The Tree of Life: Symbolic Representation or Object of Worship?
by Tara Chapman
The first time the tree of life is mentioned in the bible is in Genesis 2:9: And out of the ground made the Eternal God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, were given all the trees in the garden from which to eat fruit, including the tree of life. The only exception was the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eternal life and evil don't mesh. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). It's sad to know good and evil. Wouldn't it be nice not to know evil? Satan chose to bring evil into existence. He then deceived Adam and Eve to choose to know good and evil. They chose the way of death. We each have a choice: life or death; good or evil. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live (Deut. 30:19.)
The tree of life represents eternal life, wisdom, and Christ. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).
Those who choose life and overcome will be granted to eat of the tree of life (eternal life):
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7).
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city (Rev. 22:14).
She [wisdom] is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her (Proverbs 3:18).
The Eternal possessed me [wisdom] in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men. Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Eternal. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death (Prov. 8:22-36).
We have just seen wisdom personified as Christ.
In that day shall the branch of the Eternal be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel (Isaiah 4:2).
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Eternal shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Eternal (Isaiah 11:1-2).
Behold, the days come, saith the Eternal, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth (Jeremiah 23:5).
In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land (Jere. 33:15).
Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH (Zechariah 3:8).
And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Eternal of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Eternal (Zech. 6:12).
Christ a King of a Kingdom
The Most High God, the Father of all the children of God will give His Kingdom to Christ, His Son, and all of His children:
And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him (Daniel 7:27).
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever (Rev. 11:15).
Kingdoms Likened to Trees
And the word of the Eternal came unto me, saying, Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel; And say, Thus saith the Lord Eternal; A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar: He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffick; he set it in a city of merchants. He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field; he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow tree. And it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature, whose branches turned toward him, and the roots thereof were under him: so it became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs. There was also another great eagle with great wings and many feathers: and, behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him, and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation. It was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine. Say thou, Thus saith the Lord Eternal; Shall it prosper? shall he not pull up the roots thereof, and cut off the fruit thereof, that it wither? it shall wither in all the leaves of her spring, even without great power or many people to pluck it up by the roots thereof. Yea, behold, being planted, shall it prosper? shall it not utterly wither, when the east wind toucheth it? it shall wither in the furrows where it grew. Moreover the word of the Eternal came unto me, saying, Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these things mean? tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon; And hath taken of the king's seed, and made a covenant with him, and hath taken an oath of him: he hath also taken the mighty of the land: That the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand (Ezekiel 17:1-14)
Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men. This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee. Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies. The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth. And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him; This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule (Dan. 4:10-26).
Please take the time to also read: Jeremiah 1:10, 11; Psalm 80:15 (Israel as a vine); Isaiah 60:21 (Israel as a branch); Jer. 48:17; Ezek. 19:12. And especially meditate on Ezekiel chapter 31. The tree of knowledge of good and evil, a large government, power wealth, etc. is much to be desired by many. As the saying goes, I believe they're "barking up the wrong tree." God hates pride and a heart that lifts itself highly. That was Satan's downfall. He tried to overthrow God's kingdom. Wicked men also want dominance. It's like the old song by Tears for Fears says: "Everybody wants to rule the world." Sadly, most want to rule it his or her own way. But, those who choose LIFE and bear fruits of righteousness wait on God to take over the kingdoms of this world and give them to His beloved children, to be headed by His firstborn. Yes, it's probably true that everybody wants to rule the world. The good news is that some will be granted the right to reign with the King of kings and Lord of lords. (What I'm saying will make sense if you've read Ezekiel 31. Please take time to read the given scriptures.)
Just as in Daniel and Revelation, when "beasts" are discussed as symbolic for kingdoms, as well as the kings heading those kingdoms, trees (or parts of trees) can refer to both kingdoms and the kings heading them. So, kings and kingdoms can be likened to trees, including Christ. People of all sorts are likened to trees. Both the righteous and the wicked are likened to trees and branches in the bible.
People as Trees
Matthew 7:15-20 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
John 15:2-6 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. (See also Matt. 3:10; Luke 3:9; Luke 6:43-44)
Please read also: Prov. 11:28, 30; Prov. 15:4; Job 14:7; Psalm 1:1-6; Psalm 37:35; Amos 2:9; Job 8:13-22; Job 18:16; Job 29:19; Mark 11:13-14, 20
The passage in John recorded Jesus as saying that if a person does not abide in Him and His love (keep the commandments), then he or she will be cast into the fire and burned. A good tree bears fruit. A bad tree is cast into the fire and brought to ashes. Here are other scriptures that explain what happens to the wicked, likening them to trees:
For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Eternal of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch (Malachi 4:1).
And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Eternal shall be consumed. For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them. (Isa. 1:28-31).
