"Out of the ground the Lord God caused every tree to grow that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." (Genesis 2:9)
"The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will grant to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7)
This lesson explains the original purpose of the tree of life, where the tree of life is now, that we overcome the world through faith in Christ, and that Jesus will grant to eat from the tree of life.
Consider. What was the original purpose of the tree of life in the garden of Eden? Why did God later prevent Adam from eating of the tree of life?
1. The Original Purpose of the Tree of Life
The original purpose of the tree of life was to preserve life. The tree of life was a special tree in the garden of Eden that God provided for the purpose of preserving life. Genesis 3:22 tells us if Adam had stretched out his hand and taken from the tree of life and eaten its fruit that he would have lived forever.
However, Adam lost access to the life-giving tree of life. Why? Adam sinned against God by disobeying God's command not to eat from the other special tree in the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9, Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:6-7). After Adam had sinned, God drove him out of the garden of Eden. God stationed cherubim [angelic beings, Ref. 1] to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24).
God is merciful in that he prevented Adam (and prevents us as Adam's descendants) from living forever in a state of disobedience and sin.
2. Where is the Tree of Life Now?
The tree of life now is in the Paradise of God (Revelation 2:7). Paradise is where believers will be with Jesus after death. This is the same Paradise that Jesus spoke about to the penitent thief on the cross. "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43; "Paradise, Jesus, and the Penitent Thief" -- Ref. 2).
In the future heavenly holy city, new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-2, Revelation 21:10), the tree of life will be on both sides of the river of the water of life (Revelation 22:1-2, Ezekiel 47:12).
3. We Overcome the World through Faith in Christ
In Revelation 2:7, Jesus said, "The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will grant to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God."
Jesus promises he will grant to eat from the tree of life to the one who overcomes. To overcome means to conquer and to come off victorious (HELPS Word-studies, Ref. 3).
We overcome the world through faith in Jesus, faith in the One who has already overcome the world. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
The apostle John confirms that we overcome by faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ. "For whoever has been born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5). Faith in Christ means believing in, trusting in, and having confidence in Christ (Ref. 4).
4. Eat from the Tree of Life
To the one who overcomes through faith in Christ, Jesus promises to grant (give, Ref. 5) to eat from the tree of life (Revelation 2:7). To eat from the tree of life is a gracious gift from God. Compare Revelation 2:7 with Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Adam, through disobedience to God, lost access to the tree of life. As Adam's descendants, we overcome the world through faith in Jesus, and he will grant us to eat from the tree of life.
Apply. Put your faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ. Believe in, trust in, and have confidence in him. Overcome the world through your faith in Christ, and he will grant you to eat from the tree of life.
"What is Eternal Life?"(John 17:3)
"Paradise, Jesus, and the Penitent Thief"(Luke 23:43)
"Biblical Definition of 'The World'" (John 1:10)
1. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3742.htm - Strong's Exhaustive Concordance
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"And he was saying, 'Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!' And He said to him, 'Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.'" (Luke 23:42-43)
Read: Luke 23:33-43
Consider. For the person who puts their faith in Jesus, upon the death of their body, their soul goes immediately to be with Jesus in Paradise.
Two thieves were crucified with Jesus that day - one on the right and the other on the left (Luke 23:33). Both thieves were next to the One who could save them. Yet, one thief hurled abuse (literally, blasphemed) at Jesus (Luke 23:39, Ref. 1). The other, penitent thief recognized that he himself was guilty yet Jesus was innocent. The penitent thief said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!" (Luke 23:40-42). To this thief, the penitent thief, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Jesus' promise to the penitent thief has brought hope to millions of believers over the centuries since Jesus' death and resurrection. Jesus' promise to the penitent thief brings believers hope today as we consider the destination of our souls upon our death and the destination of the souls of our loved ones.
In the next two sections, I would like to focus on two important points, or "take aways" from Jesus' promise to the penitent thief.
Paradise is Where Believers Will Be with Jesus after Death
Jesus could have told the penitent thief, "Today you will be in Paradise." But Jesus did not say that. Jesus said, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43, underline added).
Paradise in Greek is paradeisos (par-ad'-i-sos), which is "an ancient Persian word meaning 'enclosure, garden, park'" (Ref. 2). Paradise is mentioned in the New Testament only three times - in Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, and Revelation 2:7.
The Apostle Paul expressed his desire (his passionate longing) to be with Jesus after his death when he wrote, "But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better" (Philippians 1:22-23, Ref. 3). Likewise, the early Christians were encouraged, that when they were absent from their body, they would be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8, Ref. 4).
