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 Ephesus - The Promise

Revelation 2:7

John Hoole April 9, 2006


Over the past couple of months, we have been exploring what Jesus had to say to the Church in Ephesus. Christ dictated a letter to the apostle John, and it is found in the 2nd chapter of the book Revelation.

To begin our lesson today, I want to switch from the 2nd chapter of the last book in the Bible, to the 2nd chapter of the first book in the Bible - Genesis. I want to focus on two things:

1. The paradise called the Garden of Eden.

2. The Tree of Life.

The 2nd chapter of Genesis is a detailed description of some of the events that transpired on the sixth day of creation, especially the formation of the first man and woman. In that chapter, we also find a good description of the Garden of Eden.

There are some very beautiful places in this world, in spite of our pollution of the environment. But often so-called natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricanes, have turned paradises into a disaster area. But before earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and human desecration could ever begin, there was a beautiful place on planet earth, unlike anything our eyes have ever seen. It was indeed a paradise. It was called a "garden" and was located in a place called "Eden." Actually, the Greek word paradeisoo (par-AH-day-soo), translated "paradise," means a "garden". Originally, paradise was a Persian word. The Greek philosopher Xenophon, a student of Socrates, was the first to introduce this word into the Greek language. When Xenophon was describing the state in which the Persian king lived, he says that "the king takes care that, wherever he resides, there are paradises."

I believe we can say that all of God's creation was beautiful before sin entered the world. We can see that in the fact that, after each of the days of creation, God looks at what He had created and said it was "good." But I think this Garden of Eden must have been an exceptionally beautiful place. This is somewhat evident throughout the narrative. It is explicit in the way the trees are described, in that they were "pleasing to the eye." (Genesis 2:9). I really believe that was a huge understatement.

What I am saying is that outside the garden of Eden - in all of God's creation, God is shown making both very beautiful and useful things. And yet, here in the place He was preparing as the dwelling place of mankind, God had poured out beauty in a very special measure. It kind of reminds me of the place now being prepared for those who accept Jesus Christ.

WHAT IS THE PLACE JESUS IS MAKING FOR HIS FOLLOWERS - HIS BRIDE

The New Jerusalem.

1 Corinthians 2:9 says,

9 But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor has it entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

We will discuss more about the paradise Christ is preparing for us later in our lesson.

WHAT DOES THE WORD "EDEN" MEAN?

The Hebrew word means "delight." The place where God placed humanity was an absolutely delightful place. And the very suggestion of the Garden of Eden is that our God is not a God with a baseball bat, sitting in Heaven, ready to club you if you make a mistake. The Bible teaches that God is One who wants to bring delight and joy to His people. God wants to bless you and I more than we want to receive it. I really believe that. God is interested in your delight - in your joy.

In Isaiah 51:3, God talks about how He is going to change everything in the future, at least for Israel, and bring the promised blessing.

Isaiah 51:1-3 NIV

1 "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
2 look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many.
3 The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

In light of all this, I do not believe Adam, before He sinned, was ever depressed. Eden was not only a place of great beauty, but a place of extraordinary joy and singing and gladness. I believe Adam and Eve were excited to be there. They were supremely happy.

Now, I know that the name "Garden of Eden" is used when referring to this garden. And I have no problem with that, since Genesis 3:23 uses that name. But it should be mentioned that Moses writes that this garden was planted within a broader territory called Eden. Eden was more than just the Garden.

Genesis 2:7-8 NKJV

7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
8 The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.

In a place called Eden, God planted a garden. And this planting was done directly by God.

Next, we are told that God placed Adam into the Garden. From that statement, several questions or comments could be pondered.

DID ADAM LIVE SOMEWHERE ELSE BEFORE THE GARDEN WAS COMPLETED?

From Genesis 2:7-8, it appears Adam was created before the Garden was planted by God. The verse we just read tells us that the Garden of Eden was planted to the east of where Adam was. Other questions come to my mind:

o Did Adam observe God as he prepared this beautiful garden?

o For how long did Adam live before entering the garden?

o By what means was Adam placed into the garden? Was he just picked up by God and set down in the garden?

WHAT ARE WE TOLD ABOUT THE GARDEN OF EDEN?

1. It lay in Eden (Genesis 2:8)
2. A single river watered it. (Genesis 2:10).
3. Four rivers had their head there (Genesis 2:10-14). The Pishon, Gihon, Hiddekel (Tigris - See Daniel 10:4) and Euphrates.
4. Adam was placed in the Garden (Genesis 2:8).
5. It had many fruit trees (Genesis 2:9).

WHAT TWO TREES IN EDEN ARE SPECIFICALLY MENTIONED IN THE GENESIS ACCOUNT?

o The Tree of Life

o The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Let's look at Genesis 2:9 (NKJV).

