God's Promise to Fallen Man
We continue with the series that examines seven Bible passages that attempt to summarize the information contained in all 66 books of the Bible.
In the previous chapter, we looked at the second of the seven passages (Genesis 3:1-24) and noted that this Scripture revealed the cause for the fallen condition of both mankind and the creation.
In Genesis 3:1-6, the Bible describes how Eve succumbed to temptation and disobeyed God's command to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The result of this sin was Adam and Eve's separation from God and eventual death as well as the decline and destruction of the creation (which would be fully destroyed by the worldwide flood in Noah's day).
Thankfully, not all is darkness. In Genesis 3:7-24 we read that God makes a promise to destroy the source of sin and evil in the world. Before examining this promise, however, let us first review the consequences of sin experienced by Adam and Eve.
The Consequences of Sin — Genesis 3:7-24
Genesis records, in sequence, the consequences and events that took place after the disobedience of Adam and Eve:
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
- Genesis 3:7a
They knew from experience (they tasted the fruit) the knowledge of good and evil. They had experienced good and now they were experiencing evil. Their experience of evil began with the shame that comes from knowingly disobeying God.
We wonder why their nakedness was the focal point of their shame, since their sin was not sexual in nature. One explanation is that they understood that as "head" of the human race, they had corrupted future generations by their sin. Their reproductive organs, which symbolized the future of humanity, became a visual reminder of their sin and its consequences. Another idea is that they realized that they could not hide their sin and their nakedness was a confirmation of this.
Either way, the Bible says that they felt embarrassment and shame for having done wrong.
…and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
- Genesis 3:7b
The fact that they tried to cover themselves means that they felt guilty. They knew that they had done wrong and felt badly about it, which is probably what saved them. Had they been proud like Satan, God could have destroyed them then and there.
Note the inadequacy of trying to cover themselves; they covered themselves but still experienced fear. Guilty people make great efforts at self justification, which never succeeds in covering the fear or shame they feel for what they have done. However, when God covered Adam and Eve, they were no longer afraid and, though guilty, could function once again.
8They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" 10He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself."
- Genesis 3:8-10
Shame and guilt produce fear. Fear because a feature of man's conscience (where his will operates) is that man intuitively knows that sin begets punishment. God declares that disobedience brings death and knowledge of this primal spiritual law is part of man's psyche (Romans 1:28-32).
The normal fellowship between Adam and God could not abide sin. Adam knew God's will concerning sin and, consequently, was afraid of the judgment he knew would come. He was not afraid because of his physical nakedness; he was afraid because his nakedness now reminded him of sin and its consequence: death.
4. More sin
11And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" 12The man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate." 13Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
- Genesis 3:11-13
It does not take long for sin to multiply. Adam immediately begins to show signs of his moral deterioration. When asked about the tree, instead of confessing and asking for forgiveness, Adam does two things: he blames his wife and then he blames God. Instead of praising God for His goodness, he now blames Him for his troubles!
When posed with the same question, Eve does not acknowledge guilt or ask for forgiveness, she blames the serpent and offers the excuse that she was deceived by him (instead of acknowledging that she had disobeyed God).
Sin has already reduced them to denying their own guilt and blinded them to God's goodness. This is seen in the fact that neither of them appealed to God for help.
The first thing they learn about evil is that it always results in judgment and punishment by God. God pronounces judgment in the same order that the sin proceeded: Satan, Eve and then Adam.
A. Satan is judged
14The LORD God said to the serpent,
"Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel."
- Genesis 3:14-15
The snake's posture (whatever it may have been before) will now be that of one slithering in the dust, trampled underfoot by other animals. This is the imagery of Satan's position, he who once was an angel! Now he will be hated and will produce fear and repulsion, as snakes do in normal circumstances.
We get a glimpse of Satan's overall plan when we hear the details of the curse put on him. God places special emphasis on Satan's inability from here forward to dominate woman and specifically the offspring she will bear (which was probably the reason why he attacked her and not Adam in the first place).
