The Tree of Life

illustration of tree with branches in white on green circle background

A friend sent me a photo she took of a gorgeous stained-glass window depicting the Tree of Life (it’s in the Pinterest Pin below.) I’ve wanted to write a blog post about it ever since. A recent visit to the USS Arizona Memorial site in Hawaii brought it back to my memory. There is a sculpture there titled “Tree of Life.” According to the sculptor, it is a symbol of renewal meant to inspire spiritual contemplation. I’ve been trying to connect the dots between the Biblical version and the artistic versions ever since.

Surprisingly (to me!) the Tree of Life is a prominent theme in many religions, philosophies, and myths. Islam, Judaism, Buddhists, Hinduism, and Celtic religions, just to name a few, all have different interpretations. They prescribe harmony, balance in life, magic properties, enlightenment, and deep connections to the physical world, positive energy, etc. to the tree of life. Sacred trees that promised a divine life were a big part of ancient Middle Eastern art and culture.

Tree of Life in the Bible

Our focus, of course, will be spiritual contemplation on the original Tree of Life- created by God and placed in the center of the Garden of Eden. We find it first mentioned in Genesis and again in the book of Revelation. There are also four Proverbs where we see its symbolism used in different ways. We will look at them all but let’s start at the beginning.

Tree of Life in Genesis

God, the original Master Gardener, designed and planted a garden in His sacred and created world as the perfect spot for humanity to live with Him. We are told it is in the “east” and named “Eden”, a name which means “delight” in Hebrew. “And there He put the man He had formed.” Gen 2:8b NIV.

Genesis 2:9

“And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground- trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” NIV.

God places Adam in this lush and spectacular garden to work it and take care of it. (v15). He gives him the following instructions:

“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’” (vv16-17)

God gave Adam and Eve permission to eat the fruit from all the trees- including the tree of life- except for one. The choice was really not which fruit to eat, but whether to believe and rely on God’s direction and guidance. Reread that verse- God was crystal clear on His instructions. His desire was for Adam to choose life over death.

A life of blessings was theirs if only they would completely trust and obey God.

Tree of Knowledge vs Tree of Life

God made a beautiful garden space for humanity to live and fellowship with Him. He produced bountiful and delicious fruit for food. He met their physical and spiritual desires of hunger and thirst in abundance.

To eat from the tree of life represented desiring God’s wisdom, love, and guidance. He wanted us to hunger and thirst for Him above all else.

Adam and Eve’s act of disobedience showed they wanted to be self-reliant and independent of God.

The proper choice was to obey God so that He could bless them with every good thing, including eternal life. Instead, they chose Satan’s lies, which led to physical death.

“For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23 NIV.

Eat of the Tree of Life

We receive more detail about the tree of life after Adam and Eve disobeyed God:

“And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever.'” Genesis 3:22 NIV.

Eating from the Tree of Life resulted in an eternal life. If allowed to eat its fruit after the fall, Adam, Eve, and all their descendants would have lived forever in a sinful state; alienated from God forever. To protect and save us, He mercifully kept us from a life with no chance for redemption.

God banished Adam and Eve from Eden (sinful man cannot be in God’s presence) and set angels and a flaming sword “flashing back and forth” to guard the tree. (v24).

tree of life- stained glass window of tree of life

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Tree of Life in Heaven

We have a future, however, where those who choose Jesus’ redemption and forgiveness for sin will again eat from the tree of life!

Jesus gives us this amazing promise in Revelation 2:7:

“To Him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” NIV.

We can regain what we have lost. We can live forever with Him in paradise, washed clean by His sacrifice, and eat again of the fruit of the tree of life.

What will this tree look like? John explains:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month…” Revelation 22:1-2 NIV.

Here are Jesus’ last words on the subject:

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14 NIV.

To “wash your robes” means to experience the amazing grace of God in His forgiveness of sin through Jesus. These are the blessed ones; they have access to enter heaven and eat of the tree of life.

Fruit of the Tree of Life

The river that watered Eden (Genesis 2:10) returns in splendor in Heaven. The tree of life (maybe many trees?) line the banks of this river. It is so bountiful it produces 12 crops of fruits each year. Will we physically eat this fruit? Are they 12 different fruits? No one knows the answer to these questions, but how wonderful it is to keep our thoughts fixed on Heaven and our eternal life there!

Tree Symbolism in the Bible

There are over 300 references to trees in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Trees are important aspects of many Biblical stories and lessons- think fig trees, olive trees, acacia, cedar, mustard, and palm trees! Trees are significant in many verses:

•The Psalmist tells us to be like a tree planted by streams of water in Psalm 1:3.

•Jesus reminds us that every “good tree” produces good fruit in Matthew 7:16-19.

•The writer (s) of Proverbs used the term “tree of life” four times as a metaphor symbolizing truths that benefits our lives: wisdom, blessings, and Gods’ fulfillment in our lives.

“She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.” Proverbs 3:18 NIV.

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.” Proverbs 11:30 NIV.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12 NIV.

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4 NIV.

•We also see the symbolism of Jesus being lifted up on a tree at the cross. It is where we receive forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life that was first present in Eden found in the Tree of Life.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” Galatians 3:13 NIV.

The Tree of Life Meaning

Scripture tells us that the tree of life brought immortality and that God created and planted it in the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve made the devastating choice to sin against God, our ability to eat the fruit from this tree had to be cut off. To eat from this tree meant living forever in sin.

Earthly life is difficult and death is in everyone’s future. But through grace, God provides a way out for us through His own Son. God planned to have a continual presence with His people from the very beginning. When Jesus was obedient to His Father’s plan, He restored what we lost in Eden. Anyone who accepts the sacrifice of Christ will see the tree of life again and eat its fruit.

Questions for Reflection:

•Just as Adam and Eve were given a choice to rely on God’s direction and guidance, will you ask God to reveal His plan for your life and choose to commit to following His ways?

•How do you feed your spiritual hunger and thirst?

•We all look for guidance and direction in places other than God (think media, opinions of others, ourselves…)  What places can you identify? What changes would you like to make?

•When do you tend to lean on your own understanding?



All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos, Cynthia McCarthy

6 thoughts on “The Tree of Life”

    1. Thank you John, I agree! I love the verse that says His word will not come back to him empty, but accomplish what He has planned. He is so gracious to give us His wisdom, and the ears to hear! Bless you John!

  1. Wow this was great. One of the best studies on the Tree of Life (including BSF). Your explanation of Gen. 3:22 was new for me. Really a lot to meditate on. “To eat from this tree meant living forever in sin.” Wow.
    Love how you turned the stained glass tree into a frame-able piece of art with the title and scripture. Thanks, Ann!

    1. It all started with you sending me that photo! Thanks for the encouraging words. I too have been thinking of so many aspects of God’s guidance and wisdom, care for me, and my life in Heaven- eating yummy fruit from the Tree of Life!

  2. Thank you Ma’am AnnMarie for this wonderful post and for sharing a deeper meaning about the Tree of Life. May everyone who reads this be blessed and learn to rely for God’s guidance and direction in everything in this life. God bless.

    1. Thank you so much, I too pray that each reader is blessed by this Word. I feel like I need constant reminders to lean on His guidance and direction! Blessings to you!

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