TO EAT FROM THE TREE OF LIFE

TO EAT FROM THE TREE OF LIFE Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Most Christians take it for granted that when Jesus returns they will be raised from the dead, enter bodily immortality, and rise to meet Him in the air. However, the Scripture teaches that we cannot enter immortality in the body until we overcome the deeds of our sinful nature.

TO EAT FROM THE TREE OF LIFE

He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7)

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13)

Most Christians take it for granted that when Jesus returns they will be raised from the dead, enter bodily immortality, and rise to meet Him in the air. However, the Scripture teaches that we cannot enter immortality in the body until we overcome the deeds of our sinful nature.

The Scripture promises us immortality in the body.

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. (Romans 2:7)

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." (I Corinthians 15:54)

Who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (II Timothy 1:9)

It was immortality in the body that was lost when Adam and Eve sinned. They were denied access to the Tree of Life (which is the Lord Jesus Christ), which would have given them bodily immortality.

It appears the concepts of the resurrection of the body, of the catching up of the Church, of eternal life, and of bodily immortality are not clear in the thinking of many believers. We know the Lord Jesus came to bring us eternal life. We understand also that eternal life is much more than endless existence, because the fallen angels and Satan have endless existence. And where the physical body fits in the plan of salvation seems to be an area of some confusion.

It doesn’t help at all that we have going to Heaven confused with eternal life. Heaven is a place in the spirit realm. In fact, there are several heavens.

Eternal life is a state of being to which our personality is invited to attain.

Econfusion

ternal life is the Life of God given us through Christ. It is a kind of life. It is eternal; but that is secondary in importance. It is the love, peace, and joy that are of the greatest importance. It is life in the Presence of God.

But where does our physical body fit into this picture?

It appears from the Scriptures that the body also has endless existence. But it can be endless existence in a state of corruption and torment, or endless existence in the fullness of love, peace, and joy.

When the New Testament refers to immortality it means endless existence in God’s Presence in the fullness of love peace, and joy. It is this that Adam and Eve lost because of their disobedience.

John 3:16 actually is referring to immortality, and is the reversal of the disaster that occurred in the Garden of Eden. After all, it is the body, not the inward nature, that "perishes."

As for the coming resurrection of the dead, it will be in two parts. At the beginning of the thousand-year period the Lord Jesus will return, raise the bodies of the members of the royal priesthood, and then clothe those resurrected bodies with Divine Life. This is the first part. this resurrection must be attained to, as the Apostle Paul mentioned in the third chapter of the Book of Philippians.

The second part of the resurrection will occur at the termination of the thousand-year period. At that time every person who was not raised in the first resurrection will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. There they will be judged according to their works. Those (the majority, apparently) who are deemed worthy of eternal life will be ushered into the new heaven and earth reign of Christ. They will have a portion of Christ’s Life in their inward nature. What kind of body they will have is difficult to determine from the New Testament.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Matthew 25:34)

The hope of the raising and glorifying of the physical body has become obscured by the unscriptural emphasis on a "rapture." Actually, the catching up of the body into the air is not a New Testament emphasis. Nor is it significant. The goal of salvation is, rather, the raising of the physical body into immortality. This is of the highest importance. But where the body goes after gaining immortality is not included in the work of redemption. The catching up of the body into the air to meet the Lord is in preparation for the descent of the Lamb and His warriors to install the Kingdom of God on the earth.

We can understand from the foregoing that it is of the greatest importance that we attain to the first resurrection from the dead, that is, the resurrection that will lead to immortality in the body.

Paul referred to the redemption of the physical body:

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:11)

Our body is dead, cut off from the Life of God because of the sin that dwells in it.

However, we have the Spirit of God living in our inward nature. It is God’s further intention to fill our mortal body with this same Divine Life. This will take place when the Lord appears, at the time of the first resurrection from the dead.

Then Paul says:

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13)

Since the above verse is only two verses after Romans 8:11 we may assume Paul is still speaking of God redeeming our mortal body by filling it with His Spirit.

