The principle of life or living; life is defined as the animate existence, or term of animate existence, of an individual. As to earthly, physical life, things possessing life have three distinguishing manifestations: growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally. The Hebrew word used in the Scriptures is hhay·yahʹ and the Greek word is zo·eʹ. The Hebrew word neʹphesh and the Greek word psy·kheʹ, both meaning “soul,” are also employed to refer to life, not in the abstract sense, but to life as a person or animal. (Compare the words “soul” and “life,” as used at Job 10:1; Psalm 66:9; Proverbs 3:22.) Vegetation has life, the life principle operating in it, but not life as a soul.
JEHOVAH GOD THE SOURCE
Life has always existed, because Jehovah God is the living God, the Fountain of life, and he has no beginning or end of existence. (Jer. 10:10; Dan. 6:20, 26; John 6:57; 2 Cor. 3:3; 6:16; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 Tim. 1:17; Ps. 36:9; Jer. 17:13) The first of his creations was given life, namely, his only-begotten Son, the Word. (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15) Through this Son, other living angelic sons of God were created. (Job 38:4-7; Col. 1:16, 17) Later, the physical universe was brought into existence (Gen. 1:1, 2), and on the third of earth’s creative “days” the first forms of physical life: grass, vegetation and fruit trees. On the fifth day, living earthly souls, sea animals and winged flying creatures, were created, and on the sixth day, land animals and, finally, man.—Gen. 1:11-13, 20-23, 24-31; Acts 17:25; see CREATION; DAY.
Consequently, life on earth did not have to wait for some chance combination of chemicals to occur under certain exact conditions. Such a thing has never yet been observed, and, in fact, is impossible. Life on earth came to be as the result of a direct command of Jehovah God the Source of life and by the direct action of his Son in carrying out that command. Only life begets life. The Bible account tells us in each instance that the thing created brought forth offspring in its likeness, or, “according to its kind.” (Gen. 1:12, 21, 25; 5:3) Scientists have found that there is indeed discontinuity between the different ‘kinds,’ and, except for the question of origin, this has been the chief obstacle to their theory of evolution.—See KIND.
Life force and breath
In earthly creatures or “souls” there is both the active life force or “spirit” that animates them, and the breath that sustains that life force. Both spirit (life force) and breath are provisions from God, and he can destroy life by taking either away. (Ps. 104:29; Isa. 42:5) At the time of the Flood animals and humans were drowned; their breath was cut off and the force of life was extinguished. It died out. “Everything in which the breath of the force of life was active in its nostrils [literally, “in which the breath of the spirit (or, active force) of life was”] of all that were on the dry ground died.”—Gen. 7:22, NW, 1953 ed., ftn.; compare Young’s Translation; see SPIRIT.
All things having life, either spiritual or fleshly, have an organism or body. Life itself is impersonal, incorporeal, being merely the life principle. In discussing the kind of body with which resurrected persons will come back, the apostle Paul explains that those created for different environments have different bodies. As for those having life on earth, he says: “Not all flesh is the same flesh, but there is one of mankind, and there is another flesh of cattle, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.” He says also that “there are heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies; but the glory of the heavenly bodies is one sort, and that of the earthly bodies is a different sort.”—1 Cor. 15:39, 40.
Regarding the difference in the flesh of various earthly bodies, the Encyclopædia Britannica says: “Another feature is the chemical individuality everywhere manifest, for each distinct type of organism seems to have some distinctive protein of its own, and some characteristic rate or rhythm of metabolism. Thus under the general quality of persistence amid unceasing metabolism, there is a triad of facts: (1) the building-up that compensates for the breaking-down of proteins, (2) the occurrence of these proteins in a colloidal state and (3) their specificity from type to type.” [Italics ours.]—1942 ed., Vol. 14, p. 42.