9 And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We are told that God caused a great variety of beautiful trees to grow in the garden. From these trees Adam was able to get all the food he needed, along with the food derived from herbs and other small plants. This verse also tells us that every tree was pleasant to the sight. In other words, they were beautiful just to look at.

The Tree of life

We have talked about the paradise of Eden. Let's consider now the Tree of Life.

WHERE WAS THIS TREE LOCATED?

According to the verse just read, it was located in the center of the Garden of Eden. Some believe the tree is simply a non-literal illustration or a symbol of life itself. Personally, I believe it was a literal tree, just as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was literal. Why else mention its location in the midst of the garden.

There are, however, Passages that treat the Tree of Life as somewhat symbolic.

For instance, Proverbs 3:18 NKJV

18 She (speaking of Wisdom) is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her.

Proverbs 11:30 NKJV

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.

The Tree of Life is used two more times in this manner in the book of Proverbs. But I still believe the tree in the original Garden of Eden was a literal physical tree, located in the middle of the garden. The Tree of Life was certainly an unusual tree in that it is characterized by life or produces life. Its very existence shows that God had made ample provision for man's good.

When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden because of their sin, it is fascinating to read that the Lord God "placed cherubim (angels) at the east of the garden and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life." If it was not a literal tree, why would God place angels to guard the way to the tree of life, as we are told He did in Genesis 3:24.

This tree was so special that humanity was forbidden to have access to it after sinning against God. Today I am not going to get into the implications of this forbiddance. In the last Book of the Bible, we find the Tree of Life mentioned 3 times. The first is found with reference to the Church at Ephesus.

In our ongoing series of lessons on the 7 churches of Revelation, today we come to the end of our study of the Letter written to the church in Ephesus as recorded in Revelation 2. Ephesus was once a noble church, and Paul's letter to the Ephesians shows us how high in spirituality she stood at first. But she had left her first love, and her decline was significant. As an organization, the church seemed to run well, but her lamp was low and dim. Her Lord was troubled about her decline, and exhorts her because of it. Her Lord is, however, not quick to throw her off. He speaks lovingly to her and provides a prescription for recovery. If they would follow His formula, her best days could still be ahead of her. And if they choose to repent and follow His advice, a reward was promised them. Jesus does not just utter a harsh warning and leave. He incites them to be overcomers and to return to their original love for Him.

Revelation 2:7 NIV

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

As you have heard me say in past lessons, Jesus makes a promise to those in each church who overcome - who are conquerors. In this passage, those who overcome are given access to the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God. In this passage, we again have a reference to:

1. Paradise

2. Tree of Life

ACCORDING TO THIS VERSE, WHERE IS THIS PARADISE LOCATED?

The fact that this verse says it is the "Paradise of God" would seem to indicate that it is located where God is - in Heaven. And if that is the location of the "Paradise of God," then it is also the location of the Tree of Life.

WHEN THE BIBLE USES THE WORD "HEAVEN," WHAT IS IT DESCRIBING?

Actually, there are several uses of the word "heaven" in the Bible. 2 Corinthians 12:2 speaks of the apostle Paul's visit to the 3rd heaven. I suppose that one could conclude from this short simple statement that there are at least two other heavens.

WHEN PAUL SPEAKS OF THE 3RD HEAVEN, WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THIS HEAVEN?

Again, this is the place where God resides. How do we know that?

2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (NIV)

2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know-God knows.
3 And I know that this man-whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-
4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.

It is important to add verses 3 & 4, because, in verse 4, Paul reiterates his being caught up to the 3rd heaven, but, in verse 4, he uses the word "paradise" to represent the 3rd heaven. This statement helps us verify the thought that the 3rd heaven is where God resides. Therefore, from what we said earlier, the Tree of Life is now located in heaven.

The tree of life has always been the symbol of eternal life, and was originally located in the Garden of Eden, a different paradise. When Adam and Eve sinned, God sent them out of that paradise and guarded its entrance so that they would not partake of the tree of life.

In Revelation 22:2, we find the tree of life mentioned again.

2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

This time the Tree of Life is a prominent feature in the heavenly city.

WHAT IS THE NAME OF THIS PARADISE?

In Revelation 21:2, it is called the New Jerusalem. It is the paradise of God.

The Tree of Life continues to stand as the symbol of eternal life. The Garden of Eden, though a literal place, was merely a symbol of the real paradise of heaven. Once more, Revelation 22 refers to the Tree of Life.

Revelation 22:14 NKJV

14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

This Passage has a promise that is essentially the same as that given to the church in Ephesus. Those that do as He has commanded will have access to the Tree of Life.

