Theologians often discuss the condition of man in the Garden of Eden before the fall. God is all-knowing, so why did He place the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden if He foreknew that man would eat of it? It would seem that God had a purpose for this primitive condition.[i]
All creation was made for man, a garden of exploration that would captivate our imagination, a world that would continually move us to stand in awe of our creator. And so, God made us the caretakers of His creation, to have dominion over His earthly kingdom with the same delicacy and reverence as our creator. “This, in fact, is the whole purpose of man, and the purpose for which he, and all the worlds, both upper and lower, were created: that God should have such a dwelling-place here below — how this earthly abode for God is the purpose of all creation.”[ii]
Adam was created with basic instincts, needs, drives, and impulses. These are self-preservation, the desire for food, the urge for procreation, the need for acquisition, and the determination to have dominion.[iii] Adam and Eve were commanded to be fruitful and multiply.[iv] We read, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, NKJV).[v] While all these passions are good when retained within a Biblical framework, if we are not careful, they can also constitute the “lusts of the flesh.” We would be wise to remember that what God created for good, man’s sinful nature corrupts and turns towards evil.
Adam was created for companionship and communed with the Lord in the Garden of Eden.[vi] The Lord also created a companion for Adam. We read, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). The word “helper” in Hebrew is ezer (עֵ֖זֶר). It is used in scripture to describe aspects of God’s character: He is our strength, our rescuer, our protector, and our help. Thus, Eve was not just created to be Adam’s corresponding and equal partner. In the words of R. David Freedman, God created woman to be “a power equal to a man.” Eve’s strength was to provide Adam with a companion and counterpart that would help and strengthen him in every way.
God gave Adam the task of naming the animals and was given dominion over them, and he even called his wife Eve. This work implies that Adam was learning and acquiring knowledge and was created to labor in the Garden. Creativity and accomplishment are essential for personal fulfillment. And we surmise that in God’s time and Adam’s maturity, he would have been given the understanding of the “tree of knowledge.”[i]
As Adam and Eve were created perfect in God’s image, we also see them as partakers of God’s holiness and righteousness. Often described as “innocence,” Adam was created in holiness devoid of evil.[ii] We read, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31). And they were created to be eternal beings as they were given the Tree of Life. Death only occurred when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, ate of the forbidden tree, and were banished (divorced) from God’s presence in the Garden.[iii]
Their sin resulted in shame, guilt, alienation, and death for them and the entire human race. Given the evil and consequent destruction from sinfulness, why would a loving and all-knowing God subject Adam and Eve to this level of temptation in the first place?[iv] We read, “What is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19). This raises another question. Adam and Eve, having been subjected to God’s presence and His immeasurable love and living in a perfect Garden where every need was provided, why would they have deliberately chosen to disobey Him?
The Bible does not tell us God’s reason, so all we have are suppositions based on the totality of scripture. We have some insight into Adam and Eve’s motivation, but even their desire to seek knowledge to become equal with God does not fully reason with their ultimate actions—the consequence of death.
Adam and Eve were created with intelligence, emotions, cognitive reasoning, and free will or, more precisely, the freedom to choose. There is a significant difference. The Lord declared to Israel: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you [a choice between] life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). God provided Adam and Eve the same choices and gave them the ability to disobey Him and eat of the forbidden fruit. Because without the freedom to choose, there can be no moral accountability. Since we are created in the image of God, He has made us accountable for our decisions and hence His righteous judgments.[v]
God has given us similar choices concerning our destiny as one of two paths, one that leads to eternal life and the other to destruction. We are not given an unbound sphere of decision-making concerning our eternal existence. Jesus warned, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). We can choose eternal life in Christ or eternal separation from God outside His Kingdom, and this is all.
Adam and Eve were created in God’s holiness and with a holy nature. So, again, it seems irrational that they could sin against God. However, being created with a holy nature does not imply they had developed a holy character. That can only happen due to testing in which good choices are made using the intellect, emotions, and cognitive reasoning that God has given us. Hence it is written: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Therefore, while man’s holy nature came as a result of the creation, man’s holy character would only happen as a result of God’s testing.
