Based on Genesis 9:3—“Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you”1— would it not be correct to conclude that after the Flood humans were allowed to eat the flesh of both clean and unclean animals?
The passage does seem to support your suggestion, but only if its context is ignored. There are also matters related to the meaning of the terminology used that have to be taken into consideration as we seek to better understand this passage.
1. Clean and Unclean Animals:The narrative of the Deluge introduces a distinction between clean and unclean animals for the first time in the Bible. The text appears to assume that they could be distinguished from each other, even though they all belonged to the same general categories of animals: cattle (or beasts), birds, and creeping creatures (Gen. 6:18, 19; 7:2, 3; 8:17). The distinction antedates the giving of the law of clean/unclean animals to the Israelites in Sinai (Lev. 11). Although in the Flood narrative we are not given an explicit rationale for the distinction, the differentiation plays an important role in the narrative. The value of clean animals is particularly emphasized by taking seven pairs of each of them into the ark, while only one pair of the unclean are preserved.
All animals are taken into the ark for survival purposes, in order to preserve their class. After the Flood they would multiply and populate the earth again (Gen. 9:17). But in the case of clean animals more was intended than survival. This is indicated by that which took place immediately after Noah and the animals came out of the ark. Noah “built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it” (Gen. 8:20). Clean animals were used as sacrificial victims offered to God in gratitude for the preservation of Noah and his family. These sacrifices were placed on His altar (the table of the Lord, so to speak), and He accepted them.
2. Terminology Used:The phrase “everything that lives and moves” appears to be all-inclusive, but that’s not necessarily the case. “Everything,” or “all,” is used in the story to refer to “all” unclean animals (Gen. 6:19) as well as to “all” clean animals (Gen. 7:2). The phrase “that lives and moves” is problematic and is not employed anywhere else in the Flood narrative. While “what lives” is used in other parts of the story to refer to living creatures (Gen. 6:19; 8:21), “what moves” (Hebrew remes´, “creeping things”) designates mainly small animals such as reptiles (e.g., Gen. 6:7; 7:23). A literal translation would read “All living creeping animals will be food for you.” The other possibility is to interpret the Hebrew term as designating animals in general based on the use of the verb rather than on the use of the noun (e.g., Gen. 7:21; Ps. 104:20). This is the most common interpretation of the phrase among Bible students. But the singularity of the expression, as well as the use of “all/everything” to designate all clean or unclean animals, suggest that the biblical writer was not necessarily referring to all types of animals, only to clean ones.
3. Dietary Determination: The passage is about food for humans and therefore regulates human diet. God modified the human diet immediately after the Fall, allowing Adam and Eve to eat “green plants” (Gen. 9:3). Interestingly, according to Genesis 1:30, the phrase “green plants” (yereq ce-s´ev) was a general designation for the food of animals. But in Genesis 9:3 the same phrase is used to refer to “seed-bearing plants” (e.g., legumes and cereals), as indicated in Genesis 3:18. The all-inclusive phrase “green plants” is not all-inclusive but is restricted to the meaning found in Genesis 3:18. Now the Lord is allowing humans to eat animal flesh as food for them; and again, it is not flesh in general but certain types of it. The context strongly indicates that this is the flesh of all clean animals. Humans are allowed to bring to their tables the same type of food that goes to the table of the Lord.
Ioften hear this question from unmarried people, and occasionally from a spouse. The unmarried want to know because if there’s no marriage in heaven, they want to get married and have children now. I’m not sure why those who are married ask the question, but in most cases it appears they would like to continue the relationship in heaven. (In some cases they may be looking forward to being free from the relationship!) The Bible provides a clear answer that seems to create a theological problem.
1. The Answer From Jesus: Jesus was asked this question by Sadducees who hoped to disprove the doctrine of the resurrection. They presented a hypothetical case based on the biblical law of Levirate—where the brother of a man who died without having children would marry the former husband’s wife in order to have children for the dead man (see Deut. 25:5, 6). The Sadducees told Jesus about seven brothers who, in fulfilling that law, had to marry the same woman because none of them had children with her. This was their question: “Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife” (Mark 12:23). It was an attempt to discredit the idea of the resurrection.
