Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2)
Last week, we saw that Earth is our temporary home until it is our permanent one. But in my experience, even Christians who understand this can have an anemic view of what life on the New Earth will be like, leading many to believe the third half-truth I want to explore in this series:
Half-Truth #3: We are going back to Eden
There is some truth to this. As we see in today’s passage, the “tree of life” from Eden is present once again. In the words of my Bible’s heading over Revelation 22, the New Earth is “Eden Restored.” But it is also much more than that.
Notice where the tree of life is located on the New Earth. It is straddling the river in “the middle of the great street of” the New Jerusalem—a city that stands more than seven million feet tall (see Revelation 21:16). The picture here is not of Eden as a remote garden with no civilization. It’s more like Central Park in the middle of Manhattan. Because the Garden has become the “Garden City” which itself is an act of culture as God has refined gold, pearls, and gems in its construction (see Revelation 21:9-27).
And it’s not just God’s works of culture that are there, but also some of human hands—what John calls “the glory and honor of the nations” (see Revelation 21:26). We know there will be wine on the New Earth (see Mark 14:25), houses (see Isaiah 65:21), and commerce (see Isaiah 60). In the words of the late theologian Dr. Richard Mouw, “There is an important sense in which the Holy City is the Garden-plus-the-’filling’” that God commanded when he asked humankind to “fill the earth and subdue it” (see Genesis 1:28).
Beyond what we see in Scripture, the fact that the New Earth will contain more than people and nature appeals to logic. Jesus described heaven as a “kingdom,” and kingdoms have more than just Sovereigns and subjects. They have art and order, customs and cultures. And we should expect to find all of these things and more on the New Earth.
That brings us to our next whole-truth:
Whole-Truth #3: We are going back to Eden with the “filling” of the earth
God never said we’re going back to Eden. Christians are destined to go back to the future. What does that mean for our work today? It means that some of our work has the chance of surviving the fire of judgment Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 3. Work in light of that today!