By J.R. Miller
In the early pages of the Bible, we have the story of paradise lost. In the closing chapters, we have paradise regained. Between the two pictures, we have the story of Christ's redemption. All we can do at present, is to glance hurriedly at some of the features of the restoration.
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city." The new Jerusalem is a city. A river runs through it. The waters of earth's rivers are stained and impure--but these waters are pure, as clear as crystal. A river is a great blessing in a country. It bears refreshing, fertilization and renewal where it flows. It quenches thirst. A wilderness has no water.
This present world is described in the Bible as a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water. A country without water is a dreary place to live. Man and beasts suffer from thirst; vegetation will not grow. Plants and flowers dry up and wither. A river flowing through the holy city, suggests that there shall be no thirsts unsatisfied. Nothing shall wither. No flower shall fade. The water is the water of life. This suggests the spiritual nature of the blessings pictured.
The source of the river is suggestive. It flows "from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city."
There is a strange legend of the Valley of Chambra. The water which had supplied it failed. Everything was parched and burnt up. Birds and beasts and men were dying of thirst. The oracle said that if the Princess Reni would give her life for her people, the water would flow forth from her grave. When she heard this she answered, "Here am I," and gave herself gladly to the sacrifice. Then from her grave there burst out a great stream of water, which flowed into all parts of the valley, carrying refreshment to every plant and flower, and supplying drink for bird and beast and man.
This heathen legend is a beautiful illustration of the redemption of Christ. The world was dying of thirst, and there was no hope of blessing. Then God gave His only begotten Son, and Jesus Christ gave Himself in death on the cross--and from His open grave there poured forth the streams of the water of life, which carry blessing wherever the gospel goes.
"On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." There is more of this picture of the garden city. On the banks of the river grows the tree of life, another feature of paradise restored. This tree of life bears a great variety of fruit. Each month has its own fruits, so that at no time in the year will those coming to the trees, go away unsatisfied. You remember that Jesus Himself once went to a fig tree to find food--and found only leaves. But this will never be true of the trees that grow beside the river of life in the New Jerusalem. There is also great variety of fruits, so that every form of hunger will find satisfaction. Every longing, every desire, every craving, every need of every life will be fully met.
Even the leaves of these trees are for use. They possess medicinal value. May we not think of the pages of the Bible, the messages of the gospel, and all Christian literature--as leaves of the tree of life, scattered abroad for the healing of the nations? Think what blessings these leaves, bearing on them the Words of God, have been to the world wherever they have gone! They carry comfort to the sorrowing, strength to the weak, cheer to the discouraged, knowledge to the ignorant, inspiration, hope, joy, life to all.
Fairbairn speaks of the Words of Christ as a handful of sweet spices cast into the bitter waters of this world, sweetening them. These leaves of the tree of life, likewise scattered through the nations, work healing and blessing everywhere.
The new city of God, while it has in it all beauty and good, is characterized also by the absence of things that mar the happiness and joy of the earth.
"No longer will there be any curse." Sin is the cause of all curse, and there will be no sin in this holy city, and consequently none of the bitter fruits of sin.
"There will be no more night." Night is caused by the withdrawal of the sun's light, and Christ is the light of this new city. His light never fails and never hides itself. Night is a symbol of ignorance, of superstition, of all evil--and none of these shall be found in the regenerated life.
In the twenty-first chapter of Revelation we are told that "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any pain; and no one ever shall be sick there." These, too, are miseries and evils that follow sin, and when sin is excluded, all its baleful consequences are also excluded.
Those who dwell in this new city, shall have privileges and enjoyments of which they have never even dreamed in the present world. "The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city." It is thought to be a high honor to live close to earthly kings and great men. It is an infinitely higher honor to live close to the throne of God! This means continual blessing, everlasting joy, divine companionship. It will be a safe place to live in, for nothing can ever go wrong beside the throne of God--the center of all power and also of all love.
This new life will not be one of idleness. Those who live in this city will not spend all their time in rapturous enjoyment, in ecstatic peace. They will be active. "His servants shall serve him." Love always serves. It what ways Christ's friends shall serve in heaven, we do no know. There will be no human need to relieve, no. sorrow to comfort, no sick to visit, no hungry to feed in that land of life. Perhaps, however, they will be sent to other worlds, where such needs shall exist--as exist now in this world of ours.
"They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads!" They will also be admitted to Christ's immediate presence. Their hearts will be pure, cleansed from all sin, and they can look upon the face of God and live.
Another blessing will be that Christ's name shall be on their foreheads. The name means the character and the likeness of Christ, shall appear in His friends. When they see Him--they shall be like Him. It is noted that this divine beauty is said to be on the forehead, where others can see it--and where they themselves cannot see it. This is a mark of all true excellence--those who possess it are unaware of the radiance. "Moses was not aware that his face was radiant."
"These words are trustworthy and true." These promises are not mere impossible dreams. Not one of them shall fail of fulfillment. They are fulfilled in a sense in the Christian life in this world, in everyone who believes Christ and follows Him. The holy city descends out of heaven from God. Heaven must come down and begin in us, in our hearts, in the present life--or we never can enter into heaven above. The words are fulfilled in a measure also for every one who, dying in Christ, passes into the presence of God. The full and final fulfillment, however, will be at the end of all things, when Christ shall come again, and gather all His own into one great company in the New Jerusalem!