What I want to do today and on the Sunday after Christmas is to study four passages from the Bible which help us to understand why the Son of God came into the world; and what will happen when he comes again. The four passages are the one we read a few moments ago from Genesis 3 which is about what happened in the Garden of Eden. Then, this evening, we’ll take a look at Isaiah 11 which foretells the coming of a great King. Then on the Sunday after Christmas we’ll study Luke 1 verses 26 to 38 where the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she will give birth to the great King which Isaiah foretold. And then on that same Sunday, but in the evening, we’ll turn our attention to the closing chapters of the Bible: Revelation 21 and 22 where John the Apostle received a vision from the Lord about the new heaven and earth where God’s people will dwell with the Lord for ever and ever.
If anyone has a good memory, you might remember that we read these four passages on Christmas Day last year. At that time, we only looked at them briefly; and so, this year, I want us to look at them in a little more detail. And so, let’s turn to Genesis 3 and to the account of Adam and Eve’s sin in the beginning. And after I set the scene for us, there are three main points to make: we need to think about Adam and Eve’s fall into sin; we need to think about God’s words of judgment; and we need to think about God’s promise.
Setting the Scene
But before we look at those three things, let me set the scene for Genesis 3. In Genesis 1 we read how the Lord Almighty made the heavens and the earth. The earth — when it was created — was formless and empty and dark. But over the space of six days God took away the darkness; and he shaped the earth; and he filled it with all kinds of living things. And, of course, last of all, he made us: he made humans. And he made us in his image so that we might reflect his glory on the earth.
And when he made us, he made us to be kings. He said in Genesis 1:28:
Be fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.
In other words, he said to us:
Rule over the earth and everything in it.
He made us to be kings.
Well, in chapter 2 we read that the Lord planted a garden in the east, in Eden. And he placed Adam, the first man, in the garden. And this garden was, in fact, a temple. How do we know that? Well, think about the temple in Jerusalem. It was the place where God met his people: his people would ascend the mountain of the Lord and meet the Lord in his temple, which was his dwelling place on the earth. Well, the Garden of the Eden was also the place where Adam and Eve met the Lord and where they enjoyed his company. Later we’ll read how the Lord God came walking in the garden in the cool of the evening. It was the place where the Lord met his people, and walked with them, and talked with them.
The temple in Jerusalem was also decorated with carvings of flower and trees which recall the Garden of Eden. The entrance to the temple in Jerusalem faced east as did the entrance to the Garden of Eden. The temple in Jerusalem sat on the top of Mount Zion; and from Ezekiel 28 verses 13 and 14 we learn that the Garden of Eden also sat on a mountain. And the temple in Jerusalem contained a lampstand which recalled the Tree of Life in the centre of the Garden of Eden.
For these, and other reasons, it’s likely that the Garden of Eden was a temple; it was the place where the Lord met his people. And since the garden was a temple, that means that Adam was not only a king, but he was also a priest. In fact, when the Lord placed Adam in this temple-garden, he commanded him in verse 15 of chapter 2 ‘to work’ it and ‘to take care’ of it. Those two verbs can also be translated ‘serve’ and ‘guard’. So, Adam was to serve the Lord in the temple-garden just as the priests and Levites used to serve the Lord in the temple. And just as the priests and Levites were to guard the temple and keep anything profane from entering it, so Adam was to guard the temple-garden of Eden. Adam was not only a king, but he was a priest.
And the final thing to say by way of setting the scene is to say that when the Lord placed Adam in this temple-garden, he gave him a trial to complete to see whether or not Adam would obey the Lord.
You see, in the garden, there was the Tree of Life: and that held out to Adam the promise of enjoying eternal life in the presence of God. But there was also another tree: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And God said to Adam that he was free to eat from any tree in the garden, apart from that one tree. When you eat of it, the Lord warned, you will surely die.
Well, the theologians call this a covenant of works and or a covenant of life. It’s called a covenant of works because whether Adam lived or died depended on what he did. It’s called a covenant of life because if Adam obeyed the Lord, and refused to eat from the forbidden tree, he and all his descendants would enjoy eternal life in the presence of the Lord. Although Adam enjoyed the presence of the Lord in the temple-garden, there was always the possibility, until the trial was complete, that he would be sent away from the presence of the Lord. But if he completed the trial successfully, he and all his descendants would have won the right to enjoy eternal life in God’s presence.
So, that’s all by way of introduction to Genesis 3.
And the first thing we need to think about is Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. Adam was created to be a priest-king and to rule over all the other creatures and to guard the temple-garden. However, Adam failed to live up to his calling, because he let this wicked serpent enter the temple-garden; and this wicked serpent — who was really the Devil in disguise — profaned the temple-garden by tempting Eve to sin against the Lord.
