By In Theology

The Tree(s) of Life

When we come to the end of the Bible, there are some things that are intriguingly similar to the beginning. In the beginning, God created the man and placed him in a garden that he had planted in the land of Eden, telling him to be fruitful and multiply. This garden had a river that ran through it and split into four different rivers outside of the garden. In the midst of the garden were two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man was invited to come to the Tree of Life but forbidden to partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the midst of the garden, at this Tree of Life, God would communicate his life to man. Man would enjoy communion with God there at this Tree, being nourished in every way to be what his Father had created him to be.

When man sinned, God exiled him from the garden in order to keep him from eating of the Tree of Life (Gen 3.22-23). From that time forward man was forbidden to partake of the Tree. God provided means of communion, communicating his life to man through various means, but full access to the Tree of Life was not a reality.

The scene at the end of Revelation is one that describes this city in which the Tree of Life is not only present but accessible. Some things have changed drastically. The walled garden has become a walled city; a culture full of life. The rugged beauty of a pristine creation has become a developed, glorified creation under the dominion of the last Adam. Man has been fruitful and multiplied, and the garden has grown up into a city. Nevertheless, the New Jerusalem is the old garden, complete with the Tree of Life. Christ’s work has granted us access to the Tree of Life. All those who have their robes washed, who enter the gates of the garden-city, are granted access to the Tree of Life (Rev 22.14). Because Christ has passed through the flaming sword of the cherubim, he has made the way open to the Tree of Life. Because we pass through that same death being united with Christ in baptism, we now have access to the Tree of Life. We enjoy full and close communion with God in the church, the garden of God.

We are given this access, not only for personal privilege but so that we might become what we eat. In Christ Jesus, we are made trees of life planted by the river that runs through the midst of the garden-city (cf. Ps 1). The fruit of the Spirit that we bear is to be nourishment for those around us. The leaves that we produce are to be for the healing of the nations. We come to the Tree of Life, receiving life from God so that through us life might be enjoyed by others.

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One Response to The Tree(s) of Life

  1. I realise this will inspire some dubious thoughts, but I think it is helpful to see the two trees of the garden eschatologically. That is, the one leads to the other and that not as a process merely but also, and truly, historically.
    Let me say it this way first. The reason there is no tree of G&E in the final garden-city scene is because that historical period had come to an end. The teleology of the tree had run its course. This implies at least two things. First, it implies the tree of Life could not be had until history had reached its goal. Second, it implies the tree of Wisdom was the means to the end. Both not eating from the tree of G&E and eating from the tree of Life, therefore, were eschatological and belong to the same aion. The second death and the lake of fire at the end is what is meant by “dying, you shall die” in the “Day” you eat from it in the beginning.
    The tree upon which Jesus was hanged was, therefore, was to be associated with Torah as that covenant was brought to an end by the death of the testator. “Adam” could no more have eaten from the tree of Life before its time than the “Woman” could have a child without a pregnancy.

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