The Garden of Eden existed so far back in the cobwebs of history it seems but a mere fairy tale for most people. In fact, the majority of humans dispute its very existence. Such an idyllic place would never fit in the wicked world of today. Of course, science cannot prove its existence. Worldwide catastrophe and upheaval have utterly decimated any remnants of that time and place. God’s Word, alone testifies of its existence. It portrays a historical description of that time and place. Many “learned” individuals reject the literal truth of the Scripture. Some have even mocked those who accept it as fact. But no one has disproven the Word of God. Time and time again it has withstood the assaults of evolutionary philosophy, archeology, anthropology, medicine and politics. Despite all of that, God’s Word prevails as the foundation of absolute truth. Naysayers have attacked the veracity of the Book of Genesis more than any other book of the Bible. Genesis presents the foundation of God’s program for mankind. It underpins the truth and the victory of the Cross. The events that occurred in the Garden of Eden provide a deep understanding of humanity’s need for a Savior. This article examines several of these events and tracks a thread that weaves through Scripture reaching a climax in the Book of Revelation.
The Genesis History
The Scripture records in the beginning there was God and nothing.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:1-5).
God created the world and the surrounding universe from nothing. God’s reason for doing so is not entirely clear to humanity, but evidence suggests that God’s great love was likely a chief motivator for His action. God’s light pierced the darkness and defined His creation.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (Genesis 1:1-5).
God crafted the earth from a watery abyss and populated it with a myriad of plants and animals. He created Adam and Eve as the pinnacle of His creation.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing, that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1: 25-26).
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it…” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you…” (Gen. 1:27-29).
“It was very good,” and reflected the perfection of God. No sin, violence or rebellion ravaged God’s original creation.
God created a large dwelling place for them and named it the Garden of Eden. It provided all Adam, Eve and their descendants would ever need.
The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2: 8-9).
God commanded Adam to freely partake of any tree in the garden, except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen. 2: 16-17).
Thereafter, God created Eve—a wife and helpmate for Adam.
The rest of the story is well known to all. The crafty serpent, Satan, deceived Eve and convinced her to eat fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The serpent used cunning words to tempt Eve to partake: “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5). Eve caved to Satan’s temptation and convinced Adam to do likewise. The Scripture records immediately they were conscious of their nakedness. They sewed fig leaves to cover themselves, and hid from God’s presence. He confronted them with their sin and cursed them with consequences of their disobedience. God also pronounced the curse upon Satan, which prophesied of his downfall: “And 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” (Gen. 3: 15). Satan knew his days were numbered from that day forward. This curse began the epic conflict between Satan and God that threads throughout the Scriptures.
God stationed cherubim to prevent man’s entrance back into the Garden of Eden and guard against any access to the Tree of Life.
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”—therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So 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 (Gen. 3:22-24).
Thereafter, Adam and his descendants could not access the garden or eat fruit of the tree of life. The remainder of this article discusses these two trees and roles they have played over the history of mankind. God intentionally placed these two trees in His garden. They represent opposite poles of human experience.
Satan has continued to control access to the tree of knowledge since the original sin of disobedience. Fruit from this tree has poisoned the spirits of millions over the course of human history. Those who eagerly partake of its fruit unwittingly submit to the ‘prince of this world’—Satan. They pledge their allegiance to him. Just as Satan tempted Eve in the garden, he tempts his children with the same words: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The Book of Genesis records mankind strove for knowledge in the pre-flood period. Knowledge and technology proliferated rapidly. Enoch (of Cain’s lineage) constructed the first city. Humans invented metallurgy, music and musical instruments. They learned to farm and domesticate animals. But their knowledge ultimately got them nowhere. They rebelled against God. He subsequently destroyed all mankind with a worldwide flood except Noah and his family.
Early in the post-flood period, Nimrod and his associates invented civilization and constructed great structures, including the Tower of Babel. Astrologers studied the stars and constellations, connecting them to their pantheon of gods. Nimrod’s contemporaries invented handwriting, the pottery wheel, chariots and weapons of warfare. They sought knowledge and advanced rapidly. But God was not impressed. He was not center-stage in their lives. The name, Nimrod, means ‘to rebel.’ He led a great rebellion against the God of creation and he lost. God unleashed His fury once again at the Tower of Babel and scattered humans across the globe with different languages.