The family of God (which will make up the Kingdom) is also likened to a tree:
Romans 11:16-24 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?
We've all heard the usage of "family tree" in reference to our ancestry and posterity. Other terms include: "came from good stock," "fruit of the womb," "trunk of body" (torso), "limbs of body" (arms and legs), an amputated leg "stump." Think of what David said in Psalm 139:15, when discussing his being made in his mother's womb: "My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth." Trees germinate in the earth and then push through the ground. Likewise, babies are conceived and formed in the womb and then push their way out the birth canal. The womb is symbolic of the earth. The earth acts as a womb. When the bible recorded a woman giving birth, it would often be worded like Matthew 1:25: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. Likewise, plants growing from the ground have been found worded like Genesis 1:12: And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
So, is okay to exalt trees as something special, since they symbolize so much? Is it okay to sacrifice under evergreen trees (ever-green symbolizes eternal life, as the leaves do not die during winter)? Is it okay to place an evergreen tree of any type in our homes during the heathen festival Christmas? Is it okay to use crosses in our worship of God, since Jesus died on a tree (cross/stake) to give us life?
Stock, Cross, Tree Basically the Same Thing--Tree or Wood from a Tree
Acts 5:30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. (See also Gal 3:13; I Peter 2:24)
Jeremiah 10:3, 8 Thus saith the Eternal, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O Eternal One; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee. But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.
Verse 3 is translated as "tree," whereas verse 8 is translated as "stock," but it's the same Hebrew word "ets." Regardless of whether the tree is still whole or whether someone uses just the trunk/stock/stump and makes something of it, it's still the same thing, basically. We are not to bow down to, worship, offer sacrifices under, or decorate whole trees or wood made from trees for the purpose of worship. It's NOT to be done! Period. For those who try to excuse their using of christmas trees and placing gifts (sacrifices) underneath, because they say this passage in Jeremiah is talking about a carved wooden idol, there IS NO excuse. This passage covers BOTH whole trees and stocks of trees. It does not matter. Different people have done it different ways during different times, but it makes absolutely no difference. Both ways are abominations to God.
Jeremiah 2:20 For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot. Read also Ezekiel 6:13; Ezek. 15:2; Hosea 4:13 (and there are many others). Mixing the true worship of God (symbolized by virginity and purity) with heathen beliefs and observances is whoredom/harloty--spiritual fornication. I think it would be very WISE to read Ezekiel chapter 23 and Revelation 17 to get a good idea of what God thinks about spiritual whores. And then, I think it would be a very WISE thing to study the bible to find out the TRUE way to worship God. All this christmas tree and cross stuff we see "Christians" hold dear are abominable to God. Again, it matters NOT whether your idol is a whole tree decked out in your home (including artificial trees) or something carved, like a totem pole or cross. It's SIN.
The following is an excerpt from the book An Answer to John Martiall's Treatise of the Cross by James Calfhill (1846):
The Scripture warneth us, that in the latter days there shall be strong Spirits of illusion; so that the elect themselves (if it be possible) may be seduced...[I]f it pleased God to use the sign of a Cross indeed, as a mean to work some miracles in the world; yet is it no sufficient cause to confirm the having, much less the honouring of it now. To mollify the hearts of visible and mortal men, God used visible and mortal means; not to confirm a reverence to them, but to establish and honour and service to Himself. God spake unto Moses out of a fiery bush. Shall now the fire or the bush be honored? ...[S]o by the Cross miracles have been wrought; not for the wood's sake, not for the metal, but only for confirming of a faith in Christ. This faith then let us retain, and let the cross alone. Moses avoided the wrath of God, and escaped death, by cutting off the foreskin with a sharp stone: and this is as much as Saint Martin's sign, whereby he avoided the fall of a tree. Shall now a sort of stones be brought into the church and honoured of us?...The rod of Aaron was often turned into a Serpent, often returned into the own nature; which in a figure represented Christ, from life to death, from death arising unto life again...Shall now the rod of Aaron, because it wrought such a miracle, be set up in the church?...Samson, with the jaw-bone of an ass, slew a thousand men; and out of the cheek-tooth thereof the water ran, to assuage his thirst: in signification how Christ, our Advocate and Mediator, hath overthrown the adversary Power...Shall we now have jaw-bones and cheek-teeth in the church?...The shadow of Peter healed also some that passed by: likewise the kerchief and handkerchiefs of Paul cured diseases, and drove out evil Spirits. Shall now the sign of a shadow; shall a sorry clout, be so much made of? Therefore, if miracles of old time past, wrought, (as I may grant you, though absolutely I am not bound to believe all that you do bring;) by mean of a Cross, shall be sufficient cause to make the sign thereof, or the selfsame thing, to be erected and honoured; then shall the fiery bush, the mountain of the Lord, the Circumcision of moses, the rod of Aaron, the wood of Marah, the brazen Serpent, the water of the rock, the fleece of Gideon, the jaw-bone of Samson, the cloke of Elias, the washing of Naaman, the hem of Christ's coat, the shadow of Peter, the handkerchief of Paul, be set up in the church themselves, or their signs. For by none of these but miracles were done: and as good reason in this respect to set up in the church any one of these, as otherwise the Cross (pp. 334-37, bold emphasis mine).
