The Two Trees
(A “trunk of the tree” Bible Study.)
What is the symbolic nature and purpose of these two trees that were placed in the “midst” of the Garden?
(This is not a question and answer format, so please look up and read in your own Bible all the Scriptural texts given, for your own satisfaction.)
Over four decades ago in the COG, I, as a new attendee, remember hearing some people complain because Mr. Herbert Armstrong (God’s chosen servant, ordained an apostle) would refer often to the “TWO TREES” of the Garden of Eden. Some would say something to the effect of “here he goes again with those two trees” and of course this went on for many years, along with other criticisms. Mr. Herbert Armstrong himself knew these skeptics and critics of him were out there in the audience, many he said were in “Ministers row” of the congregations of the Worldwide COG. These individuals were actually where they were as a result of Mr. Armstrong’s undeterred efforts to build Ambassador College in order to train and establish a ministry to serve God and fed the flock. So, their grumbling about his points of truth in sermons, after being under his leadership for several years was quite disingenuous, to say the least.
Later on, I remember at the Feast of Tabernacles in Big Sandy Texas one year, listening to a sermon from HWA, when he brought up these two trees—and I remember him pausing from his sermon to make the comment— “I know that some of our brethren are tired of me going back to these two trees, but brethren I am going to continue to reflect back on these two trees again and again and again” —(something to that affect was said more than once, over time but this one I heard personally)—and then he went on to explain their importance and the need to be reminded of their significance, then went on with his sermon. Well, I personally enjoyed hearing him talk about the two trees and had always found those sermons informative. After all, it was there in the Garden at the beginning of this human experience, that Adam and Eve would soon make a choice that would immediately affect them; would eventually affect the earth, the environment and all of humanity after them for “better or worse” then and on into the future. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve chose the wrong tree!
It is interesting that again, at the Feast of Tabernacles, (2010) a minister mentioned during a sermon some of these things about HWA and how he himself was one of those at the time, who got a little bored with HWA constantly repeating some of these teachings—“but now (he was saying) he realized how much we needed them”! Realizing we seldom hear of some of these things today and the COG is getting way off track, as the very organization he was ministering in at that time was about to split apart and did so before that year was finished! So in this Bible study on the two trees, I want to review some things we should have learned from Scripture and the two trees— the importance of them—then and today! (A few, including this author/editor never stopped going back to the two trees in hope of learning more.)
Some have said to me or in my hearing that the two trees were purely symbolic, not even literal TREES—that they were spoken of symbolically in Scripture as picturing two different mind sets or attitudes—and that they never really existed! Well, they were right about the different mindsets, but this is being very short-sighted and in dis-belief of what Scripture reveals. Then others have stated their belief that Adam and Eve had been “eating of the tree of life for some time before they had finally taken of the wrong tree and were driven out of the Garden”. (The explanation to me personally) “That is why they lived so long back in that time until the flood, because Adam and Eve had ingested fruit from the tree of life, giving them and their children longevity”! These kinds of statements are from the speculative perspective that the tree of life was like the proverbial “Fountain of youth” that their eating of had made mankind live longer lives, being passed from generation to generation before the flood, which is a flawed reasoning that also rejects truth of Scriptural wording.
There is not a shred of evidence nor truth to these things anywhere in Scripture, so it is not wise to promote such things as truth, being purely from human reason, speculation and ideas of men. When this is presented as truth, it becomes heresy, showing the person presenting these contradictions to Scripture is in a state of unbelief of Scriptural wording. I am not saying it is wrong to speculate about the possibility of things NOT revealed, as long as the Scriptural truth is not twisted or perverted or contradicted with wrong motives and purely human ideas. (Deut.4:2, 12:32 & Isa.28:10) There are many things we do not yet know and is the very reason we need to be reminded of what Scripture reveals and we can know by simple belief. Many people today take license to go beyond what the Bible reveals and state their speculations as being truth. I find myself having to back up and research or re-read points of Scripture sometimes, because of things I hear or just to make sure I am getting the full impact of what is being revealed and remember correctly what it says—which is why we diligently study to show ourselves approved. (2Tim.2:15 & 2Pet.1:10) Sometimes, though, it is simply unbelief on the part of some who refuse to believe what God has revealed and would rather believe their own theories instead, by interpreting the Scriptures for themselves. There are many things to be learned from the TWO TREES incident and what is recorded. The very recent history in the COG has shown that one of those is; “There will always be some who doubt what is revealed by WHAT we see and will lean to their own understanding instead, presenting something we DO NOT see”. This misinterpretation or rejection of truth will grow into other areas of unbelief, distortion of more truth and become heresy if not repented of quickly. This kind of action shows a lack of conversion and belief or a liberal or lukewarm mind set, to say the least. So let us get into these three points to be brought out in this Study.
