Good morning, everybody. Let’s open our Bibles to Genesis 2:8. The title of our message this morning is “The Great Choice – Part 2.” We’re calling it part two because I didn’t get to the great choice last week. It’s an extension of last week.
Those of you who have been tracking with us know that we are moving verse by verse through the Book of Genesis. The first half of the book is about the beginning of the human race, and part of that is the subsection on Creation.
We’ve look at Genesis 1, which is an overview of the whole Creation week. Now we move into chapter 2, which is no longer an overview of the whole Creation week; it’s more exact detail concerning what happened on Day Six.
Day Six is the pinnacle of God’s Creation. Man and woman, the very image bearers of God, are created. We get a lot more information on what happened on Day Six in Genesis 2.
Last week we saw the creation of man, verses 4-7. He is created from the ground. The Lord breathed into him the breath of lives, and man became a living being at the body level, the soul level, and he was alive in terms of his relationship with God because he had unfettered access to the Holy Spirit and could consequently understand the things of God.
This morning we move into verses 8-14 and, as time permits, verses 15-17. There we learn about how man, just created, is placed in a garden.
Notice, if you will, Genesis 2:8, “The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” The word “east” in the Bible is very, very, interesting. Whenever it is used, it always refers to the same basic area on planet Earth, the area between the Euphrates and the Tigris. We might even call that area today modern-day Iraq.
Genesis 11:2 says that’s exactly where the Tower of Babel once stood—in the east. And it’s from that basic part of the world that the wisemen came, from Babylon, seeking the Christ child.
So, I believe the “east” is basically that general part of the world between the Euphrates and the Tigris. The Greeks called it “Mesopotamia.” “Meso” means middle, and you recognize the word “potamia.” We have a Potomac River here in the United States of America. Potomac, “potamia.”
Mesopotamia—between the rivers—between the Euphrates and the Tigris. In fact, in verse 14 we’re going to find a direct reference to both of those rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris.
The Hebrews called that area Shinar. Shinar, Hebrew; Mesopotamia, Greek. Shinar is the place where the children of Israel, eventually in biblical history, were taken into captivity for 70 years. Daniel explains that they were taken to the land of Shinar, 350 miles to the east of the land of Israel, between the rivers.
I believe that is generally the place, between those rivers, where the Garden of Eden once existed. It’s a very interesting place biblically. It’s not just a place of the past—this Mesopotamia area—this Shinar area; it’s a place of the future. Revelation 9:14, in the sixth trumpet judgment yet future, describes the armies of the Far East being summoned into the Middle East from that basic area.
The Euphrates River is an interesting river. It is the demarcation between the Far East and the Middle East. And, apparently, those armies from the Far East will be summoned into the Middle East to participate in the final battle called the battle of Armageddon in northern Israel.
Revelation 6:12 also speaks of this in the sixth bowl judgment. That great throng is going to come from the Far East into the Middle East for this final battle, and they will be summoned from this area just east of the Euphrates River, this area called Shinar.
Why are they summoned from Shinar? Because that will be the headquarters of the Antichrist during the Tribulation period. That’s the meaning of the woman in the basket in Zechariah 5:5-11, where this woman is going to be let out of the basket.
In answer to “Where are they taking her?” Zechariah 5:11says, “Then he said to me, ‘To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar; and when it is prepared, she will be set there on her own pedestal.’ ” “Temple” is religious imagery; it’s going to be the center of politics, economics, and religion in the events of the Tribulation period.
It’s a fascinating place of the world to study biblically because it’s a place of the past where God did great things, and it’s a place of the future. It’s a part of the world to always keep your eyes on when we understand what God reveals concerning the end of the age.
That is the general part of the world where—almost any world historian will tell you—humanity began. Sometimes it’s called the Fertile Crescent. Even secular historians acknowledge that that’s where human history began.
It’s a part of the world everything began, and it’s a part of the world where everything will end. And that’s the significance of this garden in the East. Notice verse 9, “Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food…”
Not Eve, of course; she hasn’t been created yet. But Adam could see that the trees of the garden were good. It was good to his sight; it was pleasing and good for food. The reason I bring this up is a lot of people believe in a Gnostic interpretation of the physical world.
The Gnostics basically taught dualism. They taught that the spiritual world is good, and the physical world is bad, or evil. And some of that thinking seeps into our understanding as Christians. And yet, the Bible clearly says that everything that God brought into existence was not just “good.” But what does He say there on the sixth day of Creation? It’s not just “good,” but it’s “very good.”
That would include a lot of different things. That would include the sunlight. That would include the strolls our forebears used to take with God in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8).
