Several years ago, I presided over the funeral of a twenty-six-year-old mother to five who had died suddenly and unexpectedly the week before, perhaps of a brain aneurysm. Her oldest stepdaughter was fourteen, her youngest son almost two. Ten years earlier, that same woman’s mother and father had died within one month of each other, leaving her and her two brothers orphans. The tragedy of the mother had become the tragedy of the daughter too.
The world is not supposed to work that way, but it does. Parents are not supposed to die before their children, but they do. Sons and daughters are not meant to grow up as orphans, but there are orphans nonetheless.
The world lies under a curse.
Revelation 22.1–6 speaks of “the river 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,” that is, the New Jerusalem. “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.” With these words, John is making a point, namely, that the New Jerusalem is the old Eden, better, however, because purified.
In the opening chapters of Genesis, God planted Eden as a garden in the midst of the wild world, a fit habitation for Adam and Eve. Every blessing was present there, but Adam and Eve rejected what God had offered them in order to grasp after what God had forbidden them. Ever since, we have been denied access to the tree of life.
The world lies under a curse of death.
But God offers us life. Notice that the river flows “from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” God is the source of life. To believe in God and Christ is to experience life in eternity, even if we die for a moment. And notice this: “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.”
The world lies under a curse of death, but it need not.
Revelation 22.1–6 speaks of the life of the Spirit in terms of humanity’s basic needs for food, water, shelter, light, and warmth. And it portrays salvation as the healing of a deep wound. As I have reflected that funeral four years ago, I have been reminded of several truths that I too often ignore: Life can wound you. It will leave scars on you that cannot be healed in a lifetime. But all things can be healed in eternity if we place our lives in the hands of a Master Surgeon today.
Someday, the world’s tragic pain will give way to triumphant praise.