Question: Why does Revelation 22:2 speak of a tree in heaven whose leaves bring healing to the nations if there is no more sickness in heaven?
Revelation 22:1-2 Then the angel showed me the river of the water 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. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
John is allowed to see the creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth. The tree itself is located in the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, which has come “down out of heaven from God” to the New Earth (Rev. 21:1). In fact, God’s throne is located in the New Jerusalem, where He will dwell among His redeemed people on the New Earth:
Rev. 21:1-4 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Two words in Revelation 22:2 help make the verse a little clearer: “healing” and “nations.”
The word translated “healing” is therapeiav (pronounced ther-a-pay-an), from which we get the English word “therapy.” Literally, it means, “to wait upon menially.”[i] It is sometimes used figuratively to express “serving” God in adoration and worship. It can also be used in the very specific sense of providing a “cure” for a disease.
In the context of the New Heavens and New Earth, healing of disease is no longer a concern (Rev. 21:4). Instead, the fruit of this tree “serves” as a constant supply of life-giving nutrition. This is exactly what was revealed to the prophet Ezekiel:
Ezek. 47:12 “And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
Both John and Ezekiel were given a glimpse into the eternal life we will enjoy in heaven where, in our resurrected bodies, we will enjoy the paradise of the New Earth. The “tree of life” in John’s vision is a singular, all-inclusive term for the “trees” of Ezekiel’s vision.
Finally, the word “nations” translates the Greek word ethne, meaning ethnic groups. All the peoples of the earth will be represented in the New Heavens and New Earth, enjoying the fruit of the tree of life:
Rev. 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.