That would include food. And did God not also say, “Be fruitful and multiply”? Procreation is good. Sex itself is good! That’s tough preaching in a lot of legalistic environments.
Of course, God gives us regulations on all things for our benefit. But the things themselves, when used rightly, are good things. God is a God not just of the spiritual realm; He is a God of the physical realm. And He makes a reference to that, I believe, here in verse 9.
Also in verse 9 we see two trees. “Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
There you see two trees that are identified for us in Eden: the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge. We know the end of the story. They ate from the forbidden tree, and humanity was ushered into the Fall.
I used to think to myself as a new Christian trying to read and understand this, “Why did God even bother with the tree of knowledge?” I mean, if the tree of knowledge is going to open the door to evil, why not just avoid the whole problem by not putting a tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden to begin with? Wouldn’t that have preempted things?
Why not just have a tree of life? Why even bother with the tree of knowledge? And the answer to that relates to what was said back in Genesis 1:26-27, where we learned that human beings are manufactured in the image of God.
Because we are image bearers of God, we must have volition. We must have a choice. God Himself has a choice. We bear His image; we must also have a choice. You know, when you program your phone, your computer, or whatever electronic device you’re using today, to tell you that you look great every morning, it kind of loses its significance because it’s programmed to do that.
God, when He created humanity, did not want just a bunch of robots who would say, “I love you,” which meant nothing because the robot has absolutely no choice in the matter. Thus, there had to have been a tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden.
If God had not placed a tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, He would’ve been disrespecting how humanity is created—manufactured. The moment God decreed us to be image bearers is the moment we had to have a choice. Therefore, we had to have an avenue of rebellion against God should we choose that route. That’s the significance of the tree of knowledge.
It’s interesting to me. Moses, who wrote this roughly 1500 BC, is recording ancient events, no doubt. But he is recording them in such a way for his immediate audience was about to enter Canaan as Israelis having come through the Exodus.
Moses would say to them later on in biblical history, paraphrasing Deuteronomy 30:15, “See, I have set before you today life and death, good and evil.” In other words, I think Moses is recording this for the benefit not just of God’s words to Adam…but how that choice would play out in Moses’ generation. And what God is saying through the writings of Moses is, “It’s not just Adam and Eve who had a choice that was very, very significant. Your generation, Moses, is going to have a choice.”
In Deuteronomy 30:19 God says through Moses to a much later generation, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose [see the choice involved?] life in order that you may live, you and your descendants…”
Adam had a choice. Moses’ generation has a choice. And may I just say one other thing? You have a choice! The choice is completely yours. Are you going to reject Jesus Christ or accept Jesus Christ? God is not going to ram Christ down anyone’s throat. The choice is available. The choice is theirs. And I would simply submit this: It’s the same choice of life and death that is given us which was originally given to Adam, was originally later on given to Moses’ generation. We have it as well.
Jesus talked about that choice in John 10:10—the choice between life and death. He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” There’s a tree of life in your life: Jesus Christ. There is a tree of knowledge in your life: Satan. The choice is yours: one will bring life; one will destroy.
Romans 6:23 talks about this choice that we have. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Life and death are yours—and mine—just like it was Adam’s choice. Eve, when she’s created later on in the chapter, is going to have the same choice.
Adam and Eve, as you know from the biblical record, made the wrong choice. Moses’ generation, and the generations that followed, by and large made the wrong choice. People today? “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14) Christ talks about the broad road leading to destruction, contrasted with the narrow road leading to life.
Many are those on that broad road. Then He talked about the narrow road leading to life, “There are few who find it.” He talked about the same choice, and yet the majority would make the wrong choice. The capacity to choose is awesome.
In fact, even after you become a Christian, you still have this choice constantly between life and death. I can submit to irritation. I can submit to anger. I can speak critical words and bring death to a church. I can bring death to my marriage. I can bring death to countless things. Or I can submit to the things of God moment by moment, and bring life…to marriage and countless other things.
The choice, even as a saved person, is always there. Every single day I’ve got the choice. Am I going to follow the route that leads to death or the route that leads to life? That’s why I’ve titled this sermon, “The Great Choice.” And it is somewhat disturbing to me to find in ascendancy in modern-day Christendom various doctrines which essentially deny that anybody has any choice!
There is a system of theology. It’s very, very reformed, it’s very, very Calvinistic, and they will essentially say, “You have no choice—for anything!” It’s like the old joke. The Calvinist will fall down the stairs, pick himself up, and say, “Wow! I’m glad that’s over with!”
They basically act like you have no choice at all to accept Christ to reject Christ. They say, “Faith is a gift—and you have to be regenerated so that you can believe!” Which is the exact opposite of what your Bible teaches. Regeneration is a consequence of believing; it doesn’t precede believing.