Satan continued to rule as ‘prince of the power of the air.’ He foisted his knowledge agenda upon an unsuspecting human audience over the millennia that followed. Mankind has eaten fruit from the tree of knowledge since the fall. Satan has cunningly made knowledge the ultimate goal. He understands knowledge often supplants a desire for God. The more knowledge one attains, the more he becomes like God. Knowledge fuels pride and promotes self-deification. University professors often teach their students God is a crutch, which can be discarded when adequate knowledge is obtained. Evolutionary adherents attempt to push God from His rightful position as Creator of life and the universe. Evolution is merely a religion attempting to justify its preposterous claims by scientific jargon. The laws of science and mathematics do not substantiate evolution. They argue for its destruction. The “knowledge” evolutionary adherents spoon-feed their students requires far more faith than acknowledging the Creator of the universe. The prevailing world philosophy encourages man to worship at the tree of knowledge and elevate it above God. This philosophy guides each human along the path of evolution to “godhood.” That path leads many over the cliff into despair and ultimate destruction.
The Book of Daniel provides interesting Scriptures regarding knowledge in the last days. The angel, Gabriel, informed Daniel there will come a time of distress the world that has never previously experienced. Gabriel subsequently commanded Daniel to “conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase” (Daniel 12: 4).
One might ask then, “Is knowledge bad?” Absolutely not! Both Old and New Testament authors have exhorted God’s followers to seek the knowledge of God’s Word as they mature in the faith. God instructed Adam, Noah, Abraham and others to move out of their security zones and assert dominion over the world. Knowledge was essential for this task. God gifted Solomon with great knowledge and wisdom as he assumed rule over Israel. Solomon was considered the wisest man of the world in his day. He wrote the Book of Proverbs, which speaks of the importance of wisdom and knowledge.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1: 7).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing for your body and refreshment to your bones (Proverbs 3: 5-8).
Many great scientists of history were strong Christians who contended vigorously for the faith. Isaac Newton was a brilliant scientist, mathematician, and theologian. He invented calculus, proposed the theory of gravity and obediently studied the Scriptures. Thomas Faraday invented electricity. Louis Pasteur discovered bacteria as a cause of human infections. Galileo pioneered present-day astronomy and discovered the solar system. These and many other famous Christian scientists aggressively defended the existence of God and the truth of His Word. They acquired a great body of knowledge to succeed in their endeavors, but proclaimed God as the Creator of the universe and Lord of their lives. God blesses the search for knowledge as long as it brings glory to His name.
The Book of Revelation does not mention a tree of knowledge in God’s heavenly domain. Yet the tree of life will stand tall and produce 12 different fruits for the healing of the nations.
Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse… (Rev 22: 1-4a).
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 (Rev. 2: 7).
Cherubim will not prevent access to that wonderful tree in God’s heavenly kingdom. The tree of life is God’s most important plant creation. It produced its fruit for God’s first creation in the Garden of Eden. It will bear fruit for eternity in God’s heavenly creation. God intends His children partake of that fruit for eternity.
Those who eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge with intent to displace God from His throne participate is a futile activity doomed to failure. Satan still controls that activity and has pulled many into the pit of hell with his cunning temptations. Those who worship the tree of knowledge rebel against God. They heap burning coals of God’s judgment upon their heads. Satan desires to usurp the authority of God’s throne. He uses mankind to accomplish his desires. Satan will also reap the whirlwind of God’s judgment. The Scripture reveals the end of the story.
God grants wisdom and knowledge to those who seek it under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Better yet is the path leading to the tree of life. Cherubim still prevent access to that tree. But they permit entrance exclusively through the cross—the tree where Jesus Christ gave His life for the sins of all who accept Him. The cross remains the only right-of-passage for those who seek to partake of this fruit. The tree of life will live forever and provide the fruit of eternal life to all God’s children.
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city (Rev. 22: 14).
The saved of all generations will wear the white robes of righteousness in heaven. Jesus Christ has washed each of those robes as white as snow by His sacrifice for sin on the cross. Those privileged to wear these robes are blessed for eternity. God has called followers of Jesus in this wicked world to preach the victory of Christ crucified. That is the true wisdom of God and knowledge sufficient unto salvation.
But we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong… (1Cor: 23-27).