The River and Tree of Life

‘There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the Holy Place where the Most High dwells’ ~ Psalm 46:4

One of John’s vision of the New Heaven and Earth given to him by Jesus Christ concerns the River of Life. John writes, ‘And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city’ (Revelation 22:1-2). This river of life has God as its Source, and waters the tree of life so that ‘On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations’ (v2). This tree of life watered by the river of life was also found in the Garden of Eden. ‘In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Genesis 2:9). In addition, ‘A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters’ (v10). God then commanded man that; ‘you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’ (v17). Mankind ate of it, and surely, he experienced death.

There was no command restricting the first man not to eat from the tree of life, but because of man’s sin and spiritual separation from God (death), the tree of life was also restricted from mankind. And so, ‘After he (God) 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 of the tree of life’ (3:v24). Since the tree of life as John describes was for the healing of nations, mankind could not have healing from sin, since access to the tree was denied. And denied it was for many centuries so that God says, ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you’ (Jeremiah 30:12-13). Mankind’s wound and injury remained, until Jesus was revealed and says, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he was anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord’ (Luke 4:18-19).

‘Come, and let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind us’ (Hosea 6:1). This is an open call, and whoever chooses to turn to Jesus will be healed. Just like mankind chose to eat of the forbidden fruit, so are we given a choice to accept restoration from the tree of life Himself. Jesus says, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener’ (John 15:1). In fact, Jesus is the ‘shoot . . . from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit’ (Isaiah 11:1). He even says of Himself, ‘I am the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star’ (Revelation 22:16). So, Jesus being the Root to the tree of life declares, ‘No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me’ (John 15:4). And so, ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be a tree planted by the water that sends out its root 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’ (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Jesus, the Root to the tree of life, is also the Source of the river of life that nourishes it. He says, ‘Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life’ (John 4:14). Jesus our Root not only makes us bear fruit by giving us access to the tree of life, but also gives us His very life – His Spirit. His Spirit not only sustains us in this life, but also grants us access to eternity, because ‘no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit’ (3:v5). And so, anyone who believes in Jesus, ‘out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (by this he meant the Spirit)’ (7:v38-39). The level by which we grow in Christ determines the depth at which we can be in this river of life, God’s Spirit. When Ezekiel was led to a river flowing from the temple, at first the water was ankle deep, then knee deep, and then up to the waist. The further he went, he eventually noticed that ‘I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in – a river that no one could cross’ (Ezekiel 47:5). This shows that God ‘gives the Spirit without limit’ (John 3:34), and so it is up to one to determine the depths at which they want to reach.

A tree cannot grow in two places. Where its roots are, determines its growth. A tree in parched land does not fare well like a tree next to a river. Likewise, we cannot bear fruit in other sources besides the true Source, Jesus Christ. David writes, ‘Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers’ (Psalm 1:1-3). The more we remain in the Source, our flesh increasingly gets overshadowed by the Spirit, because ‘this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live’ (Ezekiel 47:9). Where the river flows, Ezekiel also notices that, ‘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 water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing’ (v12). In essence, when we abide in Christ, we take up His nature, becoming trees stemming from Him.

‘Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life’ ~ John 6:61-63

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