God says that there will be war, not subjugation, between the woman, her children and Satan. It is interesting to note that in the Bible, men have seed not women, and spirit-beings have no seed. Spirits do not procreate, only humans do this. The seed of woman, therefore, is Jesus who was conceived without a human male but by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18). The seed of Satan is the "man of lawlessness, the antichrist" to whom Satan gives power and who will be destroyed by Christ's coming (II Thessalonians 2:8).
The "bruising" is a blow. For the woman's seed, the blow will be on the heel (the inferior part of the body), this is Satan's attack that resulted in the human death of Christ that was only temporary. For Satan's seed, however, the blow will be to the head, the superior part of the body and thus, fatal.
Jesus, when He returns, destroys death and will pronounce judgment on Satan who will be thrown into the "pit" forever (Revelation 20:10). This is the promise.
B. Eve is judged
To the woman He said,
"I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you."
- Genesis 3:16
Both Adam and Eve were painlessly brought into a perfect and sinless world. Because of this sin, the creating of future society would be marked by pain. Because of their sin, death entered the world, and pain at childbirth will become the constant reminder of this fact.
Before sin, man and woman enjoyed co-rulership over creation. Because of sin, this perfect balance was upset and God established a rule of law in the area of family leadership. The husband would rule and be the head of the family unit. This concept is repeated and confirmed in the New Testament (I Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-24). There have been many abuses of this situation, but the Bible clarifies the loving relationship that is to exist within this union (Ephesians 5:25, 28-30).
There is also mercy in God's judgment over Eve. She will not desire the serpent and his promises, but her loyalty will now be to her husband. Also, the pain of childbirth will not overcome her love of husband and family, and there will be a limit to her suffering.
C. Adam is judged
17Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it';
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
18"Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
19By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return."
- Genesis 3:17-19
First, God outlines the sin. Adam listened to his wife (he changed his allegiance) and not to the word of God. Loyalty to the Word is to be stronger than any human tie, including marriage. Eve did not deceive him, she convinced him (i.e. what harm could it do; only this once; I did it and nothing happened, etc.). In the end, the plain truth is that Adam did what God said not to do.
God then pronounces the judgment on Adam. Since he is the head of the race, the judgment, by extension, will affect all of his descendants. Because of what Adam has done, God must now remove Himself from the physical sphere and this will affect mankind. God is holy and sinless, and cannot dwell where there is sin and immorality. Until Adam and Eve sinned, God maintained the balance for life in the physical world by His presence.
Adam and Eve lived in a perfect world where God maintained this perfection through His power. There was no deterioration, no overpopulation and no imbalances. However, once sin entered the world, God removed His presence and thus permitted the cycle of deterioration to take place.
This was the reality of good and evil warned against. The deterioration, not permitted before, was now released. Mutations that caused decay began to form. Even in man, the cycle of deterioration would now cause his physical death. Of course, this was still before the great Flood, so the rate of decay and imbalance was slow. This explains why people lived such long lives during that time. However, once the Flood destroyed the world, man's lifespan shortened and the rate of decay accelerated because the creation was further weakened and compromised by this worldwide catastrophe. Genesis explains the symptoms and features of a declining world where God was no longer extending His power to maintain a "steady state" of life and order thus allowing all things to gradually disintegrate toward disorder and death.
God did not create death. He merely removed His life sustaining power and allowed His creation to disintegrate, which is what it would naturally do without the original life force that gave it existence to begin with. This concept of deterioration was universally observed and scientifically formulated about 100 years ago (Carnot, Clausius, Kelvin and others). It was called the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This law states that all systems, if left to themselves, become degraded or disordered. All systems, whether they be watches or suns, eventually wear out. Even modern scientists are reconfirming the universality of this law with new equipment that can observe its function in the furthest reaches of the universe and not only here on earth (e.g. Hubble telescope).
