Two Trees in the Garden; One Tree in New Jerusalem

Genesis 2:9 tells us, “out of the ground Jehovah God caused to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, as well as the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In verses 16-17 we read “Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may eat freely, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, of it you shall not eat; for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

New JerusalemAdam and Eve did eat of that tree but it may seem that they did not die that day. Was God’s word wrong? Certainly not. On the day they ate, they did not die physically. But they died spiritually. They were separated from fellowship with God and hid themselves from God (3:8).

Four thousand years later God came in Christ to be a God-man, live a perfect human life, die to redeem us from sin and death, and resurrect to regenerate us. In resurrection, God in Christ is life to us, the life symbolized by the tree of life in the garden. “Our Savior Christ Jesus nullified death and brought life and incorruption to light” (2 Tim. 1:10).

Today the tree of knowledge, the tree of separation from God, still has an influence. But in New Jerusalem, there is only one tree, the tree of life (Rev. 22:2). The other tree, the tree of knowledge, has been removed; it is something of death and all death is in the lake of fire. In New Jerusalem we will be eternally in life and in fellowship with God.

Jeremiah Points to New Jerusalem

I saw a new heaven and a new earth….And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem…” (Rev. 21:1-2)

The Bible consummates with the revelation of the city of New Jerusalem….All the books of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, are related in some way to the New Jerusalem as God’s goal….In His wisdom, God….reveals this matter by using the Bible with its plain words, stories, histories, types, figures, and shadows. By all these different means, He reveals His thought concerning the New Jerusalem and depicts the various aspects of the New Jerusalem.*

New JerusalemThe bulk of Jeremiah’s writing is about Israel’s failures and God’s judgement. However, within Jeremiah there are many positive highlights pointing to New Jerusalem.

God is “the fountain of living waters” (2:13). This is part of the wonderful bridge** from the river of life in Genesis 2 to the river of life in Revelation 22.

Jehovah declares, “I will raise up to David a righteous Shoot; / And He will reign as King and act prudently” (23:5). This Shoot is Jesus Christ. He reigns in us now and will reign over the whole earth. His reign brings forth complete righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). God also speaks of Himself as the Husband (3:14; 31:32). This points to New Jerusalem, “the wife of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9).

These are three examples of the multitude of instances in the Bible that directly or indirectly point to God’s goal, New Jerusalem. 

* Life-Study of Jeremiah and Lamentations by Witness Lee, chap. 12
** Here are many other Old Testament verses which are part of this bridge.

 

New Jerusalem: God and Man Mingled

The garden of Eden and New Jerusalem mirror each other. The garden unfolds God’s purpose and the city shows the completion. God and man are present in the garden but are separate. In New Jerusalem God and man are present in a merged, mingled way.

In the garden of Eden in Genesis, we see man, pure gold, and precious stones. The man, the pure gold, and the precious stones are separate from each other. When we come to the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, we see pure gold and precious stones but no man. Where is man? Can anyone find man in the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21? In Genesis we can see man in the garden of Eden, but in Revelation we cannot see man in the New Jerusalem. Why is this? This is because the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 is the issue of God’s work in man throughout the ages. The city, the place itself, is man. In the New Jerusalem, man, the pure gold, and the precious stones are one and cannot be separated.*

New JerusalemNew Jerusalem is the mingling of God and man, accomplished by man’s willing cooperation with God’s work in man. God’s work begins with His Spirit regenerating our human spirit (John 3:6), making us alive with God’s life. This is the beginning of God’s work in man.

God continues with the Spirit’s transforming work in us and concludes with the transfiguration of our mortal bodies when the Lord Jesus returns visibly. The goal of this work is to conform us to His image, as clearly presented in Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18, and Philippians 3:21.

Because God’s work in us conforms us to His image, New Jerusalem is not only the manifestation of God but even more the manifestation of God in man.

* The Way for a Christian to Mature in Life, chapter 3, Witness Lee, © LSM.