Note that Jesus' promise to the penitent thief, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise," did not apply to the unrepentant thief who verbally abused Jesus and did not believe in him. Scripture teaches that the souls of the unrighteous go to the place of torment Jesus described in Luke 16:22-26 . There they await judgment and the second death (Revelation 20:11-15). It is far better to believe in Jesus during our earthly lifetime and to have his assurance that upon the death of our body our soul will be in Paradise with him.
The Souls of Believers Immediately Enter Paradise to be with Jesus after Death
Jesus told the penitent thief, "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43, underline added). Not tomorrow. Not some time in the future. Today. Jesus spoke to the penitent thief in language that he would understand. Even though their dead bodies would be on the cross or in the grave (Luke 23:50-53), the souls of the Savior and the penitent thief would be alive and in Paradise together that day (Ref. 5).
Another biblical example illustrates a believer's expectation of going immediately to be Jesus upon his death. At the time of his death from stoning, Stephen the martyr said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" Then he died (Acts 7:57-60).
Apply. Let the words of Jesus to the penitent thief comfort you as you consider the destination of your soul upon your death. "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Put your faith and trust in Jesus who is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. You will receive God's gracious gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23), and upon the death of your body, your soul will go to Paradise to be with Jesus.
"What is Eternal Life?" (John 17:3)
"What is the Tree of Life in the Bible?" (Genesis 2:9, Revelation 2:7)
"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)
"Life eternal, then, is not mere conscious and unending existence, but a life of acquaintance with God in Christ." (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, Ref. 1)
This lesson describes the biblical definition of eternal life. This lesson primarily uses the Scriptures about eternal life in the Gospel of John. In the next lesson in the series, we will focus on who receives eternal life and how to receive eternal life.
Consider. Think for a moment. How would you define eternal life? How would you explain eternal life to an inquisitive unbeliever, or to a new Christian? For believers in Christ, eternal life certainly includes living with God after our physical death (John 11:25-26). However, the Bible has much more to say about the characteristics of eternal life.
Eternal life is a free gift of God to believers in Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul states, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). In this verse, the Greek word for gift is charisma. Charisma means a gift of grace, an undeserved favor (Ref. 2). Thus, eternal life is not something we deserve or earn. Eternal life is an undeserved gift of God's grace and favor. "In spite of your sanctification as Christians, still you will not have earned eternal life; it is the gift of God’s grace" (Ref. 3).
Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28).
For the believer, eternal life begins in the present, the here and now.
Jesus described eternal life in the present tense. Thus, eternal life is not just in the future, but is a present possession of the believer which continues into the future.
John 3:36 - "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
John 5:24 - "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
John 6:47 - "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life."
In John 5:24, note the importance of hearing Jesus' words. Jesus said, "He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life."
For believers in Christ, eternal life continues with God after our physical death.
Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26).
To the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42-43).
Jesus said to his disciples, "In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3).
Jesus defined eternal life as knowing God experientially.
"Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, 'Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:1-3).
In John 17:3, the Greek word for know is ginóskó. Ginóskó means to know, especially through personal experience (first-hand acquaintance) (HELPS Word-studies, Ref. 4). Knowing God experientially requires knowing Jesus who is the truth (John 14:6), as well as knowing and living the Word of God on a daily and life-long basis. "This life eternal, then, is not mere conscious and unending existence, but a life of acquaintance with God in Christ" (Ref. 1).
Eternal life is a quality of life, not just the duration of life.
The Greek word for eternal is aiónios, which means perpetual, unending, age-long (Strong's Concordance, Ref. 5). Aiónios includes the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting (Ref. 5). "Aiónios does not focus on the future per se, but rather on the quality of the age it relates to. Thus, believers live in eternal life right now, experiencing this quality of God's life now as a present possession" (Helps Word-studies, Ref. 5).
Summary. Eternal life is a free gift of God to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Eternal life begins when we put our faith in Jesus. As believers in Christ, eternal life continues with God after our physical death. Eternal life is the quality of life that results when we know Jesus Christ by experience, on a first-hand basis.
Apply. Think for a moment. In your own words, how would you describe eternal life? Write down your description of eternal life in a few sentences. What Scripture verse would be your key reference?
"Paradise, Jesus, and the Penitent Thief" (Luke 23:42-43)
"What is the Tree of Life in the Bible?" (Genesis 2:9, Revelation 2:7)
"Made Alive Together with Christ - A New Quality of Life" (Ephesians 2:4-5)
"Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life (Job's Question, Jesus' Answer)" (Job 14:14, John 11:25-26)
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Mr. Whitney V. Myers. Christian. For more information, please visit the Author Page.
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