of a tree bearing fruit in its season being sustained by a river. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? However in this case the tree represents a righteous person. So how does that fit in within Revelation 22? If the river represents the Holy Spirit and the tree of life represents believers, we could say that what John saw was the church being sustained by the Holy Spirit bringing healing to the nations.
Now it is interesting that the greek word used by John in Revelations 22 is therapeian. It is from this word we get our english word therapy. John is not talking about just physical healing (although that is certainly a part of it) but a complete healing of mind, body, and spirit.
So what does this mean for us today? It means that we should be bold in bringing that healing. It means that we must perform the actions necessary to bring “therapy” to the nations. It does not necessarily require an “official ministry” or evangelizing technique. It means that the people we come into contact with every day need to receive therapy from us. It starts with our families, then our co-workers, then the checkout girl at Walmart, and the person on the street we give a passing hello to. It is in this manner the church (tree) will bring therapy to the nations. All this must be done by being sustained by the Holy Spirit. I challenge everyone who believes to begin to inquire of God about how to bring therapy to the nations. This is what we are called to do.