Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 50 - Revelation 21:9-27

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. 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, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. (1-2 NLT)

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

Then he said to me, "These words are faithful and true." And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.

"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."

Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.

Then he said to me, "See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God." And he said to me, "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still." (3-11 NKJV)

Living Water

Why does the river of life flow from the throne? How does this river relate to the tree of life?

We looked at the living water before and discovered that it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. We have seen that this water will flow from each believer in this life. As we are gathered together in the New Jerusalem, it will be concentrated in front of the throne as we worship God and the Lamb. Even with this, we must remember that the Holy Spirit is a gift who originates with Jesus. That is why the river flows from the throne.

The tree of life (one tree) is on both sides of the river. Without water, there is no physical life and without the Holy Spirit there is no spiritual life. The river, or the Holy Spirit, gives life to the tree to show that as we partake of the Holy Spirit, we will have life. Those who have never partaken of this water are not alive. People may call themselves Christians but without this water, the Holy Spirit, they are dead.

Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. (Ezek 47:1 KJV)  

How is the river of life like the river from the temple in Ezekiel? See Ezek 47:1-12.
Ezekiel was shown a river similar to the one John saw. The water was only ankle deep but every thousand cubits it got deeper until it was a river too deep to cross. It also had a great number of trees on each side. It went to the Sea (presumably the Dead Sea) and the sea became fresh. Ezekiel’s river was a vision for the millennium because it was coming from the temple and flowing to the sea; there will be no temple in the New Jerusalem and no sea in the new world.

The similarities emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit in the millennium as the river in the New Jerusalem show His work in eternity. An interesting thing about the river is that it rapidly gets deeper and deeper. Ezekiel’s vision was for a different purpose as his description focused on the river outside of the city to show that there was still work to be done in the world. John saw the river only as it flowed through the streets of the city. In Revelation, the work has been completed.

The trees along Ezekiel’s river could very well represent believers. They draw their nourishment from the river, yet the river gets deeper. That is the way the Holy Spirit works. The more we rely and draw on His power, the more His power is available for us. As we share with others, fruit is yielded all year long. Swarms of living creatures and fish will live wherever the river flows, again signifying that eternal life only comes when the Holy Spirit works in us.  

There is no mention of fish in the river of water of life. What might this reveal to us?

And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking. (Luke 5:5-6 RSV)

Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish. (John 21:5-6 RSV)

Jesus told Peter that he would become a fisher of men and He gave two demonstrations of fishing. The first time, before He called Peter, the nets broke because of the number of fish. At that time Peter was still depending on his own abilities even though it was at Jesus’ direction. If we witness and do His work in our strength we may get a harvest but we may also lose some.

The second time, there wasn’t any argument but an admission of inability to do anything on their own and the nets didn’t break. If we fish in His power and strength, we won’t lose anyone. They may not come when we expect, but that isn’t our call. If we fish relying on the Living Water to draw the fish instead of our own efforts, we will succeed and not lose any.

In the New Jerusalem, there won’t be any more fishing for men. All that have responded to the Gospel will be there. There will no longer be a need to tell people how to know the Lord. 

But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. (Ezek 47:11 NASB)

What warning can we apply to our lives from this aspect of the river in Ezekiel? 

Another difference about the millennium river is that the swamps and marshes will not become fresh but will remain salty. In these places the water doesn’t flow, becomes stagnant, and unfit to support life. The warning to us is to keep moving. When we stagnate, we do not bring life to others, and our lives can become worthless. The water evaporates and leaves the impurities instead of flushing the impurities by the motion of the water. It also shows that there will still be unbelievers in the millennium.

Tree Of Life

And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. (Gen 2:9-10 KJV)

So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Gen 3:24 KJV)

And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing. (Ezek 47:12 ESV) 

Compare these trees with the tree of life found in Revelation 22. What is different or the same?

In Ezekiel, the water flows to the trees. These trees are not the same as the tree of life even though they have some of the same characteristics. Their leaves do not wither, they bear fruit all year long, and their leaves are used for healing. Since these trees are plural, they are not the same as the singular tree mentioned in both Genesis and Revelation.