New Jerusalem: Dwelling Place and Bride

New JerusalemRevelation 21:2, “I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” The city is the bride and the Husband is Jesus Christ. This is the culmination of His redeeming and sanctifying the church “that He might present the church to Himself glorious” (Eph. 5:25-27).

The glorious church, the predecessor of New Jerusalem as the bride, is purified by the divine life that she be without “spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that she would be holy and without blemish.”

One side of the Lord’s sanctifying, renewing, and transforming work in us is that all the natural elements (e.g. spots, wrinkles) are removed. The other side is that the divine life and nature fills us and transforms us to be golden and precious. This produces New Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God and the bride of Christ.

When we come to Revelation 21, a city of pure gold appears, and a wall of precious stones is manifested. The street of this city is pure gold, and the outward wall is composed of precious stones. This city is a sign with a twofold significance. On one hand, this city signifies a place, because it is a city. On the other hand, it signifies a person, because it is a bride, the wife of the Lamb. In other words, this city is the dwelling place of God and all the saints, and it is also the issue of God’s work in man throughout the ages. This city is a man of glory.*

* The Way for a Christian to Mature in Life, chapter 3, Witness Lee, © LSM.

Graphic courtesy of pixabay.com.

New Jerusalem: God Manifest in Glory

The tree of life and river of life in the garden of Eden and in New Jerusalem show that God will reach His goal by imparting Himself as life into man.

The two paradises in Genesis and Revelation are both dwelling places for man. They show the purpose and reason why God prepared them for man….God’s unique purpose in this universe is to work Himself into man so that man may have His life and nature and that through His life and nature man may be transformed inwardly (2 Pet. 1:3-4; 2 Cor. 3:18). Ultimately, God and man will be mingled together, and man will have the image of God (Rom. 8:29). The inward being of God will be the inward being of man, and God’s glorious, outward appearance will be man’s glorious appearance (cf. Rev. 4:3; 21:11).*

New JerusalemJesus Christ is the reality of the tree of life. He came to man as “the life” (John 14:6) and we may know today that we have this life (1 John 5:11-13). By our holding onto Christ, this life will increase in us day by day, as in Colossians 2:19.

As this life develops, Christ is formed in us, as Galatians 4 mentions, so that we may be conformed to the image of God’s firstborn Son. Eventually, “When Christ our life is manifested, then you also will be manifested with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). New Jerusalem is the ultimate stage of this glorious manifestation.

* The Way for a Christian to Mature in Life, chapter 3, Witness Lee, © LSM.

New Jerusalem: Dwelling Place of God (2)

In Genesis 2 we read that “a river went forth from Eden to water the garden.” In New Jerusalem John was shown “a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb in the middle of its street.”

We see that the dwelling place God prepared for man in the beginning was a paradise and that the dwelling place God prepares for man in the end is also a paradise. Both are pleasant places, and their contents are also similar. The two paradises both have the tree of life and a river, and both have pure gold, pearl, and precious stones. This shows that the dwelling place God prepared for man in the beginning is the same as the one He prepares for man at the end. The two places have almost the same contents. This shows that what God did in the beginning was related to His ultimate purpose, and God’s ultimate purpose is revealed in what He did in the beginning.*

New JerusalemThe materials in the garden and in New Jerusalem  are the same. However, in the garden the materials are present but not built together as they are in the city.

God’s building work is going on through human history. In Genesis 12 Abraham’s tent was a small symbol of the dwelling place God desires. Later, the tabernacle and temple were much larger symbols and included precious materials. Today we are being built in reality to be “a dwelling place of God in spirit.”

By “coming to Him, a living stone” we also “as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4-5). New Jerusalem is the consummation of this living building, a living composition of God and all His people.


* The Way for a Christian to Mature in Life, chapter 3, Witness Lee, © LSM.

Much more about the garden of Eden and New Jerusalem.

