"VERSE 1. And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." p. 716, Para. 2.
The angel continues to show John the wonderful things of the city of God. In the midst of the street of the city was the tree of life. p. 716, Para. 3.
The Broad Street. -- Although the word street is here used in the singular number, with the definite article the before it, it is not supposed that there is but one street in the city; for there are twelve gates, and there must of course be a street leading to each gate. But the street here spoken of is the street by way of distinction; it is the main street, or, as the original word signifies, the broad way, the great avenue. p. 716, Para. 4.
The River of Life. -- The tree of life is in the midst of this street; but the tree of life is on either side of the river of life; hence the river of life is also in the midst of the street of the city. This river proceeds from the throne of God. The picture thus presented before the mind is this: The glorious throne of God at the head of this broad way, or avenue; out of that throne the river of life, flowing lengthwise through the center of the street; and the tree of life growing on either side, forming a high and magnificent arch over that majestic stream, and spreading its life-bearing branches far away on either hand. How broad this broad street is, we have no means of determining; but it will be at once perceived that a city three hundred and seventy-five miles from side to side in either direction, would be able to devote quite an ample space to its great avenue. p. 716, Para. 5.
A very natural conception of the arrangement of the street of the city would be that shown in the accompanying diagram; namely, the throne in the center, and a grand avenue in which is the river of life and the tree of life extending out in four directions to the wall of the city on all of its four sides. This would give all corresponding parts of the city equal access to the grand avenue. It would also furnish opportunity for one magnificent gate in the center of each side of the city, opening upon the grand avenue. The length of each of these four branches of the avenue [depending of course on how much space is allotted to the throne] would be at least some one hundred and eighty miles. It may be said that this is carrying speculation a degree too far. Perhaps it is. But it is assumed that those who hope soon to enter into that city, will not be averse to a little innocent speculation in that direction. p. 717, Para. 1.
The Tree of Life. -- But how can the tree of life be but one tree, and still be on either side of the river? 1. It is evident that there is but one tree of life. From Genesis to Revelation it is spoken of as but one -- the tree of life. 2. To be at once on both sides of the river, it must have more than one trunk, in which case it must be united at the top or in its upper branches, in order to form but one tree. John, caught away in the Spirit, and presented with a minute view of this wonderful object, says that it was on either side of the river. Another who has been privileged to behold in vision the marvelous glories of the heavenly land, has borne similar testimony: "We all marched in, and felt that we had a perfect right in the city. Here we saw the tree of life and the throne of God. Out of the throne came a pure river of water, and on either side of the river was the tree of life. At first I thought I saw two trees. I looked again, and saw that they were united at the top in one tree. So it was the tree of life on either side of the river of life; its branches bowed to the place where we stood; and the fruit was glorious, which looked like gold mixed with silver." -- Experience and Views, pp. 12, 13. And why should such a tree be looked upon as unnatural or impossible, since we have an illustration of it here upon earth? The banyan tree of India is of precisely the same nature in this respect. Of this tree the Encyclopedia Americana thus speaks: "The ficus Indica (Indian fig, or banyan tree) has been celebrated from antiquity from its letting its branches drop and take root in the earth, which in their turn become trunks, and give out other branches, a single tree thus forming a little forest." In just this way the tree of life could extend and support itself. p. 717, Para. 2.
The tree of life bears twelve kinds of fruit, and yields its fruit every month. This fact throws light upon the declaration in Isa. 66:23, that all flesh shall come up "from one new moon to another" to worship before the Lord of hosts. The words new moon should be rendered month. The Hebrew has [hhodesh], the second definition of which Gesenius gives as "a month." The Septuagint has [men ek menos] "from month to month." The redeemed come up to the holy city from month to month to partake of the fruit of the tree of life. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations; literally, the service of the nations. This cannot be understood as implying that any will enter the city in a diseased or deformed condition to need healing; for then the conclusion would follow that there will always be persons there in that condition, as we have no reason to understand that the service of the leaves, whatever it is, will not be perpetual, like the use of the fruit; but the idea of disease and deformity in the immortal state is contrary to the express declarations of other scriptures. p. 718, Para. 1.
"VERSE 3. 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." p. 719, Para. 1.
This language proves that the great God, the Father, is referred to, as well as the Son. The marks of the curse, the deadly miasma, and the ghastly scenes of desolation and decay, will no more be seen on the earth. Every breeze will be balmy and life-giving, every scene beauty, and every sound music. p. 719, Para. 2.
"VERSE 4. And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads." p. 719, Para. 3.
