"Come, Lord Jesus" (CFP), white covers only, by Watchman Nee
22.1,2 “A RIVER OF WATER OF LIFE”
22.1 This section continues to speak of the new city. Formerly, there issued forth from the garden of Eden four rivers; here, however, in the new city there is to be but one river of the water of life. How much more excellent will this be than the garden of Eden.
“The throne”—This book speaks of the throne in its various aspects:
(1) During the gospel age God sits on the throne, and the Lord sits with God (3.21b).
(2) During the millennial kingdom God sits on the throne in heaven but the Lord Jesus has also a throne on earth (3.21a).
(3) At the time of the Great White Throne the Son sits on the Father’s throne (20.11).
(4) In the new city there is but one throne—“the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22.1). There is no more distinction between the Father and the Son concerning the throne.
In eternity the name of the Lord will forever be “the Lamb”, which name will forever remind men that once there had been sin in the world but that the Lord came to the earth to be the Lamb who atoned for the sin of the world. Owing to the fact that the Lord has come as the Lamb, men are now able to eat the fruit of the tree of life and to drink of the river of the water of life.
22.2 “The tree of life” here is literal. Although in Proverbs 3.18, 11.30, 13.12, and 15.4 the tree of life is spoken of symbolically, here it cannot be interpreted in that way. For since the angel immediately explained the “many waters” mentioned in 17.15, therefore if the tree of life cited here in 22.2 is also symbolic, the angel would have instantly explained it also; but there is no explanation, and hence it is not symbolic.
Revelation 2 mentions “the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God” (v.7). Here in 22.2 the tree of life is spoken of as being in the midst of the street (or plaza). This indicates that New Jerusalem is the Paradise of God. The garden paradise described in Genesis 2.8 is man’s paradise, but this is God’s paradise. God is leading men into something far better.
“The tree of life” is singular in the original. How can one tree grow on the two sides of the river, as is mentioned in this verse? There should be no problem in this matter, since a tree can send out many stems to the ground and be re-rooted.
“Yielding its fruit every month” suggests the presence of the moon. The day and the night spoken of in 21.25 is determined by the sun, but the month mentioned here is fixed by the moon. There are twelve hours in the day and twelve in the night, and also twelve months in a year. The number for eternity is twelve.
“And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations”—In 12.4 it is said that there will be no more pain or death, which in addition intimates that there is no more disease. But nowhere is it stated that there will be no more weakness (see Matt. 8.17 and cf. “infirmities” with “diseases”). There is a difference between disease and weakness. Where will this weakness come from? Well, since the people on the new earth possess a body of flesh and blood, they will still be subject to weakness. How, then, can they live forever? Apparently the leaves of the tree of life must heal their weakness continuously so that they will not be wearied.
Some may ask whether it is possible for the inhabitants of the new earth to obtain eternal life. This verse does not give us a plain answer. (According to Genesis 2.9 the tree of life was definitely planted in the garden of Eden. According to our verse here, in the new heaven and the new earth the tree of life is found in the new city. But whether the nations eat of the tree of life is something unknown to us.)
22.3-5 THE SEVENFOLD GLORY OF THE REDEEMED
22.3 “And there shall be no curse any more”—This word guarantees the complete absence of sinning in the new heaven and the new earth. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil has done its work. Before Adam sinned, his conscience was not activated. In the new heaven and the new earth everyone has a conscience which can differentiate between good and evil, but the devil will not be present at that time.
Consequently, there is no curse anymore. In support of this, consider the following:
(1) The curse of the world originated as a result of the sinning of the archangel. In eternity, though, the angels are no longer in authority; we shall be placed in authority instead.
(2) Although the serpent was once used by the devil for his deceitful work, there is no mention of animals being in the new heaven and the new earth.
(3) By making wine from grapes Noah sinned and brought down a new curse upon a portion of mankind. Besides the tree of life, however, there is no record of any other plant being in the new heaven and the new earth.
“And the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein”—Seven times in this book the relationship between the Lord Jesus and the new city is established by the use of the name “Lamb” (21.9,14,22,23,27; 22.1,3).
“His servants” refers back to chapter 1.1. They include all the prophets and the saints of the Old Testament period as well as all of us who are saved in the New Testament era.
“Shall serve Him”—The service in view here is not one of servitude but of priestly service. It is mentioned in 20.6 that the overcomers shall be priests and kings to God. In eternity there will be no more sin, hence the priestly function is not prominently pointed out. Nevertheless, there will still be many areas wherein we can serve God. We are not supposed to pass our time idly in eternity.
