The Concordant Version
1And he shows me a river of water of life, resplendent as crystal, issuing out of the throne of God and the Lambkin. 2In the center of its square, and on either side of the river, is the log of life, producing twelve fruits, rendering its fruit in accord with each month. And the leaves of the log are for the cure of the nations. 3And there shall be no more any doom, and the throne of God and of the Lambkin shall be in it. And His slaves shall be offering divine service to Him. 4And they shall be seeing His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5And night shall be no more, and they have no need of lamplight and sunlight, for the Lord God shall be illuminating them. And they shall be reigning for the eons of the eons.
THE SECOND THRONE SECTION
The first Throne section revealed a throne out of which issued lightnings and voices and thunders. What a satisfaction to note the contrast in the new earth! Instead of dire portents, we gaze upon a river of water of life resplendent as crystal, issuing out of the throne of God and the Lambkin (Rev.22:1). The throne will be in the midst of life-giving trees. Its brightness will banish the night. The rule of the saints will continue to the end of the eon. This alone should show us that this is not the final state. Then the Son will no longer be associated with the Father in government. He will have so thoroughly subjected all to God that nothing but a Father's guidance will be needed for His family.
NO MORE DOOM
During the dark ages the church lost sight of God's goal altogether. Since the Reformation many students of the Scriptures thought they had found perfection in the millennium. Yet a few forged ahead, for they saw that the thousand years, with all their blessed release from the bondage of Satan, are but a beginning, a foretaste of the succeeding eon, when, with a new heaven and a new earth, perfection seems attained.
But even here a perplexing problem puzzles the student. If this is the "eternal state," if this is the acme of perfection, of what use are the medicinal virtues of the leaves of the tree of life? They are for the "cure of the nations." But if there is unfailing health, if sin is gone, the curse removed, then the divine provision is superfluous. The single statement "there shall be no more curse" (22:3, A.V.) is responsible for the prevalent idea of eternal perfection in this post-millennial scene. It will reward us well to consider carefully just what is involved in this expression. "The curse" brings to our minds Adam's sin and its consequences. Its removal suggests a return to the primitive perfection of the garden before sin had gained an entrance.
The word used in the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures for the curse pronounced in Eden is an altogether different one from that used concerning the paradise at the close of revelation. By translating both "curse" a false impression is created. We naturally suppose that the "curse" pronounced in the beginning of the history of the race is repealed at its close. Since this is a false clue and an incorrect conclusion, we shall study the word here used and its near relatives.
One of the most common elements used in the formation of Greek words is the combination the, meaning PLACE. It is used in very many words and is the root of the name of God. This is theos, which literally means the PLACER, or Disposer. The word we are about to study is also closely connected with God. It was the custom in ancient times to present costly offerings to the gods, which were suspended, or UP-PLACED, in their temples.
Such articles as crowns, vases of silver or gold, or other gifts were by this act separated from common and profane use and dedicated to the honor of the deity in whose temple they were placed. They were called anatheema, which will be recognized by all Bible students as almost the same as the rendering anathema in the common version (1 Cor.16:22). It occurs but once in the Scriptures (Luke 21:5) and is used of the votive offerings (A.V., gifts) in Herod's temple.
Such was the original meaning of the word. It was used only in a good sense of that which was devoted to the deity. But when the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures was made a thought claimed expression for which the later language had no word. In the Scriptures things and persons may be devoted to God in two entirely different ways, some for weal and some for woe, some for His service, some for destruction. The latter were "accursed to the Lord" (Joshua 6:17). The spoil of the city may all be devoted to Him, yet some find its way into His treasury and some suffer utter destruction. How shall this difference be indicated? It seems to have been done by spelling the usual term for devoted, anatheema, with a shorter vowel in the center, that is, the form to which we are accustomed - anathema. That which is anathema, then, is devoted to God, but it is dedicated to destruction. It has the sense of imprecation, a calling down of God's judgment upon that which is devoted to Him. It occurs in Acts 23:14, Rom.9:3; 1 Cor.12:3; 16: 22; Gal.1:8,9; as a verb in Mark 14:71; Acts 23:12,14,21.
