Why Religion Will Never Save Man (Part 2)
God had placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with this one stipulation, “You may eat from any tree in the garden. But you must not eat from the tree that gives knowledge about good and evil. If you eat fruit from that tree, on that day you will certainly die!” (Genesis 2:15-17) Tragically they made a fatal choice in eating the forbidden fruit. What they lost was both instantaneous as well as eventual. They died in their spirits immediately. They were no longer joined in spirit with the Lord possessing His quality of life (God’s character). Separation from God is the quintessential definition of spiritual death. It is a state of spiritual existence void of the indwelling life of God. The Apostle Paul referred to this as being dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1)
There are two distinct dimensions that exist. One realm is that of the spirit world and the other is the physical world. God is spirit (John 4:24) and inhabits the realm of the spirit world along with his created angelic beings, both good and bad. But the spirit realm is invisible to the physical (natural) world. The physical world was created by God (Genesis 1) and is sustained by His word of power. (Hebrews 1:1-3) What is superb about the creation of man is that God intended for him to function in both realms. God created a spirit in man so that he could commune and fellowship with God who is spirit. He also gave him a body composed of the substance of this created world so that man could exist, move about and exercise dominion in the physical realm. But what is spirit is spirit and what is physical is physical. Thus both realities are distinct from one another yet connected in the creation of man. God joined together these two domains of man via the soul.
What is unique to the soul of man is that it functions in both dimensions unlike the spirit and the body that are relegated to their own sphere of existence. The soul is that part of man that includes his consciousness, mind, affections, desires and will. The Holy Spirit likens the soul to the function of a joint in the body (Hebrews 4:12). A dictionary definition of joint is the place at which two things, or separate parts of one thing, are joined or united. A second meaning of joint is shared by or common to two or more. In man the spirit and body are joined together by the soul. The spirit is dependent upon the soul to impart its life (character) into the physical realm through the body by words and deeds. The body is dependent upon the life force of the spirit conveyed via the soul to be a breathing living being in the physical world. We are told that the body without the spirit is dead, without animation or expression. (James 2:26) A body that is unconscious yet still alive happens when a soul’s ability for expression is compromised because of severe bodily damage. How the complete man (spirit, soul and body) are intertwined and function together is still a fascinating mystery to temporal man. In the ideal situation (the original creation of man) the soul, the self of man, was the willing servant of the spirit. The soul would receive the life of God in all it characteristic purity and wholeness that was present in the spirit of man and manifest that life to the physical world through words and actions (deeds) of the body. In that perfect state the soul was wholly God conscious and unmindful of self. But that changed dramatically when Adam sinned.
Genesis 3:7 tells us that immediately after Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit their eyes were opened. Opened to what? Opened to self-awareness for “they knew that they were naked.” In that moment Adam and Eve released in fallen man the bane of an independent self centered soul that would spiral down over time into evil wickedness. God had to quickly expel Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after confronting them with their disobedience. The reason for this expulsion is essential to understanding correctly what follows throughout the entirety of the Bible. “Then the Lord God said, ‘Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!’ So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden.” (Genesis 3:22-23)
Salvation would have been impossible for Adam and Eve and thus mankind had they eaten from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden after rebelling against God. The purpose of the Tree of Life was to give eternal longevity to the spiritual and physical state of Adam and Eve. Had they eaten its fruit first they would have possessed eternal life, the quality of God’s life forever. But if they had eaten from that tree after they sinned and forfeited the life of God then they would have possessed the state of death, both spiritual and physical, for all eternity. Is there such a state as eternal death?
The scriptures declare most certainly that there is such a state as everlasting death. “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake: some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt and abhorrence.” (Daniel 12:2) “Such people will pay the penalty and suffer the punishment of everlasting ruin (destruction and perdition) and eternal exclusion and banishment from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” (2 Thessalonians 1:9) “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” (Mark 3:29) While these and other scriptures speak of an everlasting or eternal death (separation from God and his life) to come (in the future) none of them declare it is a current state (in possession of) those still living in this physical world. Why is that?
The scriptures tell us that a lost man is spiritually dead. “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins… But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2: 1, 5-6) If a man is spiritually dead but alive in this world he still has opportunity to believe on Christ and be raised from the state of spiritual death to spiritual life. This is why God’s Word does not say someone yet alive on earth possesses eternal death. His spiritual state is still able to encounter a change, a transformation, the resurrection from death to life. Jesus seemed to hint that an individual could be close to that state of eternal death while still living in the physical realm because of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. (Mark 3:29) But he gave no clarification as to how an individual could know that of himself positively.
So God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and away from the Tree of Life. The Lord placed fallen man in a sin cursed world. From that moment on man took upon the image of Adam. (Genesis 5:3) It was an image bereft of God’s life but absorbed with self. It took two thousand years to descend from that innocent blissful state in the Garden of Eden to a despicable and horrific state of evil. The physical lifespan of man began to shrink as sin slowly but methodically assaulted his body. On rare occasions God found a man who sought a relationship with the Lord. But the vast majority of mankind continued distancing themselves from God. Over time it reached the point where “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved at heart.” (Genesis 6:5-6)
The Lord had purposed from the foundation of the world to send a saviour and redeem man from sin and death. (Revelations 13:8) But nothing of any consequence except for animal sacrifices gave any hint, no type or shadow, of what was to come. From what is written in the first 6 chapters of Genesis it does not appear that God gave any laws or commandments to govern the conduct of man. It would seem the He was letting sin come to a head, to be clearly manifested in the lives of fallen man. Here was the culmination of men without laws, lawlessness gone wild. I believe this is so important to understand. Before God reveals salvation to a soul he will first reveal the deplorable state of a man’s sinful heart. God was making known what true lawlessness encompassed. “The earth was depraved and putrid in God’s sight, and the land was filled with violence (desecration, infringement, outrage, assault, and lust for power). And God looked upon the world and saw how degenerate, debased, and vicious it was, for all humanity had corrupted their way upon the earth and lost their true direction.” (Genesis 6:11-12)
God planned to reveal salvation to a lost world. But in order for man to fully and correctly grasp who salvation was the Lord had to first reveal what salvation was not. God destroyed all of mankind with a flood but saved Noah and his family in an ark. Here God began to make known to man that the Lord himself was man’s salvation. The full extent and intention from the beginning was an eternal dwelling of God in union with man. The entirety of Scriptures is about God’s restoring man to himself culminating with this end. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’ And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:1-5) After the great flood God began moving towards the salvation of man by revealing the narrow way that would lead to life (faith) over and against the broad and wide way that would lead to destruction (law i.e. religion). The Lord would demonstrate what true faith was through a man named Abraham. But He would also demonstrate the failure of religion by establishing the Law through a man named Moses. This will be considered in part 3.