"The tree of life also
in the midst of the garden" (Gen. 2:9).
"The tree of life, which is in the garden of God" (Rev.
"The tree of life" (Rev. 22:2,14).
Thus the Bible, first and last,
makes life its horizon. It would not be wrong to say that all
that is within the covers of the Bible is related - in some way -
to this particular issue. It certainly was the governing matter
in the creation record, and all human history is shown there to
turn upon it: we shall see that life is the predominant
issue in redemption. This being the case, it must be the
paramount question in creation and human history.
But we have to begin our
consideration of this vast matter by noting the Bible comparison
and contrast between
Kinds of Life
In the main the Bible uses the
word 'life' in two different ways and kinds. It uses the word to
define the common life of all animate creatures. The Greek word
for this kind of life is that from which we derive the word
'biology', which is simply 'the science of life'.
Genesis (the Book of
Beginnings) tells us that God made living things:
Trees; flowers; vegetables.
Creatures; beasts, birds,
Man; a living soul having
"the breath of life".
Life, of this natural kind, was
the basis of animation, growth, propagation, etc.
But, into the midst of this
life in all its forms, intimation, representation, and
presentation, another kind of life is represented. It was
possible to have animal and human life without having this other
- and altogether different and superior - life. Indeed, to fail
to possess this 'altogether other' life was (and is) to fail of
the true Divine intention and destiny. To possess it would lift
mankind on to a higher level altogether, and mean immortality to
the creation. We leave that point there for the moment while we
emphasise the fact that life is the criterion of everything.
Up to a little over one hundred
years ago it was generally believed by scientists that the
universe - living creatures included - was explained on
mechanical lines. It was all a great machine, wound up, moving by
certain laws, and after millions of years, would run down and
collapse or disintegrate. Mechanization was the inclusive law of
all motion, processes, progress and relativity. That
interpretation has now been completely and positively discarded
and abandoned. Its place has been taken by biology, which, in its
enthronement, is called 'The Queen of Sciences'. This is thought
to be progress, but it is really just a return to Genesis and the
Bible. Biology means that life is the basis and
explanation of the whole animate creation or universe. Moreover,
there is a wide acceptance that, far from chance, hap, accident,
there is a Mind behind the universe, and that things are organic
rather than mechanic.
This is all good, and a
wonderful step 'back-forward', but there is another very big step
required; for, good and significant as this biological fact may
be, it does not solve the problem of man's destiny. So far, we
are established on a basic fact, that life is the
criterion, the law and principle of all being, development and
But when we have said that,
with all its vast ramifications, we need the other half of the
Bible to carry us further. So, another quite different and
distinct word is introduced with the New Testament. Sometimes it
stands alone, but often something definitive is given to it: it
is termed 'Eternal Life'. Seeing that the word 'eternal' is
applied to God and to what is characteristic of Him, it must mean
more than an age, a measure of time even beyond the human span;
it must go outside of time altogether. But the word as used and
associated is not only an extension, it is a kind, a quality, a
nature, altogether different from and superior to life as we know
it naturally. This life, the Bible teaches, is something that no
man possesses naturally. If this is the only true life,
then, by nature all men are dead while they live (biologically),
as the Bible teaches.
Well, this just states the
simple basic truth and position.
One more thing before we open
out to the wider field. If, as we believe, there is a Mind behind
creation, and particularly the animate creation, then we are
ready to see a further great truth taught by the Bible.
This truth is that the natural,
the material and organic creation is intended to embody and
represent a vast counterpart of intangible thought and
principles. In a word, the created universe is a vast symbolism.
Just as a potter expresses his thoughts in the vessels he makes,
so that those vessels are ideas in representation, so God has
wrapped up His thoughts in His creation. If we could read what is
within the product of God's hands and interpret with the mind of
God, we should know what God is like and what He means.
This being true, we must carry
the truth into the realm of life, and see that natural life - as
it came from God - is the part of which spiritual or
Divine life is the counterpart. What is true of human life is a
representation of something much higher - Divine life. That is
what we hope to see as we proceed with these meditations. Life in
the natural is itself a marvellous and mysterious thing. It
certainly is a mystery. No one has ever yet explained what life
is. Only by its presence and expression do we know of its
existence, but we can never explain or define it. That is,
perhaps, the first parable of life. Even natural life is capable
of endurance and manifold expression beyond all calculation. Let
Variety of Life.
