“On either side of the river was the tree of life…” Rev. 22:2
I bought this painting by Kent Brewer at a Waxahachie plain air event. He painted it on site in Ellis county, TX. I wander down that road every time I look at it—puts this artist in a peaceful place of loneliness and anticipation – as does painting. Even in a crowd, art is always done alone. And while disaster might be looming (not everything works out), the anticipation makes for great adventure.
I like the tongue-in-cheek title of the painting, too: “Arc de Treeomph.” And recently this painting and its title have taken on more meaning.
I call the Bible a “A Tale of Two Trees.” It begins and ends with trees. As in Revelation, Genesis puts them on center stage (Gen. 2:9): The tree of life. And the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Like a courthouse built smack in the middle of a Texas county, these two trees were easiest to access from anywhere in the Garden. And when God further pointed them out, Adam and Eve wouldn’t avoid them. (For a fuller discussion on Adam and Eve, go here.)
The fateful one, mistakenly called the tree of knowledge, was actually the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of its fruit, “you shall not eat,” God warned. Then, could it have been said that before he ate from the tree, man did not know good – and he did not know evil? He just knew God?
I believe that is the exact intention.
It’s all confirmed in the last chapter of Revelation when God “reveals” the truth of everything. That sun you saw? It was actually me—I am the light, he says. (Rev. 22: 5, John 8:12). And from this light (because there is no more sun or night), you may see the truth of all: the rivers, the terrain of the land, the trees… it was all of me and is there for your good. You will know me (Rev. 22:4, John 17:3) and you will be in the world, but it will not overcome you. And so you will reign over it forever.
In this blog, I will make much of that tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And what is its fruit? “Judgment, justice, the law, righteousness…” Of course the world is established on all of these. But the taking on of this judgment is the original sin of mankind, and from it sprang many works. Both good and evil.
Don’t eat from that tree, God said.
But of course they did.
So Adam and Eve, who only knew God in trust beforehand, had their eyes opened (Gen. 3:7). This was the first “revelation.” But in the guilt of this new-found knowledge, they hid in fear and shame (Gen. 3: 8-10).
“..for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Gen. 2:17
So the days of trust were over.
But there was another tree.
We most often understand biblical history to be the making up of lost ground. But if a lone God is the artist and this world is his painting, while disaster loomed, perhaps this adventure was only beginning.
So Kent’s painting takes me from the beginning of a journey to the end in my thoughts. And while his good humored “Arc de Treeomph” is of two trees shading a road, it also pictures the tree of life straddling a river in Revelation: A true arc of triumph.