The Last Page

The God we meet on the last page of the Bible is triune.  The Bible tells us what we will see on the bright and cloudless morning of eternity: "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb." (Revelation 22:1).

In this life, we see through a glass darkly, but in the life to come, we will see God as He is: "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (1 John 3:2). But John the Revelator got a glimpse, even in this life, into what it will be like to live ever in the presence of God.

 And the God in whose presence we will spend eternity is triune:

  • "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever."
  • (Revelation 22:1-5).

John has introduced this "Lamb" previously; He turns up in Chapter 5: "And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne." (Revelation 5:6-7).

John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb: "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.'" (John 1:29-30). (Jesus was "before" John the Baptist not in birth order — John was born first, by about six months — but in His eternal pre-existence.)

By 'God' here, John means 'God the Father'. Scripture may use 'God' of one person of the Trinity, for instance in Hebrews 1:8, where it's the Son who is called 'God': "But to the Son He says: 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.'" It's not John's intention to rob Deity of Son and Spirit by referring to the Father as 'God'. He makes clear the Lamb's right to divine worship in Chapter 5, where "every creature" joins in the hymn of praise to God and the Lamb: "And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: 'Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!'" (Revelation 5:13).

Ezekiel Saw the Wheel
Ezekiel Saw the Wheel

So where's the Holy Spirit? Right before our faces: the "pure river of water of life". This river has turned up before on the pages of scripture:

"There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.  God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn." (Psalm 46:4-5).

This river has more than ordinary virtue. It gives life: "Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side. And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles...Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed...And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live.  There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes...Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine."" (Ezekiel 47:1-12). This great prophecy points to the Spirit:

"So, then, the Holy Spirit is the River, and the abundant River, which according to the Hebrews flowed from Jesus in the lands, as we have received it prophesied by the mouth of Isaiah. This is the great River which flows always and never fails. And not only a river, but also one of copious stream and overflowing greatness, as also David said: “The stream
of the river makes glad the city of God.”
"For neither is that city, the heavenly Jerusalem, watered by the channel of any earthly river, but that Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Fount of Life, by a short draught of Whom we are satiated, seems to flow more abundantly among those celestial Thrones, Dominions and Powers, Angels and Archangels, rushing in the full course of the seven virtues of the Spirit. For if a river rising above its banks overflows, how much more does the Spirit, rising above every creature, when He touches the as it were low-lying fields of our minds, make glad that heavenly nature of the creatures with the larger fertility of His sanctification." (Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit, Book 1, Chapter 16, Sections 177-178).

The "seven" spirits of the Revelation come from Isaiah 11:2, the one spirit having divided into channels: "And let it not trouble you that either here it is said “rivers,” or elsewhere “seven Spirits,” for by the sanctification of these seven gifts of the Spirit, as Isaiah said, is signified the fullness of all virtue; the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and godliness, and the Spirit of the fear of God. One, then, is the River, but many the channels of the girls of the Spirit. This River, then, goes forth from the Fount of Life." (Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit, Book 1, Chapter 16, Section 179).

The waters flowing from the throne of God take their start in Biblical imagery as meteorological phenomena. There is a lower sea and an upper sea known to Biblical meteorology. The waters above the sky are the oceanic reservoir contained in the storm-clouds; the waters beneath, the horizontal surface waters. Waters above the heavens are mentioned in Genesis and Psalms: "Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so." (Genesis 1:6-7). This abundant source of supply is the hope of the agriculturist, and all praise and thanks are due to God: "Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens!" (Psalm 148:4). It is from this fountain which proceed the showers of blessing: "I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing." (Ezekiel 34:26).

John M. W. Turner, Llanthony Abbey

These heavenly oceans are the water-charged storm clouds, giving life to a parched land:

"When He utters His voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens: and He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth.  He makes lightning for the rain, He brings the wind out of His treasuries." (Jeremiah 10:13).
"He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under His feet. He rode upon a cherub, and flew; and He was seen upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness canopies around Him, dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him coals of fire were kindled. The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice. He sent out arrows and scattered them; Lightning bolts, and He vanquished them." (2 Samuel 22:10-15).
"And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies." (Psalm 18:10-11).
"The LORD has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet." (Nahum 1:3).
"To Him who rides on the heaven of heavens, which were of old! Indeed, He sends out His voice, a mighty voice.  Ascribe strength to God; His excellence is over Israel, and His strength is in the clouds." (Psalm 68:33-34).

