A Cross for Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Carl H. Stevens Jr. was the pastor of Greater Grace
World Outreach located in Baltimore, Maryland.
Pastor Stevens was also chancellor of Maryland Bible
College & Seminary and host of the international
Christian radio program “The Grace Hour.” This
booklet was created from a message preached by
Pastor Stevens can be seen weekly on cable
television stations throughout the United States.
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from
the King James Version. Italics for emphasis are ours.
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Copyright © 2003
Grace Publications is a ministry of
Greater Grace World Outreach, Inc.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chapter 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
THE THREE DIMENSIONS OF THE CROSS
Chapter 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
RESURRECTION LIFE CONQUERS DEATH
Chapter 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
THE FLOW OF THE FINISHED WORK
CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
On the Cross, Jesus Christ paid for the sins
of the world and made a way for us to be saved.
He made us His own through His death on the
tree of Calvary. That moment in time marked t h e
pivotal point in the history of the world. There,
God established His Tree of Life.
What God did on Calvary takes care of everything
about us. Jesus is the same yesterday,
today, and forever, and His Cross takes care of
our yesterdays, today, and tomorrows.
Through the Finished Work of Calvary, we
have been hid with Christ in God. As this booklet
will reveal, what we have done is no longer
an issue; who we are can be governed by Who
He is; and, what we shall become is being fashioned
according to His eternal purpose.
THE THREE DIMENSIONS OF THE CROSS
“And he shewed me a pure river of water of
life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the thro n e
of God and of the Lamb.
“In the midst of the street of it, and on either
side of the river, was there the Tree of Life,
which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded
her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree
were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2).
“He that believeth on me, as the scripture
hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living
“(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they
that believe on him should receive: for the Holy
[Spirit] was not yet given; because that Jesus
was not yet glorified.)” (John 7:38-39).
“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I
shall give him shall never thirst; but the water
that I shall give him shall be in him a well of
water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
In the twenty-second chapter of Revelation,
the Word of God speaks of a throne, a Lamb,
and a pure river, clear as crystal, flowing out of
the throne. Think of that scene and the awesome
beauty of it.
This passage also mentions the Tree of Life
on each side of the river and in the midst of it.
No curse is there—just the Throne of God, the
Lamb of God, and the redeemed people of God.
I have received more joy and happiness from the
blessings that come from the throne and that
river because of the Tree of Life and the fruit that
The Past, the Present, the Future
From the very beginning of time, God has
spoken of the Tree of Life (Genesis 2:9). Through
the years, I have pondered on that tree and the
river. As you consider the river, there is nothing
cloudy about it. It is all pure, all clean. A n d
where God places a river, there is also a tree.
Why is it that the Tree of Life was said to be
in the middle and on both sides of the river? It is
because we need three dimensions of that tree to
take care of three dimensions of our lives: the
past, the present, and the future.
According to the picture we have in Revelation 22,
the tree yields fruit every month. 1 Peter 2:24
calls the Cross that held Jesus Christ
“the tree.” And though it cost Him his life as a
man, it was indeed a Tree of Life for all
mankind. What He has done for me, He has
done for you.
One aspect of the Tree of Life on the side of
the river refers to the Cross that takes care of all
the things that relate to our yesterdays. Jesus
died on the Tree of Life, and on that tree He also
bore our sins. This tree takes care of everything
in our past. God’s Tree of Life takes care of
everything pertaining to guilt, sin, failure ,
heartache, wounds, and bruises. What people
have done to us is covered by the precious grace
Taking Care of Today
That tree, as it stands in the center of the
river, takes care of what is happening to us
today, right now. Right now, God is taking care
of every single thing through the Cross. Regardless
of what we have done, re g a rdless of how we
have failed, we have that Tree of Life. Thank
God, it wasn’t just for yesterd a y. It is for today
“I protest by your rejoicing which I have in
Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31).
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in
the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the
world is crucified unto me, and I unto the
world” (Galatians 6:14).
Paul was saying, “I want you to know that I
have received a Tree of Life, and God forbid that
I glory in anything but the Cross.”
The Cross takes care of my yesterday. The
Cross takes care of my today. And then there’s a
Tree of Life for my tomorrow, my future. All
three dimensions of my time are taken up in the
“Eternal Is” of Jesus Christ: Yesterday is gone,
Now just passed by, and To m o r row doesn’t exist.
