When God created the the world, he “planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Genesis 2:8). In the center of this garden grew two trees: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Often we talk more about that second tree; but the Tree of Life is the more important one. God prohibited Adam from eating the fruit on the Tree of Knowledge—but he didn’t prohibit Adam from eating the fruit on the Tree of Life. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat” (2:16). Man was allowed to freely eat from the Tree of Life, the tree that could make him immortal (3:22).
But notice that God wanted Adam to stay away from the tree that would kill him. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). When God created man he “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (2:7). God wanted humanity to be alive; and from the beginning he had a Tree dedicated to making them immortal.
But these immortals-in-the-making were not without an enemy: “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). Notice that the tempter did not speak to the man Adam but to the woman Eve. Eve had not received the prohibition from God, Adam had; Eve had received the prohibition second-hand, through Adam. Then, as now, the tempter will approach those who have not gotten God’s word for themselves. We must beware that our knowledge of God’s will is never second-hand; and when we cannot hear from God for ourselves, we must trust the spiritual authorities that God has given us.
It is interesting that that old serpent Satan used God’s word to tempt Eve. He used this same tactic against Jesus, the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), when he tempted him: “And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee…” (Matthew 4:6). Our tempter is not above using scripture, the very word of truth, to tell us a lie. And when he does this, he always makes God’s word say the opposite of what it means.
God told Adam that if they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, then they would “surely die”. But Satan told the woman, “Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Not only did the tempter directly contradict God’s word, calling his honesty into question; he contradicted his goodness, calling his character into question.
Satan is making a false claim about God’s character: God is not concerned with your well-being, or else he would allow you to become gods like him. God had already made humanity in his image (Genesis 1:26-27). Satan claimed that God was withholding something from humanity that he had already given to humanity: God-likeness. Satan said, “ye shall be as gods (elohim)”, even though they were already made in the image of God (Elohim).
I have found that when someone makes a false accusation about someone else’s character, it is because their own character is questionable. Satan accuses God of malice because Satan is himself malicious. Satan hated Adam and Eve. When Satan saw them, he saw an image of the God he would never get to look at again. When he saw them speak, he saw an image of the Word he would never get to hear again. When he saw them breathing in the breath of life, he saw an image of the Spirit and the Life he would never get to feel again. Satan was not interested in giving Adam and Eve knowledge; his sole intent was to take from them the immortality—the life—that they could possess. Maybe this is why the devil “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).
Satan is tempting Eve, and the choice is her’s. Will she choose the Tree of Life? Or will she choose the Tree of Knowledge—the tree of death? It baffles me that she chose death, when immortality was just a tree away. Just as easily as going to a tree and dying, she could have gone to a tree and lived forever.
It would seem that God’s desires were destroyed, his plan undone. He wanted men to go to the Tree of Life and live forever, he had wanted men to be immortal; but man chose death instead. He was even forced to drive Adam and Eve out of the garden, “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” (Genesis 3:22). God had to prevent even further harm; he had to prevent humanity, now dead in sin, to live forever in that sinful state.
But did this mean that God had given up on the notion of making men immortal? Did this mean that the Tree of Life was forever shut off from men? No, not by a long shot. The first Adam gave humanity the Tree of Knowledge; but the last Adam, Jesus, made the Tree of Life available to humanity once more.
Scripture says that Jesus was crucified; he was “hanged on a tree” (Acts 10:39). And the tree on which Jesus died has become the Tree of Life for us. Just like Adam and Eve had the option to go to the tree and live, so we have the option to come to the tree (the cross) and live. It is the tree of Christ’s cross that lets us in to heaven where we can live forever with God. The cross, for dead andsinful men, has become the tree of life.
In the center of the Garden of Eden stood two trees: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. But if we choose to go to the cross and receive immortality and forgiveness for our sins, we will not see two trees in heaven. We will only see “the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). If we overcome our sins through the cross and blood of Christ, we will be allowed “to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (2:7).
Just like humanity in the beginning, we have a choice. There are two trees: a tree of death and the knowledge of sin, or the tree of life in the Spirit. Thanks to the tree on which Jesus died, humanity still has access to immortality. So which will we choose? The tree of mortal sin? Or the tree of immortal life?