The Tree of Life was always part of the creation pre-Fall stories and teachings I would hear in my earlier Christian experience, but it’s meaning was never really explored with any depth. My memories contain more about how the first humans weren’t supposed to eat from that other tree. My bet would that your experience has been similar.
Turns out the Tree of Life’s meaning is central to the whole biblical story; and as such, God’s entire purpose for creating. So yeah, it’s important that its meaning is explored.
When God created, the beginning of the book of Genesis tells us that He created life “according to their kind.” (Gen 1:11-12) There was something about that tree that was different from the other trees. The other trees contained life. But the Tree of Life contained a certain kind of life.
What was in it
It contained God’s kind of life. It was God’s Life made tangible, available and receivable. If received, God’s Life would be dispensed inside of humans. His essence would become their essence. They would be included in and be animated by the Life of God. It would be their Source to live by.
What God’s Life is
But what is “God’s kind of life?” To define it, you have to look at the atmosphere and activity of God. There’s something happening within God that makes His Life what it is. What this atmosphere and activity is makes up the essence of His Life. That atmosphere and activity is what defines the relationship between the Persons of God. But it’s not just knowing each other. They have a certain type of relationship.
What community is and isn’t
Their relationship is a shared-life community. It goes beyond sharing common interests or having the same goals. There’s no imbalance in the People’s participation. There’s no Person that’s elevated above another. Their relationship is so intertwined that they appear to be one. But they don’t just appear to be one. They ARE one.
Community is shared participation.
God decided to extend an offer of His community Life to another.
What God was offering
So He created another community that could have the same type of relationship with Him that the other Persons within Him have. As I laid out in a previous post This Is What It Means To Be The Image Of God, the first human was a communal human.
Although it was one body, It was not an individual human. Not only did it contain a male and a female, inside of the first human (Hebrew word adam) was every human that would ever be born. You were in the first human (I Cor. 15:22).
The new community was given the ability and choice to enter into God’s community. Sharing in God’s community Life would happen by eating. If they ate God’s Life, they would become partakers of His nature (2 Peter 1:4). Individuals within the community could be separated and isolated, or they could become one. This was the choice of the two trees.
The role of the fruit
The fruit of the Tree contained the Life of the Tree. This is what fruit is.
Here’s how Milt Rodriguez describes the role of the fruit in his book The Community Life of God…
The tree needs somewhere to deposit the overflow of life so it creates “life-pods” which are containers to hold the excess life. The beautiful thing about fruit is that it contains the complete DNA of the tree. These seeds hold everything needed to produce more trees.
So, by man eating the fruit from this tree, the exact same shared-life community of God would be reproduced inside of him! The “Tree” would multiply and expand into the visible creation. Man and the “Tree” would become one.
The enemy’s offer
Of course we know this never happened. The enemy deceived Eve with a different choice. Essentially, he lied about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil. He claimed that eating from that tree would cause her to be like God.
While he was right that Eve had the potential to be like God and expand His image on the earth, he lied about the method that would cause it to happen.
His lie was that she would become like God through becoming independent. Eve took the other tree’s offer of independence from Adam and from God to decide for herself.
What the enemy accomplished
The first human was created like God, but did not yet experience the communal Life of God. God split the human with the purpose that the many would become one. But choosing independence destroyed that possibility. The enemy accomplished his purpose to keep God’s image (His community Life) from expanding.
His purpose was to keep them split.
The human race would move forward independently, deciding for themselves instead of truly being like God through many being one.
Rodriguez goes on to say…
You cannot be the image of God as a separated, isolated individual. You are only a part of the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22, 23). If he can somehow keep you separated and isolated as an individual, then the image of God will never have any practical expression and that image will not have authority or dominion on the earth.
What the first Christians did
The Church is what the first human was supposed to become after being fruitful and multiplying. But they chose not to receive the community life of God.
This is what Jesus did. As a 100% human, he chose to partake in God’s community life instead of deciding for Himself. He ate from the Tree of Life.
Here’s how this community life played out among the first Christians…
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all the believers were together and had all things in common… (Acts 2:42-44)
Eating from the Tree of Life is being a many-but-one community that displays the atmosphere and activity of God.