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throne. It does not flow to the sea, but through the avenues and streets of the city. From the grand center of the whole establishment it seems to flow through the midst of all the streets in the city; that is through every street. And both sides of it are lined with the Tree of Life; so that all the myriad mansions of the New Jerusalem thus open upon the Tree and the River of Life.
These trees, like the River whose sides they line, are first of all for the joy and blessedness of the dwellers in the Holy City, to beautify their eternal home, and to minister to their happiness. They are fruit-bearing trees, yielding their products every month, and each month a new variety.
It is sometimes asked whether the glorified saints are to eat in heaven? We may safely answer that they can eat, although under no need to eat; just as we can enjoy a rose, and yet not suffer from its absence. The Saviour after his glorious resurrection did eat, even of the coarse food of mortals. The angels ate of Sarah's cakes and of Abraham's dressed calf (Genesis 18:6-8). There is also much that is moral and spiritual in eating. It was by eating that the fall and all its consequences came into the world. All the holy appointments of God in the old economy had eating connected with them. The highest impartation of Christ and his salvation to his people on earth is done in connection with a sacred eating and drinking. The Saviour several times refers to eating and drinking in the kingdom of glory. He again and again likens the whole provision of grace to a banquet, a feast. One of the most emphasized scenes of the future, to which this Apocalypse refers, is a supper, even the supper of the marriage of the Lamb. And so the implication here is that there will be eating in this Eternal City, the eating of fruits, the eating of the monthly products of the Tree of Life. The inhabitants there drink Life-water, and they eat Life-fruits.
The eating of the fruit of the Tree of Life in the first Paradise was the sacrament of fellowship with life, a commemoration, pledge, support, and participation of life eternal, for soul and body. Hence, sin cut off man from it; and all the ordinances and ministries of grace since that time are meant for his recovery and readmission to that Tree. Hence also the promise was given to the Church of Ephesus, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of my God" (Revelation 2:7). And so again, "Blessed they who wash their robes, that they may have right to the Tree of Life" (Revelation 22:14). Like the golden table of showbread which ever stood in the ancient tabernacle and Temple for the priests to eat, so the Tree of Life stands in all the golden streets of the New Jerusalem, with its monthly fruit for the immortal king-priests of heaven. And whether they need it for the support of their undecaying immortality or not, it is everywhere presented as one of the most precious privileges of God's glorified saints. We cannot suppose that they ever hunger or thirst in that high realm, or that there is ever any waste in their immortal energies needing recuperation from physical digestion; but still the participation of these Life-fruits bespeaks a communion with Life, the joy of which exceeds all present comprehension.
But these trees are for a still further purpose. The leaves of them are for the healing of the nations. As the fruits add to the joys of heaven, the leaves add to the joys of earth. Who gathers them, and how they are applied, and what the healing is which they are to work, is not told us, and it is vain to attempt to be wise above what is written. But "nations" are then to be who eat not of these fruits, though benefited by the leaves in connection with which the fruits are produced. Two classes of people are thus distinctly recognized in the new heaven and earth; a class in glory who get the fruits of the Tree of Life, and a class in the estate of "nations" who get the leaves; but, whether fruits or leaves, a great and glorious blessing. As there will always be need for the ministrations of these celestial king-priests to those dwelling on the earth so will those ministrations also bring them the healing leaves from the Tree of Life. As the Life-waters are not wholly shut up in the city, but descend in a form to people on the earth; so the Life-tree, in a form, yields its benefits to them too. The meaning is not that the nations are full of sicknesses and ailments, for these remains of the curse are gone then, though it may be from the virtue of these leaves. The meaning rather is the preservation of health and comfort, and not that maladies then exist to be removed. The Life-leaves are for the conservation and augmentation of Life-blessedness of people on earth, as the Life-fruits are for the joy of the saints in heaven.