TRANSMISSION OF LIFE FORCE
The life force in creatures, being started into activity by Jehovah in the first of each kind (for example, in the first human pair), could then be passed on by the procreative process to offspring. Describing the process, the Encyclopædia Britannica reports: “The life cycle of individual multicellular organisms, . . . for example, a fly, a bird or a man, is typically divisible into five biologically differentiated, and usually distinct, phases [the first of which is] as follows: (a) The formation of the zygote, which is the individual, by the union of ovum and spermatozoön in the process called fertilization. The life-history of the individual, as a distinct and biological entity, begins with this event.” (1959 ed., Vol. 7, p. 110) In mammals, following conception the mother supplies oxygen and other nourishment until birth, when the infant begins to breathe through its nostrils, to nurse and, later, to eat.
When Adam was created, God formed man’s body. Although the account dealing with Adam’s creation does not specifically mention it, God’s spirit or active force generated life, or caused the force of life to be active in Adam’s body. (As we have seen in the foregoing discussion, the Bible shows that life force or spirit animates all earthly souls. [Compare Psalm 31:5; Ecclesiastes 3:19; 12:7; Luke 23:46.]) Additionally, God proceeded “to blow into his nostrils the breath [nesha·mahʹ] of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7) Now Adam began to have life as a person, to express personality traits, and by his expressions and actions could reveal that he was higher than the animals, that he was a “son of God,” made in His likeness and image.—Gen. 1:27; Luke 3:38.
The life of man and animals is dependent, first of all, on the life force started off initially in the first pair, and secondarily on breath to sustain that life force. Biological science testifies to this fact. This is evident in their separation of the process of death into two classifications: Somatic or systemic death (sometimes called clinical death), which is the absolute cessation of the functions of the brain, the circulatory and the respiratory organs (the body as an organized unit is dead); and death of the tissues (sometimes termed biological death), the entire disappearance of the vital actions of the ultimate structural constituents of the body. So even though the person is dead beyond all human help of resuscitation (somatic death), the life force still lingers in the cells of the body’s tissues until eventually every cell dies completely (death of the tissues).
EVERLASTING LIFE FOR MAN?
All forms of vegetable life, and that of animals, is transitory. A long-standing question among scientists has been, Why does man die? Could he, under right conditions, live indefinitely? In considering this possibility for man, it is noteworthy to read what biologists say about the capacity of life, not only individual cell life, but life of an organized body composed of many cells, to continue in active existence for a long period of time. In its discussion of Death, under the subheading “Potential Immortality,” the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1959 ed., Vol. 7, p. 112A) states regarding cells: “It may fairly be said that the potential immortality of all essential cellular elements of the body either has been fully demonstrated, or has been carried far enough to make the probability very great, that properly conducted experiments would demonstrate the continuance of the life of these cells in culture to any indefinite extent.”
Then, under “Death Among Multicellular Animals,” the Britannica goes on to say: “A fundamental reason why the higher multicellular animals do not live forever appears to be that in the differentiation and specialization of function of cells and tissues in the body as a whole, any individual part does not find the conditions necessary for its continued existence. In the body any part is dependent for the necessities of its existence, as for example, nutritive material, upon other parts, or put in another way, upon the organization of the body as a whole. It is the differentiation and specialization of function of the mutually dependent aggregate of cells and tissues which constitute the metazoan body [one composed of many cells making up tissues and organs] that brings about death, and not any inherent or inevitable mortal process in the individual cells themselves.
“When cells show characteristic senescent [aging] changes it is perhaps because they are reflecting, in their morphology and physiology, a consequence of their mutually dependent association in the body as a whole, and not any necessary progressive process inherent in themselves. . . . In short, senescence appears not to be a primary or necessary attribute to the physiological economy of individual cells as such, but rather of the body as a whole.”
On the other hand, however, in later experiments reported in the Scientific American magazine of March 1968, lung tissue cells were found to stop dividing after about fifty divisions, and died out, indicating that the aging and death process was a “built-in” factor. It might be mentioned, however, that the cells were in an artificial environment; the tissue was first broken down into separated cells by means of a digestive enzyme, then put in a centrifuge, and afterward cultivated on the glass surface inside a bottle. When more than one layer grew, the cells were then re-treated with the enzyme and put into two bottles, and so forth. The time occupied for the approximately fifty divisions, or population doublings, was about six to eight months, after which the cells died. A question that might be asked is: How could this data be used to prove what would take place in the human body? For certainly humans live many times more than eight months, and most of their body cells are regularly being replaced.
