“Then he showed me the river of living water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the broad street of the city. On both sides of the river was the tree of life bearing kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. Night will no longer exist, and people will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:1-5).
We tend to think of heaven as some forward time on the line of life’s journey. Heaven is a place we’ll get to someday. In light of Revelation 22:1-5, maybe we should wonder if God sees it in the same way. Is heaven a progression forward, or is it a journey back? Or, perhaps it’s both?
It’s forward in the sense that we aren’t there yet, so it must be in the future. But notice this: In heaven, there is a river. And there is a tree. The description sounds strikingly familiar to the description of something way back there in our past—the garden of Eden. We’re on a journey forward, but we’re also on a journey back.
God is setting things right, the way they should have been if sin in the garden never happened. We’re moving forward, but we’re also returning to our original destiny—unbroken fellowship with God.
That’s what makes heaven heaven. There’s more to it than the lack of sickness, reuniting with long-lost relatives, or even full-time worship. All of those things are good, even great, but they’re all by-products of the fact that in the garden there is perfect fellowship with God. And in that perfect fellowship we find joy, unspeakable joy that we’re where we were supposed to be loving with Who we were supposed to be loving.
Excerpted from the Summer 2008 issue of LifeMatters, “Rush Hour Eschatology.”