The first two chapters of the book of Genesis begin with the story of God creating heaven and earth and planting the garden of Eden. Then in the third chapter we read of the entrance of sin, and how God promptly implemented His plan to save man from sin and restore him to Eden. This is a basic teaching of the Bible, and is closely related to our eternal destinies. If this particular history and prophecy of mankind were not recorded in the Bible, we would have no other source of information from which to learn either of our past or of our future, much less could we depend on our own guesswork to know it. Let us now begin by reading selections from the second and third chapters of Genesis.
"The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. . . . The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.' . . . And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
"Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And He said to the woman, 'Has God indeed said, "You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"' And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden,; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, "You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die."' And the serpent said to the woman, '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.' So 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. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said unto him, 'Where are you?' So he said, I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.'
"And He said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?' Then the man said, 'The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.' And the Lord God said to the woman, 'What is this you have done?' And the woman said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate.' So the Lord God said to the serpent, ' . . . I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.' . . . Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now lest he put his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever'—therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life." (Gen. 2:8-25; 3:1-24)
1) Why did God prohibit man from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Is it not desirable to differentiate between good and evil? (The Chinese for "knowledge" is twice rendered "differentiate", and twice "know")
Answer: It was not a matter of differentiating between good and evil. If man should eat from the tree forbidden by God, he would thereby place himself in conflict with his Maker on the side of rebellion, thus to know evil. At first man knew only the true, the good and the lovely. After breaking God's command, he came to know the false, the evil, the ugly. God intended for man to know only the true, the good, the lovely, not to be defiled by the false, the evil, the ugly.
2) There is another point which is hard to understand. The Bible says that after God created the world, all things were "very good". How is it that there appeared a deceptive serpent in the garden of Eden?
Answer: There is a passage in Revelation 12:9 which deals with this serpent. It says, "The great dragon was cast out, the serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world. He was cast out, and his angels were cast out with him." This important subject requires special study, we shall discuss it more fully in our next talk.
3) I gather then that the serpent was an embodiment of Satan the Devil. Now the Bible says that the serpent was more cunning than any beast which God had made. Please give an explanation for this "cunning" creature in Eden.
Answer: The original Hebrew word translated "cunning" is not in itself a pejorative term. In the Bible it is used 12 times, translated "prudent" 8 times, "cunning" 3 times, and "guile" once, depending on the context. In later studies on the origin of evil, we shall deal with all aspects of this topic. The Bible calls it "mystery of lawlessness" in 2 Thess. 2:7.
4) Since God forbade man to eat from this tree, why didn't he enclose it with a fence to keep him away?
Answer: Man was made in the image of God. One divine attribute he received was individuality of thought and action. This was bestowed by God, so God Himself fully respected man's individuality, just as Joshua left it free for Israel to choose, saying, "If it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."(Josh. 24:15) God issued a command, and expected man to be restrained by the sheer authority of His word. If not, even walls of steel would fail to keep away a willful offender.
5) Please analyze the deceptive tactics of the serpent. What can we learn from his conversation with Eve?
Answer: We note that his tactics are most sinister and malicious. His first question is calculated to instill doubt of God's word: "Has God indeed said, you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" He purposely exaggerated God's prohibition to cover all the trees, portraying Him as an unreasoning tyrant bent on starving His creatures to death.
6) Now the serpent is normally a dumb animal, how come it could speak to the woman in human language?
Answer: Obviously the serpent was possessed by the Devil, who spoke through it to deceive the woman. It might probably have said, "See, I have eaten this fruit and have become much wiser, being able to speak in your language!" The craftiness of the tempter is further seen in these words, "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." This insinuates that God is selfish and does not want you to be as wise as He. So He forbade you to eat this fruit in order to enslave you. Go ahead and eat, and you will rise to a higher estate, becoming equal with God. Then you can break free from His control. In this way the Devil taught men to seek improvement through transgression, instilling in men his own hatred of God.
7) All this should alert us to the Devil's wiles. Please analyze the steps which led to the woman's failure.
Answer: The woman's first false step was to leave her husband and approach the tree where the serpent could speak to her alone. The next wrong move she made was to listen to the tempter and respond. Her third wrong was to believe Satan's lies and yield to the three great lusts stated in 1 John 2:15, "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. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." Let us now match the three items with Eve's motivations:
8) Please explain: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." Who is the woman's Seed? How did He bruise the serpent's head?
Answer: The Seed of the woman is Christ. His death on the cross made certain the ruin of Satan. Isaiah 7:14 says, "The virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel, (meaning 'God with us')." Isa. 9:6 foretells that the name of a "Child" will be called "Mighty God"; and a "Son" will be called "Everlasting Father." On how He bruised the serpent's head, see answer to question 11.