Paul is telling us that if we choose to live according to our sinful nature we will die in the sense of slaying the resurrection life that initially had been placed in our inward nature. The consequence of slaying the resurrection life in our inward nature is that when our body is raised from the dead it will not be redeemed by the Spirit of God.

Paul mentioned the same thing in the Book of Galatians, where He maintained if we sow to our sinful nature we will reap corruption, that is, corruption in our mortal body in the day of resurrection.

The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)

I have expressed in writing on several occasions the fact that how we are behaving today affects the kind of resurrection we will experience. Yet every time I reflect on this truth I am impressed with the enormity of the significance of the issue. The concept seems to be unknown to the majority of Christian believers. Would you agree with this?

In the same eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul informs us that the redeeming of his body is one of his primary objectives; for it provides the answer to his distress over the sinfulness of his body.

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)

In the Book of Philippians Paul again emphasizes his desire to attain to the resurrection which is out from the dead. Obviously Paul is not referring to the general resurrection of the bodies of mankind, for, at the voice of Christ, all shall come forth whether they wish to or not.

So when Paul describes his great desire to attain to the resurrection from the dead, he is not speaking of the general, obligatory resurrection.

Notice the single-mindedness of Paul concerning his objective:

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)

Does it strike you as odd that the Apostle Paul, toward the end of his extraordinarily fruitful Christian discipleship, was still seeking to gain Christ?

Such determination should be an inspiration to all sincere believers.

When Paul speaks of attaining to the resurrection he speaks of gaining Christ, of coming to know Christ, of sharing the resurrection power as well as the sufferings of Christ. Paul was attaining to the resurrection unto life of his inward nature. Before we can receive immortality in the body we must have attained to the resurrection unto Divine Life in our inward nature.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (Philippians 3:10)

It is a never ceasing wonder to me that Paul considered a total abandonment to Christ to be necessary if he was to attain to the resurrection (Greek, out-resurrection) from the dead. Since such attainment obviously was Paul’s mark, his supreme goal, and we are to follow Paul as he followed Christ, why is such an objective absent from our thinking and preaching?

It may be true that God is restoring biblical truth to us in the present hour. If such is the case, it may be that the need to lay all else aside in order to attain to the earlier resurrection (as Rotherham expresses it) may emerge into prominence as one of the prime topics of Christian preaching and teaching.

Certainly, if we are to be balanced scripturally, the need to attain to the out-resurrection, the resurrection of the blessed and holy royal priesthood, ought to replace the every Sunday emphasis on the catching up to Heaven to avoid Antichrist and the great tribulation—the unscriptural teaching that charms pleasure-loving Americans and their pastors and evangelists.

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

Last Sunday morning I was teaching from the Book of Revelation, Chapter Two, verses one through seven. It struck me with renewed force how the Spirit of Christ could write such words to a Christian church, the church at Ephesus.

He praised the church for some aspects of their conduct and warned them concerning others.

And then the Lord issued this promise:

He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7)

To eat from the Tree of Life, which is Christ, is to gain immortality in the body. We would think every believer in Christ will surely gain immortality in the body in the day of resurrection.

But the Lord, speaking to the believers in Ephesus, certainly indicates otherwise. He maintained we must "overcome" if we are to be permitted to eat from the Tree of Life.

Since the promises of life, rulership, and opportunities for service we ordinarily associate with the destiny of the Christian are reserved, in Revelation, Chapters Two and Three, to him who overcomes, it becomes of the greatest importance that we understand what it means to "overcome."

It is fashionable today, in some quarters of Christian preaching, to hold that every person who "accepts Christ," or believes in Christ, is automatically an overcomer. This belief is taken from the following passage:

Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (I John 5;5)

But this cannot be the true interpretation of what John is saying.

First of all, the book of First John is one of the strongest statements in the entire New Testament concerning the necessity for keeping God’s commandments and leading a righteous life.

The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (I John 2:4)

No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; (I John 3:6,7)

Assuredly the current weak approach to Christian discipleship—"accept Christ and you can never be lost and will go to Heaven"—has little in common with the writings of the Apostle John.

Second, if every individual by virtue of believing in Christ is automatically an overcomer, why, then, does the Lord, when writing to the seven churches in Asia, stipulate that the Divine promises are to Him who overcomes? If all are overcomers by being members of Christian churches, why keep pressing this requirement?

It appears obvious to me that there are the multitudes of Christian believers, and within the numerous churches there are individuals who are—at least in the present hour—the true disciples of the Lord. They compose a godly, warlike remnant who will inherit the promises of life, rulership, and opportunities for service.

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)

No, I do not believe the position that every church member by virtue of believing in Christ is therefore an overcomer. An overcomer is an overcomer—just that!

Let us think for a moment about being an overcomer.

An overcomer is not an individual who finally, after many years of the most extreme diligence, attains to a standard of excellence, a standard that very few disciples could hope to attain.

Rather, the overcoming life in Christ is merely the day by day life of victory in Jesus. Nothing more and nothing less than this.

Each day of our discipleship we are presented with one or more decisions that must be made. Should we forgive this individual, or not? Should we yield to this lust, or not? Should we obey what we think the Lord is saying to us, or not?

You know what I mean. This goes on all the time.

Now, we have one of three ways in which we can respond.

We can choose to follow the inclinations of our sinful nature. We can continue to hate the person who offended us. We can indulge ourselves in the lusts of the flesh, in immorality. We can ignore the promptings of the Spirit.

Or, we can put off making the decision for a while. Often, when we keep putting off making a godly decision, we end up choosing to sin.

Or, the moment we are faced with the decision, we can go to prayer until we receive enough Divine grace to repulse the evil and embrace that which is scriptural and godly.

"He who overcomes" is the believer who continually, through the grace of Christ, repulses the evil and embraces the good.

Satan has filled the Christian churches with the concept that while we are in the world we have to sin; or, God has given us grace so it does not matter whether or not we sin. God knows we cannot overcome sin while we are in the world and so He continually forgives us, Satan emphasizes.

The above is a tremendous lie. God has given us grace under the new covenant, not as an alternative to moral transformation, but so we can choose to make the godly, scriptural decision every time we are challenged. I mean, every time we are challenged!

There is a life of victory in Jesus for those who believe the promises of the Bible.

It never is God’s will for a Christian to walk in known sin.

We are not made perfect overnight. From time to time the Spirit of God leads us to an area of our personality that needs to be dealt with. Then the Spirit of God gives us the wisdom and power so we can confess our sin and turn away from it. This is the normal Christian life, the life of victory, the overcoming life.

It is those who keep His commandments who truly love the Lord. The Lord’s promise that the Father and the Son will come to dwell in us is based on our keeping His Word.

It is not enough to call Jesus "Lord." We must keep His commandments in every area of our life. To do otherwise is to build our house on the sand.

For many years now I have been informing my listeners that it is possible to live in victory in Jesus. This does not mean we are instantly perfect or never stumble. When we stumble we get back up on our feet, confess our foolishness, receive total forgiveness, and press forward in the Lord Jesus.

Living in victory in Jesus is just like getting saved, or being filled with the Spirit, or obtaining physical healing. We have to find the promise in the Word, believe the promise, and then go to God in faith and perseverance until the promise has been fulfilled in our life. There is no other path to the promised inheritance.

Christ will give the overcomer, and only the overcomer, permission to eat from the Tree of Life, the eating of which produces immortality in the mortal body.

What about the believers who do not choose to make the effort to live in victory in Jesus?

The inference is, they will not be permitted to eat from the Tree of Life. They will not receive immortality in their body.

Satan will say immediately: "This is not true." God loves you so much He will not prevent you from receiving immortality in your body."

Or, "You believe in Jesus, and so you automatically will receive immortality in your body in the day of resurrection."

You see, Satan is still on the same track: "You shall not surely die." This lie is preached Sunday after Sunday in numerous Christian churches.

One thing I have learned in life: the Bible says exactly what it means and means exactly what it says—regardless of our deductions, traditions, or assumptions.

We of today are heading into an age of moral horrors because many nations have turned their back on God. Our deductions, traditions, and assumptions will fall by the way during the spiritual darkness that will seek to oppress and defeat us. Only the written Word of God will stand in that hour!

