Understanding the Bible 55: Conclusion – The Tree of Life…

At last we come to the end of the biblical journey: all creation made new!  And the completion of the project of salvation is symbolized by the return of the “tree of life,” indeed a near forest of them now lining the center of the city.  (Remember it was access to the tree of life in the center of the Garden of Eden that symbolized God’s desire for eternal, loving relationship with humanity.  And the result of sin was that humanity lost access to the tree.  See Part 2.)  

The vision John recounts is one of complete restoration – bodies are healed, souls refreshed, death itself has been defeated and now there is the full reconciliation between humanity and God (and humanity with itself – “the healing of the nations”).  And at last we can – hopefully! – make sense of why the biblical story unfolds as it does.

One of the great gifts of Revelation is that by granting us access to how the story ends, it gives us the courage and faith to live the middle chapters of our lives with the assurance of what is to come.  It is quite a thing to know how your story concludes before you get there (with love and grace and peace…)!

But lest we get too definitive about the end, N.T. Wright reminds us that Revelation only gets us to a vision of life after death – a life that surely continues (see “tree of life”!)!  Thus we might best regard the final words of Rev. 22: “To be continued…”  I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next!


This is a sermon that was originally presented at Canvas (a Presbyterian church in Irvine, CA), October 17, 2014. To learn more about Canvas, click here!

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