Alfred Place Baptist Church

2:8-17 The Garden of Eden

Genesis 2:8-17 “Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden ; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden ; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah , where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush . The name of the third river is the Tigris ; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates . The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

One of the great contrasts between evolutionism and creationism lies in the claim Christianity makes for the historic fall of man. Our first parents began their existence in the world in a state of innocence and perfection; there was a time of primitive integrity as Thomas Boston calls it. For the evolutionist no such period ever existed or ever will; he views both past and future with total bleakness. What you meet today everywhere, of nature raw in tooth and claw, of the strong devouring the weak, has ever been thus, utterly unchanged from the dawn of time; that is a non-negotiable tenet of the religion of the evolutionist. That is how their god made and sustains the mankind. There is no divine power active in the world of men that can change man or creation; no future paradise in a new heavens and a new earth will occur. Death and decay is all around us now; death and decay has ever been, and death and decay will characterize the future too. That is the darkness of the evolutionist creed. The first men are pictured as living in caves; their homes were dismal, damp and dirty. Their lives are portrayed as nasty, brutish, and short, filled with dangers from wild animals, a harsh climate, hunger and violence; the stuff of ten thousand cartoons. This is not how human life was from the beginning, according to the Bible, and this is not how human life is going to end.

Yet Bertrand Russell the atheist philosopher once said of man, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins – all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. That is how it will be, and that is how it was. Thus speaks the evolutionist.

How different is the Christian perspective. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes (Eccles. 7:29). Solomon is seeking the explanation of why men can treat so despicably women, or children, or animals – as they frequently do. Solomon is getting a handle on worldviews, behaviour, rationale and motivation. The answer he has discovered is not that the animal from which man has evolved still lurks in our hearts and makes us bestial. Solomon turns to the opening chapters of Genesis and he affirms, God made mankind upright. The tragedy is that a but follows; but . . . men have gone in search of many schemes. One scheme seeks salvation through politics, another scheme seeks salvation through religion, another scheme seeks salvation through relationships, or drugs, or money, or entertainment. People are always searching for new schemes. So the Christian perspective is that man was initially made in a state of primitive perfection, but he defied God and fell into sin and death. In other words, God made us, but sin has ruined us, and the result is that man without God spends his energies trying every imaginable scheme.

However, this passage tells us that as soon as God had created man God planted a garden. It is breathtaking isnt it? Let me say it again, that the God who creates the universe is a God who plants a garden, a God who is passionate about all the details that make a garden possible, soil, irrigation, plants, insects and trees. The Lord prepared such a place for Adam and Eve – incidentally, do you remember that today the Lord is preparing a paradise for all his sons and daughters? Christ, the last Adam, has said, I go to prepare a place for you. The cost of the Lord making Paradise was nothing compared with the cost of the Lord regaining Paradise .

So God prepares a Garden in Eden . Notice that the text does not say the Garden of Eden, rather that this Garden was in Eden . The whole area known as Eden was perhaps much larger than the plantation that God prepared in its eastern part. Incidentally here is the first place-name in the Bible, and it is Eden . It appears to mean delight and so the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, translates it paradeision from which we get our word paradise. In Eden was paradise.

Then quite rapidly we are given other names of places, firstly rivers, and then lands, and in chapters four and five people (of which names, at times rather difficult to get your tongue around, the Bible has a bewildering number), but Moses is resolute in earthing our understanding of Gods plantation on this planet and in this world of ours. Eden was not Narnia, not Middle Earth, not a desert island, not any fictional or mythical location. It was not a utopian fantasy in Moses mind.

A couple of years ago my wife and I went to the Eden Project in a former china clay quarry in Bodelva in Cornwall . It is one of the prime tourist attractions of that county with hundreds of thousands of people visiting the two huge greenhouses and admiring the plants in different climate zones, but as you wander around the Eden Project you have to endure notices commending a semi-mystical new age attitude to forests and rivers and trees, giving them an aura of deity. There are a couple of metal idols set up in one place, symbols of tree spirits from South American rain forests. There is scarcely a reference to God having prepared a Garden in Eden for our first parents, and yet that is the title of the whole project. You drive to Bodelva through hundreds of square miles of Cornish farms, beautifully manicured with their barns, walls, hedges and cultivated fields. The sight is simply magnificent as todays generation of farmers build on the inheritance of hundreds of Cornish Methodist farmers who took seriously and literally what they read in Genesis 2 and felt it was their duty to replenish and till their fields, working and keeping the land to the glory of God. They have been doing that for hundreds of years long before the idolatry of new age thinking entered our nation encouraged by state education.