III. The Apostle further informs us that there all sin and its ill consequences will no more be.
The first Paradise was glorious; but with all its blessedness, sin entered it, and the curse came, under which earth and man have been laboring and sighing for 6,000 years. Hence, with all the transcendent glory described by the Apostle, the question might still be open as to its permanence-whether sin might not again insinuate itself, with its ever-attending spoliations. Man once had a happy and unabridged right to the Tree of Life, but lost it; and that Tree, and all the Garden in which it grew, evanished from him, and left the world smoking under the tokens of Yahweh's anger. The curse came. It came upon man himself and all his seed. It came upon innocent nature with which he stood connected. It came upon the very ground on his account. Might not the same happen again, even to Paradise regained? Therefore the special assurance is here inserted, that "every curse, or accursed thing, shall not be anymore." The relief from it is to be an eternal relief. Its disappearance from all this scene of things is to be an everlasting disappearance. The glory and blessedness will never again give place to darkness, sin, and death.
I do not fancy that the freedom of man redeemed will be anymore constrained than it was when man first sinned; but the victory having been fairly achieved, under far mightier trials, by the second Adam, the Tempter will be restrained, a training and experience will then be upon the redeemed which will stand like a wall between them and danger, and the love and appreciation of what has been so dearly purchased will be so intense and high after all these ages of the reign of sin and death that they will never consent for anything to let it go. Holy angels stand fast in their blessedness forever, not because they are less free to sin than were those who kept not their first estate; but because, having stood the test, the whole momentum of their moral being moves only toward what is true and good, and so they never fall. And such shall be the security of man redeemed. Stationed on the high vantage-ground of a victory won through pain and suffering, and made strong in the unfailing helps and mercies of his God, there will be no more fuel left in him for sin to kindle, and no more curse or danger to him forever.
Being innocent, man ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and learned to know evil. For all these weary ages he has been tasting and experiencing the bitterness of evil. Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, they that believe in him come to know good; and knowing good, there will be no more turning of their hearts from it, and hence no more sinning and no more curse. And man being finally and permanently redeemed, everything that has been disordered, disabled, or cursed for man's sake, shall also be permanently delivered (Romans 8:9-23).
When God pronounced judgment upon the sins committed in the first Paradise, "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Genesis 3:15.) All this was imposed as penalty and curse, unique to her who "was first in transgression." But here the assurance is that it will be completely lifted off, and be no more (Compare 1 Timothy 2:15). "And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:17-19).
Here was penalty and curse, whose potent condemnation has been binding and afflicting earth and man from that day to this. It affects all the elements man touches, and the whole order of things amid which he lives. It affects what he eats and what he drinks, the air he breathes and the ground on which he walks. It affects all the growths of nature in all its sublunary kingdoms, and conditions the seasons and the sea. It has opened the avenues of disease, calamity, and death, until the earth is no longer habitable for man, except for a few brief years. Everywhere, on everything, we read and have it flashed upon us, that man is a sinner; that a fearful condemnation hangs over him; that a curse for his sin is festering in all that pertains to him and his dwelling-place. But it is not incurable. The remedy may be long in taking effect, but it is provided-provided in Jesus Christ, his achievements as the second Adam, and his sovereign power and purpose to destroy all the works of the devil, and to subdue all things to himself.
The first note that John heard coming forth from the Throne when the final judgment was over, was, BEHOLD, NOW I MAKE EVERYTHING" (Revelation 21:5). And the effect of that renewal is further stated in the text to be, that every curse shall cease to exist. Not of the holy city alone can this be said, for there the curse never was. It is a word which applies above all to the place where the curse has been. It was upon woman, and man, and earth, and the economy of things on the earth, that the sentence was put; and from them therefore must be its cessation. Nor do we go beyond the necessary implications of this divine assurance when we read from its massive terms that this whole scene of earthly life, where sin and death have reigned so long, will yet come up out of all its desolations; that the very blessedness of Paradise shall revisit all its hills and vales; and that throughout this nether world, disordered, cut with graves, and full of miseries, that goal of the prayer our Lord has taught us shall be realized, when it shall be "on earth as it is in heaven."
