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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Jerusalem becomes Paradise
Text:Revelation 22:1,2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2013-03-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Jerusalem becomes Paradise                     

Ps. 46: 1, 2, 5

Ps. 78: 3

Ps. 48: 1, 3

Ps. 87: 1 – 5

Ps. 122: 1 – 3

 

Scripture reading:       Rev. 22: 1 – 5

Text:                              Rev. 22: 1, 2

 

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

It is a vision of New Jerusalem.   God made His tabernacle with her.   Through the atonement of Christ it is now a tabernacle without a veil.   There is free access into the most holy presence of God.  

In fact, the whole city has become a Holy of Holies.  

The church has become a holy temple filled with the divine glory of God. 

 

And then the vision continues.   The angel said:

 

“Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife...the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God” – chapter 21: 9 – 11.

 

The vision of New Jerusalem, the bride, the Lamb’s wife, continues with a description of her splendour in the rest of chapter 21.  

Now, that same vision also continues here in our text.    We read:

 

            “And he showed me a pure river of water of life…” – 22: 1

 

The vision about New Jerusalem continues.   What we have here in our text is still a description of the church with the tabernacle of God in her midst.   

Here, in the midst of New Jerusalem, is the throne of God, and the river of life that proceeds from His throne, with the tree of life on both sides of the river.  

It is still a description of the holy city, Jerusalem.   But now Jerusalem is portrayed as Paradise.    We find within the walls of Zion the throne of God, the river of life, and the tree of life.  

I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme:

Jerusalem becomes Paradise

We will note…

1.      The throne of God

2.      The river of life

3.      The tree of life

In the first place we note…

The throne of God

 

The apostle John sees:  “…a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” 

 

We see here, right in the centre of New Jerusalem, the throne of God.   The throne of David and the throne of God has become one!   Christ, the Son of David, is seated on the throne of God!

It is the gospel of Immanuel: God with us!

God Himself dwells in New Jerusalem; and from His throne all blessings flow.

 

The blessedness of Paradise, and all its glory, is that God will be with us.

From His throne, yes, from God Himself, the river of life proceeds.

 

Now, we see that Christ, seated on His throne, is pictured as a Lamb.   He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – John 1: 29.   By calling Christ “the Lamb” we are reminded that it is by His sacrifice, by His atonement for our sins, that God dwells with His people and they dwell with Him.   Otherwise the throne of God would not be seen in Jerusalem.

 

Christ, our eternal King, is seated at the right hand of God.   But He is also a Priest on His throne.   Through Him we have access to the throne of God.   Through His sacrifice on the cross we may dwell forever in the most holy presence of God.   It is through Him that we may enter the gates of the city and may freely drink from the river of life.   

 

That is why Christ is pictured as a Lamb: to remind us of His sacrifice and the atonement of our sins.

 

Furthermore, we have to note the location of God’s throne.   It is within the walls of Jerusalem.   And Jerusalem itself is now described as Paradise. 

The river of life proceeds from God’s throne and runs in the middle of the street of Jerusalem.   And there is the tree of life – the tree which is indeed only found in Paradise.  

Think for example of Rev. 2: 7:

 

“…To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”

 

The vision of Jerusalem is at the same time a vision of Paradise!   The tree of life is within the walls of Zion.   There is the house of God, His divine glory, His throne, and the abundance of life flowing from His throne.   And there in Jerusalem the tree of life grows on the riverbanks.  

 

There is now doubt about this: Jerusalem is now described as Paradise.  

 

There is only one reason why Jerusalem becomes Paradise: God has made His dwelling within her walls; and from His throne all blessings flow.

Yes, the presence of God turns Jerusalem into Paradise.  

God has made His dwelling within her.   The river of life proceeds from His temple and His throne in the midst of Jerusalem.  

 

Dear congregation, we have to realise that this is the fulfilment of prophecy.   The prophet Ezekiel saw God’s temple and a river of water of life that proceeds from the temple.   And on both sides of the river were trees bearing fruit every month “because their water flows from the sanctuary”.   “Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine”.  

There in Ezekiel 47 we have the same picture: God’s temple, a river of the water of life flowing from His house, and the tree of life growing on the riverbanks.   

