BibleWorks really is an incredible study tool. From time to time I will fiddle with the search command line just to see what comes up. The “;of life” search command, which lists every passage where the phrase “of life” shows up, is a very interesting one. The gem of this is seeing what the words come before “of life.” Some key ones are breath, tree, book, path/way, river/water(s)/spring/fountain, bread, light, word, crown. Here is a quick rundown of how they are used:
- God reveals Himself as the Author of Life as He animates the first man with the Breath of Life. We see a recurrence of this when God breathes life into the two martyred witnesses of Revelation 11.
- In the Garden He plants the Tree of Life. Should the man and the woman take and eat of it, they will persist in life. Of course, the Serpent deceives them and points them to the second, lesser tree (Knowledge of Good and Evil). Ironically, from a desire to be like the Living God, the pair exchange access to the Tree of Life for the Tree of Knowledge, which in turn is revealed as the Tree of Death. The Tree of Life is then taken away from man until the end of time, when God will once again make His dwelling with man.
- In Psalms we see the first mention of the Book of Life, which is later revealed to be a listing of everyone who will experience the eternal life of the Kingdom.
- In Psalms we also read about the Path/Way of Life, David speaking in faith, “You will make known to me the path of life (Psalm 16:11),” Jesus answering 1,000 years later that the path that leads to life is narrow, accessed by a narrow gate/door, and that He Himself is this Path, this Way that leads to life in the Father.
- Water is perhaps the most prevalent imagery when the Bible speaks of life. It shows up in the terms water, river, fountain, well, and spring. David cries out, “They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And You give them drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life… (Psalm 36:8-9a).” Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that He possess living water, which could become a well in her springing up to eternal life. Eden is watered by springs of the ground, requiring no water from the sky; from this water, the vitality of Eden is sustained. This theme persists in the River of the Water of Life flowing from the Throne of God in Revelation. By this River, never again will the people of God thirst.
- Jesus tells us in John 6 that He is the Bread of Life, but this is no mere earthly grain. It exceeds even the manna of Exodus that fell from Heaven and sustained the Israelites for 40 years. Those men died, but the one who eats of this bread will never die. Jesus’ meaning becomes more pronounced at the Last Supper, when He tells them that the bread is His body broken for them; in our present-day observance of the Lord’s Supper we look both backward to this Bread broken for us and forward to the coming of the Kingdom in its fullness when Christ says He will once again drink of the fruit of the vine with us (Matthew 26). The bread along with the wine serves in some sense as a present guarantee of the fullness of life to come.
- The term “light of life” only occurs explicitly in about 3 places in Scripture, but it is quite a profound term nonetheless. Its meaning comes clear in John 8:12 when Jesus connects it to His role as Light of the World. Those who follow Him will never walk the world in darkness but instead will be filled with the Light of Life. The Light of Life opens our eyes to wisdom, thus preventing such foolish words as the Pharisees’ response to Jesus in the next verse: “You are testifying about yourself; [therefore,] your testimony is not true.” In John 11:9-10 we see that the ones who walk in the Light of Life are able to walk about without stumbling, unlike those still in darkness. Jesus’ role as Light of the World and His dwelling among (and now within) us leads to a shocking reality: We are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). In being filled with this Light of Life we are enabled to live in such away that others see the life of God in us and praise Him.
- In John 6:68, as Jesus’ earthly popularity begins to wane, Peter cries out that there is no where else for them to go from Jesus because He alone has “the words of eternal life.” In 1 John 1:1 this claim becomes more profound as Jesus is referred to as the Word of Life. He does not just hold the keys to life–He Himself is Life. To hold fast to the word of life (Philippians 2:16) is to hold fast to this Christ, the one revealed in Scripture.
- Finally, at the end of it all, for those who have been filled with the Breath of Life, have tasted from the Tree of Life, have eaten of the Bread of Life, whose thirsts have been quenched by the River of the Water of Life, in whose hearts are the Springs of Life, who have been filled with the Light of Life, who have held fast to the Word of Life, who have found the Way of Life and walked this Path of Life, and whose names are written permanently in the Book of Life–THESE shall receive the Crown of Life. And we will finally see Him. And He will vindicate us. And we will be satisfied in Him. And He will dwell with us. And we will worship Him. And He will mark us with His Name. And we will reign with Him.