We’re told the serpent was crafty. In other words, he was cunning and deceitful. And this wicked, crafty serpent called God’s word into question; and then he contradicted God’s word. He called God’s word into question when he said to Eve in verse 1:
Did God really say…?
And he contradicted God’s word in verse 4 when he said to Eve that eating the forbidden fruit will not lead to death despite what God had said.
Now, up until that moment, Adam and Eve had always submitted themselves to God and his word. After all, he was the Lord, their Creator; and he had the right to rule over all that he had made. And Adam and Eve submitted themselves to him and to his word; and they relied on his word to understand the world around them and to make sense of the world. When they looked at the Tree of Life, they knew — because God told them — that it held out to them the promise of eternal life. When they looked at the Tree of Knowledge, they knew — because God told them — that it held out the possibility of death.
At first, Adam and Eve accepted what God said. But now — now that the serpent had called God’s word into question; and now that the serpent had contradicted God’s word — they no longer submitted themselves to God and to his word. Eve now sat in judgment on God and his word; it now seemed to her that it was up to her and to her alone to decide whether God’s word was true and whether it could be relied on to make sense of the world. Up until that moment, she depended on the Lord and his word to make sense of the world around her. But now she declared herself to be independent of the Lord and she could make sense of the world without him and his word to guide her.
So, up until that moment, she had listened to God’s warning about the forbidden fruit. But now, when she looked at the fruit, it seemed to her that it was good for food. Now, when she looked at the fruit, it seemed to her that it was pleasing to the eye. Now, when she looked at the fruit, it seemed to her that it was desirable for gaining wisdom. And so — no longer submitting to God’s word — she took the fruit and ate it. And she gave some to her husband, who also ate it.
Adam had failed to live up to his calling to rule over the serpent and to guard the temple-garden. Eve had listened to the serpent who had called God’s word into question and who had contradicted God’s word; and she no longer relied on God and his word to make sense of the world around her. And as a result, Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge. Instead of keeping God’s covenant, they broke God’s covenant. Instead of receiving eternal life in the presence of God, they would now experience death, away from the presence of the Lord.
And, of course, it’s been the same ever since, hasn’t it? God has given us his word to show us what we’re to believe about him; and how we’re to understand the world around us; and how we’re to live in the world. But instead of submitting to God and his word, men and women sit in judgment on God and his word; and they have decided that they will not accept God’s word. Though God made us, and we owe our existence to him, men and women have rebelled against him and have declared themselves to be independent. They don’t need God and his word for understanding: we can decide for ourselves what is true and what is not and what is good and what is not. Instead of submitting to God’s word, we call it into question:
Did God really say that?
And instead of submitting to God’s word, we contradict it:
God’s word is wrong.
Well, in Genesis 3 we read that Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord as he was walking in the garden. He had come to meet his people and to walk with them and to talk with them. But, for the first time ever, when they heard him coming, they were afraid of him and they hid from him. They were afraid of him and they hid from him because they had sinned against him.
The Lord called to Adam, asking him where he was. And Adam explained that he was afraid and had hidden himself from the Lord. And in what they said next, do you see how Adam blamed Eve for what had happened; and Eve blamed the serpent for what had happened? The blamed one another; and, of course, they were all at fault. And so, the Lord addressed all three of them: first the serpent, then Eve, and then Adam. We’ll come back in a moment to what he said to the serpent; and we’ll turn instead to what he said to the woman and to the man in verses 16 to 19.
And we can sum up what the Lord said to Adam and Eve by saying that from now on, because of their sin, our lives will be characterised by conflict and pain; and our lives will end in death.
So, from that time on, childbearing will be painful and difficult. That’s in verse 16. And from that time on, work will be painful and difficult. That’s in verse 19. The earth — which once produced all kinds of trees and plants which were good for food and pleasing to the eye — will now produce thorns and thistles; and growing food and working the ground will be hard. Then, according to verse 16, there will be conflict between men and women. The Lord said to Eve that her desire will be for her husband. The word ‘desire’ here is also used to chapter 4 where God warned Cain that sin ‘desired’ to overpower him. In the same way, the Lord was saying that in the home, the woman will desire to overpower and dominate her husband. In turn, he will try to overpower and dominate her. In other words, there will be conflict at home. Instead of loving one another with a perfect love, husbands and wives will argue with one another and will fight with one another. And then, after a life of pain and conflict, our lives will end in death. That’s in verse 19 where the Lord announced to Adam that he will return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For dust you are, and to dust you will return.