And faith itself is not a gift. God wants your faith. He wants your trust. And He wants it not just for salvation, but He wants it on a moment by moment basis as you seek to live for God in a Christ-hating, Christ-rejecting world.
He wants your choice every single day as you grow as a Christian. You are confronted with temptations and sins, and we learn to live according to the resources of God, to say “no” to temptations. That is volition! That is a choice! It’s an awesome privilege that we have, and it relates to the fact that we are image bearers of God.
I did find a very interesting quote from Louis Berkhof, who is very Calvinistic. Predestination is the idea that you have no choice because God chooses you. People often ask me, “Do you believe in predestination or free will?” And my answer is always, “Yes.”
I believe in both! I don’t know how it all works; it’s a bit above my pay grade. It’s not something I’m to be obsessed about. I believe God chooses, but I believe that this doesn’t negate the choice that all human beings have.
But, you see, what’s happening today, particularly through the rise of neo-Calvinism—the reformed and the young and the restless as they call themselves—is that there is such an emphasis on the sovereignty of God that volition almost gets left out of the equation entirely.
Louis Berkhof, very reformed, very Calvinistic, makes this very interesting point in his systematic theology. He says, “Predestination does not form an important subject of discussion in [church] history until the time of Augustine.” It is Augustine that put the emphasis so much on the sovereignty of God.
He writes, “Earlier Church Fathers allude to it, but do not as yet but do not as yet seem to have a very clear conception of it. On the whole they regard it as the prescience of God…” That would be understanding the foreknowledge of God, as God knows what choices we will make and makes His choice based on what He knows we’re going to do. That’s the prescience view. I don’t know if I necessarily believe in the prescience view, either.
But he says, “On the whole they regard it as the prescience of God with reference to human deeds, on the basis of which He determines their future destiny.” See, the early church was just not hung up on this particular issue the way people are hung up on it today.
And even if you have a theological system which says, “God chooses,” that doesn’t negate the Great Commission. We’re to preach the gospel to every creature! The Bible is very clear on this. We’re not to get so focused on the sovereignty of God, as if human choice is somehow negated. God cannot negate human choice; nor will He negate human choice. Because if He negates human choice, then He is not respecting how humans are manufactured. Not as computers, not as robots, but the very image bearers of God. Here you see it right at the beginning: a great choice confronting Adam and then, later, Eve.
We come to verse 10 where we talk about these four rivers. “Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers.” Apparently, these rivers had a common source.
All four of these rivers flowing out of Eden had a common source. Now, it may have looked something like this. Do I know exactly? No, I don’t. I did find this on the Internet, so it must be true. Right? But the best I can understand it is that you have this river flowing out of Eden, and it divided into four. And what we start to see here is a description of those rivers. We see it there in verses 11-12.
I very much appreciated Jim reading earlier because his pronunciation of these rivers is much better than mine. So if there’s a difference of pronunciation, go with him rather than me. In fact, I was just at a Bible conference in Duluth, Minnesota with Arnold Fruchtenbaum sitting on the second row.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum is a Hebrew scholar. As I was trying to make my way through different Hebrew words, I could see him in the second row just laughing—which really didn’t do much to build my confidence. But I’ll do my best here.
Here we go. Verse 11, “The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there.” River number one is this river called the Pishon.
Notice that it mentions gold here; it mentions gold twice. There is a reference to gold in the land in verse 11, and then also in verse 12. It says, “the gold is good.” Do you see that?
Verse 12, “The gold of that land is good...” This, again, relates to a point I tried to make earlier: the physical world in and of itself is not evil. Gold is not evil; money is not evil; material things are not evil. God, in fact, is the Creator of those things.
One of the most misquoted verses in the entire Bible is 1 Timothy 6:10, where people say, “Money is the root of all evil.” That’s not what the Bible says. It says, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil…” The issue with God is not so much, “Do you have possessions?” It’s, “Do your possessions have you?”
Have you made a god out of those possessions? Do you look to those possessions for your security, and your identity, and your future? Now it’s problematic. Because Jesus is very clear in Matthew 6:24, the Sermon on the Mount, that you can’t serve both. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (KJV)
But money or material things? In and of themselves, there’s no inherent problem with it. Sin hasn’t even entered the picture yet—and won’t enter the picture until Genesis 3—so the gold is good. It just gives a basic understanding of it.
Now, gold? It’s interesting. As you work your way through the Bible, you’ll run into Daniel 2, that great image which describes the Gentile kingdoms of the earth trampling down Israel from the time of the Babylonian captivity right up until the Second Coming. That giant statue that Nebuchadnezzar saw, and then God revealed it to Daniel.
