Jesus Wins! – Part 41: Back to the Garden

//Jesus Wins! – Part 41: Back to the Garden

Jesus Wins! – Part 41: Back to the Garden

Genesis 3:20-24

20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. [1]

Revelation 22:1-5

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. 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. [2]

In these final two chapters of Revelation, John has used several kinds of imagery to describe the glorified consummated church’s eternal relationship with God. He has seen the church as a bride, a temple, a city, and, now, a garden. If you’re a romantic, you have the picture of a once-ordinary-looking woman made stunningly beautiful for her long-awaited wedding day. If you love all things about church and worship, you have this picture of living in an ornate temple where God fulfills your created longings. If you are attracted to life in the big city, you have this picture of the most splendid, perfectly-designed, bustling metropolis ever constructed. If you love the rural life of peace and quiet far from the hustle and bustle of the big city, you have this scene of surpassing pastoral beauty before you this morning.

All of these pictures are given to describe the fully-restored relationship between God and his people. That relationship began in a perfect earthly garden where God enjoyed perfect fellowship with his perfect human creations, Adam and Eve. What does “perfect” mean? In biblical terms, it means to be in complete agreement with God about absolutely everything. If you looked at the uncursed earth and sky, you would have looked upon that which God considered very good. If you wanted to know what God was like, you had only to look at Adam and Eve. If you wanted to know what God thought, you would have been able to ask his perfect creature Adam – earth’s high priest, God’s prophet, and vice-ruler of all creation. If you wanted to know something about God’s loving kindness, you could have observed the way Adam and Eve related to one another in absolute humility and in other-centeredness and respect.

Just as the book of Genesis sets the Bible’s themes of creation, fall, redemption and expected consummation, so the last few chapters of Revelation take up the themes of new creation, final judgment upon the fallen, redemption of God’s re-created people by and through Christ the Last Adam, and the consummation of God’s earthly kingdom. Where God is, heaven is. When Adam sinned, God and man could no longer tabernacle together. Adam and Eve were driven from the garden. Heaven left earth – but not before God promised a seed of the woman who would destroy the works of the dragon-serpent (Gen. 3:15).

So, the prophets continued to promise a restored Eden to God’s people. Isaiah 51:3 says:

For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. [3]

Even the colors and decorations of the tabernacle and temples alluded to the restored garden in a restored heaven and earth. The Psalmist sang in Ps. 68:69 that, “He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded forever.[4]

So, this final vision of Revelation ends where Genesis began, in a perfect garden-temple where God dwells with his perfect creatures in a newly-perfected cosmos. The original garden was designed for eternity on the condition of Adam’s perfect performance. The new garden IS eternity, secured by the perfect works of the Promised Seed, the Lion-Lamb, the Last Adam, Messiah Jesus. Heaven and earth are eternally united. In a few lines an anonymous author expressed the thought that being with Jesus is heaven:

The light of heaven is the face of Jesus. /The joy of heaven is the presence of Jesus. /The melody of heaven is the Name of Jesus. /The employment of heaven is the service of Jesus. /The harmony of heaven is the praise of Jesus. /The theme of heaven is the work of Jesus.[5]

The apostle Paul put it this way, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.[6]

LIVING WATER

John writes in verses 1 and 2a, “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….”[7] The colors of his painting come from Ezek. 47:1-9 and Zech. 14:8. Zechariah reads “in that day living water will come forth out of Jerusalem” when the city has been finally reestablished (likewise Joel 3:18: “a spring will go out from the house of the Lord”).[8] Ezekiel’s vision includes reference to the life-giving property of the water (Ezek. 47:9: “everything on which the river will come will live”).

