September 17, 2020by Reverend Dan on September 17, 2020
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month."
I have read the book of Revelation many times. I have even taught a couple classes on it. And yet, the last time I read it I noticed something I have never noticed before. (Which is actually good according to one of my seminary professors. He said, “If you don’t see something new revealed every time you read a scripture, you’re reading too fast. Slow down and listen.” Good advice.)
In this part of John’s revelation, he is sharing the return of Eden seen in the New Jerusalem. There is the river of the water of life Jesus promised us, flowing from God. There is the great street down the middle of the city, one which John says later in this chapter is paved with gold as pure as transparent glass. And there is the tree of life, the very first thing back in Genesis which started the whole sin mess for man. So, it is here that the Bible is coming full circle.
Beautiful. I got it. Wait, no I don’t. Do you see what it says about that tree? It stands on each side of the river. It doesn’t say two different trees – it’s singular. “The” tree of life. How can one tree stand on both sides of a river?
I read ten different commentaries to see what the experts said about this tree which stands on both sides of the river. Guess what? Four didn’t address it at all, four said it “meant” to say “trees”, the plural, and two said the tree was in the middle of the street and the river and was so big it’s roots, trunk and branches were big enough to encapsulate both sides of the street and river.
Here’s my expert analysis. Maybe God didn’t mean for us to understand. Maybe the New Jerusalem will be a place beyond the imagination of man. Maybe it will be a city that is renewed and perfect and yet calls back into being the paradise God originally created and we have to wait to witness its glory. The city will be inclusive for all nations, a holy city where the water of the river of life will flow for all eternity without ceasing so that the tree can produce fruit for everyone there, twelve months a year. Maybe the tree is beyond the ability of our human minds to grasp and God is telling us that’s what the new Heaven will be like.
For me, the bottom line is this. Figuring out what it means does not affect my salvation, for I am a sinner saved by grace. One day I will understand what it means for I will stand it its presence. Now, however, I only see in a mirror dimly lit so understanding is not only not important, it is impossible. Trust, however, is possible. I trust that God understands, and that’s all I need to know and believe.
"Father, Thank you for the promise of the New Jerusalem, and the ability to trust in You. In Jesus' name, AMEN."