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The Tree of Life

December 21, 2007

The tree of life makes two major appearances in the Bible – during the creation and fall accounts, and then again in Revelation.  Here are the two most interesting citations from those passages:

Genesis 3:22-24

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Revelation 22:1-5

Then the angel [1] 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 [2] 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 [3] will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

The symmetry of the Bible amazes me – it starts and ends with the tree of life, with creation as it should be.  The tree of life in a way symbolizes man being in the presence of God, and man having the gift of eternal life.  When humanity falls, God’s response is to cut us off from eternal life.  Once we knew good and evil, God did not want to permit us to have eternal life, and thus the curse of death was visited upon creation.

While death is indeed a curse that we should despise, I also realized while thinking about world events that death can be a blessing to a fallen humanity.  I came to this realization while hearing a news story about the brutal regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.  Mugabe has been in power since the 1980s, and is currently 80 years old.  One thing that this poor country can count on is the fact that Mugabe will grow old and die at some point, sparing them from any further oppression from him.  Now, this obviously does not guarantee that someone else who is a brutal ruler won’t rule in his stead, but over time, rulers will change, and there will eventually come a day when the ruler of that nation will no longer be a threat to his people.  In any event, it is better than allowing one fallen human to continually rule over a place.  Death is needed in a fallen world, because there are fallen people who will not change their ways who end up adversely affecting those around them.  I believe that we should pray that those like Mugabe will repent, and find forgiveness for their sins in Christ, but I also know that not everyone will do this.  Thus, it is necessary for God to remove sinners by death.  When he removes sin from the world, he will grant us access once again to the tree of life, and those who have been redeemed will get to taste of its fruit and know eternal life with no rebellious people having an adverse affect on our lives.

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