The fountain of life isn't offered to good people; it's merely offered to thirsty sinners who humbly come to Christ for a drink.
The Fountain of Youth
Travel to Mexico, Asia, China, throughout Europe, the Caribbean, from moderns times and throughout the past histories of ancient civilizations and you discover legends of the fountain of youth.
You can go back as far as Herodotus who lived 500 years before the birth of Christ and listen to him talk of special water in Africa which allowed a tribe of people to live a very long time.
One particular legend became ingrained in the western world through the travels of the first governor of Puerto Rico – a man named Juan Ponce de Leon.
In 1513 he searched for the Fountain of Youth that he believed was in what is now the State of Florida. He believed reports from natives which promised that waters from the fountain could take a frail old man and bring him back to his youth and strength so much so that he could take a new wife and raise another family.
One historian writing in 1864 said that Ponce de Leon and his men searched every river, brook, lagoon and pool and never found it.
Never mind they never found it – the City of St. Augustine in Florida, supposedly the place where Leon was said to have landed on his search, keeps the tradition alive, mostly for tourist revenue. There is a bubbling fountain connected to city water, but the tourists can’t help but make sure they take a drink.
There are reports of a secret society in St. Augustine who are guarding the true location of the fountain and they’ve been alive now for a really long time. You say, I know, I’ve seen some of them.
But according to the popular American magician David Copperfield – the waters aren’t in Florida, they are around his cluster of islands in the Bahamas which he paid 50 million dollars to develop.
In 2006, Copperfield claimed to have found restoring, life giving water. He told Reuters news service, “You can take dead leaves, they come in contact with the water and become full of life again . . . bugs or insects that are near death, come in contact with the water and they’ll fly away. It’s an amazing thing and it’s very, very exciting.” Copperfield also said that he’s hired scientists to conduct examination of the water . . .
Keep in mind this is coming from the man who makes a living tricking people. He’s known as the world’s most famous illusionist – and he is now peddling another illusion.[i]
But for centuries now, the subject remains a fascination with mankind.
How to stay young . . . how to live longer . . . what’s the secret . . . beat death . . . that’s the fascination . . . maybe there’s some loophole in life so that you can escape death.
People are interviewed who live into their hundreds – their diets, their habits, their perspectives on life are interviewed and studied – maybe there’s a clue here.
Christianity Today carried excerpts of interviews with some of these individuals who’ve lived into their 100’s. One woman was asked to give some of the benefits of living beyond 100 years of age and after thinking for a moment or two she said, “Well, there’s no more peer pressure.”
Another woman interviewed at the age of 120 was asked to describe her vision for the future, she answered, “Very brief.”
I loved the determination of one lady who was more than 100 years old, who informed her pastor that when she died she wanted no pallbearers from their home church to be involved in any way. When he asked her why, she responded, “They wouldn’t take me out when I was alive; they’re not gonna take me out when I’m dead.” (That’s really an old joke, isn’t it?)
In my research on this subject, I came across article after article and one interview after another. One reporter traveled to an Asian village where several people in their hundreds were living – he could find no clue, no secret, no unusual practice or diet.
Nothing unusual surfaced . . . no secret emerged.
I’ll never forget driving one day when my twin boys were in elementary school. They were evidently talking things over in the back seat and then one of them piped up and said, “Hey Daddy, were you obedient to your mother and father?” I said, “Well, why do you ask?” That’s a stall technique, by the way. They said, “’Cause we learned today the verse, Honor your father and mother that you may live long on the earth.”
In other words, they wanted to know if I was gonna be around for very long. I remember thinking I hope I live a long time or they’re gonna find out.
But obedient children can die too, right?
This verse isn’t a magic formula, it’s a general principle. Children who obey their parents steer clear of trouble, danger, bad habits and in general, survive longer.
The truth is, the secret to eternal youth is not discovered in some exotic food, or some discipline or exercise, some balmy climate or peaceful region; it isn’t even guaranteed for minding your parents.
And it certainly isn’t in the water somewhere in Florida. The Fountain of Youth has never been discovered.
However, according to the Revelation of John the Apostle, the fountain of youth happens to be real. And it happens to be the inheritance of every believer.
