The Question Column
QUESTION: What is meant in Revelation 22:2 by the words: “… and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations”? In what sense will “healing” be needed in the eternal state?
ANSWER: While preparing this issue of the magazine, the editor was asked the foregoing twofold question following a Sunday A.M. preaching service. As I have had to say on many occasions in a classroom, I had to reply to the brother who asked me about these words, “I don’t know.” Dr. J. Vernon McGee says he doesn’t know the significance of this part of Revelation 22:2 either, so I am in good company.
However, in the interim I have done a little research on this text about which there are a couple of schools of thought. First, some have referred the situation of verse 2 back to the millennial times when there will be sickness and healing. To me personally, this intepretation is difficult to accept simply because the passage has to do with the eternal state and not the millennial reign of Christ. Second, and I think preferably, some hold that the word “healing” (therapeian) can and should be understood as “health-giving.” As virtually any reader would guess, the English “therapeutic” is derived from this Greek word. While there is no sickness in the eternal state, the tree of life’s fruit and leaves may contribute to the physical well-being of those in the eternal state. While the verse does not state that the fruit can be eaten, the implication is that it can.1
Dr. Erich Sauer interprets the healing of the nations (i.e., the Gentiles; see Rev. 21:24, 26; or possibly “peoples” in general) to full deliverance from the ills of life which characterized their state before eternity began and not to illness still present. He is careful to stress, however, that there is no thought here of universalism, that is, that all will be saved. He quotes Friedrich Duesterdieck as follows:
“The expression is just as little to be pressed to mean that a then still present sickness of the nations is supposed, as we are permitted to draw the inference from Rev. 21:4 that the tears which God will wipe away from the blessed are signs of then still present pain. It much rather means that just as the tears which they had shed on account of earthly suffering will be wiped away in the eternal state, so the healing leaves of the tree of life serve for the healing of the sickness from which the nations had suffered during their earthly life, but shall never suffer again in the new earth.”2
— The Editor
1 The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 987.
2 John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp. 330-31.