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Keeping the Way of the Tree of Life
By David A. DePra
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Gen 3:22-24)
The above verse is often an after thought to the general story of the fall of man. But in it is contained a fundamental Truth pertaining to God’s working with His people. And yet before we get to that Truth, we must review a few things that led up to what is described.
We know that God planted the tree of LIFE, and the forbidden tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And God told Adam NOT to eat of the forbidden tree. He said, "For in the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die." (Gen. 2:17)
At stake here was not some legalistic point. It was not merely a matter of Adam doing what he was told by God. Really, these trees represented LIFE and DEATH. But not just LIFE and DEATH as, "things." Rather, they represented LIFE and DEATH because each of them represented a relationship with God Himself.
Eating of The Tree of Life represented a working out of Adam’s dependence upon God. All life is found in God, and there is no life outside of Him. The tree represented this fact, and Adam’s eating of it represented his continual dependence upon God for everything.
God created Adam DEPENDENT, and it was very good. Sure. Adam was made naked – possessing nothing of himself as to life. But he was unashamed – that is – he was not conscious of his nakedness because he was made complete by his oneness with God. This was exactly God’s thought for man from the beginning.
This Tree of Life represented God Himself as Adam’s provision. As Adam continually ate of it, this showed his continual dependence upon God for everything, and showed God’s continual provision for him for all that pertained to LIFE.
Eating of the forbidden tree, however, represented a declaration of INDEPENDENCE FROM GOD. And Adam sinned by eating of the forbidden tree, he was still naked – but now totally ashamed. Why? Because he had separated himself from God, and the result was that God no longer completed him. He was therefore thoroughly conscious of need. He was, in fact, spiritually DEAD.
So what we see are TWO choices – indeed TWO eternal paths. There is LIFE – which is found only in God, and worked out through the eating of the Tree of Life. And there is DEATH – which is the result of sinning against God by separating yourself from God. This was worked out through Adam’s choice to reject God and eat of the forbidden tree.
God told Adam NOT to eat of the forbidden tree. He said, "For in the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die." (Gen. 2:17) But Satan told Eve, "You shall not die."
This is, of course, not only the FIRST lie recorded, but it is the same one that governs all of the realm of darkness. It is the ultimate deception. To this day, people think that can reject Life Himself and still live. They think they can decide for themselves, rebel against God, and NOT die. There is something about what has happened to man through the sin of Adam that has not only hardened us to the evil of sin, but has also blinded us to the reality of the consequences. People continue to believe that they can live their lives on their own terms, even in open rebellion against God, and NOT DIE.
There are some sad examples of this blindness. I have known some people, some older and some younger – some of whom weren’t in the greatest of health – who have continued to reject God. They seem to have no consciousness of their own condition – at least not that they are admitting. Over the course of a lifetime they have hardened themselves against the Truth – they have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. And so they have become those who really DO love darkness. They are comfortable in it in the sense that they have no intention of seeking Truth or of responding to the Light. They have become those who have bought into the great lie and are now characterized by it – they think that they can eat of the forbidden tree and NOT DIE.
We can be sure that because Genesis is a depository for many SEED or ROOT Truths in the Bible – always take note of the many, "firsts," in the Bible, they are often significant – that this first lie is really THE LIE. After all, Jesus said, "The Devil is a liar from the beginning, and the father of lies." The lie that you can reject God and be your own boss, and NOT DIE, is the root of all lies for us in this age.
We know the story. Eve quoted to the serpent God’s command to them to NOT eat of the forbidden tree, and quoted to him that God had said that if they ate, they would DIE. Satan then said, "You shall NOT die." It was exactly at this point in human history that another way was introduced. It was the way of DEATH. Ironic that the way of death was introduced with the statement, "You shall NOT die!"
Satan continued. He now proceeded to tell Eve WHY God had lied to them. He said to Eve, "For God knows that in the day you eat of the forbidden tree, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." (see Gen 3:5)
The English is a bit confusing here. It almost sounds as if God did not want them to be able to discern the difference between good and evil. But this is not the case. "To know good and evil," does not mean, "to know right from wrong," or, "to know the difference between good and evil." No. God WANTED them to discern, and in fact, told them that it was wrong for them to eat of the forbidden tree. Rather, the phrase, "knowing good and evil," really means, "to decide for oneself good and evil." In short, it means exactly what Satan said it meant: "To be as gods." In other words, if you are the one deciding for yourself good and evil, then you ARE your own god.