Revelation 2:7 NIV

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

The "paradise of God" is no longer in the Garden of Eden is located in the "third heaven," the place where God dwells, and where the heavenly city is presently found.

The most complete description of the heavenly paradise is written for us in Revelation 21 & 22. Let's read the first 5 verses of chapter 22.

Revelation 22:1-5 NKJV

1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

This is only part of the description of this beautiful paradise. The promise given to those in Ephesus and to all believers of all ages, is that they will have access to the Tree of Life in the paradise of God. This city is that paradise. This will be the eternal abode of those who make up the Bride of Christ.

The first paradise and the last paradise compared

I want to compare the first and last paradise. That is, the paradise of Eden and the paradise of the eternal city of God. I don't think there is any question that Revelation 21 & 22 describe the eternal paradise. While the word "paradise" is not mentioned in so many words, the details, considered in the light of Scripture, certainly convey the idea of Paradise.

In the original paradise, there was a single river that watered the Garden of Eden. In the text we read in Revelation 22, we find the river of the water of life. In the garden there was the tree of life, among many other trees. In the New Jerusalem, we again find the Tree of Life. The original Paradise assumed the form of a beautiful garden, specifically prepared as the dwelling-place for mankind. The future glory and blessedness of the New Jerusalem, along with the new heaven and new earth, is a picture of the highest possible realization of that earthly paradise and tree of life.

Here is another similarity. What was Adam's first occupation - given to him by his Creator? He was a gardener. When Mary came to the tomb on the third day, when Jesus (the last Adam) spoke to her, she supposed he was the gardener.

Actually, the paradise of God in Heaven is the original and real Paradise. The paradise in Eden, though real and literal, was but a symbol or shadow of the Paradise of God to come through Jesus Christ. Eden was a picture of things to come.

While some things are similar between the first and last paradise, there are also some significant differences as well. As we mentioned earlier, there two trees mentioned by name in the first paradise. We are speaking of the "Tree of Life" and the "Tree of the knowledge of good an evil." In the eternal paradise, notice that there is the Tree of Life, but there is no provision for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. There is no longer any command not to eat of any tree. And the reason this is so, is because there is no more evil present. In Christ Jesus the church is victorious, incorruptible, immortal and heavenly.

Another difference is related to the presence of sin.

WILL THERE BE SIN IN THE HEAVENLY PARADISE?

The Bible is clear that the "unbelievers" and the "corrupt" will be in the "lake that burns with fire and sulfur" (Rev. 21:8). This implies that the believers and those who are not corrupt will be in heaven. The real reason we will not be corrupt, of course, is that we believed and accepted Jesus, who paid the penalty for our sins. Therefore, there will be no sin in heaven.

But someone might say, "Adam and Eve were perfect, living in an idyllic place, and yet they sinned. How do we know it can't start all over again? Will we still be temped to sin, in much the same way that Adam and Eve were tempted?"

In speaking of our heavenly home, the New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:27 (NIV) says;

27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Nothing associated with sin will ever enter this place.

Revelation 22:3 says, "No longer will there be a curse." The curse was the result of Adam and Eve's sins. In Heaven there will be no sin, so the curse has been lifted. No, the heavenly Paradise will not be a return to that first state of things. In 1 Corinthians 15:45, Jesus is called the "Last Adam." In the verses that follow, we are told that Adam was of the earth, earthy, but Christ, the last Adam, is the "Lord from Heaven." No, although many things of the first paradise were pictures of that which is to come, the presence of sin there is not one of them.

Let me continue this comparison between Adam, resident of the first paradise, and Christ, the King of the eternal Paradise. Let's look at the very first verse of the Gospel of Matthew.

1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

"The Book of the generations" is a phrase which is peculiar to Matthew. It is a unique expression, and you won't find it anywhere else in the New Testament. If you start going back through the Old Testament, back through Malachi and Zechariah and back through the major prophets and the books of poetry and back to the Pentateuch you will almost come to the conclusion that it is nowhere else in the Bible. Then all of a sudden, you come to the fifth chapter of Genesis and see: "This is the book of the generations of Adam..." (Gen. 5:1)

There is that expression again. There are two books:

o the book of the generations of Adam, and

o the book of the generations of Christ.

How did you get into the family of Adam? You got in by a birth. You didn't perform it; in fact, you had nothing to do with it. But that's the way you and I got into the family of Adam. We got there by birth. But, according to Romans 5:12, "in Adam all die". You could say "Adam's book is a book of death."

What a relief it is to turn to the gospel of Matthew and enter a new book, "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Unlike the first Adam, Jesus Christ who, in 1 Cor. 15:45 is called the "last Adam", obeyed God and was therefore able to exercise dominion over His kingdom.

