Biblical Audio Commentary – Tree of Life & Eternal Security
What did the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden offer? I would argue that it provided eternal security. The problem God had with Adam and Eve eating from that tree after their disastrous bite of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was what that meant. They would be immortal just like all the other heavenly beings, except that the first couple would have a sinful nature.
We don’t actually know how the Tree of Life worked. Adam and Eve for all we know had access to it and may have previously eaten from it. The Biblical account doesn’t tell us that it was forbidden. But perhaps – at least for humans – it was necessary to continually eat its fruit in order to have its benefits. Thus, maybe they ate from this tree prior to partaking from the Tree of Good and Evil, but certainly could not do so afterwards. Had they done so, they would have lived forever in God’s Holy presence with their sin nature, and that wouldn’t work so well. They would have had eternal security as immortal, yet sinful, humans.
Looking at that tree another way, we could say that it is a type of Christ. When we eat of Christ’s body and drink His blood, what are given? Salvation. Eternal life in Christ. Eternal Security.
But there is a catch. Here is Paul describing it in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
We cannot continue in our sinful ways once we’ve been born-again. Doing so – just as Paul declares – brings guilt upon us with subsequent judgment. In the same manner, Adam and Eve could not continue eating of the Tree of Life after sinning by disobeying God’s Word that they could not learn of evil.
I think we can safely say that Adam and Eve had eternal security in the Garden. As long as they were obedient to God, we have no reason to think that they wouldn’t have continued in that privileged position forever. But, with privilege comes responsibility. Their responsibility – and ours – is to walk with God in obedience with fear and reverence.
What would have been the outcome if Adam and Eve had fessed up, i.e. if they had acknowledged their sin and repented? We don’t know, but they didn’t. They doubled down by walking in their sin. By hiding from God, trying to cover their sin with fig leaves, and assigning blame to others, they persisted and deliberately chose the path of rebellion. Their eternal security was only valid if they obeyed God rather than disobeyed Him. God still made a way for them to live by covering them with the skin of animals whose blood had been shed, but they were tainted and unholy, making them unfit to be in His presence. They could never regain what they had lost by this temporary means of atonement.
Once we’ve been born-again and come to the Lord through His shed blood, we have eternal security. But what happens if we – like Adam and Eve – deliberately and persistently disobey God? Christ has covered us in His righteousness, but can we effectively cast off that garment to again reveal our sinful nature? According to what Paul says, as we saw earlier, if we have not examined ourselves, and renounced and repented of our sin, we are guilty before God. Paul is speaking to believers, so this applies to us. We have a responsibility to get right before God, and continue to do so. If we neglect to do that through our own willful choices, what does Paul say will happen? We subject ourselves to judgment. Remember, this is in spite of the fact that we are saved.
Those who believe in unconditional eternal security inevitably say that if someone sins in this unrepentant way as I’ve described, it’s because that person is only a professing Christian, i.e. not a true born-again Christ follower. Personally, I think that’s erroneous thinking. Paul doesn’t supply us with another of those pesky asterisks that we have to notice in our Bible. He is addressing believers. He does not qualify his audience by saying his words apply only to those who are real Christians or false Christians. No, he and the other Biblical authors when they speak to believers are addressing believers – period.
The other thing I’ve noticed about those who claim unconditional eternal security is that they seldom, if ever, use anything from the Old Testament to prove their point. As always, I ask, if God doesn’t change and is the same yesterday (Old Testament), today (New Testament), and forever (Millennial Kingdom and beyond), then what applies today should have also applied yesterday. In other words, if there is a concept of eternal security in today’s NT era, then there should have been a concept of it in OT times.
And what do we see in the Old Testament? We see Adam and Evencast from the Garden where they had eternal security because of their deliberate and persistent sin. We see God’s Chosen People turning from righteousness into the sin of idolatry and eventually being cast from the land. Worse, because of their poor choices, they lost their national identity until God in His mercy regathered the Jews into Israel.
And that’s the critical factor. Despite bad choices that cause God’s people – OT or NT – to walk away from Him and in effect reject their eternal security, God makes a way for repentance and redemption. But it often comes only after learning very difficult lessons.
Here is what God said in Leviticus 18:2-5 concerning sin:
“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the Lord your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.”
If we obey God, we live. On the other hand, if we don’t, we’re subject to judgment. The Israelites decided to follow the ways of the world, i.e. the sins of the nations, rather than obeying God. The judgment they received got progressively worse until they were completely cast from the land God had given them. God judges appropriately and apportionally, such that we get what we deserve.
What kind of judgment might this be? Well, we’re not talking here about a loss of reward. Judgment is the Greek word krisis. Strong’s #2920 says concerning this that is a “decision, sentence; generally: divine judgment; accusation.” It can also imply a separation or a trial. The word would seem to bring about the situation that our word in English brings. Judgment will cause a crisis in someone’s life.
Adam and Eve faced a severe crisis for having embraced their sin. God doesn’t change, and we can be grateful for that. His beloved creation of man and woman in their sin caused Him to cast them from the Garden of eternal security. In Israel’s case, God brought war (the sword), famine, plagues, wild beasts, and captivity. Is there not a potential parallel to us today?
Why wouldn’t someone who has eternal security through the blood of Jesus, yet chooses in his own volition to deliberately and persistently sin against God, not likewise be cast into judgment? Isn’t that what Paul says?
If this is the case, what is the potential implication? At this point in history with the Tribulation right around the corner, could it not mean that someone sinning in this manner, who has eaten of forbidden fruit, can potentially be cast out of the Garden of heaven, or better yet, from the bridal party with Jesus that begins with the pre-Trib Rapture? Yet, because God is merciful, such action may be grace in action. Perhaps this is an opportunity for that person to repent from his sin and walk in right manner with God. It’s a second and last chance to come again under the covering of Christ’s righteous garment, rather than being immediately cast into hell, which is where judgment leads.
I’m fully aware that this issue of eternal security is a touchy one. However, if you’ve followed my work for any length of time, you know I tend not to shy away from controversial subjects.
My intent is not to cause someone to fear about whether or not he is secure in Christ. Rather, it is to ensure that we do exactly what Paul says we should:
Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
Thus, if a person if acting wonky against God and continues to sin, he should wake up and realize that he could soon be in a world of hurt. When we walk obediently with Christ in the reverent fear of the Lord, why should we worry? Our eternity is secure. But, if we’re not walking with Him – rather are rebellious against His Word – isn’t it worthwhile to be shown that such conduct is not worthy of the Lord, and is actually leading down a very dangerous path?
Do we do a person any favors by ignoring his blatant sin while continuously reassuring him that he’s saved and has eternal security? Should we not do as James 5:19-20 says?
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Let’s bring back a born-again sinner from his rebellious wandering rather than assure him that his wayward path has no consequences.