The Life & Death Choice in the Garden of Eden for each of us
Nearly everyone knows the story of Adam and Eve. Or do we? Did you know that Adam means man or mankind? Did you know that God placed the man, Adam in the garden to guard it (Genesis 2:15 – “to keep it”)? Or that Eve was not named until after God revealed the consequences for their disobedience? We are clueless about the type of fruit they ate and tend to miss the fact that God did not warn the woman about staying away from the forbidden tree.
The basics of the story are: Adam, Eve and God were in the garden of virtual perfection. Adam had been told he could eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. For in the day he ate of that tree, he would surely die. Yet when the subtle serpent (also known as the devil, Satan, the deceiver) appeared and questioned what God said and God’s motives, the woman doubted, reasoned and made a decision to eat the forbidden fruit. Although it appears Adam was there with her during the encounter with Satan, it seems he remained silent. When offered the fruit by the woman, he ate it. No questions, no hesitation. The story goes on to describe the changes that took place in the awareness of the couple, the consequences God said they would encounter, and Adam and Eve’s removal from the Garden. However, they did not die; or did they?
What’s at stake?
When most people hear the words life and death, they tend to think of life or death in terms of one’s life here on earth. However, that is not how the Eternal God defines life and death. In Genesis 2, God told Adam on the day he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he would surely die, yet Adam went on living. In Deuteronomy 30:19 Moses tells the people death and life are set before them, and to choose life. Yet the many who chose life did one day die. The prophet Ezekiel of chapter 18 records God saying He has no pleasure in the death of those who die, rather turn (repent) and live. Jesus in John 11:25 tells Martha those who believe in Him, though they die, yet shall they live, and those who are alive, shall never die. Clearly these statements are not referring to the natural life cycle of the physical body. Rather they are referring to the eternal spiritual state.
The decisions we make
The story of what happened in the garden of Eden shows a typical human response when presented with options. If we call it an option, the power of choice seems to be ours. A temptation implies a percentage of deception on the part of the one engaging us. We tend to choose what seems more appealing or advantageous to us. An additional hook is the idea we may be missing out on something better. This was Eve’s downfall. The serpent questioned her understanding of what they had been told, and contradicted what God said would result. Then Satan told her she could become like God. He questioned what she thought she knew, gave her an option and a benefit for choosing that option.
Two other Bible stories provide insight into this concept of making decisions when presented with options or temptation. While young Joseph was a slave in Egypt to Potiphar (Genesis 39:2-3), Potiphar’s wife asked Joseph to sleep with her. Joseph rejected her offer saying it was a wicked thing and sin before God (39:9). Told in II Samuel 11 and 12, the other story involves King David. King David looked out on the roof and saw the wife of one of his soldiers bathing. David asked that she be brought to him. So many bad things resulted from this decision. After being confronted with his deeds, David confessed in II Samuel 12:13, “I have sinned against the LORD.”
The principle we should follow when considering advantageous options is the same: honor God by obeying His instructions. God’s commandments do not often tell us the reason for the command, or why we should obey, but God knows the resulting after effects of disobedience. We should come to know the character and power of God enough to trust God’s instructions. Deuteronomy 6:18 says to do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight that it may go well with you. Proverbs 3:5-7 addresses the idea of making a decision based on our reasoning versus trusting God enough to obey Him.
5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.
Beware of the Evil One
There are several points in the story involving Satan that are worth noting. Notice the serpent seemed to already be there in the garden. Therefore, we should not expect an announcement when the crafty one shows up. The serpent/Devil/Satan did not force Adam or Eve to sin. No, his custom is to ask an innocent question, to make us think, reason, doubt and question our beliefs. “Don’t you deserve to have a little fun?” “What harm will it do?” “If you are – then why don’t/can’t you….” “What’s the big deal if you…” Then Satan strikes with the sucker punch that knocks many down – he questions the character of God. “If God is so good/powerful/loving, then why does He/doesn’t He.…”
Many have thought the battle between God and Satan is for the souls of people. This is not true. God wants a personal connected relationship with each person because He created all life (John 3:16, Ezekiel 18:3) and He loves us beyond our comprehension of that type of profound love. Satan, on the other hand, does not want people to love him, serve or worship him, i.e. devil worshipers. Satan wants people kept dead spiritually (unsaved), or/and dead physically (John 8:44 and 10:10). For those who believe in God, Satan wants to deceive and limit their knowledge of God and destroy the effectiveness of the believer in God.
Satan’s most damaging tactic is he deceives people by besmirching the character and identity of God. He denies God’s existence, causes confusion, division and distorts the meaning of God’s Word. As illustrated in the story of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:4-5), Satan would have people doubt the importance and truth of God’s words and characterize God as harsh, cruel, selfish, lacking compassion and real love. Jesus said in John 8:44 that Satan is a liar and a murderer from the beginning. Yet somehow the crafty, smooth, deceitful serpent who twists words, pulled off a significant caper that we still live with today. Satan attributed the idea that God who created life, and all that is good, is the one who requires death in order to forgive fragile, fickle, flawed mankind.
Atonement and reconciliation to God
Where was God when this monumental event occurred in the garden of Eden? Why didn’t God speak up or help Adam and Eve do what was right? The answer is: God was there. Just as God is there when people make horrible decisions that destroy themselves and others. God hears and sees our predicament and our sins. It grieves His heart, and He prompts us to change our path (Genesis 6:5-6, Exodus 3:7, and Job 33:14-18). However, the choice is ours. God has given instructions of what to do and not do and what the consequences of disobedience are. From the beginning God has made it clear what is at stake – the tree of eternal Life through obedience versus the tree that will cause death through disobedience.
While it has been thought in Christianity that sacrificial death is required for sin atonement; it is Satan, the murderer who is all about death. I Corinthians 15:26 says the last enemy (of God) to be destroyed is death. (If death is an enemy of God, why would God literally require physical death to obtain eternal life?) Again, and again all throughout the Bible the eternal God calls people to repentance and to choose life (eternal life). While it is true that unrepentant sin will lead to permanent death, Jesus said a person’s own disobedience, unbelief and rejection of God would condemn and judge them (John 3:17-18 and John 12:44-50).
God requires repentance for salvation and relationship, not death (Mark 1:4 [ John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.], also see Luke 5:32, 24:47, Acts 11:18, Romans 2:4 and II Peter 3:9). Physical death of a body is not God’s instrument for achieving atonement of sin. Permanent death is the consequence of unrepentant sin. Permanent, perishing death is not God’s goal or desire for mankind, nor does God require sacrificial/substitutionary death to forgive sin. The last book of the Bible says in the end death shares the same fate as the grave, the devil, the beast, the false prophet and those who did not choose eternal life through belief in God. Death is cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10, 14 and 15).
The scriptures are filled with stories of people who chose paths which brought about devastating consequences; as well as those who chose other gods and lustful desires that brought spiritual starvation, blindness and death. The desire to be in charge of one’s destiny has plagued mankind, blinding us to the reality of how powerless we are. In this state, we cannot help but be blind to the character, nature and power of God.
In reality we have all eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and are lost, afraid, confused, wounded and sick in this world. Until Jesus’ true identity is recognized as God, and we come to know that He is perfect in all of His ways (Deuteronomy 32:4), compassionate and merciful to us, and abounding in love for us (Exodus 34:6), we will never experience here on earth the abundant eternal life and intimate relationship with God that He created us to have.