BY: JONATHAN MITCHELL
There are many metaphors in Scripture that are taken from the plant kingdom: seeds, vines, agricultural field crops, trees, fruit, branches, leaves, roots. They all are usually a figure to share some truth regarding humanity and God’s relationship to humanity. In John 15, Jesus said that He was the Vine and His disciples were the branches, and He wanted them to bear a lot of fruit. He said that the Father was the vine-dresser who regularly pruned and tended this Vine.
In explaining the parable of the tares of the field, in Matt. 13, Jesus said that the good seed are the sons of the kingdom (a Hebraism which signifies those who have the character and qualities of the kingdom of God), while the field represented the world (i.e., the organized system of culture, religion, economy and government). Psalm One describes an upright person who is in right relationship with God. Vs. 3 tells us, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.”
Song of Songs 4:12 says, “You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride…” Psalm 80:8, speaking of Israel says, “You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the heathen, and it filled the Land.” Isa. Ch. 5 is a song of God’s vineyard, and vs. 7 tells us, “The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of His delight.” Jude 12 speaks of people who are “autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted.” John the Baptist said, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt. 3:10) He was speaking of the Jews.
In Gal. 5:12 Paul speaks of the “fruit of the Spirit.” In Phil. 1:11 he uses the term “the fruits of righteousness.” John the Baptist told the folks to “produce fruit worthy of a change in thinking (or: repentance – Matt. 3:8).” It seems clear, to me, that God’s people are His vine, His fruit trees, His fields of grain. One of the final pictures in our Scriptures includes a wood (a forest – often translated “a tree”) of life, producing twelve [crops] of fruit, yielding their fruits each month, and the leaves of the forest (or: trees) have a view unto a curing of the ethnic multitudes (Rev. 22:2). The river of “water of life” flows of the plaza in the New Jerusalem, and flows through the midst of this orchard of trees of life.
Now doesn’t this sound like a paradise, a garden? In Gen. 2:9, “God made to spring up also out of the earth every tree beautiful to the eye and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of the garden (or: paradise)…” And in vs. 10, “a river went out of Eden to water the garden (paradise)” (LXX). In vs. 16 God tells the human that he can eat from the trees in this garden.
So considering what I have laid forth here, I suggest that the Garden of Eden was a figure for God’s people – just as the New Jerusalem, with its garden is called “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” (Rev. 21:9-10) Just as Adam and Eve were able to eat of the fruit of the trees in Eden, thus are we able to partake of the fruit of the Spirit being produced by those who abide in the Vine. So why should we think that Eden was a literal garden? God’s garden is His people.
A final thought: on the cross, Jesus said to the one worker of ugliness, on the cross beside Him, “Today you will be (or: be existing) with Me in the midst of Paradise.” (Lu. 23:43) Jesus was going to Paradise, and Paradise (LXX for garden) is His people. We are encompassed by a great cloud – of witnesses (Heb. 12:1). In our midst are rivers of living water (John 7:38).
GOD’S GARDEN [Jonathan Mitchell] 1