So let us prepare ourselves today. Only those who live in victory in Jesus will be given the opportunity to eat from the Tree of Life, from Christ, and thus gain immortality in the body in the day of resurrection.

But what are we saying? How about the multitudes of believers in Christ who neglected to make the effort to gain victory over their sinful nature? What will happen to them?

I am not certain what will happen to the losers. I do know it is the overcomers who will gain immortality. I know also that in order to gain entrance into the new Jerusalem, and thus to the Tree of Life, we must wash our robe.

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14)

What, then, does it mean to wash our robe? How do we do this?

We wash our robe by confessing a sin when it is pointed out to us by the Spirit, by firmly denouncing the behavior as sin, by fiercely renouncing it as having no right to influence our conduct, and then by drawing near to God and resisting the devil.

Maybe such rejection of sin will be easier in the ages to come; but today, as God’s kings and priests are being fashioned, it requires every bit of determination we possess to set ourselves against the worldliness, lust, and selfish ambitions that attack us continually.

To be successful we have to understand clearly that there is grace in the Lord Jesus Christ to enable us to repulse sin utterly.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14)

"Do not let sin reign in your mortal body." Approach this determination fiercely!

"Do not offer the parts of your body to sin." Don’t do it! Quit doing it!

"Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life." Obey this commandment faithfully at all times.

"Offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness." It is your body that is at issue. You are fighting for immortality in your body.

"For sin shall not be your master"! Claim it! Stand on this declaration! Don’t let it go. Don’t let anyone take your crown. It does not matter that the rest of the Church believes, or what people say, or what you think, or what seems possible. Grab hold of God’s promise. God said sin shall not be your master. If you will believe, this will become true for you and you will gain immortality in your body in the day of resurrection.

When we were under the Law of Moses sin was our master. The Law told us what is sinful but did not provide the wisdom and strength necessary to overcome sin.

This is not the case under new-covenant grace. Now we have the forgiveness of Calvary, the Holy Spirit, the born-again experience, the body and blood of the Lamb of God, and the New Testament writings. These are sufficient to give us victory over every sin.

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14)

What I have said above is how you wash your robe.

If you will keep on washing your robe until it is perfectly clean, you will be granted entrance through the gates into the new Jerusalem. There you will be permitted to eat from the Tree of Life. You will gain immortality. This is true today, in preparation for the day of resurrection. It shall be true for eternity.

The new Jerusalem is the unblemished Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Outside its walls will live many nations of saved people. What kind of bodies they will have I do not know for it does not say, as far as I can tell at this time.

But if such persons are to gain immortality in their body they will have to wash their robe in the manner prescribed above. They will have to be free of all the behaviors which are an abomination to God.

Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Revelation 22:15)

In the beginning God drove the first couple from Paradise that was on the earth. In the middle of Paradise there was the tree of immortality, the Tree of Life.

Rather than permit the first people to become immortal sinners, God sent them from the garden and placed cherubim and a flaming sword that would prevent their eating from the Tree of Life.

Today Christian teachers are informing the believers that they will gain immortality by grace, as they believe in Christ. No radical moral transformation is required or even expected.

Do you see the problem here? You would be putting sinful people back into Paradise and giving them access to the Tree of Life. They would become immortal sinners and there never would be redemption for them, just as is true of fallen angels. It would be extremely foolish of God to "rapture" up to Heaven today’s sinning church members and permit them to partake of immortality.

What confusion this would produce!

No, the Word of God does not change. Access to the Tree of Life still is barred to all except those whose personality has been cleansed by the Virtue of Jesus Christ.

When we first receive Christ, the guilt of all our past sins is immediately and totally forgiven.

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,  through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— (Romans 3:25)

The "sins committed beforehand" have all been forgiven.

The issue is the sins that dwells in us currently. These are the behaviors from which we must be thoroughly cleansed if we are to regain access to the Tree of Life, and thus gain immortality in our body.

Whoever believes in Jesus Christ has the right to pursue immortality. It is a fight, the good fight of faith. Satan will resist the conquering of the last enemy—physical death.

Today the Spirit of God is searching the Christian churches to see who it is that cares enough to press toward the mark of immortality.

He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7)