Jesus charged them with ignorance: they didn’t know what the Scriptures teach about the resurrection, much less the power of a God who is able to bring the dead to life. He then addressed the unspoken premise of the question. The Sadducees assumed that life after the resurrection would be a continuation of life as we know it now. Jesus surprised them by pointing to a significant element of discontinuity: “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (verse 25). According to Luke, Jesus clarified the thought by saying they will “neither marry nor [be] given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:35, 36). At the resurrection people will not get married, because in the absence of death there is no need to perpetuate the human race through reproduction. In that sense humans will be like the angels, who don’t have to marry because they don’t die.
2. Theological Implications: Jesus’ answer creates in the mind of some a theological dilemma: If marriage, like the Sabbath, was instituted before the entrance of sin, why would it be incompatible with life in the new age? Would not this suggest that sin was able to damage a divine institution beyond repair, and that evil somehow thwarted divine intention for humanity?
These important questions deserve comment, even though we may not be able to provide final answers. In order to deal with the theological issue raised here I have to assume that God did not originally intend marriage to be a permanent or eternal social institution. This idea seems to be hinted at in Genesis. Marriage had two clear and closely related functions: procreation and companionship. Procreation had a very specific goal—“Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28)—implying that in the absence of death once that goal was achieved procreation would come to an end. This was confirmed by Jesus in His answer to the Sadducees.
Marriage as an expression of companionship was, in the absence of sin, transcended by a deeper fellowship and union with God. It is to this deeper—and at the present time—mysterious experience that Jesus referred to when He said that the resurrected ones “are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36, NIV).* This refers to an experience of family life that goes infinitely deeper than marriage, enriching us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. Our circle of loved ones will reach cosmic dimensions in the purity of unselfish love.
What can you tell us about Nimrod, spoken of in Genesis 10:8-12?
The person of Nimrod is intriguing, and we find a significant amount of speculation about him in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic writings. What makes him intriguing is the fact that in the Table of Nations (Gen. 10) he is the only person about whom we have a statement of achievements, although what is said about him is somewhat sketchy. We will say something about possible historical parallels, examine what the biblical text says, and briefly mention some of postbiblical speculation about him.
1. Nimrod in History:The biblical text describes Nimrod as a person who lived in the area of Mesopotamia. Scholars have tried unsuccessfully to find an ancient Near Eastern parallel that matches what the Bible says about him. He has been identified with Gilgamesh, the person who, according to Babylonian literature, survived the Flood, but that theory has been rejected. More popular is to find in him traces of the god Ninurta, a Mesopotamian fertility god. But again the parallels are not strong enough to prove the case. Besides, the biblical text in no way suggests that Nimrod was divine. What we know about him is what Scripture says.
2. Nimrod in the Bible:The first thing the text mentions about Nimrod is that he “became a mighty warrior on earth” (Gen. 10:8, NIV),1 probably meaning that he was the first of such a type (cf. Gen. 9:20). The word “mighty” means, as the passage indicates, that he was politically and militarily powerful. With him began a new breed of leaders whose intention was to become more and more powerful. Second, he is described as a “mighty hunter” (verse 9), which means not only that he was a good hunter, but also that he was a powerful military conqueror.
The phrase “before the Lord” has proved difficult to interpret. The main difficulty is deciding whether it means that the Lord cared for Nimrod, or that Nimrod was acting in defiance of the Lord—“against Him” (Ps. 66:7, NIV). The fact that Nimrod is directly associated with Babylon and the land of Shinar implies a negative connection with the Lord. Besides, if we go by the Hebrew meaning of the name Nimrod (“we will rebel”), the implication is that he acted in rebellion against God.
If this interpretation is correct, the proverb cited in the text—“Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord’”—would refer to a powerful person acting against the will of God.
Third, he is described as the first person who established a kingdom (“the first centers of his kingdom” [Gen. 10:10, NIV]; “the beginning of his kingdom” [verse 10]). It was based in the ancient cities of Babel (Babylon), Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the region called Shinar—Lower Mesopotamia. From there Nimrod went north to possess the land of Assyria (verse 11)—Upper Mesopotamia (see Micah 5:6).
