Summary: Written and Published March, 2021: This article discusses the two trees found in Adam’s paradise and the grand importance of the biblical principles they represent.
When man’s history began God placed Adam in a garden of blessing, in which two trees were specifically distinguished for him – the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9). Then God gave Adam this one command, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” As a created being Adam was responsible to obey this one command from God, his Creator.
These are the two trees of Eden. The tree of life represents eternal life. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with the Creator’s command attached to it, represents Adam’s responsibility to obey. Of the tree of life Adam could have freely eaten and done so first. But he chose instead to eat of the other tree and disobey his Maker.
These are the two trees of Eden. They represent the two great principles from which everything flows as regards man, any man – responsibility and a sovereign source of life. In these two things, in their reconciliation with each other, can be found the lot of every man (his eternal destiny). For Adam, he was chased out of the garden, and by the judgment of God he was kept from eating of the tree of life. God would never allow a fallen sinner to live forever. More than this, Adam was the federal head of the human race. All mankind, as the children of Adam, would be in the same condition – fallen sinners by birth.
How were the two trees, the two principles to be dealt with and reconciled? The Law of God (Judaism) involved both principles. Its founding tenant was, “do these things and live.” The Law made life dependent on perfect obedience/responsibility from fallen man, who now knew good and evil. Life came at the end and depended on the result/performance of his responsibility. One can easily see that the Law, as a means of reconciling the two principles and giving anyone eternal life, was an exercise in futility. Perfect obedience was the standard, and no fallen sinner could ever produce this.
How are the two principles to be reconciled on man’s behalf? Grace in Christ Jesus also deals with the two principles. This is specifically done through the work of the cross, His suffering and death, and then resurrection. By grace God gives eternal life freely to those who believe in Jesus Christ and His redemptive work. How does this work? How does the cross reconcile the two trees for us? Jesus underwent the consequences of man’s fall and failure when He was condemned by God to suffer and die on the cross. Here is a verse that directly teaches this truth.
Romans 8:3 (NKJV)
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,”
The Law could not reconcile the two principles; however, God did so by sending His Son into this world and condemning Him to death on the cross. What the Law could not do, God did. By the cross our responsibility as a child of Adam was fully met – Jesus bore our sins (those who believe), paying the penalty for them all. Our sins were our failures in responsibility. He suffers and dies, paying the price for our sins before God. Our responsibility as a child of Adam is fully and perfectly met by the cross.
What about the tree of life? By His work on the cross, Jesus gained the victory over death and becomes the power of life to those who believe in Him. He becomes the source of eternal life. This is Jesus after His resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:45
And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
Jesus is the last Adam. By His work on the cross and by resurrection, He is now the giver of eternal life to all who believe in Him.
This was the only way the two trees of Eden could be reconciled on man’s behalf – responsibility and life. The Law was a complete failure in trying to bring this reconciliation to any man (Rom. 3:19-20). As a fallen sinner, no child of Adam could produce perfect obedience to God’s law – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). This is every person’s condition in unbelief, and only the grace of God through the cross of Jesus Christ can change it (Rom. 3:24).