Chalcedon Report No. 355, February 1995
In Revelation 22:2, we are told of the Tree of Life, Jesus Christ, whose leaves were “for the healing [or, the health] of the nations.” Too little attention has been paid to the meaning of this phrase. If Christ is the Tree of Life, what are the leaves?
In John 15:1–8, our Lord declares himself to be “the true vine,” and we are His branches, called to bear fruit. In the Sermon on the Mount, we are called to be “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14), reflecting His true light (John 1:4, 5; 8:12). Similarly, we are called to be “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13), its preserving power. In antiquity, salt was primarily used to preserve foods, especially meats, from spoiling, and such usage is still common in some areas. In my earlier years, I salted and kept fish for winter use.
The parallels are many. Christ, the true vine, produces us, His branches, to bear fruit. Christ, the Tree of Life, bears leaves, His people, for the health of the nations.
This gives a very clear meaning to our redemption. Our salvation has more to it than to preserve us from hell! It is much more than fire and life insurance. Its purpose is the restitution of all things to their rightful place under Christ our King.
Branches and leaves that bear nothing and heal no one are fit only for burning. “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6). Does no one take this seriously? One man has expressed his contempt for Chalcedon’s increasing involvement in Christian charity, in works of diaconal mercy and grace. Too many feel that Christian work should be limited to saving souls, and its intellectual tasks to disputations one with another! Our Lord’s words call for another way.
If we as Christ’s branches and leaves have the health of the nations (not simply our nation), as our task, we are very derelict if we neglect it. (We seek to represent you in such tasks; we need your support, but, even more, you need to be with us for your own sake.) If we are in Christ, we transmit health. Apart from Him, we transmit death (Prov. 8:36).
Revelation 22:2 makes it clear that “the healing of the nations” is our task in and under Christ. It is related to the Great Commission: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:19–20).
The nations all need health or healing, beginning with ours. We live in a time when the political agenda is increasingly the paganization, the de-Christianization of the nations, beginning with ours. Public acts of perversion are tolerated, and public prayer increasingly protested. Virtue is often derided and degenerate acts hailed as symbols of freedom. “The healing of the nations” is clearly our task, and it is no less a major and difficult calling than in the days of Rome. This problem exists because Christians faltered in their calling. Too many people in the churches saw their salvation and their peace of mind as the primary objective and the highest good of God’s Kingdom.
Ours has been called a “culture of complaint,” and this complaining spirit is no less evident in church circles than in the world. It takes much faith and patience to remain in the ministry. Too often, instead of being a healing power, church people are a nagging, complaining force, or else sleepers who do little or nothing.
But we have a calling, “the healing of the nations.” This is the culmination of St. John’s vision and of God’s plan. Are we out of step with it, or are we a part of it?
- R. J. Rushdoony
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.