3. Nimrod and Postbiblical Speculations: Jewish tradition argues that Nimrod was the first hunter, and therefore, the person who introduced meat to the human diet. Tradition says he was involved in the construction of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-4), and after the people were dispersed he stayed in Shinar to build his kingdom. Both Jewish and Islamic traditions indicate that there was a hostile relationship between Nimrod and Abraham. The main reason was that Nimrod was an idolater, while Abraham was called by the Lord to worship Him alone. Some versions of the tradition say that Nimrod placed Abraham in a furnace of fire so hot that its flames killed thousands, but Abraham emerged unharmed. In some traditions he is identified with Amraphel, one of the kings who attacked Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 14:1) and who were defeated by Abraham. The traditions and speculations, with rare exceptions, depict Nimrod as a symbol of evil.
I have summarized some of the postbiblical views about Nimrod in order to alert you to the danger of going beyond what is written. Those traditions should not be used to define personal convictions, or to speculate about the prophetic role of Babylon. We can only affirm what the biblical text says about Nimrod.
1 Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright ã 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Why did David support the request of the Gibeonites to kill Saul’s seven sons in 2 Samuel 21:1-9?
The text provides an answer, but it does not explicitly state the legal ground for the decision. In order to answer your question, we have to understand the nature of Saul’s crime, and the law that applied in such a case. This requires reviewing some background information and discussing legal materials.
1. Some Background: The Gibeonites were Canaanites who, during the Israelite conquest of the land under the leadership of Joshua, resorted to a ruse out of fear of extermination. After telling Joshua they had heard about the fame of his God, they expressed their desire to make a peace treaty with the Israelites. When asked where they were from, they deceived the Israelites by telling them that they came from a distant country and that they simply wanted to be their servants (Joshua 9:7-11). In fact, they lived a few miles northwest of Jerusalem. Without inquiring from the Lord, the Israelites made a covenant of peace with the Gibeonites that preserved their lives (verses 14, 15). Three days later the Israelites discovered the deception. But they could do nothing about it, because, as part of the covenant ceremony, they had taken an oath before the Lord that they would spare the Gibeonites, who dwelt among the Israelites as their servants.
2. Nature of the Crime: Several centuries later Saul decided to rescind the covenant of peace with the Gibeonites. According to the Gibeonites, Saul was the man who “consumed [kālah] us and who planned to exterminate [shāmad] us” (2 Sam. 21:5, NASB).1 The Hebrew verb kālahmeans “to bring to an end,” which in context expresses the idea of attempting to finish them. The verb shāmad strengthens that idea by emphasizing the attempt to totally destroy them. The biblical writer confirms this charge by stating that Saul “tried to annihilate [nākah, to inflict a dead blow] them” (2 Sam. 21:2, NIV).2 Saul did this “in his zeal for Israel and Judah.” So for nationalistic reasons Saul was guilty of attempted genocide. David became aware of this situation after consulting the Lord concerning a famine in Israel that had lasted for three years. He called the Gibeonites and asked them what could be done to expiate the sin of Saul and his family. This was a case of bloodguilt. 3. Legal Basis:In the Bible bloodguilt occurs when life is illegally taken from someone. Unjustified killing was often premeditated murder. In such cases the blood of the victim was on the hands or the head of the perpetrator—he or she was legally responsible for it. This illicit spilling of blood contaminated the land, and the only way to cleanse it from this stain was through the blood of the culprit (Num. 35:33). In some cases a blood avenger would legally request that the crime be redressed. But the Gibeonites’ lack of power made it impossible for them to bring the king of Israel to justice, and the crime was consequently ignored (see 2 Sam. 21:4). That’s when the Lord took their case in His own hands and allowed the bloodguilt to fall on the land in the form of a prolonged famine.
The crime committed by Saul was illegal not only in that there was no justifiable reason for it, but particularly because he violated an oath made before the Lord that protected the Gibeonites. His nationalism was more important to him than obeying the Lord. In cases of bloodguilt the verdict was clear: Retribution in kind—the punishment should correspond to the crime (cf. Lev. 24:21, 22). Attempted genocide could have resulted in the extermination of Saul’s family. But the Gibeonites and David agreed in limiting the extent of the enforcement of the law to the execution of seven descendants of Saul. Justice was done.
