Usually the discussions on the book of Revelation tend toward end of the world themes. You may have noticed. This is a look at the church at Ephesus which is one of the seven churches Jesus addresses in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. Can it be that there is something wonderful for the followers of Jesus tucked away in this address? Indeed there is. Come along, if you would like, and see.
Jesus promises the one who overcomes, conquers or achieves victory that they will get to “eat of the tree of life.” I am of the opinion that eating of the tree of life is a big deal and will do something huge in a person’s life. Here is Revelation 2:7 (NASB) to see how this is written:
To eat of the tree of life is a privilege Jesus is making available. I want to taste it just because He makes it so, but maybe the illustration of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God is worth exploring to find out more about what I am going to taste. In the book of Genesis Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden and they had an awesome relationship with God. The relationship and all the remarkable things that went with it were thrown under the bus by their rejecting God. Believing the lie they decided God wasn’t trustworthy, went their own way, and the result was a broken relationship and distance from all they had enjoyed before. Banished from the garden paradise they were kept from the tree of life which was in there.
The tree of life is explained in all sorts of ways in various cultures and among Jewish and Christian groups. You can check it out for some interesting viewpoints. One of the views is about the perpetuity of life. The length of life or the quantity of years is a common view which seems appropriate since Adam didn’t live forever. But we have more information than just Genesis available to us.
We are looking at Revelation with its perspective on the end and of life beyond. So, what do we discover? People, all people live forever. They will live with God or away from God, but they will live. Then, I ask, what is the deal with “everlasting life?” That expression has something to do with quality of life rather than quantity of life. The quality is also connected to a close and dynamic relationship with God. We can see a difference in people who are alive biologically, but dead in the head and everywhere else. Is receiving that kind of “everlasting life” a good thing? No. There is much more and much better. It is the higher quality…correction…the highest quality of life God is promising with the tree of life. It is life with God.
When will this taste of the tree of life take place? Again, many views abound. I add this one. It is available to the one who overcomes right here, right now. No way. Way. The tree of life which is in the Paradise of God is often taken as a reference to the afterlife in heaven. Of course, it is available then, but the promise Jesus makes is to folks living on earth. The Garden of Eden was on earth. Angels were set as guards on the east side to keep Adam and Eve from access to the tree of life. Paradise (another word for garden or the king’s garden) is on earth and available to whomever God chooses to make it available. Jesus says He makes it available to those who overcome. Real intimacy with Him in a relationship that is unmatched.
There is something important about the person who overcomes. What is it that a person is overcoming? A variety of opinions like the colors of the rainbow emerge. Many see the overcoming as the lifelong moral battle of a Christian. As I look at Revelation 2 and the church at Ephesus I see one thing that was cause of great concern to Jesus about them. It wasn’t theology because he notes they were protecting truth. It wasn’t lax morals which apparently they were trying to correct in the Nicolaitans. The one thing was that they had lost their first love. Jesus says it this way, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Revelation 2:4 (NASB) Love. You may remember what Jesus said about the importance of loving God.
Everything rises and falls on loving God. Everything. Jesus after His death and resurrection is keeping an eye on His people in the church and recognizes they are doing churchy things well, but the love of God is diminished. Back to the topic of overcomers. What is it Jesus wants His people in Ephesus and everywhere to do? Love God with all you are. Get over yourself. Stop loving the world, the flesh and other things and love God. When they love Him full on they overcome and Jesus says they get a bite of the fruit of the tree of life in Paradise. Bam! They experience more of God, more of Jesus, more of the Holy Spirit. They get the rush of His loving presence in ways beyond what they had experienced so far.
In Revelation 22 God and the Lamb (Jesus) are central. The river with the water of life flow from the throne of God and the Lamb. On each side of the river there is a tree of life. The leaves of the tree is used from medicine to heal the nations. The nations are the different peoples of the earth gathered to God. They aren’t physically suffering at this point. What is it they need more than anything? Closeness to their God. The old curse of separation from God illustrated by the guarded tree of life changes at this point. They are healed and there is no more curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be there and God’s people will worship. Let us be overcomers, and love God with all our heart, soul and mind.