the divine arch of human redemption (3)
THE ATONEMENT – IN EDEN
In reading the opening verses of Genesis chapter 3 it is helpful to project ourselves (insofar as our limited imagination allows) into the situation there described and act the part of an interested onlooker.
That there was a literal serpent in the Garden of Eden, having the faculty of speech and possessing a measure of subtle intelligence, presents no problem to any reasonable mind. That it was a unique creation appears certain – but its uniqueness lay not in the qualities it possessed of themselves, but rather in their combination in such a creature. But then it must be borne in mind that it was so created and present in the garden for a special divine purpose. God had given our first parents a command and it was essential to put them to the proof in respect of it. It was entirely his prerogative to choose in his wisdom the means by which the test of obedience should be made. That which is recorded is for our acceptance without question in all its simple reality. It is well to remember that, from the beginning God puts to the proof the hearers of his word, tests their disposition by their reaction to it and grants salvation from death to those who would in childlike faith accept and obey it.
THE TEMPTATION OF EVE
The first evidence of the Serpent’s subtlety appears not in the words it spoke, though assuredly they were subtle enough, but rather in the one to whom they were addressed – as though he had discerned that Eve was the more impressionable. As one reads the first five verses of Genesis chapter three, the conversation there recorded could not have been more important or have such far-reaching consequences. It seems strangely odd therefore that Adam appears to have been silent, not uttering a word, quite out of character with the significance of the situation and his own responsible position relative to it. So much so that one cannot help but wonder whether indeed he was present during the discourse. Looking carefully at the record there seems to be a natural time break between the end of verse 5 and the beginning of verse 6 expressed in the words “and when…”. It is as though Eve having conversed alone with the serpent and mulled over what had been said, must then have returned to the Forbidden tree along with Adam (with the strictures upon partaking of its fruit seemingly removed by the subtlety of the Serpent’s words) unable to resist it’s allurements, and attracted by it’s stated effects. “She took of the fruit thereof and did eat and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat”. If this be a correct understanding of what occurred, though not for one moment excusing Adam in the transgression, at least it gives some point to the otherwise rather lame comment he made; “the woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat” (v 12). But it does more. Eve was created in the unique manner indicated in Genesis 2, as a “help meet” for Adam. Their relationship was intended as a mutual equal partnership, “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”, together helping and encouraging one another in the prime purpose of their being – that of giving honour to their Creator in joyful service.
But this relationship is nowhere in evidence in the narrative. We observe the almost complete dominance of Eve. She at no time seems to have consulted or discussed with Adam her conversation with the Serpent, nor her reaction to it; or if she did, it was only when her mind had become so beguiled by the Serpent’s subtlety that the power if it’s words had become irresistible. That which initially was external to both our first parents (the mind of the serpent) became internal in them, an accretion which was sinful and led to transgression.
GOD’S JUDGEMENT ON THE WOMAN
This failure to manifest the proper decorum which contributed to the fatal consequences, led to judgement upon her in this particular. Genesis 3:16 states: “unto the woman God said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee”. The first part of this judgement we will comment upon later, but for the moment, we observe that their previous relationship was changed by God. Adam in future was to be the dominant partner, and Eve was to play a subservient role. It is important to take note of this fact – and the reasons for it (especially all married sisters in Christ), and to follow the example of the faithful wives of past ages of whom the Apostle Paul records “… The holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands; even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord” (1Pet 3:5-6). Moreover, the Apostle Paul, making reference to the same record in Genesis 3, goes further and states, “let your women keep silence in the Ecclesia; for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the Law”, that is, the Law of Genesis 3 (1Cor 14:34).
Living as we do in days of Women’s Liberation and other similar expressions of pretended female dominance, or equality, it is all the more essential to keep in mind these sober truths. We forbear because of lack of space to do more than hint at the even more important truth concerning the wonderful relationships between the Bride of Christ, and her Lord, which finds it’s fullest expression in an understanding and recognition of these events in the earliest experiences of the race. For the present, we remind ourselves that the second Adam leads his bride to eat of the Tree of Life, having given his life to open up the way into the paradise of God. What a contrast!
THE SCHEME OF REDEMPTION
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15), In that enigmatic statement made by God in passing judgement upon the serpent way back in the garden of Eden, there is enshrined in perfect embryo His great scheme of redemption. In a verse made up of just 28 words there is encapsulated all that in its outworking would bring to fruition God’s purpose in Creation.
