Eternal Life and the Tree of Life

Adam and Eve are created and then placed in this tremendous garden, teeming with life, with vast stretches of greenery and brilliant displays of floral colors. Every kind of plant and fruit grows in this garden. There are plump, juicy peaches, and sweet red-ripe tomatoes. There are not only the fruits that we commonly think of, like apples, pears and plums, there are all kinds of exotic fruits too. There is passion fruit, guava and mangoes. Kiwi and bananas, strawberries and watermelon, oranges and grapefruit in abundance. Adam and Eve are told to eat it all (Gen.2:16). Except the fruit of one tree. There was only a solitary tree in the garden from which they were forbidden to eat. This was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now, even though it was forbidden, even though God had said don’t eat, Eve was deceived by the tempter and she ate and so did Adam. And what disastrous consequences gripped them and all their descendants as a result. Adam and Eve had eaten a curse on themselves and their progeny – death.
Now there were other trees in the Garden of Eden, and there was in fact another tree very near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was the tree of life. We learn about this tree in Gen.2:6. But, our attention is captured by the unfolding drama of Adam and Eve’s sin, so we forget about the tree of life. But, after Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit, the tree of life is brought back into focus. Adam and Eve you see, are expelled from the Garden (Gen.3:14-19). I have always looked at Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden as a punishment. I have always seen them getting kicked out of the garden because of their sin, but the text doesn’t say that. In Gen.3:22-23 and you discover that Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden because the tree of life was there. Now consider carefully the truth of these verses.
Man has been told that a punishment awaits him. That punishment is death (Gen.2:17). The worst kind of death, incidentally, separation from God. And so when man eats the forbidden fruit, he is confirmed in a state – a sinful state – a state of death. What if he eats, in that wicked state, the fruit of the tree of life? What if he should digest the very fruit that promises to give him eternal life? He would be eternally a sinner – wouldn’t he? He would live in a perpetual, eternal state of separation from God.
So, see Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden as the mercy of grace of God. They are expelled from the Garden so they don’t eat of the fruit that would confirm them for infinity in the sin that would lead to their death. God is protecting Adam and Eve – and all future peoples from eating a tree that would guarantee their eternal separation from God. God steps in to prevent that eternal hopelessness, by his grace.
Now, we look at this story and we marvel at God grace and love in this moment, protecting rebels from themselves, really. But there is more to the story. The tree of life disappears from the Biblical record in Genesis 3. There is no tree of life in the Bible until Revelation.
The tree of life appears in the last chapter of the Bible. At the end of all time, there is the tree of life. War and fighting is over. Satan has been sent to his eternal doom. We see in this chapter the glorious restoration of all things. And lo and behold, in v.2, smack dab in the middle of this grand and glorious kingdom is the tree of life, lining the river of life which flows from God’s throne. And it’s not protected by the Angelic sentries anymore.
In Jesus the people who inhabit this kingdom have found eternal life. It’s promised to those believe (John 3:36). Because since Eden that plan has been that you trust Jesus to receive eternal life – not eat the fruit of a tree! Eternal life – God is the author of it, and from the beginning of human history was pleased to give it to his human creation. But Adam and Eve spoiled our chance by bringing death to the human race. We are separated from God because of their sin – and because of our sin. So, rather than confirming us in our damnation and allowing us to live forever in that hopeless condition, God devised a plan to allow for the sins of sinners to be forgiven, to allow for them to be forgiven, and at the point of their forgiveness, he grants to them eternal life – so that they will never need to be banished from God’s presence again. And then God, the author of life – gives them the tree of life from which they may freely eat, confirming forever their forgiven redeemed state!

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