Therefore, we can see the Garden of Eden as more than paradise; it was a place of trial where God could test Adam and Eve’s obedience and loyalty to Him. And most significantly, it would try their love for Him because it is impossible to deliberately hurt someone you care about. Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God was motivated by selfishness. Hence we read, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Their choice was not a moral failing; it was solely one of disobedience motivated by their own desires. Hence, we read, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
God similarly tested Abraham by simply asking Abraham to offer his only son as a sacrifice, which was a personal request, not a moral one. Moral laws should be obeyed because they are right to follow. For example, God’s commandment not to murder or steal. On the other hand, the prohibition of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a law that tested Adam’s obedience to God because the knowledge of evil was not yet self-evident. Again, Adam’s choice to disobey God was not evil. It was purely an act of willful disobedience that was sinful, but more so, it has resulted in a world filled with evil.
Adam’s freedom to choose was necessary for him to develop a mature, holy, and blessed nature, and a loving and all-knowing God would not have subjected him to this test if it were not for his ultimate good. If Adam had obeyed God and resisted the serpent, he would have developed a holy character and experienced greater blessings and a deeper fellowship with God. On the other hand, God, foreknowing that Adam would disobey Him, already provided a plan of redemption through the incarnation and vicarious death of His own Son.[vi] Either way, Adam’s testing was necessary and reasonable, given that either choice would lead him to a final state superior to the Garden of Eden. Even now, we are presented with a choice: will we believe in and obey the commands of Jesus, or will we, through a willful act of disobedience, reject God and His gift of salvation?
The temptation of Adam and Eve is attributed to the serpent, who we read, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). Paul compares the serpent to the deceptions of a false spirit, saying: “I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
Many theologians attribute the serpent to Satan, either an incarnation or his possession of a beast of the field. Usually disguised, he assumes the appearance of another being, a benefactor or one able to fulfill his selfish ambitions.[vii] Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). “While Satan has many followers and deceivers, he is the originator of all lies and deception. We read, “The great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:9). Therefore, the likelihood is that the serpent in Genesis is Satan.[viii]
So, what kind of motivation could Satan employ to tempt a holy and innocent being to disobey God? We had already discussed that Adam and Eve were created with certain self-preservation and motivating instincts, and Satan targeted several of these when he spoke to Eve. We read, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” (Genesis 3:6). Nothing about these instincts is inherently evil. However, desire becomes lust when it is contrary to the Spirit of God. John said: “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).
The term “world” does not mean the earth; it means the kingdom ruled by Satan that governs the nations of the earth. And the word “flesh” does not mean the body but the whole person’s body and soul dedicated to the kingdom of darkness. Paul said: “You He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
While Satan appealed to Eve’s natural and motivational instincts, he first had to cast doubt in her mind about the Lord. Satan’s opening question, “Has God indeed said?” was followed by a statement intended to cast God as a liar or, at least, disingenuous, and not entirely truthful. He said, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-5). Whether Eve was deceived by doubt, pride, or selfish motivations, possibly, all three played some part in her rebellious decision.[ix] And the outcome was a sinful action that led to her and Adam’s fall from the Garden of Eden into a subsequent world filled with evil.
Genesis chapters one and two describe the creation of man as perfect and holy, Genesis three details his disobedience and fall, and Genesis four through eleven portray Adam’s descendants as living with calamity and strife. Humanity retains a thread of its divine origins, but our history of war, perversion, greed, and corruption gives indisputable evidence of our fall. Only by God’s intervention through Christ’s incarnation, resurrection, omnipresence, and promised return can we find any hope in this world.[x] Orthodox and conservative theologians view the account in Genesis as figurative and literal, not myth or allegory. There is no transition in scripture from allegorical to historical, and Paul made direct parallels between Adam and Christ. An allegorical antitype does not fit a historical fulfillment.[xi] And Adam is listed in two genealogical accounts, including those of Abraham and Jesus, and in geographical locations, such as Assyria and the Euphrates.[xii]
The fallen condition of man is real and very literal. Despite substantial scientific progress, humanity has not evolved morally, ethically, and socially. And the continual presence of evil in the world suggests a supernatural force that continues manipulating and motivating human activity. Man’s fall resulted in God’s judgment against the serpent, the man and woman, and the earth.[xiii] The serpent was humiliated to eat the dust of the earth, the woman to sorrow in pain during childbirth, and the man was to toil to bring forth food from the earth. God’s judgment on the land was thorns and thistles, suggesting a lower yield. We read: “Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field” (Genesis 3:8). These became a symbol of evil and Satan’s works, as Jesus illustrated, saying, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:16-17).
