“Healing for the Nations”: Seeing Jesus as the Fulfillment and Embodiment of the Tree of Life

For some, the book of Revelation serves as a “capstone” to the Christian Scriptures, providing the reader with the “climax of biblical prophecy,” and presenting Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of all the prophecies and themes of the biblical narrative. If this is true then the twenty-second chapter of the Revelation might be understood to be the capstone of the capstone. Revelation 22 is what the book, and the Christian Scriptures as a whole, are moving towards. In fact, it could also be said that this chapter is what all of history is moving towards. This is made clear in v. 2 where the nations are able to find healing from the tree of life. One with knowledge of the biblical narrative understands the importance of this verse. A place that was once lost to humanity (Gen. 3), is now re-opened, so that the nations might find healing (Rev. 22:2). In this paper, Rev. 22:2 will be the primary text under investigation, exploring the meaning behind how the nations receive healing from the tree of life.
The thesis of this paper is to unveil the symbolism of Rev. 22:2, and to contend that Jesus is the fulfillment and embodiment of the tree of life, and that true healing, and eternal life and nourishment are only found through him. The defense will be presented in the way of four different warrants. First, exegetical warrant will be provided by an investigation of John’s use of the word μεσος (“in the midst”) throughout all of Johannine literature. Second, structural warrant will be examined to see how the location of this specific vision fits within the arrangement of the entire Revelation, and how it might serve in the interpretation of the text itself. Third, intertextual warrant will then be investigated. This will be limited to texts that directly reference the “tree of life.” The fourth and final means of warrant will be Christological. I will show how an understanding of Jesus to be the embodiment of the tree of life serves to make more sense of passages in the Gospel of John where Jesus claims to be the means of life and nourishment (bread and water for example). The goal then of this paper is to demonstrate that the tree of life is not simply something to look forward to in the future, but through faith in Jesus, access to the tree is already available.