In all such experiments it must be kept in mind that the experimenters are working with imperfect dying mankind, not the perfection that originally existed in man’s forefather Adam. Sin and death are working in their bodies, doubtless affecting all organs and cells. So no sure conclusions can be drawn from such research as to the human body’s possibility of living forever. In considering the findings and conclusions of these scientific men, this fact must be taken into consideration. All such research, however, tends to demonstrate the tremendous vitality of the life force that God started in living things initially by means of his holy spirit.
What man needs for life
Such reasonings of scientific investigators not only overlook the cause of death in all mankind, but, more importantly, they ignore the prime factor requisite for everlasting life. While it is necessary for the human body to be constantly nourished and refreshed by breathing, drinking and eating, there is something far more essential for continuance of life. The principle was expressed by Jehovah: “Not by bread alone does man live but by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth does man live.” (Deut. 8:3) Jesus Christ repeated this statement and also said: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34; Matt. 4:4) On another occasion he declared: “Just as the living Father sent me forth and I live because of the Father, he also that feeds on me, even that one will live because of me.”—John 6:57.
When man was created, he was made in God’s image, according to his likeness. (Gen. 1:26, 27) This, of course, did not mean physical image or appearance, for God is a Spirit, and man flesh. (Gen. 6:3; John 4:24) It meant that man, different from the “unreasoning animals” (2 Pet. 2:12), had reasoning power; he had attributes like God, such as love, a sense of justice, and wisdom. He had the ability to understand why he existed and his Creator’s purpose toward him. Hence he, unlike the animals, was given the capacity for spirituality. He could appreciate and worship his Creator. This capacity created a need in Adam. He needed more than literal food; he had to have spiritual sustenance; his spirituality had to be exercised for his mental and physical welfare.
Consequently, apart from Jehovah God and his spiritual provisions there can be no indefinite continuance of life. As to living forever, Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
Adam lost life for himself and offspring
When Adam was created, God placed in the garden of Eden the “tree of life.” (Gen. 2:9) This tree evidently had no intrinsic life-giving qualities in its fruit, but represented God’s guarantee of life “to time indefinite” to the one whom God would allow to eat of its fruit. Since the tree was put there by God for some purpose, undoubtedly Adam would have been permitted to eat this fruit after proving faithful to a point that God considered satisfactory and sufficient. When Adam transgressed, he was prevented from having opportunity to eat from the tree, Jehovah saying: “Now in order that he may not put his hand out and actually take fruit also of the tree of life and eat and live to time indefinite,—.” Then Jehovah followed his words with action. He would not allow one unworthy of life to live in the garden made for righteous persons and to eat of the tree of life.—Gen. 3:22, 23.
Adam, who had enjoyed perfect life, its continuance conditioned on obedience to Jehovah (Gen. 2:17; Deut. 32:4), now experienced in himself the workings of sin and its fruitage, death. His life’s vigor was strong, nevertheless. Even in his sad situation, cut off from God and true spirituality, he lived 930 years before death overtook him. In the meantime he was able to pass on, not fullness of life, but a measure of life to his posterity, many of whom lived from 700 to 900 years. (Gen. 5:3-32) But the process that took place with Adam is described by Jesus’ half-brother James: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.”—Jas. 1:14, 15.
In passing, it is apropos to mention at this point the argument of some that, regardless of the human body’s ability to heal itself and to replace worn parts, everlasting life for man is completely out of the question. This, they say, is a fact, because the cells of the central nervous system that may happen to be destroyed are not replaced. Present-day experiments appear to support this view. However, a damaged nerve can heal itself; even a severed nerve, if properly sutured, can regenerate itself, though healing of nerves is slower than that of other tissues. So, although nerve cells are not worn off and replaced like skin cells, they do carry on a process of repair and regeneration. The fact that this takes place is indicated by the extreme longevity of men before the Flood. Their central nervous systems were able to withstand the ravages of hundreds of years, even under the disability of sin and death working in their bodies.
In order that perfection of organism might be restored to men, with the prospect of living forever, Jehovah has provided the truth, the “word of life,” which, if followed, will bring the obedient one into this position. (John 17:17; Phil. 2:16) Following the truth will lead one to a knowledge of God’s provision of Jesus Christ, “who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6) Through this means only can man be restored to full spirituality as well as physical wholeness.—Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 1:30; 15:23-26; 2 Cor. 5:21; see RANSOM.
