By request of M. J. Jones, of Decatur Co., Georgia, we present very briefly such views as we have on the text proposed for consideration.
And he showed me a pure river. This was and is a part of “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” - Rev. i. 1. In the conclusion of his vision on Patmos, John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, adorned as a bride for her husband, and gives a description of the church of God as thus presented under this sublime and glorious figure. After showing the church originated in, and descended from, God, with all that adorns her for her husband - shows her definite proportions, walls, gates, foundations, streets, provisions, &c., and among them the supply of the water of life, which in its quality was pure and vital, the same of which Jesus spake to the woman of Samaria, which shall be in him that drinketh of it, a well of living water springing up into everlasting life. In quantity it is a river. Rivers flow on from age to age, without diminishing the fullness of the fountain from whence they flow, and this with the dispensation of life and salvation from God, can never impoverish him, or lessen his resources. This is the river, the streams whereof make glad this holy city of our God, this New Jerusalem, adorned as a bride. And as to its channel, or the medium through which it flows, Isaiah says, For there the glorious Lord shall be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams, &c. All spiritual blessings and divine life are given to them in, and flow down to them through the Mediation of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
Clear as crystal. Perfectly transparent, and unmingled with any of the filthy waters which flow from the polluted fountains of poor, depraved, sinful nature. Its purity and transparency is inferred from its place of emanation, and the channel through which it flows.
Proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb. The city which is supplied with the water of this river, also proceeded from God, and her supplies must be congenial with the purity of that heavenly origin. The “throne” is the place of power, of sovereignty, and absolute authority. The throne of God and the Lamb is above all other principalities and powers, thrones or dominions. All the power and majesty of God and the Lamb, in providence and grace, is implied. In the midst of the throne of God, John saw the Lamb, in his Mediatorial character, feeding his flock, and leading them to living fountains, and wiping all tears from their eyes. Truly, the throne of the Redeemer is high and lifted up, higher than the heavens. The streams of immortality from God the Father, flow down to men through Jesus Christ alone. He is the only place of these “broad rivers and streams, which make glad the city of God.” These living waters not only emanate from the throne, but their course and flowing is under the direction and power of the throne of God and the Lamb, which is signified by the throne on which God and the Lamb, and God in the Lamb, preside. How presumptuous, then, for poor, finite, sinful man to assay to send these waters forth, or to direct their course; yet they arrogantly talk of sending the gospel, sending the power of God, the water of immortality, to the distant nations of the earth, and to make such contemptible things as mission funds, the channel through which it shall flow. But it was not so revealed to John; as he saw it, its course was fixed and irrevocably directed by the throne.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life. The pronoun IT, refers to the city which the angel of Christ was shewing to John, as the WAY, the channel, the highway of holiness, and points us to our Lord Jesus Christ, himself as the Street of it, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As the street of the city the saints walk in him even as they have received him, as Christ Jesus the Lord. By the midst of the street of it, we understand is signified the advent and incarnation of the Son of God. For in the Son of God centres the street, or way of salvation, and the tree of life, which is not only in him, but on either side, both before and after his advent, and embracing all who through the abounding grace of God have ever walked in this street, drank of the waters of this river, ate of the fruit of the tree of life, or felt the healing efficacy of its leaves, both before and since the incarnation of the Son of God.