When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, He revealed Himself to the Israelites.[xiv] From the root sin-nun, the Hebrew word Sinai means “thorn” or “thorn bush.” It is believed that Moses saw a burning thorn bush on Mount Sinai called Mount Horeb (h’horev).[xv] The Hebrew word h’horev comes from the root h’harav, which means “to lay waste,” “be dried up,” and “to fight.” In Hebrew, the words Sinai and h’horev are synonymous with a dry wasteland filled with thorn bushes. And there is an interesting correlation and similarity between Mount Sinai and the Garden of Eden, which are dichotomies.
When God expelled Adam and Eve from Eden, He placed a flaming sword at its entrance.[xvi] The Hebrew word for “sword” is h’herev. H’herev comes from the same root, h’harav, and implies “to fight” and “make waste.” It also derives from the word h’horev (called Sinai), which, as we just learned, also implies “a wasteland filled with sharp thorns.” Thus, it is believed that the burning thorn bush Moses saw is a picture of the flaming sword at the entrance to the Garden of Eden.
Again, when Adam and Eve sinned and were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they brought a curse of thorns and desolations (h’horev) upon the creation. On the cross, and wearing a crown of thorns, Jesus took upon Himself our curse of thorns (h’horev). We read: “And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head” (Mark 15:17).[xvii] The immediate consequence of the fall was a sense of shame. They had lost their innocence, covering their nakedness with fig leaves. The knowledge they gained from the tree did not make them divine, only fear, and alienation from the Lord.[xviii] And the fatal consequence of the fall was death and permanent separation from God.[xix] Their knowledge of evil now only gave them an understanding of the consequence of their sin against God. And without the tree of life, disease and mortality would enter the creation.
The Lord told Adam: “For in the day that you eat of [the tree of knowledge] you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). And after Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, the Lord cursed Adam, saying: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Death had now entered the creation. In the Old Testament, only Enoch and Elijah escaped death.[xx] And in the New Testament, only those who are taken up in the Rapture escape it.[xxi] Jesus raised several people from the dead, as did Elijah, and we assume these people later died again.[xxii]
These incidents recorded in scripture seem to contradict the writer of Hebrews, where he said: “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). But Jesus told us: “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:11). This statement implies there are two deaths, the first is physical, and the second is eternal. Jesus referred to the first death as “sleep,” telling His disciples to “make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping” (Matthew 9:24). Some have taken this verse out of context, suggesting that our bodies and souls will sleep until the resurrection. However, Paul said, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Paul’s clarity in this matter affirms that when a person’s physical body dies or goes to sleep, their soul separates from the body. If that person is a believer in Christ, their disembodied soul will be with Jesus forever. We have passed from death to eternal life, and our souls will be reunited at the first resurrection with a new, glorified, incorruptible physical body.[xxiii] We read: “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22); “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).
But if the person is not a believer, their soul will go to the place of the dead, Hades (Sheol in Hebrew), until the final judgment. Then their soul will be resurrected at the end of the Millennial Kingdom (the second resurrection), and if their names are not found in the Book of Life, their body and soul will be thrown into the lake of fire (Hell), the second and eternal death.[xxiv] Hell is also called the “lake of fire” and “the place of outer darkness.”[xxv] Jesus warned, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
There is no biblical justification for purgatory. This Roman Catholic doctrine describes a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who expiate their sins before going to heaven.[xxvi] In stark contradiction, Jesus told a parable about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Both died. And while the beggar was comforted in Abraham’s bosom, the rich man was tormented for lack of water. His thirst signifies he was spiritually separated from God, a form of spiritual death but not eternal death.[xxvii] While the rich man could see Lazarus and the angels with him, a chasm separated them. Even with all his cries for mercy, Abraham said: “Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (Luke 16:26).
The rich man had no second chance or purgatory, and his fate was sealed. And contrary to what some believe, the second death is not vaporization into nothingness. No, it is a condition beyond imagination or comprehension. Fear God, for it is written: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:9-11).