The living water is a portrayal of eternal life whose origin is God and the Lamb. In John 7:37-39 and in the Old Testament, water often symbolizes the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son and unites the saints to life in God. The Holy Spirit may be in mind here, but the picture primarily represents eternal unbroken fellowship with God in Christ. The presence of God imparts life to all those able to enter into intimate communion with him (so 22:17).[9] So, in Ezekiel’s vision fellowship with God (living water) flowed out of the temple where God would dwell with his people. Here God and the Lamb ARE the temple, seated with equal power on the same throne. Because our relationship shall be pure, no longer marred by our sins, the river is bright as crystal. John sees it flowing through the middle of the city’s main avenue, fulfilling the promise of 7:17, “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water….”[10]

Ezekiel’s vision showed the living water beginning as a trickle flowing from the temple, growing deeper and deeper until it could not be crossed (Ezek. 47:1-12). This depicted the increasing power of God’s grace as it flowed through redemptive history.[11]

TREE OF LIFE

As the river flowed eastward, Ezekiel saw salt water become fresh when touched by the living water; trees lined its banks and it teamed with aquatic life. When the river reached the Dead Sea, the brine was removed, so what was once dead came to life. Ezekiel foresaw, “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.[12]

John paints the garden he sees with this primary color in verse 2, “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.[13] According to John, what Ezekiel saw was not a future physical blessing for the physical land of Old Testament Israel, but rather the abundant life that God has in store for all citizens of the New Jerusalem. Moses’ account of the original garden highlighted not only the abundant river, but also the tree of life in the middle of the garden (Gen. 2:9). Rather than one tree of life, as in the original garden, John sees an entire grove of life-giving, healing trees as in Ezekiel’s vision.

You might recall also in the middle of Eden was, “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil[14] – the tree of judgment. It represented God’s judgment of what was good (obeying him perfectly) and what was evil (making our own judgments of what we decide is good). The tree of life and the tree of the judgment depicted aspects of Messiah’s saving ministry. The tree of judgment provided Adam the sacramental meal he ate with Eve at the serpent’s suggestion. It was their celebration of their judging God to be bad and themselves as worthy to follow their own bliss. Adam, in eating from the tree of judgment, earned the curse that tore heaven from earth and mankind from perfect, face-to-face fellowship with God.

Paul took up that theme in Galatians 3:13-14 where he wrote:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. [15]

At Calvary, Christ hung himself upon the Tree of Judgment to pay for Adam’s curse which you and I inherited as Adam’s children. In taking upon himself God’s wrath and sin’s curse, Jesus provided life for his people by offering eternal, unbroken fellowship with Father, Son, and Spirit. True life and fellowship with God are one in the same thing. Thus, the cross of Christ becomes not only the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but also the Tree of Life (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29). So, Peter wrote:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.[16]

The source of eternal life is the blood sacrifice of the Lamb of God represented by the ever-fruiting Trees of Life in the new and true garden of the Lord. “A total of twelve months of fruit bearing together with ‘twelve kinds [or ‘crops’] of fruits’ in 22:2 reinforces the repeated multiples of twelve already used in the vision to highlight fullness of redemptive provision.”[17] It shows a variety of blessings always available to the redeemed people of God.

The principle embodied in this vision reaches into our present world. Jeremiah warned that all who trust into themselves and their own judgment of right and wrong will find life to be the opposite of this eternal garden scene:

He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. [18]

But the one who trusts into the perfectly-lived life and sacrificial death of the risen and ascended Messiah Jesus, says Jeremiah:

will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. [19]

Since there are no hurts or wounds in the City of God, the healing leaves on these trees of life represent the curative presence of God for lives lived in this present world where sin has corrupted the earth and all its inhabitants. Think about that for a minute. Is there any area of your life that is not tainted by the presence and power of sin in you or in this world? Have you been abused at the hands of proud and arrogant people? Have you suffered strains and rips in your relationships? Have you lost loved ones to death? Have you watched friends, relatives, even your own children, wander off into the weeds of unbelief? Have hurtful and horrible things tumbled out of your mouth in moments of anger to wound others? Are you living in bitterness because something you demand in order to be happy in life has been denied you?

