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; 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. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5 ESV
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 25:6-8 ESV
In medieval Europe, peasants who worked hard and lived in poverty dreamed of a wonderful place called Cockaigne. In this mythical country, the houses were made of barley sugar and the roofs were made of cake. The rivers were flowing wine, and the streets were made of rich pastry. Buttered larks, which were a real delicacy back then, rained from the sky, while roast geese wandered the streets and begged people to eat them. The shops had anything anyone could ever want, and you didn’t have to pay for anything. All you had to do is walk in and ask, and the shopkeeper would give you whatever you wanted. People dreamed that someday they might be able to find Cockaigne and live there for the rest of their lives.
Cockaigne wasn’t a real place, but just a dream. Throughout history people have dreamed of a place where all troubles and pain are gone and people live happily ever after, but the only place where this is true is in heaven. John saw visions of heaven, and in his last vision he saw a wonderful place where a river of the water of life flows. The water is as bright as crystal, and on its banks there are twelve trees bearing fruit for each month of the year. The leaves of the tree heal all the illness and pain of all the nations. Nothing bad or harmful will spoil this beautiful place, but instead God and the Lamb will be there. The water of the river flows from their throne, because they are the source of all life. Everyone in heaven will see God’s face, and he will be their light. There will never be the darkness and fear of night again. Heaven isn’t just for awhile, but it will last forever and ever.
We can be sure that we will go to heaven someday, because Jesus, the Lamb of God, gave himself as a sacrifice for us on the cross. Our sins are forgiven because of him, and we are God’s people now and always. He heals us from our sins and gives us the new life that begins now, and that we will know completely in the new world to come. Through the pain and suffering of this life, we can look ahead to heaven and know that it is more than a dream. It is a glorious reality, won for us by Jesus.
Dear Jesus, thank you for giving yourself for us and making us your people, and for the promise of heaven. Amen.