Revelation 2:7c


Sermon preached on June 19, 2011by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When my nephew R. was diagnosed with stomach cancer almost two years ago it was very surprising, because, as I was told at the time, stomach cancer is an ‘old man’s disease’. The average ago of diagnosis is 70 and it’s most common in men who have either abused their bodies by drinking too much, have had diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in salted, smoked or preserved foods. It is also associated with men who have worked in industries such as coal mining, nickel refining or asbestos.

So it was surprising that R. got it because he was only 24 and had always taken care of himself. He exercised, he wasn’t overweight, he watched what he ate and he hadn’t worked in any of the suspect industries. After he recovered from the surgery, R. become very interested in diets to prevent cancer. On Facebook I saw that he liked a group on called, “
Eat to Defeat Cancer”. He began a very strict vegan diet and I recall him mentioning a book he bought about eating in such a way to prevent cancer. He started this strict diet for his health. The idea was that if he ate right, the cancer would not come back.

But things don’t always work out like we hope. R’s cancer did come back. As you know he had to have surgery for brain cancer last month. It’s’ a strange world we live in. Some people who smoke heavily never get lung cancer. Other people who never smoke get it. Some people who eat right, exercise and do other things to stay healthy end up with cancer. Adelle Davis was a leading nutritionist and wrote books urging people to eat right for good health. She died in 1974 of bone cancer. When diagnosed, she said of her cancer, (USA Today, June, 16, 1988 Section D, page 1)

“I thought this was for people who drink soft drinks, eat white bread and refined sugar.”

In this life, there are no guarantees that if you eat right you won’t get cancer.

But in the next life, on the new earth, it’s not going to be like that. How wonderful it will be. The food there will be exceptionally good for us—it will indeed lead to blessing. In our text Jesus says,

“To him who overcomes,
I will give the right to eat from the tree of life,
which is in the paradise of God.”

This is the first of the promises to the seven churches and it’s an amazing one—one that shows us that our life in the new heavens and the new earth will be blessed and never end. As a Christian, this promise should be close to your heart—Jesus is not just going to save you and have you live with Him for 10,000 years or 10 million years—

He is going to give you life eternal—a life of blessing that will never end.

The symbol of this is the tree of life. One of the greatest blessings we will be privileged to enjoy on the new earth will be the eating the fruit of the tree of life. If you overcome you will have the privilege of eating from this wonderful tree. Its fruit will impart to us an immortality of blessedness.

The tree of life is first mentioned in Genesis 2:9. We read,

“And the Lord God made all kinds of trees
grow out of the ground—
trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.
In the middle of the garden were the tree of life
and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

The tree of life was in the middle of the Garden of Eden. It and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were central. One represented obedience to God and blessing and the other represented disobedience and curse.

But Adam and Eve sinned and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After they sinned, they were put out of the garden of Eden. The reason for their expulsion was so that they would not eat of the tree of life. In Genesis 3:22–24 we read,

“And the LORD God said,
The man has now become like one of us,
knowing good and evil.
He must not be allowed
to reach out his hand and take also
from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.
So the LORD God banished him
from the Garden of Eden to work the ground
from which he had been taken.
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side
of the Garden of Eden cherubim
and a flaming sword flashing back and forth
to guard the way to the tree of life."

Many see this as a great blessing. We know that man's soul is immortal. But our bodies can die. H.C. Leupold writes that the tree of life, (Genesis, p. 181)

"had the power to impart imperishable physical life…"

That's certainly what the text implies. The theory is that if Adam eaten of the tree of life after he sinned, his physical body would have been incapable of death as we commonly know it. That would not have been a good thing—but it would have been a great curse, because it would have meant, that Jesus, as a human being, would not have been able to die for us.

If Adam and Eve had eaten after they sinned, they would have lived forever, in the state of sin, as sinners. There would have been no possibility of restoration. We know that on the last day Jesus comes again He is going to raise all the dead. (John 5:28-29) The fate of those not in Christ is described in Revelation 20:13–15. The point is that, if Adam had eaten from the tree of life after his sin, his fate would be the same. We read,

"The sea gave up the dead that were in it,
and death and Hades
gave up the dead that were in them,
and each person was judged
according to what he had done.
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.
The lake of fire is the second death.
If anyone's name was not found written
in the book of life,
he was thrown into the lake of fire."

