in many ways the life of the Church becomes a commercial for the actual show God is going to air in the New City.
The inner life of the New Jerusalem in many ways correlates with the inner life of the believer. It has life, righteousness, worship of God, service to Him, flourishing. Our spirits yearn for an environment where our devotion to God is reflected by the world around us rather than resisted. This City will be the satisfaction of our soul’s yearnings. Might I say that here and now, that while we don’t have the New City, we have Church fellowship. Jesus creates churches as communities which become spiritual and moral microcosms of the City to come. And in many ways the church life becomes a commercial for the actual show God is going to air in the New City.
Five Features of the Internal Life of the Eternal City
#1: The River of the Water of Life (v1-2a)
When we move into our new City, there will be the most glorious and beautiful river ever seen. Verse 1 says, “….”
The study of lakes and river systems is called “limnology”. Biblical limnology would be a rich study.
- In the beginning, the garden of Eden was watered by a river, and after flowing out of Eden the river branched off into four headwaters: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, Euphrates.
- Later we are introduced to the Jordan River, the Biblically famous river long associated with the Israelites. It’s the river God miraculously blocked up so the Israelites could cross and step foot for the first time in the Promised Land after wandering in the desert for 40 years.
- The future Millennial Kingdom will have a river flowing from underneath the Temple in Jerusalem that will run eastward and grow in size and power (Eze. 47:1-10).
- Then in the Eternal City, the river of the water of life will flow through Main Street.
Rivers are significant in Scripture for two reasons. First they provide water necessary for having life. Ezekiel 47:9 says, “where the river flows everything will live…” Everyone knows if you want a green lawn you gotta water it. No amount of Scotts ever made a lush lawn at home unless there is plentiful water. All over the earth water makes life grow. Water is necessary for us to live.
This fact of physical life so often in Scripture illustrates spiritual truths: that spiritual water is necessary for spiritual life. Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither.” Then there is that tender moment between the woman at the well and Jesus. He is tired from a long journey and asks her to give him a drink from the well. In their conversations, Jesus tells her: If you knew who you are talking to you would ask me for a drink and I would give you living water and you would never thirst again (John 4). This water is the truth
The other benefit of water seen in Scripture is that it cleanses. A great OT story shows this beautifully, in 2 Kings 5. One of Israel’s neighboring and hostile enemies was the nation of Aram. Aram’s military was run by Naaman. Naaman is described as a fierce and valiant soldier and a brilliant commander. But despite all his achievements, all his valor, all his recognition and prestige, Naaman had one problem: he had leprosy. Leprosy was a nasty disease, causing deformation and rotting skin. There was no cure. In one of his battles Naaman took captive a young Israelite girl who became his wife’s slave. She told Naaman to go to Israel and see the prophet Elisha and he could heal him. Naaman arrives at Elisha’s house and a servant comes out to intercept him. Without being invited in, the servant tells Naaman that Elisha’s instructions are to go to the Jordan river and wash 7 times and his leprosy would be gone. Naaman’s response? Anger. Why wash 7 times? Why the Jordan? All the prophet had to do was wave his hand and he could heal him. So Naaman does a u-turn and starts out to go back home. Thank God for his servants, who implored him to go and do what the prophet said. So Naaman listened to them, went to the Jordan and washed 7 times. His leprosy was healed. And God had another convert.
This water’s source is the throne of God. Again we are pressed with the image that life, and all that sustains life comes from God.
Application: That water is available now. Revelation 22:17 says, “Come! Whoever is thirsty let him come; whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Jesus is offering you life now. Come to Him and drink. Come to Him and live.
#2: The Tree of Life
Next, we see the Tree of Life, verse 2b, “…”
The Tree of Life was in the beginning of the Bible and now it makes its appearance again at the end. It grows on both sides of the river, apparently up and down the length of the river. Again the idea of life coming from God is impressed on us. The water of life flowing straight from God’s throne, and where that water of life flows the tree of life is flourishing beside it all along its banks.
Our first introduction to the tree of life was in Genesis. It was one of the two trees specified that God planted in the Garden when He put Adam and Eve there. The other tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After Adam disobeyed God’s command, and he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God ejected him from Eden specifically because He did not want Adam to eat from the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24 says, “he must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also for the tree of life and eat, and live forever. So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden … After he 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 to the tree of life.”