It only needs to be suggested
that any attempt to count the number and variety of life in its
different realms to show how hopeless such an undertaking would
be. In some realms this has been done. For instance, it is
computed that there are at least 25,000 named backbone animals;
ten times as many backboneless animals, and as many plants. There
are 100,000 flowering plants. When we take vermin and insects -
rats and rabbits, etc. - the rate of multiplication, and the way
in which survival overtakes mortality, figures defeat
calculation. Every single one of these has life after its
When we turn to the power,
energy, and endurance of life, we open the door to the necessity
of volumes to be written. As a hint, just consider that we find
animals among the snow at a height of 10,000 feet; and they are
found on the floor of the sea six miles deep where Mount Everest
would be much more than engulfed. It is hard to say what great
difficulties are encountered and overcome by living creatures -
insects in hot springs where you could not keep your hand; living
things under fifteen feet of ice.
The story is positively
fascinating and amazing. Life, filling every niche, finding homes
in extraordinary places, mastering difficulties, adjusting to
out-of-the-way exigencies; persistent and intrusive; spreading
everywhere, insinuating itself, adapting itself, resisting,
defying, surviving everything! A tiny seed, dropped or carried by
the wind into a crevice of a great rock will, as it grows, split
that rock open until a large tree declares the power of life. The
Grand Canyon of Arizona has many an instance of this. That canyon
itself is now one mighty testimony in its foliage and beauty to
the way in which life can take hold of the devastation and
desolation caused by volcanic eruption, and turn its carnage into
an attraction to the whole world. This is but a faint, distant
approach to the marvels of life. If what we said earlier is true,
that the natural is a symbol of the spiritual, what immense and
outstanding things must be true of the higher and greater, the
life which is supernatural! What a story the past two thousand
years tell of the miracles, wonders, triumphs, survivals,
endurances, and expansions of the life of God, given in and by
His Son, Jesus Christ, to His Church, and to individuals who have
received Him as 'the Life, the Eternal Life'! What a challenge
this is to the Church's testimony! What a call to clear the way
of what is spiritually and morally inimical to that Life in the
Church and the Christian!
This is but introductory. We
have to break this great matter into its relevant parts; but,
with this little, surely we can begin to see that God has
horizoned everything by life; in the natural, but immensely more
so in the spiritual. The criterion of all is livingness!
In the organic creation
everything depends upon whether life is present or not. If a
thing or a person is without life, the door is closed; hope ends;
there is no prospect (unless a miracle intervenes). We just say:
'Well, that is that, and there is no more.' The only remaining
thing is burial. The departure of life means the reign and
triumph of corruption. If there is life, and it can be stimulated
and ministered to effectively, as in the human body or the
garden, then corruption is held at bay and set back.
Which of these two issues was
to prevail - the entrance and reign of corruption, mortality, and
hopelessness, or the defeat of that intrusion with the entrance
of an incorruptible, deathless and age-abiding life - is said by
the Bible to have been decided at an early point in human
existence. It was decided in a probation, the probation of
choice, and choice based upon warning, caution and counsel.
Clear, precise, concise and strong was the situation presented.
The alternatives were God's will and way, or man's will and way
as contrary to God's. It was the alternative of man's selfhood as
against God's supreme right to be trusted and obeyed. It was the
question of God's exclusive and unique authority, and His
beneficent disposition toward man, or the mind and will of
another making man's independent and self-centred judgment the
directive motive. On these two issues the question of two things
hung; one, the obtaining of an incorruptible and deathless life,
or, the missing of that and the blight of corruption falling upon
the very natural life of man and creation. This alternative was
set forth symbolically in two trees with their respective fruits
- 'The Tree of Life' and 'The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and
If you do not want
to regard these as two literal trees, it will not affect the
issue, for, after all, it is principles which govern, and what
arises is just the laws of life and death. The Bible records the
choice which was made; the side upon which man came down; the use
which he made of his great trust - choice, free will; but choice
with an exhortation and warning; not in ignorance!
History is the
record of that choice; it is also the history of man's
endorsement of, and adherence to that choice as against a way
which God made forthwith out of the entanglement. I have said
that it was principles that governed. That is quite true, but I
had better hurry up and introduce what is going to be the
inclusive, ultimate and pre-eminent reality.
The Old Testament
is mainly built upon a great and detailed system of types,
symbols and parables. This method runs on into the New Testament
so far as the four Gospels and the Apocalypse are concerned, but
with one over-ruling difference. The New Testament expounds and
explains the Old, and, in this supreme matter of life, it
overwhelms us with the revelation that that Tree of Life is but a
type and symbol of a Person, namely, God's Son, Jesus Christ. On
this point - focal point - a precise and inclusive statement is
made by the Apostle John in his first Letter: And the witness
[or testimony] is this, that God gave unto us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath the life;
he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life" (1
John 5:11,12). That is categorical. The whole letter must be read
in the light of that statement. It makes everything
Christo-centric. It puts human destiny upon His being the centre.
It sums up the whole issue of life - or death - in Him!
Life in Christ,
and Christ as the Life, is the horizon of all things.