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A Cross for Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

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A Cross for Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Carl H. Stevens Jr. was the pastor of Greater Grace

World Outreach located in Baltimore, Maryland.

Pastor Stevens was also chancellor of Maryland Bible

College & Seminary and host of the international

Christian radio program “The Grace Hour.” This

booklet was created from a message preached by

Pastor Stevens.

Pastor Stevens can be seen weekly on cable

television stations throughout the United States.

Call us for information re g a rding programming in

your area.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from

the King James Version. Italics for emphasis are ours.


P.O. BOX 18715


Printed in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.

Copyright © 2003

Grace Publications is a ministry of

Greater Grace World Outreach, Inc.


Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Chapter 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Chapter 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Chapter 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


On the Cross, Jesus Christ paid for the sins

of the world and made a way for us to be saved.

He made us His own through His death on the

tree of Calvary. That moment in time marked t h e

pivotal point in the history of the world. There,

God established His Tree of Life.

What God did on Calvary takes care of everything

about us. Jesus is the same yesterday,

today, and forever, and His Cross takes care of

our yesterdays, today, and tomorrows.

Through the Finished Work of Calvary, we

have been hid with Christ in God. As this booklet

will reveal, what we have done is no longer

an issue; who we are can be governed by Who

He is; and, what we shall become is being fashioned

according to His eternal purpose.

Chapter One


“And he shewed me a pure river of water of

life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the thro n e

of God and of the Lamb.

“In the midst of the street of it, and on either

side of the river, was there the Tree of Life,

which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded

her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree

were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2).

“He that believeth on me, as the scripture

hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living


“(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they

that believe on him should receive: for the Holy

[Spirit] was not yet given; because that Jesus

was not yet glorified.)” (John 7:38-39).

“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I

shall give him shall never thirst; but the water

that I shall give him shall be in him a well of

water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

In the twenty-second chapter of Revelation,

the Word of God speaks of a throne, a Lamb,

and a pure river, clear as crystal, flowing out of

the throne. Think of that scene and the awesome

beauty of it.

This passage also mentions the Tree of Life

on each side of the river and in the midst of it.

No curse is there—just the Throne of God, the

Lamb of God, and the redeemed people of God.

I have received more joy and happiness from the

blessings that come from the throne and that

river because of the Tree of Life and the fruit that

grows there.

The Past, the Present, the Future

From the very beginning of time, God has

spoken of the Tree of Life (Genesis 2:9). Through

the years, I have pondered on that tree and the

river. As you consider the river, there is nothing

cloudy about it. It is all pure, all clean. A n d

where God places a river, there is also a tree.

Why is it that the Tree of Life was said to be

in the middle and on both sides of the river? It is

because we need three dimensions of that tree to

take care of three dimensions of our lives: the

past, the present, and the future.

According to the picture we have in Revelation 22,

the tree yields fruit every month. 1 Peter 2:24

calls the Cross that held Jesus Christ

“the tree.” And though it cost Him his life as a

man, it was indeed a Tree of Life for all

mankind. What He has done for me, He has

done for you.

One aspect of the Tree of Life on the side of

the river refers to the Cross that takes care of all

the things that relate to our yesterdays. Jesus

died on the Tree of Life, and on that tree He also

bore our sins. This tree takes care of everything

in our past. God’s Tree of Life takes care of

everything pertaining to guilt, sin, failure ,

heartache, wounds, and bruises. What people

have done to us is covered by the precious grace

of God.

Taking Care of Today

That tree, as it stands in the center of the

river, takes care of what is happening to us

today, right now. Right now, God is taking care

of every single thing through the Cross. Regardless

of what we have done, re g a rdless of how we

have failed, we have that Tree of Life. Thank

God, it wasn’t just for yesterd a y. It is for today

as well.

“I protest by your rejoicing which I have in

Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31).

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in

the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the

world is crucified unto me, and I unto the

world” (Galatians 6:14).

Paul was saying, “I want you to know that I

have received a Tree of Life, and God forbid that

I glory in anything but the Cross.”

The Cross takes care of my yesterday. The

Cross takes care of my today. And then there’s a

Tree of Life for my tomorrow, my future. All

three dimensions of my time are taken up in the

“Eternal Is” of Jesus Christ: Yesterday is gone,

Now just passed by, and To m o r row doesn’t exist.