# 1, God’s purpose for mankind. (Is revealed in the two trees incident)
Yes the two trees were symbolic of the only two ways man was created to go, but also very real as we will see proven — and most do not know or even think about God having planned ahead of time for both ways, that was set before man. (God had a plan for Adam’s obedient choice and one for him if disobedient, as they had been given only these two choices. If one cannot grasp this, then they also cannot grasp the fact that they are LIMITING God and discrediting His very intelligence as Creator. Can you even imagine what a different world we would be living in today if Adam had rejected the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and had actually eaten of the tree of life? God was already interacting with him, instructing him for the purpose of his creation (to have dominion or rule) and all he had to do was continue that relationship that was already begun. Unfortunately he did not and we have seen the results of the wrong choice being played out in reality and bring mankind to the brink of utter destruction! The Bible only hints at what the other way would have produced, until we get to the time of Christ, and can even then only be understood by the guidance of the Spirit into ALL truth.
There were actual trees and they both existed in that Garden, they were real, if you believe the Word of God! The words we find about them were inspired by God and God cannot lie! (2Tim.3:16 & Titus 1:2) So let’s focus a little bit more on those REAL two trees and their purpose. We pick up the story in the 2nd chapter of the book of Genesis. This chapter adds much detail to what is recorded in the first chapter about the creation of mankind. Chapter one shows us that God created mankind after the “God kind” and in His own image and likeness. (V.26 &27) We can see from this and a study of the rest of the Bible, the very fact of man’s creation is God reproducing Himself. We learn from another Scripture and book of the Bible that the man and his wife were created to bring forth Godly offspring, (Mala.2:15) which was one of the purposes of Eves creation. We also learn in these first two chapters of Genesis, that Adam was made from the dust of the ground, (ch.2:7) not spirit composition as the angels are, and therefore were other physical or fleshly creatures. Eve was taken from Adam—his flesh and bones, (Gen.2:21-23) so in this sense all mankind have come from Adam. (Acts17:26) They did not have immortal souls, as there was no life in Adam until God breathed oxygen into his lungs, and he then was only physically alive, a “living being” as Scripture states. (1 Cor. 15:45 "The first man Adam became a living being." NKJ)
Man’s life is in the blood, Scripture reveals. We also see that Adam was created first on the sixth day and then later on the same day Eve was made—IF we believe what is written for us.
God gave them instructions and then left them to freely choose; Gen 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; (Which included the tree of life) 17 "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." What happened? Gen 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree (Of knowledge) was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, (according to what Satan told her!) she took”– now we read that Eve saw the tree of the knowledge of good and evil with her eyes, so it WAS literally there. Satan had convinced her that it would make her wise and like God (Who lives forever and cannot die—meaning also that God was lying!) —so what did she do? “she took of its fruit and ate”— The tree was real, she did take from it and eat and so did Adam and they both eventually died, just like God said! But what happened next? Gen 3:19 “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return." Adam did not have an immortal soul as Satan has been able to deceive the world into believing, he died and returned to the earth, just as God said he would! Was God’s purpose for man now ruined? Gen 3:22-24 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"— (This very verse from God’s own words tells us they had not yet eaten of the tree of life, if we believe the word of God!) 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (So it could not be eaten from. To reject this is to reject what the Word of God reveals and embrace human reason instead.)