The first Adam was tested in a beautiful garden and failed. But the Last Adam, Jesus, was tested in a wilderness, and He succeeded. Because the first Adam was a thief, in that he took that which was not his to take, he was cast out of Paradise. But the Last Adam turned to a thief on a cross and said, "Today you shall be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) Notice here another reference to "paradise". It is the only recorded time of Jesus referring to paradise while on earth.

The book of "the generations of Adam" ends with a curse (Malachi 4:6). But the "book of the generation of Jesus Christ" begins with a series of blessings - called Beatitudes, and ends with the promise "there shall be no more curse" (Revelation 22:3).

The Old Testament was characterized by mount Sinai with its law, its judgment and cursing. The New Testament is characterized by Mount Zion with its grace, salvation and healing. The Old Testament law demonstrated man's desperate need for salvation, and the New Testament offers the Savior - Jesus Christ. And He is one who brings blessing rather than cursing.

Earlier, I mentioned there was a single river that watered the original paradise, and there also is a river that flows in the eternal paradise. I am reminded of the well-known words of Christ recorded in John 7:37-39.

John 7:37-38 NKJV

37 "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

We who have put our trust in Jesus Christ are now the temple of God. We who are thirsty can come to the rivers of life and drink. Then out of us should flow living water for others that are thirsty.

In Revelation 22, we are not told specifically if we will drink of the water of the River of Life, but I think the implication is that we will.

CONCLUSION

For the remainder of our time today, I want to revisit the Tree of Life. Actually, I want to discuss four trees. We have already talked about three of them. In the original Garden of creation, God gave special attention to the first two trees - The Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. At the far end of this present age we find the last of the four trees. The Tree of life will then be planted in the future paradise where we will live.

At the center of earths history, we find another tree. In Acts 5, we find Peter and some of the apostles brought before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was a 70 member Jewish council which had prohibited the apostles from teaching in the name of Christ.

Acts 5:29-30 NIV

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men!
30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead - whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.

Let's take a closer look at these four trees. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the forbidden tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their decision resulted in their eventual death, as well as death to all their descendants.

To keep them from living forever in a fallen spiritual condition, God barred them from having access to the paradise of Eden, and specifically from the Tree of Life. A further penalty was that God cursed the ground, making the earth resist the efforts of man to make his living. Two specific things are mentioned when God spoke to Adam after his sin.

1. He would work and produce by the "sweat of his brow" (Gen. 3:19).

2. Thorns and thistles would now have to be contended with in the soil (Gen 3:18).

This event is known as the fall. We can consider the Tree of Life to be a symbol of the promise of eternal life and fellowship with God. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil becomes a tree of death and serves as a symbol of the Fall. This resulted in an earth that was full of "sin and sorrows." Yet God, with great love for His creation, was grieved by these circumstances. So He made a way not only for people but for His entire creation to be reconciled to Him.

Colossians 1:19-20 NIV

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Christ),
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

The Father sent Jesus, his only Son, to earth to experience the full weight of sin, and to die a sacrificial death on a tree - the cross of Calvary. This act on the part of God provided for the ultimate restoration of the creation to its original state of peace and harmony (Shalom in Hebrew, Salaam in Arabic). This truth is powerfully illustrated by the fact that Jesus was executed on a tree, which, according to Galatians 3:13, was a curse. Further, His pain was increased by the curse God put on the earth back in Genesis, when the crown of thorns was pressed down over his brow.

But, because only God has the ability to take that which was meant for evil, and turn it completely around for our good, this cross, the tree of death, actually became a promise of life. We get our first hint of that when Jesus, on the cross, spoke to the penitent thief, when He said, "Today, you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).

When Christ was taken down from the cross to be placed in the tomb, nearly everyone expected His body to eventually return to dust, just as the bodies of all people who had come before. Scriptures tell us, however, that Jesus' body did not suffer such corruption (Acts 2:31). God preserved it and Jesus was resurrected. And this great and pivotal event signaled the defeat of death and the lifting of the curse.

That part of the story occurred in the past. But the future for those who have accepted Christ as the Savior, is that which was spoken to the church in Ephesus. "To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." (Rev. 2:7)

Adam was barred from the Tree of Life in the middle of the Garden of Eden. Those who overcome will be given total access to the Tree of Life, and to eat from it. So, who is an overcomer?

1 John 5:4-5 (NKJV) gives us the answer.

4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith.
5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God
?

Overcoming the world is the experienced that takes place in the life of an individual who puts his or her faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other way by which a man or woman can become an overcomer. And it is only through Jesus that we have been promised access to the Tree of Life in the paradise of God.

   
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