Once we see that this is the temptation, it opens up to the light the entire passage. God had forbid them to decide for themselves what good and evil WERE. For to decide that for oneself is to exalt oneself as god. Can we see that?
If I decide for myself what good and evil ARE, I am automatically rejecting God Himself. I am declaring my independence from Him, and separating myself from all accountability to Him. This may not sound like a big deal to many of us today, because such a terrible choice is more or less business as usual for man as we know him. But Adam was not, "man as we know him." He was man as God MADE him. Adam had no sin nature. He knew only LIGHT. Thus, the choice he made to reject God and eat of the forbidden tree was with open eyes and without excuse. The only result possible was spiritual death.
Adam did not simply do a wrong thing. He rejected God Himself – the eating of the fruit was merely the way in which he worked that out. And the result was that Adam became a wrong creature. Sure. He had been created naked and unashamed – because he was fully complete in God. But now he has separated himself from God. The result was man who was still naked, but now ashamed. Indeed, he was tormented by his own condition of spiritual death.
Satan had openly told them that eating of the forbidden tree DID constitute exactly the choice to, "be as gods." He told Eve that it meant that they were, "deciding for themselves good and evil." Isn’t it amazing how the Devil can deceive by providing SOME Truth? Sure. But he also told them that they would NOT DIE. This was the big lie. And they believe him. And so they ate, and they did die – exactly as God said they would.
We see here that God gives us exactly what we choose. If we want to be our own god, God will let us. If we want to choose SELF over God, we will get SELF instead of God. If we want to declare independence from God, we will get it – we will get separation from God and the death that must result because we have rejected LIFE HIMSELF.
To Keep the Way of Life
In the aftermath of the sin, God pronounced judgment upon Adam for his sin. Essentially, God said, "Now that you have rejected Me, and have chosen to decide for yourself what is good and what is evil – now that you have become your own god – this is now what MUST be." And we read those judgments in the latter part of Genesis 3. This brings us up to date. For it is at this point that God evicts Adam and Eve from the garden and says:
Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Gen 3:22-24)
What we see in this judgment of God is that God forbids Adam, AFTER the sin, from partaking of The Tree of Life. But if you read the passage, you will see that this is not a matter of vindictive punishment. No. Rather, it is a matter of the LOVE and MERCY of God for Adam. But how so?
God was clearly stating that Adam – now spiritually dead – could not be allowed to partake of LIFE. Can we see that? But why? Why would God forbid a spiritually dead Adam from eating of the tree of life? How is THAT mercy?
It is mercy because for God to give LIFE, and the things of God, to someone who is spiritually dead, and to someone who is sitting on the throne of his own life, would destroy them. It would AFFIRM their rejection of God with the things of God. It would affirm darkness by mixing it with light. It would, in fact, affirm the very lie of Satan. For God to give the Tree of Life to someone who had deliberately eaten of the forbidden tree would mean that you could eat of the forbidden tree and NOT DIE.
If God had allowed Adam to eat of the Tree of Life – in his present condition – God would have been denying HIMSELF. He would have been saying to Adam, "Adam, you have totally rejected Me. But that’s ok. You can nevertheless have Me -- but on your own terms." In effect, if God had given Adam access to the Tree of Life, God would have been affirming everything Satan said, and which Adam did, and would have been making LIFE and DEATH equal. Life and death would no longer have anything to do with man’s relationship with God Himself.
And yet God DID work a redemption, didn’t He? Sure. In fact, He evicted Adam from the garden clothed in a promise of a Savior. When God placed the cherubim at the entrance of the garden, "to keep the way of the tree of life," He was not merely BARRING everyone from that tree. No. Rather, He was making a way TO that Tree – THE WAY through His Son.
Life From Death
God wants to give us the Tree of Life. But you cannot get to the Tree of Life, "in Adam." No. If you try to get to the Tree of Life IN ADAM, you will be stopped. The only way to the Tree of Life is through Jesus Christ.
Obviously, Adam must be dealt with. Adam – our Adam – must be brought to the Cross of Jesus Christ. Adam must take his place of death in Christ at the Cross. And then, through resurrection unto newness of LIFE, we can, "live in the garden." We can eat of the Tree of Life continually.