# 2 Rejected,—God’s GOVERNMENT. (Tree of life not taken)
However, God’s purpose was not ruined, as this was anticipated. It would now move forward with an alternate plan; previously planned out for man and his redemption, if he made this choice. That wrong choice (Which most also do not realize) would include the death of one of those “Elohiym” or God beings, (Gen.1:26) now known to us as Jesus Christ. (See Death of God for more.) We now move on to this next point to be learned from these two trees. Believe it or not, most people do not realize that the choice that Adam and Eve made was also a governing decision for mankind. Adam and Eve’s choice to take and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a rejection of God’s Government over them! (Adam, who was the head and leader also stood by and let his wife lead, abdicating his own authority—in affect to his wife) How is that, you say? Notice 1 Cor.11:3 “But I want you to know that the head (The governor—authority) of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (The way the NT COG and its families are to function)
So we can clearly see from this Scripture that the Government of God even to the human realm was meant from the start to be from the top down, as the LOGOS, who became Christ (John1:1-3,14) instructed Adam as his Creator or “parent” directly! Now, what does that have to do with the two trees? Adam was given instructions from God about the two trees, apparently before Eve was made. This is indicated by the record of events in Chapter two. (Gen.2:9, 15-17) To help us understand, note Eph.5:23; which says— “For the husband is head of the wife, as also (in the same manner) Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.” So we can see that Adam was responsible for his wife Eve, to lead her, help teach her, care for her and protect her from harmful influence, and that she was the “weaker” vessel of the two. (1Pet.3:7) But Adam was to follow and obey God first, not his wife, if there was any disagreement in what she was doing as compared to what God said. So let us notice the events as they are recorded in Scripture. It was Adam, created in the image of God, (Gen.1:26) who was given the opportunity to master Satan and restore the Government of God, by obeying God and eating of the tree of life—which would have given him access to strength from God through the Holy Spirit—the mind and power of God and the ability to have that relationship with God on a Spiritual plain. (Adams wife was to be his “helper comparable” Gen 2:18-not to take the lead. There is no indication that she conferred with her husband before she ate of the tree.) Satan still had his ruling position over the earth at this time, so these two trees represented God’s way or Satan’s. There was no third alternative or “Neutral” ground man was created in or could remain on; He was not created in a neutral state as some have advocated! The Scripture actually indicates man could live and remain as he was, in the garden and doing what God had already set him to doing as long as he did not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Gen 2:15-17 “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (NKJ)
So the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a tree of disobedience representing death to man, if he took of it. God’s tree was the tree of life, representing submission to God in physical as well as Spiritual matters, peace, blessings and eventually eternal life. Adam was already obeying God in what he was told, up to the point of Eve being tempted, so he was not neutral, already obeying God but not yet having eaten of the tree of life. Now considering that Satan was the ruling spirit over the earth at that time, having one third of the angelic realm under his authority, (Rev.12:3-4) he had his government system which was also from the top down—him being the top—but this system was now opposite to God and would lead to death for physical man.
(Satan will be removed at the return of Christ, along with all of his counterfeits for Christianity. Rev 20:2 “He (an angel) laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;”--. But it is possible this could have taken place with the original Adam, as previously mentioned and as HWA indicated in his writings.)
Christ was the second Adam and He did master Satan by rejecting him and his temptations; so when Christ returns, God’s Government will be re-established on earth by the GOD FAMILY, through the 2nd Adam, Jesus Christ. (1 Cor.15:45 –“The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”) This is what the true Gospel is all about.
Adam had the opportunity to reject Satan and take of the tree of life and restore the Government of God to the earth right there in the Garden of Eden, which could have been taught to the rest of the human family. When he began to watch and listen to this creature telling Eve that God had withheld something from them, by not allowing them to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he began down the path of failure in his mind. Notice what we are commanded to do in James 4:7 “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Adam could have ignored the serpent by obeying God’s instructions, taken Eve by the hand before she ate and walked perhaps only a few steps to the tree of life and ate from it—as it was also in the “midst” of the garden, (Gen.2:9)—and Satan would have fled away, knowing that he had been defeated! (Matt.4:11) Notice the quote below from HWA’s booklet on “A WORLD HELD CAPTIVE”, page 10. (The emphasis are his, but I have bolded them for the purpose of making the point more clear.)
“Adam had to choose between the government of Satan with its self-centered way of life, and the Government of GOD with its GOD-centered way of life. (This self-centered way is where Eve’s mind was going—to get something for herself, realistically!) Each way of life was the basic LAW of a GOVERNMENT. God could have RESTORED the Government of God on earth through Adam, had he chosen that WAY of ETERNAL LIFE.”
(By eating from that tree which he did not do!)