Abuse of power is not overlooked by the Lord, who in His goodness, love, and justice has appointed a day of judgment when the crimes of the human race will be addressed in righteousness. Meanwhile, we should practice justice and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
In Luke 10:38-41 why did Jesus reprimand Martha for asking Mary to help her in the kitchen?
I’m not sure I would call it a “reprimand,” but I understand what I assume is your main concern. Jesus’ unwillingness to allow Mary to help Martha in preparing the meal gives the impression that providing food for others in spirit of service is incompatible with listening to Jesus. It seems to appear that Jesus is devaluing the work of women at home. But before reaching any conclusions, we should examine the text from the perspective of the teachings of Jesus, taking into consideration some contemporary cultural practices.
1.Martha is the host: As Jesus approaches the village where Martha and Mary live, Martha goes out and invites Him to come to her house. This act of genuine hospitality is one Jesus is willing to accept. Luke tells about other cases of people who invited Jesus to come into their homes. Levi invited Jesus to his home for a banquet (Luke 5:27-29); Pharisees (Luke 7:36; 11:37) and even a prominent Pharisee (Luke 14:1) invited Jesus to their homes. In the case of Zacchaeus, Jesus invited Himself; but the publican was delighted to receive Him (Luke 19:5, 6). The case of Martha is the only example we have of Jesus accepting table fellowship offered by a female host. Jesus accepted such invitations in order to break down barriers, demonstrate that His ministry was all-inclusive (Luke 7:33-35), and teach and illustrate through His own conduct what God’s kingdom is like. Sitting at the table was not simply a matter of eating, but a unique opportunity to teach those who invited Him. Martha invited Jesus knowing that she was responsible for the food and that the Rabbi would use her home as a teaching center.
2. Concern for food: Jesus was probably not traveling alone. Consequently, Martha had to prepare food for several persons. The text says that Martha “was distracted [literally, “distracted/dragged away”] by all the preparations that had to be made” (Luke 10:40, NIV)* by all the household service. She was overburdened with the amount of work that had to be done for the honored guest. Mary, knowing that during the table fellowship the Rabbi would teach, decided to sit beside Him, at His feet, the posture of a disciple who is eager to learn from the teacher. Jesus’ primary purpose for table fellowship was being fulfilled.
The request Martha made to Jesus is understandable. She needed help in order to fulfill her responsibilities as host properly. The contrasts are interesting: Mary is silent while being instructed; Martha speaks with a request for the teacher. Jesus’ response is kind but clear. The double vocative—“Martha, Martha”—expresses sympathy and emotional attachment. He cares for her and for what she is doing, but she has to understand that there is something more important than material bread. The issue becomes one of priorities. He seems to tell her that it is not necessary to provide for Him an extraordinary meal; she needn’t overextend herself. He tells her that His table fellowship aims primarily at sharing the message of the kingdom of God. Since the question is one of priorities, Mary has chosen the best portion (meal).
3.Women as students: What Jesus did in Martha’s house was extraordinary in the setting of contemporary Jewish practice. In general, women were barely exposed to formal education. They were instructed at home by their mothers in matters related to the laws of purity and uncleanness and their household responsibilities. That a rabbi would personally instruct a woman was almost unthinkable in first-century Judaism. Women could learn in the synagogue, but their attendance at the synagogue was sporadic on account of their monthly ovulation and the fact that they had to take care of their children. In that setting the event in the house of Martha is special. Jesus is teaching Mary, and is asking Martha to come and learn from Him. At the same time, He’s lightening her load and freeing her in order to make her more efficient in His service. She could also be a disciple.
In many Bible versions the word “remnant” is not found in Revelation 12:17. Is it correct to insist that the passage refers to a remnant?
In order to answer your question I have to deal with Hebrew and Greek terminology. Please stay with me as I examine the evidence. Based on the meaning of that terminology and its use in Revelation, I maintain that the concept of the remnant is found in Revelation 12:17.
