By Horatius Bonar
"Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."--Revelation 22:14.
The last three chapters of Revelation correspond with the first three of Genesis. Creation--and new creation; the Paradise of man--and the Paradise of God; Paradise lost--Paradise regained; man expelled--man brought back. This fourteenth verse fits in with the twenty-fourth verse of the third of Genesis. Let us look at its parts.
I. The CITY. It is the new Jerusalem. At the first creation there was no city--only a garden with one man in it; now there is a city in the midst of the garden, and the citizens are the multitude that no man can number. It is a glorious city; well-built, well-watered, well-founded, well-paved, well-lighted--altogether perfect! 'God has prepared for them a city'--a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
II. The GATES. These gates are twelve; each one a pearl; gates for redeemed men to enter by; gates never shut; gates for both men and angels; gates which lead into the palace of the King, through which the sons of the second Adam can enter into the new Jerusalem. They are made by God's own hand. They are the everlasting gates or doors sung of by David, at which the King of glory enters. They are the gates through which there is the 'abundant entrance' into the everlasting kingdom. No longer 'narrow', but wide; not painful to pass through, but pleasant and glorious. Divine gates, for a divine city, in the midst of which there is the palace of the King.
III. The TREE. It is the tree of life, spoken of in Genesis, and also specially noted in the promise to the Church of Ephesus. It is the life-giving tree--not only now in the midst of the earthly Paradise, but the Paradise of God; nor only in the midst of Paradise, but in the midst of the city--for Jerusalem and Paradise are now one. The tree, which no doubt symbolizes Christ Himself (as does the water of life), is doubtless a real tree; only more heavenly, more spiritual, than that which grows on earth. The tree is laden with fruit; it has twelve kinds of fruit; it has a monthly harvest; its leaves are for the healing of the nations. As there is the bread of life, and the hidden manna, so is there also this tree of life--this true plant of renown.
IV. The BLESSED ONES. It is God who calls them blessed, and they must be so whom He calls by such a name. Throughout this book this word occurs several times. 'Blessed is he who reads;' 'blessed is he who watches;' 'blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.' In our text let us notice three points of BLESSEDNESS.
(1.) They keep His commandments. This carries us back to the 119th Psalm, and reminds us of the blessedness in which David rejoiced. In keeping of these commandments there is great reward, and great peace. We are called and forgiven, that we may keep these. It is to a life of such keeping that we are called. By such a life, we partake of blessedness as well as glorify God. We are redeemed that we may be holy--that we may walk in the commandments of the Lord our God and delight in His law after the inner man. This delight is blessedness. Thus one of the names of a Christian is a 'keeper of the commandments of God'.
(2.) They have a right to the tree of life. Not by merit, only by grace--yet still a right; something which they can claim. The reception of pardon is simply in believing; but the reward is the result of good works. This statement as to keeping the commandments and its fruits, is no more inconsistent with a free salvation than such an expression, 'Holiness, without which no man can see the Lord;' nor with our Lord's 'Beatitudes,' each of which gives expression and forfeiture reversed, and we introduced into the better Paradise, with the conscious certainty that we cannot fail or be driven out! No flaming sword to guard the way! All open and free! To feed on that tree forever; and in feeding find ourselves nourished and invigorated in every faculty! No death, nor disease, nor weakness, nor weariness, in sight of such a tree as this! All life and health forever!
(3.) They shall enter in through the gates into the city. They are blessed in a threefold way, as doers of the commandments, as partakers of the tree of life, as triumphant conquerors, entering in procession through the gates into the city.
(a.) The city is their city--Its name is the new Jerusalem. It is not for angels, but for men. God has built it for them; and so He is not ashamed to be called their God. The 'fire' into which the unrighteous are cast is not prepared for these redeemed ones. Their citizenship is in heaven, though they shall not enter it until their Lord returns as the King of glory. As Paradise was Adam's garden, so is the new Jerusalem their own city.
(b.) They shall enter through the gates into it--Not over the wall; not by stealth; but as conquerors in triumphal procession, their Lord, as King of glory, at their head. They are the conquerors so often mentioned in this book; and they shall be seen as such in the day of their entrance.
(c.) They shall possess it forever--This is evidently implied. Eternal possession! They shall go out no more. They are citizens of a magnificent city--a joyous city. They shall not be driven out. They, as the true cherubim, shall occupy the true Paradise, in which not only shall the tree of life be assessable, but the tree of knowledge shall be no more forbidden.