The Kingdom Tree
The Kingdom Tree
The Bible uses a recurring image that helps us understand what is meant by the Kingdom of God. The repeating image of a tree is seen from the beginning to the end of the Bible.
Genesis 2:9 mentions the ‘Tree of Life’ being in the midst of the Garden where Adam and Eve dwelt in the presence of God. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they were removed from the Garden and experienced separation and death. In the final chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, we see another ‘Tree of Life’, which brings healing to the nations. Once again, people are dwelling in the presence of God and will remain always.
These two bookends are not the only mentions of a tree. Throughout the Bible, we see false trees giving the promise of life by leading to death. Also, in the midst of the Garden of Eden was the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. In Daniel 4:10-12, the earthly King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream of a tree of great height chopped down – representing his Kingdom that would fall.
God met Moses in a burning bush/tree on top of a mountain. Moses called to follow God, who made his presence seen atop the mountain, but the people choose to worship false idols. King David wrote of a tree planted by streams of water (Psalm 1:3). The temple where the presence of God dwelt would be built atop Mount Zion with motifs engraved of branches and fruit.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of a tree cut down, representing the nation of Israel but out of the stump was a new shoot – the promise of a redeemer a Savior.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus taught, “The Kingdom of heaven is like a grain of a mustard seed that man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown, it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree” (Matthew 13:31).
Just days before his crucifixion, Jesus saw a full fig tree signifying it was bearing fruit, but when he looked, there was no fruit to be found, so he cursed the tree, and it immediately withered (Matthew 21-18-22).
But one tree stands above the horizon in all of Scripture. Just as one tree (of the knowledge of good and bad) was the undoing of Adam and Eve, causing sin to enter the world – so, through one tree upon which Jesus Christ died, life redeemed creation. Galatians 3:13 “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse of our wrongdoings. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'”
Patrick Schreiner writes, “he hangs upon this tree for the world to mock and sneer. This tree secures the nails that pierce his hands and feet. Rome, the Jewish leaders, and Satan assume that Jesus’ Kingdom has been conquered by nailing Jesus to the cross, yet in a twist, this tree becomes the King’s greatest victory. There drapes the sign that declares, ‘This is Jesus, King of the Jews’ (Matt. 27:37). The defeat of Adam and Even is the victory of God; the Serpent’s sting is Christ’s greatest victory. The tree shaped like a cross is the fulcrum of God summing up all the things in heaven and on earth. It is positioned vertically, and Jesus’ hands stretch out horizontally, harmonizing north, south, east, and west through Jesus’ disfigured body. The tree is, as Revelation portrays it, healing for the nations.”
The Kingdom of God is not just something that awaits us in eternity as if it was only intended to be at some point later. The Kingdom of God runs through all of Scripture, with the climax being displayed on the cross. There is a past, present, and future reality as we seek to experience and display the Kingdom of the King’s power over the King’s people in the King’s place.