The Meaning Of The Tree Of Life In The Bible

Of all the symbolism in the Bible, the tree of life is one of the more enduring and popular motifs. Per Learn Religions, the Bible is bookended by references to the tree of life, starting with the Book of Genesis, in which God creates the tree and places it in the center of the Garden of Eden just after the creation of Adam and Eve. Biblical scholars have interpreted the tree of life as being a symbol of Adam and Eve's spirituality and their relationship with and dependence on God. 

According to Crosswalk, the tree of life made ongoing physical life possible for Adam and Eve; God intended them to live forever and to do so they would eat fruit from the tree of life as provided by their Creator. Indeed, as Learn Religions quotes "You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden — except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die."

When Adam and Eve disobey God and eat forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge, they are banished from the Garden of Eden. As quoted by Open Bible, God sends humans away "to work the ground from which he was taken." To make sure people couldn't return to the tree, "at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life."

The tree of life is a powerful Biblical symbol

The Tree of Life isn't mentioned again in the Old Testament, although per Learn Religions there are tree-of-life images throughout the Old and New Testaments. It comes up again in the New Testament in Revelations where it is said to be open again to all who have converted to Christianity. As quoted by Open Bible, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." There is also the proclamation "Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates." Learn Religions explains that this refers to those who have been "washed in the blood of Christ." Jesus was "the new Adam" and those who asked for their sins to be forgiven in the name of Jesus were allowed access to the tree of life. 

Per Crosswalk, the tree of life produces not one but twelve different crops for people to consume and its ongoing yield shows the newness of Heaven. According to William Hendriksen, the term "tree of life" is meant to be collective, referring to "an entire park, whole rows of trees," which explains why the tree of life has many different kinds of fruit: "Through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month."