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Entries in Tree of Life (1)

Tuesday
Nov132018

My Personal End Times: The New Heavens & the New Earth II

Revelation 22.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 11, 2018.

Today we will finish our series, particularly the New Creation that God will create.  Last week we looked at chapter 21 of The Revelation where it describes the New Jerusalem, that great city of Christ and the Righteous.  Chapter 22 continues that description, but moves to the center of the city where the Throne of God sits.

The whole point of Scripture is to persuade men to avoid a bad experience of judgment and to embrace a good experience of God’s love.  It is those who stop trusting themselves and the world around them, and start trusting Christ and the truth of God, who will experience the good that God has intended for us all.  These visions of what will be are intended to spark the hope of God in our heart, a strong faith in Him within our mind, and a powerful love for Christ throughout our whole life.

The throne of God is described

Though it is not specifically stated, this throne would be at the center of the New Jerusalem.  In Rev. 21:3 we see the city described as the tabernacle of God, which means that it is His dwelling place.  It emphasizes His presence with His people.  Also verse 22 states that Christ is the light of the city, again emphasizing presence and source.

We see that the river of the Water of Life flows from the throne.  In that creation the Waters of Life will have a physical existence, but throughout the Scripture this phrase was symbolically describing the Word of God.  To receive the Word of God and obey it was to drink from the Waters of Life.  Like the blessings of water flowing down to us from the mountains is the Truth of God coming down out of heaven.  This river is described as pure because it is not polluted with the ideas and thoughts of fallen angels or fallen humans.  Its source is God’s throne.  The phrase “clear as crystal” emphasizes the purity with imagery.

This image of a river from God has an Old Testament backdrop.  Psalm 65:9 states, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.” (NKJV).  This is notable because Jerusalem had no river.  The river the Psalmist sees is spiritual.  Ezekiel 47 gives a vision of a restored Temple with a river that comes out from the south side of the Temple and flows from Jerusalem.  Also, Zechariah 14 speaks of living waters that flow from Jerusalem to the East and to the West.  It would seem that there are several layers to this concept.  Today, we spiritually drink from the Waters of Life that flow from the events 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, people all over the world drink from this never ceasing river from God.  In the Millennium water will literally flow from Jerusalem and bring healing to the Dead Sea.  Ultimately, in the New Creation, The New Jerusalem will have the Waters of Life flowing from the throne of God.  Thus there is no longer any separation between men and God (this is the imagery employed by the temple).  Just because we experience these things spiritually today does not imply that none of this has a literal meaning as well.  In that day the spiritual and the physical will be united in harmony, just as God intended it.

Verse 2 describes the presence of the Tree of life.  The description is quite interesting.  It speaks of the tree being on both sides of the river.  Thus many see this as describing at least two Trees of Life.  Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden lest they eat from the Tree of Life and become stuck eternally in a sinful condition.  Here we see that God has fully restored our access to the Tree of Life.  Now this tree is no tree of this earth.  It has twelve different kinds of fruit that fruit each month, twelve times a year.  We are also told that the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  This does not mean that people can get sick and need healing in the New Creation.  Rather, the word that can be translated as healing can also be translated as health-giving, as in a preventative sense.  Thus the fruit is food and the leaves fortify the health of the body.  Obviously the mechanics and needs of that age are not described to our satisfaction and are left to the imagination and to our ability to trust God.  And so, that is where we will leave it. 

Verse 3 tells us that there will be no more curse.  For anyone who has ever cried out, “Why is the world this way,” God promises an end to that which makes life hard and difficult.  There will come a day when the curse will be completely lifted.  Of course, many reject God and follow the plan of Satan to overthrow the curse by overthrowing God Himself, but that plan is doomed to fail.  Trusting God is the only plan that is blessed with success.  The presence of God Himself and His throne is presented as the reason why the curse can no longer exist.  God does not dwell in a cursed place, though Christ did so for a season for our salvation.  Where God dwells there will always be life.

The experience of the servants of God is described

Though the scene is still centered upon the throne of God, it expands to include the saints of God.  Verse 3 states that they serve Him.  The picture seems to be one of direct service to God as opposed to the current state where our service is by faith and without being in His direct presence.  On one hand serving God involves our worship and honor of Him.  However, it will no doubt also involve any directives that He gives.  In fact the word used for “serve” is a word that speaks of service of one who is hired or paid for their services.  There will no longer be toil and suffering in the work that God gives us to do, but rather joyful and rewarding discovery.  Thus the “service” of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden should be the backdrop to this concept of our service to God in the New Creation.