While the word used in the Unveiling is not anathema, it is a close relative of it. It is katathema. Anathema means to UP-PLACE: katathema is to DOWN-PLACE. It is a stronger expression for the thought which anathema had gradually acquired. Here we have the key to the problem. In the new earth there shall be nothing devoted to God for destruction. Evil has been segregated to such an extent that this is no longer necessary. Everything devoted to Him in that day will be anatheema - a votive offering. Nothing will be anathema or katathema, devoted to Him, yet sealed for destruction. Perhaps there is no better word in English to express this thought than "doom." God's glory now demands the doom of many: but in that delectable day His plans will have so far been perfected, His purpose will be so near realization that His glory demands that there shall be no more doom. This is further impressed upon us by the absence of sacrifice. During the thousand years which precede this more perfect scene, the altars of God were glutted with the blood of innocent victims (Ezek.40: 39,45,46). They had done nothing to deserve death; neither was there any real efficacy in their blood. Yet it was imperative that they be doomed to such a fate in order to figure the one great Sacrifice for sin. In the new Jerusalem and the new earth no such sacrificial scenes will find any place, for there will be no temple and no altar, no priest, and no penitent. The day of doom is past and God's glory demands that doom be done away.
Perhaps no doctrine in all the sacred records has caused so much opposition as the plain intimations that God dooms some to be vessels of His indignation. He hardened Pharaoh's heart, that He might manifest His power. He fits men for destruction in order that He may make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy (Rom.9:15-24). Should He continue to do this eternally, we can readily see that the moral mind revolts, for it would be the exhibition of omnipotent hate rather than the display of all-powerful love. Such of God's ways are dispensational: they are called forth by the needs of the epoch, or eon, in which they are found. They are not permanent principles of action, but applications of these principles to temporary conditions, such as obtain only in the eons preceding the last. By that time God's glory will have been sufficiently displayed and His methods of manifestation will be changed. The most radical of these departures from His previous manner of government lies in the positive blessing of all who are devoted to display His glory. None are doomed. None are hardened. None are vessels of His indignation. All, henceforth, become vessels of mercy, reconciled and received into His presence with rejoicing.
Thus we see that this statement does not suggest the entire absence of sin, the lack of all discord in the universe. Two plain intimations prove that the day of absolute perfection has not yet arrived. Indeed, three things insist that the ultimate goal still lies ahead. The leaves of the tree of life are for the cure of the nations: government is still needed: the second death is still in operation. This book closes on a scene of supernal bliss, but it is not the final state; mankind has not yet reached its goal.
If we seek light upon the ultimate we must go elsewhere to find it. It is outside the scope of this Unveiling. Only the apostle Paul is privileged to take us back before the eons. He alone speaks of the time before they began their course. And he, also, is the only inspired writer who takes us to the consummation. In the fifteenth of first Corinthians he distinctly dates that grand event beyond the latest scenes in this Unveiling. All government will be abolished. The saints will no longer reign as in this last eon, not even Christ Himself will sit upon a throne. The kingdom will be handed over to God the Father. The last great enemy is still gorged with the victims of the lake of fire during the whole of this blissful eon upon the new earth. Death, the last enemy, though absent from the earth, is still operative, and is by no means abolished. It is only when this enemy vanishes that the consummation can come.
Let us reflect upon God's grand program of the eons and see if we cannot find the true place of the final eon. Up to the present, evil has been rampant and, until Christ comes and takes the helm, there will be no direct progress toward the blissful goal which the glory of God demands. Then comes Christ and sets up His millennial reign. It is perfect in its place, but far from absolute perfection. This is evident from the irruption of Gog and Magog at its close. It gives place to the new earth, in which there is a great advance. The barriers of priesthood vanish: there is nothing to hinder a free approach to God.
The trend is toward perfection. Will it be attained? Will God stop short of a goal worthy of His great name? Will He rest satisfied with a patched creation? Does not every forward step plead that God's grand march proceed until His purpose has reached its consummation? The sacrifice of Christ is sufficient. The reign of Christ is successful. He will reconcile the universe to God when this final eon is at an end. Now God is painting in the dark background. In the millennium and the day of God He will add the high lights of His picture. But it will not be finished until the eons have run their course.
THE LIVING LOG
In the midst of the garden of Eden God planted a tree, called, in the Hebrew, "the tree of the living." Like all the trees of the garden which were planted for Adam's food and for his delight it grew "out of the ground," and, as there was no rain, it was watered by the river. It was the tree of trees, so it was placed in the very center of them all.
All those trees in the garden which were "good for food" were, in a sense, "trees of life." They nourished and prolonged the life which God had given to Adam. But to none of them was this name given. It was reserved for the one. We do not know whether Adam ate of this tree or not, but he had no need to eat, for, in innocence, death was not operating in him and he lived on without its aid. It did not give life or sustain life like the other trees, but, judging from the functions of its prototype in the Paradise of the new earth, its office was to preserve life, to counteract decay and dissolution and death. This, at any rate, would have been its effect upon Adam after he sinned. He would have been able, by means of the tree of life, to offset the effects of sin by the healing juices of this tree and continue to live, not "for ever," but until the fiery cataclysm which engulfs this earth and ushers in the new, with its living log.