RESURRECTION LIFE CONQUERS DEATH
Think of how trees seem so barren in the
wintertime. Nothing on the outside of the tree
indicates life, and yet on the inside the tree is
very alive. That is when the sap (much like blood
to our bodies) is being produced and moves the
strongest, bringing a life flow to every branch
and twig. Then spring comes, and the trees turn
beautiful with blossoms and leaves. All of the
life on the inside is now flowing out.
Do not underestimate the winter times. Life
is at work in the destitute, dark, and gloomy
moments. Remember that when times seem
their darkest, life is building up from the deep
places. Soon, just as the trees blossom and create
the beauty of spring, summer, and fall, the time
of prosperity will come.
When we see everything prospering around
us, it is easy to think only of how great and how
wonderful that is. But remember this: During
the times of prosperity, all the life is flowing out.
That would not be possible without the life that
is developed deep within during the dark winter
seasons of life.
Released from the Grave
“Now a certain man was sick, named
Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her
“(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord
with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair,
whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
“Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying,
Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
“When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness
is not unto death, but for the glory of God,
that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister,
“When he had heard there f o re that he was
sick, he abode two days still in the same place
where he was.
“Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let
us go into Judaea again.
“His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews
of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou
“Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours
in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth
not, because he seeth the light of this
“But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth,
because there is no light in him.
“These things said he: and after that he saith
unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I
go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (John 11:1-11).
“Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou
hadst been here, my brother had not died.
“But I know, that even now, whatsoever
thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
“Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise
“Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall
rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection,
and the life: he that believeth in me, though he
were dead, yet shall he live:
“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me
shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:21-26).
“And I knew that thou hearest me always:
but because of the people which stand by I said
it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
“And when he thus had spoken, he cried
with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
“And he that was dead came forth, bound
hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face
was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto
them, Loose him, and let him go.” (John 11: 42-44).
Lazarus was sick and he died. When people
are sick, they are taken to the hospital. When
they are dead they go to the funeral parlor, and
then they are buried. We were not born into this
world to meet Jesus Christ as sick people but as
spiritually dead people—people who are without
a source of eternal life until we meet the Savior
and are born again.
God quickens those who believe on Him.
Even though we were dead in trespasses and
sin, He meets us in death, where His resurrection
power takes over. And, whoever believes on
Him lives and never dies again.
That is what Jesus was trying to explain to
Martha in the midst of her grief over her brother
Lazarus’ death. She was upset that Jesus had not
visited earlier as He had so many other times.
“Look, Martha, I am the resurrection and life,
right now!” He told her. “All that I will be tomorrow,
I am today. All that I was yesterday, I am now.
I am resurrection and life, Martha. He who believes
on Me, though he was dead, he shall yet live.
And whoever believes on Me will never die.”
Jesus was led to the gravesite of Lazarus. He
saw the unbelieving Jews wailing over the
man’s death. There was Mary, the sister of
Martha and Lazarus, falling at Jesus’ feet saying,
“If You had been here, my brother would not
have died!” With that, Jesus groaned in His
spirit and wept, for He so well understood the
pain of sickness and death and the pain of their
The Smell of Sin, the Triumph of Grace
Standing near the grave, Jesus asked that the
stone be removed. “What?” He was asked.
“Surely, the body stinks.” Behind the stone was
a rotting, smelly corpse. The Lord wanted these
people to get close so they could get a good idea
of what sin smells like and what happens when
bodies die and decay.
“Come close to the grave,” Jesus was saying
h e re. “Get a good look at what sin does to a
body of death.”
Finally, Jesus spoke, saying to Lazarus, “Out!
Now!” That is exactly what He said, according
the original Greek text. At that moment, life came
back into Lazarus, and he came forth from the
grave. Jesus then told the people who stood
there in amazement to help him get out of his
grave clothes. The Lord brought in resurrection
life and released the grip of death.
Reading on into chapter 12 of John, we find
Lazarus alive and enjoying fellowship around
the Gospel. Martha and Mary were back serving
Jesus Christ. What a beautiful story of life coming
out of death.
THE FLOW OF THE FINISHED WORK
“Afterward he brought me again unto the
door of the house; and, behold, waters issued
out from under the threshold of the house eastward:
for the forefront of the house stood toward
the east, and the waters came down from under
from the right side of the house, at the south
side of the altar.
“Then brought he me out of the way of the
gate northward, and led me about the way
without unto the utter gate by the way that
looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters
on the right side.