Through Jesus Christ, then, regeneration to life comes. He is called “the last Adam . . . a life-giving spirit.” (1 Cor. 15:45) Prophecy designates him as “Eternal Father” (Isa. 9:6) and as the one who “poured out his soul to the very death,” whose soul is ‘set as a guilt offering.’ He, as such “Father,” is able to regenerate mankind, thus giving life to those who exercise faith in the offering of his soul and are obedient.—Isa. 53:10-12.
Hope of men of ancient times
Faithful men of ancient times had the hope of life. The apostle Paul points out this fact. He refers back in time to the offspring of Abraham before the Law was given, and he speaks of himself, a Hebrew, as though he were alive then, in the sense that he was in the loins of his forefathers. He argues: “I was once alive apart from law; but when the commandment arrived, sin came to life again, but I died. And the commandment which was to life, this I found to be to death.” (Rom. 7:9, 10; compare Hebrews 7:9, 10.) Men like Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham had hope in God. They believed in the “seed” that would bruise the serpent’s head, which would mean deliverance. (Gen. 3:15; 22:16-18) They looked forward to God’s coming administration, “one belonging to heaven,” the “city having real foundations.” They believed in a resurrection of the dead to life.—Heb. 11:10, 16, 35.
With the giving of the Law, Jehovah stated: “You must keep my statutes and my judicial decisions, which if a man will do, he must also live by means of them.” (Lev. 18:5) Doubtless those Israelites receiving the Law hailed it as offering the hope of life to them. The Law was “holy and righteous,” and would mark as completely righteous the one who could live up to its standards fully. (Rom. 7:12) But, instead of giving life, the Law showed all Israel, and mankind in general, to be imperfect and sinners. Furthermore, it condemned the Jews to death. (Gal. 3:19; 1 Tim. 1:8-10) Truly, as Paul says, “when the commandment arrived, sin came to life again, but I died.” Therefore, life could not come by the Law.
The apostle argues: “If a law had been given that was able to give life, righteousness would actually have been by means of law.” (Gal. 3:21) Now, the Jews, being condemned by the Law, were not only shown to be sinners as offspring of Adam, but were also under an additional disability. For this reason, Christ died on a torture stake, as Paul says: “Christ by purchase released us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of us, because it is written: ‘Accursed is every man hanged upon a stake.’” (Gal. 3:13) By removing this obstacle, namely, the curse brought on the Jews by their breaking of the Law, Jesus Christ removed this barrier to life for the Jews, giving them opportunity for life. His ransom could thus benefit them as well as others.
Everlasting life a reward from God for faithfulness
It is evident throughout the Bible that the hope of servants of Jehovah has been to receive everlasting life at God’s hands. This hope has encouraged them in maintaining faithfulness. And it is not a selfish hope. The apostle writes: “Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6) He is that kind of God; it is one of the qualities for which he deserves full devotion from his creatures.
Immortality, incorruption, divine life
The Bible speaks of Jehovah as having immortality and incorruption. (1 Tim. 1:17) He has granted this first to his Son. At the time the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, Christ was the only one having received immortality. (1 Tim. 6:16) But it is promised to others, those who become Christ’s spiritual brothers. (Rom. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:53, 54) Also these become partakers of “divine nature”; they become spirit persons, as God the Divine One is spirit. (2 Pet. 1:4; Josh. 22:22; 2 Cor. 3:17) Angels are spirit creatures, but they are not immortal, for those who become wicked demons will be destroyed.—Matt. 25:41; Luke 4:33, 34; Rev. 20:10, 14; see IMMORTALITY; INCORRUPTION.