Though ordinary water is blessing enough to a parched and arid land, these physical rains which descend are emblematic of a higher reality, the Holy Spirit's descent: "For there is a health-giving shower of salutary grace, as David also said: “He came down like rain upon a fleece. and like drops that drop upon the earth.” The divine Scriptures promised us this rain upon the whole earth, to water the world with the dew of the Divine Spirit at the coming of the Savior. The Lord, then, has now come, and the rain has come; the Lord has come bringing the heavenly drops with Him, and so now we drink, who before were thirsty, and with an interior draught drink in that Divine Spirit." (Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit, Book 1, Introduction, Section 8). It is the Holy Spirit who is meant as the final ascending reference: "This is that typical dew from heaven, this is that gracious rain. . ." (Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit, Book 1, Introduction, Section 18).

  • ". . .I understand the making the firmament to signify that, so far as man is concerned, most magnificent ordinance of the clouds;-- the ordinance, that as the great plain of waters was formed on the face of the earth, so also a plain of waters should be stretched along the height of air, and the face of the cloud answer the face of the ocean; and that this upper and heavenly plain should be of waters, as it were, glorified in their nature, no longer quenching the fire, but now bearing fire in their own bosoms; no longer murmuring only when the winds raise them or rocks divide, but answering each other with their own voices from pole to pole; no longer restrained by established shores, and guided through unchanging channels, but going forth at their pleasure like the armies of the angels, and choosing their encampments upon the heights of the hills; no longer hurried downwards for ever, moving but to fall, nor lost in lightless accumulation of the abyss, but covering the east and west with the waving of their wings, and robing the gloom of the farther infinite with a vesture of divers colors, of which the threads are purple and scarlet, and the embroideries flame."
  • (John Ruskin, Modern Painters, Volume 4, Part V, Chapter VI, The Firmament, 8).

All of nature is God's domain, “They do not say in their heart, 'Let us now fear the Lord our God, who gives rain, both the former and the latter, in its season.” (Jeremiah 5:24), but in a special way, thunder is heard playing a role in God's theophany, and the slashing rain-storms reveal His presence:

"The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were afraid; the depths also trembled.  The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about.  The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook." (Psalm 77:16-18).
"He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters, Who makes the clouds His chariot, Who walks on the wings of the wind, Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire." (Psalm 104:3-4).

"He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them. He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it. He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end." (Job 26:8-10 KJV).

"The Lord will cause His glorious voice to be heard, and show the descent of His arm, with the indignation of His anger and the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, tempest, and hailstones." (Isaiah 30:30).

“When He utters His voice— there is a multitude of waters in the heavens: 'He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightnings for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries.'” (Jeremiah 51:16).
"Or who shut in the sea with doors, When it burst forth and issued from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; when I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; when I said, 'This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!' ...Have you entered the treasury of snow, or have you seen the treasury of hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?... Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water, or a path for the thunderbolt, to cause it to rain on a land where there is no one, a wilderness in which there is no man..." (Job 38:8-26)

What is the significance of these revelatory downpours? How can such a prosaic aspect of earthly life intimate God's presence? God made this lower world to be like a child's picture book, with colorful imagery providing us a lesson in color of God's eternal design. Nature and revelation are works produced by the same author, and accordingly display common themes: "There is a certain type of thought which God has followed in all things. What He made with His Word has a similarity to the Word itself by which He made it; and the visible is the symbol of the invisible, because the same thought of God runs through it all." (Spurgeon, Charles H. Lectures to My Students (p. 406). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.) Thus, the visible rain-storms signify and symbolize the spiritual rain: "See, the streams of living waters, Springing from eternal love, Well supply thy sons and daughters And all fear of want remove: Who can faint while such a river Ever flows their thirst to assuage? Grace which, like the Lord, the Giver, Never fails from age to age." (John Newton, Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken).

The thunder-storm shows God's grandeur, power and majesty:

"When in a sultry summer day the sky gets overcast, and angry clouds gather thick upon its brow, and bush and brake are silent, and the very cattle, like human beings, draw close together, standing dumb in their untasted pastures, and while there is no ripple on the lake, nor leaf stirring on the tree, all nature seems struck with awe, and stands in trembling expectation; then, when the explosion comes, and a blinding stream of fire leaps from the cloud, and as if heaven's riven vault were tumbling down upon our head, the thunders crash, peal, roar along the sky, he has neither poetry, nor piety, nor sense, who does not reverently bow his head and assent to the words of David, 'The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.'" (Thomas Guthrie, The Gospel in Ezekiel, Chapter XXII, Kindle location 4404).

When you walk out of the house in the morning, the tableaux that great your eyes, the impromptu symphonies you hear, come from the hand of the Master artist: "Slowly I became aware of the melodic sound of the water striking the keys of thousands of river rocks as it flowed downstream. I sat there almost mesmerized by the music that rose from the river as the water crashed and bounced off the rocks. Then, I heard God speak to my heart."
(Heidebrecht, Vern (2010-01-01). Hearing God's Voice (Kindle Locations 928-930). David C Cook.)

