Image above public domain; “Tree” from public domain pictures net
The application of Revelation 22:1-5 is—
As we read, reread, and meditate on Revelation, our longing for Christ and the place he has prepared for us to dwell with Him ever increases and our church life is transformed into a vision of what we will experience in eternity.
A Look Back
We saw in the last post—
I. We will only achieve full satisfaction of soul and body from complete fellowship with God in eternity. vss. 1-2a
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2a through the middle of the street of the city… .
Now let’s proceed to the other amazing details in Rev. 22:2b-5 about our life in the eternal state.
I also want us to think about how that vision affects our life in the church now. After all, the earthly church (in space and time as much as is possible) ought to reflect the ideals of the Bride of Christ in eternity.
II. All of our past physical needs in our life on earth will be met to the fullest in the New Jerusalem. vs. 2b.
vs. 2b … also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Ought not the church today partially meet the needs of those in its midst? Needs include—
(1) emotional support for those who are hurting; (2) financial help for those who cannot meet their own needs for survival; (3) prayer support for those who are overwhelmed in trial; (4) Bible teaching for those who are church members so they can grow in Christ and in the faith. People need to see Christ in us, so they can be drawn to Him.
II Corinthians 3 tells of our seeing that glory partially now—
15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a [mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. [KJV; emphasis mine]
N.B. Mmirrors in the ancient world were on bronze tables. The surface was polished so one could bend over and get an idea if they were ready to go out of their house. (Table right from Pinterest; Photo mharrsch on flickr taken at “Pompeii)
God’s Face is Toward Us. Always!
A young man’s wife had died, leaving him with a small son. Back home from the cemetery, they went to bed early because there was nothing else he could bear to do.
As he lay there in the darkness, grief-stricken and heartbroken, the little boy broke the stillness from his little bed with a disturbing question, “Daddy, where is mommy?”
The father got up and brought the little boy to bed with him, but the child was still disturbed and restless, occasionally asking questions such as, “Why isn’t she here?” and, “When is she coming back?”
Finally the little boy said, “Daddy, if your face is toward me, I think I can go to sleep now.” In a little while, he was quiet.
The father lay there in the darkness, and then in childlike faith, prayed this prayer: “O God, I don’t see how I can survive this. The future looks so miserable, but if Your face is toward me, somehow I think I can make it.”
…God’s face is always toward us. Nothing ever will be able to separate us from His love. Now, that’s real security. (See Moore, J. W., below)
(I had heard this story in a different version long before Pastor James Moore told it, but I think the way he tells it is better than the way I heard it in a past sermon.)
If God’s face is ever toward us in Christ, ought not our face be toward those who come to our church?
John draws upon Ezekiel for his image of the New Jerusalem. He updates the Old Testament prophecies in light of Jesus death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Ezekiel 47:12 envisions trees on either side of the river, as well as Rev. 22—
12 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.”
The presence of trees in Revelation 22 is John’s way of saying that mankind has regained paradise. It was this that mankind forfeited in the fall of Adam. The nations are now healed and made acceptable as a dwelling place for redeemed humanity.
Image above is of trees in full bloom on either side of a canal from Mocah HD Wallpapers; public domain.
III. Our life in the New Jerusalem will be free of sin and centered on worship of the Triune God. vs. 3
vs. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.
The New Heavens and Earth are released from the effects of Adam’s fall. The ground will no longer cursed by God. God’s dwelling place is in the Holy City.
John uses the word doulos (“slave”) to describe the people of God. They belong to God, and are his property, in the good sense of that term. Those who belong to God are taken care of by Him.
God’s people are said to “serve” him. The Greek word is latreuō “the service of worship.” We derive the word liturgy from latreuō. (Do not confuse it with a Latin word liturgus meaning “a servant of the state or an attendant,” Wiktionary.) The word in Greek means a worshiper of God. This word is used of the priestly service performed in the OT temple. This means that the saints will worship the Lord throughout all eternity, and such worship will not be boring or tedious.
The Revival of the Church Communicates God’s Presence to People
During the Welsh Revival 1904-1905, a Welsh coal miner was heading home after his shift. It was dark and he saw a light on in the chapel. He opened the door, stuck his head in, and then he withdrew, exclaiming “Oh! God is here.”
We will not be in doubt about who is central in eternity—the Triune God. Ought not our church be centered on God now!
People are Not the Audience at Church
“If you were to eavesdrop on the conversations of churchgoers after a typical worship service, you’d hear comments like, “I loved the band this morning” or “The choir was a little off” or “The sermon was great” or “Pastor Mark missed it this morning.” If you didn’t know anything about Christian worship, other than what you heard from worshipers on their way home from church, you’d figure that worship is some kind of performance. The churchgoers are the audience (or maybe even the critics). The band, choir, preacher, and other leaders are the performers.” (Kierkegaard pictured right from WikiMedia Commons.)
“According to Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher, God is the audience for worship. Congregational members were the performers. Worship leaders were the prompters.” (see Audience for Worship, below.)
J. S. Bach said, “All music should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the soul’s refreshment; where this is not remembered there is no real music but only a devilish hub-bub.”
He headed his compositions: “J. J.” “Jesus Juva” which means “Jesus help me.”
He ended them “S. D. G.” “Soli Dei gratia” which means “To God alone the praise.” (from https://bible.org/illustration/j-s-bach)
We need such musicians for our worship today. We must look to them as prompters, not as performers!