In the millennial kingdom the overcomers alone will function as priests; but in eternity all the saved ones shall serve God as priests.
22.4 “And they shall see his face”—In the millennial kingdom only the overcomers shall see God’s face (Heb. 12.14), since to see the face of God constantly is a special privilege. Those who perish “shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess. 1.9). In the Old Testament era Moses was only granted favor to see the back of God. In the new city, however, all the saved ones shall see God’s face constantly and shall draw near to Him.
Note that 22.3 says “of God and of the Lamb” but here in 22.4 it merely says “his face”, thus attesting the fact that the Son and the Father are one. They are distinguishable, but not separable.
“And his name shall be on their foreheads”—During the millennial kingdom, the 144,000 alone have His name on their foreheads (14.1). Now, though, on the foreheads of all the redeemed shall His name be written.
22.5 At that time there will be no need for either natural light or artificial light, because the Lord God himself shall shine upon them.
“And they shall reign for ever and ever”—To reign is the second thing to do in eternity, the first being to serve God. In the millennial kingdom only the overcomers may reign, and for a thousand years. Now, however, all who are saved shall reign, and reign forever.
Some well-known commentators suggest that 21.9-22.5 does not speak of the situation in the new heaven and the new earth, but rather describes the scene in the millennial kingdom. The reason for such interpretation is to be found in the words “the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (22.2). They argue that this verse shows that there is still disease and therefore death on earth. And hence the whole passage must refer to the millennial period.
However, the following reasons will demonstrate the fallacy of such an interpretation:
(1) New Jerusalem only descends (21.2) after the old heaven and old earth are passed away (21.1). Before the old earth has passed away it is impossible for New Jerusalem to come down out of heaven from God, because it simply will not land on the old earth.
(2) 21.2 and 21.10 tell us of the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven from God. During the millennial kingdom there will still be the Old Jerusalem on earth. Should the New Jerusalem descend at this time, will there not then be two Jerusalems on earth? How can the New Jerusalem descend before the Old Jerusalem has disappeared?
(3) In 21.1,2 John first saw the new heaven and the new earth, and then he saw New Jerusalem. How can anyone say that New Jerusalem in the new heaven and new earth is already there on the old earth during the millennium? Even so, some argue further that though 21.1-8 does admittedly point to the new heaven and new earth, 21.9-22.5 looks back upon the situation of New Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom. Yet do not both 21.2 and 21.10 say the same thing concerning New Jerusalem—that she comes down out of heaven from God? The New Jerusalem spoken of in 21.10 is therefore the same city as seen in 21.2.
(4) 21.5 says, “Behold, I make all things new”—How can New Jerusalem not be new but simply be the scene in the millennial kingdom before everything is made new?
(5) 21.8 describes those people who are judged after the millennial kingdom and cast into the lake of fire. Since the new city is in opposition to the lake of fire, can we at all say that this new city arrives first whereas the casting into the lake of fire of these people will occur a thousand years later?
(6) 21.22 reads: “I saw no temple therein”, but we know for certain that there will be a temple during the millennium as foretold by Ezekiel (chs. 40-48).
(7) 21.23 states that “the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon”, but we know from the Bible that during the millennium “the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days” (Is. 30.26). How, then, can we say that New Jerusalem has descended on earth at the millennium?
(8) Both 21.24 and 21.26 speak of going “into” the city. Yet during the millennium the city is suspended in the air, with no possibility for flesh and blood to enter it.
(9) The Lamb’s book of life (21.27) is seen after the millennium is over (20.15). How can people whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life go in and out of the city during the millennial kingdom?
(10) 22.3 asserts that in the new heaven and the new earth there will be no more curse. Nevertheless, in the millennium such curses as disease, pain, death, and so forth still continue. It is therefore impossible to regard 21.9-22.5 as referring to the millennial kingdom.
(11) 22.3 mentions “the throne of God and of the Lamb”—During the millennium there is only the throne of the Lord Jesus on earth, hence no mentioning of the throne of God and of the Lamb. And hence this likewise eliminates the application of 21.9-22.5 to the millennial kingdom.
(12) 22.1,2 declares that the throne of God and of the Lamb is situated in the midst of the street or plaza of the new city, whereas the prophet Ezekiel saw in his vision that the glory of the Lord filled the holy temple. If New Jerusalem descends at the millennium, where will be the center of worship—the new city or the temple on earth? Where will God dwell?
We may therefore conclude the following:
(1) that 21.9-22.5 describes the New Jerusalem,
(2) that 6.1-22.5 covers the prophetic part of this book, and
(3) that 22.6-21 does not belong to the main body of prophecy. It instead serves as an epilogue.