There is no question here of "immortality" or deathlessness. Adam depended on food to sustain life and even in Eden he would have died if he refused the food which Elohim provided. Neither is there any hint that the tree of life would impart "immortality" or deathlessness, as an inherent quality. The thought seems simply to be that, just as Adam could sustain life as long as he had access to the food trees, so also he could preserve that life from the continual and gradual operation of death (which we all experience) by means of the continual restorative action of the fruit obtained from the tree of life.
But there was another tree of special note with a special name. This was "the tree of knowledge of good and evil." It would seem that this tree also stood in the center of the garden, near the tree of life. It might well be named the tree of death, for Adam was warned, "thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof to die thou shalt be dying" (Gen.2:17). This state of existence (which we all know by sad experience) was the opposite of that provided for in the tree of life.
Adam could get along very well without either of these trees, and probably did until the temptation. The fruit of the tree of life made no appeal to him, for he was strong and well and had no need for medication such as it provided. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden - that was the main temptation that its fruit offered. Its effect was quite the opposite of the tree of life. It started the operation of destructive forces in the human organism which gradually led to decay and ultimate death. This process started on the very day on which it was eaten.
In due time the temptation came and Adam, loyal to his wife, joins her in partaking of the forbidden fruit. They not only get the knowledge of good, of which they had no conception, but the bitter experience of evil. They hide themselves. But God cannot be deceived. He judges the tempter, He sentences Eve and Adam and drives them from the garden to prevent their eating of the tree of life and living on as long as this earth remained. Then He placed cherubim and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of the living (Gen.3:24).
God's procedure is eloquent in its presentation of the great change which came over His relations to the guilty pair. Heretofore He could allow them free access to the garden and the forbidden tree. Now they may have none. If He had any confidence in them He could have laid His command on them not to touch the tree of life. But now man is not to be trusted. Or He might have taken away the tree of life or destroyed its vital efficacy. He might have destroyed it altogether. But no. The tree remains. It is guarded. It was made for man and man must receive its benefits.
And, indeed, is there not a thousandfold more need now for the tree of life than before Adam sinned? Then death needed no defiance, for it was not. Now that death has entered, the tree of life, of which there was no real need, becomes the one great and indispensable necessity for mankind. Therefore, we should rejoice that the tree was not uprooted or destroyed, but carefully guarded against the day when its unused vital juices will perform the functions for which they were created.
Through the long centuries of sin and suffering, disease, and death, until this once fair garden has become a vast cemetery, we hear no more of the tree of life. Not until all the graves have disgorged their dead and the earth has been purified in the fiery cataclysm and a new earth springs resplendent from His hand do we read of the tree of life again. It has been promised to the conqueror of the Ephesian ecclesia (Rev.2:7) and to those who do His commandments (Rev.22:14) but its blessing abides the day when He makes all things new.
There is not the slightest hint that the denizens of the new earth are all "immortal." We seek in vain for that impossible speculation, immortality apart from the life of God. Christ only has immortality (1 Tim 6:16). It is the portion of His saints when they are roused. It will not be the possession of all until the consummation, when death itself is done away.
Is death present on the new earth? No. Not because of immortality, but through the action of the "living logs." This expression is so incongruous that everyone objected to its use in translation. Yet it is full of precious significance. The usual word for "tree" is carefully avoided, In its stead a term expressive of death is used. It is WOOD, a dead tree, a log, a pole, a post. The life it treasures and imparts is a life after death, a resurrection life.
Not that it will convey to its enjoyers "immortality" in themselves. Rather it will stand ready to preserve their lives for the eon by virtue of its vital properties. Even its leaves will be medicine for healing the nations. Sin and sickness will be so nearly eradicated in that blissful era that a taste of its fruit or the essence of its leaves suffice to keep death outside its doors. And full provision is made by the presence of many trees instead of the single specimen in Eden.
Every month finds these living logs laden with the fruit appropriate to the season. Every month has its distinct possibilities of disease and each one is provided for by the living log. Thus death is defied and life lasts as long as the eon. Death is denied a single victim until it hides its head in ultimate oblivion at the consummation.
Happy, indeed, are those gentiles of other times, who, having no part in the celestial destiny which is the lot of all who are included in the present overflow of God's grace, yet will be blessed in the new earth with faithful Israel! (Rev.22:14). Many were proselytes in the past, and many more will be in the kingdom of the future. Their title to the new earth, the tree of life, and entrance into the holy city, new Jerusalem, will be the rinsing of their robes. Not only must their hearts he purified by the blood of Christ, but their conduct must conform. They have a minor part in attaining this happiness. It is in the nature of wages (Rev. 22:12). How thankful we should be that there are no such requirements for the far higher destiny which is ours among the celestials!