March 29, 2018
As Genesis unfolds, God describes the world He always intended for mankind. The Garden of Eden is the Utopia we all crave. As He places the man in Paradise, God informs us of his creation.
“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9
Of those trees, He specifically names two of them that have very distinct purposes. One tree leads to eternal life while the other leads to eternal damnation. Adam and Eve are allowed to partake of any of God’s creations and live with him in this Paradise for eternity as long as they refrain from eating from just one, particular tree. But as we have all experienced, we eventually desire those things we can’t have, believing they will fulfill a need.
In my letters, I have often referred to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. (see Fruit Of The Forbidden Tree) Primarily, if we don’t understand this tree and the repercussions of partaking of it, then we have no need to seek out the other tree God provided, the Tree of Life. However, the Lenten season is the perfect time to reflect on the significance of that tree.
We all know how Satan, disguised as a serpent, confused and deceived Eve.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’” Genesis 3:1
Regardless of the serpent’s actions, Eve and Adam were still responsible for their actions and thus bore the punishment of them, thus condemning all of mankind. As a result, because they disobeyed God regarding one tree, they were denied the blessings of the other.
“And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:22-24
God cast Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden so they would not have access to the Tree of Life. Otherwise, they would live forever in their sin, miserable and unholy. God did not wish for His creation to suffer such a fate. Therefore, God promised he would reconcile Himself to humanity through a savior who would conquer sin and death. Through this savior, He would restore all mankind to eternal life in the garden.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3: 15
This was only the first of many times God was forced to separate mankind from His holy presence because of our fall from grace. With a great flood, God cleansed the earth of its wickedness with water. God disrupted our language and scattered our ancestors as they tried to become greater than Him with the Tower of Babel. Because our sins were so great, God remained behind a thick curtain inside the temple, with only the High Priest breaching it once a year to present an Atonement sacrifice. Just as God restored these events with Christ’s blood through baptism, Pentecost and the ripping of the curtain at Christ’s death, God will restore us to the Garden of Eden upon his second coming. (see Putting Right What Once Went Wrong)
While hanging on a tree, Christ became the new Tree of Life. Through him, believers will return to the Utopia in the Garden of Eden to live in God’s kingdom forever.
“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7
God, in His beauty and mercy, predicted this wonderful event and prepared His people so they would recognize His son. While roaming in the desert, the Israelites whined and moaned in their ungratefulness, to which God allowed serpents to attack them. Using the symbol of evil, God showed His people how easily sin and Satan could strike them. Yet in His compassion upon hearing their cries for mercy, God instructed Moses to create a bronze snake and raise it on a pole. When bitten, those looking at the bronze snake hanging on the tree would live.
Jesus uses this illustration of God’s love to foretell of not only his death, but how those who gaze upon him will live.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3:14-15
However, it was not just that Jesus hung on the cross. It is that he did so in our place, allowing himself to be cursed in God’s eyes with our sin, so that he would endure our punishment and disgrace. (see What’s So Good About Good Friday?)
“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.” Deuteronomy 21:22-23
Believers and unbelievers are both searching for Utopia. Yet to experience it, you must recognize and acknowledge its two trees. It is only after one admits their sinful nature and a need for a savior will they search out Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Therefore, the day Christ returns, Paradise will be restored and inhabited by those who believe.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” Revelation 22:1-3
Yet God makes it perfectly clear, those who continue to reject His restoration of eternal life will not benefit from it. Instead, they will remain outside of Paradise, cast east of Eden, wallowing about in their sin and misery.
“‘Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.’ Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Revelation 22:12-15
Liberty, many have convinced themselves that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of fairytales and fantastic mythology. But as you study God’s Word, He will reveal to you through the Holy Spirit His wonderful and compassionate plan for His people. God makes it pretty simple, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 We suffer from the curse of one tree, yet Christ has restored us to the other, liberating us from the bonds of slavery due to our sin. In this freedom, we anticipate and rejoice for Christ’s return.
Today, we partake of the Tree of Life by digesting God’s Word and sacraments. We find comfort in our troubles by gazing upon the tree by which Christ won the victory over sin. However, realize Satan remains in the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, whispering in your ear, “Did God really say that?” Too many have submitted to this temptation, falling victim to the very affliction of the tree of deciding for themselves what is good and what is evil. As you go through life, he will tempt you too. Yet stay strong, Liberty, clinging to the Tree of Life with every fiber of your being, knowing Christ has already broken sin’s curse and given you eternal salvation.
That’s my 2 cents.
TREE OF LIFE