Lets move on to examine the characteristics of this real place, the Garden in Eden ;

1. EDEN WAS A PLACE OF RIVERS.

Moses mentions two rivers in verse 14 which are known to all men, the Tigris (which runs along the east side of Asshur, that is, Assyria), and the Euphrates . Today they run roughly parallel to one another and their headwaters are in the same range of mountains, but we cant be sure that today’s rivers are the same ones that flowed near Eden . The old names could have been taken and given to todays rivers in different locations. I must pause here; I was present with a hundred Welshmen last week in Bethlehem , Sandfields, to hear Dale Ralph Davies of Mississippi speaking on preaching from the Old Testament. It was all most helpful but one point he made was the danger of the compulsive thoroughness of some preachers who seek to solve all the difficulties of a text before getting to the main teaching. This can take the edge of the God-centred narrative. So I will leave my comments on these rivers in my notes lest I weary you by preaching them to you. You can read about them on the web if you are interested. We don’t know exactly what is this first river Pishon (v.11) but we are told that it flows round about the land called Havilah. This land is mentioned several times in the Old Testament and it seems to be Arabia . Modern satellite technology has helped us identify a substantial but now a dry river bed, much of it underground and in places it is three miles wide. It flowed from near Medina into the Gulf around 5,000 to 10,000 B.C. The climate was not as arid then as it is now. It seems to have dried up around 2,000 B.C. Could this be the Pishon river? Others suggest that it is the river Kezel Uzun in Iran which empties into the Caspian Sea in that country. The next river is called Gihon (verse 13), and we are told that it winds through the entire land of Cush . Cush usually meant Ethiopia , the area of the Upper Nile, but it can also refer to the Babylonian area which today is Iran , and this location is to be preferred for the river Gihon. Perhaps it is what is called today Araxes which empties into the Caspian Sea and was mentioned by Omar Khayyum in his Rubaiyyat. So putting together this evidence it seems that this Garden which God planted was located in the region of western Turkey and eastern Iran . Not in Europe, or India , or China , and certainly not in America as the book of Mormon claims.

We know the approximate location of Eden from the fact that those mighty rivers seemed to have had their source in its Garden; A river watering the garden flowed from Eden ; from there it was separated into four headwaters (v.10), yet we can only guess about the identity of two of the rivers. If you claim that this river Gihon is the Nile you have created an impossible problem of interpretation. It cannot be the Nile . Its headwaters are in the middle of Africa . Of course we plead the effects of Noah’s flood which has changed drastically the rivers and mountain ranges, but there is no way that it has changed the Nile to flow from north to south!

The main purpose of these rivers being mentioned is not to set out a primitive atlas for us but rather this, that in the world before the fall where man lived, the source of irrigation, and refreshing life itself for this whole area lay in the provision of God. That is why the rivers are mentioned; they are the gift of God. We have already seen that God provided rain and God provided man to cultivate the arable soil, and now we are told something else, that God provided the great rivers that made this whole area live. Everything came from him, the rivers wave heard of and the ones not known to us yet.

My daughter teaches children aged four and five and one day her school visited Bristol zoo. After they had seen the animals they went for some lessons in the zoos classrooms. Now children, said the zoo official, where does the rain come from? The children in Catrins class looked at one another and back at him, God, they said reverently, and then earnestly, and with one voice, nodding their heads, God sends the rain. God sends the rain. They knew the answer to that question and they wanted the zoos teacher to know that they had learned that lesson well. The other schoolteachers, knowing Catrins Christian perspective on education, grinned slyly and nodded across at Catrin. She gave them a thumbs up as if to say, these are my kids – but the zoo official was nonplused. I don’t know if God sends all the rain, he said lamely, but here in Genesis we learn that God is the author of creation, of the rain and the rivers and the plants and us too. All things come from God. So we think of Adam and Eve in Eden having this supply of pure sparkling spring water bursting out of unfailing artesian wells. All they needed for cooking and washing and bathing and giving to their animals was around them in super-abundant supplies. That is the first thing that characterized Eden .