Earthly life without corruption
What about others of mankind who do not receive heavenly life? The apostle John quotes Jesus as saying: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) In his parable of the sheep and goats, those of the nations separated on Jesus’ right side as sheep enter “into everlasting life.” (Matt. 25:46) Paul speaks of “God’s sons” and “joint heirs with Christ” and says that “the eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God.” Then he says, “the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:14-23) Adam when created as a perfect human was a “son [or child] of God.” (Luke 3:38) The prophetic vision of Revelation 21:1-4 points to the time of a “new heaven” and a “new earth” and gives the promise that then “death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more.” Since this promise is given, not to spirit creatures, but specifically to “mankind,” it gives assurance that a new earthly society of humankind living under the “new heaven” will experience restoration of mind and body to fullness of health and everlasting life as earthly “children of God.”
In his command to Adam, God implied that if Adam obeyed he would not die. (Gen. 2:17) So with obedient mankind, when death is brought to nothing as man’s last enemy, there will be no sin working in their bodies to bring death. They will not have to die to time indefinite. (1 Cor. 15:26) This bringing of death to nothing takes place at the end of Christ’s reign, which the book of Revelation shows is 1,000 years long. (Rev. 20:4-6) Here it is said of those becoming kings and priests with Christ, that they “came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years.” The “rest of the dead” not coming to life “until the thousand years were ended” must be those proving faithful and counted worthy of everlasting life on earth under these kings. They have successfully passed the test at the close of the thousand years and have received the reward, which Adam failed to do and was denied access to the tree of life. Now, first, they really have life in God’s eyes.—Rev. 20:7-10.
THE WAY OF LIFE
Jehovah, the Fountain of life, has revealed the way of life through his Word of truth. The Lord Jesus Christ “shed light upon life and incorruption through the good news.” (2 Tim. 1:10) He told his disciples: “It is the spirit that is life-giving; the flesh is of no use at all. The sayings that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” A little later Jesus asked his apostles whether they were going to leave him, as others had. Peter replied: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.” (John 6:63, 66-68) The apostle John called Jesus “the word of life,” and said: “By means of him was life.”—1 John 1:1, 2; John 1:4.
From Jesus’ words it is evident that human efforts to prolong life indefinitely, or theories that certain diets or regimens will bring life to mankind, are futile. At best, they can bring improved health only temporarily. The only way of life is obedience to the “good news,” the “word of life.” (Phil. 2:16) To get life the individual must keep his mind fixed “on the things above, not on the things upon the earth.” (Col. 3:1, 2) To his hearers Jesus said: “He that hears my word and believes him that sent me has everlasting life, and he does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life.” (John 5:24; 6:40) They are no longer condemned sinners, in the way of death. The apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore those in union with Christ Jesus have no condemnation. For the law of that spirit which gives life in union with Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Rom. 8:1, 2) John says that a Christian knows he has ‘passed from death to life’ if he loves his brothers.—1 John 3:14.
Since “there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved,” the seeker for life must follow Christ. (Acts 4:12) Jesus showed that one must be conscious of his spiritual need; he must hunger and thirst for righteousness. (Matt. 5:3, 6) Not only must he hear the good news, but he must exercise faith in Jesus Christ and through him call on the name of Jehovah. (Rom. 10:13-15) Following Jesus’ example, he will be baptized in water. (Matt. 3:13-15; Eph. 4:5) He must then keep on seeking the Kingdom and Jehovah’s righteousness.—Matt. 6:33.
SAFEGUARD THE HEART
The one who has become a disciple of Jesus Christ must continue in the way of life. He is warned: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12) He is counseled: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” (Prov. 4:23) Jesus showed that it is really from the heart that wicked reasonings, adultery, murder, and so forth, emanate. These things would lead to death. (Matt. 15:19, 20) Guarding against such heart reasonings by supplying the heart with life-giving spiritual nourishment, the truth from the pure Fountain of life, will keep the heart from going wrong and taking the person out of the way of life.—Rom. 8:6.
In safeguarding one’s life by guarding the heart, the tongue must be controlled. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and he that is loving it will eat its fruitage.” (Prov. 18:21) The reason was explained by Jesus: “The things proceeding out of the mouth come out of the heart, and those things defile a man.” (Matt. 15:18; Jas. 3:5-10) But by proper use of the tongue to praise God and to speak right things, one continues in the way of life.—Ps. 34:12-14; 63:3; Prov. 15:4; see HEART.