There are many important trees mentioned in scripture. It's not the scope of this article to cover every one, but I will share a little about the almond tree:
Almond trees are one of the first to bloom each spring--a firstfruits, you might say. I've also discovered during my studies that almonds have, throughout history, been seen as a symbol of new life or rebirth and fertility. Ancient heathen peoples worshiped almond trees and considered almonds as fertility charms. Modern science actually has discovered that almonds are, in fact, very beneficial for fertility and reproductive health overall. Just recently I saw on the Internet a shirt with the "tree of life" on it. I was finally buying myself some new clothes after having mostly the same pieces I've had for a decade now, and I am replacing it completely with 100% natural organic fibers, mostly hemp and organic cotton blends. The larger percentage of such merchants are made up of pagan, mother earth, goddess worshiping type people. So, I immediately recognized this as tree worship, because nearly all the heathen (pagan) religions had a "tree of life." It has been Satan's fake of the real tree of life, as told in the bible. You can do a quick Google search on the Internet of "tree of life" and see it for yourself. The real tree of life represents Christ and wisdom--the "way, the truth, and the life." We must worship God in Spirit and in Truth, not serving idols. We're to worship God, not representations of God and his Son (read Isa. 40:25; 46:5). The one who became Christ is our Creator and the Creator of all things (John 1:3; Eph. 3:9). Satan is a creature--the created. He wants to be worshiped. Throughout all history, he has deceived billions of people into worshiping the created/creation rather than the Creator. The tree of life is a representation of life in Christ. We're not to worship the representation. The stake or cross on which Jesus Christ died was the tree on which He died so that we may have life. We're not to worship the cross or stake. We're to worship Him who made those things. EVERYBODY worships either the true Creator, or they worship something created. I don't care if you're a self-proclaimed atheist or evolutionist or whatever. Regardless of whether one wants to believe it or not, we are servants to whom we obey. Whatever or whomever we serve, that is what we worship. We give our loyalty to some sort of king or ruler or to a job or material possessions. Whatever we put first an obey is to what we're servant. Again, we are servants to whom we obey (Rom. 6:16, John 8:32-36). We either obey God or we disobey God, which means we serve sin (meaning the transgression of the law--I John 3:4).
Trees have a lot to offer. They give fruit (food), leaves (healing), shade (covering), and products made from the stock (paper, clothing, furniture, housing, etc.). Wow, is it any wonder why so many people are fooled into worshiping trees? Should we worship the trees for all they provide, or should we rather worship God--the CREATOR who created the trees as gifts to us. Is it really the trees that give us so much, or is it God who created and gave us the trees?
Many people remember Shel Silverstein's children's book, The Giving Tree (1964). I loved the book as a child. The following is Wikipedia's entry on the book under "Storyline":
The story is a short moral tale about a relationship between a young boy and a tree in a forest. The tree and the boy become best friends. The tree always provides the boy with what he wants: branches to swing from, shade to sit under, apples to snack on, branches to build a house. As the boy grows older and older he requires more and more of the tree. The tree loves the boy very much and gives him anything he asks for. In the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, the tree lets the boy cut her down so the boy can build a boat in which he can sail. The boy leaves the tree, now a stump. Many years later, the boy, now an old man, returns and the tree says, "I have nothing left to give you." The boy replies that all he needs is a quiet place to sit and rest. The tree happily obliges.
Who loves us very much and gives us everything we need? Who gives us physical and spiritual food? Who gives us shade or covering? Who sacrificed His very own life for us? Who gives us rest?
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16)
Happy is he whose resting-place is in the secret of the Lord, and under the shade of the wings of the Most High (Psalm 91:1)
Keep me as the light of your eyes, covering me with the shade of your wings (Psalm 17:8).
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste (Song of Solomon 2:3).
O taste and see that the Eternal is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him (Psalm 34:8).
Christ was sacrificed on a tree for us, but instead of giving Him thanks by serving HIM (keeping His commandments), we're giving sacrifices/gifts of thanks under trees and doing things our own way. I even read that some churches set up a tree for christmas and then use the same tree to fashion a cross to set up for the following easter. Unbelievable!! What an abomination. Let's put away our idols. Let's stop worshiping the creat-ed, the trees. Let's worship the Creat-or, the one whom the tree represents.