2. EDEN WAS A PLACE OF GOLD, AROMATIC RESIN AND ONYX.

In the land of Havilah . . . there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) (v.12). From Eden it was but a step to Havilah and its good gold. There was also aromatic resin to be found there, so the translation of the N.I.V. reads. Dr. John Currid prefers to translate it bdellium, which is a precious stone, a type of ruby. The onyx stone also mentioned here has to be a gemstone, and various suggestions have been made as to what kind of diamond it is. It certainly was highly treasured because it is the primary gem used in the ephod and breastplate of the high priest.

Do you see what we are being told, that in this perfect world there were diamonds and gold? In fact there is an ethical judgment passed on the gold that it was good gold, not simply that it was pretty and useful, and certainly not that it was a snare to be avoided. Gold is not evil in itself. How can I turn that? I shall say that there is no justification for considering vows of poverty to demonstrate superior holiness – not in Gods world! Buddhist monks who live on the charity of working men and women are not to be admired. Work! Adam laboured before he fell. I am also thinking about that hypocrite John Lennon singing in his song of wickedness, Imagine

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man.

When he wrote those words he and Yoko were living in one of the most expensive apartment buildings in New York, the Dakota building, where they also rented another identical apartment in that same complex for the sole purpose of keeping their extensive wardrobe of clothes and fur coats at the correct temperature. What possessions they had – as many as Elton John; Imagine no possessions! I wonder if John Lennon did or could? Never! It is no sin to have gold; to wear a gold ring or the ruby pendant which your husband gave you on your ruby wedding. Remember that Adam and Eve did not fall through a temptation with gold but through the vanity of ideas and the desire to be like God.

Money, however, is simply a tool for our use. Gold stores the value of something – a cow, a sheep, a tent, a camel, a field, a bag of corn – until you spend the gold on what is needed. We can rightly thank God for gold, or money, and for possessions. It is a medium of exchange that God created from the beginning, and it is defended in the 10 commandments in the right of personal property. In them we are confronted with Gods prohibition, You shall not steal. What belongs to a man is his own property; it is not yours to take from him, not even for Caesar to take from him. Naboths vineyard was his own. Don’t be a thief! You are to buy goods and services with gold. Gold makes voluntary exchanges more fair, less wasteful, and far more extensive. Gold is needed in the world in order for us to be good stewards and to glorify God through using gold wisely. If money were something bad then God himself wouldn’t have any, but Jehovah says, The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts (Hag. 2:8). It all belongs to him, and he entrusts it to us so that through gold we may glorify him.

Of course gold and diamonds carry so much power and value that they are a heavy responsibility and they present us with constant temptation. It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, said the Lord Christ. We are living in a civilization that loves money. Drugs, pornography, drink, entertainment, sport are generally built on the lust for money. The Bible warns us that it is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evils (I Tim. 6:10). You cannot serve God and gold. You cannot serve God and serve aromatic resin and onyx, or whatever else you are making your god, but the distortion of something good like gold must not make us think that the thing itself is evil. Money, like sex, is a gift of God, and both are good in themselves, providing us with many opportunities to glorify God. Both came from God and were present in paradise before man fell. But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth (Deut 8:18).

3. EDEN WAS A PLACE OF TREES.

And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (v.9). You understand that we are not being told of a jungle, or even a forest but of an arboretum, a Garden of trees. Trees would mean a great deal to those who live in the near East. You and I are accustomed to greenness and verdure, but in the Near East about the first thing you have to learn is to wear sunglasses. Trees and greenness are more or less of a rarity. Even the drab, olive tree is hardly what you would call green, but where you find an oasis in the desert – and I have seen them in the Sinai desert – the water and the greenness and the little bit of grass that is there are most welcome and most refreshing. We do not realize what a blessing water is until we have been in a desert region. So God planted trees in the garden, that is, it was the most delightful of places, the garden of God . Furthermore, these trees were for man, good for food, and a delight to the eyes. So we see that God is abundantly gracious to man (Edward J. Young, In the Beginning, Banner of Truth, 1976, p.73). That is what one of my beloved teachers at Westminster Seminary taught me forty-five years ago in Philadelphia .

