And a river went forth from Eden to water the garden, and from there it divided and became four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that goes around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there.
The picture here is that the flow of the river brings forth precious materials. In the New Testament we see that “the Spirit” (portrayed by the river) “gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). This life grows and the growth is from God Himself (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). This growth is for God’s building (v. 9), and the building requires precious materials (v. 12).
Genesis 2:11-12 present three precious materials. In contrast, 1 Corinthians 3:12 presents three precious materials and three ordinary materials. The three ordinary materials—wood, grass, stubble—represent natural and fallen men and their efforts (for example, 1 Peter 1:24 tells us “all flesh is like grass”). The three ordinary materials are clearly those which will be tested and consumed by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).
In New Jerusalem, as in the garden, only precious materials (Revelation 21:15-18) are seen. These materials represent the Triune God and God’s operation in His people. The ordinary materials, representing the efforts of natural and fallen men, have been swept away and are not present in the new creation. The garden had the flowing river and the materials; New Jerusalem has the flowing river of water of life and these materials built together as the conclusion of all God’s building work.
Photo of Helix Nebula, courtesy of NASA.