The story of the Bible begins, and ends, with a tree. In the beginning, God created man and placed him in a garden in Eden. In the garden, God and man dwelt together in mutual love, service, and enjoyment of one another. Man was charged with the duty to keep the garden, have dominion over the earth, and above all to love and serve the Lord by bearing His glorious image. In so long as Man kept the charge of his Creator, he was permitted to take from the fruit of the tree of life. Access to this tree was a symbol of a spiritual reality; in so long as man walked in trusting obedience to his Creator, all was well.
God forbade man from eating from another tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man, choosing to be unfaithful to his Creator, took from the forbidden tree and thus the harmony of Heaven and Earth, God and Man was undone. When man held the forbidden fruit in his hand, he held a symbol of the new reality; he had sold God for an apple. To portray this new reality, access to the tree of life (symbolizing harmony with God, man, and creation) was forbidden. Until the time of the New Testament, the tree of life represented at once the image of Edenic splendor, and paradise lost.
Yet God, to the praise of His glorious grace, showed John in the Book of Revelation that the tree of life, and full access to it, are a future reality for those who entrust themselves to His Son, Jesus Christ. The tree of life will once again bear fruit for the taking and bud leaves which are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2). Access to that tree will symbolize an eternal reality; the original Edenic scenario of God with man dwelling together in mutual love and service has been finally and fully restored (Revelation 21:3).
Sandwiched between Genesis and Revelation is another tree, the tree upon which man’s Creator was nailed and left to die in order to bear the judgment and wrath of God justly due for sin and also to win for Himself the people of His love. Both the Apostles Paul (Galatians 3:13) and Peter (1 Peter 2:24) were familiar with the Old Testament tradition, which stated that anyone who hangs upon a tree is under God’s curse (Deuteronomy 21:23).
So Jesus, the Creator of the tree of life, hung on a tree of death to bear the curse of God, in order to secure access once again to the tree once lost. And what does the Bible say of those who give themselves to glorifying and enjoying their Creator, Redeemer and Friend? They are like trees, planted by the rivers of God’s loving counsel and they, unlike the wicked, bear fruit of obedient trust all their days until they see Him, who loved and served them, face to face under the shade of the tree of life (Psalm 1).