In the middle of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bore twelve manner of fruits…
There was, there is, there shall be, this life giving tree. Consider -
I. THE PRIMEVAL TREE. What was it?
1. Not a mere symbol. This has been affirmed by many, from Origen downwards. It has been compared to the visions of the Apocalypse. But those are said to be visions; the early chapters of Genesis are not. This tree, therefore, is as real as any other of the trees of the garden.
2. It perpetuated not bodily life, for the life of the body was sustained by other food. The body lived when access to this tree was denied. Moreover, on such earth as ours bodily life could not be perpetual.
3. Nor spiritual life. For spiritual life is far more than immortality; it is life holy and like God, and had this tree been capable of imparting such life, access to it would not have been forbidden.
4. But for soul life. Where is a distinction between body, soul, and spirit. St. Paul prays that "the whole body, soul, and spirit may be preserved blameless," etc. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we read of the "Word of God... dividing asunder the soul and spirit." Cf. also 1 Corinthians 2:15; also 1 Corinthians 15., where the contrast between the nature which belongs to the soul and that which is of the spirit is drawn out at length. "Sown a natural body," i.e. a body whose chief principle is the soul; "raised a spiritual body," i.e. a body whose chief principle is the spirit. We have no one English word which exactly answers to the Greek word, which is rendered sometimes "natural," sometimes, as in St. James and St. Jude, "sensual." But it is in nearly all cases spoken of as in sharp contrast to the spirit. But though the Scripture draws so clear a distinction, we, in our common speech, scarce make any. Now, the soul seems to include the animal life. Genesis 1:30, "wherein there is life," is really, "wherein there is a living soul." So, again, Genesis 1:24, "Let the earth bring forth the living soul." So in Leviticus 17:11, "The soul of the flesh is in the blood." And it is the basis both of the reason and conscience; for men who have not had spirit (cf. St. Jude) have yet had these. And it is "born of the flesh;" souls are said to be begotten by or born to parents. But it outlives the flesh; for mental existence, which is independent of the body, belongs to the soul. Reason as well as Scripture seem to teach this. And, unlike the spirit, it is not immortal. With the body, it can be destroyed. But the spirit is heaven born; is superior to the soul; is immortal, and supersedes the soul as the basis of all other life, and is nurtured only by what is akin to itself. No "tree," therefore, could furnish food for the spirit. But for the soul life it might; and hence man was forbidden access to the tree, lest he should "eat, and live forever." For the soul, as distinct from the body and the spirit, the first tree of life ministered.
II. THE PRESENT. For still there is a tree of life. Christ is such; for faith in him gives eternal life - the life in the spirit. Life is in Christ, who is "the Life." Thus the soul, which otherwise would have perished, has what in itself it cannot have - eternal life. Apart from Christ there is no eternal life; but because in him there is this life, he is for us today "the Tree of Life."
III. THE PROMISED. That told of in the text. It may be literal, or at least as much so as was the primeval tree, and may minister to the life of the spiritual body. But "our knowledge of that life is small;" all that we do know is, that whatever will further our life, our joy, our every good, will be forthcoming. Wrapped up in this promise is all that we can desire. The lost tree of life is more than restored; "where sin did abound, grace does much more abound." That is all we can say, and, thank God, we can say this. - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.