The River

“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 centre 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.”‭‭
Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭1‬-‭2‬ ‭NLT

For all their lives, my grandmother and aunt lived in a small village situated on the banks of the River Test, in Hampshire, England. I spent many holidays there and have memories of the river, flowing quickly through the chalky geology of that part of the world. It was so clear and clean, that every detail seemed to stand out, its clarity famous amongst fishermen and others. But the“ water of life … flowing from the throne of God” was even clearer. It’s purity was perfect. And “it flowed down the centre of the main street“.

We will remember the words of Jesus, when He appealed to the people in Jerusalem, as recorded by John in John 7:37-38. “On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”” John continued in verse 39 with an explanation of what this living water was, “(When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)”. We will also remember the story of the conversation Jesus had with a Samaritan woman, who was drawing water from a well. Jesus said, “… If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask Me, and I would give you living water.”” (John‬ ‭4‬:‭10‬). So in a sense there has been a spiritual river flowing from God even in these pre-New Jerusalem days. And it is a gift God has for us right now. Today.

In John’s vision, he saw the trees of life, one on each side of the river. But at first sight, the reference to leaves being there for healing would seem to be anomalous, because there can not, and will not, be any sickness in Heaven. So the fruit and leaves of the trees of life were there to sustain the eternal state of those living in Heaven. We read about God’s plan to feed His creation back in Genesis 2:9. “The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” At last, God’s plan finally realised in the New Heaven, in the New Earth and the New Jerusalem.

The prophet Ezekiel wrote about a river that flowed from the Temple, starting at the door as a stream. And it became deeper and deeper as it flowed. In Ezekiel 47:12 he wrote, “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.” In his vision, Ezekiel saw this river flowing from the Temple all the way to the Dead Sea. Many a sermon has been preached, inviting the hearers to immerse themselves in this river of life. But the question for us pilgrims is how much of God’s Spirit do we want to enjoy? Just a little, an ankle’s worth, or full immersion up over our heads. God is not reluctant to give. There is no water shortage in God’s spiritual economy.

Dear Father God. We pray for a fresh infilling of Your Spirit today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Death No More

“Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation‬ ‭20:14-15‬ ‭NLT

The lake of fire is filling up. We already have the devil, the beast and the false prophet sent there. Now we find out that death and the grave have been thrown in there as well. How do we picture death? A man wearing a monk’s habit with a hood covering his head, and carrying an old fashioned scythe? You know, the “Grim Reaper” that accompanies jokes about men catching a cold? But however we imagine the concept, or state, we call “death”, it is far more serious and significant than that. And the fact that “death” was to be no more restores God’s original order back to His creation.

When mankind was created, his sinless state meant that he would have the opportunity to live forever. In Genesis 2:9b we read, ” …. In the middle of the garden he [God] placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” And in Genesis 3:22 we read, “Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!”” The sin Adam and Eve committed resulted in them being cut off from the fruit of the tree that would provide eternal life. The result of that sin was mankind’s eventual physical death. So death was spawned in Eden through what has become to be known as the fall of man. And now death was being eliminated and consigned to the fiery lake. 

Now that death was, well, dead, there was no more use for the grave. Obvious really. No dead bodies, so no need for graves. So the entity John saw, the grave,  ended up in the fiery lake as well. So in our minds we have perhaps conjured up our own images of the Grim Reaper and a gravestone flying through the air and disappearing below the surface of the lake full of burning sulphur. 

It is a strange concept for us pilgrims that one day we will be resurrected and will live forever. In God’s company as He originally wanted. But some people in society cannot wait until they die. They find life so hard that they just have had enough. Sadly, some accelerate the process and end their own lives unnaturally. And we also have the frequent debate promoting euthanasia for those suffering from incurable or debilitating diseases. In the forefront of the news just now is the sad story of a poor girl in her early teens who committed suicide, her mental health challenges exacerbated by negative social media posts. The debate around the length and quality of our lives seems constant. But Jesus came to give us life, both here in this physical realm, and forever in the age to come. In John 10:10 we read, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My [Jesus] purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Regardless of our circumstances, we can enjoy a wonderful life with Jesus.

So one day there will be no death. All those who have chosen to live God’s way, in a loving relationship with Him, will transition from this life to eternal life in Heaven. In a conversation with Martha, the sister of Lazarus, Jesus said to her, “ … I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” Jesus came to this life, walking the highways and byways of the Palestinian countryside telling people about God’s wonderful Kingdom. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. To Jesus, death was no obstacle. Paul wrote to his followers some comforting words about death. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:53-55, “For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”” Paul ends this section with these words, “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That was why Jesus came. And through Him we really do have the victory that will enable us to once again enjoy eating from the Tree of Life.

Dear Heavenly Father. Once again we fall to our knees in worship. You are the living God, the true Life. How wonderful You are. Amen.