Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Revelation and Recession (Revelation 22:2)

How often does the fruit ripen in heaven? Once a month (Revelation 22:2)

A description of the New Jerusalem is one of the Bible’s final topics (Revelation 21:10-22:5). In detailing the end, John reverts back to the beginning as he incorporates old imagery from Eden (Genesis 2:8-17) in his presentation of the New Jerusalem. Among the interesting details that John records is the presence of trees that yield fruit on a monthly basis (Revelation 22:2).

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2 NASB)
Ben Witherington III (b. 1951) summarizes:
This river apparently goes down the middle of the golden street, and on either side of its banks are trees of life (or is there only one tree?), which bear twelve different kinds of fruit year-round, some each month. (Witherington, Revelation (New Cambridge Bible Commentary), 272)
In the New Jerusalem, crops will not experience seasonal interruption. This pronouncement is not original to John as Ezekiel shared a similar revelation (Ezekiel 47:12).
“By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:12 NASB)
Though obviously quite similar, John’s account is actually more encouraging than his prophetic predecessor’s. Grant R. Osborne (b. 1942) writes:
This goes beyond Ezekiel 47:12, where the fruit trees bear fruit every month but not twelve different kinds of fruit...The mention of ‘twelve kinds’ certainly alludes to a twelve-month calendar and especially to the seasons for growing crops. Normally, fruit appears at its proper season, but in the final Eden there will be no seasons, and abundant fruit will be available every month, an incredible promise for those of us who live for seasonal fruit crops. (Osborne, Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), 772)
Many commentators interpret these images metaphorically noting that perpetual produce is merely symbolic of the abundance that characterizes the holy city. Leon Morris (1914-2006) deciphers, “As there is neither sun nor moon [Revelation 21:23] there is of course no ‘month’. But John’s expression is perfectly intelligible. He is using the imagery to bring out his point that there is an abundant supply (Morris, Revelation (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), 249).”

James L. Resseguie (b. 1945) expounds:

There are no seasons of scarcity in the new Eden, only seasons of plenty, for the tree produces twelve kinds of fruit, presumably one for each month of the year. It is a perpetual source of nourishment that sustains the inhabitants of the city forever, and the leaves of this tree are meant “for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2; cf. Ezekiel 47:12). Similar to the crystal clear water, which is an inexhaustible source of life, the healing leaves provide physical and spiritual wholeness. (Resseguie, The Revelation of John: A Narrative Commentary, 257-8)
Robert H. Gundry (b. 1932) summarizes succinctly, “One crop per month from each tree produces a never-ending and therefore sufficiently large and eternal supply of life (Gundry, Commentary on Revelation).”

What is your favorite seasonal fruit? Do any contemporary fruits ripen as often as those in the New Jerusalem? What would the ramifications of having monthly crops be?

One of the benefits that comes with the assurance of continuous crops is stability. This constancy extends to many realms of life as the stoppage of seasonal cycles corresponds to the end of a cyclical economy. The New Jerusalem is devoid of droughts and the uncertainty that plagues the old age. The continuous food supply assures that the New Jerusalem will also be without economic downturns.

This is no small comfort in the present economy. The United States’ relatively short history has been spattered with countless recessions, depressions and panics to varying degrees of significance: 1797, 1807, 1815-1821, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, 1907, 1920-21, The Great Depression, 1948-49, 1953-54, 1957-58, 1960-61, 1969-1970, 1973-75, early 1980's, 2001-2003, current recession. Among the many hopes that the New Jerusalem provides is a recession proof existence. Revelation was above all meant to provide hope for its readers and this segment of Revelation is worthy of a reminder at a time when so many are experiencing economic hardship.

Compare and contrast Eden (Genesis 2:8-17) and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10-22:5). How has the current recession affected your life? Can you even imagine a recession proof existence? Who is more affected by a recession, the rich or the poor?

“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.” - Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)

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