 

But we have to go back even further, right to the very start, where the LORD God planted a garden in Eden.   There He put the man whom He had formed.   There, in the midst of the garden, was the tree of life, and a river proceeded from Eden to water the garden.   

That is the first description of Paradise, there in Genesis.   Here in Revelation we have a second description of Paradise, but it is not simply the return of Paradise, or Paradise restored.   No, the first Paradise in Genesis was only a shadow of the eternal Paradise that would come.  

 

There, in the garden of Eden, Adam dwelled in fellowship with God.   There the LORD God revealed Himself to man.   There Adam served God in keeping and cultivating the garden.    There, in undisturbed covenant communion with God, Adam served as prophet, priest and king.  

The Garden of Eden was already a picture of God’s house where God dwelt with man and man dwelt in covenant communion with His God.

 

The Paradise of God in the new creation appears as the second Paradise in the history of this world.   And yet this second Paradise is the original and real Paradise.   It is the ultimate and final fulfilment of Paradise.    The first Paradise was only an image, a shadow, of that which was to come through our Lord Jesus Christ.

New Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, with God’s throne in her midst, is the final fulfilment and ultimate realisation of Paradise.  

The church becomes the temple and dwelling place of God.

 

            “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men!”

 

That is the ultimate fulfilment of prophecy and of the whole gospel.

 

Jerusalem, the city of God, is beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, for she is the city of the great King; God is in her palaces – Ps. 48.

 

Dear congregation, all of history is one big fulfilment of prophecy.   God is accomplishing one grand work of grace.   He is building Jerusalem.   The first Paradise was only a picture of the things to come, but God is making progress towards the consummation of all things.   All prophecy will be fulfilled.

 

The second Paradise will, however, not be a return to the first state of things.   It is not as if sin spoiled the first creation and that the new heavens and earth and the new humanity in Christ will be the old creation over again.   No, there is progress.  

Now we bear the image of the man of dust, but then we shall bear the image of the heavenly Man, Christ (1 Cor. 15: 49).   And thus it will be with all things in Christ.

It is not simply a return or restoration of Paradise.   The glory of the first Paradise cannot compare with the fullness and perfection of glory of the final and real Paradise which God has promised.  

 

And what is this glory?    What is it that makes Jerusalem Paradise?   God’s presence! 

God Himself will be the glory of Paradise.   Yes, the river of life proceeds from His throne.   He Himself will be the fountain of all blessings and glory.  

His throne in the midst of Jerusalem – that is Paradise! 

 

All the other things are simply details of this one glorious gospel: God with us!

 

But let us now also turn to these other details?   What is the river of life, and what does the tree of life mean?  We note in our second point…

The river of life

 

The water of the river of life is clear as crystal.   The life that proceeds from God’s throne is pure and undefiled.  

 

We already referred to the Garden of Eden with the river that proceeded from it.   We also mentioned Ezekiel 47 where the prophet spoke of the river that flows from God’s temple.

And there are more examples of this image.  

 

            “…a fountain shall flow from the house of the LORD” – Joel 3: 18

 

            “…living waters shall flow from Jerusalem…” – Zechariah 14: 8

 

What then does this river of living water, flowing from God’s throne in Jerusalem, mean?  

 

During the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7: 2), on the last day, the great day of that feast (John 3: 37), Christ stood in the temple (John 7: 14) and cried out, saying:

 

“… ‘If anyone thirsts, let Him come to Me and drink.   He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’   And this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” – John 7: 37 – 39.

 

There the living water refers to the Holy Spirit whom the glorified Christ would pour out on His church.   And we have the first fulfilment of that prophecy on the day of Pentecost.  

The final fulfilment is in Paradise.   Then the Holy Spirit will be poured out on the church in unlimited abundance, imparting to us the fullness of life, of which God Himself is the fountain.  

 

            “Oh, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…!” – Isaiah 55: 1:

 

God Himself is “the fountain of living waters” – Jeremiah 2: 13

 

Therefore we see this stream of living water flowing the throne of God and of the Lamb.

 

When we compare the rest of Scripture it becomes clear that this living water symbolises the fullness of life in communion with God, and that it is given by Christ through the working of His Spirit.    The Holy Spirit makes His dwelling in us and unites us with Christ, so that we – being united with Christ – share in all His riches.     