Every ache, every anger, every bitterness, every sadness, every broken ambition, every pang of guilt, every stab of betrayal, every heartache, every grief, every wave of disgust or feeling of helplessness you sense when you turn on the news will be healed by the presence of Jesus, the Tree of Life with healing in his leaves. In Eden’s garden, God placed Angels with flaming swords to guard cursed Adam from partaking of the tree of life. But in the eternal garden, the trees of life are freely available to all us, formerly broken and wounded in this present world – we who continue to overcome by trusting into Christ the Overcomer. This is the inheritance God has in store for his Saints at the consummation of all things. Why settle for broken wells that cannot hold water? Why pursue food that does not satisfy? Why look to anything other than Messiah to fulfill your wants? Those who cling to the tree of life will have abundant and eternal provision from the presence of God and the Lamb, freed from the presence and power of sin.

WORLDWIDE, FACE-TO-FACE FELLOWSHIP

Verse 3 assures us there is no place for corruption in the new garden-temple: “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.[20] In 21:1, John wrote that he saw “a new heaven and new earth” while in 21:2 and 21:9–22:5 he describes only a giant city-temple. Since Adam’s original mission was to extend the garden-temple of Eden throughout the world, it seems John is describing the entire new earth as the place where God tabernacles with his people. In the Old Testament, uncleanness was to be kept out of the temple precincts. The fact that John sees nothing cursed in the City of God indicates that the new garden-temple’s boundaries encompass the whole of the new creation (21:15,22, 27).[21] John is assuring us that there is no corner of the new earth where sin exists. No longer will corruption raise its ugly head. No longer will any citizen of the New Jerusalem long for anything other than the continued presence of Christ.

And our sin-free, perfect longing will be eternally satisfied. Verse 4 assures us, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.[22] The chief curse of Adam and Eve’s sin was their alienation from the presence of God. But in the new garden-temple, the redeemed will see his face. That is a privilege denied to one of God’s greatest servants of this present age. Moses begged to see God’s face. But God told him, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.[23] God placed Moses in the cleft of a rock, so Moses could see the back of God’s glory.  Messiah Jesus explained that sinful man cannot see God’s glorious face. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.[24] St. Author of Hebrews wrote, “Strive for …the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.[25]

You can neither purify your heart nor perform works of holiness that enable you to see God face to face. Your pure heart and your holiness must come from Christ alone. We are only made right with God by trust into the perfectly-lived life and sacrificial death of Messiah Jesus. In this life, no one qualifies to see God face to face. Yet those trusting into Christ will be fully perfected when they come into the new and eternal garden-temple and the presence and power of sin has been removed from us. Then, unlike Moses, we will finally be able to see the face of God. As John would later preach to his Ephesian congregation:

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. [26]

How do those who have this hope purify themselves? John preaches, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.[27] Revelation is written to encourage the discouraged to keep on overcoming because of the greatness of their blissful inheritance. We overcome by dying to self, confessing our sins, and clinging to the person and work of Messiah Jesus. If you bear his name on your forehead, you are owned by God, you are united to God, and you are permanently accepted by God (Eph. 1:6). Jesus promised:

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. [28]

You who cling to Christ with dirty hands absolutely SHALL overcome and see the face of God. And, though you may be despised and discouraged now, one day you will reign forever and ever. [29]

Without Christ, you cannot and shall not enter into his perfect, eternal garden temple. We plead with you to give up your own judgments of what is good and rest in the comfort that is Christ. Drink deeply from his living water.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. [30]

 

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Ge 3:20–24.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:1–5.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 51:3.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 78:69. See: Beal, 1009 ff.

[5] Kistemaker and Hendriksen, 580.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 5:8.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:1–2.

[8] Beale, 1103.

[9] Beale, 1107.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 7:17.

[11] Phillips, 666.

[12] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Ezek. 47:12.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:2.

[14] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Ge 2:9.

[15] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ga 3:13–14.

[16] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 1 Pe 2:24.

[17] Beale, 1108.

[18] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Je 17:6.

[19] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Je 17:8.

[20] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:3.

[21] Beale, 1109.

[22] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:4.

[23] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Ex 33:20.

[24] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Mt 5:8.

[25] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 12:14.

[26] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 3:2–3.

[27] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 1:9.

[28] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Re 3:19–22.

[29] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:5.

[30] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:17.

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