“And when the man that had the line in his
hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand
cubits, and he brought me through the
waters; the waters were to the ankles.
“Again he measured a thousand, and brought
me through the waters; the waters were to the
knees. Again he measured a thousand, and
brought me through; the waters were to the
“Afterward he measured a thousand; and it
was a river that I could not pass over: for the
waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that
could not be passed over.
“And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou
seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me
to return to the brink of the river.
“Now when I had returned, behold, at the
bank of the river were very many trees on the
one side and on the other.
“Then said he unto me, These waters issue
out toward the east country, and go down into
the desert, and go into the sea: which being
brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be
healed” (Ezekiel 47:1-8).
The waters flowed in all directions from the
house of God. The river of life comes fro m
heaven and travels through us wherever we go
as believers. This is the life that has been reproduced
as our ministry has taken the Gospel into
all parts of the world.
God’s life flows from the Throne into our
lives. This is why we are able to face terrific trials,
one after another, and come out as more
than conquerors. God causes us to triumph, and
no one can stop our victories.
The man with the line in his hand went east,
meaning he was traveling the road of Resurrection.
He measured out a thousand cubits, a figure
that points to the perfect life of Christ. At this
spot, the water in the river reached the ankles.
There is a great meaning to be grasped here.
No matter where you are with Christ, even if
you are just up to your ankles with Him as you
start out in your Christian walk, you are okay.
You are complete in Him, hidden in Him, and
seated together with Him. This perfect Man has
taken your sins away. He died, He was buried,
and He was resurrected. Christ has taken you
and hid you in Himself, and that guarantees that
the devil can never touch you.
Power Through Prayer and the Word
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to
the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing
he ever liveth to make intercession for them”
Next, the line went out another thousand
cubits and the river was up to the knees. This
speaks of our relationship to the Great Intercessor,
Jesus Christ. When we pray, we are praying
with the One who intercedes before the Throne
for us at all times. Not a moment goes by but He
is standing before the Father, pleading our case.
Go out into the river another thousand cubits
and the water reaches the loins. This means that
categorical doctrine is at work in our hearts,
souls, minds, emotions, wills, and bodies. The
Word of God has now become totally operational
The Crucified Life
Another thousand cubits are measured out
and here the waters are over the head. This represents
to us the Finished Work of Jesus Christ
in our lives. We can no longer be seen. Everything
about us is Christ because we are experientially
crucified. Adam, our old man, is finally
out of the way.
A scientist developed a functional electronic
brain. This mechanism was fed numerous bits of
information, which the scientist called the “word.” This
“brain” processed the information and developed
conclusions. And these conclusions led to “experiences”
that were recorded.
Now, this scientist was asked by one of his
fellow scientists, who happened to be a Christian,
what would happen if wrong information
were fed into the brain.
“I have no idea,” he said. “My guess is it
would come to wrong conclusions and wrong
experiences. I have been troubled by this thought,
because there is no way to erase a mistake.”
“ Well, we will have to fix that,” the Christian
told him. “I am going to help you put in a
process that will cleanse a mistake so thoroughly
that there is no record of it.” He did, and that
process was called “erase.”
This man of God showed that scientist how
to be saved and he was gloriously converted.
Then, the two men proceeded to develop a
process of cleansing, purging, and rebound for
the “electronic brain,” which we call a computer:
“erase,” “escape,” and “refresh.”
The Tree of Life will do this with our lives. It
takes all that is wrong and makes it right. We are
cleansed and purged, and the record of our failures
is wiped clean by the Cross.
These thoughts about the Cross bring many
people to my mind. One woman was struggling
against the onset of cancer. She told me, “I don’t
mind dying, but I just don’t want to leave my
“That’s understandable,” I told her. “But
somehow, some way, the grace of God is going
to pour into your life, and God will triumph.”
God used her situation and brought life out
of it, just as the spring brings life out of the tree
following the winter season. God is so faithful
to do this.
The Tree of Life is not there to bring out the
best in Adam. Instead, it brings out the life that
comes from the resurrection of Christ. This is a
life worth experiencing. It is life that will never
Sometimes the answers are difficult to come
by—and yet, there is an unending river that
flows from the Throne of God. That crystal clear
water proceeds from the throne where the Lamb
of God is seated. And there, the Tree of Life reveals
a Cross for our yesterdays, a Cross for today, and
a Cross for our tomorrows.