Proposed Solutions to the “Healing of the Leaves”
Just like the references to nations on the New Earth, the comment in Revelation 22:2 about the nations being healed by the leaves of the Tree of Life is usually overlooked in commentaries or else spiritualized into meaninglessness.
As an example of spiritualization, consider this explanation by Robert Hawker (1753-1827):26
Look at Jesus as the Tree of Life… He bears twelve manner of fruits, that is, all variety: He hath pardon, mercy, peace, grace, love, strength, comfort, deliverance in temptations, recoveries in back-slidings, helps in times of need, preparation for ordinances, and blessings in the use of them.
Mercifully, most commentators are more down to earth. The vast majority take the position that the word, “healing,” should be translated as “health” or “service.” They point out that Revelation 21:4 proclaims that when the Eternal State begins, death will be abolished and there will no longer be any mourning, crying or pain. Therefore, the “healing” provided by the leaves of the Tree of Life must refer to the maintenance of perfect health and not the healing of sickness.
Here are some representative samples of this explanation:
- Clarence Larkin: “The leaves of the trees are for the Healing of the Nations that shall occupy the New Earth. Not that there will be any sickness, but to preserve them in health, as Adam would have been preserved in health if he had eaten of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.”27
- David Hocking: “It means that the Tree of Life is the key to the perpetual health of all peoples who find themselves in the Eternal State. It is hard to conceive of the need for healing in the Eternal State when all pain and death has been removed forever.”28
- John MacArthur: “Perhaps a better way to translate it would be ‘life-giving’ or ‘health-giving’ since the Greek word for ‘healing’ can also mean ‘therapeutic.’ The leaves of the Tree of Life can be likened to supernatural vitamins, since vitamins are taken not to treat illness, but to promote general health.”29
So where are we? What can we conclude with certainty? Not much. We mainly have to speculate and refrain from dogmatism.
The only thing I feel like I can personally say with certainty is that in the Eternal State there will be nations living on the New Earth outside the New Jerusalem.
The identity of the nations can only be guessed at. My best guess is that they will be the believing survivors of the Tribulation who will enter the Millennium in the flesh, as well as their descendants born during the Millennium who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. All of these people will live to the end of the Millennium in natural bodies. We are never told that these people will receive glorified bodies like the ones that resurrected believers will receive.
Regardless of their identity, I believe the nations on the New Earth will be in bodies that are capable of reproduction because the Bible says that there will never be any end to the growth and expansion of Jesus’ eternal kingdom (Isaiah 9:6-7).
We are also told that those of us who receive glorified bodies and whose residence will be the New Jerusalem will reign as priests and kings with Jesus forever (Revelation 5:9-10). To do so requires a population for us to minister to and to reign over.
The major problem I am left with is whether or not the nations on the New Earth will be capable of sinning. Most commentators believe they will not, and they have good reasons for believing this. Again, the Bible says the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and the Scriptures also tell us that in the Eternal State death will be abolished (1 Corinthians 15:25-26 and Revelation 21:4).
But the prohibition against sinners entering the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:27) seems to indicate that the people who compose the nations will be capable of committing sins. And if they are not, why would they need priests and kings? This is a mystery to me for which I have no answer.
Consider also that God has never created robots. Even the angels are capable of sinning, and many did so when they joined Satan’s rebellion. All of God’s created beings have free will. Is this to be removed from those in natural bodies who will inhabit the New Earth?
I wish I could give you the answers to these questions, but I cannot. To me, the answers are a mystery.
But what is not a mystery is that God has promised that in the Eternal State the Redeemed are going to be blessed beyond anything imaginable: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor has the mind of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Because of promises like this, I yearn with all my heart for that day when Jesus will appear in the heavens and call us home to Him.
1) Keith Krell, “It Just Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This! (Revelation 21:1-22:5),” https://Bible.org/seriespage/29-it-just-doesn-t-get-any-better-revelation-211-225, page 4.
2) For an overview of the book of Revelation, written for the lay person, see: David Reagan, Wrath and Glory: The Meaning of the Book of Revelation (McKinney, TX: Lamb & Lion Ministries, 2nd edition, 2016).
3) Randy Alcorn, Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2004)
4) G. R. Beasley-Murray, The New Century Bible Commentary: Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1974), page 332.
5) Clarence Larkin, The Book of Revelation (Philadelphia, PA: The Clarence Larkin Estate, 1919), page 206.
6) Ibid., pages 206-207.
7) Ibid., page 207.
8) Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1983), page 458.
9) Ibid., page 459.
11) David Hocking, The Coming World Leader: Understanding the book of Revelation, (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1988), page 303.
12) John MacArthur, Because the Time is Near (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007), page 325.
13) J. A. Seiss, The Prophetic News and Israel’s Watchman, edited by Revs. M. Baxter and T.J. Malyon, August 1883, “The Apocalypse,” page 225, https://books.google.com.
14) Keith Krell, “It Just Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This! (Revelation 21:1-22:5),” https://bible.Org/seriespage/29-ti-just-doesn-t-get-any-better-revelation-211-225, pages 7-8.
15) J. Vernon McGee, Revelation, Vol III, Chapters 14-22 (Pasadena, CA: Through the Bible Books, 1979), pages 183 and 195-196.
16) David Cooper, An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Los Angeles, CA: Biblical Research Society, 1972), pages 252-253.
17) George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972), page 284.
19) Hilton Sutton, Revelation: God’s Grand Finale (Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 1984), pages 226-227.
20) Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), pages 476-478.
21) Darrel Mitchell: “God’s Plan: Eternal Inhabitants,” http://www.netbiblestudy.com/00_cartimages/Ages-15.pdf.
22) F. M. Riley: “A Thousand Generations,” https://twelvebooks.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/fmriley-4-feb-2009-a-thousand-generations-a-biblical-study-about-the-future-of-humanity.
23) Mitchell, page 1.
24) Ibid., page 2.
25) Riley, page 8.
26) “Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary: Revelation 22:2,” Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary (1828), www.studylight.org/commentary/revelation/22-2.html, page 13.
27) Larkin, page 208.
28) Hocking, page 305.
29) MacArthur, page 326.