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. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. 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 there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”
“See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
Healing and salvation in Scripture are essentially one and the same. Yes, salvation involves a number of things, but in the New Testament the word σῴζω, translated “save” is also translated “heal.” That seems suggestive to me that salvation and healing go hand in hand. What I don’t mean is that everyone physically healed by Jesus was also forgiven of their sins, though we do find that pairing in the gospel, Jesus-healing accounts, as well as in James. What I do mean is that healing is a kind of salvation and salvation is a kind of healing. If when one is physically healed they experience a saving work, certainly healing in a total final sense is saving, and salvation in a total final sense is healing.
Who of us doesn’t need healing of one kind or another? While healing in Scripture primarily refers to physical healing, and that should never be belittled, it certainly refers to the totality of all creation, of each person through and through, and to creation as a whole. The leaves of the tree of life in the passage above referring to when God brings God’s will entirely to pass are said to be for the healing of the nations. God is not only concerned about personal healing, but also about corporate healing, healing in relationships. Healing is about making whole, bringing together what has been broken. There are relationships in this life which either can’t be restored for this or that reason, or are limited in such restoration. I would like to think that the church is a place where ideally, people experience a substantial healing which enables them to continue on in relationship with one another.
Whether you are married, in family, in close relationships with friends, or in the church, we all fail along the way so that there needs to be ongoing repentance, forgiveness and healing. That’s a given. There has to be a commitment to the Lord and to each other to live in whole relationships with each other. Cracks and even some brokenness are inevitable in all such relationships, but in Christ these can and must always be tended to wisely, not in some prescribed way, but according to each situation considering the people involved. We’re all to accept responsibility in this.
To the world at large, healing is important as well. Old grievances from past evils are perpetuated in cycles of violence: tit for tat, back and forth. But what God brings in Christ and Christ’s rule is an end to that. I admire the hard work of Christians who have sought to help warring factions come to an end in their conflict, but not just ending violence, but working through the difficult terrain of arriving to a mutual healing and wholeness that ultimately is meant to bring such factions together. Such is the intent of the gospel of Christ in its reconciling work.
Total healing not only can, but indeed does seem illusory, and as death reminds us, is not possible in this life. But through Christ it can begin now with each other and in our own lives. The power of salvation for the healing of the most broken relationships. A part of the gospel’s work now, to be completed.