We need to understand that natural man – even the natural man in born again believers – cannot eat of the Tree of Life. God is not going to affirm natural man, self-will, or our way. God is not going to give life to ADAM and fix him, affirm him, or prop him up. No. There is only one solution for Adam – DEATH. But if Adam dies in Christ, then there is a resurrection.
The cherubim had a flaming sword. This is symbolic of the Cross. It is symbolic of the FIRE that must purge all that is not of God. There is no other way into the garden but through the work of the Cross.
But Christians by the millions today have been sold a bill of goods. They have been told that God will give them the things of LIFE – but without the necessity of the work of the Cross. We are being told that we can have, "Your Best Life Now," just by following a couple of nice and easy steps. We being told that if we partner with this or that ministry, that we will be IMPARTED with the things of the Holy Spirit – be imparted with, "their anointing." We have been told that God is so loving that all we need to do is name it and claim it, and we can have what we say. But this is nothing more than trying to get into the garden, to that tree of life, without first coming to the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is a lie.
For the last two thousand years, professing Christians have tried to use the things of God for their own advantage and purposes. People use the name of Christ to get rich, or maybe just to gain a following. In the end, this is, "Adam," trying to eat of the Tree of Life – it is Adam trying to find LIFE on his terms – really, on ANY terms except through DEATH. God will not affirm your path. And if you persist, you will end up being deceived.
Trying to find true LIFE in Christ without the work of the Cross is nothing more than the big lie of Satan all over again. It is a denial that we must die. It is a denial that God’s only way is through death and resurrection in Christ.
Today Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life who is in the midst of the garden. He is the Vine and we are the branches. As we abide in Him we are alive. This is not only true as to salvation, but it is true pertaining to all that is within salvation. The things of God are ALL found in Christ.
In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:3)
For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col 2:9-10)
But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (1 Cor 1:30)
We need to come to terms with the fact that Truth, Life, Righteousness, Sanctification, etc., are not mere THINGS that God gives us. No God gives us HIMSELF through His Son, Jesus Christ. And as Christ grows in us, these characteristics OF Christ are made manifest.
The same thing is true with regards to the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are not traits or THINGS that I develop, nor are they a matter of conduct that I adopt. No. Fruit is always the END product of a growth process. I bear the fruit of the Spirit because I am abiding in the One True Vine – and those fruits of the Spirit are of HIM.
So we see that even Christian character – which is another name for the fruits of the Spirit – do not belong to us. We don’t build character! No. Christ is built up IN US. And if He is being built up in us, then the fruits will manifest, and the character OF Christ will show.
Now, there is a, "catch," here. I just stated that, "we don’t build character." That is a true statement. I also stated that, "Christ is built up IN US." That is likewise a true statement. But can we see a problem here – one that I haven’t mentioned? Sure. WE are in the way. WE ARE. How in the world can Christ be built up in us, and come to be seen through us – as long as the person WE ARE, "in Adam," continues on the throne – even as a born again believer? That is a BIG problem, isn’t it?
The things of Christ that I have mentioned are really the things of The Tree of Life – the fruit of HIM. I hope we are seeing the point: We have to come through the Cross.
The fact is – and I don’t know what could be more vital for us to understand – we cannot be BUILT UP in Christ unless, parallel to that, our old man in Adam is being TORN DOWN. There are many ways to say the same thing: If the kingdom of God is to operate IN US, then our kingdom must be born down. If Jesus is to be Lord of us – I mean, REALLY – then we can no longer be lord. If Christ is to INCREASE in us, we must DECREASE. If we are to be ENLARGED in the LIFE of Christ, then we must be in the process of DYING.
All of this comes down to the work of the Cross. There is no possibility that you and I can be saved unless we first come to the Cross. But once we do, we must then spend a lifetime carrying our Cross so that all that salvation means might be worked out in and through us. We must DIE if we are to LIVE. There is simply no other way possible – the NATURE of things demands it.
The Tree of Life is still available. But there is only ONE WAY to it – through death and resurrection in Jesus Christ. If you try to come to the Tree of Life IN ADAM – for your own purposes, even if they are religious ones – you won’t get through. But thankfully, if you come IN CHRIST – your restoration back to God is assured.
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