There were two trees in the Garden of Eden. In this two-part series, we look back to the Book of Genesis and forward to the Book of Revelation to examine the implications of the two trees on the human race.
When we walk with Christ in times that are stable and predictable, we often don’t need to exert or rely on our faith; but occasionally, our prayers can become repetitive and our religious routines monotonous. This all changes in times of crises. Our prayers in these times—often whispered in desperation—become lifelines in a world of instability and drama. It is in these turbulent seasons when what we believe is either discarded or applied. We can either revert to our pre-salvation defaults or we can take the word of God and apply it, by faith, to our circumstances.
At times, how we react rests on whether we have a trust relationship with God. We can often trust him for our salvation and even eternal life, but can we trust him for the next mortgage payment in a time of job loss, or recovery in the midst of a divorce? It is in a time of crisis when we either rely on our own resources and understanding, or examine what we believe about God, his character and his claims in the Bible—in other words, is God who he says he is?
The Bible is the great epic, telling the story of the fall of humankind and God saving us through Jesus Christ. It is also our first introduction to our creator and his dealings with the human race. It is in the Bible where we read about God’s intentions toward us. The best place to start is in the Book of Genesis. It is here where we read about the creation of the universe and our world, but it also establishes that God created all of this to house humankind with the desire to live and walk with us in this, his creation.
In Genesis 2, right after the creation of Adam, it says in verse 9 that God planted a garden, with many fruit-bearing trees, but two particular trees: ‘In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. It goes on to say in verse 16–17, ‘And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die”’.
Here we have God’s first intention towards us: we are able to choose the terms on which we will interact with God. We can choose to obey him or disobey him. We can choose to trust him or not trust him. The two trees represent this choice. The choice given to Adam and Eve is the same choice given to every person that has, or will, inhabit earth.
The two trees stood side by side, both bore fruit—one the knowledge of good and evil, the other eternal life. God did not forbid Adam from eating the fruit of the tree of life, only the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The command was given to Adam before Eve’s creation, but obviously passed on to Eve. I often wonder what would have happened if, when Eve offered the fruit to Adam, he had rejected it and gone to God and asked for help … this may be in part why Jesus is called the second Adam?
The snake who tempted Eve lied at every turn. He questioned God’s intentions toward humankind and asked, ‘Did God really say..’ It’s the same lie each person of faith needs to confront and answer for themselves. The snake also said in Genesis 3:4–5, ‘“You will not certainly die”, the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”’.
The tragedy of these lies is that death did enter into God’s perfect creation and they began the process of dying; but, also, they were already like God—made in his image. This one act of disobedience stripped humankind of their divine relationship and overturned their trust in God. In T. Desmond Alexander’s book From Eden to New Jerusalem it says:
The ones through whom God’s sovereignty was to be extended throughout the earth, side with his enemy. By heeding the serpent they not only give it control over the earth, but they themselves become its subjects.
In Romans 3:20 it says: ‘...through the law we become conscious of our sin’, God did not want Adam to be conscious or gain knowledge of sin. The very act of eating from the tree was sin, because God told him not to. Adam and Eve chose sin and death by disobeying the one law given to them. They could have freely eaten from the other tree offered to them, the tree of life, and gained eternal life by grace—but they didn’t.
God then had to separate them from the garden to stop them eating from the tree of life. He expels them and a cherubim is assigned with a flaming sword to keep them from returning to Eden, because if they had eaten they would have been immortal in their sin, always subject to it and living eternally in sin. The tree of life is actually the antidote to the problem of sin, but first things have to be set right.
The two trees represent the dichotomy of belief: the tree of knowledge of good and evil is the law of sin and ultimately death; the tree of life is eternal life and ultimately grace. To put it simply: humankind chose law over grace. We then see in the books of the Old Testament that follow, the application and consequences of choosing law over grace. God gives mankind the law—many laws—but promises a day when another tree will enter (the cross), and the second Adam, Jesus Christ, will do what the first Adam failed to do.
Immediately after this, God announces the antidote to the poison:
‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel’ (Genesis 3:15, NKJV).
This verse was traditionally called the Protevangelium, a word comprised of two Greek words: protos meaning ‘first’ and evangelion meaning ‘good news’ or ‘gospel’. So this is the first mention of salvation in the Bible. Also of note is the use of ‘her seed’. In and out of the biblical context, ‘seed’ is used for the seed of the father—in Romans 1:3 and Jeremiah 33:26. It is usually ‘egg’ rather than ‘seed’ that is applied to women. This then is a hint to the fact that the Messiah will not have an earthly father.
Immediately after the fall, God’s intentions are laid out to Adam, Eve and the serpent: there will be a future occurrence when One will come and overthrow the kingdom of darkness and the law of sin and death. We see God’s plan of redemption and grace take form. God will choose a man, Abraham, and through his family line he will ultimately bring forth the Messiah. But, in the meantime, humankind are separated from God and the dominion of darkness rules and reigns on earth. But that’s not the end of the story…
In part two of this series, we see the reappearance of the tree of life, but this time it is in the Book of Revelation.