Pastor Scott Andrews | June 18, 2023
What comes to mind when I say, the Garden of Eden? I’m not talking about the temptation by the serpent, and the Fall into sin. I’m talking about the Garden before the Fall. What comes to mind? We know from Scripture it includes at least the following:
First, God Himself planted the garden in the east, in Eden, in which Adam would live. By the way, God created Adam from the dust of the ground, and breathed into him the breath of life. There’s a song called by Arcadian Wild called Spring: Wake, the lyrics go like this, speaking of the creation of man and the Garden of Eden. God is speaking, and He says:
Wake up, sleepyhead,
I pulled you out from the flowerbed.
My breath fills your lungs,
I’ll give this garden to my favorite son.
You are prince of all you see;
I’d like us to care for it together.
You just look so much like me,
My affections for you have no measure.
You are clothed in brilliance,
Naked as you came.
Because you bear my likeness,
Blessed be your name.
Walk with me, my child;
We’ll give names to all creatures wild.
I’ll strengthen your hands,
Bless and be blessed by this land.
Of all God’s creation, man and later woman alone bore the image of God. Now, Adam was to be a husbandman – a gardener – and care for or tend the garden. Second, God had caused every tree that is pleasing to the eye and good for food to grow there and to be freely eaten. He also planted two significant trees there – one permitted, the tree of life, and one prohibited, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Third, a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and it divided into four rivers, the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris and the Euphrates. From those last two, it is surmised that the garden was somewhere in the Middle East. Many attempts to find the garden have proven fruitless, pun-intended.
Fourth, God brought all the animals before Adam to be named by him, and perhaps find a helper for him. Of course, God was not ignorant – He knew there would not be a suitable helper found – He was simply proving that to Adam. You need one, perfectly created and suited for you.
And so, fifth, God put Adam to sleep, took a rib from the man, and created Eve. She was to be the mother of all living. God brought her to the man Adam, who broke into poetry, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” The Scripture then adds, by the way, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
I won’t comment on this much further, other than to say God’s intention from the beginning was two genders, tied to biological creation (now tied to biological birth), and He intended for a man and a woman to come together in marriage as husband and wife. Marriage is God’s plan, you see, man and woman for life, from the beginning. I know there is lots of confusion about that today, even in the church. I might address it, biblically, sometime soon.
Sixth, yes I know, you want me to say they were both naked, and not ashamed.
So God placed them together in the Garden. By the way, how long was Adam alone in the Garden, before Eve? Weeks, months, years? How long can you make it without your wife? About one day. If you hold to six literal days of creation, as I do, we find God created man and woman on the sixth day. Meaning, it took Adam less than one day to find he was alone, incomplete – that he needed a helper, a companion, to complete him. Now, sometimes women are irritated to find that they were created for the man – it seems so demeaning. Can I simply suggest – what is more humbling, to be the completer, or the one who was incomplete without the other? Again, leave a man to himself for one day, and he can usually make a mess of things. Really Scott, on Father’s Day? Well, it’s the truth. They have completed us.
So there you have it – a perfect environment, a perfect, well-watered garden with an abundant food supply, a perfect couple, together in paradise. What could be better? In fact, the well-known book by John Milton describes the fall into sin in his work, Paradise Lost. You see, the word Eden means delight – it was the Garden of Delight.
Well, you know the story – Eve was tempted by Satan to eat the forbidden tree. Satan accomplished that by questioning the character and the command of God. Eve ate the fruit, gave it to her husband who was with her, who knowingly ate. God then cursed the serpent, the man, and the woman, and drove them from the Garden – from paradise where they had enjoyed communion with Him.
It’s interesting: it is rightly suggested, I think – that Adam and Eve ate from the prohibited tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but they did not eat from the permitted tree – the tree of life. Why do I say that? Well, when God drove them from the Garden (after providing animal skins, presumably after sacrifice), we read these words:
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—
23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.
24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree oflife.
The implication is, they had not yet eaten of the tree of life. So, in an act of mercy, God prevented them from doing so – to keep them from living forever in their sinful, fallen state. So, does the Garden of Eden still exist? Are there still cherubim with a flaming sword to guard the entrance? If so, I wouldn’t want to be on the team of archeologists who find it. I personally think it no longer exists here – it has been built into the New Jerusalem which will one day descend, when heaven and earth are united, when God will once again dwell with His people, when we will behold the fullness of His glory in unhindered fashion, in glorified, sinless bodies able to view His glory without incurring immediate death. You see, we read about it in our text today in Revelation 22 – the last chapter – 22:1-5.
