There are at least seven promises given to us in Revelation 22 that confirm Jesus’ victory over Satan, sin and death. These promises also assure us that all the effects of the Fall are reversed in Christ’s finished work and the salvation He has provided for us by grace through faith.
In this regard, we should view Revelation not merely as a book of frightening – and often confusing – imagery, but as a book of warm and assuring promises about God’s sovereignty over human affairs and angelic conflict. In the end, we who read, hear and heed the words of this prophecy are indeed blessed because we know the God who created all things is faithful.
Promise No. 1: Living water (v. 1; see also Rev. 21:6; 22:17)
There was a river in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:10) that served as the source of four other rivers. But when Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden they lost access to this pure source of water and drank from streams now affected by the Fall. A person may live for up to 40 days without food but only three days without water. The body itself is made up largely of water, so water is absolutely essential to life. Jesus often spoke about water as an image of eternal life supplied by the Holy Spirit (see John 4:10-14; 7:37-39).
In the New Jerusalem, we see a river of pure, living water flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life may drink freely from it. Ezekiel also had a vision of pure water in the glorious future temple (Ezek. 47:1-12; see also Zech. 14:8). This living water depicts the Holy Spirit who inhabits the human spirits of believers but is cut off from unbelievers (Rom. 8:9).
Promise No. 2: The tree of life (v. 2)
There was a tree of life, along with a tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:9; 3:22). When mankind fell into sin, God banished Adam and Eve from Eden lest they partake of the tree of life and be forever locked in a sinful state. Note in Genesis that trees God created were pleasing to the sight and good for food.
In Revelation we see that the tree of life yields food year round, and its leaves provide medicine for healing. Whether this is to be taken literally or symbolically is up for debate, but it’s clear that the tree of life is beautiful and provides what is needed for eternal life and health. Jesus, in His resurrected body, ate and drank, and there is promised a Marriage Supper of the Lamb in heaven, so it’s not unreasonable to conclude that the tree of life does indeed provide food for believers. Meanwhile, the healing of nations is provided for in the destruction of death (see Rev. 20:14; Ezek. 47:12).
Interestingly, access to the tree of life is granted to us only because Jesus died on a tree (Gal. 3:13).
Promise No. 3: No more curse (v. 3)
Curses came as a result of man’s sin (Gen. 3:14-19). Life on earth and procreation would become exceedingly more difficult, and humans suffered two kinds of death – spiritual and physical – as a result of their rebellion.
But in the New Jerusalem the curse is lifted. Mankind lives forever in the presence of God and finds no difficulty gaining access to abundant food and water. In the curse, humans are removed from direct access to God, but in the New Jerusalem that access is restored. And while people are cursed as a result of their sin, Jesus, who knew no sin, became a curse for us (Gal 3:13; see Deut. 21:23).
Promise No. 4: Seeing the face of God (v. 4)
After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves from God and felt both shame and fear (Gen. 3:8). Sin does that. It separates us from God and denies us access to Him because of His holiness and our sinfulness. Even devout servants like Moses were not allowed to see the face of God (Ex. 33:20-23).
But Rev. 22:4 tells us that in the life to come, believers will see God face-to-face and enjoy the intimacy that Adam and Eve experienced before they fell into sin. How is this possible? Because Jesus took upon Himself our sins and bore the wrath of God on the cross. He experienced spiritual death (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matt. 27:46) and physical death (“And Jesus … yielded up his spirit” Matt. 27:50). But in His death, burial and resurrection He restored us to a right relationship with God, and we have His promise that one day our faith will be made sight.
The phrase “his name will be on their foreheads” in Rev. 22:4 signifies God’s ownership of us and His promise to protect us.
Promise No. 5: Light (v. 5)
Before creation there was darkness (Gen. 1:2), but God, who is light, brought light into the universe. Just as darkness is the absence of light, so evil is depicted in scripture as darkness because it is an absence – perhaps more accurately, a shunning – of God’s holy presence. Eternal separation from God is called “outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12).
While Jesus suffered the wrath of God for the sins of the world there was darkness over the whole land (Mark 15:33). Unbelievers love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). Jesus came to deliver us from darkness (John 12:46). Darkness is associated with Satan and his kingdom (Acts 26:18; Rom. 13:12; Col. 1:13).
But in the New Jerusalem there is abundant light; in fact, there is no need of the sun, moon or stars, or of any artificial light, because God will provide light for us. Why is this light promised to us? Because Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12).
Promise No. 6: Reward and punishment (v. 12)
Because of our sin, we are under the wrath of God; our wages are death (Rom. 6:23). But Jesus came to deliver us from the bonds of sin and death. All those who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). This salvation is by God’s grace through faith, apart from works (John 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).
Even so, there is to be a final reckoning for all people with Jesus, who is the Judge of all people (John 5:22). Believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to be rewarded for faithful Christian service – or to lose rewards God intended for us (see Rom 14:10-12; 1 Cor. 3:14-15; 2 Cor. 5:10). This is not a judgment of our sins and does not result in anyone’s loss of salvation because Jesus was judged for us on the cross; rather, it is a time to give an account of our lives before Jesus and to receive His rewards for our faithfulness.
In a similar manner, unbelievers will stand one day before the great white throne to give an account of their lives (Rev. 20:11-15). This is not a last chance for salvation, for all are thrown into the lake of fire after judgment. But it is a time in which unbelievers will acknowledge the Lordship of Christ and be punished for their acts against the kingdom of God. Just as there are degrees of reward in heaven, there are degrees of punishment in hell; God is a just God. For believers, the greatest reward is Jesus Himself and the privilege of spending eternity with Him.
Promise No. 7: Entrance into the New Jerusalem (v. 14)
Adam and Eve were denied access to the Garden of Eden after the Fall. In fact, God placed cherubim at the entrance to the garden to keep them out. But in the New Jerusalem, access is freely granted to those who by faith “wash their robes” in the blood of the Lamb, while those outside the city gates demonstrate their unbelief through sinful lifestyles (Rev. 22:14-15; see also Rev. 21:8, 27).
This is possible only through Jesus, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6); “the door” (John 10:9); “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25); “the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16). Just as access into the holy of holies was denied to all people, except the high priest on the Day of Atonement, access to God has been denied to all people because of sin; but Jesus, our great high priest, entered the holy of holies in heaven with His own blood and secured our salvation.
That’s why, upon His death, the veil in the temple, separating the holy place from the holy of holies, was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51; see also 2 Cor. 3:14, 16). Christ’s flesh is likened to the veil, which, when torn, provides access to God (see Heb. 10:20).
We often do great harm to ourselves and to the testimony of Christ by arguing over the symbols and details of the Book of Revelation. While the symbols are important – and certainly mean something to first century readers as well as to us – an extreme emphasis on them can prevent us from seeing the glorious truth that in the Apocalypse God urges us to persevere in our faith amidst a wide range of trials because He controls human history and will be faithful to all His promises.
In the end, we will see Him face to face, drink from the pure spring of living water, and dine at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. As John, the Spirit and the Bride say, so let us say, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:17, 20).