As you work your way through that statue, the metal deteriorates in terms of value. But the beginning of that process is Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar, and he is described as the most valuable metallic substance or source; he is the head of gold.
Gold is one of the most valuable metallic commodities or resource that we have on planet Earth. And there we have gold, which is called good, right at the beginning in the Garden of Eden. And, in fact ,when all is said and done and God brings in the new heavens and new earth, gold is going to become so common that we are destined for streets of gold.
The most valuable thing in the world—gold—is going to be so common in that eternal state that it’s beneath our very feet. So, things begin with gold and they end with gold. In Eden there was gold in the land, but in the eternal state there will be gold in the city.
One of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard of the entire Bible is, “From a garden to a city with a cross in between.” Human history is moving somewhere. And the issue? Through volition, are we on the right side of human history?
He continues on with these discussions about these various rivers. Verse 13 says, “The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush.” Now we come to a second river which, like the first river, is unknown. “Hey, let’s take a vacation to the Pishon and the Gihon!” We can’t do that, can we? We don’t know where those rivers are—they don’t make any sense to us.
But verse 14 describes a couple of rivers that we’re very familiar with. Verse 14, “The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” The Tigris and the Euphrates—the Euphrates and the Tigris. Mesopotamia, Shinar, in the East, which we talked about a little earlier.
There is a view of early Genesis that the things that are mentioned in this chapter are not literal; they are de-historicized. After all, you don’t really think Adam was a real person, do you? He just symbolizes, we’re told. He represents all humanity, but there was no literal Adam.
“You don’t really think there was a literal Adam, do you? What kind of naïve fundamentalist are you?” In fact, I did some flying Tuesday. Not me flying—but in an airplane! Left Tuesday; came back Friday. And you know what? I prayed to the Lord that the pilot was a fundamentalist, that he took gauges and gas tank numbers, the compass—and all that stuff—literally.
A fundamentalist is simply one who takes the Bible at face value—unless there is an obvious figure of speech. What if you turn Adam into “the symbol of all humanity”? The problem is that Adam is on a genealogy leading to Jesus Christ in Luke 3. And if what begins the genealogy is not a real historical person? And there are countless evangelicals today denying that!
In fact, that’s a big discussion today: the historicity of Adam. Not taking place in liberal circles—but in conservative evangelical circles—the big debate is, “Was there a real Adam? Do you believe in the historical Adam?” And if you deny the historicity of Adam, how much longer do you think it will be until you deny the historicity of Jesus Christ, the last Adam? Because the two are connected in Luke’s genealogy from beginning to end!
But there is a view that, “Well, you know, this is all symbolic. And the tree of life? I mean, I know the Bible says it was in the middle of the garden, but we know that really wasn’t the case.” Really? So you’ve been to Eden, and you know that for sure, huh?
Then along came Philo, just before the time of Christ, and he was a great allegorist. And he said, “The four rivers here—the Pishon, the Gihon, the Euphrates, and the Tigris—aren’t real rivers! Those represent different parts of the soul.” And everybody would say,”Ooooh, that’s spiritual!” Because who wants to hear a sermon about four rivers when you could talk about something exciting—the soul!
One of the very first sermons I ever heard as a new Christian was around Nehemiah 2, and it talks there about the gates around the city. And there’s a water gate. The person preaching said, “Well, that’s the Holy Spirit—that is what the water represents.”
And there was a sheep gate. “Well, Jesus is the Savior of the sheep.” So they were de-literalizing the city and this wall around the city of Jerusalem. You know what the water gate means in Nehemiah 2? Read it for yourself: they took water in and out of the gate. That’s all it means.
Now, who wants to hear sermon on that? B…o…r…i…n…g! Give me a spiritual meaning! So what began to happen in the history of Christianity? This allegorical method of interpretation began to develop. And the nice thing about being an allegorist is you can never lose your job because you’re the only one that knows what the allegory means.
And what starts to happen? What is being interpreted is not the Bible, but people’s carnal thoughts are rewriting the Bible! Now, look, we could have some great sermons about the fish gate and Jesus is the Fisher of men. But it’s not in Nehemiah 2; there are countless other passages I could send you to.
That’s the way it is today in modern-day Christianity. You hear a lot of things taught, and you say, “Great sermon; wrong passage.” That’s allegorization, and the Bible really is not being interpreted. The mind of the allegorist is being forced into the text. And people like that, I think, would be good on the United States Supreme Court because, sadly, that’s what many jurists do on the United States Supreme Court.