There have been men in the history of the church who have tried to escape from the beauties of the world by going to live their lives in an actual desert, fleeing from the sight of single tree, and sleeping in caves, dwelling on the top of poles. They believed that this was a holy and God-pleasing action. There are still those who go to stark monasteries and spend their years in plain rooms without a sight of bushes, plants and fields. That is mortification without the Holy Spirit; carnal mortification. Such attitudes and actions defy the very paradise God made for his children. Eden was full of beauty wherever they looked – all kinds of trees pleasing to the eye and good for food. Our first parents were thrilled with what they saw and heard and touched smelled all around them; they were abundantly satisfied with what they ate day after day. They didn’t have to scratch and claw for survival. This Garden had an abundance of nourishment; its every prospect was indescribably beautiful in the shade of the trees, the rippling crystal waters of the rivers, the fruit hanging from the branches, the hum of the insects, the singing of the birds, the fragrance of the flowers and leaves. From every tree you may eat . . . said the Lord. God is never miserly; he has given man all things richly to enjoy. He is not a drab God; the world is magnificent and full of joy. Solomon once said of God, He has made everything beautiful in its place, (Eccles. 3:11), and Eden was the most wonderful place in all Gods creation. Religion never was designed to make our pleasures less. So Eden was a place of breathtaking beauty and bounty. The scenery was magnificent. The climate was ideal, the surroundings peaceful. No millionaires estate could compare with the luxury of Eden . No holiday resort could top the pleasures and refreshment that Adam and Eve enjoyed in Eden

Man was given unchallenged dominion over the Garden and its fauna and flora. Adam didn’t begin his life with early retirement, lying down near a bank where the wild thyme grew, plucking fresh fruit for exercise, getting bored. He was put in the garden to work it (v.15); God worked and rested, and that is the pattern of his image-bearer. Adam used all his physical energy, resilience, creativity and mental powers to tackle the problems of replenishing and subduing the earth. Keep the Garden, Adam! Keep it carefully, and remember to keep watch in the Garden, because the devil like a roaring lion or a slithering snake, goes about seeking whom he may devour. That was wonderful Eden , a place with no embarrassment, no guilt, no grief, no disease and no death, but in the midst of this lush plantation, and towering in significance over the other trees and bushes two trees stood out. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (v.9). One tree, its branches laden with fruit, promised life; the other, equally laden with fruit, threatened death. One of those trees was a sacrament, the Tree of Life. In other words, God had taken an ordinary tree and made it a sign of the promised life of blessing and fellowship with God. The other tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, was a test. It was the focus of the time of probation under which Adam and Eve were living. A probation officer will set a test for the prisoner on parole. Twice a week you report here at 10.00 sharp in my office. The steady refusal to eat the fruit of that tree showed they were taking seriously a life of principled obedience.

I dont know when the history of Eden was first widely spoken among the people of God. I presume it had been handed down from generation to generation in oral tradition through the patriarchs, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and so on. Then the Lord called and gifted Moses by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to write it down perfectly. Or maybe the Lord revealed it to Moses first hand and it was only spoken after that? Whatever . . . can you imagine the children of Israel after they had left Egypt and were wandering in the desert – that arid wasteland – hearing of their origin in these words of Moses in Genesis and thinking of the way the world was when God first made it. Do you know there was a river which flowed from the Garden of Eden; it branched into four rivers; there was gold everywhere, and there was bdellium, and there was onyx, such precious stones – beauty in every place our first parents discovered. Trees were planted for shade, full of fruit and with healing leaves and bark. Indeed it was just like that. How they sighed as they plodded along their wilderness, hour by hour reminded of the difference between where their father Adam walked and where they crawled along with the sun beating down upon them. They could never forget the connection between sin and misery. They were wanderers looking for a home. Adam had a home and garden. They were like us living in a wasteland, searching longingly for water and shelter and food, looking back at what God had originally made for man. How had the mighty fallen.

