THE TREE OF LIFE BEING THE CENTER OF THE BIBLE
The Bible is the holy Word, God’s oracle. It is an oracle full of divine revelations. First, it unveils God to us. Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created." Divinely speaking, the Bible is a book of revelation. Humanly speaking, to us it is a storybook containing the story concerning God. This story has a center. The center in this story is the tree of life (Gen. 2:8-9). This story unveils God to us, but the center of the story is the tree of life.
At the beginning of the Bible a very striking, particular, and peculiar tree, the tree of life, is standing there. Perhaps we have seen hundreds of kinds of trees, but we have never seen a tree named life. The Bible as a storybook begins with this tree and ends with this tree (Rev. 22:1-2). This tree is the center of the whole world. Some maps of the world place the Mediterranean Sea, with the small nation of Israel on its eastern shore, at the center of the populated world. The Garden of Eden was not far from today’s Israel. Genesis 2 tells us that where the tree of life was, there was a river with four heads, one of which was the Euphrates (v. 14). That is the river where Babylon was built. Today’s Iraq is on the Euphrates. The Euphrates is one of the four heads of the particular river that flowed out of Eden to water the garden where the tree of life was. This means that the tree of life is at the center of the populated earth. Then, at the end of the Bible there is a holy city. In the center of that city is God’s throne (Rev. 22:1, 3). Out of the throne flows the river of water of life, and along this river, on its two sides, grows the tree of life, not like a pine shooting upward, but as a vine spreading forward to reach every part of the city until it reaches the twelve gates (vv. 1-2). This indicates that this nourishing tree is the center of the entire New Jerusalem. The story of the Bible is that God made the tree of life the center.
Now we need to ask, "What is the tree of life?" or "Who is the tree of life?" As I have pointed out in previous chapters, God became incarnated to be a man. After this man grew up to be thirty years of age, He came out to minister. In His ministry, one day He told people, "I am...the life" (John 14:6). This sentence is short and the words are simple enough for a preschool child to read: I am the life. In the next chapter, John 15, He said, "I am the true vine" (v. 1). These two sentences put together equal "I am the life tree." Therefore, the tree of life, the life tree, is Christ. We need to be bold to say that Christ, who is the embodiment of the Triune God (Col. 2:9), is a tree, a vine tree, and this vine tree is the tree of life.
In Genesis 2:9 there is no indication or hint that the tree of life was a vine. However, when we come to the end of the Bible, we find that the tree of life is a vine. We know this because it grows not by shooting upward but by spreading out to reach people. It is one tree, but it grows on two sides of the river. Hence, it must be a vine. Between Genesis and Revelation there is another chapter of the Bible concerning Christ—John 15—in which He told us that He is the true vine. There are many vines on this earth, but only one vine is true. This vine is Christ.
The queen of England has a large vine. In 1958 I was invited to England, and while I stayed there some brothers brought me to see the Queen’s vine, a large vine in a glass room. The British people were boasting of that tree. When they asked me what I thought about it, I replied that the Queen’s vine was too small compared with the true vine that I had seen. The Queen’s vine had not yet filled the room where it was kept, but the vine that I had seen had circled the entire globe many times. No one can measure its length. Christ, the great vine tree, is everywhere on this globe. He is in Seattle, in Hong Kong, in New York, in New Zealand—in every place on this earth. Therefore, we should not listen to some Bible teachers who say that there is no tree of life today. That is a falsehood. The tree of life is here today.
Like God Himself, the things concerning God are mysterious and abstract. It is difficult to describe such an abstract and mysterious God. Therefore, God used the wisest way to teach us concerning Himself. He taught us like a teacher in a kindergarten. A kindergarten teacher teaches her students by means of pictures. There is a saying that a picture is better than a thousand words. Thus, in Genesis 2 God set forth a picture, the tree of life. We might say that after this picture appeared in the Old Testament, it disappeared for a while. In the Old Testament we cannot see the picture of the tree of life after Genesis 3, because due to the fall of man, the way to the tree of life was closed by the cherubim, signifying God’s glory, and also by the flaming sword, the flame signifying God’s holiness and the sword signifying God’s righteousness (3:24). This indicates that to the fallen mankind the way to the tree of life was closed by God’s glory, God’s holiness, and God’s righteousness. There was no longer an entrance for fallen mankind to touch the tree of life.
But one day God Himself came out of eternity and entered into time to be a man. Then He died on the cross for the man whom He had created and who had become fallen. He died an all-inclusive death, which was also a vicarious death. By that death He satisfied the demands of God’s glory, God’s holiness, and God’s righteousness. In a sense, He took away the cherubim and the flaming sword, so that the closed entrance was opened again. Hebrews 10:19-20 says that a new and living way has been initiated for us to come to God as the tree of life. Actually, in this new way we do not need to go to the tree of life; the tree of life came to us and is now with us. He was with Peter and John, and He was so close that John could even lie in His bosom. Then this One opened His mouth and told them, "I am the life" and "I am the true vine." This means that He is the tree of life to His believers. Every day His disciples were dealing with the tree of life, yet they did not know it. They were dealing with the tree of life without being conscious of it.
(The Organic Union in God's Relationship with Man, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)