IV. The Apostle tells us also of a glorious throne.
There is a central throne of the universe where Christ now sits and reigns with the Eternal Father. The dominion which he there holds as "head over all things for the Church," he is to deliver up when the time for the great consummation arrives. He is now with the Father on his throne, but there is another throne especially his own, which he will then take, and on which his glorified people shall reign with him, as he now reigns with the Father. (Compare 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, and Revelation 3:21). This throne is in the New Jerusalem. It is "the throne of God," as Christ is God; and it is "the throne of the Lamb," in that it is held and occupied as the result of Christ's achievement as a sacrifice for sin, and in his particular character as the world's Saviour and Redeemer. It is the throne of God as the Lamb, the All-Ruler, who once was slain, but lives again, and here is to reign with his glorified saints to the ages of the ages.
There is something special about these thrones. In the first three chapters of this Book, Christ appears in the sanctuary, walking amid the golden lampstands, noting and pronouncing upon his churches. There no throne is visible, for the Church is only the kingdom in process of formation, answering to the period of Israel's pilgrimage in the wilderness. In the succeeding chapters a throne appears; but with surroundings indicative of a special dispensation with regard to the old earth, partly retributive and partly remedial. It is the throne of the judgment period which holds only during "the day of the Lord," in which Christ is engaged in enforcing the principles of his Kingdom and his claims by visitations of successive judgments upon the world; answering to the reign of the Judges, when the Ark and its accompaniments were yet in the movable and temporary tabernacle, and the kingdom was not yet established.
With the Halleluias over the fall of Babylon, this particular throne disappears, and we see only the thrones of the Shepherdizers, who for a time rule the nations with a rod of iron; answering to the warlike reign of David, when the preparations for the Temple were making. The last rebellion, typified by that enacted by Absalom against his father, having been put down, the "Great White Throne" appears, the final judgment throne, with no signs of blessing, consigning all the unholy dead to their final doom. And then comes the Holy City and the full establishment of the Kingdom of peace, answering to the illustrious reign of the wise and peaceful Solomon, when the Temple took its place on Mount Moriah, and there "was neither adversary nor evil." In the Holy City the throne then takes its position, as the final throne of God and the Lamb with reference to the earth and man. It is a single throne, the seat and center of all the authority and power ever thenceforward put forth for the regulation and government of human affairs. And its occupants, and the only administrants of its dominion, are God, the Lamb, and his glorified saints. "And they shall reign to the ages of the ages." No more faulty politics, no more false religion, no more rabble rule or oppressive tyranny, shall then be anymore. For the reign of righteousness has come, and it will fail no more forever.
V. Finally, the Apostle tells us of the condition of things under this administration.
He has already given us something on this point. He has told us of the directness of communion with God in that Blessed City-of the center of light, interest, attraction, and holy reverence which it will be to the whole earth-of the joyful obedience with which the nations will walk in its light-of the health which is to go forth from its immortal trees,-of the endless and unintermitting light of God and the Lamb which shall be in it; but he adds still other items as instructed by the angel.
"His servants shall serve him." In general, the servants of a king are his subjects. So taken, there is in this affirmation a picture of universal obedience and loving devotion; no more sin, no more rebellion, no more forgetfulness or neglect of the claims or word of the Eternal King. All life is to be permeated and transfigured with the most complete and happy accord with the divine will, which then is done "on earth as it is in heaven." The prophecies are everywhere full of the most glowing pictures on this point. Even the bells or bridles of the horses shall be Holiness unto the Lord, and the most common utensils in the houses and kitchens of mankind shall take on a sacredness like that of the consecrated vessels of the temple itself (Zechariah 14:20-21). For the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. It will be the abounding element in which everything is bathed.
But the servants of a king, in a more particular sense, are his immediate attendants, those who are in waiting upon the throne, and who act as its agents and representatives. Hence, when the Queen of Sheba saw "the sitting of Solomon's servants, and the attendance of his ministers and their apparel, and his cupbearers" (1 Kings 10:5; 2 Chronicles 9:4), she said: "Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants which stand continually before thee" (1 Kings 10:5,8). So Solomon made hewers of wood and drawers of water of some of his subjects, but others he made "men of war, and his servants, and his princes, and his captains, and rulers of his chariots and his horsemen" (1 Kings 9:22). So the priests, the prophets, the ministers of the Word, and such as