What does “the healing of the nations” mean?

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By BibleAsk Team


The imagery of the healing of the nations from the tree of life is a profound concept found in the book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament. To delve into its significance, we must explore the theological context of Revelation and examine relevant biblical passages.

Context of Revelation

Revelation is a symbolic and apocalyptic book written by the Apostle John while he was exiled on the island of Patmos. The book contains vivid imagery, visions, and prophecies concerning the end times, the ultimate triumph of good over evil, and the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth.

The Tree of Life in Revelation

The tree of life is introduced early in the biblical narrative, appearing in the Garden of Eden in Genesis as a symbol of God’s provision and the source of eternal life. In eating of the tree of life Adam and Eve were to have the opportunity of expressing their faith in God as the Sustainer of life. To this end God had endowed the tree with supernatural virtue. Its fruit, being an antidote for death, and its leaves for the sustaining of life and immortality, men would continue to live just so long as they should eat of it.

After humanity’s expulsion from the Garden due to sin, access to the tree of life was forbidden (Genesis 3:22-24). For this reason, it is thought that God removed the tree of life and the whole garden of Eden before the great flood that destroyed the earth. Before then, an angel with a fiery sword guarded the garden:

“So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24)

In Revelation, the tree of life reappears as a central motif, symbolizing restoration, healing, and eternal life in the new heaven and new earth. The healing of the nations from the tree of life is described in Revelation 22:

“1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2, NKJV)

Symbolism and Interpretation

The imagery of the tree of life and its healing leaves carries rich significance, which has been interpreted in various ways by scholars and theologians throughout history. Here are some key interpretations:

  1. Restoration and Healing: The healing of the nations from the tree of life symbolizes the restoration of all things in the new heaven and new earth. It signifies the complete healing and reconciliation of humanity with God, bringing an end to suffering, pain, and division. In this life, the believer applies the blood of Christ for the pardon of sin and for the healing of diseases. In heaven, there will be no diseases either of body or mind. Besides, the nations, that will walk in the light of this city, will be saved perfectly and completely from all the results of sin (Revelation 21:4; Revelation 21:24). The leaves of the tree of life will be for the preserving and continuing the health of the people of God just as the tree of life in Eden’s garden was for the preservation of the health and life of Adam and Eve, had they continued in a state of innocence.
  2. Eternal Life: The tree of life represents eternal life and spiritual nourishment. Its fruits are described as being available every month, suggesting a perpetual source of sustenance for those who partake of it. This echoes Jesus’ promise of abundant life to those who believe in him (John 10:10).
  3. Wholeness and Shalom: The healing of the nations implies not only physical healing but also spiritual wholeness and peace. It points to the fulfillment of God’s promise to make all things new, where there will be no more sorrow, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4).

Theological Implications

The imagery of the healing of the nations from the tree of life holds profound theological implications for Christian belief and practice:

  • Hope: The vision of the tree of life offers hope to believers, assuring them of God’s ultimate victory over sin and death. It encourages perseverance and faithfulness in the midst of trials and tribulations, knowing that God will ultimately bring about a new creation.
  • Mission: The universal scope of the healing of the nations underscores the mission of the Church to proclaim the gospel to all people. It reminds Christians of their call to participate in God’s redemptive work, sharing the message of salvation and reconciliation with the world.
  • Eschatological Fulfillment: The imagery of the tree of life points to the eschatological fulfillment of God’s kingdom, where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. It serves as a glimpse of the future reality when God’s reign is fully established and all things are made right.

Conclusion

The healing of the nations from the tree of life in Revelation symbolizes the restoration, healing, and eternal life made possible through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. It serves as a powerful image of hope and the fulfillment of God’s promises. As Christians anticipate the coming of God’s kingdom, they are called to embody the values of the tree of life—love, holiness, and reconciliation—in their lives and witness to the world.

“In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”†

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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