A common theme found from Genesis to Revelation is the River of Life and so I want to explore and compare notes from Genesis, Ezekiel and Revelation and determine if the River that is described in Rev 22 is the one under consideration that emanates from the Garden.
Rev 22:1-2 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb (2) through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Looking at Gen 2 we see some of the same iconic symbols that are prevalent Hebrew similes such as trees and rivers. The Hebrew authors constructed their literature with these symbols as a pervasive story telling element and used them in a consistent manner throughout their literature. These icons take on a theological accent by becoming definitions that when people heard the written word read it would resonate by focusing upon the big picture story that was being presented.
Gen 2:9-10 And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every TREE that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. THE TREE OF LIFE was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (10) A RIVER flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.
One of the interesting aspects of the garden story is that the River which flowed out of Eden divides into four rivers which indicate a watering of the four directions signifying a purpose of spiritual intention for those outside the Garden such as the Nations. This would appear to symbolize Israel’s purpose of watering the Nations as God’s priestly people. This division though is in contrast to Ezekiel and Revelation where there is no dividing of the river but a dependence entirely upon the lone One River which is pointing to Christ the Messiah. The four rivers then are unlike the one which goes to the Gentile Sea and everything becomes fresh. The four Rivers may also indicate the relationship of Israel with the surrounding Beastly Kingdoms that eventually were supplanted as usurpers and tempters of Israel and lost their positions to the one river. Ezekiel says that these Tree Nations lost their guardian cherub status.
Eze 28:13-14 You were in Eden, the garden of God; … (14) You were an anointed guardian cherub. … 22 and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I am against you, O Sidon, and I will manifest my glory in your midst. … when I execute judgments in her and manifest my holiness in her; … 24 "And for the house of Israel there shall be no more a brier to prick or a thorn to hurt them among all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt.
We find in Ezekiel the water begins to flow from the Temple and becomes a river which flows into the Sea turning it to fresh water where Living Creatures swarm and live. Here we are fully introduced to the spreading of nets to catch many fish. This is a theme that permeates Christ and his calling of the Apostles to be fishers of men which is illuminated by the story found in John where they are told by Christ to cast their nets and they pulled in many fish. These images are surely derived from the prophecy found here in Ezekiel 47.
Lets now look at Ezekiels River flowing from the Temple.
Eze 47:1 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east … 5 … and it was a river that I could not pass through, …
7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. (8) And he said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. (9) And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. (10) Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. … 12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing."
We see also that in this story of the river that it is characteristically close to the same river description of Rev 22. Trees are on both banks of the river with fruit bearing monthly for healing.
Now look closely at the language of Genesis 1 and follow that the Sea waters of both stories will swarm with living creatures described in day 5. Some biblical commentators such as Augustine say this 5th day of Gen 1 represents the time of Israel being dispersed into the Nations such as Babylon and Assyria bringing them closer to God and preparing them for Day 6 which is the climatic consummation of Israel and Gentiles. This same swarming is found here amongst the Sea creatures that are described as living just as they are in Gen1. Is there any doubt of the correlation of Gen 1 and Ezekiel 47 in regard to the same Sea creatures and ultimately with Rev 22.
Gen 1:20-21 And God said, "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens." (21) So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
But look at what happens next at the climatic sixth Day in which covenant Man is fully consummated with God’s Image. We have these same creatures from Day 5 now brought into the consummating process along with the Covenant and corporate Man/Adam/Israel. The gospel call to multiply and fill the earth is found here and the call to have dominion over the creatures. This matches the prophetic announcement of Dan 7 which declares that the saints of the Kingdom will have authority over the dominion vacated by the deposed Fourth Beast.
Dan 7:22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. …
(27) And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.'
Again Ezekiel provides us with a picture of these great Tree nations in which these same animals found in Gen 1 dwelt and find protection. This Nation was deposed and thrown into the Pit just like the fourth Beast of Rev 20.
Eze 31:3-6 Behold, Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon, with beautiful branches and forest shade, and of towering height, its top among the clouds. … All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs; under its branches all the beasts of the field gave birth to their young, and under its shadow lived all great nations. … 16 I made the nations quake at the sound of its fall, when I cast it down to Sheol with those who go down to the pit.
Isaiah also tells us that these Great Sea monsters and Beast described in Gen 1 and 3 will meet their demise at the time of the Messiah.
Isa 27:1 In that day Jehovah with his hard and great and strong sword will punish leviathan the swift serpent, and leviathan the crooked serpent; and he will slay the monster that is in the sea.
Egypt and Babylon are described as monsters of the Sea and we know that the Beast of Daniel came from the Sea.
The animals however of Gen 1 are to share with the man the trees and their fruit just as we find in Ezk 47 and we see here on Day 6 that there has been a progression from the good to now the VERY GOOD and pleasing results to God. Now the writer of Genesis One is ready to declare that the Sabbath rest of God is ready.
Gen 1:28-30 And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (29) And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (30) And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. … it was VERY GOOD
The Heavens will declare the glory of God as the Host (peoples) of Jehovah God have been completed in His Image and will now have every good Plant for food being found upon the trees with “seed” in its fruit. These trees will bear fruit every month for the healing of the Nations.
Gen 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
Rev 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Finally I want to conclude by pointing out that Ezekiel is telling Israel that they will indeed receive a Land but this time it would be when they receive a new heart replacing the heart of Stone through their being imbued with God’s Spirit (Image of God through Christ).
Eze 36:24-35 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. (25) I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. (26) And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (27) And I will put my Spirit within you, … (30) I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. … (33) "Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, … the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. (35) And they will say, 'This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, …
Here is Ezekiel’s detailed summation of the land division that will be given to Israel, but notice that now they must share the land with the Gentile sojourners in this inheritance. The Gentiles will be as native born children of Israel.
Eze 47:21-23 "So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel. (22) You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. (23) In whatever tribe the sojourner resides, there you shall assign him his inheritance, declares the Lord GOD.
Ezekiel also says that there will be a City in this Land found in the midst. This of course is a theme picked up from Hebrews and Revelation.
Eze 48:15 "The remainder, 5,000 cubits in breadth and 25,000 in length, shall be for common use for the city, for dwellings and for open country. In the midst of it shall be the city,
Heb 11:10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Heb 11:15-16 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. (16) But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
Eze 48:17 And the city shall have open land: on the north 250 cubits, on the south 250, on the east 250, and on the west 250. (for 1000 total which is an eternal significance nv)
Eze 48:35 The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The LORD Is There." (Rev 21:2-3)
In conclusion we see Ezekiel’s division of the land to the Saints consummated in Revelation 7 where all twelve tribes of Israel consisting of those who are sealed are told of their inheritance and following immediately just as in Ezekiel’s descriptions the peoples of the Nations are included along with them.
Eze 48:29 This is the land that you shall allot as an inheritance among the tribes of Israel, and these are their portions, declares the Lord GOD.
Rev 7:3-4 saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads." (4) And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: …
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
Rev 14:3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
This has been an exercise to continue illustrating the continuity of Genesis 1 through Revelation 22’s consistent pattern. This is the same story from the First Heavens and Earth until its Renewal as the Heavenly City in the Spiritual Land in which the “Birds of the Heavens” rest in the shade of the Largest of Trees.
Mat 13:32 It is the smallest of all SEEDS, but when it has grown it is larger than all the GARDEN PLANTS and becomes a TREE, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."
The Temple of God has now been completed in its 7 Day process and we enter into his Sabbath Rest in which there is no night there.