Unpacking the Message
Within this context concerning Ephesus, Christ sends a message to this church. He knows their works; He knows their world. In the midst of their situation, He comes through with a promise: access to the tree of life.
In Genesis 2, we are introduced to the “tree of life” for the first time. According to Genesis 2.9, this tree was in the middle of the garden. It’s mentioned again after Genesis in Proverbs, but only in a symbolic, metaphorical type of way.
As a child I grew up thinking that God commanded Adam and Eve to stay away from the tree of life and the tree of knowledge (of good and evil). As you read the text carefully, this isn’t the case. God doesn’t deny access to this tree of life in the beginning.
Man is forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge (3.17). Once he disobeys that command, God in mercy removes access to the tree of life (Gen 3.22-24). Originally, Adam and his wife had access but then lost it due to their sin. They were barred from the table!
Robin Williams said, “Death is nature’s way of saying, ‘Your table’s ready.’” I think we’d have to argue that there is some deficiency in that philosophy! Biblically, eternal life, found in Christ, provided to His overcomers is God’s way of saying, “Your table’s ready!”
However, God, in His infinite mercy and matchless wisdom has brought man full circle. What was lost in the paradise of Eden will be regained in God’s paradise. Where access was denied, it will be granted to the overcomers. At the end of time, God resets His original plan to dwell with man forever in perfect fellowship in paradise.
What should be understood by this promise? What does being granted to eat “from the tree of life” even mean? Is this a small promise? A big deal? How would John’s original audience – the church at Ephesus – have understood this reference?
Further, is this promise only for the Ephesian believers? Or, is it applicable for us? Were the overcomers mentioned here a special class of believers with an incredible testimony? Or, again, is this a general term for all believers, in all locations, at all times?
In short, if this promise isn’t really for me, it’s kind of hard to get excited about it. “Did you know that I promised your neighbor some ice cream from Dairy Queen?” “By the way, I promised to pay off the mortgage of your other neighbor!” (Are you rejoicing? Probably, those promises would have no effect on you. But what if the promise was personally made to you, then that’s a different story!) Ultimately, nothing is real until it’s personal (as far as our perspective is concerned…not that our perception makes something real…).
Armed with a need for more information, let’s categorize our questions under two main points and dig deep to find answers in the next post.
Just joining us on the journey? Follow the links below to see the previous posts. (To minimize the number of links, I’ve only added the first part of each section.)
- INTRODUCTION: Click here
- CHAPTER 1: Click here
- CHAPTER 2: Click here
- Promise 1: Click here