4. EDEN WAS A PLACE OF SANCTUARY WITH GOD.

Here is one of the most wonderful verses in Genesis two, if not in the whole Bible. We are told in verse 16 that the Lord came right up to Adam and said to him, Feel free to take from the Garden that I have made. Help yourself to all the fruit hanging from the branches. Here is a God who isn’t silent; our Creator is a personal God who speaks very kindly and yet firmly to Adam; You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die (v.17). That wasn’t one solitary curt conversation as the Lord perforated his life and then disappeared. We are told in the next chapter that the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day (v.8). They heard the sound of his walking. Isn’t that awesome? It is not that they saw his glory, but that he appeared in some physical way not as a spook and that meant Adam and Eve could hear him treading on a branch and breaking it, pushing through bushes and leaves approaching them. This is the first of the theophanies of God in the Old Testament, those preparations for the incarnation. The Son of God was longing to come to the earth and do his saving work and so there were times when he took on the appearance of human flesh and drew near to such men as Abraham, Joshua, Samsons parents, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Adam and Eve.

Here in the Garden of Eden the Lord obviously did this every day because when our first parents don’t turn up for their appointment with him he inquires aloud, Where are you? (Gen. 3:9). So each day man the creature met with God the Creator. The servant met with his Master, and what did they talk about? What would you say to God? Why . . . ? Aren’t there a hundred questions you have for God? Abba Father, why is this like this? And then if you were Adam you’d also need to ask him how. Adam hadn’t had a family, a father, a teacher or a tradition to teach him anything. He’d never observed another person doing a single thing and so he was utterly dependent on his wonderful Lord. Heed ask him about the duties and tasks of each day. Father you have told me to fill the earth and subdue and rule over all the creatures, and so how do I work the Garden and take care of it? (v.15). You are a wonderful Gardener, so teach me.

So each day God would speak to man and he’d ask Adam, So, how has it been today? The Lord would enquire, Where have you been working? What have you been doing? You remember the last Adam, the Son of God, risen from the dead, meeting with the disciples as they are fishing, and he says to them, Friends, haven’t you any fish? (Jn. 21:5). He makes suggestions to them as to where they should throw their nets; then he tells them to bring him some of the fish which they’ve just caught. That would be the kind of conversation that Adam and Eve had with the Lord day by day, the things you talk about with your best friend. In the cool of the day God would come and he’d say, Friends what sort of success have you had today working in the garden? Adam might tell him of a lamb or a calf that had been born, of fish that he had seen jumping up the falls, or that he was thinking of looking for gemstones, or that he thought he has spotted a seam of gold. I think Ill go across to Havilah tomorrow and pan for gold. I might find some aromatic resin there. I know that Eve will like some onyx stones. Did he tell God that he had gone swimming in a pool in one of the rivers, or that he and Eve had prepared a delicious new dish? God would smile upon him and would bless his labours. Or God might say to him earnestly, Have you seen your enemy about? The old serpent, are you watching out for him? Don’t fall into temptation, he would urge Adam and Eve. Adam never had to say sorry for anything he said, or did, or failed to do, and so Adam constantly lived coram Deo, before the face of his God, and he never had to confess any sins to God. Sinning was utterly alien to his nature as made in Gods image. Daily he could sing his Fathers praise,

This is my Fathers world, And to my listening ears
All nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Fathers world, the birds their carols raise
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Makers praise.
This is my Fathers world, He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear him pass. He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Fathers world, I rest me in the thought
Of rooks and trees, of skies and seas, His hands the wonders wrought.

(Maltbie D. Babcock, 1901)

5. EDEN WAS A PLACE OF COVENANT.

This relationship between God and Adam is a covenant relationship. In other words, God has committed himself to create and bless and guide and provide for Adam all his needs, this favoured creature whom God has made in his own image with the freedom and dignity that every man and woman has. Adam was someone who could think and make decisions and constantly report to God as to his progress. God had made promises to Adam that he would thus bless him, and once a promise is made then there is a covenant. It is like a marriage. A man makes public promises to a woman; a woman makes public promises to a man and they are joined together uniquely in the covenant of marriage as husband and wife.

