Friday, June 17, 2016

The Tree of Life and the River of God

I grew up near the mighty Mississippi. It begins in my birth-state, Minnesota, and runs the length of the United States. It is a very important part of the geography and life of this country, as indeed are the many rivers in various parts of the entire world. John begins his final chapter with a description of the river of the water of life and the tree of life.
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. - Rev 22:1-2 ESV
Let's examine them.

David writes about this river in his powerful song:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. - Psa 46:4 ESV
The image is that of Jerusalem, the fortress city, surrounded by enemies who intend to force the inhabitants to give up because they no longer have water. But "there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God." We think at once of various famous Biblical rivers like the Nile and the Euphrates. The countries through which these rivers flow are very dependent upon them. Likewise, the city of Jerusalem could not exist very long without a steady supply of water. David reminds us that the city of God has such a river. That river is God Himself! He is in the midst of her. John now picks up this familiar image to describe the eternal city of God. Through her flows the pure as crystal river of life, the life that was lost when Adam and Eve were driven from their garden home:
Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever--" therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. - Gen 3:22-24 ESV
Now the tree of life is given back to all inhabitants of this wondrous city of God. Like the river, the tree grows in the midst of the city. It grows as a forest on either side of the river. It bears twelve different kinds of fruit, a new kind of fruit each month, and its leaves bring healing to the nations.

Tree of Life - wallpaper
As we know so well, there are 12 tribes of the people of God in the O.T. and Jesus chose 12 apostles to be His special messengers. Now the symbol 12 is used again to describe the life-giving properties of this wondrous tree of life, ever-bearing, month after month, always with new and plentiful fruit for everyone and medicinal properties in its leaves. What a beautiful image. Now eternal life is restored by the endless grace and mercy of God.

John continues:
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. - Rev 22:3-5 ESV
To see God is the precious promise of our Lord Jesus in His sermon:
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. - Mat 5:8 ESV
Only those purified and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God will be permitted to see Him face to face. They will see Him looking upon them with eternal love and mercy. In his epistle John writes about this:
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. - 1Jo 3:2-3 ESV
So we wait patiently for the promise to be fulfilled, for our hope is in the Son of God who has given Himself for us that we may be cleansed from all sin, drink from the pure river of God, eat from the great tree of life and gaze upon the face of God forever. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

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