As you know, we’ve finally arrived at the last two chapters of the book – not just Revelation, but the book, the end of time as we know it. We have reached the consummation, the eschaton – the eternal state which God intended all along – when heaven will come down to earth and God will dwell with His people forever.
We looked at chapter 21 over the last couple of weeks. In the first 8 verses, we saw the new heaven and the new earth, for the first heaven and first earth had passed away. The holy city, new Jerusalem, came down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. John heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people.” That’s the plan. God will then wipe away every tear from our eyes, there will no longer be any death or mourning or crying or pain – God is making all things new. He who overcomes will inherit these things.
Which brought us last week to the description of the new Jerusalem in verses 9-27. It was actually an indescribable description – but central to it is the glory of God. Yes, there will be a huge city with walls of crystal-clear jasper and streets of gold. There will be 12 gates bearing the names of the tribes of Israel, and 12 foundation stones bearing the names of the apostles. It will be built in cube – length, width, and height all equal, just like the Holy of Holies, because the city itself houses God and the Lamb, who are its temple. As a result, there will be no sun or moon, because God and His glory will be the light, and the Lamb will be its lamp. And since all evil has been banished, the only inhabitants of the city within its perpetually open gates are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Which brings us to our text today, a continuing description of the city. But what we see now are some significant connections with the Garden of Eden. If you’ve heard it, it’s true – there is a sense in which we return to the garden – and experience it in all its fullness. In fact, I would suggest the garden elements in the new Jerusalem are infinitely better than even the first garden. So, think about it – this Bible is bookended with a start in the Garden of Eden, and an eternal finish in the Garden of God. He walked with them in the first Garden, He will dwell with us in the final garden, in the eternal city. Look at it with me – here’s the simple outline:
- The River of Life (1)
- The Tree(s) of Life (2)
- The Face of God (3-4)
- The Glory of God (5)
Verse 1 says then he showed me – we assume he is the same angel – one of the seven angels who held the seven bowl judgments – the one who’s been giving John a tour of the new heaven and the new earth – this angel showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb. There is so much here.
We remember the Garden of Eden was well-watered, and a river flowed from the garden and divided into four rivers. But this river is flowing from the throne of God. Remember, I said this garden is infinitely better. It is flowing from the throne of God Himself, carrying the water of life. We remember a couple of weeks ago, in 21:6, God spoke and said, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.” This is not just physically satisfying water; this is soul satisfying water.
We remember Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” A few chapters later, at the end of the feast of tabernacles, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in me as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” Soul-thirsting, quenching, satisfying water.
Meaning, the river coming from God’s throne is the water of life, clear as crystal, bestowing life-giving water to those who drink. This would have been incredibly meaningful to people living in the desert areas of the Middle East who couldn’t turn on the tap and get clean water. It should be meaningful to us – God Himself will give us living water to drink.
You’ll remember I suggested last week this description of the new Jerusalem has much in common with Ezekiel’s temple in Ezekiel 40-48. Now, I’ve had the privilege of leading a few trips to Israel in the last few years. One of the most meaningful sites we visit is Engedi. That’s probably not on your top ten list of places to visit in Israel. Come on – Nazareth, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, Jerusalem, Golgotha, the Garden Tomb. Engedi? What’s that? Where is it? Well, here it is, now you really want to go, right?
Engedi is south, in the wilderness, right off the coast of the Dead Sea. You know the Dead Sea – the Jordan River flows into it, and nothing flows out. So it’s dead – lots of minerals, but not a lot of life – not only in the sea, but all around it. Well, Engedi is off the west coast of the sea. There’s a small waterfall, allowing for some green life around it – but not much. Really not much to see there – lifeless, dead, remote. But then we read Ezekiel 47 in the description of Ezekiel’s temple:
1 Then he brought me back to the door of the house; and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east, for the house faced east. And the water was flowing down from under, from the right side of the house, from south of the altar.
2 He brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate by way of the gate that faces east. And behold, water was trickling from the south side.
3 When the man went out toward the east with a line in his hand, he measured a thousand cubits, and he led me through the water, water reaching the ankles.
4 Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the knees. Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the loins.
5 Again he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not ford, for the water had risen, enough water to swim in, a river that could not be forded.
6 He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he brought me back to the bank of the river.
7 Now when I had returned, behold, on the bank of the river there were very many trees on the one side and on the other.
8 Then he said to me, “These waters go out toward the eastern region and go down into the Arabah; then they go toward the sea, being made to flow into the sea, and the waters of the sea become fresh.