THIS PRESENT LIFE
King Solomon, after trying out everything this life has to offer in the way of riches, houses, gardens and forms of enjoyment, came to the conclusion: “I hated life, because the work that has been done under the sun was calamitous from my standpoint, for everything was vanity and a striving after wind.” (Eccl. 2:17) Solomon did not hate life itself, for it is a ‘good gift and perfect present from above.’ (Jas. 1:17) Solomon hated the calamitous, vain life that one experiences in living as does the present world of mankind, subject to futility. (Rom. 8:20) At the conclusion of his book Solomon gave the exhortation to fear the true God and keep his commandments, which is the way of real life. (Eccl. 12:13, 14; 1 Tim. 6:19) The apostle Paul spoke of himself and fellow Christians, saying that, after their strenuous preaching and bearing witness to Christ and the resurrection, “if in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.” Not only would they not get anything lasting out of this vain life, but they would have relied on a false hope. “However,” Paul continued, “now Christ has been raised up from the dead.” “Consequently, my beloved brothers,” he concluded, “become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Cor. 15:19, 20, 58.
TREE OF LIFE
Aside from the tree of life in Eden (Gen. 2:9), already discussed herein, the expression “tree[s] of life” occurs several other times in the Scriptures, always in a figurative or symbolic sense. Wisdom is called “a tree of life to those taking hold of it,” in that it will supply them with that which they need to get life, namely, knowledge of God and the insight and good sense to obey his commands.—Prov. 3:18; 16:22.
“The fruitage of the righteous one is a tree of life, and he that is winning souls is wise,” says another proverb. (Prov. 11:30) The righteous one, by speech and example, wins souls, that is, by listening to him persons get spiritual nourishment, are led to serve God and receive life. Similarly, “the calmness of the tongue is a tree of life, but distortion in it means a breaking down in the spirit.” (Prov. 15:4) The calm speech of the wise person helps and refreshes the spirit of those hearing him, nourishing good qualities in them, helping them along the way of life, but distortion in the tongue is like bad fruit, brings trouble and discouragement, damaging those hearing it.
Proverbs 13:12 reads: “Expectation postponed is making the heart sick, but the thing desired is a tree of life when it does come.” The fulfillment of a long-awaited desire is strengthening and refreshing, giving renewed vigor.
The glorified Jesus Christ promises the conquering Christian that He will grant him to eat of “the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Rev. 2:7) Again, in the last verses of the book of Revelation, we read: “And if anyone takes anything away from the words of the scroll of this prophecy, God will take his portion away from the trees of life and out of the holy city, things which are written about in this scroll.” (Rev. 22:19) In the context of these two Scripture texts, Christ Jesus is speaking to those who are conquerors, who will not “be harmed by the second death” (Rev. 2:11), who will be given “authority over the nations” (Rev. 2:26), will be made a “pillar in the temple of my God” (Rev. 3:12), and will sit down with Christ in his heavenly throne. (Rev. 3:21) Therefore the tree or trees could not be literal, for conquerors who eat are those who are partakers of the heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), with places in heaven reserved for them. (John 14:2, 3; 2 Pet. 1:3, 4) The tree(s) would therefore be symbolic of God’s provision for sustained life, in this case, the heavenly, immortal life that the faithful ones are given as conquerors with Christ.
There is the mention of “trees of life” in a different context, at Revelation 22:1, 2. Here the nations are shown as partaking of the leaves of the trees for healing purposes. They are alongside the river flowing out from the temple-palace of God, in which is his throne. The picture appears after the scene of the establishing of the new heaven and the new earth and the statement that “the tent of God is with mankind.” (Rev. 21:1-3, 22, 24) Symbolically, then, these would be curative, life-sustaining provisions for humankind, for their eventual everlasting life. Being heavenly “trees” they may picture the righteous, fruit-bearing heavenly ones who serve with Christ in administering life-giving spiritual nourishment to humankind. These symbolic trees also partake of the “water of life.”
