Looking Past the Future

Looking at the present, the immediate future is uncertain. But of this I am sure: a much brighter future awaits us.

For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so will be the arrival of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27).

And the culmination of this future may resemble our distant past. Our very beginning. Before we fell into darkness.

In the Apocalypse—the book of Revelation—John the revelator describes the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:2, 10). A Throne is its centerpiece, its Sanctuary is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb (21:22). Light radiating from them obviates the sun, eliminates the night (21:23, 22:5). A Tree of Life is flanked by a life-giving river and a golden street (21:21), one as transparent as the other:1

1 Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, springing forth from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In between the city’s great street and the river stands a Tree of Life2 producing twelve fruits, corresponding to each month of the year, yielding one fruit per month. The leaves of the Tree provide healing for the people. 3 No longer will any curse be. The Throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. 4 They will see His face, and His Name will be on their foreheads. 5 Night will no longer exist: They will have no need of lamplight or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shed light upon them. And they will reign forevermore (Rev 22:1-5).

No curse! No night, no darkness! I have long championed the slogan “Water is life”, a maxim all the more true in the New Jerusalem.

May I endure to the end (Matthew 24:13), thereby finding my name included in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 21:27). I sure could use some of those healing leaves.

Behold! I am coming soon” (Rev 22:12).

____________________________

1 What follows is my own translation.

2 This first part of the verse proved very difficult to translate. The Greek is:  ἐν μέσῳ τῆς πλατείας αὐτῆς καὶ τοῦ ποταμοῦ ἐντεῦθεν καὶ ἐκεῖθεν ξύλον ζωῆς, en mesō̧ tēs plateias autēs kai tou potamou enteuthen kai ekeithen xylon zōēs. Translating as literally as possible: in middle/midst of-the great-street of-it and the river from-here and from-there tree of-life. There is no finite verb in this entire verse—something not uncommon in Scripture. The first clause up to “of-it” is a dative, but does it go with the main verb of 22:1 (“springing forth”) or are we to assume—and thus add in—a verb in 22:2? For me, it seemed nonsensical to envision a river flowing down the middle of a street (and with a tree or trees in the middle of it), so I looked for other options. I found the International Standard Version’s translation to make the most sense: the dative clause was to be applied to verse 2 rather than 1. The key for me was understanding “from here and from there” as helping to explain—as a rephrasing of—“in the midst”. In this way, the verse is understood in the middle of the city’s great street and the river, from here [the river—the focus from v. 1] and from there [the great street] (stands) a Tree of Life. From this understanding, I decided to omit “from here and from there”, thus rendering the first two words “in between” as a compromise.

17 Responses to Looking Past the Future

  1. Andrew Chapman says:

    I don’t see a problem with having the river in the middle of the street. What could be better than to have the Holy Spirit – if that it what it represents – in the middle of the street where we are to walk? Jesus walked on the water, so will it (He I think) bear us up by His holy grace and power?

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  2. Andrew Chapman says:

    As for the Greek, it is as you say difficult to decide. Not sure that one can call a clause dative. The main question – as I think you are saying – is where to punctuate. Is the clause adverbial modifying ἐκπορευόμενον with the full stop after αὐτῆς? Then the next sentence would start with Καὶ, which seems fine since verses 3-7 all start with καὶ.

    εντευθεν και εντευθεν is used elsewhere – John 19.18, Numbers 22.24 – but εντευθεν και εκειθεν may be unique? I often wonder with the Greek of Revelation whether what John is seeing can’t be expressed in normal terms.

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  3. Craig says:

    Andrew,

    Thanks for your comments. I’ll address the first.

    There is no doubt that translation necessarily involves a bit of interpretation. That said, you might like the interpretation found in most English versions. You’d certainly be in the majority. But, then, why is the ISV different from the others?

    If you wish to view this river as allegorical representing the Spirit, again, that’s your prerogative. Yet adopting that particular understanding does not mean the rendering here is necessarily wrong. In other words, the two–the river represents the Spirit and while the river and street flank the Tree of Life–are not mutually exclusive.

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  4. Craig says:

    Andrew @ 7:26 AM,

    Aren’t both μέσῳ and αὐτῆς dative? Isn’t μέσῳ dative, thereby making that clause dative?

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  5. Andrew Chapman says:

    I don’t think I mean quite ‘allegorical’ – that doesn’t sound real enough to me – there is a river proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and I am inclined to understand this as the Spirit of God proceeding from the Father and the Son.

