A Real Fountain of Lasting Life
FROM time immemorial men have sought a fountain of youth to restore themselves to the full vigor of sparkling health. This search has been made, not only by looking for such a literal fountain, but also by looking for a relief from sickness and old age through medicines, foods, dieting and other ways. These have brought a measure of success, but none has been able to lengthen man’s life-span or his enjoyment of life to any significant degree. The reason is shown in the Bible to be that man has inherited imperfection. Mankind’s original human father turned away from the fountain of life and lost perfection, being therefore unable to pass on real, full life to his offspring.
MORE THAN LITERAL WATER NEEDED
Some have understood and recognized the situation and have realized that not mere food, drink or the like can restore the life of mankind and have seen that the need goes deeper than man’s physical makeup, to his spiritual nature—that there is a need for reformation there. Some have attempted to bring about this reformation by self-works, by living according to a standard or code established by themselves or someone else. The Jews tried to obtain it by living according to the Ten Commandments. Some persons in Christendom today follow this theory. But more is required.
Man cannot work out perfection; he needs help from God, for “with [Jehovah] is the source [fountain, AV] of life.” (Ps. 36:9) Life originally was a gift of God to our forefather Adam, not a payment for works, and no one can make himself worthy of life by mere works. The seeker of life must have help from the Giver of life, and that help must be sought and obtained on the terms of life’s Giver, not on the terms of the one receiving it.
In the book of Revelation God has shown us that the matter of getting life is assured to those who really desire it and seek it on God’s terms. The same angel that gave John a vision of Jerusalem the holy city with its governmental arrangement went on to paint for him a beautiful picture of the restoration of lasting life to obedient mankind. John tells us what he saw and heard, saying:
“And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its broad way. And on this side of the river and on that side there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the Curing of the nations.”—Rev. 22:1, 2.
A similar vision was beheld by the prophet Ezekiel while in exile in ancient Babylon, in 593 B.C.E. Ezekiel was shown a stream of life-giving water flowing out from the visionary House of Jehovah, past the sacrificial altar and on down to the salt-laden Dead Sea. (Ezek. 47:1-12) This stream of water must have issued forth from Jehovah God, who had entered into the Most Holy of the temple. In the vision of John the source of the water is the “throne of God and of the Lamb.”
WHEN THE RIVER BEGINS TO FLOW
This description of the source helps us to establish the time when the waters would be due to flow, for Jehovah through his Messiah did not begin to take over his Kingdom power and begin to rule until the end of the Gentile Times in 1914 C.E. (Rev. 11:15 to 12:10) Therefore, it would be after this time that the river of the water of life would flow forth. However, it could not have been at that time, because between 1914 and 1918 the remnant of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites were still under much persecution and went into Babylonish captivity to the nations, being delivered only in 1919 from Babylon the Great. As we shall see later, the 144,000 have a definite place in John’s vision in connection with the water of life and, therefore, would have to be established in their God-ordained places before the river could begin to flow.
Another factor marking the time is that the water flows down through the holy city, and this holy city, New Jerusalem, does not come down out of heaven from God as a bride adorned for her husband until after the “former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more.” In other words, the flowing here pictured does not begin until after the war of Armageddon and the abyssing of Satan have done away with all enemies of God both in heaven and in earth and the old system of things now controlling this earth is gone. The time would be at the beginning of the thousand-year reign of Christ. It is then that the river can flow down the middle of the street of the holy city.—Rev. 21:1, 2, 9, 10, 21.
RIVER’S WATER MORE THAN TRUTH
What does the river of the water of life symbolize? Truth? No. Truth is in the Bible sometimes compared with water, for example, in Ephesians 5:26. But more is involved here than mere truth. Truth can guide a person in the way toward life, but it takes more than an understanding of the truth to restore life to man. God has provided the truth for mankind. He also demonstrated unparalleled love in giving his Son Jesus Christ. So the symbolic river pictures the entire provision Jehovah makes for obedient, believing mankind to have everlasting life through Jesus Christ the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is in harmony with the fact that the river is flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, who is seated at the right hand of God his Father.—John 1:29; Ps. 110:1; Acts 2:32-36.
The river is as clear as crystal, which indicates that God’s provisions are pure, free from all death-dealing contamination. Besides the purity of God’s truth, the ransom sacrifice of the Lamb Jesus Christ and his administration to sinful mankind of the benefits of his sacrifice as Jehovah’s high priest like Melchizedek are pure and clean and essential to the gaining of life. Throughout the entire thousand-year reign all men on earth, including those resurrected from the dead, must drink of the “river of water of life.”