Oh, how pitiful is our fallen, sinful condition? The Psalmist declared: “You have set our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
Despite man’s fallen condition, Isaiah prophesied God’s lifting the curse and removing the thorns from the creation.[xxviii] Thus, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us…” (Galatians 3:13). He has now laid waste (h’harav) our sins and has called all men to repentance.[xxix] Jesus has fulfilled the Law given on Mount Horeb (Sinai) and freed us from its condemnation leading to death. And in the same mountain (earthly kingdom) of h’horev, which is a wasteland filled with thorns, He has fought against (h’harav) our adversaries with a flaming sword (h’herev).
We have been given a second chance and the opportunity to be part of a new humanity and Christ’s eternal Kingdom.[xxx] Adam corrupted human nature through his disobedience and rebellion. Christ redeemed mankind by taking on human nature and, in perfect union with His divine nature, lived a sinless life in perfect obedience to His heavenly Father. We have now been given a new nature, Christ’s nature, and daily, we defeat the old sinful ways through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.[xxxi] And we experience continuous renewal and refreshing.
Paul said: “Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24);[xxxii] “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16); “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
In Adam, paradise was lost, but in Christ, heaven on earth will be restored. In Adam, all humanity faces sin and death. In Christ, we have been freed from the dominion of sin and death and given a new eternal life and fellowship with God.[xxxiii] Christ’s atoning works on the cross have provided peace and salvation for all who believe. We have the hope and promise of the resurrection and a perfect Kingdom. In Christ, we are members of His body, a new creation, and one new humanity.[xxxiv] Even now, we have Kingdom authority to minister in the Name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. [xxxv] We are the redeemed of the Lord, surrendered to Christ, and witnesses to every nation of God’s love and salvation for all humanity.
[i] Genesis 1:28, 2:19-20.
[ii] Ephesians 4:24. Colossians 3:9-10.
[iii] Genesis 2:16-1, 3:3, 3:24.
[iv] Psalm 14:1-3. Romans 3:10, 3:23, 5:12-21.
[v] Revelation 16:7.
[vi] Genesis 3:15,3:21, 4:4. 1 Peter 1:18-20.
[vii] 2 Corinthians 11:14.
[viii] Genesis 3:14-15. Isaiah 14:12-15. Ezekiel 28:12-15.
[ix] 2 Peter 2:10. 1 Timothy 3:6. James 1:5-8.
[x] Romans 5:12-14. 1 Timothy 2:13-14. Job 31:33. 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45.
[xi] Romans 5:14. 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45.
[xii] 1 Chronicles 1-2. Luke 3:23-38.
[xiii] Isaiah 65:25. Genesis 3:16-18.
[xiv] Exodus 19:4.
[xv] Benner, Jeff A. Mount-Sinai. Ancient Hebrew Research Center.
[xvi] Genesis 3:24.
[xvii] John 19:2-5.
[xviii] Genesis 3:7-13.
[xix] Genesis 2:17.
[xx] Genesis 5:24. 2 Kings 2:11.
[xxi] 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.
[xxii] John 11:43-44. Acts 9:40.
[xxiii] Ephesians 2:4-6. 1 John 5:11-12. Colossians 1:13-14, 1:18-23. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57. Romans 5:12-14.
[xxiv] 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10. Revelation 20:11. 2 Corinthians 5:6-11.
[xxv] Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30. Revelation 19:20, 20:10, 20:14-15.
[xxvi] Oxford Dictionary. Purgatory.
[xxvii] Ephesians 2:1-3.
[xxviii] Isaiah 55:12-13.
[xxix] Acts 17:30.
[xxx] 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 15:45-48. Colossians 3:9.
[xxxi] Romans 6:8, 12, 14. 2 Peter 1:4.
[xxxii] John 1:11-13. 2 Corinthians 5:17.
[xxxiii] Mark 16:19-20. Matthew 16:19, 18:18. Luke 9:1-2. John 5:24. Romans 6:11. Ephesians 2:1-6.
[xxxiv] Philippians 1:1. Ephesians 2:15.
[xxxv] 2 Timothy 4:18. 1 Peter 1:4. John 14:2-3.
[i] Duffield, Guy P. and Van Cleave, Nathaniel M. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. Foursquare Media. 1910.
[ii] Chabad.org. Lessons in the Tanya, Likutei Amarim, Chapter 33. March 9, 2016.
[iii] Genesis 1:29, 2:15, 3:3.
[iv] Genesis 1:28.
[v] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Bible (NKJV) unless otherwise noted, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.
[vi] Genesis 3:8.