The Tree of Life

It is commonly assumed that the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden was an apple tree, but the text does not say this. All we know for sure is that it looked good, that its fruit tasted good, and that is was a source of knowledge (Genesis 3:6). I am more curious about what kind of tree the “tree of life” was. Was it a fruit tree? How did its sustaining power actually work? What color was its foliage?

We shall never know, at least in this life. Man’s sin disrupted fellowship with God, and the penalty was eviction from the Garden of Eden—and the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). The tree of knowledge thus became a tree of death for Adam and Eve.

In Revelation 22 the Bible pictures the glorified state as a new Eden, complete with a river (22:1; see Genesis 2:10) straddled by “the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). Paradise lost will be paradise restored.

But access to the eternal tree of life comes at a price. Not a price we can pay, since we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s great glory (Romans 3:23). It is a price which only Jesus Christ, the sinless Lamb of God could pay (1 Peter 1:18–19). And the way He paid it was by hanging on a tree.

In Deuteronomy 21:22–23, the Law of Moses commanded that those who were executed be hanged on a tree, “for he who is hanged is accursed of God.” Perhaps this penalty was designed to warn others from breaking the Law. Perhaps it was designed to add further disgrace to the condemned, such as in the case of the murderers of Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth (see 2 Samuel 4:12).

When Jesus was “lifted up” (John 12:32) on the Roman cross, He suffered the most shameful and brutal death the executioners of the first century could devise. Exposed to the elements, to the mocking soldiers, to the jeering crowd, Jesus “despised the shame” of the cross (Hebrews 12:2). Yet He endured the cross, the tree of death, so that we might enjoy the tree of life.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE’ ” (Galatians 3:13).