PUTTING MAN BEFORE THE TREE OF LIFE
The third striking point in God’s creation of man is that after God created man, He put man before the tree of life (Gen. 2:8-9). The man created by God was complete and perfect, having a body and a spirit with a soul. God put this complete and perfect man in front of the tree of life.
The figure of the tree of life in the Bible has puzzled nearly all the Bible teachers. In the Bible the tree of life is mentioned first in Genesis 2, and it proceeds through the Bible to the end, to Revelation 22. Between the two ends of the Bible, in Revelation 2:7 the Lord promised the overcomers that He will give them to eat of the tree of life. In order to discover what the tree of life is, we need to read through the Bible, beginning from Genesis 2. Eventually, we will reach Psalm 36:9, which says, "For with You is the fountain of life." According to this verse, with God is the fountain of life. The tree of life must be something that is related to life. Where is life? Life is in God. With God there is the fountain of life. Thus, God is the fountain, the source, of life. After reading further, we come to the New Testament. In John 1:4 we read, "In Him was life." The word Him in this verse refers to the Word in verse 1, who is God Himself. In the Word, who is God, is life. In John 14:6 this One came and told us, "I am...the life," and in John 15:1 He said, "I am the true vine." Besides Christ, every vine is a false one. Only He is the true vine. A vine is a tree. If we put these two matters, life and the tree, together, we have the tree of life. Who is the tree of life? The tree of life is the Triune God, who embodied Himself in Christ. Christ as the embodiment of the Triune God is the life in the vine tree. Therefore, Christ is the tree of life.
The tree of life is a vine tree, not a pine tree. A pine grows by shooting upward, into the heavens, but a vine grows by stretching forth to reach people. Since Christ is a vine, everyone can partake of His fruit. If He were a pine, it would be difficult for us to touch Him. Ultimately, the tree of life is described in Revelation 22:2: "And on this side and on that side of the river was the tree of life, producing twelve fruits, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." From this verse we can see that the tree of life does not grow by shooting upward; rather, it grows along the river of water of life, on the two sides of the river. A tree that grows along the two sides of a river surely must be a vine.
A vine tree is not for producing material for the construction of a building; a vine tree is good only for producing fruit. The fruit of the vine is for two purposes. First, the fruit is for the propagation and multiplication of the vine. Second, it is for food to provide nourishment to the eaters. Christ today is just such a vine, bearing fruit for His propagation and multiplication and for our nourishment.
In brief, the tree of life in the Bible is a figure of the Triune God embodied in Christ to be the very substance of the divine life. This tree is good for man to take and eat (Gen. 2:16; John 6:57b) that man may be constituted with God as the constituent of life. Thus, man and God become organically united and live together as one person (John 15:5; Phil. 1:20-21a). Colossians 3:4 says that Christ is our life. Therefore, we need to take Him as our supply, as the very substance of the divine life, in which life we can be victorious and overcoming and can be so high that we can even reign in His eternal life (Rom. 5:17). We can be kings in the eternal life. Eventually, we will be co-kings with Christ in the thousand-year kingdom (Rev. 3:21; 20:4).
However, according to my observation, I have not been able to find one dear saint through the years who truly lives not himself but Christ. We all have two lives. We have the natural life, the human life, and we have the spiritual life, the divine life. The natural life is just us, ourselves; and the divine life is also a person, Christ. Each one of us is two persons, one person being our self and the other being Christ in us. As two persons, we have two lives, our natural life and the divine life. We have the life from Adam and we have the life that is Christ Himself in us.
The problem is, by what life will we live? By the first life or the second life? By the natural life or the divine life? By our self or by Christ? I say again that I have not found anyone, even one who is very much in the church life, who lives Christ day by day and hour after hour and does not live himself. Hymns #841, 499, and 501 (Hymns) speak of living Christ and not ourselves. We need to check to see if our life matches the standard expressed in these hymns. We need to realize that we were created to be like God, even to be one with God. Furthermore, we have been saved into God to be regenerated by Him that we may be His children and may be members of Christ to constitute the Body of Christ. However, we need to ask ourselves whether we live God or not. We do have a marvelous provision. God has provided us with a body and with a spirit, which are very sufficient for us to live as a man to worship God, to receive God, and to contain God that we may live God and express Him.
Even after being saved by God, we may not live Him. We may be gentlemen, men who are right, but we may not be able to say, "It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20a). We may not be able to apply this holy word to ourselves. We need to realize the organic union between us and God. We need to behave ourselves, to walk, to live, to do everything, in this organic union. It should not be I but Christ; it should not be I by myself, but I with God, united, mingled, and blended to be one person, a God-man.
(The Organic Union in God's Relationship with Man, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)