Chapter Two


Think of how trees seem so barren in the

wintertime. Nothing on the outside of the tree

indicates life, and yet on the inside the tree is

very alive. That is when the sap (much like blood

to our bodies) is being produced and moves the

strongest, bringing a life flow to every branch

and twig. Then spring comes, and the trees turn

beautiful with blossoms and leaves. All of the

life on the inside is now flowing out.

Do not underestimate the winter times. Life

is at work in the destitute, dark, and gloomy

moments. Remember that when times seem

their darkest, life is building up from the deep

places. Soon, just as the trees blossom and create

the beauty of spring, summer, and fall, the time

of prosperity will come.

When we see everything prospering around

us, it is easy to think only of how great and how

wonderful that is. But remember this: During

the times of prosperity, all the life is flowing out.

That would not be possible without the life that

is developed deep within during the dark winter

seasons of life.

Released from the Grave

“Now a certain man was sick, named

Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her

sister Martha.

“(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord

with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair,

whose brother Lazarus was sick.)

“Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying,

Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.

“When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness

is not unto death, but for the glory of God,

that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister,

and Lazarus.

“When he had heard there f o re that he was

sick, he abode two days still in the same place

where he was.

“Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let

us go into Judaea again.

“His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews

of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou

thither again?

“Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours

in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth

not, because he seeth the light of this


“But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth,

because there is no light in him.

“These things said he: and after that he saith

unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I

go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (John 11:1-11).

“Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou

hadst been here, my brother had not died.

“But I know, that even now, whatsoever

thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

“Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise


“Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall

rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection,

and the life: he that believeth in me, though he

were dead, yet shall he live:

“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me

shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:21-26).

“And I knew that thou hearest me always:

but because of the people which stand by I said

it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

“And when he thus had spoken, he cried

with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

“And he that was dead came forth, bound

hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face

was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto

them, Loose him, and let him go.” (John 11: 42-44).

Lazarus was sick and he died. When people

are sick, they are taken to the hospital. When

they are dead they go to the funeral parlor, and

then they are buried. We were not born into this

world to meet Jesus Christ as sick people but as

spiritually dead people—people who are without

a source of eternal life until we meet the Savior

and are born again.

God quickens those who believe on Him.

Even though we were dead in trespasses and

sin, He meets us in death, where His resurrection

power takes over. And, whoever believes on

Him lives and never dies again.

That is what Jesus was trying to explain to

Martha in the midst of her grief over her brother

Lazarus’ death. She was upset that Jesus had not

visited earlier as He had so many other times.

“Look, Martha, I am the resurrection and life,

right now!” He told her. “All that I will be tomorrow,

I am today. All that I was yesterday, I am now.

I am resurrection and life, Martha. He who believes

on Me, though he was dead, he shall yet live.

And whoever believes on Me will never die.”

Jesus was led to the gravesite of Lazarus. He

saw the unbelieving Jews wailing over the

man’s death. There was Mary, the sister of

Martha and Lazarus, falling at Jesus’ feet saying,

“If You had been here, my brother would not

have died!” With that, Jesus groaned in His

spirit and wept, for He so well understood the

pain of sickness and death and the pain of their


The Smell of Sin, the Triumph of Grace

Standing near the grave, Jesus asked that the

stone be removed. “What?” He was asked.

“Surely, the body stinks.” Behind the stone was

a rotting, smelly corpse. The Lord wanted these

people to get close so they could get a good idea

of what sin smells like and what happens when

bodies die and decay.

“Come close to the grave,” Jesus was saying

h e re. “Get a good look at what sin does to a

body of death.”

Finally, Jesus spoke, saying to Lazarus, “Out!

Now!” That is exactly what He said, according

the original Greek text. At that moment, life came

back into Lazarus, and he came forth from the

grave. Jesus then told the people who stood

there in amazement to help him get out of his

grave clothes. The Lord brought in resurrection

life and released the grip of death.

Reading on into chapter 12 of John, we find

Lazarus alive and enjoying fellowship around

the Gospel. Martha and Mary were back serving

Jesus Christ. What a beautiful story of life coming

out of death.

Chapter Three


“Afterward he brought me again unto the

door of the house; and, behold, waters issued

out from under the threshold of the house eastward:

for the forefront of the house stood toward

the east, and the waters came down from under

from the right side of the house, at the south

side of the altar.

“Then brought he me out of the way of the

gate northward, and led me about the way

without unto the utter gate by the way that

looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters

on the right side.

