Although John the Seer reserves pride of place among the human virtues for that costly quality that we unjustly but necessarily abbreviate as ‘perseverance’, he is sure that the future does not flow from human exertion or construction. Rather, it is the doing of the Lord’s own generosity.
The eschaton is, before all else, gift.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Yet its singular and super-human provenance does not for one moment render this, God’s future, antisocial, individualist, or otherwise constrained.
No sooner does the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flood out from the place of deity itself than it courses through the city’s streets. It is the life-source of a most urban reality. What is more, it irrigates the tree of life, now standing inexplicably on both sides of the river, so that its leaves might heal the nations.
Reference to the twelve kinds of fruits is not to be missed. YHWH’s gifted eschaton remains decidely Israelite in its instrumentality. Jesus’ instruction that ‘salvation is of the Jews’ persists, in John’s visionary economy, through and beyond the end of history. Yet it is not in any restricted way for the Jews. Rather, it heals the nations.
No specifying adjectives are any longer licit. No grammatical restrictions, with their formative grip upon the reality we imbibe, are tolerated. The nations stand unconditioned, for the riverine course of YHWH’s provision now drenches every one and all.
Were we to read a few clauses further in, we would stumble upon John’s laconic, pregnant sentence that ‘the curse will be no more’. For now, we swim over our heads into the river that appropriates streets upon which we no longer need to busy ourselves sorting things out, breaking up fights, scratching for bread.
Wet, we dive, we laugh. Faintly, we remember hints at this but, as we come up for air, they fade away. They were not large enough for this wet, resourced, healing current.