The water of life is effectively the gospel of Christ – in fact, our future in heaven will reveal that stunning site as God personifies in physical form the fountain of youth flowing as a river from the throne of God and throughout the new earth.
If you have your Bibles, turn to Revelation chapter 21 where Heaven on Earth is being described to John and through John to us.
We have already discovered some of the glory of heaven as the city of God descends in that golden city with all the redeemed from all time.
And we learned in verse 4 that God will wipe out tears of sorrow; and there will no longer be any death – in other words, in your glorified body and perfected spirit – as sinless and spotless as Jesus Christ – we will live forever.
John writes in verse 4, no more death – no more mourning; no more crying; no more pain; the first things have passed away – that is, this first way of life on the old planet with its universal language of suffering and sorrow and pain and death – it’s all passed away and from here on out is a brand new way of life on a brand new earth and you will live forever.
Isn’t this too good to be true? You know what they say about something that’s “too good to be true” don’t you – it isn’t true.
That depends on who’s doing the talking!
The Spirit anticipates this and John writes in verse 5. And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.
- We could call this the grand finale.
God Himself is speaking here . . . John continues in verse 5. And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
In other words, “I, God, who cannot lie, am delivering to you the truth of the everlasting life and an everlasting new order for living. Just as I, Sovereign Lord, made everything to begin with, I have now made everything new.”
Count on it . . . my promises are faithful and they all come true.
He says in the middle of verse 6. It is done. You could render it, these things are finished.
Just as the work of creation was finished in Genesis 2 and the work of redemption was finished in John 19, so now the work of a new creation for the redeemed is finished in Revelation 21.[ii]
The perfect active tense of this verb – it is done – means that these things have come to pass and the results will continue into the future.[iii]
In case you’re wondering if God can pull this off, He reminds the reader not only of His promise, but His sovereign power.
- John moves beyond the grand finale to reintroduce us to this glorious Sovereign.
Note further in verse 6, I am the Alpha and the Omega.
The alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last letter in the alphabet.
In our language He would be saying, “I am A to Z”.
In other words, if human existence and human knowledge and human history is an alphabet, God would have been around from the first letter to the last letter.
He is effectively saying, “Nothing was before me and nothing is beyond me.”
You have this same expression delivered by Jesus Christ later in Revelation chapter 22 and verse 13; you already read it in Revelation chapter 1 and verse 8 and now here in chapter 21.
This same expression is used descriptively of both God the Father and God the Son - they both claim to be without origin and without ending.
They both are called the Alpha and the Omega.
These are powerful texts that claim the full and equal deity of Jesus Christ with God the Father.[iv]
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . . and the word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:1 & 14)
Note the words John adds in verse 6, “I am the beginning and the end.”
The word beginning doesn’t mean that He was the first to be created. The Greek word arche (arch) doesn’t mean the first in point of time, but first in the sense of source. He is the original source of all things.[v]
From Him comes every beginning.
He is the beginning and the end – the word end (teloV) means that he is the completion of all things.
And listen, if God controls the past and He controls the future – you have every reason to believe that He’s in control of everything in between.[vi]
Part of the solution to our anxiety is to reflect on how great God is and how small we are.
God alone is supreme. And our sense of confidence in Him only grows as we remember our grand finale is entirely based on the power of this great Sovereign.
Sometimes we need to come down a notch or two in order to get a better perspective.
Perfectly illustrated by Clifton Fadiman, in his Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, where he told the story of the then current reigning world heavy-weight champion boxer, Muhammad Ali. Ali was at the height of his fame and was world renowned; he was on an airplane one day that was preparing to take off. The flight attendant came by and told him to fasten his seat belt. Ali said to her, “Superman don’t need a seat belt.” She replied, “And Superman doesn’t need an airplane, either.” [vii]
God never has to buckle up . . . there is no accident in His vocabulary. He is never at risk.
Keep that in mind when you buy popular books on the nature of God today. He’s never in jeopardy. He never does anything dangerous. He never risks or takes a gamble on anything.
How can He when He knows the end from the beginning? He already knows every option and every alternative. He knows what could happen and what will happen and everything that does happen will ultimately accomplish what He wants to see happen.
