Wisdom would teach us that if we get the theology of the Garden of Eden wrong, we get the rest of the Bible wrong. The Garden is a model for the rest of the theology of scripture. It is not exhaustive in and of itself, for many reasons, but one such reason is that it is a historical narrative. We can gain much by historical narrative, but normally it is later divine commentary by God on His acts that clarify what He was doing in the historical narrative.

Many have, no doubt, categorized the Garden narrative as a simple story about man’s creation, or fodder for teaching young ones in church yet soon to be abandoned for “more mature doctrine” as one grows in Christ. Yet what happened there is central to understanding the work of Christ on behalf of the elect of God. How Adam was created, what Adam was commanded, the conditions of obedience, the penalty for disobedience, and the promise of reward are all crucial to understanding the rest of human history, and especially as it relates to Jesus Christ life and death. All of this is historically termed the Covenant of Works. This will not be a treatment of that subject, but I do want to address a few points regarding the end goal of the Covenant of Works. I want to address the promise of a reward for Adam’s obedience to God’s commands.

The narrative is simple. God sovereignly imposed a command for Adam to keep (Gen. 2:15-17). Adam, being the representative of mankind (Rom. 5:21-22; 1 Cor. 15:22), stood in the place of all humanity for obedience or disobedience (Gen. 2:16,17). And finally, and maybe most controversially in the mind of some, there was a promise of reward for obedience. This reward I believe was eternal life. Here are six evidences why.

Evidences

First, Gen. 3:22 clearly says that the reason God drove Adam out of the Garden was that he may partake of the tree of life and live forever. If Adam were created with eternal life, it is hard to imagine what else this verse could mean. Clearly there was a tree by which Adam would have had access to that would have given eternal life, something he did not possess before.

Second, Rom. 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Falling short of God’s glory is, to use a simple analogy, missing the mark. Adam sinned and missed a mark he had never hit to begin with. He failed to hit a mark that he was aiming for (reward) and fell short of something he did not originally possess as a creation of God, namely eternal life. Adam did not lose what he had originally, he fell short of attaining what God promised.

Third, the tree of life in the Garden is alluded to by Jesus in Rev. 2:7 as a picture of eternal life in Him. “To him who overcomes I will grant him to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” The language and connection between the tree of life in Rev. 2:7 and Gen. 2:9 are unmistakable. But notice, Jesus grants access to the tree of life, which is Himself. Would it not follow that in Gen. 2:9;3:22 that God would have granted (after a time, or in the words of Rev. 2:7, “to him who overcomes”) access to the tree of life? I think it is safe to assume that Adam would have been granted access to the tree of life (eternal life) if he would have overcome (obeyed). As a side note, this does not mean that we are granted access to the tree of life (Jesus) if we obey. It means we overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11) and by faith in Him are thus granted access to the tree of life. He obeyed, we get to eat. He becomes our eternal tree of life.

Fourth, based on the above, and any surface level reading of the temptation of Jesus (both in the wilderness and during his short earthly life), one can draw parallels between a probationary period of obedience on Adam’s part and Christ’s obedience. Was He not tempted for a time, and proven faithful? Is not Adam a type of Christ? The connections are too strong to deny. If so, this would correspond to Adam being granted access to the tree of life to live forever, something Gen. 3:22 makes clear that he had never partaken of before. When Adam sinned, he did not lose eternal life, for none can (see Eph. 1:13-14; Phil. 1:6; Rom 8:28-39; Jn. 10:27-30; Jn. 6:37-47; Heb. 12:2). He failed to attain it.

Fifth, Rom. 5:21 makes all of this clear. Adam was a type of the One who was to come (Rom. 5:14). Types have historical correspondence, and heightened fulfillment. Adam was a historical man who acted in such a way that his acts on behalf of humanity find a heightened fulfillment in this capacity in the last Adam, Jesus Christ. Rom. 5:21 specifically says, “so that…grace might also reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Let’s break that down succinctly.

Righteousness leads to eternal life. Eternal life must be earned. How is it earned? Righteousness. No mixture. No spot. No blemish. Pure, unadulterated, righteousness. Eternal life is through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christ, being the last Adam, earned for all who are in Him what Adam failed to earn for all who are in Him, namely eternal life. Adam failed to righteously obey. Just as Adam’s disobedience earned eternal death (Rom. 6:23), so his righteous obedience would have earned eternal life for all who are in Him. But now, righteousness is a gift of God by grace, earned for all of God’s elect, imputed to them by God, through Jesus Christ’s obedience. If Adam would have overcome, he would have been granted access to the tree of life. He failed to overcome. Christ did not. We overcome in Him, just as we sinned in Adam. The corollaries are unmistakable. Much more could be said.

Why This Is Significant

I have two quick points to make.

First, this matters because this is the very covenant that Jesus came to fulfill on behalf of God’s people. The very command that promised life (Rom. 7:10), which is death to us, Jesus Christ fulfilled.

Second, I want to remind Christians about an aspect of their vocabulary and thinking that is lacking for the most part. We speak much about Christ dying for us. This is a truth that anchors our soul. It is at the core of who we are as Christians. But equally at the core is this fact – Christ lived for you! If Christ would have simply earned our forgiveness we would still be without hope. We would have no righteousness. In effect, our deficient bank account of sin would have been brought to zero, yet we would have still lacked any positive righteousness. Christ’s righteous life of obedience is the very foundation of our righteousness. “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). Not just forgiven, believer, but righteous! Righteous in God’s eyes, and by sanctification throughout your life actually so! Praise God Christian for the righteous life of Christ! It is yours by grace!

