Why is the Tree of Life given this name? What does it mean “Tree of Life?” What does this have to do with us today in the church?
The First Tree of Life
God, shortly after creating man, “put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:8b-9) And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:16-17). Here is a direct, imperative command from God to Adam that from any tree in the garden he was free to eat but from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” he could not eat. There is no mention of what kind of food was this forbidden tree and the depictions of this being an apple are inaccurate. We simply don’t know what it was but we do know that God said don’t take of it because on the day that man eats of it, he will surely die. That didn’t mean that he would die instantly because like today, we are all sinners, and we don’t die the moment we sin or the earth would be empty. The fact is that God was seeing if mankind would obey or not. Naturally, Eve and then Adam took of this tree and sealed their fate. They had eternal life at their fingertips in the Garden but since they disobeyed, they choose for themselves the knowledge of what is good and what is evil, and by their sin they choose to die.
The Second Tree of Life
There is another Tree of Life but this tree would be in the New Jerusalem. In Revelation 22:2-3 there is another “tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.” By this time, Jesus had went to Calvary and died for the sins of the world and the curse in the Garden brought on by Adam and Eve was reversed and this new Tree of Life would be one that would not bring death. Jesus became a curse for us so that the curse of sin would be lifted off of us. Paul wrote that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal 3:13) and Christ hanging on the cross (or tree as Paul and Peter sometimes referred to it) became the curse for us who were under the curse and condemned to die an eternal death. This second tree in the New Jerusalem would be for the nation’s healings and may be symbolic of the tree or cross that Christ died on and our healing spoken of by Isaiah (52, 53) came from His beating, scourging, and stripes.
The Tree and the Cross
The tree that Adam and Eve took from caused the fall and Jesus dying on a tree (or the cross) paid the penalty that we all accrued from our sin and the same tree in the Garden that caused the fall is compared to another tree that would restore us from that fall and that was the cross of Christ. The tree and the cross are essentially this; one caused us to fall from grace while the second (in the cross) redeemed us by grace. In the Old Testament God declared that “a hanged man is cursed by God” (Duet 21:23) and that Man became “a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). By Jesus Christ’s death, the wrath of God that was due us was satisfied in Christ. We could never satisfy God by our own good works so we had to depend upon the Redeemer Who by His perfect, sinless life gave Himself as the only sacrifice what was sufficient to pay for our sins and the only one that would satisfy the wrath of God. By His death and “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21) so that when the Father sees us, He sees Jesus’ righteousness and not our unrighteous filthy rags. This is symbolized in Zechariah 3:4-5 where an angel is commanded to “Remove the filthy garments from him (Joshua, the high priest).” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments.” The clean garments represent the righteousness of Christ and our filthy garments are our own sins. By Jesus’ dying on the tree of death (the cross) we now have access to the Tree of Life (Rev 22) and that represents His death for our eternal life. Without this sacrifice, we would be forever separated from God and all those who refuse to take from Jesus’ work on this “tree” are cast into a lake of fire to never again see God (Rev 20:11-15).
One tree brought death (in the Garden) but another tree brought life (the cross). The Tree of Life may be considered as the tree that Christ died on for you and for me and that tree (the cross) brings us eternal life, however if you are not saved, that is if you have not repented and trusted in Christ, then you are still under that curse and have eaten of the knowledge of good and evil and there is nothing you can do to save yourself. You are simply at the mercy of God but the good news is that God wants to save you but you must first humble yourself. You must repent of your sins (that means turn away from them), confess your sins to God (confess means that you agree with God about your sins), and then trust in Christ Jesus to save you (to believe in Him, trust in Him, rely upon Him) and you will be saved. To know more on how to be saved, read Romans 10:9-13. It is God’s desire (2 Pet 3:9) and my desire too that you will be saved today for no one is guaranteed that tomorrow will come.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon