“In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:9) “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2)
Did you catch that? Did you see what changed between Genesis and Revelation? Between the beginning of time and the end of it? The tree of the knowledge of good and evil disappeared. But why?
Let me attempt to explain it this way…
A little girl set up a tea party and placed her doll across from her in a small chair at a little table. She poured a tiny cup of tea and offered it to her “friend.” Noticing that her doll just sat there instead of enjoying her tea, the girl thought to herself, “This is dumb! She can’t play with me. She’s just a doll. She can’t even move!”
So she went out to her father’s garage where her father kept a robot. She brought the robot upstairs to her room and tied a pretty bow on its head. Then she put a napkin in its lap and turned it on. The robot’s artificial face lit up and it began to move, albeit mechanically. “Hel-lo,” said the robot.
“Would you care for some tea?” she asked.
The robot responded, “Command, not understood. Please repeat.”
She sighed with disappointment. Being a resourceful child, the girl got out a keyboard, plugged it into the robot’s back, and proceeded to program it to enjoy tea and tell her it enjoyed her company. After restarting the robot the girl and her new “friend” enjoyed a nice round of tea. “This… is… love-ly…” the robotic voice chirped out.
After their second cup, the girl set her tea down and thought, “This is dumb, too! This robot doesn’t really like me OR my tea. It’s just doing what I told it to do.” So she sat there and thought about what to do.
Soon she ran to the phone and called her neighbor across the street. “Would you like to come over for a tea party?” she asked.
“Well, I’m watching a show on TV and it’s not over yet,” her neighbor said.
“OK, only if you want to, then,” the little girl replied.
“Yeah, OK. Sure. A tea party with you sounds like fun! I’ll be right over.” And the pair enjoyed a lovely tea party.
Relationships require that both parties are able to make their own choices. Love, if it is not the result of a free choice, is not love. This truth is represented in the Garden of Eden by the presence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This tree provided humans with a choice: God, and not God; good and evil. From the very beginning, God took the risk that humans might choose to love someone or something other than Him. But it was a risk He HAD to take. If human beings didn’t have the choice, we couldn’t have a real relationship with Him. If He programmed us to love Him, then it would be just like the little girl and the robot – not love. So God built into the nature of things the option for us to choose between Him and something else. And He did so right from the beginning –in the Garden.
But why is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil missing in Revelation? Simple: it’s no longer needed.
Between Genesis and Revelation lies our time to choose. When history comes to an end, all people will have had their chance to make a choice of their own free will. We can choose to have a relationship with God and spend eternity with Him, or not. Those who are in the “new Jerusalem” with God at the close of history are those who choose good over that which is not good, or more succinctly, evil. As a result, in heaven, no tree representing such a choice is even necessary.
In the end, people will get exactly what they want, be it God or something else. Those who choose God (that is, those who WANT God) will get Him and the eternal life He promised. Those who choose something other than God (most likely themselves) will spend eternity with that and living with whatever quality of life it can provide. I don’t know about you, but I can’t provide life for myself. That means if I choose myself over God, I’m choosing death – and eternal death at that. No thanks!
I guess the best way to describe it is this: heaven is a tea party everyone chose to attend. Please pass the chamomile!
Mark can be reached via email here.
Photo Attribution: Amber Woodward