Photo courtesy of NASA.

New Jerusalem: Dwelling Place of God

Genesis 2:9 – “out of the ground Jehovah God caused to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, as well as the tree of life in the middle of the garden.”

Revelation 22:2 –  “on this side and on that side of the river was the tree of life, producing twelve fruits, yielding its fruit each month.”

The dwelling place God prepared for man in the beginning was called the garden of Eden, and the one at the end is called the New Jerusalem. Eden means “pleasure.” Therefore, the garden of Eden was a paradise. The dwelling place at the end of the Bible—the New Jerusalem—is also a paradise. The paradise in Genesis 2 has the tree of life in it. Revelation 22 shows that the New Jerusalem also has the tree of life in it. Thus, the paradise in Genesis 2 is the New Jerusalem in Revelation 22.*

New JerusalemThere are many commonalities between the garden of Eden and New Jerusalem. The garden was and New Jerusalem will be the mutual dwelling place of God and His people. Today the reality of these two is our human spirit enlivened by the Spirit. In Christ Jesus we “are being built together into a dwell-ing place of God in spirit” (Eph. 2:22).

New Jerusalem will be the consummation of the building work in this age.

* This is the first of a series of posts with excerpts from The Way for a Christian to Mature in Life, chapter 3, Witness Lee, © LSM.

Rejoice, Sing, Cry Out in Zion

New JerusalemIn my Bible reading I came to Isaiah 12. Verse 6 declares, “Cry out and give a ringing shout, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

This verse reminds me of New Jerusalem. First, as parts of New Jerusalem we are inhabitants of the eternal Zion. Second, God, the Holy One, is on the throne in the middle of the city.

In this context, the verse urges us to “cry out and give a ringing shout.” Other translations* include “shout aloud and sing” and “cry out and sing for joy.” This is not only inward joy but also inward joy expressed in loud rejoicing.

Surely, in line with this verse, New Jerusalem will be filled with rejoicing and singing, even shouting. We should experience this now in coming together with other Christians. This rejoicing should be prominent in our weekly remembering the Lord Jesus and His accomplishments (1 Cor. 10:16-17, 11:23-26).

The prior verses in Isaiah 12 present the source of this rejoicing. In verse 1 Isaiah praises the Lord. In verse 2 the Lord is His song. In verse 3 we are encouraged to drink the Spirit (the living water, John 7:37-39) with rejoicing. In verse 4 we give thanks to the Lord, we call on His name (Rom. 10:12-13), and we declare His doings to people around us. In verse 5 we sing Psalms to the Lord and make His marvelous works know in all the earth.

Let us exercise in these ways and ask the Lord to draw us more into them for a rich foretaste of New Jerusalem.

* Courtesy of Bible Hub.

New Jerusalem, the City of the Great King

Psalm 48:1-2: “Great is Jehovah, and much to be praised in the city of our God, In His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, the sides of the north, the city of the great King.” In reading the Psalms, I appreciated the parallels between these verses and New Jerusalem.

New JerusalemThe greatness of the Lord is proclaimed in this Psalm, related to Jerusalem of the Psalmist’s time. The Lord’s greatness will be fully manifested and praised in New Jerusalem, the eternal city of the great King.

The Psalmist considered Jerusalem of his time to be beautiful and a joy of the whole earth. Much more New Jerusalem will have these characteristics. Jerusalem was “beautiful in elevation” and New Jerusalem will be elevated even more on the new earth.

Psalm 50:2 continues this praise of Jerusalem: “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.” Zion is the peak of the current Jerusalem, the place where the temple was built and will be rebuilt. These Psalmists loved and appreciated God in every way. Therefore they had God’s view and declared that Zion is “the perfection of beauty.” Even more, this will be true of New Jerusalem, the eternal Zion.

The Psalmist realized God’s shining from Zion of old. Much more New Jerusalem will shine with the glory of God (Rev. 21:23) and will be the ultimate manifestation of what is in these verses.

