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1ST GIFT: “TO EAT OF THE TREE OF LIFE”
by Philip Owen

            Having just come through what has often been labeled as “the gift-giving season,” and as some people are wrestling with various degrees of debt from excessive and unwise spending on Christmas gifts, perhaps this would be a good time to consider seven eternal gifts promised to believers.  A number of these gifts are preceded by a pronouncement in these or similar words:  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7a).  The admonition to give heed serves as both an exhortation to note the warnings and also an encouragement to believe the promises concerning God’s immeasurably generous gifts to His saints.

            We should begin by pointing out that these seven gifts are promised to those who overcome (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).  But the wonderful thing about that designation is that it does not single out a special group of overachievers, a subgroup of high-octane Christians, the specially privileged, nor the spectacularly successful.  In delineating just who the “overcomers” are, John (see I John 5:4, 5) makes it clear that the term applies to every member of the church of God:  “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  Every genuine believer is an “overcomer,” who by virtue of the faith he receives from God does not ultimately succumb to the world-system controlled by Satan nor share in the final end—damnation—of the lost souls trapped in its web.

            The Lord states the following concerning the first promised gift:  “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7).  The first gift we will unwrap in eternity involves access to the tree of life.  This tree first appears in the Garden of Eden where it is singled out for mention along with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9).  When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and ate of the latter tree, “the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’—therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden . . .  So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life” (3:22-24).

            We know that God grants eternal life immediately and forever to all who believe.  As John also explained in the gospel bearing his name:  “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (17:3).  But access to the fruit of the tree of life is limited to believers.  The last chapter of The Revelation includes this benediction:  “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life” (22:14a).  Earlier in the chapter, we read what appears to be a reference to this same tree:  “On either side of the river [flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb in the New Jerusalem] was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month” (22:2b).

            I do not pretend to understand the full import of these descriptions.  But we should understand the tree of life to be a literal tree whose fruit is reserved for the recipients of eternal life.  Whatever more profound truths may be associated with this gift, we may trust that it evinces the fact that, just as fruit here on earth provides delicious and nutritious sustenance for our enjoyment, so in eternity God has planted a tree that will offer delicious, delightful, and diverse enjoyment for us.  Unlike the manna that God provided for His people in the wilderness that was eminently nutritious, but of which Israel quickly tired, the fruit of this eternally growing tree will be a perpetual delight.  It will be a constant reminder of the blessings of eternal life that God has bestowed on those He has chosen to deliver from sin.     

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