Good and sound brethren have differed in regard to what is signified by the “Tree of Life,” some supposing that it means Christ, and others contending that as it is here presented in the feminine gender, “yielding her fruit,” &c., that it is only applicable to the church of God. We will not controvert either of those positions, for to us, both are evidently intended, for how can Christ and his church be separated or divided? Is she not one with him, even as he is one with the Father? Who then shall separate what God has joined? Jesus says, I am the vine, ye are the branches. As all the branches of a vine grow out of the vine, even so all the members of Christ, being many, are one body; even so is Christ. But to settle this matter beyond all reasonable controversy, in verse sixteen, of this chapter, we have the words of our Lord, “I Jesus, have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David,” &c. David and his seed were used to signify Christ and his church, and from this figure we learn that as the tree is but a development of the root from which it grows, so the church had her spiritual creation in the Lord Jesus Christ, has proceeded from him, and are members of him, even as the branches are members of, and compose the vine. The church which John is describing as coming down from God out of heaven, not only had her origin in Christ, and is a manifestation or development of him, as the fully developed tree, with its spreading branches, its wholesome fruits and healing leaves, are but the manifestation of the life and virtue of its root. We, therefore, understand the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God, which was typified by the tree of life in the garden of Eden, and which in our subject is seen by John in the midst of the street of New Jerusalem, and on either side the River of Life, signifies the Head and body, the Vine and branches, the root and offspring, which embrace Christ and his church, which is his body and the fullness of him that filleth all in all. The church in the fully developed Tree, in her vital union with her immortal Root, is by the Root made fruitful, and as bearing fruit, the feminine gender is applied, for she is the mother of us all; that is, of all the children of the free woman. But separate her from her living Root, and she becomes barren and dead. In her union with the Son of God, as her life-inspiring and life-giving Root, she “bears twelve manner of fruits.” Whether the number twelve in this case, referred to the twelve apostles of the Lamb, as is generally supposed, or not, it is certain that all the fruits of this Tree of Life are fruits of Life clearly developed from a vital union with the immortal Root, and do embrace all the peaceable fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, &c., against which there is no law; and they are periodically (every month,) presented in striking contrast with the fruits of the flesh, which are the development of the earthly, fallen, depraved Adam, or root from which our earthly nature sprang. By her fruit she is known. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit, neither can a good tree bring forth evil fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. However prolific professed churches or religionists may be, if the tree be evil, and the fruits, unlike those of the Tree of Life, which only spring from Christ, as the Root, the axe which is laid at the root of the trees, shall cut them all down, and devote them to burning, and fuel of fire.
The centre of the street of the New Jerusalem, in which the immortal germ of this tree is found, having allusion, as we have supposed, to Christ, in his coming in the flesh, and the “either side of the river,” to mean the two dispensations, the tree in its development is found under both the old and new, like the cherubs on the mercy-seat, on each extremity, but with their wings meeting at the centre, and their eyes towards the mercy-seat. As the street or way of access to God under the figurative dispensation was between the Cherubim and over the mercy-seat. There the God of Israel met the high priest of the chosen tribes, and held communion with Israel through Israel’s priest, so signifying the advent of Christ at the end, or winding up the former, and as the beginning of the latter dispensation. Here the two olive trees cease to be known as twain, for the wall of partition is abolished, and of the twain Christ has made one new man, so making peace. The patriarchs and prophets, with all the Old Testament saints, are component parts of the tree, or kingdom of Christ, for the Gentile portion is brought in under the gospel, and sit down in the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Thus all the church of God, from righteous Abel, to the last vessel of mercy that shall be brought to the unity of the faith, and knowledge of the Son of God, form but one body, and all live by virtue of vital union with Christ as the Root and Life of the body, the church.
Yielding her fruit every month. The variety of her fruit, twelve manner, shows that, as in nature, God has provided and caused the trees of the earth to bear their fruit periodically, so he in the kingdom of grace has his set and fixed times to favor Zion. Every revolution of the ponderous wheels of nature, every waxing and declining moon, shall witness the development of the Tree of Life. All the means using in our power would not enable us to gather fruit from the trees of nature, except in their decreed seasons, and so in a spiritual view, we cannot change the immutable laws of the kingdom of Christ. When the vision tarries we must wait for it, for it will come at its appointed time, and it will not tarry.
And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. The foliage of the trees as clearly indicate a vital union with the root, as does the fruit, but it is the fruit that shall demonstrate the quality of the tree. Of the saints it is said, Ye are the salt of the earth, and it is for the elect’s sake that the world stands. But the visible walk, deportment, doctrine, and practice of the saints here are brought to bear against the delusions and abominations of the Gentile nations of the earth; but in a more special sense those of God’s quickened children, who feel and lament the depravity of their carnal nature; for it is only the sick who need a physician, so it is the sick who can be benefited by healing medicines. Quickened heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus, the Root, shall all be healed, and perfectly and permanently cured of all their diseases, and there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face, and his name shall be written in their foreheads.
“Blessed are they that do his commandments, [that is the commandments of Jesus] that they may have a right to the Tree of Life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”
Middletown, N. Y.
July 1, 1859.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 244 - 249