Chapter 2: What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?
In the Garden of Eden, no distance existed between the human and the divine. God communed with Adam and Eve, One to one. Genesis 3:8 substantiates this by indicating that God routinely walked and talked in the garden with our original parents. Thus, God and humanity coexisted in a perfectly unhindered relationship. The LORD’s presence was a constant reality. Adam and Eve lived life theistically, in totality, their senses being continually fixed on eternal realities.
Adam and Eve could hear God and feel the reality of His awesome presence. They likely could have even seen some visible manifestation of God. They could also taste the reality of eternal perfection within the garden itself. Imagine biting into a perfect orange. Think for a moment about eating food free of any blemish. Every bit would wash over your taste buds with bursts of exquisite flavour.
Then into this idyllic scene an intruder entered-the serpent. He introduced, for the very first time, the roots of humanistic thought into a totally theistic environment. He convinced Eve that she really didn't need God. She didn't need to follow his divine directives. She could establish her own humanistic standards independent of God. The devil convinced Eve that God was holding out on her. What God wasn't telling Eve was that if she ate of the fruit of the tree of good and evil, she would be like God. In essence, she would become her own god.
Eve took the bait; she bought into the deceit. She seized the fruit, put it to her lips, and bit into it. Adam followed suit. Guilt immediately consumed their souls. Consequently they attempted to hide from God. Theirs was now a new and awful reality - alienation from their Creator, the One who had made them to be in an unceasing relationship with HIm, in the totality of their senses, endlessly.
Distance had now come between the human and the divine. Adam and Eve, in their shame hid from God but, of course, their covert attempts to make themselves invisible proved futile. God found them and then pronounced judgment. They would die for their disobedience, both physically and spiritually (Gen. 3:16-19), just as He had previously forewarned them.
Then the very essence of God's presence retreated. Adam and Eve were subsequently banished from the garden. From that time forward, humanity's senses became inexorably tied to a sin-cursed earth. As a result, eternal realities no longer pervasively controlled Adam and Eve's senses. The divine became distant and irrelevant. God could no longer be seen, heard, felt, or sensed in the immediate context of life. He was now only a God to them Who was out there somewhere, far beyond what the human eye could ever hope to see.
How does this relate to you and me? What we must understand is this: before Adam and Eve sinned, it wasn't a challenge for them to believe in the eternal. God Himself was their constant reality. He was as close as the air they breathed. However, ours is a much different reality. We don't know God up close.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying God isn't omnipresent (everywhere present in the universe at any given moment in time). Nor am I saying that the presence of God's Holy Spirit is not within those of us who are authentic members of God's family. God's Word tells us unequivocally that our heavenly Father will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). That's an unalterable fact.
What I'm endeavouring to communicate is simply this: we have never experienced the full manifest presence of Almighty God. We have certainly never talked directly to Him. No one has tasted of eternal perfection in the "here and now." As such, each of us has a natural propensity toward earthly, not heavenly, realities.
The apostle John wrote of our predisposition to live by our sinful, earthly senses: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, for all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father, but is of the world," (1 John 2:15,16).
Obviously God knows something about us that we far too often forget. We find it much easier to love the world than to love Him. Why? The answer takes us right back to the Garden of Eden.
Think about it for a minute. If we could walk with the infinite, majestic God of this universe, if we could see Him and sense His presence with us every minute of the day, would we be as tempted to find satisfaction in the sinful indulgences of this world? No way! The things of this world lose their attraction when we have God up close. But that’s just it! God isn’t up close like He was in the garden of Eden. Instead what we can see and feel in a sin-cursed earth is what captures and most influences us.
Let’s be real! Do we find it hard to lust? Do we never struggle with pride in our accomplishments and capabilities? It’s crucial that we understand our propensity to immerse our lives in what we can see rather than in unseen, eternal realities. Unless we’re conscious of this reality, we’re not going to see the necessity of going vertical. We must be constantly cognizant of the fact that “the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).
Therefore, it’s absolutely crucial that we understand what happened to our original parents in the Garden of Eden. Most Christians don’t. We start out with John 3:16 as the cornerstone of our Christian experience. Yes, it’s true there are probably few verses in all of scripture more important than that one. But once we repent of our sins and believe and receive Christ in our hearts, we still live much the same way with the same earthly perspectives dominating our minds and driving our decisions. Consequently, we become locked into a frustrating cycle of sin and confession. We seem to be incessantly asking ourselves: “Why can’t we get consistent victory over lust, bitterness, envy, and worry?”
What we’ve got to understand is that we’re still earth-bound. We’re temporarily locked into the realm of imperfection. Adam and Eve’s choices long ago still shape our reality today. The apostle Paul expressed this struggle in a letter he wrote to the believers at Rome. He communicated it like this: “I so much want to do what is right, but I find myself constantly tripping up and falling into sin. This tension, this internal battle between good and evil in my soul is excruciating!” (Rom. 7:14-25). What wash his conclusion? “I need some serious help!” “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). What was the solution? Go vertical! “I thank God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25).
Now please don’t misread what I am writing. There’s no way I am saying that Adam and Eve’s original sin gives us a way out - an incontrovertible excuse for our moral shortcomings. What I am emphasizing is this: living vertically and not horizontally is an ongoing, huge challenge in our lives, even though we are Christians. Our propensity is to be humanistic, not theistic, in our approach to life. If we know how we got this way and why we seem to stay this way, we will be taking a giant step toward achieving consistent spiritual victory in our lives.
Here is something we can do to help us in this. Take “vertical time-outs” throughout each day that God grants us life on this earth. Ask yourself, “Am I simply living by my earthly senses today, or am I living this day in light of eternal realities?”
What’s the BLT (Bottom Line Truth)? It’s this: Understanding Genesis 3 is the key to understanding all of our spiritual struggles on earth.