Aren’t God’s laws and rules supposed to make people live by justice and fairness so that good prevails over evil? That’s what we’ve been taught and what we mostly wish was true.
Earlier I said that the two trees in the middle of the Garden of Eden depict the two laws –the only two laws– that He uses to determine if we’re acceptable to Him or not. Let me explain . . .
Laws describe how things work through actions and results (causes and effects, offenses and punishments). Those two laws identify the two, non-overlapping spiritual realms –or kingdoms. We choose between them for our eternal residence by whom we believe in –put our faith in –rely upon –trust.
The tree of death corresponds to the law of sin and death. I call it the “tree of death” because God said “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (from Genesis 2:17). The name of the law comes from this passage in Romans . . .
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2)
The kingdom of death is for those who are separated from God. It’s where we all began.
You see, being the authority of what was good and what was evil was reserved for Him. Yet Eve exposed her envy by eating that tree’s fruit. She wanted His position: the supreme Judge, the ultimate Authority. We were all like her. It’s proved out by our lingering judgmental ways.
Remaining in that kingdom is the result of continuing to rely upon ourselves –justifying our own innocence and assessing others’ guilt (convinced of our rightness and their wrongness, our goodness and their badness). It’s what Job did in his first 41 chapters.
The tree of life corresponds to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. It’s the other law in Romans 8:1-2. (Since the gist of it is: “If you have the Holy Spirit, you also have life,” its title could be shortened to the “law of the Spirit of life.” But that would leave out its source and significance.)
Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You,
even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him He may give eternal life.
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:1-3)
Right here and right now, because we put our faith in Jesus, we’re in the kingdom of life (the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven). Being joined with Him and entering His kingdom was the result of humbly trusting God –realizing our initial separation and the futility of our independence. That’s what Job finally did –it’s recorded in .
Those two laws describe how to recognize our original condition as citizens of death –and how to obtain eternal life as citizens of the kingdom of God.
We started out in death’s kingdom, under its reign –and we couldn’t escape by walking up to the tree of life and eating its fruit. Genesis chapter three explains that tree was taken out of human reach and angels stand guard.
They carry a blazing sword that serves as a welcoming beacon for those who seek eternal life and as a foreboding deterrent to those who are still trying to be God –the Judge. By faith we’ve seen that tree of life: the cross –and by faith we’ve eaten its fruit: Jesus’ blood and flesh (from ).
Please take another look at this passage from Romans and consider that transition’s impact on your life.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2)
Dual citizenship isn’t an option. Are you going to continue being the authoritative Judge –evaluating who (and what) is good and evil– using worldly values or even Scriptures as the basis for your complaining? That’s natural for citizens of the kingdom of death –insisting they’re good and wanting justice to correct the bad. . . . Or will you –as a citizen of God’s kingdom– let Him do the judging while you represent Him to those you meet?
That’s the choice Jesus gave His disciples with the parable of “The Unrighteous Judge” –sometimes labeled “The Persistent Widow” ( ).
It begins with “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.” Most of the time this verse is used as inspiration for us to keep asking God for what we want –hoping that He will eventually relent and fulfill our requests. But there’s more to the story.
The parable goes something like this . . .
There was a judge who really didn’t care about anyone except himself –not even God. And there was a widow who repeatedly went to that judge begging for help against an opponent who had been goading her. Finally, after tiring of her begging, the judge agreed –not for her good– but so that she would quit pestering him.
Jesus equated the widow with God’s chosen people. (Both of them wanted to put an end to their opponent.) Then He asked the heart-probing (and often overlooked) question: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
This is the crucial point in His message –and we can’t understand it if we allow those added section titles to restrict our attention. Let’s back up to where His message began –at Luke 17:22. There He was telling them about His return on Judgment Day –when justice will be finalized. The parable about the widow and the judge was to provoke the disciples’ thinking about their future (and all of mankind’s).
Would they allow God to transform them using adversity? Soon they would see their beloved Jesus crucified by the Romans and they’d be betrayed and persecuted by their own people. Could they trust Him to be the Judge –realizing it might be a long time before His reckoning? Or would they decide for themselves who and what were good and evil –like the widow did?
Surely, they were to “pray and not lose heart” –trusting that He knew what He was doing. His imminent crucifixion (followed by their own suffering) would memorialize the opening of the gates to His kingdom –the kingdom of life.
Israel was essentially dead to God –she was indeed the widow that He was talking about. And soon Pilate was going to serve as the unrighteous judge who would carry out her demands for Jesus’ execution. This was the plan that was set into motion at the beginning.
When the Son of Man comes, will He find you being the Judge of good and evil? Or will He find you living by faith while facing adversity –trusting God to be patient and merciful with everyone just like He has been with you?