The word his, in the sentence, "And they shall see his face," refers to the Father; for his is the one whose name is in their foreheads; and that it is the Father, we learn from chapter 14:1. This will be a fulfilment of the promise in Matt. 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." p. 719, Para. 4.
"VERSE 5. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign forever and ever. 6. And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. l7. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book." p. 719, Para. 5.
Here, again, we have the declaration that there shall be no night in the city; for the Lord God will be the light of the place. Verse 7 proves that Christ is the speaker, a fact which it is of especial importance to bear in mind in connection with verse 14. To keep the sayings of the prophecy of this book is to obey the duties brought to view in connection with the prophecy, as, for instance, in chapter 14:9-12. p. 719, Para. 6.
"VERSE 8. And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. 9. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am they fellow servant, and of thy brethren and prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. 10. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. 11. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. 12. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." p. 719, Para. 7.
(For remarks on verse 9, see on chapter 19:10.) In verse 10 John is told not to seal the sayings of the prophecy of this book. The popular theology of our day says that the book is sealed. One of two things follows from this: either John disobeyed his instructions, or the theology above referred to is fulfilling Isa. 29:10-14. Verse 11 proves that probation closes, and the cases of all are unalterably fixed, before the coming of Christ; for in the very next verse Christ says, "Behold, I come quickly." What dangerous and insane presumption, then, to claim, as age-to-come believers do, that there will be probation even after that event! Christ's reward is with him, to give every man as his work shall be, which is another conclusive proof that there can be no probation after that event; for all the living wicked, those "who know not God," the heathen, and those "who obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ," the sinners of Christian lands [2 Thess. 1:8], will be visited with swift destruction from Him who then comes in flaming fire to take vengeance on his foes. p. 720, Para. 1.
The declaration of verse 11 marks the close of probation, which is the close of Christ's work as mediator. But we are taught by the subject of the sanctuary that this work closes with the examination of the cases of the living in the investigative judgment. When this is accomplished, the irrevocable fiat can be pronounced. But when the cases of the living are reached in the work of judgment, we apprehend that what remains to be done will be so speedily accomplished that all these cases may almost be said to be decided simultaneously. We have therefore no occasion to speculate as to the order of work among the living; that is, whose cases will be decided first, and whose last, nor whether or not it will be known that any are decided before all is finished. p. 720, Para. 2.
"VERSE 13. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." p. 721, Para. 1.
Christ here applies to himself the appellation of Alpha and Omega. As applied to him, the expression must be taken in a more limited sense than when applied to the Father, as in chapter 1:8. Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, of the great plan of salvation. Verse 14, as before noticed, is the language of Christ. The commandments of which he speaks are his Father's. Reference can be had only to the ten commandments as delivered on Mount Sinai. He pronounces a blessing upon those who keep them. Thus in the closing chapter of the word of God, and near the very close of the last testimony which the faithful and true Witness there left for his people, he solemnly pronounces a blessing upon those who keep the commandments of God. Let those who believe in the abolition of the law, candidly consider the decisive bearing of this important fact. p. 721, Para. 2.
Instead of the reading, "Blessed are they that do his commandments," some translations, including the Revised Version, have, "Blessed are they that wash their robes." On this point Alford's Testament for English Readers has this note: "The difference in the readings is curious, being in the original that between poiountes tas entolas autou, and plunontes tas stolas auton, either of which might easily be mistaken for the other." In view of this statement, it is not surprising, perhaps, that this difference of reading is found. But there seems to be good evidence that the first is the original, from which the latter is a variation by the error of transcribers. Thus the Syriac New Testament, one of the very earliest translations from the original Greek, reads according to the common English version. And Cyprian, whose writings antedate any extant Greek manuscript [Ante-Nicene Library, Vol. XIII, p. 122], quotes the text as reading, "Blessed are they that do his commandments." We may therefore safely consider this as the genuine reading. p. 721, Para. 3.
Dog is the Bible symbol of a shameless and impudent man. Who would wish to be left in the company of those whose lot is outside of the city of God? yet how many will stand condemned as idolaters, how many as those who make lies, and how many more as those who love them, and love to circulate them after they are made! p. 722, Para. 2.
"VERSE 16. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star." p. 722, Para. 3.
Jesus testifies these things in the churches, showing that the whole book of Revelation is given to the seven churches, which is another incidental proof that the seven churches are representatives of the church through the entire gospel dispensation. Christ is the offspring of David, in that he appeared on earth in the line of David's descendants. He is the root of David, inasmuch as he is the great prototype of David, and the maker and upholder of all things. p. 722, Para. 4.