Adam and all humanity after him would now have to die, being led in the mean-time in the captivity of Satan. (2Tim.2:26) When we reflect on the world around us today, (This present age) and what is recorded in Scripture for our benefit, we can determine more easily how Eve was pulled into taking of that fruit. (See I Jn 2:15-17) It is very possible that if Adam had stuck with obeying God and what he was instructed to do, he could have taken Eve away from Satan to the tree of life. They could have lived forever, being changed to Spirit life without death, as the tree of life would have opened their eyes to the wisdom of God’s instructions and right way of life. But Satan had gotten to Eve through the human senses before she gained any Spiritual strength from the tree of life. So, here we are today, in a world that is still very much held captive to Satan the devil and the cause goes right back to the garden of Eden and those two trees, when Adam and Eve made the wrong choice and succumbed to the influence of Satan. They, not in ignorance of what would happen, at least on Adam’s part (Gen.2:16-17) were rejecting the Words of a loving GOD and the opportunity to eat of the tree of life! (Gen. 3:22-24) Satan was then given 6 millennial days to do all his work, but the seventh day he would not be allowed to work at deceiving and leading man into death and evil. (Exodus 20:8-11—which is dual—it applies to man on a weekly basis and to Satan and his demons in the spirit realm. Christ will return and Satan will be put away for a thousand years while Christ and the saints reign on the earth. Rev. 5:9-10 & 20:3-4)
As the government of this world today is still under Satan’s influence and system, only the True COG utilizes God’s Government on earth at this time, and even that is being watered down in this last era of time by many! That is something that is soon to change, with the return of Christ. This brings us to the third and final reminding point of these two ways set before mankind, to be brought out in this Bible study. There is so much more however, that anyone can gain from studying into the aspects of this beginning for man.
#3 Spirituality and the Children of God (Made necessary to be postponed by the sin of man)
As we have already seen the purpose for man took a detour, but would still be accomplished. The tree of life represented the Holy Spirit which true Christians today are given upon accepting the Word of God as truth, with repentance & baptism. To eat of its fruit would have given Adam and Eve the relationship with God and a capacity to understand and go His way, leading them to eternal life, as previously mentioned. It is obvious to the Spirit led mind; Adam, Eve, nor anyone else ever ate of that tree before the flood and afterward it was gone. (After Adam’s sin, mankind in general was cut off from that relationship with God until Christ conquered Satan. Since then, only the true COG members have been given this opportunity at being led by the Spirit of God. Very few in the OT were given the Spirit.) So God had planned to give mankind that essence of the Spirit, through that tree of life, if Adam had chosen to obey Him and eat of it. In doing so, they both would have rejected the tree of death (knowledge of good and evil) and Satan’s temptation, just as Christ did, when He came as the second Adam. If Adam and Eve had first begun to eat of the tree of life, then they would have immediately had some strength and wisdom of mind to resist Satan and most likely God would have removed Satan and his tree of death. Adam and Eve would not have sinned, having no reason to die nor would Christ have had to come and die either. He could have remained by the side of God as the LOGOS or “Spokes-person” and could still be in that position today; humanity having them both as “parents”.
(We are not given these details and there are many other speculations as to what might have occurred if Adam had obeyed God—but it would have been different.) But we can see that because of man’s sin, Christ gave up that position and came as a human to redeem man back from their captor, Satan the devil, by His own death. It was determined as a part of the plan that the Word would come and die if Adam made the wrong choice! (Rev.13:8) If Adam and Eve had obeyed God, they could have been changed to Spirit composition as soon as they had reached that level of spiritual maturity. Now this has passed to the COG, as the first fruits of humanity to become Spirit, the eventual bride of the Second Adam. True Christian today are followers of the 2nd Adam; Jesus the Christ and believers of the Word of God.
To understand that these two trees did in fact represent the only two ways for mankind that is revealed in Scripture for us, we can check Scripture at the point where God has brought Israel out of Egypt to establishing them as a nation. God gave Israel the same two choices as we see in the two trees; the only difference being that they were already living in sin, which is what Egypt typified—going opposite of God. Deut. 30:15 "See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil”,-- (Again, God’s ways Vs. Satan’s—no neutral or middle ground. Many have come up with the idea of a place of limbo or purgatory; a place between “heaven and hell” but there was never such a thing in the plan of God.) God goes on to explain to Israel that He wanted them to function under His Government, set in motion under Moses. (Top down governing from God through man, which passed on to the COG.) He had set this before them, so that He could guide, protect and bless them with what the tree of life could have brought Adam and Eve. It is only God’s way that can bring life and to choose otherwise leads to death, just as HWA came to understand! V.19 "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;”—
This is basically the same thing that God told Adam and Eve in the Garden, about the two trees. God is creator of all things, including life—(John 1:4 & 1John 5:11) without Him and His way there is to be no life eternal for man, only a temporary physical existence until death, and even that is regulated by God, as He makes clear to Israel. V. 20 "that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days;” – (This “Lord your God” is the same being who became Christ.) Sin brings death and being cut off from God and all have sinned except Christ, (Rom.3:23) but the free gift of God through His Holy Spirit leads to eternal life! (Rom.6:23—last part) It was the tree of life representing the Holy Spirit that would have given Adam life, and again, we could be living in a totally different world today if only Adam had taken of the tree of life. Christ, the second Adam will establish the government of God on earth once again, just as the first Adam could have done.