IV. God’s people will be marked as His very own and will live in His presence. vs. 4
vs. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
In glory we will be able to look on God. However, the Father need not take on human form, nor the Holy Spirit. Jesus already has human form. Other than this explanation, we do not know specifically how this will be fulfilled.This sight of God is called the Beatific Vision—the sight that makes us perfectly blessed!
I John 3:1-2—
1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Let me suggest two further lines of thought—
(1) The Aaronic blessing may give us further insight into “seeing God’s face.” Numbers 6:24-26—
24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. [ESV; emphasis mine.]
God’s turning His face toward us is being aware of His presence.
(2) A further idea is given by the Reformers when they used the phrase corem Deo—Latin for “before the face of God.”
“This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God” (see Sproul Blog, below).
So, all we can say about Rev. 22:4 is to see God’s face is to be overwhelmingly aware of His Holy Presence. If this reflected in the face of Jesus, great.
R. B. Jones, the 1904 Revival in Wales, recalled something of the glory of it.
A sense of the Lord’s presence was everywhere. It pervaded, nay, it created the spiritual atmosphere. It mattered not where one went the consciousness of the reality and nearness of God followed. Felt, of course, in the revival gatherings, it was by no means confined to them; it was also felt in the homes, on the streets, in the mines and factories, in the schools, yea, and even in the theaters and drinking saloons. The strange result was that wherever people gathered became a place of awe, and places of amusement and carousal (revelry) were practically emptied… The pit bottoms and galleries became places of praise and prayer, where the miners gathered to worship ere they dispersed to their several stalls. Even the children of the day schools came under the spell of God. (see Lord’s Presence, below.)
Some things must be left to eternity. We think of the transcendence of God as a Being “way off somewhere.” This is not what transcendence means.
Transcendence of God
(R C Sproul)
“When the Bible speaks of God as transcendent, it is not describing God’s location… . …“up there” or “out there” somewhere. When we say that God is above and beyond the universe, we are saying that He is above and beyond the universe in terms of His being.”(see Sproul Theologian, below).
Let me add: He can be right beside us in location and yet be appreciably different from us and everything around us in creation in His Being. But…when He turns His face toward us, we and all around us are transformed!
In times of refreshing God let’s His presence appear to us as we are overwhelmed by what he is doing among us. I have had that experience at least once.
When I was nine years old, I went to church camp for the first time. A foreign missionary and our local Baptist Association Missionary spoke. When we sang and the men preached and prayed, I sensed the presence of God in a way I had not done in my local church. My mother told me of similar experiences she had in the late 1940s. It was a heightened sense of God’s presence in our region that lasted through the early 1960s.
V. We will experience in the New Jerusalem the overwhelming, outshining of God’s glory. vs. 5
vs. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
The day has finally arrived, and will be the experience of redeemed humanity forever. Our present time is often described in Scripture as “night time.” And the time when Jesus appears is described as the “day.” Romans 13:12 says—The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light [now!].
I Thessalonians 5:5 points out— For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.
II Peter 1:19 describes—
17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [ESV; emphasis mine]
The Greek word for “carried along” in II Peter 1:21 (pherō) is used of a ship borne along by the wind in its sails in Acts 27:17—
13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. [ESV; emphasis mine]
Ought we not to pay closer attention to those who were borne along by the Holy Spirit as they wrote the Bible, rather than seeking those today who claim to speak prophecy about day-to-day events?
“The Runaway Bunny”
I quoted from Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven” in the last post. I like another more down-to-earth depiction of love’s relentless pursuit. It is found in the classic children’s book The Runaway Bunny. I first became aware of this children’s book when I saw the movie, “Wit,” staring Emma Thompson and Blythe Danner.
Thompson’s character was a PhD whose scholarly endeavors had made her an expert on the Metaphysical Poets. Her professor who managed her dissertation came to Thompson’s deathbed (stage 5 metastasized cancer) and her professor asked if she wanted her to read from John Donne. A grown comes from her bed, “Noooo!” She then took the children’s book The Runaway Bunny out of her bag. She was taking it to her grandchildren. She read to Thompson’s character from it. Watch the short summary of the scene where Danner reads The Runaway Bunny in the movie WIT.
Brown, Margaret Wise. (1948). The Runaway Bunny (New York: HarperCollins). If you want to read the little children’s book without buy it click here.
To be with God and have His face shine upon us will be the greatest blessing of our lives! We can have a smaller encounter as we read God’s Word and pray here and now.
This ends the vision section of the Revelation. I will wrap up the epilogue next.
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation)
Audience for Worship. (2014). Who is the audience for worship? Blog. Accessed 20 August 2021 from https://www.theologyofwork.org/the-high-calling/daily-reflection/who-audience-worship
Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.
ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com
Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).
Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.
Lord’s Presence. (2006). The Awareness of God’s Presence in Revival. Blog accessed 20 August 2021 from https://www.sermonindex.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=46877&forum=40
Moore, J. W. (2019). “Presence of God.” Accessed 20 August 2021 from https://www.preaching.com/sermon-illustrations/illustration-presence-of-god-comfort/
Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Poythress, V. (2000). The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing.
Sproul, R. C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Sproul Blog. (2017). “What Does “coram Deo” Mean?” Blog. Accessed 20 August 2021 from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-does-coram-deo-mean
WikiMedia Commons for Images (unless otherwise noted)
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