And, of course, we all know this to be true, don’t we? The birth of a child is an occasion for joy, but before the joy of the birth, there are months of worries and fears that something may go wrong; and then the birth itself is painful and hard. And then, once the child is born, it’s not long before the parents discover that they have to face all kinds of worries and fears and troubles and heartache as they watch their children grow up. And, of course, other people suffer another kind of pain and sorrow, because although they desperately want children, they remain childless.
And we know that work can be hard and frustrating. Whether you’re a student at school or college, or whether you’ve got a job, or whether you work in the home, you know that work can be enjoyable and rewarding, but it can also be soul-destroying and difficult.
And we all know that the home can be a battle field. Husbands and wives not only love one another, but they also fight against one another bitterly.
And we all know the sorrow and sadness of bereavement and the pain of losing someone we loved.
We all know that what the Lord said to Adam and Eve is true. God held out to Adam the promise of enjoying eternal life in his presence: a life of peace and joy and eternal Sabbath rest. But Adam broke the covenant of works: he became a covenant-breaker and a sinner. And therefore, at the end of chapter 3, we read that Adam and Eve were banished from the temple-garden of Eden where God used to meet them and walk with them and talk with them. They were shut out of his presence. And an angel was placed at the entrance to the garden to prevent them from eating from the Tree of Life. Because of their sin, they lost the right to eat from the Tree of Life and live for ever. And because Adam represented us, what happened to him has affected us: and just as he fell into sin and misery, so we have fallen into sin and misery, so that our lives here on earth are spoiled by sin and are filled with misery and end in death.
However, let’s turn back to what the Lord said to the serpent in verses 14 and 15. First of all, he pronounced a curse on the serpent and announced that from now on the serpent — who is the Devil in disguise — will crawl on his belly and eat dust. That’s an expression which means that the Devil has been beaten. We say the same kind of thing: someone who has been beaten has to eat dust. And so, the Lord’s words in verse 14 reassure us that the Devil is not free to do whatever he likes; he’s under the power and authority of the Lord.
And then secondly, there’s the Lord’s promise in verse 15. The Lord said to the serpent that he, the Lord, would put enmity between the Devil and the woman; and between his offspring and her offspring. And then he said:
He will crush your head; and you will strike his heel.
In other words, one of the woman’s offspring will crush the Devil’s head; and the Devil will strike at this person’s heel.
What’s the difference between a blow to the head and a blow to the heel? Well, a blow to the heel will hurt. Perhaps you’ll jump up and down for a while, because it’s so sore. Perhaps you’ll have to stay off your feet for a few days. However, a blow to the heel isn’t fatal; but a blow to the head is fatal. And so, here’s the Lord announcing that while the Devil will hurt the woman’s offspring, he — whoever that is — will destroy the Devil.
So, who is the Lord talking about? Who is this person who will be descended from the woman and who will destroy the Devil? Well, he’s referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, who, when he was born, was descended from Eve. And, during his life on earth, he suffered at the hands of the Devil and at the hands of those who sided with the Devil. And when he was condemned, and crucified on the cross, and buried in the ground, it may have seemed that the Devil had beaten him.
But no. It was only a blow to the heel; and it wasn’t a fatal blow. On the third day, the Lord Jesus conquered death and he was raised from the dead. And afterwards, he ascended to heaven where he now rules over all. And one day, he will come to earth again, in glory and with power. And when he comes, he will utterly crush the Devil and destroy him completely. And he will gather his people and will bring them into the presence of the Lord where they will eat from the Tree of Life and live with him for ever and ever.
And so, though Adam disobeyed the Lord and lost for us the right to eat from the Tree of Life and live with the Lord for ever, Jesus Christ has won back for us the right to eat from the Tree of Life. Unlike Adam who disobeyed, Jesus Christ obeyed the Lord even to the point of death on the cross. And because of his perfect obedience, and because he died to take away our sins, he was won the right for us to eat from the Tree of Life and live with the Lord for ever.
And the way to receive forgiveness for what we have done wrong and the hope of everlasting life in the presence of God, is by trusting in Jesus Christ who died for sinners and who was raised to give us life. So, turn to God in prayer and confess your sins to him. And ask God to forgive you for your sins, for the sake of Christ who died for sinners. And ask God to give you the hope of everlasting life in his presence. And while you go on living on the earth, make it your aim to submit to the Lord and his word in all things, because this is the will of the Lord: that you should yield your life to him and his word, loving and obeying him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength while you wait for the Saviour to come again, who will invite his people to eat from the Tree of Life, so that they may live in the presence of God forever and forever.