There are no Bible passages suggesting that the tree of life is the same thing as the Lamb’s book of life. By looking at scriptures that talk about them individually we can conclude that they are different. The tree of life is a divine source of eternal life and the Lamb’s book of life is a record of those who will be given eternal life.

The Tree of Life

The tree of life is only mentioned in 3 books of the Bible. We first come across it in Genesis 2:

“And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9

The tree of life is described as a real, physical tree that God created. It would appear that Adam and Eve were allowed to eat from the tree (Genesis 2:16-17), but there is no actual record of them doing so.  Genesis 3:22 reveals that eating fruit from the tree would make the eater live for ever. After ‘The Fall’, the tree was to be guarded from the reach of sinful humanity (Genesis 3:24).

The expression ‘tree of life’ is mentioned four times in the book of Proverbs (Proverbs 3:18, 11:30, 13:12 & 15:4). The book of Proverbs often uses imagery to make a point. In Proverbs the ‘tree of life’ (not necessarily the literal tree) is linked with wisdom, the fruit of the righteous, fulfilled desire and a gentle tongue.

The tree of life makes its last appearance in the book of Revelation. Jesus uses symbolic language when telling believers about the reward of eternal life:

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7

The tree of life’s final mention is in the last chapter of the Bible:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Revelation 22:2 (It is also mentioned in Revelation 22:14 & 19)

The tree could well be a literal tree upon the earth in the future Kingdom of God. Alternatively, as the book of Revelation uses symbolic language, its mention could represent the divine source of eternal life; offered to the faithful in the future age.

The Book of Life

The term ‘book of life’ (or ‘book of the living’) is only recorded in 3 books of the Bible. However, there are a number of other passages that would seem to refer to it. Its first occurrence is found when Moses asks God to forgive the people for making the golden calf idol:

“Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.” Exodus 32:31-33

The book of life may be a real physical book — but it does not need to be. It could be symbolic language referring to a record of the names of those who will be delivered from eternal death. It’s interesting to note that God and Moses imply that the names have already been written in the book (see Revelation 13:8, 17:8), yet there is the potential for names to be removed.

Other references to the book of life include Psalm 69:28, Daniel 12:1-2 and Philippians 4:3. Was Jesus referring to the book of life when he said the following to his disciples?

“…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20

Like the tree of life, the book of life, is mentioned by Jesus in Revelation. It is part of the symbolic language that he uses to describe the reward of the faithful:

“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” Revelation 3:5

In Revelation the book of life is associated with the Lamb (Revelation 13:8, 21:27) — the Lord Jesus Christ — God’s appointed judge (2 Timothy 4:1). At the final judgement, the book of life will be opened (Revelation 20:11-15) and those whose names are recorded therein will be given eternal life and enjoy fellowship with God.

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  • Martin Asare

    The tree of life though once was a visible and real tree, now is not. However in Gen 3:22, we are told that to eat of it brings eternal life, (. Thus it represents eternal life.).The book of life on the otherhand represents God’s knowledge of those who have eternal life. So that name written in the book of life means access to the tree of life. And that is why those whose names are writtein that book are those who have access to the tree in heaven ( the new heavens and earth, the renewed Eden). so tree represents eternal life and the book access to eternal life. Hence they are related but not the same.

  • Lisa Hnath

    Thank you for your article. I appreciate the precision with which you handle God’s word.

    I would add that the tree of life gave eternal life because God designated or ordained that it do so. Also, God told Adam to freely eat from all the trees of the Garden -except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; so, God invited Adam, who told Eve, to freely eat from the tree of life. God wanted them to take of the fruit of the tree of life and live!

    This is God’s will today, too. He wants us to choose life – eternal life – available through Jesus, His only begotten Son.

    This offer is similar to the offer of eternal life, in the Garden in that the offer won’t last forever. Adam and Eve waited to eat from the tree of life. They were passive and did nothing. Adam did not lead Eve to the tree and suggest that they eat of the tree of life. And Eve did not encourage Adam or even ask him regarding the tree of life.
    Their passivity cost them! (It cost us, their descendants, too!) Their choice to ignore eternal life was, by default, a choice toward death. Because they were passive, they were ripe for Satan’s scheme.
    The best defense against Satan would have been a good offense! They could have joyously, freely eaten of the tree of life. They would have lived forever in a state of purity and love with God. They would never have known the darkness of evil … and the consequences of sin (one of their sons became a murderer and the other one became murdered).

    We know of their failure. What about us? Are we going to make the same mistake? Have we turned to Christ and received forgiveness of our sins and a permanent place in heaven?
    Or are we passively sitting by, waiting for a better mood, better circumstances or whatever?
    To know about Jesus’ offer of eternal life and to do nothing is to risk loosing eternal life.
    Whoever you are reading these words, don’t delay. If you have not received forgiveness of your sins, know that you have the power before you now to escape eternal damnation (worse than any “hell” on earth). It is as simple as eating a piece of fruit from the tree of life. It is a choice: a decision to accept what Jesus did on the cross for you.

    My friend, He died for YOU. Make no mistake about it. And He did it deliberately, knowing it would allow you to spend etetnity with Him. And He did it because He LOVES YOU.
    Yes He does, my friend, whoever you are. He designed you perfectly and loves you with a love that has no beginning and no end. He loves you and desires and unending connection between you and Him.
    May God bless you, my friend. May He touch your heart and give you the faith to open your heart to Him. Shalom.
    For those of us who have received eternal life, freely given in Christ, are we living fully for Jesus? Are we daily surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s guidance? Are we redeeming the time? Are we sitting at Jesus’ feet, hearing His Word? May we occupy ’til Jesus comes!
    See you at the Lamb’s Marriage Supper!