The tree of life in Revelation stands on both sides of the river and is in the city. The tree in Genesis is in the garden but appears to be the same tree. I find the wording of Gen 2:10 interesting. It says that the river flowed from Eden to water the garden. This identifies Eden as a larger location than just a garden. Gen 2:8 also makes the same distinction. Eden means pleasure. [1] It is where God put Adam and Eve and it is in the garden where He met with them.

The tree of life in the New Jerusalem appears to be at the source of the water as indicated by the statement that it stands on both sides of the river. The tree of life is shown in both the garden and Revelation to be where God meets us and provide the pleasure of eternity with Him.

The tree of life is so important in regard to spiritual life that God chose to keep men away from it after the fall in Gen 3:24. The tree is a representation of Jesus who is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). He forms the connection between God and us through the river of life – the Holy Spirit. In Ezekiel, the trees could be a representation of believers since the water flows to them and nourishes them. Anyone who hungers or thirsts for righteousness are to come to Him. People who are spiritually hurt are to come to the source of life and be healed by the leaves. As we receive the water, the Holy Spirit in our lives, we too can minister the same healing and provide food to others.

In the New Jerusalem the tree of life has been put in easy reach of all. The curse of God on the earth has been completely removed and now all have access to eternal life. If there are any scars left among the nations, then the leaves of the tree will take them away. There will no longer be any prejudice, jealousy, envy, or any other things that cause people to war against each other. All people in the New Jerusalem have already partaken of the tree of life – of Jesus Himself so there will not be room for any sin. I think that the healing from the tree is to emphasize that the curse has been lifted. 

What is indicated by the tree of life bearing its fruit all year long?

The trees in Ezekiel bore their fruit all year around. The tree of life will bear its fruit all year around also. There will never be a time or season that eternal life isn’t available. Just as with us, there should not be a time of year or season in our lives that we are not ready to share the news of eternal life with others. We are the representatives of Jesus who is the tree of life. We are not to withhold it from others who come and seek it. It is given to us freely and we need to pass it on. We have much more than we can use for ourselves. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is available to us now and in every season. It will be the same in eternity.
How does being able to see God’s face show that the curse has been finally removed?

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Is 40:5 KJV)

After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:13b-14 KJV)  

God made it clear that sinful man in his natural state cannot see His face and live (Ex 33:20). We have many promises in the Bible that someday in the future, we will be able to see the Lord face to face and live. He promised in Isaiah that everyone will see His glory. The deposit or earnest of the Holy Spirit living in us after we come to Christ is a promise that we will be redeemed with a physical body that will be able to see Him. That is our inheritance.

The description of the river of living water and tree of life flows into a description of what it will be like to be in the presence of God forever. Now at long last, people will be able to look upon the face of God and live. The curse has been removed completely and entirely. We will be totally owned by God, as we will have His name on our foreheads.

How does having God’s name on our foreheads dispel some cults’ theology?

You would think that reading these verses in context with the last chapter would dispel all of the Jehovah’s Witness’ comments about only 144,000 getting into heaven. It clearly says that all who have their names in the book of life get into the New Jerusalem. It appears evident to me that we all have God’s seal on us, not just the 144,000. They in fact will have been sealed after us. JWs are not the only ones that claim this exclusiveness for their members. 

Ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: (1 Cor 6:19b-20a KJV)

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Rom 6:22 NIV) 

In the spiritual realm, we already have His name on our foreheads since we were bought with a price. The result of that purchase is twofold in that we are freed from sin, which produces holiness, and we have been granted eternal life. We are now His servants and will serve Him forever. 

What comes to your mind when you think of the Lord being our light in the New Jerusalem?

Again the Lord has emphasized that in eternity, we will not be walking by physical light. We will be walking in spiritual light. That light will be all we need. It will allow us to see more clearly than any physical source of light. There won’t be any shadows since the light comes from God. When we look back at the description of the city and consider that it is the Bride (us) and that God is in us, and then we realize that the light could be coming from everything, even us.