This covenant between God and Adam has been given a load of titles, and they are all helpful. Its been called a covenant of nature – thinking of the original setting, the command to be fruitful and replenish the earth and subdue it. It was called the covenant of works in the Westminster Standards, thinking there of Adams duties and prohibitions, to do Gods will and not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Its been called the covenant of life, thinking of the blessing of continued life in God which Adam enjoyed while he kept its terms. Its been called the covenant of creation; that is how Palmer Robertson refers to it, pointing to the unique relationship God has with Adam in Eden. Its been called the covenant of Gods favour with God telling Adam always to choose consciously for the favour of God. Think of the infinite and almighty Gods gracious favour in setting up such a relationship with tiny Adam. John Murray gave up the term covenant completely and referred to it as the Adamic administration.

Whatever you call it, it is clear from Genesis 2 that at creation God had bound mankind to himself in a covenant of life and death. He put Adam in the Garden under probation and the focus of his obedience was that prominent Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If he obeyed God and didn’t take and eat its fruit then the happy and blessed relationship he had with God would become growingly eternally blessed. He would live with God for ever; but if our first parents took the fruit and ate it then they’d die. So here is this tree covered in fruit; Adam saw it every day of his life and knew he mustn’t touch it. It was the barometer and touchstone of Adams life with God. The Lord too could glance at the tree every day and think, All the fruit are there. Adam is still obeying me. Palmer Robertson reminds us that we are not to think that Adam and Eve sat on the grass in front of that one tree every day with daisies in their hands plucking off petals and saying, I shall eat the fruit . . . I shan’t eat the fruit . . . I shall eat the fruit . . .I shan’t eat the fruit . . . I shall eat the fruit . . I shan’t eat the fruit.

They were far too occupied to play with temptation like that; they were abounding always in the work of the Lord; they were occupied in doing a whole range of activities which God had given them, replenishing and subduing the earth, working the garden, being fruitful and multiplying, consecrating all things to the glory of God, keeping a day of rest. In other words, they were keeping the terms of the covenant, and all the time God was testing them as to whether Adams heartfelt commitment was always to have Jehovah as his absolute Lord and King. Would he make the will of God his permanent rule of conduct? However foolish it might seem to Adam and Eve to be forbidden to eat the fruit of one single tree they would obey God come what may. If the devil himself were to come to them in the form of a snake speaking to them and urging them to take the fruit and eat it, they determined that they were going to say no. They would obey the great loving covenant – keeping God who had made them and blessed them. That is how they began. Their hearts were locked in love with the Lord.

So they were tested concerning the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but nothing was said about their eating from the Tree of Life. Now I don’t believe that Adam and Eve ever ate from the Tree of Life. I know people have argued that as God said to them they could eat from all the trees of the garden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil then surely we presume that they ate from the Tree of Life. Yet after the Fall God put cherubim with a flaming sword on duty as guardians to prevent man approaching the Tree of Life. They once and for all had eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and then God says, Adam must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat it, and live for ever (Gen. 3:22); also God says. Adam has taken the forbidden fruit, now he must not also take from this fruit. The presumption is that Adam has not yet tasted it. You remember the last Adam, Christ, speaks in Revelation 2:7 and he promises the fruit of life to those who overcome. Adam did not overcome; he was himself overcome by the serpent. The right to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life is secured only through obedience, and that obedience Adam failed to give to God. The last Adam alone did that. The fruit of the Tree of Life was a sacramental seal of Adams glory as an obedient child of God. It was a sign of that blessedness, and it was received by the obedience of faith, but Adam and Eve had rebelled. Then the Tree of Life had become a tree of death to them, like drinking the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner is to drink damnation to yourself. The cup of life becomes the cup of judgment. God judged them, and showed them out of the Garden and away from the Tree. Only by the death of God the Son on the accursed tree of Golgotha can Adam and the seed of the woman ever know the blessedness that Adam once had known. By the last Adam we shall meet with him in our paradise restored, on the banks of the River of Life, and there we shall eat the fruit of the Tree of Life that line each side of that sparkling river.

