In the second and third chapters of Genesis is found the account of Adam’s creation and placement in the Garden of Eden, along with finding a companion for Adam. All is good until they disobey God’s command, eat the forbidden fruit, and are expelled from the garden. But is this just an ancient story about humanity’s fall into sin and death? Or is there more to it?
Whether you understand the Garden of Eden to be a literal place or not, it does have some interesting, and important, things to say to us. What I would like to do here is to highlight a few specifics from these two chapters and then compare them to what we experience today and look forward to in the future.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
The Garden Then
Genesis 2 describes a garden that God planted in Eden. This garden is described as being very fertile and well-watered. After God formed Adam, he put him into the garden to take care of it. Later, God determined it was not good for man to be alone and produced a companion for him. Adam and Eve are described as being naked, but with no shame.
Adam is the gardener of God’s garden. A gardener who is free to eat nearly everything that is produced in the garden. A garden that God spends time in, apparently walking and talking with Adam and Eve.
There are two specific trees in the garden: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. No instruction is given concerning the first tree, but eating from the second is forbidden, under the penalty of death. And, of course, Adam and Eve did what had been forbidden them, eating from that tree and suffering the consequences.
Three specific things are mentioned as happening because of their eating that fruit. The first is that they realized they were naked and tried to cover themselves up. They had lost their innocence. Secondly, their work became hard and childbirth painful. And, finally, they were expelled from the garden to prevent them from eating from the Tree of Life and thus living forever.
God’s Solution to a Broken Relationship
I believe that all too often, we view Genesis 2-3 as an interesting story, but one that is somewhat isolated from the rest of Scripture. But that is a mistake. Genesis 2-3 tells us what God created us to be and explains why we are not that. And the rest of the Old Testament just reinforces that failure in the Garden of Eden. Regardless of your view on the literalness of the passage, the story of Adam and Eve is the story of each of us. We come into this world innocent. But each of us ultimately decides to take our life into our own hands, eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. And each of us ends up separated from God.
Over and over, we see this repeated in the Scripture. Both with individuals as well as with Israel, God’s chosen people. There are hints in the Old Testament that God was going to do something to fix the brokenness of our hearts. Something that would bring us back to the garden. But it is in the New Testament that we see this fulfilled.
The Garden in the New Testament
In the New Testament, we see God the Son take on human flesh and become one of us. He is, as Paul expresses, the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-47). Jesus became what Adam, and all of his descendants, were intended to be.
In Genesis 3, there is the initial temptation in the garden. A temptation that first Eve, and then Adam, succumbed to. There is another garden. This time the Garden of Gethsemane. In this garden, Jesus is tempted not to follow the will of God, but to do his own will instead. The same temptation that the first couple faced. But, while they failed, Jesus did not. He submitted to God’s will and went to the cross for us.
There are also two Trees of Life, although only one explicitly gets that name. Adam and Eve are cast from the garden to prevent them from eating from the tree and living forever. But on Calvary, Jesus was hung on a tree. And all who eat from that tree live forever. The Tree of Life, hidden in the garden, is revealed anew on the cross of Christ.
The Garden in the Future
The last couple of chapters of Revelation describes the New Jerusalem. This passage is a description of the Church, prepared as a bride for Christ (Rev. 21:2, 9). Included in this description (Rev. 22:1-5) is a reference to the river of the water of life, flowing from the throne of God. And the tree of life is standing on each side of the river. The throne of God and the Lamb are in the city, and we will see his face.
How like the garden with the tree of life and the presence of God walking among us. I believe it is not coincidental that this picture of the New Jerusalem mirrors the Garden of Eden. These two passages bookend the story of the Bible. The story starts with paradise and ends with paradise. And in between is the story of God’s redemption of our fallen race. Fallen from paradise, and restored to paradise.
The Garden Now
But where are we now? It certainly does not seem like we are in paradise. And yet, in a sense, we are. The New Jerusalem described at the end of Revelation is not just in the future. But it is in existence even now. The New Jerusalem is the Church, the Bride of Christ. And, while its full revelation is still in the future, it is being prepared even now. It is made up of all who have believed and followed Jesus along their life’s pathway.
In the original garden, Adam walked with God. And today, we can walk with God in a personal way. Adam lived in innocence before God. Today, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to all who have believed (Rom. 3:22), and God sees us as holy and righteous (Eph. 1:4). In the garden was the Tree of Life. Eating from it would give eternal life. And today, eternal life is given to all who believe.
The garden experience is ours today, even though we do not see it fully expressed. And that is really our hope as believers. That the experience of the garden will be more fully expressed in our lives when Jesus is revealed from heaven, and this world is transformed.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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