We are told that the saints see His face.  Adam and Eve also began in the Garden of Eden and walked with God and talked with Him in the cool of the day.  This is the same kind of setting.  There is no more disapproval of God.  We have complete fellowship with Him and complete acceptance from Him.  It is interesting that the Old Testament underlines the point that sinful man cannot survive seeing the face of God.  However, God is able to purify us and make us into His Sons, who can look into His face and not die.

We are told that His name will be upon our forehead.  Of course that might seem strange to us and predispose us to reject this as literal.  However, customs always seem strange to those who are not from that culture.  When we stand in that place, we will be a new people with new customs entering into a new world for all eternity.  What strange things will we encounter and participate in then?  There is little detail given about it.  The emphasis is that we are marked by God as a sign that we belong to Him and no other.  On one hand it gives outward assurance to something that we must take by faith in the present world.  Our position in Christ will not be a matter of faith then.  It will be an objective reality.  On the other hand, Satan and his angels have lost their bid to steal the bride of Christ, and thus it represents an eternal declaration of our inseparability.  We are identified with Him forever!

Verse 5 says that there will be no more night.  This is explained as a result of the presence of Christ.  His glory is a source of light that never wanes or is blocked by the rotation of the earth.  In fact, we are not told how far His glory shines.  Perhaps, just as this universe is marked by a great and black darkness with only small points of light here and there, we will find that the new universe will be marked by a great and white light that fills the whole of the cosmos.  Keep in mind that even the present universe is filled with the whole spectrum of electromagnetic radiation.  The darkness we see is actually the limitation of our eyes to see the whole spectrum.  It is possible then that nothing changes but our ability to perceive all the light of God in every spectrum.  Symbolically this means that we will never be separated from God or return to a state of ignorance and deception again.  We will forever bask in the truth and knowledge of God. 

It also says that we will reign with Christ forever.  Literally it says, “into the ages of the ages.”  Like a book left unfinished, so eternity opens up new chapters for humanity to write with God.  God will have kept His promise to the many generations of believers that have put their faith in Him throughout all the ages of this earth.  Every time a dictator rises up and crushes the people beneath them, we grow fearful that it will never come to an end.  However, God promises us that He will bring the reign of evil everywhere in the universe to an end.  We will then reign with Him.

The promises made to Christ’s followers

Before we close, I want to point out some important promises that are stated in the last part of this chapter.   In verse 7 it says, “Behold, I am coming quickly!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”  The word translated “keep” has the idea of paying careful attention to something.  It was used of a shepherd keeping his sheep.  It involved careful observation and wise response to what we see, including protection.  We will be blessed if we take the time to carefully observe what God’s Word says, and respond wisely in our lives to what it says.  We also need to protect God’s Word from being twisted in our minds and changed by those who speak like Satan did in the garden.  “Did God really say …”  There is a blessing and a happiness that can only come from taking God’s Word seriously and recognizing that the enemy of God has a vested interest in getting us to fail in our duty to “keep” God’s Word.

Verses 12 and 14 state, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work…  Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the Tree of Life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”  Here we see the emphasis that what has been described is a reward for those who work for Christ.  Yes, we have a foretaste of our reward in this life.  We have the fellowship of other believers and the Holy Spirit within our heart encouraging us.  We also have the good life-experience that often comes with living righteously, although not always (persecution is always not far away and yet, even then, God shows His goodness to us still).  Yet, at His Second Coming, Christ is coming to give us our reward.  Of course there is a flip side to this.  He also comes to give the wicked their “reward,” which in reality is a punishment.  Do not lose heart in following Christ.  You will be rewarded.  I would point out that the emphasis on His coming quickly means that we won’t have time to be lazy and get ready when we see Him coming.  You will either be ready or not.  Thus believers are called to be ready always, always prepared for His coming.

Lastly, verse 17 says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’  And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’  And let him who thirsts come.  Whoever desires, let him take the waters of life freely.”  What a beautiful promise.  God has not created obstacles to having the living waters.  It is our rebellion and sin that has created barriers.  However, through Jesus, God has removed the barriers and these things are now freely available to those who will come to Christ and simply drink.  It does not cost so much that only the rich man can have it.  Rather, any who will can come and drink the waters of life.  Of course that does not mean it is completely without cost.  It will cost us our pride and identification with this world.  It will cost us the desires and lusts of our flesh.  When we believe God’s Word and live it out in this world, we are spiritually drinking from the Waters of Life.  In the New Creation we shall both spiritually and physically drink the life giving waters of God.  Why would you hesitate or pull back?  Let today be the day that you say, “Yes, Lord, I want to drink life!  I want to hear your word, do it, and live!”

The New Heavens part 2 audio