6. EDEN WAS A PLACE OF HUMAN PERFECTION.

This world has seen a man who once glorified God in everything that he did. Angels have gazed in wonder on a man as free from sin as themselves. Adam possessed a perfect understanding of the law of God and displayed complete obedience. Adam had no inclination to evil whatsoever. All he chose to do pleased God. Even when he ate and drank God was honoured. He had no greed; no ingratitude; no selfishness. Every morn when he woke up his first thoughts were how he could please God that day, and at the end of the day he gave thanks to God for the blessings that had come down on all his hands had done. He had no beastly nightmares with horrid images haunting the hours of darkness. He never was depressed, nor worried, nor discontented, nor afraid.

What a glorious creature man was. God could search all the innumerable hosts of heaven and see cherubim and archangels, but he couldn’t find one who was made in his image, but when the Lord visited Eden he saw his own reflection in the life of Adam and Eve. If Moses face shone when he came down from the mountain how much more would Adams face have shone? His very being must have possessed transfigured brilliance. Adam bearing Gods image and free of any sin was glorious in holiness; the lamp of love shone constantly in his life; he burned with fervour for God every day and every passing moment. He had no impurities at all, no shifty looks, no words that were slimy and mean. He was the favourite of heaven; God came down and visited him constantly. How God loved to do this saying, This is my beloved Adam in whom I am well pleased. There was nothing he did that failed to give God pleasure.

God made man upright, but it was man who fouled the Garden, making his life disgusting. It was the act of man that resulted in Paradise Lost. God had crowned Adam with glory and honour, but man exchanged the crown of glory for a traitors mask. What a story of grief. We drive through the towns and villages of Wales and we see closed down and ruined chapels everywhere. Once they were lovingly erected and filled with the sounds of the praise of God; now they are destroyed. No praying, no gospel, no conversion is seen in them, and don’t we lament? It makes us groan inwardly. How far short comes this fall of our Presbyterian and Congregationalist and Baptist chapels from the story of the fall of our first parents. From what heights of glory to such depths of shame Adam and Eve fell. This was the Fall, the fall of all falls.

Don’t we long to be like Adam and Eve in the garden walking with God, knowing Gods love shed abroad in our hearts? Today men live their lives on a dunghill. How has the beautiful Garden become a wilderness. The heart that once was a the temple of God is now a den of thieves. Once Adam lived his days without a cold; he never even sniffled. Now we are a race of dying men and women, none is spared, neither old nor young. The wages of sin is death. Alas how man has fallen. Let shame and confusion cover us.

Yet there must be hope through the grace of God. If God made so glorious a state at first, can he not remake it. Cant the ruins be repaired? Cant the image be restored? Why not? The evolutionist may cry, No! There never was such a state; things now are as they ever were; destruction and death in all around we see. No! No! the Bible cries, there will be the regeneration of all things. The manifestation of the sons of God is about to be revealed. God made man upright and through the last Adam, Jesus Christ, paradise can be regained. With God there is plenteous redemption. Come then sinner and look to Jesus Christ. Quit the first Adam and his covenant. Come away from your grief about how things have been. Come over to the Mediator and Surety of the new and better covenant in Jesus blood. In him the tribes of Adam will boast of more blessings than their father ever lost. Say, My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief, until the LORD looks down from heaven and sees. (Lams. 3:49&50). Give him no rest until he hears your prayers and you know he has answered you with the mercies of the new covenant – forgiveness and pardon. Work for him; help bring in his kingdom; make yourself ready for the new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells.

This world had a glorious beginning. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Man himself had a glorious beginning made in the image and likeness of God. Both will have an ending as well. The present heaven and the earth are to be brought to a conclusion one day. John in one of his visions saw the heavens were all rolled up and departed. Heaven and earth fled away from the face of him that sat upon the throne. And sooner or later, we cannot tell how soon, there will be an end to all this world. The earth and all its works – all the works of men shall be burned up. And what will happen to you then, to you and to me when we stand before that great white throne where the Redeemer will sit? Are you being prepared for paradise regained by Christ, for the glories of heaven, for all its holy perfections? Can you say, When I see God then I shall be like him, for I shall see him as he is? Because unless you are prepared by the gracious purpose and the power of God to see him as your own beloved Saviour, you will never reach that place. O may God prepare us for the blessed paradise that lies before all the believing people of God, a place of everlasting peace, holiness and love.

26th April 2006 GEOFF THOMAS