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GOOD AND EVIL II
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Based on Gen. 3:22-24
Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Pretty much all the honest truth-telling there is in the world is done by children." This does not mean, however, that their truth telling is always pleasant. Especially if you have guests, or if you are like the Sunday School teacher who asked too many questions. One Sunday she told the story of the Good Samaritan, and she made it very vivid so the children could realize clearly what had happened. Then she asked, "If you saw a person lying on the roadside all wounded and bleeding what would you do?" A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence and said, "I think I'd throw up."
The truth is not only not always pleasant, but it can even be used to promote evil. William Blake wrote, "A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent." Satan is the father of lies, but he reveals right from the start that he recognizes that truth can often be even more effective than lies in accomplishing his purpose. If you think the devil never tells the truth, then you have not read Gen. 3 very closely. In verse 5 the subtle serpent tells Eve that when she eats of the forbidden fruit her eyes will be opened, and she will be like God knowing good and evil. No one can call this statement a lie without also accusing God, for in verse 22 God says the serpent's prophecy was literally fulfilled, and man did become like God knowing good and evil. Satan is not fussy. If the truth can be used to get men to disobey God, why bother inventing lies?
Truth is never an adequate reason to justify disobedience to God's revealed will. Satan will use the truth and nothing but the truth, and he will offer you the very best if he can persuade you to get it by disobeying God. Just because something is new does not mean that it is right, or that it is God's will. Adam and Eve assumed that if they could become more like God by disobeying God it must be the right thing to do. They got a good thing, but they paid too great a price, when by obedience they would have gotten not only the knowledge of good and evil, but eternal life as well. There is no doubt that God intended Adam and Eve to eat of both the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but it was to be only in His good time. This seems clear if we look closely at God's words in verse 22. These are really quite startling words, and they have led to some very radical developments in the history of theology.
God says, "Behold the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil." Many have looked at these words and said that it doesn't sound like a fall, but rather a rise. Man's first sin made him more like God than he was when he was innocent. That is an improvement, and it made man greater than he was before. Fallen man is more divine than innocent man, and so the fall must have been good. Many conclude that God intended man to fall just because it was the way for Him to become more godlike. They do not see tragedy in man's fall, but rather the beginning of the struggle of man to climb to the heights of perfection. What they are failing to see, however, is the fact that man got this good by disobedience, and so fell from a perfect relationship to God. It is true that eating of the forbidden fruit made them more godlike, and that is why it is reasonable to believe that God would have let them eat of it eventually after they had proven their loyalty to Him.
When God finished creation He said that all was good. That included the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree was not evil, nor was it bad to have the knowledge of good and evil. God has it, and no one can be like God without it. Animals do not have it, and so they are not moral beings. Man does have this knowledge and is a moral being, and is responsible for choosing good and avoiding evil. The Bible refers to the knowledge of good and evil as a precious gift. God admits here that it is a quality of His own nature, and so to have it is to partake of the divine nature. In I Kings 3:9 Solomon prays, "Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil." In II Sam. 14:17 it is said of David, "...my lord the king is like the angel of God to discern good and evil."
If it was a good thing to have it, and if it made man like the angels of heaven and like God himself, why then did God not want them to live forever, and, therefore, put them out of the garden? The answer is really quite obvious. If man lives forever with the knowledge of good and evil, but with a will that is not committed to good and loyalty to God, he will be an eternal rebel. God already has eternal rebels in Satan and his fallen angels. He does not intend to allow man to become like them, and so His act of expelling them from the garden is an act of great mercy. If He allowed them to stay and eat and live forever, He would be condemning them to eternal separation from himself. But if He cast them out to die as mortal, He can provide a way of redeeming them and bringing them back into fellowship with himself. This way He can give them eternal life and win an ultimate victory over Satan.
God's plan is not to have men who are living forever, but to have men who are living forever in fellowship with Him. A Christ like person can have the knowledge of good and evil, but chose to follow the good. If we were Adam like for all eternity, there would be guarantee that we wouldn't sometime chose evil and fall all over again. In order to achieve the best God had to prevent man from eating of the tree of life until after he was made completely like Christ. When we become like Him in eternity there will be no more chance of our disobeying God than there was of Christ disobeying. He had the knowledge of good and evil, but He always chose the good.
Death with the hope of eternal blessedness is certainly a better plan than eternal life with a sinful nature. Satan is an example of everlasting evilness. If God had not prevented it Adam could have become another Satan. Physical death was a blessing in comparison to eternal spiritual death of separation from God. What we have here then is God's grace in action. It may look cruel, but it is pure grace. Man was losing Eden so that God could redeem him and restore him to an even greater paradise. The devil can never die, but he is doomed forever. We can die, but we can also be delivered and live with God forever. Death was not the worst fate man could have had. The worst fate would be eternal life with a sinful nature.
Thank God for forcing man out of Eden. This was the greatest eviction that ever took place, and because of it we all can have the hope of returning to paradise through Jesus Christ. God did not destroy the tree of life. He just made sure that sinful man could not partake of it. In verse 23 we see God sending them out to labor in the ground from which they were taken, and to which they would return. They were driven out to die, for only those who can die can be resurrected and restored to perfection. When the angels fell God cast them into hell to await the judgment, but man is not put in a place of torment, but in a place of toil, and with a promise of deliverance.
Verse 24 uses stronger language and says that God drove them out. As tragic as the lost was men read too much into it. Some poet wrote, "One morning of the first sad fall, Poor Adam and his bride Sat in the shade of Eden's wallBut on the outer side." This was true, and the lost was real, but to add to this that they lost their relationship and fellowship with God is not true, for the next chapter goes on to show that they worshipped God and thank Him for blessings, and they offered sacrifice to Him. There is no comparison between the fall of angels and the fall of man. They fell from within, but men fell because of outside pressure, and so there was a radical difference in the nature of their fall, and in the nature of their judgment.
God shut the gate of paradise to Adam, but the Second Adam opened it again on the cross, and the very day of His death He promised a sinner that He would enter with Him into paradise. The closed gate with the flaming sword of the angel guarding it is no longer the true picture. Now Jesus stands at the gate inviting all to trust Him and enter in. It was a terrifying experience for Adam and Eve, for the cherubim were frightening looking creatures. They were not cute little baby angels as the artist portray them, but they were great and dreadful creatures that would frighten anyone. Adam would have tried climbing over the gate at night to get a bite of that life-giving fruit if he was not scared to death of that cherubim. There is no way back to eternal life unless God takes away this awesome guard.
The New Testament Gospel is the good news that this guard is gone. Jesus now stands before the tree of life, and He now offers man the chance to freely partake of the tree and live forever. They need simply to yield to His Lordship and accept His atonement for the cleansing of their sin. Christians need to let the world know that the gate to paradise and eternal life is now open.
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