“And when the man that had the line in his

hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand

cubits, and he brought me through the

waters; the waters were to the ankles.

“Again he measured a thousand, and brought

me through the waters; the waters were to the

knees. Again he measured a thousand, and

brought me through; the waters were to the


“Afterward he measured a thousand; and it

was a river that I could not pass over: for the

waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that

could not be passed over.

“And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou

seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me

to return to the brink of the river.

“Now when I had returned, behold, at the

bank of the river were very many trees on the

one side and on the other.

“Then said he unto me, These waters issue

out toward the east country, and go down into

the desert, and go into the sea: which being

brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be

healed” (Ezekiel 47:1-8).

The waters flowed in all directions from the

house of God. The river of life comes fro m

heaven and travels through us wherever we go

as believers. This is the life that has been reproduced

as our ministry has taken the Gospel into

all parts of the world.

God’s life flows from the Throne into our

lives. This is why we are able to face terrific trials,

one after another, and come out as more

than conquerors. God causes us to triumph, and

no one can stop our victories.

The man with the line in his hand went east,

meaning he was traveling the road of Resurrection.

He measured out a thousand cubits, a figure

that points to the perfect life of Christ. At this

spot, the water in the river reached the ankles.

There is a great meaning to be grasped here.

No matter where you are with Christ, even if

you are just up to your ankles with Him as you

start out in your Christian walk, you are okay.

You are complete in Him, hidden in Him, and

seated together with Him. This perfect Man has

taken your sins away. He died, He was buried,

and He was resurrected. Christ has taken you

and hid you in Himself, and that guarantees that

the devil can never touch you.

Power Through Prayer and the Word

“Wherefore he is able also to save them to

the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing

he ever liveth to make intercession for them”

(Hebrews 7:25).

Next, the line went out another thousand

cubits and the river was up to the knees. This

speaks of our relationship to the Great Intercessor,

Jesus Christ. When we pray, we are praying

with the One who intercedes before the Throne

for us at all times. Not a moment goes by but He

is standing before the Father, pleading our case.

Go out into the river another thousand cubits

and the water reaches the loins. This means that

categorical doctrine is at work in our hearts,

souls, minds, emotions, wills, and bodies. The

Word of God has now become totally operational

in us.

The Crucified Life

Another thousand cubits are measured out

and here the waters are over the head. This represents

to us the Finished Work of Jesus Christ

in our lives. We can no longer be seen. Everything

about us is Christ because we are experientially

crucified. Adam, our old man, is finally

out of the way.

A scientist developed a functional electronic

brain. This mechanism was fed numerous bits of

information, which the scientist called the “word.” This

“brain” processed the information and developed

conclusions. And these conclusions led to “experiences”

that were recorded.

Now, this scientist was asked by one of his

fellow scientists, who happened to be a Christian,

what would happen if wrong information

were fed into the brain.

“I have no idea,” he said. “My guess is it

would come to wrong conclusions and wrong

experiences. I have been troubled by this thought,

because there is no way to erase a mistake.”

“ Well, we will have to fix that,” the Christian

told him. “I am going to help you put in a

process that will cleanse a mistake so thoroughly

that there is no record of it.” He did, and that

process was called “erase.”

This man of God showed that scientist how

to be saved and he was gloriously converted.

Then, the two men proceeded to develop a

process of cleansing, purging, and rebound for

the “electronic brain,” which we call a computer:

“erase,” “escape,” and “refresh.”

The Tree of Life will do this with our lives. It

takes all that is wrong and makes it right. We are

cleansed and purged, and the record of our failures

is wiped clean by the Cross.


These thoughts about the Cross bring many

people to my mind. One woman was struggling

against the onset of cancer. She told me, “I don’t

mind dying, but I just don’t want to leave my


“That’s understandable,” I told her. “But

somehow, some way, the grace of God is going

to pour into your life, and God will triumph.”

God used her situation and brought life out

of it, just as the spring brings life out of the tree

following the winter season. God is so faithful

to do this.

The Tree of Life is not there to bring out the

best in Adam. Instead, it brings out the life that

comes from the resurrection of Christ. This is a

life worth experiencing. It is life that will never

see death.

Sometimes the answers are difficult to come

by—and yet, there is an unending river that

flows from the Throne of God. That crystal clear

water proceeds from the throne where the Lamb

of God is seated. And there, the Tree of Life reveals

a Cross for our yesterdays, a Cross for today, and

a Cross for our tomorrows.

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