W. Tozer put it this way, “God cannot learn [anything]; He never at any time or in any manner received into His mind knowledge that He did not possess and had not possessed from eternity. Because God knows all things perfectly, He knows no [one] thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well. He never discovers anything, He is never surprised, nor is He ever amazed.[viii]
This is our glorious Sovereign . . . He was before the beginning of human history and has already seen the end of human history along with every action and every thought and every motive of every living thing throughout human history.
By the way, this is the reason why God can promise His people then and now – I know the plans I have for you – to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
Those are empty words unless He already knows the future, and has planned it out, and then on top of that can guarantee it will come to pass!
God has never once said, “Oops . . . uh-oh . . . or oh my”.
Never once . . .
He says to John the Apostle standing there on the threshold of the eternal heaven and earth, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
This is the grand finale which can be guaranteed because of our glorious Sovereign.
- Thirdly, notice John reveals a great inheritance.
6b. And I – God – will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
There it is . . . the fountain of youth. And who gets to drink from these waters?
Notice the first part of verse 7. He who overcomes will inherit these things.
This reference to overcomers is not to distinguish between victorious Christians and those who weren’t victorious.
The biblical definition of an overcomer is actually a genuine believer who has exercised saving faith in the Jesus Christ.[ix]
The Apostle John clarifies that in his first epistle where he writes, “For whatever is born of God – literally begotten – or born again – overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:4-5)
Warren Wiersbe commented on this text, “This inheritance isn’t for some sort of spiritually elite. Every child of God inherits all these things.”[x]
Earlier in John’s gospel, he refers to those who come to faith in Christ as thirsty and when they come to Christ He gives them living water.
And by the way, this Book of Revelation – even though it is describing the events of the eternal state still continues to restate the invitation of the gospel . . . maybe today you’ll hear it!
If you are thirsty – come and drink. John repeats this invitation just across the page in chapter 22 and verse 17 – The Spirit and the bride say, “Come” and let the one who hears say, “Come” and let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes to take the water of life without cost.
The fountain of life is for free. The fountain of perpetual youth and eternal life has been paid for in full.
John adds the word “freely” at the end of this invitation for emphasis.
The verb dorean (dwrean) is used by John to mean just what it says in your English translation – without cost – without payment, you could use the word, gratis.[xi]
We get the Fountain of everlasting Youth – gratis.
David Copperfield paid 50 million dollars for his beautiful island estate and supposedly his fountain of youth. And we’re still waiting more than 4 years now for the scientific confirmation. And his estate is closed to the public . . . in case you wanted to sneak a sip.
You can have the real thing for free and be allowed access to the eternal estate of God. The invitation is open to the public.
And we have only the slightest idea what that amazing inheritance involves.
I’m convinced we’ll all be caught with our mouths open, in utter disbelief as we see the glory of God and the city of God and the new heavens and new earth – and this river of the water of life comes cascading from the throne of God . . . all this is our inheritance!
I pulled from my files an article I’d tucked in there a year ago – a news article entitled from Cave to Castle. The article read, Flat broke and homeless, the Peladi brothers literally lived in a cave near Budapest for years. They left their damp home only to earn what money they could by selling scrap metal and candy. Theirs was an absolutely hopeless and desperate situation. But then everything changed – this was December, 2009 – One day, out of the blue, social workers tracked them down and informed the two brothers that they had just inherited most of their late maternal grandmothers estate – valued at 6.6 billion dollars. And just like that, these destitute brothers could call a castle their home when all they had ever known was a cave.[xii]
What right did they have? They were related to the benefactor.
And so you might ask the question, how do we have the right to our eternal inheritance?
- John refers to this gracious union
The metaphor of bride and groom that we’ve already studied is now dropped momentarily for the legal practice of adoption.
John writes at the end of verse 7, God says, and I will be His God and he will be my son.
John speaks in the terminology of an adoption contract.
The Greeks typically divided their inheritance evenly among all their living sons.
The Romans had adopted the practice where the father could actually change his mind as long as he wanted and decide as late as possible which child, if any, received an inheritance.
Many of the wealthy in John’s day would use this to their advantage to keep their children in line for most of their adult lives – the grown children would be afraid of being disinherited.