1. Theological Comment: The Scripture consistently teaches that God has always had a remnant people. As the enemy of God has attempted to destroy God’s servants, the Lord has always preserved a group of faithful followers through whom He continues to fulfill His salvific design for humanity. This remnant has played a significant role in the cosmic conflict, and its very existence indicates that God is still directly involved in the conflict on behalf of His servants. At the time of the end the dragon and its allies have one common goal: the extermination of what is left of God’s people (Rev. 13:15). At that critical hour in the conflict, God is again preserving for Himself a faithful remnant that keep His commandments and have the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 12:17).
2. Greek Terminology: In Revelation 12:17 the Greek adjective translated “remnant” is loipos. According to Greek dictionaries, it refers to what remains or is left after a particular action has taken place and can be translated as “the rest” (Rev. 9:20), “the remnant,” or “those who remain” (see Rev. 11:13). In some contexts it could also mean “others” (see Acts 2:37). Loipos belongs to a family of words directly related to the idea of the remnant. The verb leipō means “to leave behind/over; to lack” (Titus 1:5; 3:13) and is found in several variant compounds. For instance:kataleipō = “to leave behind,” “to leave a remainder” (see Rom. 11:4); hupoleipō = “to leave a remainder” (see verse 3), and perileipomai = “to leave behind” (see 1 Thess. 4:15, 17). The verb and the different verbal compounds could be used to express the idea of a remnant, to what remains or is left.
The Greek version of the Old Testament uses the verb leipō to translate the Hebrew verbs ša´ar(“to be left remaining”) and palat (“to escape”). The Greek verb and its variant compounds are sometimes used to refer to a surviving remnant (e.g., Isa. 10:19). This information indicates that the concept of a remnant is not foreign to the verbs. Concerning the noun loipos, used in Revelation 12:17, the Greek version used it to translate the Hebrew terms yeter (“remnant”) andšecēcerit (“remnant”). Again, it expresses the concept of a remnant. The evidence summarized above indicates that in the case of loipos we are dealing with a term that is closely associated with the idea of a remnant—what remains or is left behind.
3. Context: The use of remnant terminology in the book of Revelation clearly supports and reaffirms the conviction that the concept is present in Revelation 12:17. The word “remnant” (loipos) is used eight times in Revelation. It is used to refer to the rest of the trumpets (Rev. 8:13), to those who survive after a catastrophe (Rev. 9:20: the rest of the people not destroyed during the sixth trumpet; Rev. 11:13: the inhabitants of the city who were not killed; the survivors), the rest of the worshippers of the beast who were finally killed (Rev. 19:21), and the rest of the dead resurrected after the millennium (Rev. 20:5). The word is also used to designate God’s people. In the church of Sardis there is a remnant, but the church is exhorted to wake up because that remnant is about to die (Rev. 3:2). In the church of Thyatira a faithful remnant has rejected the teachings of Jezebel (Rev. 2:24).
This concern for a faithful remnant in Revelation, together with the use of the biblical terminology and the teaching that God has always preserved for Himself in the cosmic conflict a faithful remnant, supports the conclusion that the term loipos in Revelation 12:17 is referring to God’s remnant at the time when the conflict is to come to an end.
What is the significance of the ark of the covenant?
The ark of the covenant was the most important piece of furniture in the Israelite tabernacle/Temple. It was a wooden box, plated with gold, about four feet two inches long and 30" x 30". It originally contained only the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The box was covered by a slab of gold on which two cherubim were carved as one piece with the cover. The ark was a symbol of the presence and power of the Lord. Since it represented the presence of the Lord, the ark came to express several important ideas about the Lord.
1.Place of Revelation: God’s residence among the Israelites was a place from which He communicated with and manifested Himself to His people. He said to Moses, “Above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites” (Ex. 25:22, NIV; cf. Num. 7:89).* In one case the Israelites went to where the ark was located to consult the Lord before going to war, and He answered them (Judges 20:27). It is amazing that our God would make Himself available to His people at a particular space—in this case the tabernacle, and within it the space between the two cherubim on the ark of the covenant.