"VERSE 17. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." p. 722, Para. 5.
Thus are all invited to come. The Lord's love for mankind would not be satisfied in merely preparing the blessings of eternal life, opening the way to them, and announcing that all might come who would; but he sends out an earnest invitation to come. He sets it forth as a favor done to himself if persons will come and partake of the infinite blessings provided by his infinite love. His invitation, how gracious! how full! how free! None of those who are finally lost will ever have occasion to complain that the provisions made for their salvation were not sufficiently ample. they can never reasonably object that the light given to show them the way of life was not sufficiently clear. They can never excuse themselves on the ground that the invitations and entreaties that Mercy has given them to turn and live, were not sufficiently full and free. From the very beginning, there has been a power exerted as strong as could be exerted and still leave man his own free agent, -- a power to draw him heavenward, and raise him from the abyss into which he has fallen. Come! has been the entreaty of the Spirit from the lips of God himself, from the lips of his prophets, from the lips of his apostles, and from the lips of his Son, even while, in his infinite compassion and humility, he was paying the debt of our transgression. p. 722, Para. 6.
The last message of mercy as it is now going forth, is another and final utterance of divine long-suffering and compassion. Come, is the invitation it gives. Come, for all things are ready. And the last sound that will fall from Mercy's lips on the ear of the sinner ere the thunders of vengeance burst upon him, will be the heavenly invitation, Come. So great is the loving-kindness of a merciful God to rebellious man. Yet they will not come. Acting independently and deliberately, they refuse to come. So when they shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God, and themselves thrust out, they will have no one to accuse, no one to blame, but their own selves. They will be brought to feel this in all its bitterness; for the time will come when Pollok's thrilling description of the condemnation of the lost will be true to the letter:-- p. 723, Para. 1.
"And evermore the thunders murmuring spoke
From out the darkness, uttering loud these words,
Which every guilty conscience echoed back:
'Ye knew your duty, but ye did it not.'
Dread words! that barred excuse, and threw the weight
Of every man's perdition on himself
Directly home --
'Ye knew your duty, but ye did it not.'"
p. 723, Para. 2.
The bride also says, Come. But the bride is the city, and how does that say, Come? If we could be strengthened to behold the living glories of that city and live, and should be permitted to gaze upon its dazzling beauty, and be assured that we had a perfect right to enter therein, and bathe in that ocean of bliss and blessedness, and revel in its glory forever and ever, would it not then say to us, Come, with a persuasion which no power could resist? Who of us, in view of this, could turn away, and say, I have no desire for an inheritance there? p. 723, Para. 3.
But though we cannot now look upon that city, the unfailing word of God has promised it, and that is sufficient to inspire us with implicit and living faith; and through the channel of that faith it says to us, Come. Come, if you would inherit mansions where sickness, sorrow, pain, and death can never enter; if you would have a right to the tree of life, and pluck its immortal fruit, and eat and live; if you would drink of the water of the river of life, that flows from the throne of God, clear as crystal. Come, if you would obtain through those glittering gates of pearl an abundant entrance into the eternal city; if you would walk its streets of transparent gold; if you would behold its glowing foundation stones; if you would see the King in his beauty on his azure throne. Come, if you would sing the jubilee song of millions, and share their joy. Come, if you would join the anthems of the redeemed with their melodious harps, and know that your exile is forever over, and this is your eternal home. Come, if you would receive a palm of victory, and know that you are forever free. Come, if you would exchange the furrows of your care-worn brow for a jeweled crown. Come, if you would see the salvation of the ransomed myriads, the glorified throng which no man can number. Come, if you would drink from the pure fountain of celestial bliss, if you would shine as the stars forever in the firmament of glory, if you would share in the unutterable rapture that fills the triumphant hosts as they behold before them unending ages of glory ever brightening and joys ever new. p. 724, Para. 1.
The bride does say, Come. Who of us can resist the invitation? The word of truth is pledged to us that if we keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, we shall have right to the tree of life, we shall enter in through the gates into the city. And we shall feel that we are at home in our Father's house, the very mansions prepared for us, and realize the full truth of the cheering words, "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." Rev. 19:9. p. 724, Para. 2.
"Let him that heareth say, Come." We have heard of the glory, of the beauty, of the blessings, of that goodly land, and we say, Come. We have heard of the river with its verdant banks, of the tree with its healing leaves, of the ambrosial bowers that bloom in the Paradise of God, and we say, Come. Whosoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely. p. 725, Para. 1.