The message has the stamp of Divinity upon it. To those interested in Bible gematria, 28 is made up of 4 x 7. In his book Numbers in Scripture, E W Bullinger shows that 7 in Scripture is the number betokening perfection and completeness. Among other interesting references he makes the following observation, bringing together the two numbers four and seven, based on Revelation 5:12,13: “When the heavenly multitude praise, they praise with a seven-fold blessing and say, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing”. In the following verse, when the created earthly beings praise, the creatures that are on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea and all that are in them, when these join in their ascription it is four-fold; “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever”. It is surely significant that the 4 x 7 is comprehensive of all the living, both in heaven and on earth, rendering their praise to the Lamb that was slain, a direct reference to the Atonement with the allusion to Genesis 3:15.
A STATE OF ENMITY
Now we have seen that the word of the Serpent, at variance with that of God, found lodgement in the mind of Eve and engendered in its outworking a process of thought which culminated in the transgression both of herself and of Adam. Having imbibed the subtle and powerful words, with them working in her mind, they transformed her thinking. She saw that the forbidden fruit was “good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make on wise” (Gen 3:6). We note how the serpent-mind had stimulated latent propensities in Eve and turned them into lusts – “The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jno 2:16). It was in the excitation of these, with them paramount in her mind, that transgression occurred, for she “did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat”. Immediately there was a transformation: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden” (Gen 3:7,8).
Here we see that the transgression produced a state which was at enmity with what beforetime had been their experience when they were in harmony with their Creator and their environment. Enmity is defined as hatred, the state of being an enemy. This, though at that point they may not have realised it, was now their condition. They were conscious for the first time of things which beforetime they were not aware of, and they experienced a fear of God which a troubled conscience engendered, so that they tried to hide away. Here are seen effects, the cause of which was a mind dominated by a serpent-reasoning at enmity with the mind of God. It was a mind which had come of their own choosing, and in their pristine state it became imprinted upon them. Moreover, this process of thought which our first parents, albeit under trial, chose by their own volition, God used as part of their punishment. When men choose to act contrary to the known will of God, they bring upon themselves the operation of God’s displeasure in ways which are seen to be the rebounding of their own evil upon themselves. The principle is seen throughout the Scriptures. One has only, by way of illustration, to consider the life of David following his great sin. All the components which were intrinsic in it – adultery, deceit and murder – became paramount features thereafter in his family life, as God decreed they would, a salutary lesson to us all.
So now with our first parents. That thinking which was the prime cause of their disobedience was to be characteristic thereafter both of themselves and of their progeny. The enmity brought into being became an inherent principle, and was to be demonstrated and made manifest between the two seeds described as the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Hatred, and a continual warfare was to subsist between them. They were to be quite incompatible. The seed of the woman was, in the struggle between them, to receive an injury described as a bruise in the heel, which is not deadly, whilst countering this with a bruise in the head, which is.
What did Adam and Eve understand by all this? Did they understand it at all? There seems little doubt from what follows that indeed they did, fully. In the first place, God does not make even enigmatic statements without providing explanation to those desirous of understanding. He evidently established the principle expressed by Jesus himself: “every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Mat 7:8). There must be in evidence the desire to know in a spirit of humble enquiry, produced by a knowledge of one’s true estate before God. The way of salvation requires conscious individual effort in the appreciation of both doctrine and practice, and the Scripture never reveals its secrets to its critics.
A COVERING PROVIDED
In respect of our first parents, quite apart from direct instruction from the Elohim (the evidence for which will afterwards appear), there was shortly to be for them a graphic illustration of all the underlying doctrinal and practical implications implicit in the words spoken to the serpent. They were to be made plain by the first offspring of Adam and Eve, the one a typical seed of the serpent, the other a typical seed of the woman. Before all this, however, another and very important event took place which has a direct bearing on the subject before us. This was their being clothed by God with coats of skins. The record states: “unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Gen 3:21).
This was an act of great significance. One of the effects of transgression had been to open their eyes to the realisation that they were naked. Genesis 3:7 states: “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made for themselves aprons.” We note that it was not for warmth that they covered themselves, but because of the embarrassment, the shame of their nakedness, a matter which in their innocence had not to them been evident before – so that their sin had, among other things, brought with it a carnality which beforetime was not present and which led in due course to the birth of their children. We are quite aware that God had commanded them to “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Gen 1:28). It appears evident from this that in process of time their procreative organs would have been activated in keeping with God’s will both in manner and timing. But transgression precipitated that development in a way which was premature and illicit.
