Q: So when we get into heaven, will we have to literally eat of the tree of life to keep living forever, or is the tree of life a metaphorical object meaning we already have eternal life?
A: In Genesis 2:9 and Genesis 3:22 we see that the tree of life seems to offer Adam and Eve a perpetual sustenance of continuous life. Then we see the tree of life again in Revelation 22:2 in Heaven.
A good rule of thumb for interpreting scripture is to take it literally unless the context is obviously not literal. So could it be that we will literally eat of the tree of life in Heaven? Yes. Could it be that we will need to eat of the tree of life in Heaven out of dependency for eternal life, like Adam? I don’t think so, because since Eden the real tree of life was Calvary and 1 John 5:11 says that our eternal “life is in the Son.”
Here are some thoughts that come to my mind…
• We will have a different physical body than Adam, having immortality through the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:53), so it is most likely that we will not be dependent on the tree for eternal life, which comes to us through the resurrection by immortality and belief in the one who hung on the true tree of life at Calvary.
• Revelation 22:2 says that the tree of life will have a place in heaven for “healing” so it could be we will eat of it in either a temporary way until a certain point in development or just out of healing need to grow to a certain standard or stature. It also could a metaphorical way of saying that the saved and the nations will forever find healing in the testimony and memorial of the tree of life.
• When I was at seminary I heard a visiting speaker, who was a Christian scientist, that estimated that Adam was about 10 foot tall and could walk at a pace of 60 miles per hour. I don’t know how he figured that, but I just remembered the height and walking speed. I probably cited Eden as having a perfect earth, perfect nutritious food balance, and abundant perfect oxygen. He also shared that we would likely grow to that same stature and have the ability to travel earth by walking. Revelation also says there will be no seas. So there will be no oceans to prevent us from going where we want.
• There is also the consideration that we will be resurrected the way we physically died. A child will likely still be a child in stature in the resurrection, but will likely grow up to some degree of an adult like stature in Heaven.
• It’s also interesting to consider the aged at the resurrection. A 90 year old man will likely digress in aging and at some point arrive at a “normal” heavenly redeemed immortal body stature. They will likely come out of the resurrection standing straight, if they were hunched, skin better, organs healed, but would also likely progress to some type of physical standard that Adam had.
• We know that Jesus was recognized after his resurrection, but in Revelation he is described as having white hair. There seems to be some growth or change in the physical process.
• Another consideration in the discussion about the need and role for the tree of life is the 1000 years on earth described in revelation and Isaiah, because that could be the time frame of growing up and eating of the tree of life.
I’m sure there is something on this topic that I hadn’t considered or thought-through accurately, but I do think this is one of those “We won’t really know for certain until we get there” kind of questions.