"VERSE 18. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19. And if any man shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." p. 725, Para. 2.
What is it to add to, or take from, the book of this prophecy? Let it be borne in mind that it is the book of this prophecy, or the Revelation, which is the subject of remark; hence the words concerning adding to or taking from have exclusive reference to this book. Nothing can be called an addition to this book except something added to it with the intention of having it considered as a genuine part of the book of Revelation. To take from the book would be to suppress some portion of it. As the book of Revelation could not be called an addition to the book of Daniel, so if God should see fit to make further revelations to us by his Spirit, it would be no addition to the book of Revelation, unless it should claim to be a part of that book. p. 725, Para. 3.
"VERSE 20. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. 21. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." p. 725, Para. 4.
The word of God is given to instruct us in reference to the plan of salvation. The second coming of Christ is to be the climax and completion of that great scheme. It is most appropriate, therefore, that the book should close with the solemn announcement, "Surely I come quickly." Be it ours to join with fervent hearts in the response of the apostle, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." p. 725, Para. 5.
Thus closes the volume of inspiration, -- closes with that which constitutes the best of all promises, and the substance of the Christian's hope -- the return of Christ. Then shall the elect be gathered, and bid a long farewell to all the ills of this mortal life. How rich in all that is precious to the Christian is this promise! Wandering an exile in this evil world, separated from the few of like precious faith, he longs for the companionship of the righteous, the communion of saints. Here he shall obtain it; for all the good shall be gathered, not from one land only, but from all lands; not from one age only, but from all ages, -- the great harvest of all the good, coming up in long and glorious procession, while angels shout the harvest home, and the timbrels of heaven sound forth in joyous concert; and a song before unheard, unknown, in the universe, the song of the redeemed, shall add its marvelous notes of rapture and melody to the universal jubilee. So shall the saints be gathered, to be joyful in each other's presence forever and ever, - p. 726, Para. 1.
"While the glory of God, like molten sea,
Bathes the immortal company."
p. 726, Para. 2.
This gathering has nothing in it but that which is desirable. The saints can but sigh and pray for it. Like Job, they cry out for the presence of God. Like David, the cannot be satisfied till they awake in his likeness. In this mortal condition we groan, being burdened, not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon. We can but be "upon tiptoe" for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body. Our eyes are open for its visions, our ears are waiting to catch the sounds of the heavenly music, and our hearts are beating in anticipation of its infinite joy. Our appetites are growing sharp for the marriage supper. We cry out for the living God, and long to come into his presence. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. No news more welcome than the announcement that the command has gone forth from the Lord to his angels, Gather together unto me my elect from the four winds of heaven. p. 726, Para. 3.
The place of gathering has nothing but attraction. Jesus, the fairest among ten thousand, is there. The throne of God and the Lamb, in the glory of which the sun disappears as the stars vanish in the light of day, is there. The city of jasper and gold, whose builder and maker is God, is there. The river of life, sparkling with the glory of God and flowing from his throne in infinite purity and peace, is there. The tree of life, with its healing leaves and life-giving fruit, is there. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Noah, Job, and Daniel, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, the perfection of heavenly society, will be there. Visions of beauty are there; fields of living green, flowers that never fade, streams that never dry, products in variety that never ends, fruits that never decay, crowns that never dim, harps that know no discord, and all else of which a taste purified from sin and raised to the plane of immortality, can form any conception of think desirable, will be there. p. 726, Para. 4.
We must be there. We must bask in the forgiving smiles of God, to whom we have become reconciled, and sin no more; we must have access to that exhaustless fount of vitality, the fruit of the tree of life, and never die; we must repose under the shadow of its leaves, which are for the service of the nations, and never again grow weary; we must drink from the life-giving fountain, and thirst nevermore; we must bathe in its silvery spray, and be refreshed; we must walk on its golden sands, and feel that we are no longer exiles; we must exchange the cross for the crown, and feel that the days of our humiliation are ended; we must lay down the staff and take the palm branch, and feel that the journey is done; we must put off the rent garments of our warfare for the white robes of triumph, and feel that the conflict is ended and the victory gained; we must exchange the toil-worn, dusty girdle of our pilgrimage for the glorious vesture of immortality, and feel that sin and the curse can never more pollute us. O day of rest and triumph, and every good, delay not thy dawning! Let the angels at once be sent to gather the elect. Let the promise be fulfilled which bears in its train these matchless glories. p. 727, Para. 1.
Even So, Come, Lord Jesus.
p. 727, Para. 2.
© S. D. Goeldner, February, 2011. Last updated October, 2019.
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