9 “It will come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.
10 “And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to Eneglaim there will be a place for the spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea, very many.
11 “But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt.
12 “By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food.
Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.”
Does that sound familiar? You see, there is coming a time in the New Jerusalem, where God and the Lamb are its temple. And water will flow from their throne, and make its way toward the Dead Sea, and everything it touches will come to life. The sea will be teeming with fish. And on each side of the river will be trees that bear fruit year round, and the leaves will be for healing. Regardless of your thoughts about the new heaven and the new earth being a recreation or renewal of the old heaven and the old earth – the symbolism is clear – it is fulfilled here in Revelation 22. The water of life brings renewal and life to all it touches.
By the way, did you notice the river will flow from the throne – singular – of God and the Lamb. We’ve seen before that Jesus will share the throne with His Father. Here, we see it again – speaking of the deity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Which brings us to the trees of life in verse 2. This river will flow in the middle of the street – we saw this street back in chapter 21 as being the street of the city that is pure gold, like transparent glass. So the river flows down the middle, and on either side of the river were the trees of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. There are at least two trees – one on each side of the river. Many suggest they exist all along the banks of the river. And they will bear their fruit – twelve kinds of fruit – every month.
A couple things about that – I’ve never heard of a tree that bears different fruit, one for each month of the year. But these do, speaking of abundance. There will be lots of people in that city, and they will never run out of fruit from the trees of life. Yes, with no sun, it doesn’t seem like there will be months and years – but the point is, the fruit will always be available.
And don’t miss – the people will eat the fruit. As I’ve said, this garden will be infinitely better – unlike Adam and Eve who were not permitted to eat, we will eat this fruit, leading to eternal life, forever. Are these actual trees or simply images? Doesn’t matter – they speak of abundance for all eternity. Further, their leaves are for the healing of the nations. And you say, but I thought there won’t be any sickness or death there? You’re right – because of the leaves of the trees of life. We cannot get sick, we cannot die – that’s the point of the image. By the way, did you notice – there is the tree of life, but no tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We won’t need it. We’ve experienced good and evil, and we will never want to experience it again.
Leading us to our third, rather amazing point in verses 3 and 4 – seeing the Face of God. There will no longer be any curse – as in Genesis 3 – the curse is removed because there is now no sin. And further, that sin kept us from seeing the face of God. No man can see God and live, you see. Notice, John reminds us that God and the Lamb will be in the city, and we will serve Him as believer-priests of God. How do we serve Him – as if He needed anything? We will simply worship Him, giving Him the glory that is due Him for all eternity.
But here’s what I want you to notice is verse 4 – they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. We will see His face. This is incredible. Yes, the OT says that God spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. But that is clearly not what we are talking about here. There, it was simply a way of saying that God spoke with Moses – Moses heard His voice. You see, later, Moses asked God, I want to see You in all Your glory, to which God replied, you can’t – no one can see Me and live. That’s when God put Moses in the cleft of the rock, covered him, passed by, and removed His hand to Moses could see the backside of His glory – that is likely, the result of His glory passing by.
John in his gospel, the same author says, “No one has seen God a any time; the only begotten God [that is, Jesus] who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” Or revealed Him or made Him known. And then John writes in his first letter, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”
We remember Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” All of these passages which speak of not seeing God and the promise of seeing God are fulfilled in Revelation 22: we will see His face. Further, His name will be written on our foreheads – unlike the mark of the beast on the foreheads of his followers – the name of God will be on ours. It speaks of ownership, likeness and glory. It was promised to the overcomers in 3:12, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God [that is, the New Jerusalem], and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and My new name.” This is an unbelievable promise.
Which brings us to our fourth point, and our conclusion. John simply but clearly reminds us this is all about the glory of God. He reminds us there will no longer be any night, and the inhabitants of the city will have no need of the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them [by His very present, unhindered glory]… Isaiah 60:19 says, “No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; but you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory.”
And they will reign forever and ever. As God’s vice regents – not co-regents, vice-regents, under His sovereign goodness in the light of His glory.
By the way, you remember that song I referenced by Arcadian Wild at the beginning. It’s actually four songs: Spring – Wake; Summer – Walk; Fall – War; and Winter – Will. The songs trace creation through the fall, and its consequences. But the last verse of the last song reads:
Lay down, sleepyhead,
Rest your bones in that flowerbed.
I’ll wake you when it’s time;
We’ll walk in the warmth of an endless light.
It is that for which we wait – when God unites the new heaven and the new earth – when He makes all things new, and we walk with Him in the light of His endless glory.