In Romans 5 through 8, which we may call the kernel of the Bible, two key words are used repeatedly. These words are life and death. In Genesis 2 life is represented by the tree of life, and death, by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (v. 9). The issue of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is actually death, not knowledge. Therefore, we may call these trees the tree of life and the tree of death.


The tree of death is very subtle. Although it brings forth death, it is not called the tree of death; instead, it is called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There are three related things concerning this tree—knowledge, good, and evil. Although we all appreciate knowledge and good, we do not like evil. We consider good and evil to be in two distinct categories. The concept of good and evil in the Bible, however, is different; the Bible puts both good and evil in the same category. This indicates that we should be for life, not for good or evil. According to Genesis 2, knowledge and good are put together with evil. Belonging to one family, they are three “sisters” who work together to bring forth death, which is, of course, the opposite of life.


Some Christians say that we should no longer be concerned about the tree of life and the tree of knowledge spoken of in Genesis 2. But most of the items found in Genesis are seeds of spiritual truths developed elsewhere in the Bible, and we should not neglect them. In Genesis 2 we have the seed of life and the seed of death. But at the end of the book of Revelation we see the consummation of these seeds. Death, the last enemy, is cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). Life abounds in the New Jerusalem, for there we see the river of water of life with the tree of life growing in it (Rev. 22:1-2). From center to circumference, the New Jerusalem is a city of life. The seed of life sown in the beginning of the Bible consummates in the harvest of life, and the seed of death consummates in the harvest of death. Because the seeds of life and of death grow throughout the Bible, we can trace in the Bible both the line of life and the line of death. In this message we shall consider these two lines as they appear in Romans 5 through 8.

In Genesis 2 there is a triangular situation involving God, man, and Satan. In this chapter man faces two sources: God as the source of life and Satan as the source of death. In Romans 5 through 8 there is the continuation of this triangular situation. Eventually, this triangular situation will result in a twofold consummation. The negative things will, along with death, be swept into the lake of fire, but the positive things will, with those who have been redeemed, flow into the city of living water. Today we are all heading toward this ultimate consummation, the believers to the New Jerusalem and the unbelievers to the lake of fire. In their everyday experience many Christians have one foot on the line of life and the other on the line of death. Other Christians vacillate between the two. Perhaps yesterday you were on the line of death, but today, by the Lord’s mercy and grace, you are once again on the line of life.


Let us now trace these two lines through Romans 5 through 8. Romans 5:12 says, “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin; and so death passed to all men because all have sinned.” Here we see the entering in of sin and death. Verse 14 says, “Death reigned from Adam until Moses.” In these two verses we see the line of death. In verse 17 we find the line of life: “For if by the offense of the one death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” In verse 21 Paul declares, “As sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Sin has brought in death, but grace through righteousness brings in life. Therefore, in chapter five we see both the reign of death and the reign of life with grace.