1. Revelation 22:2 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

In what way are “the leaves…for the healing of the nations”?

Revelation 22:2 (ESV)

2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Leaves from a tree (in distinction from its fruit) are commonly not edible but can be used for medicinal purposes. The reference in our passage to healing raises the intriguing question: is there sickness in the New Jerusalem? Clearly not, as John had earlier recorded concerning the holy city that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4; Isaiah 33:24; in contrast to Genesis 3:17–19).

The term nations commonly refers to Gentiles, specifically as enemies of God (think of Psalm 2:1; Revelation 13:7; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 18:3, Revelation 18:23). Clearly, such persons will not in the New Jerusalem need healing; to live there they would already be healed (including spiritually). The fact that the passage nevertheless speaks of leaves from the tree of life providing healing for the nations requires the observation that this vision is not limited to the completed city of God on the new earth. The Lord God is building his New Jerusalem in this life already. To say it differently, the church (the bride) is today a source of healing for the nations of the world.