Eve had been the first in the transgression, and because of this God’s judgement upon her, quite apart from the sentence of death, was directed to this important, indeed, with her prime function, for He said: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen 3:16). We have already commented upon the latter part of the verse, but this judgement of God in these particulars was not arbitrary. We have earlier seen that God’s character precludes the thought. The former punishment was upon a physical development brought about by sin in a manner contrary to His will. The effects were soon to be manifest, and have continued unabated throughout human history to our day. Human beings are superior creatures to all other living beings, and the female of the species is no exception in this regard – yet it is a significant fact that in this prime function of her being she experiences, in the production of her offspring, pain, sorrow, anguish, both physical and mental, which are not present with her counterparts in the animal creation. The recurring monthly cycle, with all its anxiety, tensions and inconvenience; the complexities associated with childbearing; the ailments and diseases peculiar to women resulting in post- and ante natal clinics and the need for maternity hospitals – are all effects, the course of which reaches back to Eden, and they are a continual reminder of what happens when God’s word is ignored.
MAN’S SIN STRICKEN NATURE
It may be wondered what all this has to do with the subject we are considering, but it is necessary to remind ourselves of these facts, for they give us an insight into certain passages of scripture which are important in relation to it. For instance, David in Psalm 51:5 states: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me”. Speaking of man, Job asks the question: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?”; and replies: “not one” (14:4). The apostle Paul, in well-known words makes the assertion: “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom 7:18).
When we reflect upon the message these passages conveyed – and it is interesting to observe that they were spoken by men of God – we see emphasised a hereditary law in operation. Not only were the children of Adam and Eve conceived as a result of transgression, but that enmity of mind which had been produced and fixed in them was passed on to their progeny, and we, as their dying extensions, along with the apostle Paul and all men intelligent in things divine, know only too well both it’s reality and power.
Moreover, it is important to note what this power is called. The apostle continues in Romans 7: “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Verse 19,20). For a correct appreciation of the Atonement this elucidation of what is involved in transgression is vital.
Now the scriptures inform us that God cannot look upon sin. Our first parents, in the manner briefly stated, had acquired from the serpent, who had no moral attributes, and who was not therefore morally accountable, an immorality which found its out working in actual transgression. They had become sinful creatures. Their own efforts to clothe their nakedness were futile to cover their sin. That was something only their Creator could provide, if at all, for it was His prerogative as the One against Whom they had offended. Though the severity of God is made manifest in His dealings with Adam and Eve at this time, His goodness and mercy also shines through. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Gen 3:21). It was through the killing of an animal and the shedding of its blood, therefore, that they were provided with a covering for sin, whereby they were permitted to continue living, and to appear again before God. There surely can be no doubt that the animal slain was a lamb, because of the reference in the Apocalypse: “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (13:8).
THE PRINCIPLES OF REDEMPTION
This world, or it’s “foundation”, was not that recounted for us in Genesis 1, into which sin had not entered, but rather that evil constitution of things with which we are so familiar and of which we form a part, the origin of which stems from Adam. This foundation, upon which the edifice has long been erected, is comprised of the world at large, of whose antipathy to all things Divine its whole history bears eloquent testimony. In the animal slain and the shed blood we see the inauguration by God of the practice of sacrifice and the institution of religion. From this time forward, man’s approach to God was on the basis of the recognition of certain fundamental principles, made manifest in action. These would require faith for their demonstration. We are told that “without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6). Now “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17), so that, as it would appear that there was no written record, it follows that the word must have been verbal and it would have been through the angels, who are the instruments through whom God’s will was make known.
We may summarise the principles to be acknowledged, which we have touched upon in following through the Genesis record, as follows:
The supremacy of God; His Justice and Righteousness in the condemnation of sin; The acknowledgement of man’s true estate as a creature under the sentence of death because of transgression, having of himself no hope; The Mercy of God in the provision of a way of escape from death by a covering for sin through the shedding of the blood of a sacrificial animal prescribed by God; The understanding that such provision was God’s prerogative; that it was a manifestation of His love and condescension; That the institution of sacrifice was typical only; that it was necessary to realise that it pointed forward to one who would be a seed of the woman who would fulfil all the requirements necessary to become a perfect sacrifice and take away sin; That the saving efficacy of this arrangement lay in the full understanding of these matters coupled with a ready obedience to the requirements of God in every particular.
So that there should be no doubt as to the instruction, its meaning or its necessity, it was all to be illustrated in the lives of Cain and Abel in a most graphic manner.
Meanwhile, because the underlying condition of our first parents remained, it necessitated their removal from the garden of Eden, lest in their fallen state they should eat of the Tree of Life and live for ever, with all the horrendous consequences of such action. Adam was to till the ground, and by the sweat of his brow to eat bread produced from a cursed earth, and to experience sorrow along with his wife all the rest of his days until the sentence of death found it’s final outworking. But that slain lamb, and the shedding of blood as a means of providing a covering for sin, that seed of the woman, lay at the heart of a wonderful Diving scheme of eternal redemption – the gospel, which provided hope and comfort to Adam and Eve, without which life in it’s fallen state would have been well nigh intolerable.