2.Place of Worship: Since the ark, located in the Most Holy Place of the Temple, was a symbol of the Lord, people worshipped Him in the direction of the tabernacle/Temple: “I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place” (Ps. 28:2; cf. 138:2). Joshua fell and prayed before the ark, and the Lord answered him (Joshua 7:6-11). The Israelites did not worship the ark, but they sought the Lord there as the place where He would meet with them, and where they could offer Him their prayers and praises.
3.Place of the King: The Lord was the king of His people, and the ark represented Him as such. The psalmist refers to God as the “Shepherd [King] of Israel” who sits “enthroned between the cherubim” (Ps. 80:1). Hezekiah used the same expression and added, “You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth” (2 Kings 19:15; cf. 2 Sam. 6:2). This does not mean that the ark was the throne of God, but that it represented Him as king of the earth. As king, the Lord led His people from the ark in military campaigns. When they moved as an army, the ark/Lord led the way (Num. 10:33, 35); when they walked into the Jordan River carrying the ark, the river stopped flowing (Joshua 3:13); and in Jericho the presence of the Lord, represented by the ark, led the people to victory (Joshua 6).
The ark was a symbol, not the Lord Himself. The presence of the ark in war did not necessarily mean that the Lord was present among His people. His presence was directly connected to covenant faithfulness. When the covenant was violated, the presence of the ark was useless, and God’s people were defeated (1 Sam. 4:1-11).
4.Place of Judgment and Mercy: The ark is often called the “ark of the testimony” because the covenant law—the Ten Commandments—was placed inside it as a testimony to the covenant relationship between God and Israel. The law was the rule of life; its violation was a serious matter that had to be addressed by the Covenant Lord. The sacrificial system dealt in different ways with the sin of the people and their need for atonement. But the law inside the ark was covered with the mercy seat, or “atonement cover” (Ex. 25:17), the place of atonement—suggesting that God’s last word for us is mercy in the form of atonement through blood.
The New Testament would identify this blood with the blood of the Son of God. He now intercedes for us before the ark of the Lord in the heavenly temple, in the presence of the King of the universe, leading His people in the final conflict, mediating our worship, and assuring us forgiveness and acquittal in the final judgment during the eschatological day of atonement.
Why is the Spirit called “Counselor” in the Gospel of John?
The Greek term parakletos, translated “counselor” in some Bible versions, does not have an exact English equivalent. It was used in Greek literature to refer to a person called to someone’s aid, or who appeared on another’s behalf as a counselor, intercessor, mediator, helper, or as an advocate in a court of law. When Jesus applies it to the Holy Spirit, it reveals something about the nature and functions of the Spirit. Since the term is used exclusively in the writings of John, I will examine those passages.
1.Jesus and the Counselor: In John, as well as in the rest of the New Testament, Jesus and the Spirit are very closely connected. But they are not the same person. In John Jesus identifies theparakletos with the Spirit (16:15), the Holy Spirit (14:26), and the Spirit of truth (14:17; 15:26; 16:13). In other words, He used new terminology to refer to the Holy Spirit. When Jesus says “another Counselor” (14:16, HCSB; cf. 1 John 2:1),1 implying that He is also a counselor, He is clearly making a distinction between Himself and the Spirit. The difference between the two is also accentuated by the fact that the Spirit (parakletos) will be sent by the Father at the request of the Son (14:16, 26). Finally, the difference between the two is indicated by the fact that the coming of the Spirit will take place after Jesus returns to the Father (16:7). The Spirit (parakletos) will remain with His people forever (14:16). So unlike Jesus, the Spirit will not return to the Father while God’s people are still in the world. He will take the place of Jesus on earth.
2. Functions of the Counselor: Three main functions are assigned to the Spirit (parakletos). He is a teacher: He “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (14:26, NIV).2 The Spirit will build up the church on the basis of the teachings of Jesus by reminding the disciples of His teachings and revealing their depths of meaning. He will also reveal to them the eschatological content of the message of Jesus (16:13). It is only in that sense that the Spirit “will guide you into all the truth” (16:13, NIV).
Second, and closely related to the previous one, the Spirit will glorify Jesus. Jesus is glorified when the Spirit takes what belongs to Jesus and reveals it to us (16:14). He glorifies Himself, not by providing for us new things, but by telling us that what we receive is all from Jesus.