It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai … that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. (Ex 34:29 NASU)

Moses’ face glowed after spending 40 day on the mountain in the presence of the Lord. He didn’t even see God’s face in the same way we will see Him in heaven. Think how it will be after spending only a short time in His presence face to face! And we will have all of eternity to spend with Him!

The Word is Trustworthy

Why was John told that the words were trustworthy and what was his assurance of this?

This is the second time that we are informed that these words are trustworthy and true. They have been given to John by the Lord, the same God who moved the prophets. John is assured that this is the same God who spoke to the prophets and moved them to write the Scriptures. At this point in the Book of Revelation, God is revealing that all of this has been announced because it will soon take place. The rest of the chapter is assurance.

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things which angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:10-12 NKJV)

What was the significant message of the prophets how is it similar to John’s revelation?

The prophets of old spoke of the grace of salvation that would come to us. They were looking forward to a time that they couldn’t comprehend because Jesus had not yet come and died. They saw the suffering of Jesus but didn’t understand how that fit in with God’s redemptive plan. They had to search diligently to understand and many didn’t. It was a mystery that God kept but revealed to the Church (Eph 3:1-13).

These things were given to the prophets, but not for their sake. It wasn’t for John that the Lord revealed Himself. It is for us, His servants. According to Peter, it wasn’t as easy for the prophets of old. Neither is it easy for us to understand the future. It is probably a mystery that won’t be full revealed until we are with Jesus. However, we are told that it is trustworthy and true. It will happen.

How do some modern day prophets abuse prophetic gifts?

Some of our modern day prophets who say they have received revelations from God miss the boat when they think it is for them that God has revealed His plan, if it is really God who has spoken to them. They think that the prophetic utterances are there for their personal guidance and benefit, and nothing more. We can look back at some of the Old Testament prophets and see that even when the Lord told them to go some place, it was always to minister. Even when Elijah was told to go to the widow’s house and live there for over two years, it was because the Lord had more in store for him later in his ministry.

Timothy is a good example in that the gift given to him through a prophetic utterance was for ministering to others (1 Tim 4:11-14). He was told to teach and not neglecting sound doctrine. Many current prophets put their revelations ahead of God’s word revealed in the Bible. He was told to live a godly life. Many prophets use their so-called gifts to extort and live shameful lives in secret.

John was told clearly that the angels were sent to show God’s servants what must take place. The reason that the book of Revelation fits with all of the rest of the Bible is not that John was a good student of the Scriptures and wrote it of his own accord; it is because the Lord sent His angels to reveal it to him.

It seems that some of the modern day prophets also expect to be worshiped in a sense. If they don’t claim to have a new revelation from God, they claim to have an inspired meaning to Scripture that no one else has been provided, but unfortunately, their revelations usually don’t square with the rest of Scripture. Because of their revelations, they command a position in their congregation that borders on worship. No one is willing or allowed to question their revelation or their interpretation of Scripture. However, it is very clear from the angel’s response to John that a true servant of the Lord doesn’t want a position like that. They will always point to God and not to themselves as the object of worship.

Sealed Prophecy

Why did God seal up some prophecies in the past?

Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. (Isa 8:16-17 KJV)

At different times in the Bible, the Lord has said that certain words or events should be sealed up or their meaning hidden from people. Isaiah was told to seal up the law among God’s disciples. It’s interesting to note that there appears to be a distinction between His disciples and the rest of Israel – the house of Jacob. Many times, Scripture is sealed up or hidden because people are so stubborn or disobedient that it simply won’t make a difference. They have already decided what they are going to do.

And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. (Isa 29:11-12 KJV)  

Others will find excuses why they don’t even try to read or understand God’s Word. This is probably one of the biggest reasons people don’t try to read or understand the book of Revelation. They have been told that it is too hard to understand so they don’t even try. Perhaps the real problem is that they haven’t read or tried to understand most of the Bible and therefore haven’t developed the discipline to study the book of Revelation. They would much rather have someone spoon-feed the Word to them.[2] The problem with this is that they become susceptible to the modern day prophets mentioned above. The good news is that the angel says that Revelation isn’t sealed up.  