    With the full stop after ἀρνίου: Ἐν μέσῳ τῆς πλατείας αὐτῆς καὶ τοῦ ποταμοῦ ἐντεῦθεν καὶ ἐκεῖθεν ξύλον ζωῆς we have your:

    ‘Between the city street and the river, the tree of life was visible from each side.’ [ISV]

    My feeling is that ἐν μέσῳ is more ‘in the middle’, and that μεταξύ would probably have been used to convey ‘between’. And I am not really convinced by reading ‘was visible’ as implied.

    ‘In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life,..’ [KJV]

    is wonderfully mysterious – was it one tree, or two, or three?

    Thanks a lot for raising it, it’s an interesting question.

    Andrew

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  6. Craig says:

    I’ll agree that “allegorical” was a bad choice of words on my part. Yet the river proceeds from the Throne regardless of my interpretation or yours, right?

    For me, with the river “in the midst of the street of it (the city [the pronoun is feminine])” meaning the river is either in the middle of the street or the river is dividing the street in the middle, when coupled with the (singular) Tree of Life, which is “on either side of the river” (from here and from there) means the Tree of Life is HUGE to the point it towers over both the street and river while flanking both. Aune, in his Word commentary, asserts that the singular ξύλον can be the collective singular “trees”, which can help. But, I think the intention is to bring us back to a quasi-Garden of Eden, with one Tree of Life. Of course, admittedly, that’s my interpretation.

    You’re welcome, and thank you for acknowledging that this raises the question of interpretation of translation from the Greek before one can interpret the English. I had planned on writing the basic idea behind this blog post, thinking it wouldn’t take long to put together, but upon translating, I ended up spending much more time reflecting on this than I originally envisioned.

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  7. Craig says:

    I should add that I’d not checked any of my other commentaries on Revelation (except the aforementioned Aune). Robert Mounce’s NICNT mentions the rendering provided here as an optional exegesis, and, though not committing to a particular position, notes “the specific geographical layout is of no particular importance in understanding the symbolism of the verse” (p 387). And while Osborne, in his BECNT, concedes the exegesis feasible, he dismisses it (along with another related English interpretation) as “unnecessarily complicated” (p 770). Oh that we could all be fluent in Koine Greek, thus rendering English (and other language) translation as unnecessary, and that we would readily see the (purposeful?) ambiguity of these verses!

    I want to also add the important Christological consideration that the grammar of “The Throne of God and of the Lamb” (an article preceding both “God” and “Lamb”) means the Throne ‘belongs’ to both, and that the singular pronoun after “worship” refers to the singular “Throne”, thereby implying the collective worship of God and the Lamb.

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  8. Andrew Chapman says:

    Have you seen Swete (so many wonderful commentaries on the Greek New Testament between about 1850 and maybe 1945, from the days when men still learned Greek at school, and were more rigorously trained)? He punctuates your way and ends up with ‘between the street of the City and the river, on this side and on that..’, which is not far from yours.

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  9. Craig says:

    No, I’ve never seen Swete. But I’m delighted he punctuates it the way he does! I wish those commentaries were given more visibility nowadays. So many merely parrot newer commentaries, thus saying much the same thing. I want to get Koester’s, though, to see what he says.

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  10. Craig says:

    As an aside, note the use of “Sanctuary” for naos in Rev 21:22b, as part of my preface for the exegesis of 22:1-5. I’d reached this entirely on my own (and through prayerful guidance), and I’m thrilled to discover that BDAG construes the verse the way I do! From definition c. “of heavenly sanctuary” it specifically states: “Yet there will be no temple in New Jerusalem [Rev] 21:22a; God in person is the sanctuary of the eternal city vs. 22b.” At Bible Hub note that majority render this “temple…temple”, with only a few “sanctuary…sanctuary”. I saw that, but figured John the revelator/the Spirit was playing on the ambiguity in the term, as opposed to using hierovnaos–something Jesus did in John 2.

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  11. Andrew Chapman says:

    Swete is here: https://archive.org/details/saigon_christ_hotmail_Rev – well worth a look.

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  12. Craig says:

    Thanks so much for posting the link!

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  13. SLIMJIM says:

    Thanks the comment on my post! Responding here: Yeah the riot affected where we live and actually it came to my house the second night of the riot. But God was gracious with us the police came and also I was armed.

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  14. Craig says:

    Thank God for the 2nd Amendment! Glad everything came out OK for you and yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. SLIMJIM says:

    By the grace of God

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  16. Pingback: Another Paraclete? | CrossWise

  17. Amen! I could use the healing balm of those leaves as well! I eagerly await the kingdom that is coming. I know that means current events have to get worse. Praise God hope and peace are a person and His Name is Jesus!

    Liked by 1 person

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