Summary: In John's vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, he shows us that all the hopes of a sacred city on a sacred river will be fulfilled, and we will have peace like a river forever.
THE RIVER OF HEAVEN based on Rev. 22:1-2
By Glenn Pease
Kipling's book, Kim, has been called the greatest story of a river that has ever been written. According to Buddhist tradition, Buddha shot an arrow into the air, and where it fell, a river sprang up. The river was sacred, and whoever bathed in it would be cleansed from all sin. Kipling's story is about an old lama who wonders through cities and rice fields, over hills and across plains, always asking the same question. "The River, the River of the Arrow; the River that can cleanse from sin; where is the River?"
The universal search of man has been to find a river that satisfies every thirst of the body and soul. The quest of Ponce de Leon for the fountain of youth is a quest that has gone on all through history. Most of history follows the paths of the great rivers of the world. Babylon is built on the Euphratus; Nineveh was built on the Tigris; Thebes was built on the Nile, and Rome was built on the Tiber. We could go on around the world showing how the great cities are built by great rivers. Rivers have been the streams of life for the cities of the world. Our own great Mississippi has played a major role in the history of our country. The name in Algonquin means, Great River.
One of the strange paradoxes is that Jerusalem was not built by a river. This was a draw back, and the Jews always hoped that one day that their holy city, like the great cities of the world, could have a river. The prophets and psalmists were forever dreaming and singing of the river. Ezekiel, in a vision, saw a board river rushing out of Jerusalem. Isaish saw a future Jerusalem where he says in 33:21, "There the Lord will be our Mighty One. It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams." He got so disgusted with the disobedience of the people and God Himself lamented in 48:18, "O that you had harkened to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river..." Peace like a river, and the prosperity of a river have always been the rewards of a people blessed of God. To the Jewish mind, the ideal city must have a river. They believe that God Himself dwelt by a river in heaven. Psalm 46:4 we read, "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High."
In John's vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, he shows us that all the hopes of a sacred city on a sacred river will be fulfilled, and we will have peace like a river forever. It is fascinating to study rivers, but here is the most fascinating river of all. Christianity was, in a sense, born on a river. John the Baptist began the New Testament ministry by baptizing in the Jordan River. Jesus was baptized in this famous river just before He began His public ministry. The Jordan is the most famous river of the Bible. Naaman didn't think it compared to the rivers of Syria, but when he obeyed God, the waters of Jordan became the waters of life for him, and they cleansed his leprosy.
Crossing over Jordan has become a symbolic way of referring to entering heaven. This is because, the entrance of Israel into the promise land began with the miracle of crossing over the Jordan on dry ground. It was the Jordan that made the promised land the nearest thing to the garden of Eden. It gave life to all the rich soil of the Jordan valley, and produced abundance of fruit. In Gen. 13:10 we read, "And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the entire Jordan Valley was irrigated....and it was life a garden of God." Just as the first paradise needed a river to keep it beautiful, and just as the promised land needed a river to keep it beautiful, so the eternal paradise for all God's people needs a river. John, as an eye witness, says it will be there.
All that a river has meant to man in history will be ours in perfection as dwellers in the holy city. What blood is to the body a river is to the city, and that is why it is called the river of the water of life. The blood stream has been called the river of life. When Jesus shed His blood in atonement for our sin, He sacrificed His river of life. Now by trusting in that river of life for forgiveness, we can have the hope of dwelling by that eternal river of life. One day gathered by that river we will sing some such words as this,