By PastorJ | Tuesday, September 22, 2015 | 3:28 AM
In my time-consuming and strenuous endeavor to learn the Greek language, in which I feel I will always remain a student and never a master, I came across a word that caught my attention and struck a key in my soul. This word is the Greek word, ξύλον (xylon), which can be interpreted as our English word, “tree.” Each time this word, ξύλον, is used in the NT, it refers to either the cross of Christ or the tree of life.
Now the question is proposed, how does one live forever? How do we obtain eternal life, specifically through a tree?
We can remember back to the very beginning in the Garden of Eden to initiate a brief answer, but a later conclusion will prove more beneficial and theologically sound when it comes to the salvation of humanity. The first chapter of Genesis gives us wonderful insights into the handiwork of our Creator. It describes His creation in what I believe to be six literal days. In chapter two, we are introduced to the humanity that God had formed and the specific garden He chose to place them in. Among the interesting items in this garden were Adam and “the tree of life”. Just another chapter over, we witness a terrible incident that led to the fall of the entire human race. Adam chooses heartache, separation, and death over the perfect paradise that God meant for him to enjoy. Due to Adam’s choice to disobey God, he and his wife are cast out of Eden and forbidden to enjoy its bountiful benefits. This means that they had disqualified themselves from the eternal life that was freely available in the garden. This disqualification, or missing the mark (Rom. 3:23), is known as sin. The close of chapter three informs us that God had banished humanity from the garden and set angels to guard the tree of life so that humanity might not live eternally in the sinful condition that they had chosen.
We must read through several books of the OT before we find the term “tree of life” again. Even when we find this term used later in the Bible, it is used symbolically, referentially, or prophetically. Proverbs uses it to symbolize wisdom and godly living (Prov. 3:18; 11:20; 13:12; and 15:4). Ezekiel 47:12 references and prophetically speaks about the tree of life in the original Eden and the new creation, which is yet to come. Jewish apocalyptic works speak about the tree of life becoming an agent of eternal life given by God to believers (Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002. Pgs. 123-124). Finally, we can find the tree of life once again when we study the book of Revelation. Here the tree of life is mentioned in the letters to the seven churches of Revelation as a reward for those who “overcome”. Later in Revelation, we learn about the new creation. The Bible teaches us that Jesus will create a new heaven and a new earth, after he has judged and condemned the old. This new creation will include the “tree of life”, which will be freely available to all believers who reside in the new creation. Grant Osborne summarizes the meaning of the “tree of life” in Revelation by stating, “In the final Eden the curse of the first Eden is reversed and eternal ‘life’ is now given to God’s people” (Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002. Pg. 124).
This eternal life would not be available to any person if it were not for another tree. When the Greek word ξύλον (xylon) is used in the NT to denote something other than the tree of life, it is used to denote the cross of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24) which is the greatest tree of life we will ever read about. It is the greatest tree we could ever partake of. Its fruit can heal a broken world, cure our disease called sin, and prolong our life throughout all of eternity. Our salvation rests in the Gospel of Jesus Christ who died on a tree, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day giving eternal life to all who will trust in Him. All who wish to obtain eternal life must decide to follow the one who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE…” (John 14:6). It is impossible to obtain salvation, eternal life, outside of a faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). Of course this verse is elementary to some, but John 3:16 drives this point home very clearly. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have EVERLASTING LIFE.”
To sufficiently and theologically answer the question that was proposed at the beginning of this post, how does one live forever? As plainly as I can state it, become a tree hugger. Cling to the cross of Christ. Decide today to let the words of one of my favorite Hymnns echo within the walls of your heart , "I will cling to the old, rugged cross..." Choose to partake in the gift that has been freely given to you as an act of God’s mercy, grace, love, and kindness. Clinging to the tree that was stained with the blood of the Lord Jesus will cover up a multitude of sins and will assure you that you will one day spend eternity in paradise.
1Peter 2:24 “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
Revelation 22:1-5 “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. (2) In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there 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. (3) And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: (4) And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. (5) And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.”