Another typical morning with the guys.
The “leader” of the group finally sits down and says, “I would like everyone to look at Revelation 22:3. I am having a problem with this.” So we all jump in.
Just for fun, I will call our leader Bob. Bob prefers to read from the Modern King James Version.
Here is the passage from the ASV:
in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2 ASV)
While some might read this, and rejoice over the idyllic scene, for it depicts this amazingly beautiful river that flows from the throne of God, and it has the tree of life growing along its banks. If you pursue the references to this river you will find one of my strong motivations, fishing.
Others, like myself, notice things like the tense, or the sudden possibility that my concepts of heaven were wrong. Let me take this one further scary step. If my concepts are wrong, then it is possible that much of what I think about God is wrong too.
This may surprise you. I have found many of my ideas about God to be wrong, and it has changed my thinking about who God is. I have actually found him to be more merciful than I ever thought possible.
Consider Jonah, he attempted suicide in an effort to not do what God asked him to do. Read the story! What was the last thing we hear from Jonah? I knew you would be merciful to them. God operated outside of Jonah’s concepts of judgment and punishment. Easy now, do not think for a moment that God withdrew his judgment, he merely withheld it. Nineveh was turned into a dust pile some time later, and rightfully so, for they were a vile, brutal people, and Jonah knew this.
I know the idea of God shaking your foundation scares many of you. You might think it blasphemous to even consider the notion, or even worse, it frightens you because you think it might make you turn away from God, and what else is there to turn to? You need to ask yourself what your foundation is built upon, truth? (that requires that you spend time in His word finding out who He is.) or fiction? (things you heard and never opted to find out for yourself.)
Really? Jesus told you that your notions and work will be tested in the fire, and the junk will be burned up. What if you could burn up some of that junk down here, get your thinking hat back on straight, and start giving people reasons to live for the King.
The discussion, was far to brief, with no real answers, as the good Doctor of Humanities showed up, but the questions coming from Bob, were two.
– The minor question, based upon his MKJV version:
What is the tense when it says, “the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
– And the major question. Why do the nations need healing if we then live in heaven, a perfect, sin free place?
I have been looking at end times events for some time and thought I had it clear, so I responded immediately with, “because you are not looking at heaven at this point.” To be honest I had not looked at the passages even though I had opened to them.
Bob looked toward me with a menacing glare and said, “yes we are, look at the previous verses in chapter 20 and 21.” So I did.
While our resident grammarian, expert on Greek, and church history, expounded about the tense (it is present tense, by the way), I opted to try to sort this out.
If I am wrong in my assertion, and without reading, it sure appeared that I was, then I must admit to you that I HATE THAT. (Got that out of my system.) The worst part of this, and I think this is what was throwing Bob for a loop, is that suddenly things are not what I imagined them to be.
Heaven does not seem to be this la-la land where we dance around aimlessly in fields of clover. Life seems to just keep going on. And to be honest, this is throwing me for a loop also. What is even worse. This is not the first time I have seen something like this, that challenges most everything I have come to understand (from Sunday School) about heaven.
I thought I had this one figured out. Fortunately I had to leave early because the good Doctor was now heavily involved and had us chasing rabbits down endless trails, and I hate wasting precious time.
The day had moved on into evening when like a light bulb coming on it occurs to me that I have read a description of the millennial kingdom that speaks of the city of God coming down from God, composed of the Saints, and key here, is that upon Satan’s release he deceives those nations, and they try to do battle with the Saints of God. This battle is the Gog and Magog war that ends rather quickly with God destroying them, and then the white throne judgment.
I gather you figured out that this is not a three minute sermon.
Open your bibles.
(This is a Word that I received as I wrote. I felt compelled to insert it here.)
“We are warriors, called by God, watchmen upon the walls. Hear what the Spirit says to you, my church. I, Jesus Christ the living one, am coming soon, and my wrath is coming with me. Turn your hearts and minds toward me, seek me while you can. Seek me while my grace is freely given. In these last minutes here on earth, find the broken and heal them, bring to those that have none, find the lost and compel them to run to me. You have been called to be men and women of valor. Live a life of one committed purpose and that is to be ablaze with my fire. Have you not been called a city upon a hill, a beacon. Be that beacon. Be different; be set apart; be what I called you to be. I am coming soon, have your oil ready.”
If I only focus on the time line account in Revelation 22 I might miss something here.
Look at Revelation 20:1-3 Briefly –
“…He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. …”
This is the beginning of the thousand year period, we call the millennial reign, but a breath later Satan is released, and we should all have an understanding that this happens at the end of the thousand years.
(Revelation 20:3 NIV) “… He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. “
Keep reading! There should be no confusion.
(Revelation 20:7-9 NIV) When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth–Gog and Magog–and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
- The thousand years have passed
- Satan is released for a time.