Readers who follow contemporary secular Bible study are accustomed to hearing a different interpretation of these verses. Modern scholars understand the Psalms as hymns to alien gods. The pagans applied the economic principle of specialization of labor to the heavens, and unfortunately today's secular Bible scholars follow their lead. In reality all of nature is under God's sovereignty, including the weather: "He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; He casts out His hail like morsels; Who can stand before His cold? He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow." (Psalm 147:15-18). However in the pagan pantheon this sole sovereignty is splintered into a division of labor. Those Bible critics who take paganism as normative will tell you the Lord is a 'storm-god' like Baal: "The divine qualities resemble those of the Canaanite god Baal as described in the second millennium BC literature of Ugarit, a city on the northern coast of Lebanon." (Israel: Ancient Kingdom or Late Invention?, edited Daniel I. Block, Kindle location 1181). But the living God is no specialist, He is a generalist! Nothing in nature falls outside of His sway. It's not that Baal isn't called, by his devotees, the 'rider on the clouds:' "Seven years Baal will fail Eight years the rider of the clouds, no dew, no rain." (quoted Kindle location 440, John D. Currid, Against the Gods). It's just that he doesn't deliver: "When the great Hebrew prophet Elijah makes his first appearance in Scripture, he is pictured confronting Ahab, the king of Israel. The prophet pronounces a curse upon Israel in the name of Yahweh, that 'there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word' (1 Kings 17:1). . .It is critical to note that the form of punishment is lack of rain. This is purposeful and a directed curse: Israel has been worshipping Baal, who is the Canaanite god of storms and rain. The reality is that Baal does not control those elements of nature; only Yahweh does." (John D. Currid, Against the Gods, Kindle location 470.) Jehovah is not a pale, derivative imitation of Baal, as the secular scholars propose: Baal is a fake, a non-entity. Nature belongs to the living God. Some of the features of the natural world form part of the Lord's theophany in a distinctive way, by design, as a testimony.

Rain brings life to a desert land. "As, then, the seeds and plants in the earth, when watered, grow and sprout and are prolific in producing fruit, but, if no water be poured on them, wither away, so the soul, as is evident, when it is fostered with a fresh sweet stream of wisdom shoots up and improves." (Philo Judaeus, The Posterity and Exile of Cain, Chapter XXXVI, p. 401 Loeb edition). The meteorological fountain of life-giving waters flowing onto a parched land symbolizes the spiritual fount: "Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is counted as a forest." (Isaiah 32:15). Precious as water is in an arid land, there is another river flowing from the throne of God, of greater worth than the visible watercourses.  Robert Lowry's great hymn tells of this river: "Shall we gather at the river, Where bright angel feet have trod, With its crystal tide forever, Flowing by the throne of God? Yes, we'll gather at the river, The beautiful, the beautiful river, Gather with the saints at the river That flows by the throne of God." (Robert Lowry, Shall We Gather at the River?).

The waters of this river give wisdom: "The words of a man's mouth are deep waters; the wellspring of wisdom is a flowing brook." (Proverbs 18:4).  Jesus promised these waters to the woman at the well: "Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.  But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:13).

The promised fountain of life-giving water is the Holy Spirit: "For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring; they will spring up among the grass like willows by the watercourses." (Isaiah 44:3-4).

This is the life-giving stream Jesus promised the woman at the well: "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." (John 7:37-39).

The Odes of Solomon is a piece of extra-Biblical literature of doubtful orthodoxy, but this bit about the life-giving waters is too good to pass up quoting it:

"As the hand moves over the harp and the strings speak
so the spirit of the Lord speaks in my members
and I speak by his love,
"for he destroys what is foreign
and bitter.
"So he was from the beginning
and will be to the end:
nothing will be his adversary
nor resist him.
"The Lord multiplied his knowledge
and was zealous to make us know what he gives us
through his grace.
"He gave us praise for his name
and our spirits praise his holy spirit.
"A stream went forth
and became a long and broad river.
It flooded and broke and carried away the Temple.
Ordinary men could not stop it,
nor could those whose art is to halt the waters.
"And it spread over the face of the whole earth,
filling everything,
and the thirsty of the earth drank
and their thirst was quenched.
"The drink came from the highest one...
"They gave strength to our feebleness
and light to our eyes.
"Everyone knew them in the Lord
and by the water they lived forever."
(Ode 6, The Odes of Solomon).

The expansion into flood of the living waters is looked for also in the inspired scriptures,

“And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be— 'The LORD is one,' and His name one.” (Zechariah 14:8-9).

Hallelujah — the God in whose presence we will spend eternity is Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

True GodOnly One GodThe Father is GodThe Son is GodThe Holy Spirit is God

Holy, Holy, Holy