BOOK OF LIFE
Several references are made to “the scroll of life” or to God’s “book.” It appears to contain all the names of persons worthy of the grant of life from God. It apparently has contained the names of righteous persons, beginning with Abel. Moses pleaded to Jehovah for Israel: “Now if you will pardon their sin,—and if not, wipe me out, please, from your book that you have written.” Jehovah answered: “Whoever has sinned against me, I shall wipe him out of my book.” (Ex. 32:32, 33.) This would show that the names are not predestined, but are only temporarily inscribed, permanence being conditioned on obedience. It therefore appears that the list would undergo changes because of disobedience on the part of some, but, ultimately, the names in the “book” or “scroll” would be permanent. It is God who ‘declares one righteous,’ and he determines when one’s name is to be indelibly inscribed.—Rom. 8:33.
In the judgment scene at Revelation 20:11-15, the scroll of life is opened to receive names of persons undergoing judgment. At the end of the period of judgment the names in the scroll evidently become permanent, for the description of the judgment indicates it is final. The ones not found written in the book are annihilated in the lake of fire, the second death. At this time also all the effects of sin on those successfully passing through the judgment are gone, death being annihilated in the lake of fire.—Compare 1 Corinthians 15:26.
“The Lamb’s scroll”
“The Lamb’s scroll of life” (Rev. 21:27) is a separate scroll, appearing to contain only the names of those who are the associates of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, with whom he shares his Kingdom rule. (Compare Revelation 14:1, 4.) Apparently their names are also in the other scroll, God’s “book,” as deserving of life. (Phil. 4:3) These enrolled in the “Lamb’s scroll” are spoken of as entering the city, New Jerusalem, in the presence of God and the Lamb.—Rev. 21:2, 22-27.
“From the founding of the world,” when the world began to be populated by the birth of Adam’s children, it had been determined by God that no one worshiping the wild beast or its image would have his name written in either the Lamb’s scroll (Rev. 13:8) or God’s book or scroll of life, in which latter book righteous Abel appears to be the first name inscribed.—Rev. 17:8; Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:50, 51; Heb. 11:6.
RIVER OF WATER OF LIFE
In John’s vision in the book of Revelation, he saw “a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb” down the middle of the broad way of the holy city, New Jerusalem. (Rev. 22:1, 2; 21:2) Water is essential for life. The time setting given in the vision is after the establishment of “a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away.” (Rev. 21:1) The context places the flowing of this river after the destruction of the present system of things. The vision speaks of trees alongside the river producing fruit, and leaves for the curing of the nations. The life-giving waters, then, would be the provisions for life that Jehovah has made through the Lamb, Jesus Christ, for all who will receive life.
The setting then moves back in time to John’s day (Rev. 22:6, 7, 16), and speaks of the spirit and the bride saying: “Come!” and commands anyone hearing to say: “Come!” then extending the invitation to anyone thirsting to “take life’s water free.” The spirit and the bride invite persons to begin drinking of God’s provisions for gaining eternal life through the Lamb of God. Such invited ones also can anticipate drinking from the river of water of life, which will bring complete healing to them under the ministrations of the Lamb and his bride after the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth.
At Psalm 32:1-5 David shows the happiness that attends forgiveness, though he also reveals the distress experienced before making confession of transgressing to Jehovah and receiving God’s pardon. Prior to confessing and while trying to conceal his error, the psalmist is conscience-stricken and says: “My life’s moisture has been changed as in the dry heat of summer.” Attempted repression of a guilty conscience wore him out and anguish reduced his vigor just as a tree might lose life-giving moisture during a drought or in summer’s intense dry heat. David’s words seem to indicate that he experienced ill effects both mentally and physically, or had at least lost most of his joy of life, because of failure to confess his sin. Only confession to Jehovah could bring pardon and relief.—Prov. 28:13.
“THE BAG OF LIFE”
When Abigail appealed to David to turn back from his mission of vengeance upon Nabal, thereby restraining him from entering into bloodguilt, she said: “When man rises up to pursue you and look for your soul, the soul of my lord will certainly prove to be wrapped up in the bag of life with Jehovah your God; but, as for the soul of your enemies, he will sling it forth as from inside the hollow of the sling.” (1 Sam. 25:29-33) Just as a person wraps up something valuable to protect and preserve it, so David’s life as an individual was in the hands of the living God, and He would preserve David’s life from his enemies, as long as David did not try to bring his salvation by his own hand, but waited on Jehovah. But the soul of David’s enemies God would throw away.