9) Please explain: "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil." Does "Us" refer to God?
Answer: Yes. This is the same as the "Us" in Gen. 1:26. Where God said, "Let Us make man in Our image." It refers to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, even as Christ said to His disciples, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Matt. 28:19.
10) Why is it possible for God to know good and evil, but man must not know them? After man came to know good and evil, why was he driven from Eden and no longer permitted to have access to the tree of life?
Answer: Man's disobedience made him hostile to God, and an ally of Satan, becoming naturally inclined to sin. God is absolute righteousness. He can know good and evil, because He alone can overcome evil, annihilate sin and destroy the Devil. Sinners were barred from the tree of life because the universe will not tolerate a never dying sinner.
11) You said earlier that after man lost Eden, God's plan of redemption would restore it to man. How is it done?
Answer: After Jesus the Seed of the woman became flesh, he, as the Son of man, overcame the temptations of Satan, thereby redeeming the failure of the first Adam, and thus became the "last Adam", as stated in 1 Cor. 15:45.. Heb. 2:14 says, "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil."
12) Please list the three steps by which Jesus overcame the temptations of Satan and redeemed Adam's failure.
Answer: Christ overcame in the same three steps by which mankind was defeated. But the circumstances under which He met the tempter were much more trying than in man's first encounter. The body of flesh and blood which was His had undergone 4 thousand years of degeneration; and He met the tempter after a fast of 40 days. Now we match the three great lusts Christ overcame in Matt. 4:1-11, against three texts of Scripture He used to meet Satan's attacks.
(a) Lust of the flesh: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
(b) Lust of the eyes: "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"
(c) Pride of life: "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"
13) I note that Christ set an example for us by meeting the three temptations of Satan every time by quoting three texts of Scripture. That reminds us of Eph. 6:17, where the word of God is called "the sword of the Spirit".
Answer: Yes. Note that when Satan said, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread," Christ answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Christ meant that He came to battle not as Son of God, but as Son of man, employing weaponry available to all children of men---the word of God, thus showing us how we too can overcome temptation just as He overcame.
14) In other words, Christ came not only to redeem Adam's failure, but to set an example for us to overcome.
Answer: Correct! When Christ said, "Follow Me!" He meant for us to follow His example in using the word of God to repel Satan's attacks. People talk of righteousness by faith; we need also to talk of overcoming by faith. It is the essence of sanctification, which we need to stress. This has to do with restoring Eden. Man lost Eden when he sinned and yielded his world sovereignty to Satan. Christ defeated Satan and opened for us the road back to Eden. We as His army, must consolidate His victory in our own lives. He encourages us with the promise, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (Rev. 3:21)
15) Now that must be directly related to our salvation. I often hear people quote Rom. 3:24 and say we are all justified freely by God's grace. But this is the first time I have seen that only overcomers can enter the new earth.
Answer: There's no contradiction. Free grace has to do with our past sins. Overcoming refers to our struggle ahead. Jesus said to a penitent adulteress: "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." (John 8:11) These words of Christ prove that it is possible to sin no more. For He never tells us to accomplish the impossible.
16) There is a Chinese saying, "Except for paragons of holiness, who can be without fault?" But I see that you are right: If it is not possible for us to sin no more, then Christ was unreasonable when He said that to the woman..
Answer: The Bible starts out with a story of failure; it closes with promises to the overcomer. The failure resulted from man's yielding to sin. The victory came first by Christ leading the way, followed by all who overcome by His grace, otherwise there would be no sense to talk of restoring Eden. Man in himself cannot possibly overcome. 1 Cor. 12:27 says, "You are the body of Christ, and members individually." Christ is the head. His victory must be realized in every one of his members in order to regain Eden corporately. Adam and Eve were driven from Eden because they yielded to Satan. Now if among their descendants Jesus is the only overcomer, and all others remain enslaved in sin, how can they expect to regain Eden? No wonder Revelation has eight promises to the overcomer. The last promise says, "He who overcomes shall inherit all things." (Rev. 21:7) If it is impossible to overcome, did God utter eight empty promises?
17) Do the "all things" in this promise include the new Eden---Paradise restored in the new earth?
Answer: Yes indeed! In the last two chapters of Revelation we read: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth had passed away. . . Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. . . And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. . . there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.'. . .And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits."
After man, trusting in the power of God's word, has overcome sin, the tree of life in the garden of Eden will return to a new earth. The victory of Christ the Head will become the victory of His body the Church. It is our privilege now to claim God's promise of power to overcome sin, thus to gain mastery over self and prepare to enter Eden restored.