Eating from the tree of life would not have saved Adam from the second death. It seems that if Adam had eaten from the tree of life after he sinned the only fate for him would have been to die eternally in the lake of fire. Leupold continues, (p. 181)

"For man in his fallen and sadly altered state the acquisition of the quality of imperishability for this sin-torn and sin-defaced body would have been a grievous calamity… Christ's work of restoration would have been precluded…"

But, thanks to the work of Jesus, you Christians will be able to eat of the tree of life. David E. Aune tells us that eating from the tree of life, (Revelation 1–5 (WBC 52A; Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed. Dallas: Word Books, 1997, 152)

"must be understood as a restoration of God's original intention for humankind that was frustrated by sin…"

You will become immortal and live forever with God in righteousness and holiness. One of the things that the tree of life represented was immortality, the blessedness of life with God.

One of the blessings we will enjoy in heaven is eating of the tree of life. This means that

once you eat of the tree of life, you will never need to worry about falling back into sin.

One of the aspects of the life to come will be that of permanence in righteousness. One of the results of eating of the tree of life is that there will be no more curse. We see this in Revelation 22:1-3. There we read,

"Then the angel showed me
the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb down the middle
of the great street of the city.
On 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.
No longer will there be any curse."

G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation, p. 1112)

"The curse of physical and spiritual death set on the human race by Adam in the first garden is permanently removed by the Lamb in the last garden at the time of the new creation."

"Even all the various physical sufferings and sorrows associated with the fallen condition of humanity, to which even the redeemed were susceptible, will be entirely removed and will not longer pose a threat in the new order. This means not only that the saints will be free from the danger of separation from God but also that they will be secure from the
entire range… of persecution and afflictions threatening them in the former world. Therefore, the removal of the curse includes elimination of both physical and spiritual evils."

In Eden, Adam had the possibility of sin. In the new garden, that will not be a possibility. Revelation 22 continues and lists some of the blessings we will experience in heaven—seeing God's face, His name being on our foreheads, there being no more night for God will give us light. Then it says, (verse 5)

"And they will reign
for ever and ever."

We will be righteous forever. We will be kept in righteousness.

How wonderful Jesus is—to give us this gift. There is such a satisfaction in being righteous, from doing what is right. In this life, there is a fear of losing it, of falling into sin.

Fear of losing something is a terrible feeling. I mean, I don't have a lot of fears. I'm a fairly normal person. But I do have some fears. I once knew a great preacher that had a very distinguished career, when he was in his later years, did some very questionable things. They tried to hush it up, which was probably a good thing—but there were whisperings of inappropriate behavior with some young women. It was scandalous. It was a disgrace to his career and to the gospel.

I'd never want to do anything like that. I have a fear of it. A minister falling into great sin is reprehensible. It gives the enemies of the Lord an opportunity to blaspheme. it gives unbelievers an reason to laugh at Christianity and an excuse not to come to Christ. I never want that to happen to me.

Another fear I have is when I get older that I will not treat M. well. I also know of a few instances where men, as they got older, got very inconsiderate with the wives. I don't want that to happen to me. I fear it. It's not a good feeling. It would be such a relief to know that I would be kept from such sins.

Do you have fears like that? Do you ever have dreams where in the dream you did something terribly wrong? Did you ever wake up and think, "Wow, I hope I never do that in real life."

We have such fears now. But in the future, in the new heavens and the new earth—you Christians are going to be confirmed in holiness. and you will never again have such a fear. How wonderful it will be to know we will never fall. Jesus will give us to eat from the tree of life.

But immortality is just the beginning. The second thing we should understand about in text is that

the tree of life not only represented immortality, but other great blessings associated with life with God.