Third, the role of the Spirit is to witness on behalf of Jesus and His people against the world. The coming of the Spirit testifies to the fact that believers belong to God, thus radicalizing the distinction between them and the world. Together with believers, the Spirit also testifies on behalf of Jesus by calling people to come to Jesus as the exalted one (15:25, 26). His testimony against the world addresses its rejection of Jesus, the sin that characterizes it, and the judgment of God against evil (16:8-11).
3. Nature of the Spirit:By calling the Spirit “another Counselor” Jesus has established once and for all that the Spirit is a person like Him. Although the Greek noun “spirit” (pneuma) is neuter (and some refer to the Spirit as “it”), the noun “counselor” (parakletos) is masculine and personal. The Spirit is not an “it,” but a personal divine being. His divinity is addressed by Jesus when He says that the Spirit “proceeds from the Father” (15:26). The verb “proceeds from” (ekperuomai) points to the place of origin of the Spirit. His natural place of existence is within the mystery of the Godhead, and it is God who sends Him. By identifying the Spirit as a parakletos, Jesus has provided for us a way of thinking about the Spirit as a person.
We can visualize Him as a counselor, as a person who helps us in time of need (comforter), and who accompanies us during our pilgrimage, sustaining, transforming, and revealing to us what belongs to Jesus. The Spirit speaks for us and to us; He is the parakletos.
In what sense are the leaves of the tree of life, mentioned in Revelation 22:2, used for the healing of the nations?
Since the verse you refer to describes life in the New Jerusalem, I assume that you are concerned about the need for healing in the new earth. Good. Now the truth: the biblical text does not directly answer your question. So in looking for an answer, if there is one, we’ll have to examine other texts and draw some conclusions. But first let’s look at “leaves” in the Bible.
1. Leaves and More Leaves: Leaves in the Bible have both negative and positive connotations. A tree with green leaves is an expression of beauty and fertility; a tree whose leaves are withering signals death or the absence of fertility. The withering of leaves represents the damage of sin on the flora, as well as on God’s people (Isa. 1:30; Jer. 8:13). Green leaves are a symbol of prosperity and renewal of life (Prov. 11:28; Ps. 1:3); even of hope (Gen. 8:11). The beauty of a tree with abundant foliage was a symbol of fertility and played an important role in Canaanite religion (1 Kings 14:23; Eze. 6:14). Sin damaged trees, yet they were still useful. In some cases leaves could be medicinal—e.g., the leaves of a sycamore tree were used to dress wounds.
2.Other Biblical Passages: In Revelation the New Jerusalem is described as a garden with abundant water and beautiful flora (Rev. 22:1-3). The image of a garden has the purpose of alerting the reader concerning its connection with the narrative of the Garden of Eden. In both cases you have abundant water and the tree of life (Rev. 22:1, 2; Gen. 2:9-11). In the case of Eden, the tree of life is clearly associated with the perpetuity of human life (Gen. 3:22). After sin humans were barred from access to this tree. The tree of life was not a symbol of healing. The connection between trees, leaves, and healing is found in Ezekiel 47:1-12. The prophet saw a small stream of water flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, then to the south. The stream became a deep river whose waters reached the Dead Sea, bringing life to it (verses 8, 9). On the banks of the river were many trees: “Their leaves will not dry up. . . . Every month they will bear fruit. . . . And their leaves will be used for healing” (verse 12, NIrV).1 In both Ezekiel and Revelation the river flows from God’s temple and the leaves of the trees bring healing. In Ezekiel there are many trees—but no tree of life; in Revelation there appears to be only one tree located on both banks of the river. In both cases we are taken back to the original condition of the earth. Ezekiel does not explicitly state the nature of the healing produced by the leaves of the tree.
3.Healing and the New Jerusalem: The information we have gathered is helpful but does not clearly answer your question. We can affirm that in the New Jerusalem nature is restored to its original beauty and fruitfulness; leaves will never wither again. With respect to the tree of life, now God’s people have access to it (Rev. 2:7; 22:14), and its leaves are for the “healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2). This healing may be associated with what is mentioned in the next verse: “There will no longer be any curse” (verse 3, NIrV). This is the ultimate healing more specifically described in Revelation 21:4: There will be no crying, death, mourning, or pain. The curse of sin will be gone! The true tree of life, Jesus Christ, will heal humans and nature.
