The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse.-Revelation 22:2-3
I hate the coronavirus. Many will die today from it, but today is the first day someone I know died. My brother in Christ Neal Barlow is at home with the Lord. Neal was our newest elder at Green Pond Bible Chapel. We are grieving the loss of our brother, and mourning with the entire Barlow family. We prayed for Neal to be healed in the short run, but the Lord has seen fit to heal him for eternity.
Feeling the loss of Neal, I am angry at sin’s destructive effect on the world. Neal is the closest COVID-19 death to me by far, but I know that thousands are mourning lost loved ones and thousands more will in the days to come. If it wasn’t coronavirus it would be influenza, or heart disease, or cancer. Death is a stubborn reality in our world because of the curse of sin, and today it hurts.
Even as we prayed for Neal to respond to treatment, we were aware that such healing would only be temporary. The healing he needed, and we need, is a permanent healing. This is the hope of the gospel: by faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection we are not only forgiven of our sins, but we are promised a physical existence with him in resurrected bodies.
The New Jerusalem will be filled with those who have been eternally healed. I thought of the New Jerusalem—of the tree of life lining both sides of the river flowing from the throne of God. I thought of the leaves of the tree of life:
The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse.
Neal’s spirit is at rest with the Lord until the resurrection. On that day there will no longer be any wicked viruses. No need for dialysis. No ventilators, no protective masks. The church, gathered from the nations, will be healed. There will no longer be any curse.
On that day there won’t be any grieving families and friends, mourning the lack of vaccines. There won’t be frustrated doctors and nurses who lack the research, manpower, or equipment to provide relief. There will no longer be any curse.
On that day there won’t be any finger pointing at politicians or media-spin. We won’t struggle with a self-centered survival instinct. There won’t be any mourning or depression. There will no longer be any curse.
Neal became a follower of Christ as an adult. As he grew in his faith, his life transformed dramatically. I first met him back in 2011 when we moved to New Jersey. He had a dry, quick wit, and was good at making me laugh. Over time we recognized Neal’s heart for shepherding. He joined our shepherding team and just this January began serving as an elder. We will miss him as a shepherd, and as a friend.
Neal was loving serving as an elder. He was recently reading Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem with some other elders and elders in training, and he commented on how much he was enjoying learning more about God. He has graduated. He no longer has to deal with a broken body. For Neal, as of today, there is no longer any curse.