As I sit down to write this, my heart is still heavy. Yesterday morning, among the others things that I did as the pastor of Westside Baptist Church, I visited some folks who are a part of our church family.
One of the ladies I visited fell recently, broke her hip, and had surgery. As I prayed over her at the conclusion of our time together, I celebrated the blessings that God has given in getting her the care that she needed and her positive response to the surgery.
But, as I prayed over the other two people that I visited, my prayers took on a different tone. You see, both of them have been told that they will be walking through death’s door within a month or so. Cancer is ravaging their bodies and they will breathe their last breath within a few short weeks.
As I left their company and had some time to reflect, my mind was drawn back to Genesis 1-3. In my thoughts on those verses, I found perspective and comfort even in the face of the ugliness of death.
Let me share my thoughts as I reflected on the truths of Genesis 1-3.
In Genesis 1 and 2, God made all things well. The perfect man and the perfect woman had a perfect marriage in a perfect environment. They also had a perfect relationship with Him, their God.
The only hint of the potentiality of a problem was if they ate of the forbidden fruit.
Genesis 2:15-17 (CSB) “The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.'”
God gave one prohibition. Only one thing was off limits. And if Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and consume the forbidden fruit, death was the inevitable consequence.
Even if you have never read this story, you can easily guess how it ends.
Imagine telling someone: “See this? Don’t touch it.” What do you think they are going to do? Our prohibition will make it feel like a powerful magnet is pulling them to the thing we told them not to touch. They won’t be able to help themselves. Sooner or later, they are going to touch it.
We get that from Adam and Eve. They touched the forbidden fruit and then broke God’s commandment by eating it.
Genesis 3:6 (CSB) “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
What happened as a result? Death!
They died spiritually: They were no longer in union with God. Instead, they were lawbreakers, condemned by God.
They began to die physically: Soon enough, their bodies would give out, they would breathe their last breath, and their bodies would be placed under the ground to begin the decomposition process.
As if spiritual death and the begin of the physical death process wasn’t enough, God banished them from the Garden of Eden. They were removed from that perfect place and pushed out into a world that had been cursed because of their sin.
To guarantee that they would never reenter that paradise, a powerful angel was placed at the entrance to the Garden with a sword to discourage or even kill those who tried to reenter.
Genesis 3:23-24 (CSB) “So the LORD God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove the man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.”
Everything in our heart longs to go back to Eden.
When we get angry at injustice and crave for good to prevail, we are longing for the perfection of Eden.
When we are captivated by a beautiful sunset, or a snow-capped mountain, or an intricate, aromatic rose, we are longing for the perfect beauty of Eden.
When we crave to know and enjoy our God and when we grow weary of feeling that He is a million miles away, we are longing for the perfect union with Him that was lost in Eden.
So, when we read that Adam and Eve were removed from Eden, we realize that humanity was removed from the place for which we were made. Our problem is further compounded by the fact that we are not content in the broken world in which we live. We innately know we were made for a better place and this broken world only leaves us empty.
That’s why it was such a blessing that God banished them from Eden!
Adam and Eve and their posterity were under the curse. They were living in a place that was also under the curse. Because of their disobedience, Paradise Lost was their and our new normal. Sin, sorrow, sickness, and death were here to stay.
But God didn’t want them and us to live forever under the curse.
Genesis 3:22-24 (CSB) “The LORD God said, ‘Since the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.’ So the LORD God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove the man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.”
That’s why God banished them from Eden. He didn’t want them to have access to the Tree of Life. He didn’t want them to live forever in their broken cursed condition.
God has said that there is coming a day when He is going to create all things new, all over again. Just like He created a new earth in Genesis 1, He is going to recreate a New Earth in Revelation 21:1.
Revelation 21:1 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”
And the only way to get to that new place is to trust in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life (John 3:16) and then eventually walk through death’s door. To enjoy what God ultimately has in store for us, we will need to die. In His timing, as we live this life for His glory, He will call us to our Heavenly home.
If we still had access to the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life, we might choose never to walk through death’s door. The pain of losing a loved one or the pain of leaving loved one’s behind might keep us from ever allowing nature to run it’s course. We would eat of the Tree of Life and continue to live broken lives in a broken world … forever.
To remedy that problem, God has temporarily taken away the Tree of Life. That means that every single person who is born into this broken world will eventually die.
That is the irony of it. Since we don’t have access to the Tree of Life, we will all die. But, we will die so that we can truly live!
Essentially, God has decreed that trusting in Jesus for salvation and then experiencing something so ugly as death is the only way to break free from the curse of this world and to enjoy Him on the New Earth forever.
Knowing this truth is why I am able to find hope and even a mixture of happiness when I spend time with and pray over those precious folks who will soon see Jesus. While death is completely ugly, it is the necessary doorway back to Eden.
But, the Eden we will enjoy forever is so much better than the one inhabited by Adam and Eve. They had the possibility of sinning and losing paradise. Those of us who enter Heaven and then enjoy life on the New Earth will be incapable of sinning. So we will never worry about losing paradise and being banished like Adam and Eve. We will enjoy the presence of the Lord forever.