This morning, as I have again recently started my yearly journey of reading through the entirety of Scripture, I came across Genesis 3:22-24. Here’s how the New Living Translation reads:
22 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!” 23 So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. 24 After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
At first glance, it would seem that it was a God filled with anger that threw Adam and Eve out of the Garden. It would seem that he was furious when He placed a mighty angel with a fiery sword at its entrance to guard it against their intrusion. But this isn’t the case at all.
It was a gesture of utmost compassion. When Adam and Eve sinned by taking of the forbidden fruit, they brought death upon themselves and all living things. (They immediately died spiritually in their relationship with God and they began to die physically until the day when their bodies would eventually be laid to rest in the ground.) Further, they brought a curse upon all of creation so that none of it exists in its perfect form as it did in the beginning.
However, it wasn’t creation with which God was ultimately concerned. Compared to the vast expanse of God’s creation, He was primarily concerned with the two small specks on planet Earth called Adam and Eve. In the verses preceding our text, God killed an innocent animal, stripped off its skin and clothed Adam and Eve as an illustration of the death His own Son would one day die to clothe those who would believe in His righteousness.
Further, in our text, God banished Adam and Eve from the utopian Garden of Eden where they would eventually die after a life of pain and struggle. This, however, was an act of unspeakable compassion on God’s part.
Only Heaven knows how unbearable it would be to live forever in our present condition in a broken creation. Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, we live in a world were disease spreads, children go hungry, friends and loved ones die, natural disasters persist, thieves steal, murderers kill, governments oppress, etc. As good as this life can sometimes be, it has more than its share of pain. Wouldn’t it have been a curse to allow Adam and Eve to remain in the Garden and eat of the tree of life so that they could live forever … in our world as it presently exists?
No. God wouldn’t allow such a thing. He removed Adam and Eve from the Garden to keep them from eating of the fruit that would enable them to live forever in this world … so that they could eventually die. If they were followers of Him, they would have something infinitely better waiting on them in a new place called Heaven that would remain forever perfect. And there is a tree there that they and we will be able to eat from freely … the Tree of Life (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19).
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