Are Drugs & Alcohol Sin?
Back it Up
The Scripture For Alcohol
Truth Behind Alcohol
The Scripture For Drugs
What God creates he preserves. What he brings into being he provides for. Man is to have as his food the seed and fruit of plants. Animals and birds are to have the leaves. (The latter point accords with the description of the eschatological age when “the lion shall eat straw like the ox,” Isa. 11:7; 65:25.) At no point is anything (human beings, animals, birds) allowed to take the life of another living being and consume it for food. The dominion assigned to the human couple over the animal world does not include the prerogative to butcher. Instead, humankind survives on a vegetarian diet. What is strange, and probably unexplainable (from a scientific position), is the fact that the animals too are not carnivores but also vegetarians. The text of Gen. 1 does not state whether human beings and animals had the wherewithal to take the life of another living being, or whether they possessed such strength but held it in check.
In place of famine, plague, drought, and the sword, they will see a new level of peace and prosperity so that they will no longer bear the reproach of the nations (Ezek. 34:29). Then indeed they will know that the Lord their God is with them—for blessing and not for curse—and that they are his people. They will be his sheep and he will be their God, the harmonious relationship celebrated in Psalm 100:3.
The crystal river is bordered on either side by the tree of life, which bears fruit continually throughout the year and whose leaves bring healing to the nations. The exact placement of river, street, and trees is less than clear. If the initial phrase (“down the middle of the great street”) goes with the preceding verse, then the river would flow down the center of a wide avenue. If it is taken with what follows, then the street and river probably run side by side, with the trees in between. Other possibilities have been suggested,6 but the specific geographical layout is of no particular importance in understanding the symbolism of the verse.
The imagery has a double source. In the early chapters of Genesis we read that if Adam had eaten of the tree of life he would have received immortality (Gen 2:9; 3:22). In Ezekiel there is the picture of healing water flowing from the temple to form a river along whose banks are trees that bring forth new fruit each month and whose leaves are for healing (Ezek 47:12). The tree of life was a regular feature in Jewish portrayals of Paradise (cf. 2 Esdr 8:52; 2 Enoch 8:3–4). To eat of its fruit would be to live forever. In John’s vision the tree “produced twelve kinds of fruit, yielding a fresh crop month by month” (Weymouth). Both the abundance and the variety of fruit are being emphasized. God’s provision is ever new and always more than adequate.
Not only does the tree provide fruit to be eaten, but its leaves are therapeutic and bring about healing. But why would healing be required in the eternal city? Here we find evocative language of the most potent kind. In the restored Eden all has been reversed: eating of one tree brought the curse—eating of this tree eternal life. Although John speaks of “the healing of the nations,” we are not to infer that nations will continue to exist outside the New Jerusalem. As in 21:24ff., imagery borrowed from the present state of affairs is carried over into the description of the eternal state. The glory of the age to come is necessarily portrayed by means of imagery belonging to the present age. The healing leaves indicate the complete absence of physical and spiritual want. The life to come will be a life of abundance and perfection.