Why were Daniel’s visions sealed up? Was there a different meaning to being sealed up? 

And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days. (Dan 8:26 KJV)

Daniel was told to seal up the visions he saw because they were for the distant future, even though he had already described his vision and the explanation. In context it would seem likely that he was simply to make sure that the scroll was written and preserved for the future.

And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. (Dan 12:8-9 KJV)

In Daniel’s later vision, he is later informed that the words being sealed up means that the wicked will not understand. They will continue to be wicked. On the other hand, wise people will be able to understand the visions and prophecies in the book of Daniel only near the end of time.

How will people be able to understand Daniel’s vision?

One of the reasons people will be able to understand at the end is that the book of Revelation has been given to us to help clarify, interpret, and expand on what Daniel saw. This is not like Rev 10:4 where John was instructed to seal up (not write down) what the seven thunders said. We can understand Daniel’s visions because the time is near.

Why do many people feel that the doctrine of the rapture is aberrant Christian theology?

I need to address this because we are talking about a theology that came as a revelation to a person in the 19th century. Was this revelation scriptural? Did it negate or alter anything in the Book of Revelation or any other part of the Bible?

We are truly near the end. It may surprise most of you to know that the rapture is a teaching that has been known to the Christian church for less than 200 years. Up until 1830, the concept of the rapture can’t be found in Christian writings. As I understand its origin, it came as a vision to Miss Margaret MacDonald in Scotland. A Presbyterian minister named Edward Irving was informed of it and began to expound on it. Later, John Darby, the founder of the Plymouth Brethren visited Miss MacDonald, then also began to preach in support of the rapture, and so popularized it that he has been credited with its origin. “Darby was a brilliant theologian with outstanding scholarly abilities.” [3]

While researching this, I noted that most people who have researched the topic have done so to debunk the rapture as a valid Christian doctrine. They cite its recent origin to explain that it can’t be true. Well, if a brilliant theologian saw how Scripture fit together and then expounded on it, why should we dismiss it? It also appears to me that it is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel.

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. (Dan 12:4 KJV)

The rapture has always been in the Scripture, it wasn’t revealed until recently because it wasn’t time to do so. Knowledge has increased as we get closer to the end. It isn’t just technical knowledge, but knowledge of the end times and God’s working.

Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand. (Dan 12:10 KJV)

What is something that is common between Daniel’s instructions to seal up the words and John’s instructions not to seal up the words? 

Another thing in common between these last words in Revelation and Daniel is that they both state that the wicked will continue to be wicked. Revelation adds that those who do right should continue to do so. I’m sure that some people have used these words to condone their own evil desires, thinking that God has given them permission to do evil. However, Isa 29:11-12 ties into Daniel and Revelation to demonstrate that sinful man will continue to be sinful right up to the very Day of Judgment. Contrary to some doctrines of the past, the church is not going to save the whole world and thus usher in God’s eternal kingdom. (People who hold to this doctrine really rail against the rapture.) While we must be obedient and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, some will still reject Him as their Lord and Savior. They will not turn to the living water or the tree of life.

What kind of people should we be in light of this?

2 Peter 3:11-14

Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God's righteousness.

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. (2 Peter 3:11-14 NLT)

Let’s heed Peter’s admonition to look forward to this time and be holy now.

[1] The Online Bible Thayer's Greek Lexicon and Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Copyright © 1993, Woodside Bible Fellowship, Ontario, Canada. Licensed from the Institute for Creation Research.
[2] Have you noticed that with the advent of study Bibles, there are more words from the author than from God? Some pages have only four or five verses on the page. Some notes are good but some contradict notes in other study Bibles.
[3] Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D, Chapter 17: The Rapture Theory - Its Surprising Origin. Associates for Scriptural Knowledge, Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

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