“Picking the Right Tree”
“And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 3:10).
This time of year there are many who begin to be concerned with selecting the right tree. Should they go with a Douglas fir, Scotch pine, or perhaps a White Spruce? Flocked or natural? Miniature, tall, or in between? Long ago our ancestors, Adam and Eve, had their opportunity to select the right tree but it was of far greater consequence than choosing a holiday decoration. In the midst of Eden grew two trees (Genesis 2:9) – choosing to continue to eat from one meant continued life and vigor, from the other would either bring death (v.17) or perhaps it really offered power and greater understanding (3:5).
We know which tree was chosen and we all have shared in the true consequences of their tree selection (Romans 5:12). Since that day death and sin have been a reality in this life. Having gained knowledge of good and evil through their decision God prohibited further access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24).
Had it been you in the garden, what tree would you have chosen? Sadly, you and I will never have the opportunity to choose to eat from the fruit of the tree of life. Or perhaps we may still. Two thousand years ago on another tree Jesus bore our sins and suffered the death penalty for our sinful choices (Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29, 1 Peter 2:24). In each of these cited verses are references Christ’s crucifixion. The Greek word used for tree is “Zulon” which denotes living or dead wood, or the products hewn from the stem.1 This word is also found in the Septuagint translation of the tree of life in Genesis 3:22, 24 as well as in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 which states, “For he who is hanged (on a “Zulon”) is accursed by God.
But God did something amazing on that tree upon which Jesus hung and died. He made an exchange – those who had been under the penalty of death as a result of choosing the wrong tree could now again receive life, everlasting life from the fruit of that tree. Paul explains that the promise of an inheritance to Abraham is available to all who through faith choose the fruit of that tree (Galatians 3:13-14).
John was given a vision of the heavenly city and saw there the tree of life (Revelation 22:2). The loss of righteousness in Eden had shut up the way to its fruit but now through the antitype of the cross its fruit may again be eaten.2 But only those who had their robes washed in Christ’s blood (Revelation 22:14, Acts 22:16) are given the right to the tree of life.
It is impressive how this choice of trees is readily understood by all men as the great decision of the ages. In the ancient Chinese language, their word for “forbidden” is written by the compound pictogram combining the symbol of two trees and the character for the word “command.” They expressed what is forbidden in the same terms it was to have been understood by Adam and Eve.
Today, each and every one of us is given the choice of which tree we prefer. So many are still being deceived to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, choosing to determine what is right for themselves, believing they will not surely die (Proverbs 14:12). As they do, we too have all chosen to eat the sweet fruit of that poisonous tree. But by faith in the gift of God’s grace we can again be made righteous and have restored access to the tree of life (Romans 5:16-19).
Of those two trees, which are you choosing to eat from today?
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God (Revelation 2:7).”
Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol.V, p.37, Eerdman’s
J.W. Monser, Types and Metaphors of the Bible, p.43, F.L. Rowe Publisher, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1936