The tree of life’s fruit would have allowed Adam to live forever. That was a problem in God’s eyes, obviously, since He kicked Adam out. But the reason its a problem, commentators say, is because by eating from the tree of life he would have lived forever in his now sinful state. Adam, by committing sin, allowed sin to enter into his own being and become a corrupting, degenerating, and evil force.
So, access to the tree is prohibited, and, God sets in motion the plan of redemption for mankind. This is because man must be brought back to righteousness before He is allowed to live forever. Before the Fall man had access to the tree. He could eat of it freely because he was not corrupted by sin. Now, in Revelation 22, in the eternal state, the home of righteousness, the righteous city, the tree is back on the scene. It is there for all the city’s citizens to eat from and live forever because all its citizens are made righteous.
Application: Live to obey God. This is the heart of the matter of why God forbade Adam from eating the tree. He was not going to live forever with a mankind who would constantly disobey Him and rebel against Him. Man’s well-being and it not being good for man to live forever in his sinful state is part of the reason why, but it’s not the primary reason. Man was created to glorify God. Sin does not glorify God, and, God was not going to be dishonored forever by man’s disobedience to Him. Until man’s sin was dealt with, and man was restored to righteousness and a right relationship with Him, God was not going to allow access to the tree again.
This is why we live to obey God. Not to get life, but, as the demonstration of our life. We live for God because we have life from God. We let that life from Him be activated!
#3: The Curse is Gone (3a)
Third, we see that there is no curse, verse 3 says, “There will no longer be any curse…”
The Curse has been with humanity since Adam. Turn to Genesis 3 with me. Lets read verses 17-19 “…” To fully understand this you must remember that Adam was formed from the dust of the earth (2:7) and, that Adam was to work the earth, cultivate it, and make it prosper in its beauty and productivity (2:5, 15). And it was a fruit from the earth, that was the instrument of man’s sin, the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So the curse was strategically aimed at introducing frustration in the relationship between man and the earth. It is very just: man did not cooperate with God, now, the earth will not cooperate with man.
This will be reversed in the Eternal City where there will be no curse. It will be gone and therefore the new earth will excel in producing unimaginable beauty and unhindered harvests. This is what Romans 8:19-22 is getting at, turn there with me….
The curse also includes death, as you can see by that passage. But death for mankind. Death is the curse for sinning. Well, Let us remember that Jesus bore the curse for us on the cross. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us”. It was us and God – us with nothing but our sins and God with nothing but righteous anger towards us for our sins. Then Jesus, by God’s plan, was inserted into that picture and took our sins for us. He took our sins, and, therefore our curse, and, therefore God’s righteous wrath all on Himself for us. By God’s design He redirected God’s wrath away from us to Himself and suffered in our place. This is how we can be saved. All that is left for us now, all that God expects now, is that a man or woman would look to Jesus in faith, believe on Him, the Son of God, that He did that for them and that person will be saved. Then, there will be no curse for you, and, you will live in the city where there is no curse.
#4: Servants of God (3-5)
Finally today we see the Servants of God. Follow along in verses 3-5, “…” This reminds us of chapter 1:6, “Jesus has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father.” Or chapter 5:10, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth.”
The heart of the city will be the throne of God – the throne of God and the Lamb. This will be the heart of the city, but, it will be where every citizen’s heart will be too. Notice three blessings here:
First they will see His face. There is discussion about whether we will ever see the Father’s face. Some people believe we will only see Jesus, but, not the Father, others think we will see the Father’s face. I tend to think we will see the Father’s face. Jesus told people that the little children have angels in heaven who constantly behold His Father’s face (Mt. 18:10). What makes it impossible to see the Father, or see His face? Our sinful condition. But that will be done with in this City. One other thing too: God’s purpose is to dwell with man (21:3) – to finally achieve that intimate fellowship He has been working history towards. Why would He want that and not allow us to see Him?
Second, they will have His name. Verse 4 says His name will be on their foreheads. He told the church in Philadelphia, “I will write on you the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.” The antichrist required his followers to take his mark on their foreheads (or hands), symbolizing their loyalty and belonging to him. That is the false mark. The true mark is that which Jesus and the Father put on the true righteous ones.
Third, they will reign. Righteousness will reign. All evil will be in the past. It has no more future. Only those who are righteous will live in the home of righteousness and reign in it. No more wicked and evil rulers. No more corruption of government. Life will prosper. Worship will prosper. All of it unhindered, unobstructed, unopposed.