Sunday, May 17, 2020

The River Leading to the Tree of Life

The Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard, tells a parable of a theater where a variety show is proceeding. Each show is more fantastic than the last, and is applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager comes forward. He apologizes for the interruption, but the theater is on fire, and he begs his patrons to leave in an orderly fashion. The audience think this is the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheer thunderously. The manager again implores them to leave the burning building, and he is again applauded vigorously. At last he can do no more. The fire raced through the whole building and the fun-loving audience with it. "And so," concluded Kierkegaard, "will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators." -Resource, July/August, 1990.

Sometimes I feel like we are a generation endlessly staring at the screen, watching movies and tv shows, and series, applauding at the entertainment. And the preacher is the one calling out to us like the manager of the movie house, “Run, the house is on fire!” But everyone thinks its part of the show.

How distracted we are, how often we can’t seem to focus clearly on what is actually real. So we entertain ourselves instead.

But the truth is judgment is coming, and this city is destined for destruction. We have to wake up and realize that God will return, and all will be changed. And if we simply live in the ways of the world, we will be destroyed too. We will never live in paradise, if we don’t turn to Jesus. Time is running out.

Jesus said, “7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.”

We’ve been studying the saga of the return of Jesus at the end of the book of Revelation. Today we consider the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, revelation 22.

Jesus said, “12 “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

The king of kings is returning soon. And he will reign on the Earth. Last week we talked about the New Heavens and the New Earth, and the New City of Peace. Today we reflect on the tree of life and the river that flows from the throne of God. The river flows through the city of the New Jerusalem. Many cities are built around rivers, rivers are sources of travel, and of electricity and commerce. It seems fitting that the eternal city has a river running through it. It says in Revelation 22:1-6:

“Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit,[a] with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

Absolutely astonishing. The tree of life, the fountain of youth you might call it, is there, at the center of the city. The same tree of life that Adam and Eve ate from in the garden of Eden. Wow. Eternal life, to live forever, is the dream of every person who lives isn’t it? As we grow older we wish we could escape death. And there is only one way to have that, Jesus Christ. This river flows from the throne of God, and through the city. The river is the water of life. Who gave us the water of life? Jesus Christ. Jesus is the water of life, that makes us pure.

So apparently we’ll eat from this giant tree of life, each month, twelve different crops of fruit it produced each month. I’m assuming eating from it is what sustains eternal life in our bodies then. Once a month pill, fruit from the tree of life, once a month, to live forever.

And the leaves of the tree of life were used as medicine to heal the nations. I wonder what that means? The New Jerusalem is a picture of a jewish city in a way, a new Jerusalem, perhaps across the New Earth other cities will be developed, of gentiles. I’m not certain. Leaves to heal the nations. Medicine to heal. Fascinating.

In contrast, right now, we are under several difficult realities in the world. The law of death is at work, all people grow old, and die. We suffer from various forms of illness and brokenness in our bodies, back pain, arthritis, organ failure. Those realities will no longer exist in this perfect reality.

It continues saying, “No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. 4 And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.”

You know there were moments throughout history where men and women saw God, they saw his throne room, they saw his glory, they saw amazing things. Do you know what the result was each time? They were terrified, shocked, amazed, and horrified by their own sinfulness, as they saw something of a holy God. They cried out, “woe is me, I’m undone.”

But in this new city of God, we will see God face to face, and we won’t cry out in horror or terror because of our sinfulness. We’ll cry out in joy and worship and glory and true love for our maker, because we’re holy there, as he is holy. This city of God is for those who have been washed in the blood of Jesus, and have turned away from sin. And when we’re there, we will be holy as he is holy. There will be no more shame, no more regret, no more horror at our own sinfulness. Instead we’ll rejoice and live in euphoria, in the presence of our infinite creator. When you see something amazing… I mean really amazing. Like your wife giving birth. Like a super moon on a clear night. Like the moment you first met your husband, first met your wife, when you realized your mom and dad loved you for the first time. When you saw a shooting star. When you kissed your wife, or husband for the first time. When you held your child for the first time. When you realized your calling in life for the first time. When you cried with joy at the love of God and His mercy on you. That is what it feels like to be in God’s presence. And so much more. Imagine what God will show us, imagine what time space and glory he will show. Imagine what his infinite form will look like. Imagine how his love will make us feel there. It’s beyond all we could imagine. True peace. True love. True joy. True infinity. True mysteriousness. A serene moment.. a perfect sunset, holding your lovers hand, hugging your best friend, moments before a storm, a balmy summer day, a mysterious winter night… God’s glory.

Verse six says, “ Then the angel said to me, “Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets,[b] has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon.[c]”

This will happen. This is real. The New Universe, The New Planet, the New City, the Tree of Life, and the river of life that leads to it. It’s all real. It will happen. Why do you doubt? God made the world. It’s so obvious to me that God made the world. That Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible is amazing beyond description. His words are incredible. His parables, what he did, no man could’ve come up with these truths. They are timeless.

Yet how often do we stare blankly at the television, at the smart phone screen, as we see the signs of the times, and the world beginning to crumble, and we simply applaud the entertainment we view. And I’m guilty of this too. I don’t focus on God like I should. Too often I’m glued to computer screens and televisions. And it’s not an evil thing to enjoy entertainment, God made us to enjoy the arts, the arts are a gift from God, music, movies, tv series, but we spend too much time on them. Stop and pray. Stop and read your Bible. Stop and seek God.

What are you really living for? The theatre is on fire, and we must make our escape to Jesus, to a new life, to living in holiness, to following God with our whole hearts, not just some of the time, but all the time. We must make our escape to the tree of life, to the eternal city, and inevitably, to God himself. Which is why we study his word, and why we study the book of Revelation. His word brings life. Jesus said the words I speak to you are life. They bring God’s lifegiving spirit when we read them.

Verses 10-16 say this: 10 Then he instructed me, “Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the one who is doing evil continue to do evil; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy.”

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. 15 Outside the city,(in hell, another eternal place) are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.”

Which camp are you in? There is no middle ground. Are in the camp of those living righteously in Christ, and those living holy? Or are you in the camp of those living vile, filthy lives? Are you part of those who do evil and harm to others? There is no middle ground. Make your choice. You can choose Jesus right now today. Give your life to him, out loud, right now, wherever you are. Give yourself to Christ, and follow Him with your whole life. It’s not enough to do it once and be done, you’ve got to live it out all your days! Trust in Christ, He will remove your sin and make you a whole new person, with new desires in you heart, and put you to work for his kingdom.

In conclusion today, Verse 17-21: 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. 18 And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.20 He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!”Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! 21 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.