- Satan deceives the nations, who are many, diverse, and not committed to God. (Get that?)
- These crazed combatants surround the camp of God’s people, the city he loves.
Focus with me on this last line for a moment. Within it are some aspects you should consider.
The nations coming to do battle with God’s people, and they (the combatants) completely surround the camp of God’s people, the city he loves.
It does not effectively change from one translation to the next this feeling that the city and God’s people are one in the same. What is clear from this passage (Revelation 20:7-9) is that God really loves us, his people.
(Hebrews 11:16 NIV) Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
(Revelation 21:2-3 NIV) I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
What I am trying to prove is that the city is here during the thousand-year reign. Revelation 20:9 has the nations coming against the camp of God.
The word city in verse 9 is the Greek word polis
1) a city
1a) one’s native city, the city in which one lives
1b) the heavenly Jerusalem
1b1) the abode of the blessed in heaven
1b2) of the visible capital in the heavenly kingdom, to come down to earth after the renovation of the world by fire
1c) the inhabitants of a city
From Vine’s NT words: polis (G4172), primarily “a town enclosed with a wall”
This is not a concept exclusive to Revelation. Look at Ezekiel with me.
(Ezekiel 40:1-4 NIV)
In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city–on that very day the hand of the LORD was on me and he took me there. In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. The man said to me, “Son of man, look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the people of Israel everything you see.”
What did king David see:
(Psalms 46:4 NET) The river’s channels bring joy to the city of God, the special, holy dwelling place of the sovereign One.
The Greek word holy, as applied to the city is:
- topos (G5117), (Eng., “topic,” “topography,” etc.,) is used of “a region” or “locality,” frequently in the Gospels and Acts, in Luke 2:7 and Luke 14:22, “room”; of a place which a person or thing occupies, (From Vine’s NT words)
- The Net bible translation notes are quite extensive: 13tnHeb “the holy [place] of the dwelling places of.” The adjective “holy” is used here in a substantival manner and placed in construct with the following noun (see GKC 428 ß132.c). Origen’s transliterated text assumes the reading קֹדֶשׁ(qodesh, “holiness; holy place”), while the Septuagint (LXX) assumes a Piel verbal form קִדֵּשׁ(qidesh, “makes holy”) and takes the following form as “his dwelling place.” The plural form מִשְׁכְּנֵי(mishkeney, “dwelling places of”) is probably a plural of degree, emphasizing the special character of this dwelling place.
There should be a sudden realization that the nations are not just coming against God’s beloved people, us, and His city, but God himself. That man Ezekiel saw standing in the doorway, was Jesus himself.
Alright, let’s try a recap again.
- Safe assumption – rapture
- Seven years of wrath.
- Ensuing battle at the end of the seven years.
- Satan is locked up for a thousand years, and the “beast and false prophet” are thrown into the lake of fire.
- Ezekiel sees the city of God, the temple of God, and the associated activities involved with that temple. Revelation 20 also describes the city of God; the camp of God; God’s people.
- Satan is released at the end of the thousand years and deceives whom? The nations, not God’s people. An obvious factor here is that there is still free will, and clearly these nations are not choosing God, but regardless of their free will scripture tells us that God makes: the surviving combatants come to the “city of God” the new Jerusalem, yearly to worship Him, and participate in the Feast of Tabernacles.
- The nations rise against the City of God, surrounding it.
- God destroys those nations
- The Great White Throne judgment
- And then what?
This should absolutely take your breath away!
(Revelation 22:1-6 ASV) And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more: and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and his servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face; and his name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall be night no more; and they need no light of lamp, neither light of sun; for the Lord God shall give them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. And he said unto me, These words are faithful and true: and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angels to show unto his servants the things which must shortly come to pass.
I am not confused, but I know some still are. I told you, get your bible out and read it. Read it with a determination to understand; read it, because your life depends upon it; read it, because in it are the words of life, and read it because only then do you begin to understand the nature and character of God.
As I read I made up my mind to understand. Read Daniel, he did the same thing, and then based upon simple math, he knew that the end of the Babylonian captivity was near.
I admit some difficulty at first, but I asked the Holy Spirit to walk me through this. I think a major point of confusion is that the scenarios are re-spoken several times over, using varying terminologies. As the Doctor of Humanities, a teaching professional said to us, “If you do not understand then I have not taught you correctly.” Maybe God is just that patient with us, and varies the teaching methods so that we do learn.
How many of you can relate to the barbaric slaughters that David and his men were involved with? Yet there are many who have that mentality and can totally relate. We, in this so called civilized world, do not act that way toward others. Yeah right! How many of you wish to take your cares to a priest like Samuel that can swing a sword? How about the prophet that is capable of slaughtering a multitude of false prophets. Anyway, the point is that different methods are often necessary to impact the variety of people that God has to deal with.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely.
(Revelation 22:17 ASV)