The Eternal Sacrifice of Jesus Christ Brings us to New Jerusalem

Further contrasts in Hebrews 9 between physical characteristics and spiritual characteristics highlight aspects of New Jerusalem.

Verse 9:12 tells us that Christ, through His own blood, obtained “an eternal redemption.” This is shown by the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), on the throne in New Jerusalem. And this is in contrast to the temporary things of the Old Testament (9:9-9:10).

New JerusalemVerse 14, comparing OT and NT purifications, says “how much more will the blood of Christ…” Everything with Christ is “much more.”

Verse 15 continues, “He [Christ] is the Mediator of a new covenant, so that, death having taken place for redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, those who have been called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Through His death we have received the promise of the eternal New Jerusalem as our inheritance.

The following verses of Hebrews 9 speak of Christ’s death, ascension, and second coming, implying also His resurrection. Several verses speak about OT purification. Then verse 23 speaks of a better sacrifice—Christ, who sacrificed Himself once for all! Likewise New Jerusalem is much better than all the OT shadows.

The first part of Hebrews 10 contrasts the OT sacrifices with Christ’s eternal sacrifice. Verse 10: “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Verse 14: “By one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” This sanctification is ultimately for New Jerusalem, “the holy city.”

Enter through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ

We continue with the contrasts of physical shadows and spiritual realities in Hebrews. The realities match characteristics of New Jerusalem.

Hebrews 9:1 is about the first covenant, the shadows. Its sanctuary was of “this world,” of the old creation, in contrast to New Jerusalem which is of the new creation. 

New JerusalemVerses 3 to 5 present the gold and the glory of the Holy of Holies. The gold is the nature of God and the glory is the expression of God. Both gold and glory are characteristics of New Jerusalem, and the city is a cube, the eternal Holy of Holies.

In contrast, verse 2 mentions the table and the lampstand in the holy place but does not say that they are of gold. This omission emphasizes that the shadows of the old creation do not compare with New Jerusalem.

Verses 6 to 8 show us that the entrance into the reality is only possible based upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is our entrance into New Jerusalem, and today we come forward to the heavenly Holy of Holies.

Verses 9 and 10 (and 10:1) tell us that the shadows are temporary and that they cannot perfect those who hold to that form of worship. But 10:14 tells us that Christ “has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” This perfection has New Jerusalem as its goal.

The Reality of All the OT Shadows

This post begins a look at multiple contrasts in Hebrews 8 to 10. The spiritual/heavenly side of these contrasts shows us something about New Jerusalem. On the opposite side, the physical/material side of these contrasts shows us what New Jerusalem is not.

New JerusalemHebrews 8:1: “We have such a High Priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” In His ascension Jesus Christ sat down. In eternity He is the Lamb with God on the throne in New Jerusalem.

Verses 3-4 speak of priests making offerings. The Old Testament priests offered gifts according to the law, but the Lord Jesus offered Himself as the reality of all the OT sacrifices. He is “the Lamb of God.”

Verse 5 tells us that the OT priests “serve the example and shadow of the heavenly things.” Earthly things, like the OT tabernacle, are merely shadows. Heavenly things, including “New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven” are the reality.

Verse 6 says that Jesus Christ “obtained a more excellent ministry inasmuch as He is also the Mediator of a better covenant.” This new covenant is further described in verses 7 to 13.

Verse 13: “ In saying, A new covenant, He has made the first old.” The new covenant, which is of life, not of law, is the better covenant and corresponds with New Jerusalem. Verse 13 also says that the old “is near to disappearing” but New Jerusalem is eternal.


Photo courtesy of Good Free Photos.

Bible verses quoted in these posts are from The Holy Bible, Recovery Version, published and © by Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim CA, 2003. The New Testament of this Bible, with its outlines, is at online.recoveryversion.org; this too is © by LSM.

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