“And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev. 22:2; NASB)
What pictures come to mind when you hear that word?
Streets of gold?
Clouds and harps?
How about trees? Or, to be more specific, a tree. Trees aren’t typically associated with heaven, but at least one tree — the tree of life — will be in glory and it will be the object of eternal satisfaction and joy for every believer.
Near the beginning of time, after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, there is a striking statement:
“Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’ — therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden…” (Gen. 3:22-23a).
Now with a superficial reading, one might think, “Why did God do that? Wouldn’t it have been good for Adam and Eve to eat that fruit? Wouldn’t it have been ‘redeeming,’ providing them eternal hope? Why was God so ‘mean’?”
This was not an act of anger or meanness — it was an act of God’s protective grace. Suppose that Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of life at that point (and it is probably a pretty safe guess to think that they would have been tempted to do so). What would have happened? What would have happened is that they would have lived forever — in their miserable state of sin. Rather than providing them life, they would have been eternally trapped in sinful, undying bodies. Rather than providing them with hope, they would have known only unending, eternal condemnation.
And there is no hope in that.
So in his grace, God allowed them to die.
Death is a form of God’s grace to those who believe in Him, because death allows believers to be rid of “this wretched body” (Rom. 7:24). And once His fully glorified and redeemed people are in heaven, God again makes it possible for them to eat from the tree of life.
Not only will it be possible to eat from the tree, but eating is encouraged! Then the tree of life will bring not just eternal physical life, but it will provide an eternal, healed, hopeful life.
So when you think of heaven, don’t just think of road construction materials — think of a tree — a great tree of eternal grace and life.