In the twenty-sixth verse of the first chapter of Genesis, after God has pronounced everything as good and established an order in this world that He so obviously loved, He takes one final step and says “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth” (Genesis 1:26).
Yes, the Creator God loved the world, and He showed forth that love by creating a being in and as His own image that would reflect His glory into the creation and be a reminder of His creative power and His rule. He created Adam. He sent the one originally understood, as part of the story of the covenant people, to be His one and only son into the world to rule the creation in proxy for Him. If this is understood, then the one that has that understanding is one step closer to appreciating the full impact of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus.
Genesis insists that “God created humankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them” (1:27). Furthermore, in relation to being created in and as the image of the Creator God, so as to bear that image in and for the whole of the creation, the language of covenant is employed when the author confirms that “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it!” (1:28a) What follows from that report is rounded off with “God saw all that He had made---and it was very good!” (1:31a)
So humankind (Adam) is given a charge by their Creator. It could easily be said that the covenant God of Israel loved His good creation (world). Owing to that love, He created a son (Adam) in His own image and sent that son into the world with a specific purpose. What was that purpose? It was to rule and steward and subdue and represent the Creator to the world. Ultimately though, there was something underlying all of that. The foundation on which those purposes rested was belief. It was trust.
Trust in what? “The Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (2:16-17a). This was an obvious commandment and a test. The Creator God loved the world and sent His one and only son into the world, and set up a perimeter to see whether or not His Son would follow the commandment as part of the charge to be reflect his Father’s glory into the world. Would the word of the Creator be believed? Of course, all live with the sad result of the failure associated with this relatively simple commandment, which was that it was not something to which Adam (the one originally thought of as the son of God) adhered.
The corollary to the Creator God’s commandment to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is well known, as it was said “for when you eat from it you will surely die” (2:17b). Genesis reports that Adam, as the divine image-bearer, had been offered up the fruit of every tree of the garden, save one. One of those trees was the tree of life (2:9). When Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden after violating their God’s clear commandment (thereby finding themselves outside of their God’s purpose for them), careful attention is paid to this tree of life.
This demonstrates that the tree of life is of special concern to the Creator God, thus it is said that “When He drove the man out, He placed on the eastern side of the orchard in Eden angelic sentries who used the flame of a whirling sword to guard the way to the tree of life” (3:24). This is explaining in the report of the Creator saying “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (3:22). Clearly then, it is being communicated that the covenant God did not want His now fallen image-bearer to live forever in a state of corruption, so He made a move to limit access to the tree of life. Apparently, it is to be taken that the fruit of this tree was designed to render possible such an eternal existence.