How will the water of life be made available to mankind and, since it is symbolic water, what will they have to do to get its benefits for themselves? By following the course of this river as described in Revelation we can understand. It is shown as going in a channel down the middle of the golden broad way of the holy city. The holy city is the temple class, the “place for God to inhabit by spirit” and the Bride of the Lamb. All of these terms point to her as the body of the 144,000 members of the congregation of God, the spiritual brothers of Christ, who at this time will be enjoying Christ’s heavenly rule as associate kings and underpriests with him. Being the administrative body, they will have the happy lot of bringing the benefits of Christ’s ransom sacrifice to the people. The holy city, Revelation tells us, will bring light to the nations. These priests of God will therefore be teachers of God’s purposes, his guiding rules, laws and instructions, and as the people obey this royal priesthood, it will actually bring literal, physical vitality to them commensurate with their spiritual progress. On the part of the people, the life restoration will not be automatic. They will have to exert themselves to conform to God’s way and make over their personalities with the help of God’s spirit and will have to show themselves vigorously desirous of righteousness. Jesus Christ and his 144,000 associates are the Seed of Abraham by means of whom all the families and nations are to be blessed, but the prophecy says that they will “bless themselves.” This proves that action must come on the part of those being blessed. (Gal. 3:8, 16, 29; Gen. 22:17, 18) God desires that they receive the blessing arranged for through the sacrifice of his own Son. He is not stingy with his waters of life but sends them through a “broad way” of “pure gold, as transparent glass.”
AN UNFAILING FOOD SUPPLY
How refreshing a cool clear glass of water is to one who is thirsty! How much more so is this crystal-clear water, which actually imparts life. But food is also necessary for life’s sustenance, and God has not neglected this. On each bank of the river that flows down the middle of its “broad way” there are “trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit.” The vision does not say how many kinds of fruit grew on the trees but it does tell us that they never failed to produce a crop each month of the year. All year long they produced twelve crops in all so that in no season nor at any time was there any danger of anyone feeling the pangs of hunger.
These trees are watered by the river of the water of life. They picture a part of God’s provision for eternal life for obedient, believing mankind. Since the 144,000 members of the Lamb’s wife are inhabitants of the city and since they drink also of God’s provisions for life through Jesus Christ, they may be pictured additionally by these trees. (Rev. 21:6) At Isaiah 61:1-3, the 144,000 are likened to “big trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah.” Even before they receive their heavenly resurrection the 144,000 constitute God’s spiritual nation who produce the fruits of the kingdom of God and therefore the nation to whom the kingdom is given. (Matt. 21:43) By the tremendous Bible educational work that they have been doing throughout the earth, they prove that they are producing these spiritual fruits continually without letup, figuratively, in all seasons and months of the year, even in the face of persecution. They are bringing certain fruits to mankind, the fruits of God’s kingdom, by preaching and teaching about its birth in heaven. The fact that many are eating these fruits and being spiritually nourished with a hope to be partakers of the river of the water of life is an evidence that these fruit bearers are worthy to have a part after their death and resurrection to be with Jesus Christ in the heavenly fulfillment of the trees.
HEALING FROM ALL SICKNESSES
They are shown as producing not only fruit but also leaves that have a very beneficial effect, a curative power for the nations, just as plant leaves have often been the source of medicines for healing and curing. This gives us assurance that, not only will they receive water and food to sustain life, but they will actually get healing and restoration to completed health. The nations who will receive the curing are those nations who will walk by means of the light of the holy city, New Jerusalem.—Rev. 21:23, 24.
An additional happy thought that the vision brings to light is that for earthly humankind there will also be a very realistic aspect for them in connection with trees because the whole earth will be made a paradise and will be made to abound with trees and pure waters, everything good for food, just as was provided by God in the garden of Eden. The water flowing through the streams and rivers will no longer be contaminated but will be pure. These and all other things necessary for maintaining perfect health and enjoyment of life will be present. With the wonderful physical delights, and, more important, with minds made over to be in complete attunement and harmony with God, what peace, health, happiness and love the inhabitants of the earth will enjoy!
Then there will be no search for fountains of youth, no calling on medical doctors and psychotherapists for the relief of ills, no quest for a proper diet to add a few years to one’s life-span. Such temporary and short-term helps will not be needed. All who have been earthly survivors of Har–Magedon and also all men who have been resurrected from the dead and who have obediently partaken of these wonderful provisions will have life for how long? Seventy years? A thousand years? A million years? No—life everlasting. Moreover, this will be no monotonous existence, but a continual occupation of mind and body in progressive blessings that Jehovah God will bring forth for his people through his beloved city, New Jerusalem.