Proverbs 11:30 connects the 'righteousness' with the tree of life. It says,

"The fruit of the righteous
is a tree of life…"

Proverbs 3:18 associates wisdom with the tree of life. It says,

"Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those
who embrace her;
those who lay hold of her will be blessed."

Proverbs 13:12 (HCSB) says,

"fulfilled desire is a tree of life."

The idea there is that eating of the tree of life will bring such satisfaction that your most inmost desires will be fulfilled.

One of the things that this means is that heaven is not going to be boring.

What are we going to do in heaven? The common misconception is that we will be lounging around on clouds listening to harp music and eating grapes. The world thinks that that is going to be very boring. Satan and the world has misconstrued what life on the new heavens and the new earth is going to be like. They tell people it' going to be boring.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I hope one of the things that this series does is to give you some idea of the glories of heaven.

There's going to be nothing like the new heavens and the new earth. Think about how wonderful this fallen earth is. Think of the beauty. Think of the joy that it can give. Think of the pleasures of discovery that it has yielded—in so many fields, in geography, in the sciences, in health, in astronomy, in computers. Do you really think that the new heavens and the new earth are going to be less in these regards than this old fallen earth? This fallen earth just points us to the glorious that will be ours in the new heavens and the new earth.

Vern Poythress says that the picture of the tree of life in Revelation 22 tells us that, (The Returning King, p. 193)

"Eden is back, with its fullness of blessing multiplied many times."

Robert Mounce writes, (Revelation, p. 72)

"Paradise was originally a Persian word for pleasure garden… The paradise of God in Revelation symbolizes the eschatological state in which God and people are restored to that perfect fellowship which existed before the entrance of sin into the world."

Easton says that the tree of life,

"is an emblem of the joys of the celestial paradise."

G. K. Beale suggests that the tree of life and paradise, together, (p. 235)

"symbolize the life-giving presence of God…"

David E. Aune writes, (Revelation 1–5 (WBC 52A; Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed. Dallas: Word Books, 1997), 152)

"The tree of life is not simply a symbol for eternal life alone but also represents the cosmic center of reality where eternal life is present and available, and where God dwells."

Consider just the few things that the verses in Proverbs we mentioned

The tree of life confirms in
righteousness. There is no better feeling that being righteous. Knowing that we are in a right relationship with God brings incredible satisfaction. That will come from eating the fruit of the tree of life that Jesus will give us. The tree of life also gives wisdom. So many of the problems and difficulties of this life come to us, to people, because of foolishness, because we didn't know the right thing to do, the right thing to say, the right course of action. When we eat of the tree of life we will be filled with God's wisdom—and will know how to praise and serve God, know how to be a blessing to each other, know the right course of action. The tree of life gives fulfillment to our greatest desires—fulfilled desire is a tree of life. In Christ, we have life—life to the full. (John 10:10) Proverbs 13:12 tells us that the expectations of the wicked will fall short. We know that. Sin promises much but at the end of the day, whether it promised pleasure and delight, power and wealth, happiness and contentment—it fails to deliver. Sin ultimately brings misery. But those who eat of the tree of life will have all their desires fulfilled—they will be filled with contentment and joy. We will eat of the tree of life. We will enjoy the paradise of God.

The idea is that something of great value—something that was seemingly lost forever—is wondrously restored.

Adam and Eve lost something of great value. They were driven from the garden, from the tree of life. Without the work of Christ, it would have been lost to them forever.

Think of some of the valuable things that you have lost. When I was in seminary in Philadelphia one summer day we went to Ocean City, N.J. for a day at the beach with another couple. They had just gotten engaged and she had a nice diamond ring on her finger. When she went swimming she walked out into the water and there were some little waves that were knocking into her. She felt that her ring was a little loose on her finger so she decided to put it on the next finger, where the ring would be a little tighter. Just when she got it off her finger—before she could get it on her other finger, a wave hit her and knocked the ring out of her hand. She lost it. She was so disappointed. We searched and searched for it but didn't find it. That ring was gone forever.

My grandfather died in 1974 and I still haven't gotten over it. I still miss him and think of him often. I especially miss him when I go fishing. I've told you before how I wish I had asked him about his mother and father and about what his younger days were like. But he's gone.

