The Tree of Life

TREE OF LIFEOn 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. (Revelation 22:2b)

History of the Tree – The Tree of Life, with all its healing properties, is there. It is no longer guarded by an angel with a flaming sword, but is open to all who have overcome (Revelation 2:7).(1) Genesis 3:22 said that “man had not yet taken of the tree.” If he had done so he would have
lived for ever, which in his then fallen state, would have been a curse (live forever in sin) beyond cure.(2)

Literal and Symbolic – While some see the tree as symbolic, there is no reason to believe that it could not be an actual tree with literal fruit. The practical effect would be to continue physical life forever. While the verse does not state that the fruit can be eaten, this is presumably the implication.(3)

Location of the Tree – Interpreters have puzzled over this expression that the tree of life is “on each side of the river.” Some take this is as a group of trees. Others say that the river of life is narrow and that it flows on both sides of the tree.(4)

Purpose of the Tree – The description of the tree of life is found in Ezekiel 47:12, which speaks of many trees bearing fruit each month (as opposed to one season a year), and having leaves for healing.(5) This is essentially repeated in John’s vision, where he states that “the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.” Why would people in Heaven, the New Jerusalem, need healing? Some believe that this is a reference to the Millennium when there will still be sickness that requires healing. However, another meaning could also be indicated. The word translated as healing could also mean be translated as health-giving. The English word therapeutic is derived from this Greek word. Even though there is no sickness in the eternal state, the tree’s fruit and leaves seem to contribute to the well-being of those in the eternal state.(6)

While the curse of Adam’s sin led to illness (requiring healing) and ultimately to physical death, there will be no more curse in Heaven. Thus, no healing of illness would seem to be necessary.(7) This has led some commentators to conclude that the leaves are used to treat and sooth the wounds of humanity upon their entrance into the city.(8)

The Nations – The mention of nations in Revelation 22 suggests that various people groups “from every tribe and language and people and nation” will populate the new earth. This begs the question of who will make up the nations in the new earth? A closely related question is if the saints are to rule with Christ, who will they be ruling over?

Majority View – The majority view holds that in the eternal state there will be only glorified beings and that we must not think that the earth will be populated with various nations such as those that exist today.(9) Rather, those who were faithful in building upon the foundation of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-14) will be rewarded with ruling over few or many cities (Luke 19:11-17). Perhaps those whose works are burnt up (1 Corinthians 3:15), while still in the future Kingdom, will make up the nations that are ruled. Paul described two opposite kinds of materials, as the Figure 26.2(10) reveals.

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When Jesus returns, He will reward the faithful servants (Luke 19:15–19), deal with the unfaithful servants (Luke 19:20–26) and judge His enemies (Luke 19:27). At the Judgment Seat of Christ (for believers – faithful and unfaithful), the Lord will settle the accounts and give each their reward. All believers will be in Heaven, but all will not be rewarded equally. Until that day, we have control over how we will be rewarded. We need to occupy ourselves by doing the work He has called us to do until He comes, using the talents and resources that He has provided.(11)

At the Great White Throne Judgment, Jesus will cast His enemies (unbelievers) into Hell. The unbelievers will clearly not be part of the nations on the new earth.

Minority View – The minority view, sees the nations being populated by men and women in the flesh. They are not glorified saints, but their flesh is incorruptible flesh nevertheless. They will not be the offspring of the glorified saints, who “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30), but those who lived in the flesh during the Millennium, yet did not rebel. They are free from sin and its curse, and will have holy offspring. They will inhabit the earth under the government of the New Jerusalem – glorified saints reigning with Christ. In this view, the New Jerusalem should not be confused with the Millennial Kingdom. Nor should it be regarded as a mere continuance of it.

The Millennial Kingdom is the reign of Christ and the saints over earth and its inhabitants. These inhabitants will be freed from the assaults of Satan (who is bound for one thousand years), but will still be under the curse and subject to sin (many will rebel when Satan is loosed).

The New Jerusalem period (after the Millennium), on the other hand, is the eternal reign of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) along with the saints over a race of humans inhabiting a New Earth that has been forever freed from the curse and restored to perfection.(12) 

Up Next – The curse is removed.

___________________

References

  1. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 603). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  2. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 603). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  3. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 987). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  4. Walvoord, J. F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 987). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  5. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 22:2). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  6. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 987). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  7. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 987–988). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  8. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 22:2). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  9. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 623–624). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  10. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 580). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  11. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 192). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  12. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (pp. 391–392). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

 

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