The garden which God planted in Eden, immediately after creating the heavens and the earth, included the tree of life (Genesis 2:9). The first man Adam was barred from this tree after he sinned against God (Genesis 3:22-24). But whereas we read in the Book of Genesis of Paradise Lost, we read in the Book of Revelation of Paradise Restored: of "a new heaven and a new earth" (Revelation 21:1) in which is "the tree of life in the midst of the Paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7; 22:2,14). This tree symbolizes Christ in the heavenly Eden. But the church of Christ today is also called "the garden of Eden" (Ezekiel 36:35), "the garden of the LORD" (Isaiah 51:3; cp. Song of Solomon 4:12-15). Herein also is found that divine wisdom personified in Jesus Christ (Proverbs 8; 1 Corinthians 1:30), and which is called a "tree of life" (Proverbs 3:18).
The tree of life in Eden symbolizes Christ in various ways:
The tree of life was centrally located in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9): "The tree of life was ... in the midst of the garden." It was therefore readily accessible to Adam. Likewise, Christ is centrally located in both His earthly and His heavenly garden. In His earthly garden, He "walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands" (Revelation 2:1; 1:13) which represent His churches (1:20).
In His heavenly garden, He is symbolized by "the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7). He is therefore readily accessible to both the church militant and the church triumphant.
The tree of life was associated with a very unique river (Genesis 2:10): "Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads." The uniqueness of this river lies in the fact that, after watering God's garden, it was the source -- not confluence -- of four other rivers. Likewise, a very unique river is associated with Christ. It is "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. ... [A]nd on either side of the river, was the tree of life" (Revelation 22:1f). It is the river of God's grace and love which presently refreshes God's heavenly garden, then parts into streams of "water of life" flowing unto the four corners of the earth (Psalm 46:4; Ezekiel 47:1-12).
The tree of life was side-by-side with the tree of death (Genesis 2:9,17): "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," the fruit of which would produce death. The fruit of this latter tree was therefore forbidden to Adam. The identity of this fruit is mysterious to us. But it apparently symbolized the experiential "knowledge of good and evil" (see Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 7:16). To abstain from it was to experience good; but to partake of it was to experience evil. Adam partook and indeed experienced evil, even
death (Genesis 3:6-8; Romans 5:12). Likewise, Christ is, in the gospel, set before us side-by-side with death (Mark 16:16): "He who believes ... will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." We must make a choice.