 

Scripture compares the Holy Spirit more than once with water.

 

“I will pour water on him who is thirsty…I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessings on your offspring…” – Isaiah 44: 3.

 

He is the Spirit of life, the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge and revelation, the Spirit of holiness and sanctification.   All the spiritual blessings constantly flow from Christ to His church through the working of His Spirit.   By His Spirit we are made alive and remain alive.  

It is this constant stream of spiritual blessings that is symbolised by a river of living water – the water of life.

 

These blessings flow from “the fountain of the water of life” – Rev. 21: 6.  

This fountain is God Himself.   The river proceeds from His throne – the throne of God and of the Lamb.   And Christ is described as the Lamb because it was by His sacrifice that this fountain of living water was opened for us.  

 

In the third place we note…

The tree of life

 

The tree of life in the Garden of Eden was sacramental.  It was a sign and seal of God’s favour, and an emblem of God’s covenant.   It was a visible sign of that life which is found in fellowship with God.  That tree was in the midst of the garden, in the heart of Paradise.  

But in the second Paradise we find the truth and fullness of this symbol.   There God’s saints do not only enjoy a mere sign of God’s favour and of covenant fellowship with Him, but the full reality of life in communion with God.  

 

The tree of life stands on the riverbanks on both sides.   And according to the prophecy of Ezekiel, in Ezekiel 47, the tree of life draws its life-giving power from the water of life that proceeds from the temple, from the throne of God.   The river of living water nourishes the tree of life, so that the tree of life does not impart a different life than that which flows from God’s throne. 

 

It bears fruit twelve times a year.   Twelve is the number of the church.   The church has twelve patriarchs, twelve tribes, twelve apostles, two times twelve elders, and twelve times twelve thousand saints.  

That the tree bears twelve fruits twelve times a year means that it bears constantly a fullness of fruit for the entire church.  

 

And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.   That does not mean that there will still be sickness on the new earth; instead, it means that there will be no sickness anymore – the nations will eat of this tree and be healed forever.  

 

Yes, He speaks of the nations – the nations in Jerusalem!

In the previous chapter he spoke of “the nations of those who are saved” – 21: 24.

The nations are the redeemed from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5: 9; 7: 9).   It is the fulfilment of Psalm 87 which tells us that all the nations will be registered in Jerusalem.  

Christ gathers His church from every people and nation.   They will all drink from the river of life and eat from the tree of life within the walls of Zion, where Christ is seated on the throne of God, and from there He will pour out His Spirit on all flesh.

 

Congregation, we already have a foretaste of this glory, for the Spirit has already been poured out on the church, but we long for the final fulfilment of this prophecy where we will enjoy its fullness in everlasting glory.   Then the Lamb of God, who washed us in His blood, will pour out His Spirit in full and unlimited abundance.   Our thirst will be quenched completely.  

 

Dear congregation, we confess that there is no salvation outside the church – Belgic Confession art. 28.   That does not mean that the church saves us.   No, Christ saves us, but those whom He saves He joins to His church.   And it is within the walls of Jerusalem, it is within the church, that God establishes His throne.   It is on His church that he pours out His Spirit like a stream of living water.   It is within the walls of Zion that the tree of life is found. 

It is as Psalm 87 says: All my fountains are in Zion.

 

The church may presently be oppressed and despised, and sometimes it may even seem to be wiped out – either by persecutions or by a flood of lies and heresy and decay – but God is building Jerusalem.

 

Christ is seated at the right hand of God governing all things to the benefit of His church.   Yes, all of history is directed and governed by His hand.   And in all of history His eyes are on His bride.   She is the object of His love and salvation – not only at the end, but also today.

 

We do not see this by reading the newspaper.   The media does not know of the bride of the Lamb.   It does not know of God’s building project.   It does not know of the New Jerusalem.

It is only when we open God’s Word and listen to this gospel, that we see through the eyes of faith the final glory of the church. 

God is in her midst; He will establish her forever – Ps. 48.

 

God will establish His throne within her walls, and the whole city will be Paradise.

Yes, an unlimited stream of life in full abundance will flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb.    Jerusalem will be Paradise, for there God will establish His throne and grant His blessings forevermore.   Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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