Instead of all things being "made" (organized into complex systems, as they were during creation week), they are now being "unmade" (becoming disorganized and simple). This is what is wrong with our world and the reason for its deterioration.
Let us get back to the passage in Genesis and its language. "Cursed is the ground" is the reverse of "it is very good." The difference here is that God no longer maintains it. The curse is that God now removes His sustaining power. "For thy sake" refers to God's mercy. God removes His sustaining power not only as a response to sin but also to put a limit on the wickedness resulting from sin. Better suffering and death accompanying sin than unchecked rebellion and a never-ending multiplication of wicked people using the creation for sinful purposes. Once sin was in, God had to intervene.
The curse on the earth is followed by the result that it would have on man:
- Sorrow, continual disappointment and futility in life, especially in providing for oneself.
- Pain and suffering (symbolized by the terms: thorns and thistles).
- Hard work. Before, man ate of the abundance of the garden. Now, he would have to scratch a living from an uncooperative earth.
- Death. With all of his work and effort, man would, like the rest of the creation, deteriorate into the primary elements from which he was taken, the earth itself.
This was the result of the curse on Adam. It is interesting to note that Jesus experienced every one of these elements when, as the Bible says, "He bore the curse on our behalf" (Galatians 3:13).
- Sorrow - He was the man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3).
- Pain - He wore the curse as a crown of thorns (Mark 15:17).
- Work - His work and labor made Him sweat, but His sweat came out as drops of blood (Luke 22:44).
- Death - Finally, God brought Him into the "dust of death" (Psalms 22:15).
God placed a curse on the earth by withdrawing Himself and thus allowing the world and man to disintegrate into death. However, He did not leave the world without hope. That hope was that one day He would create a new heaven and a new earth which would never be destroyed by sin and where He would dwell eternally with His people.
Now that the judgment was pronounced, there was a response from Adam and Eve.
Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.
- Genesis 3:20
Adam renames his wife. Originally, he had named her "woman." This term signified that she was part of him, equal and similar in nature. Now he gives her another name that will mean several other things:
- The word Eve means "life-giver." It signified that they were going to obey God's command to multiply upon the earth.
- This response also showed that they believed God's promise to bring salvation through the seed of the woman. By bearing children despite pain, woman was expressing her belief that the savior would ultimately come.
- God renews His relationship with man, not based on perfection anymore, but based on faith. Because they believe God's promise and express that faith in their intention to procreate, Adam and Eve are saved.
In response to their faith, expressed in obedience, God provides a covering for their shame, guilt and nakedness.
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
- Genesis 3:21
Note that animals were sacrificed in order to provide this covering. This is the first preview indicating how redemption would ultimately come: the blood of the innocent to cover the sins of the guilty.
Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"
- Genesis 3:22
Man now knows, experientially, both good (fellowship with God in a perfect creation) as well as evil (separation from God and the punishment associated with evil). This is the reverse of those who will come after Adam who will experience evil first (sin and the expectation of death), and then when saved, experience good (fellowship with God and perfection through faith - salvation).
Adam is now weakened by sin and, although repentant and saved, can still be tempted to eat of the tree of life, the result being that he would continue to exist in the sin-state forever. Perhaps this is what Satan did and why there is no salvation for him.
23therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
- Genesis 3:23-24
The wording suggests that Adam was reluctant to leave and so God does two things to guarantee the carrying out of His judgment. First, He drives the man and his wife out of the garden and into their new home, work and status. Second, He stations angels and a flaming sword to protect access to the tree of life. The tree is preserved for a future time. The sword signifies that you cannot access the tree of life without first experiencing physical death.
The remaining story of the Bible will describe how God worked in order to bring man to the point where he could again reach out and eat of the tree of life.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.'
- Revelation 2:7
Our next chapter will look at passage #3 where God sets into motion the plan to save mankind from eternal destruction.