One of last week’s posts included this verse:
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. (Revelation 22:2.)
I couldn’t help but wonder: how does that work? After all, this isn’t two trees that grow over a river from each side so their branches reach toward each other, mingling and mixing over the water below. How can a single tree grow on two separate shores?
The imagery is not false, even if it is not in our normal experience. It’s rather a lot like other joining-imagery the Bible uses.
- Marriage is two people joining together so that the two become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6.)
- God’s chosen people among the nations of the world are joined to God’s chosen people of the nation of Israel, a joining variously described as: two flocks of sheep under one Shepherd (John 10:14-16); wild olive branches grafted onto the cultivated olive tree (Romans 11:11-24); heirs coming together in a single body to inherit the promise of Christ (Ephesians 3:6).
- Jesus is fully God and fully human in order to be our perfect Savior, which is a truth about Christ which theologians have labeled the Incarnation. (John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5-11.)
No Real Surprises
The tree of life in the new creation of Revelation 22 is simply one more example of God bringing together something we’d consider impossible to join together. He is showing that nothing is impossible for him, that his promises will come true even if they seem impossible to us.
The greatest of these joining-promises is this: God joins us to himself for eternity.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus], 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. (Colossians 1:19-20.)
He has made peace for us through Christ, a peace we could not achieve on our own. And why? Because, as the Bible says, God is pleased to bring you to himself.
Can you believe it, that you being with God pleases him? This is the ultimate joining together that God does for us.
A single tree growing on opposite riverbanks is easy to imagine in comparison to God’s desire to reach out to us and bring us to himself just because it pleases him. Yet it is no less true.