You'll remember that in 2005, Natalie Holloway, a high school senior disappeared on her class trip to Aruba. Can you imagine how hard that has been on her mother? At times like that you wish you could go back in time and regain what you lost.

Now, if you multiply those examples many, many times over, you'll begin to see what the tree of life represented and what Adam and Eve lost. Their sin and the loss of the tree of life to them was the greatest loss that ever was. They lost God. They lost fellowship with Him. They lost life as it was meant to be. If Adam and Eve had not eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and instead had eaten of the tree of life—all the bad things about this world would never have come about. This earth would be a paradise of blessing.

But they lost that. Can you imagine when Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden, how they must have felt. The way to the tree of life, to blessing, seemed barred forever. Can you imagine how they felt when they discovered Abel's body?

The reality of evil in this world. What accounts for it? Some will tell you that it tells you that there is no God. In 1984, the film director, Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate's husband, wrote in his book, Roman, after his wife Sharon Tate, who was nine months pregnant, was murdered by the Manson gang in 1969,

"Since Sharon's death, and despite appearances to the contrary, my enjoyment of life has been incomplete. In moments of unbearable personal tragedy some people find solace in religion. In my case the opposite happened. Any religious faith I had was shattered by Sharon's murder. It reinforced my faith in the absurd."

No. No. No. What accounts for the evil? It's because Adam chose to eat from the forbidden tree. It's because he didn't eat from the tree of life. What happened to Polanski was unspeakably horrible but it should not have driven him away from God. Adam brought all this on mankind. It's our fault.

But God is doing something about it. Human beings lost the greatest blessing in Eden, through Jesus Christ Eden is not just restored, we are not merely put back to where Adam was—but we will be put back in the Garden and we will eat of the fruit of the tree of life.

It's all because of the work of Jesus.

He borne the curse for us. He's restoring us. He's restoring this world. Amazing, amazing, amazing. When Adam and Eve were put out of the Garden—who would have thought that it would someday be restored? Yet there was that promise. God had said to Satan, (Genesis 3:15)

"And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."

God is going to give you to eat from the tree of life. Instead of hell, there will be glory and joy forevermore.

Today is Father's Day and I love Father's Day because I get gifts. This year I got two really nice gifts. If I'm really blessed Natalia will remember it's Father's Day and phone me this afternoon and actually have time to talk to me.

Why do all these blessings come to us? It's because of Jesus, who died in our place. Jesus has restored to us one of the greatest symbols of blessing that was held out to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Praise Jesus for the good things you enjoy. Praise Him for what He will do for you in the future—enable you to eat from the tree of life and be blessed forever.

In the meantime, until you get to the new heavens and the new earth, Christians,

you need to feed upon God's Word.

Feed on Christ. The tree of life merely symbolizes the life that He will give us in glory. John Calvin writes of the tree of life, that it was, (Genesis, p. 117)

"a figure of Christ, inasmuch as he is the Eternal Word of God… Wherefore, by this sign, Adam was admonished, that he could claim nothing for himself as if it were his own, in order that he might depend wholly upon the Son of God, and might not seek life anywhere but in him."

Of course we are not to think of the tree of life as having some intrinsic efficacy, as if it could give life on its own. Jesus Christ is the Author of Life. (Acts 3:15) It is Him we must seek. It is Him we must feed upon.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, this means that,

unless you go to Jesus, you will never eat of the tree of life for the blessings it entails.

You need to go to Jesus. Pay attention to the implications of Isaiah 51:6–9 (HCSB) and go to Jesus. It says,

"Look up to the heavens,
and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment,
and its inhabitants will die like gnats.
But My salvation will last forever,
and My righteousness
will never be shattered.
Listen to Me,
you who know righteousness,
the people in whose heart is My instruction:
do not fear disgrace by men,
and do not be shattered by their taunts.
For the moth will devour them
like a garment,
and the worm will eat them like wool.
But My righteousness will last forever,
and My salvation for all generations.
Wake up, wake up!"