I have set my bow in the clouds… (Gen. 9:13)

Since the days of Sir Isaac Newton science has concluded that there are basically seven colors in a rainbow. There is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, and indigo. Rainbows are a common occurrence today that many simply overlook. But what is the purpose of a rainbow?

God created the rainbow and set it in the clouds thousands of years ago as a sign of the covenant He was making between Himself and the earth and all that it contained. This covenant was a promise to sustain the Earth until the Promised One (Gen. 3:15) would come. This covenant was on the heels of His outrage against and the destruction of the Earth’s inhabitants. God saw that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). From Gen. 1 to Gen. 9 there is this motif of creation, fall, and redemption that is repeated throughout the rest of the scriptures. In fact Gen. 1:1 to Gen. 3:15 is a microcosm of the grand story of creation, fall, and redemption ending with the great covenant promise in Gen. 3:15 that God would one day send a Redeemer to crush the head of the serpent, who is Satan. And what God promises, God delivers.

In the rainbow we see a picture of hope and redemption. We can hear echoes of the cross of Christ in it. One might even argue poetically that the various colors of the rainbow communicate something of the story of redemption and the heart of God. As one artist said, “Colors are meant to bring glory to the Light.” But many miss the real significance of the rainbow due to the modern association of it with things like girls lunchboxes, Care Bears, and homosexuality. Mankind has done with the rainbow what they do with everything else that God creates – they twist it, pervert it, hollow it out, and suck it dry of any of its God intended meaning. You can hear the reverberations of “Has God really said?” (Gen.3:1) in all of mankind’s actions toward the things of God, even in a rainbow.

So how can we hear an echo of the cross in the rainbow? It all stems from the Hebrew word in Gen. 9:13 for “bow.” The word is qesheth (keh’-sheth) and its significance has nothing to do with girls lunchboxes, Care Bears or homosexuality. The word is used in association with archery. It denotes an archer’s bending of a bow for shooting an arrow. This bow is a battle bow. This is very significant because of the aim of the bow. You see, the bow is cocked and aimed. God is its master archer and He never misses. When He fires the arrow it never misses its intended target. But the significance of the aim of this bow is that it is cocked and aimed, not at Earth…but at Heaven. The bend of the bow is pointed upward from the Earth. God is painting a picture for us. His battle bow is set in the clouds to show where man’s ultimate redemption will come from one day. It will come from God Himself. The Judge steps off the bench and steps into the criminals place. He fires the bow at Himself.

It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand (Isa. 53:10).

the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

But mankind has twisted the meaning of the rainbow. And when mankind twists, perverts, hollows out and sucks dry the meaning of the rainbow, they are aiming ultimately at the cross of Christ. If they aim to distort the shadow, they aim to distort the substance. And the cross is the substance of the shadowy rainbow. It is at the very heart of God. Aim at it, and you aim to murder the One who made you. But given the chance, this is the ultimate aim of every sin, isn’t it? We dethrone God to enthrone ourselves. There are no vassals or vice-regents in the kingdom of your heart. Only one can reign.

Homosexuals, when they fly the rainbow flag in proud opposition against what God has clearly revealed (Mk. 10:6-9; Gen. 1:27, 5:2), aim at the cross. Why? Because the cross puts their sin on public display – not in proud acceptance, but it open shame (Col. 2:15). It is the height of wickedness to take what God has placed in the clouds as a sign to point to His own death for sinners and wave it as a banner of pride. It’s akin to a cross being worn around the neck of a prostitute, or to use a biblical example, it is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout (Prov. 11:22). This is the spirit of antichrist, the spirit of evil (2 Thess. 2:4). This is mockery.

Thanks be to God, however, that what sinful man tries to redefine on Earth, God has fixed in the heavens, unreachable by stained hands. And never forget the rainbow. It is God’s. It is His to define, just like marriage. And never forget that the bow has already let loose its arrow, found its target, drank to the dregs its blood, and laid it low.  Hope in this One who was slain is the only true freedom mankind has – even for His enemies who wave His banner of love in taunting opposition.

μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται…καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἦτε

(1 Cor. 6:9,11)

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. -C.S. Lewis

Mr. Lewis is right, but only partly. God’s Word never speaks of probable explanations of the human condition. It speaks of a certainly holy God who certainly made humanity who certainly rebelled and certainly perverted their appetites. The explanation of your desires is not left up to probability, nor is God, who is Lord of desire. No desire is left to the contingent category of “if” in God’s world. It is not “if” you find in yourself unsatisfied desires, you have from birth. In fact you were conceived because of the ultimately unfulfilled desire of your parents for the pleasures of Christ and in the most intimate earthly way they knew how conceived you. You are the product of ultimate unfulfilled desire. Babies cry from the womb because of unsatisfied desires. Yes, they are temporarily pacified, yet the desire returns – even for something as simple as milk. That desire morphs and matures into more robust appetites with all the complexities of human life. Desire is restless even in a newborn babe. It is restless in you.

He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end (Ecc. 3:11).

God has made us in such a way that nothing on earth, with all its vastness, can ultimately satisfy. No taste, no touch, no smell, no sight, no sound, can satisfy…ultimately. Every sunrise, every moonlit night, every creature from oceans depth to mountain height, every kiss, every smile, every pain, every tear, all things are made to inflame and point the desires to the only thing that can satisfy. There is only one cure. Unquenchable desire is found in the source of your existence – Jesus Christ.

In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Col. 1:19).

But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God (Lk. 22:69).

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11).

At God’s right hand are pleasures forevermore. That doesn’t sound like a probability, but a fact. And who is at the right hand of the Father? Jesus Christ.

The point is this: you cannot satisfy eternal appetites with earthly food (Lk. 15:11-32; Jn. 6). This is the insanity of sin and the insanity of finding more joy in a new iPhone than in Jesus.