If that is true, we could suggest that once “restored to the tree of life in the long-lost Eden, the redeemed will ‘grow up’ (Malachi 4:2) to the full stature of the race in its primeval glory. The last lingering traces of the curse of sin will be removed” (The Great Controversy, p. 645).
Furthermore, eating of the leaves of the tree of life throughout eternity could also function—I am speculating here—as an act of worship memorializing that our healing was possible through Jesus. Could we call this preventive medicine?
The meaning of the Hebrew term śārāph (plural, śerāphîm) is uncertain. Most suggest that it is derived from the verb śārāph, which means “to burn completely.” The noun śārāph would then mean “the burning/fiery one.” Many believe that the term designates a serpentlike creature, but this is far from certain. We have to examine the biblical evidence and the different uses of the term.
1. Śerāphîm and Serpents:A number of passages associate śerāphîm with serpents. As a result of the Israelites’ rebellion in the wilderness the Lord sent “venomous [śerāphîm] snakes among them” (Num. 21:6).* After the people confessed their sin, the Lord ordered Moses “to make a snake [śārāph] and put it up on a pole” (verse 8). In this last verse the term śārāph refers back to the full phrase “venomous [śeraphîm] snakes.” In Deuteronomy 8:15 the wilderness is described as a “thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes [nāchāš śārāph, literally, “seraph snake”] and scorpions.”
The question is, what is the meaning of the term seraph in these passages? It is used as an adjective designating a specific type of serpent. Based on the meaning of the verbal form, śārāph would designate a snake whose bite causes a burning sensation, a severe inflammation of the skin that kills a person, i.e., a venomous serpent.
2. Śerāphîm as Heavenly Beings:In Isaiah 6 the term śārāph is applied to heavenly beings. We should keep some details in mind. First, the term snake is not used in this chapter. Second, the term is used as a noun. Third, the form of this being is fundamentally human. The two seraphim had faces, hands, and feet, and were able to sing and communicate through language, i.e., they were rational beings (verses 2, 6, 7). They had six wings and could fly; they were angelic beings. Fourth, they had a specific function. They were “above” the throne of God; perhaps hovering over it, or standing around it as royal guards ready to serve the Lord. More specifically, it was their role to proclaim the holiness of the Lord and to minister on behalf of sinners in the heavenly temple (verses 3, 7). Their deportment expresses a spirit of humility and reverence in the presence of the Lord.
Why are they called śerāphîm? The verb “to burn” (śārāph) could express the idea of brightness, suggesting that the seraphim were angelic beings of extraordinary brightness or fiery appearance. Perhaps their brightness, their six wings, and their position with respect to the throne of God distinguish them from cherubim, who are often associated with the throne of God.
3. Śerāphîm and Demonic Beings:Two passages in Isaiah associate seraphim with evil. This may go back to the experience of Israel in the wilderness. The wilderness in the Bible is a symbol of death and a residence for demons. The Israelites, who during the time of Isaiah were asking Egypt for support, are described as going through the desert, “a land of hardship and distress, of lions and lionesses, of adders and darting snakes [śārāph mecōphēph, literally, “flying serpents”]” (Isa. 30:6).
Animals could be used as symbols of the demonic (e.g., Ps. 7:2; 1 Peter 5:8), and the prophet could be suggesting that the road to Egypt is one where demonic powers reside. In this case “the flying seraph” would represent evil angelic powers (see Isa. 30:7, where Egypt is identified with Rahab, a demonic monster defeated by the Lord [Ps. 89:10]). In Isaiah 14:29 the Philistines should not rejoice, because a king worse than the others will come; he will be like a “flying seraph.” Neither in Isaiah 30:6 nor in 14:29 is the seraph identified with a serpent. In both cases it flies and is a symbol of evil that could stand for demonic powers operating within history. This may suggest that Lucifer was supported by seraphim.
On the positive side, think about the reverence and humility displayed by seraphim, who, glorious in appearance, choose to cover their bodies in order to proclaim that only the One sitting on the throne deserves all glory.