The subject of the two trees will always be useful to modern day or new Christians and there will always be something new come to light from these two trees as we continue to study! However there will be NOTHING new discovered of any value from ideas of men that contradicts the words of your Bible, about the two trees or any other subject.
As we begin to conclude this study, it is my hope that any COG brethren will especially pay close attention to this last part. The tree of life was symbolically opened once again on the Day of Pentecost, 31 AD, but only to the true COG at this time! The COG has come down through time to the last or seventh era, before Christ is to return and we do not know for sure just how long is left, but time is short. The last decade of the 20th century was catastrophic for many in the organizational WWCOG. Satan was brought in by that obviously unconverted or apostate leadership and affected many others! (Rev.3:9) Even before the last decade began, in fact even before HWA died, little by little and very quickly and cleverly Satan began to dismantle the work of God through liberals and the Tkach administration. Many ministers quickly lost sight of God, seeking first His Kingdom and righteousness, which is why we needed for HWA or someone like him to constantly go back to the trunk of the tree doctrines (even the two trees) and keep us alert to those two ways of life.
How about you? Do you now have a head full of your own ideas that have become more important to you than what God has revealed? Some do! We had the warnings then, and was on the right path but very few were really listening and alert because the COG was beginning to slumber. Lukewarm liberalism was already setting in; and now look where it has taken us! The realm of the COG, both the called and chosen—member and minister, are scattered and many are being sifted like sand in the hands of Satan the devil. We were given truth and direction, now we are being tested and many are failing. Those failing the test will be vomited out! (Rev.3:16)
There are many, many more things to learn from the two trees and things that link back to them, but we have only focused a little attention on these three reminding points in this Bible study. Confusion, backbiting and chaos is rearing its ugly head among even some of in leadership positions who seem to be thirsting for control! God’s form of leadership has been tampered with and that structure has been abolished by the majority, just as it had before HWA came on the scene in a church era considered about dead, by Christ. (Rev.3:1-6)
What is your Spirituality like today and where will you stand tomorrow or next year—following God and the Bible or men and their human interpretation of Scripture? There are only these two ways which are represented by the two trees God placed in the Garden of Eden. When the dust and confusion of counterfeit Christianity begins to grow thicker and thicker, God will gather the true elect together to protect them from the attacks of the serpent. (Rev.12:14) (Which may very well begin to come thru other people even in the COG realm, as it is even now beginning; see-John16:2 & Matt.7:6) As the great tribulation begins to get under way, which camp will you be in? Don’t keep dragging your feet, smugly thinking you are just fine the way you are, (Rev.3:17-19) looking to compromising leaders and organizations who cannot seem to discern right from wrong on some issues—or you will definitely be in the wrong place! Don’t let your entire ministry or membership time in the COG be wasted! Look back at the beginning of your Bible, focus on the two trees and see if there isn’t something there that will help you see the next steps to take in your life and why Christ will have to return for the restoration of all things. The “mind of Christ” (Phil.2:5) does not lead to any contradiction of His word, but it will help us see there are certain things in this life that will take precedence over others, even in the human mind, in order to stay on track spiritually. Find the path to lead you back on track with truth if you have strayed or drifted! Reach for the tree of life with BOTH HANDS and hold on tight, because the ride ahead will get pretty rough, even in the Churches of God! (Matt.24:11-13 & Rev.3:10-11)
(Editor for TCOGMSO)
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(The pictures above were placed simply as two different trees and types of fruit, taken from “free” downloadable internet images.
They are not meant as one of them being indicative of the famous “forbidden” fruit. No one knows what that fruit was or if it even exists today.)