Back to the Tree of Life


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The tree of life is mentioned only three places in the Bible.  The first and most prominent place the tree of life appears in the Bible is in Genesis. The Tree of Life is one of two trees specifically identified in the garden. The other tree, of course, is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

I have wondered what would have happened and how things might be different if Adam and Eve had eaten of the Tree of Life, rather than tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they had eaten of the tree of life, would they have had eternal life at that point? Or is the tree of life something that must be consumed over and over again?

It really doesn’t matter for purposes of considering our present reality. From dust to dust is our current condition, but the tree of life appears again in the Book of Revelation, and it pops up three times in Proverbs.

That gives us hope. Though we are presently cut off from it, the tree of life figures into God’s ultimate plan as revealed in the Book of Revelation. The tree of life appears there on either side of the “river of the water of life… flowing from the throne of God….”[1]

Where do we find the tree of life in between the Garden of Eden and standing beside the river of the water of life from the throne of God? Let’s take a look.

The only place other than Genesis and Revelation where we find the phrase, tree of life, is in Proverbs. In Proverbs, however, the references are distinctly different than in Genesis and Revelation. In Genesis, we see “the” Tree of Life; in Proverbs, we see only references to “a” tree of life.

The first reference is in Proverbs 3:18:

[Wisdom] is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed.

The context in Proverbs 3 is exhortation to the reader to value and seek wisdom. Wisdom provides blessing and understanding. (v.13) Wisdom is better than silver, more profitable than gold and more precious than jewels. (vv.14-15) Wisdom provides long life, riches, honor, pleasantness and peace. (vv. 16-17)

Then we read that “wisdom founded the earth….” (v. 19) Where have we heard something like that before?

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-2)

The Word, of course, is Jesus. Jesus is also wisdom personified. Jesus is, “the bread of life”; Jesus said, “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’” (John 6:35)

Jesus is the source of the Tree of Life. By giving ourselves to Jesus, accepting Him, coming to know Him, allowing His words to take residence in us and inviting His Holy Spirit to become resident within us, we connect to the source of the Tree of Life. Everything that we have ever longed for, hoped for and sought is found in Jesus.

This is borne out in the remaining references in Proverbs to a tree of life. The next place we find mention of the phrase, tree of life, is in Proverbs 11:3:

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and whoever captures souls is wise.

Jesus is not only wisdom from God personified, he has become our righteousness and our sanctification and redemption.[2] The fruit of our life in Christ is fullness of life that we begin to experience in this life, which is just a foreshadowing of the Fullness of Life to be experienced when we pass on to eternal life where “the” Tree of Life stands.

The next place the tree of life appears is Proverbs 11:12:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

God has placed eternity in our hearts.[3] We all sense that, but we live far from the reality of that statement. We are currently separated from the Tree of Life. We sense it as if it were something that has been lost, something that is within reach but which we cannot quite take hold of. This is hope deferred.

We recognize the sickness, which to us is a kind of longing for the “way things out to be” but which aren’t. The universal sense of most people is that things are not quite right. We strive for justice, but we continue to live in a world of injustice. We long for love and eternal life. We sense that they are attainable, but we fall ever short of grasping them.

These desires are fulfilled in Christ. We begin to experience the fullness of life that is absent in our own lives apart from, separated from, God in our natural states as the result of our being born of Adam, when we are born again.

Our fathers/mothers can only pass on to us that which they have – from dust to dust is that reality. From the corruption resulting from sin, choosing to go their own way, our ancestors can only pass on to us that which is of the flesh, corrupted by sin. When we choose to give ourselves to Christ, we experience being born again, born from above, and we begin to taste and experience the fullness of life that is from God.

Tim Keller says that the hope that is deferred is not just eternal life, but fullness of life. We do not experience fullness of life apart from God in Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior and he indwelling of the Spirit, we begin to experience and know something of the fullness of life lost in the garden by our ancestors.

The final place the reference to a tree of life is found in Proverbs is at 15:4:

A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

The Prophet Isaiah said long ago, about 700 years before Jesus was born:

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”[4]

In the very next chapter (53), Isaiah makes what is very likely the most profound and uncanny prophecy in the entire Old Testament. He describes the coming, crucifixion and death of Jesus for our sins in such detail that one might be tempted to believe Isaiah wrote this after the fact – not 700 years before it occurred.[5] Jesus tells us the entire Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets, is about Him.[6]

Jesus is the answer to our sickness that stems from our hope deferred. He is the bread of life and a tree of life for us in this earthly existence that foreshadows in us the Tree of Life that is found in the final chapter of the story of our creation, fall and eventual redemption.

The Tree of Life that was made available in the beginning when the creation God made was good and Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the evening is there waiting for us in the end. We can also taste of it now as Jesus makes Himself available to us, to all who have called upon His name and given ourselves to Him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[1] Revelation 22:1-2 (“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the 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. ”)

[2] 1 Corinthians 30-31 (“you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”)

[3] Ecclesiastes 3:11

[4] Isaiah 52:7

[5] Isaiah 53

1 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied
by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

[6] See for instance, John 5:39 (“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me….”); and Luke 24:27 (“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”)

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4 Comments on “Back to the Tree of Life”

  1. Pete Says:

    I refer back to Genesis, where if days the Churebims kept the way of the tree of life. Jesus says He is the way! He us the way that has been kept by the Churebims since Adam. The only way to the tree of life!

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Nice article… good research!

    I can envision a slightly different tongue-in-cheek version of God instructing man not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Imagine God were giving that instruction to ALL animals in the garden… not just man.The dog and cat standing next to man politely nodded their heads and decided to obey that command. Today we see man CONSTANTLY worried about things… because of their knowledge of good and evil… while my dog and cat sit there fat dumb and happy not worried about anything… except some food, water, and an occasional petting. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


    • Yes, I can picture that! Did He warn all creatures? And people were the only ones who disobeyed? Yet, being present outside of space time, He knew what was to come, what the choice and consequence would be. It was His intention as He set the stage for people to exercise thay choice, then, and for the rest of history to unfold to the point when, at the right time, He would reintroduce Himself to His own creatures made in His own image by becoming one of them, subjecting Himself to His own demands and to death at the hands of His own creatures whom He loved in order to save them from themselves and for greater purpose – to have fellowship with Him by their own choice.

      Like


    • It certainly would be easier to be a puppy though!

      Like


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