Kind of like the elderly gentleman I read about some time ago who was living with his son, daughter in law and numerous grandchildren. They were convinced his health was failing and had lost his hearing and they finally convinced him he needed medical help. He finally agreed and they took him to their family doctor who privately examined him and then said to him, “There’s nothing at all wrong with you – and your hearing is fine, too.” The old man said, “I know . . . but don’t tell my family . . . I’ve already changed my will 3 times.”
Now in John’s day there was the practice of adoption – which, in legal terms – gave an heir the legal right to inherit the father’s estate.
In the first century, a man could actually adopt any male citizen outside his own family as a son – and give him equal rights of inheritance.
This would often take place when a man didn’t have an heir and wanted to bestow his wealth on someone he had come to appreciate and love.
And there were clear laws to govern this adoption process. In fact, after the adoption contract was signed, it became unlawful for the adoptive father to ever disinherit his adopted son . . . it lasted for life. It could never be disannulled. [xiii]
And this is the idea here in God’s reference to an inheritance of sons.
The Bible employs the best of both the Grecian and Roman customs of adoption to describe the inheritance of the believer.
Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers, In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:5-8)
The Apostle Peter wrote, Blessed be the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3-4)
All of God’s children get an equal inheritance of the Father’s estate and the contract will never be broken between God and His adopted children.
So we have this grand finale which is guaranteed by our glorious Sovereign who will deliver to us a great inheritance by virtue of our gracious union with God through Christ.
It would be great to put a period here.
But in the face of all of this glory and joy, John goes on to reveal what we’ll call a grievous distinction.
Notice verse 8. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death – that is, the second separation.
The believer inherits all that is good and glorious and the unbeliever inherits all that is painful and horrifying.
While the believer is promised an inheritance that will never again include sorrow or mourning or crying or pain, the unbeliever will go to a place where crying and pain and sorrow and guilt and sin will never cease.
What a distinction in a word. But. Everything from verse 1 through verse 7 is glorious and then that little conjunction – but.
That word usually signals something negative doesn’t it? And it makes a world of difference.
You might have heard it go something like this:
- We appreciate your resume and all your past experience, but . . .
- Everything looked good on the x-ray, but . . .
- For the most part the surgery was successful, but . . .
- I know we’ve been dating for 6 months now and we’ve had some wonderful times, but . . .
- I’ve been looking over your retirement portfolio and there are some positive things happening, but . . .
- We received your application to graduate school and you were in the final tier of candidates under consideration, but . . .
- I know I promised to love you ‘til death do us part,
but . . .
None of those compare to this eternal distinction.
Heaven or Hell, forever, captured in one conjunction.
But . . . the following will not get in.
The cowardly – this refers to those who may have claimed to know Christ but were too ashamed to accept the claims of Christ and live for Him publically.
I can personally remember struggling with this as a teenager, before giving my life to Christ. Questions flooded my mind like, if I accept Christ what will happen to all my friends – what will happen to my life as I now know it? As if any of it was worth keeping. This is the coward who refuses to accept Christ for fear of the world’s rejection.
John mentions unbelievers – which is simply another term for those who reject Christ outright . . . they don’t even make a claim to be interested at all.
He mentions the abominable – literally, the polluted. This word refers to people who have become saturated with the abominations they practice through life.[xiv]
The murderer is a word that refers to those who with premeditation take the life of another, which would also include the abortionist.
John refers next to the immoral – the word is from pornos (pornoV) which gives us our English word pornography.
The New Testament uses the word to refer to those who not only practice but also promote and encourage any type of sexual activity outside of marriage.
This would include not only the adulterer, the homosexual, the rapist and the pedophile, but the movie producer who illustrates adultery and fornication as well as the politician who defends homosexuality.
John goes on to list those who practice sorcery.
This is from the Greek word pharmakeus (farmakia) – it refers to drugs which induced pseudo religious fantasies and occult experiences. [xv]
It referred to not only the illicit use of drugs, but drugs used in the worship of false idols, along with the casting of spells under the name of favorite gods.
Ephesus was filled with this practice – in fact, after the Apostle Paul preached the gospel, those who repented brought out their books of magic and their drugs and all their scraps of incantations and burned them in the streets. (Acts 19:19)
John refers next to idolaters – those who placed someone or something over and against the one true and living God.
Finally, John finishes the list with liars. That’s pretty self-explanatory.
You’re probably out there thinking, Stephen has just condemned an awful lot of people to hell.
No, John did. I’m just repeating and explaining what God said through him.
But what you need to understand is that what this list includes is everyone.
You and me included.
Placing someone or something before God in our affections; the hidden lust of adultery and murder by hatred in our hearts; cowardice and unbelief and lying.
The point of this passage isn’t to imply that all the good people get to go to heaven and all the bad people end up going to hell.
The point is, everyone is guilty and everyone is going to hell. There is none righteous no not one (Romans 3:10). For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
You need to notice that this list doesn’t say that anyone who has ever committed any of these sins will be excluded from heaven. [xvi]
It doesn’t say that. If it did, we would all be excluded from heaven.
What he does is referring to are those who choose their sin over the Savior; those who effectively say, I don’t want the kingdom of heaven if this is what I’ve gotta give up . . . I’ll take my kingdom of sin instead!
Like Mark Twain in his proud unbelief who once said, “I’ll take heaven for its climate, but hell for its company.”[xvii]
No, my friend, you will not enjoy either one. You are in for an eternal disappointment and an everlasting thirst for satisfaction.
But for those who’ve been adopted – those who’ve said, “Yes, I’m thirsty for the water of life through Christ; they are the ones who have left the family of death and the Father of lies for the family of life and Father of truth; they will inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians these wonderful words, Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. But such were some of you; but you were washed – there’s that word again – but . . . but! he’ll repeat it several times – but you were washed; but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
But such were some of you!
One author retold an incident shared with him by a friend named Joy who taught a Bible class for girls in a rough neighborhood. Joy had in her class a rather fearful, sad girl named Barbara. Barbara’s home life had made her afraid . . . no telling what she had to endure. Barbara never spoke. Never once. While the other girls talked, she sat. While the others sang, she just looked down in silence. While the others laughed, she was unmoved. She was always in class . . . and she always listened. Until the day Joy gave a lesson to her class on the subject of heaven. She talked about the beauty of heaven and the glory of God; the tearless eyes and lives than never sorrowed or experienced pain of any sort. Barbara was fascinated. In fact, she never looked away from Joy as the lesson was taught. She listened, Joy said, with hunger – and thirst – then she raised her hand, “Mrs. Joy?” Joy was stunned – Barbara had never before asked a question. “Yes, Barbara?” “Is heaven for girls like me?”
Oh yes . . . it’s made for girls just like you.[xviii]
Heaven is made for sinners saved . . . it’s been created for people who’ve made a mess of their lives, drinking from the muddy waters the world made seem so appealing.
It’s made for sinners who come and drink from the fountain that flows from Christ – living water that satisfies.
Heaven is made for sinners . . . who now by faith in Christ are adopted sons and daughters . . . who stand to inherit the new heavens and the new earth and the eternal city of God.
We inherit it all.
We are cavemen who inherit a castle.
This is the grand finale guaranteed by our glorious sovereign Lord who will deliver as promised this great inheritance on the basis of this gracious union that has placed us into the family of God, forever!
[i] Above excerpts taken from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_of_Youth
[ii] Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (Tyndale House, 1986), p. 442
[iii] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Regency, 1976), p. 859
[iv] John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 2000), p. 271
[v] William Barclay, The Revelation of John: Volume 2 (Westminster Press, 1976), p. 204
[vi] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Baker Academic, 2002), p. 738
[vii] Charles Swindoll, Shedding Light on our Dark Side (Insight for Living, 1993), p. 85.
[viii] James Boice, Romans: Volume 3 (Baker Books, 1993), p. 1419
[ix] MacArthur, p. 272
[x] Warren W. Wiersbe, Revelation: Be Victorious (Victor Books, 1987), p. 147
[xi] Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament (Baker Book House, 1974), p. 472
[xii] Zsolt and Geza Peladi, Caveman Brothers to Inherit Billions The Huffington Post, May 1, 2010
[xiii] Mark W. Wilson, Revelation: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary (Zondervan, 2002), p. 123
[xiv] Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 451
[xv] Morris, 444
[xvi] Stephen J. Lawson, Heaven Help Us (Navpress, 1995), p. 113
[xviii] Adapted from Craig Brian Larson, 750 Engaging Illustrations (Baker, 2002), p. 237