By the way, this new gal, appointed as Trump’s pick to the United States Supreme Court? That’s the whole battle! Because she has the audacity to say, “I’m going to interpret the Constitution as it’s written!” And the left gets quite hysterical about that, because they’ve built all of their social doctrines—like abortion on demand—from things in the Constitution that don’t even exist! That’s why they don’t like this new Supreme Court pick. How in the world did I get off on all that?
The Pishon, the Gihon, the Euphrates, and the Tigris? These are not four parts of the soul! These are four rivers in Eden. That’s all that’s meant! And if the rivers that we do know, the Euphrates and the Tigris, are real, literal, historical rivers, then why couldn’t the rest of this be literal? Why can’t the Pishon and the Gihon be literal as well?
So that raises another question. Why don’t we have the Pishon and the Gihon today? Why do we just have the Euphrates and the Tigris? Well, there was something called the Flood. The flood altered the topography of our world. It was a global Deluge; we’ll see that coming in Genesis 7.
It’s very clear that these waters covered the whole face of the earth, and it altered the topography of our world. And when Noah’s descendants got out of the ark after the waters abated, they found two rivers in the general area where the Garden of Eden once existed. These reminded them an awful lot of the rivers that existed in Eden that had been passed down to Noah’s descendants through oral tradition.
So they got out of the boat, and they saw two rivers that looked a lot like the Euphrates and the Tigris that they remembered in the same general part of the world. Although they were not the exact same rivers, they sure reminded them of what was once known of Eden. So, they named those two rivers the Euphrates and the Tigris. The Pishon and the Gihon are gone because of the global Deluge.
Don’t let what I have said bother you too much. When those in Europe came to America, if they came from Yorktown they came to the United States and said, “We’re going to call our city New York because it reminds us of what we once knew.” If they came from England, they called their part of America New England, because it reminded them of what they once knew. That’s what’s happening here with the Euphrates and the Tigris.
Was it the exact same Euphrates and Tigris? I don’t think so. But it reminded them of what was known in Eden of the Euphrates and Tigris being in that general part of the world and looking an awful lot like the Euphrates and Tigris that had been passed down to them through oral tradition from Adam’s descendants.
Now we move into verses 15-17 where man is given responsibilities in the Garden of Eden. Notice what it says there in verse 15, “Then the Lord God took the man…” The woman doesn’t exist yet.
“Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” God gave man—in this case, Adam—an assignment; He gave him a job. His first job was the office of theocratic administrator.
A theocratic administrator is someone who governs for God. God’s original design for Adam and Eve, according to Genesis 1:26-28, is God was going to rule over the first Adam. And he—along with his wife as co-ruler—would govern Creation for God. Here we’re seeing the initial part of that process where God gives Adam a responsibility.
Genesis 1:26-28 just summarizes the larger discussion here in Genesis 2. But you remember Genesis 1:26-28, “let them rule.” Authority—theocratic administrators. “Let them” is both of them.
“…and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And the Fall of man hasn’t happened yet!
This becomes very, very important to understand. Not only is God giving man authority to govern on God’s behalf, but He is giving him what we would call a pre-Fall institution. This is something that God wanted man to do from the beginning before the Fall of Genesis 3 ever existed.
The Fall of man did not change the institution. What the Fall of man did is it took that institution and made it hard! It made it difficult! Because now, post-Fall, man has to work to survive (Genesis 3:19). That’s not the original design of God. Man worked for enjoyment. It was a joy to work, to keep and cultivate the garden.
But once the Fall of man happens, man must work to survive. Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground…” Now you’ve got to eke out a living for survival! You’ve got to work because you have to! But work and labor and industry and creativity was always part of the plan of God before the Fall ever happened.
It’s a lot like procreation. What did God say to Adam and Eve? “Be fruitful and multiply.” That’s pre-Fall. And what happened with the Fall? Now pregnancy becomes painful and difficult. But the difficulty and the pain of pregnancy was never part of the original design of God. Procreation is something that God created from the beginning.
Industry, labor, work, creativity, productivity is something that God created from the beginning. But with the Fall, man must work now to survive. Second Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” That’s not what’s happening here in Genesis 2. There’s nothing about, “You’ve got to do it to survive”; that’s Genesis 3.
Today we’re in post Genesis 3—we’re working to survive. But that’s not God’s original plan. This, by the way, is one of the reasons that Marxism or socialism never work, because they are rebellions against what God said from the beginning, particularly post-Fall, “You work, you eat.” Marxism and socialism say, “You work, I eat.”
And it always sounds good on paper. But there’s no example anywhere where it’s ever produced anything. It produces misery everywhere it’s tried. Why is that? Because it’s a rebellion against what God said as a foundational principle as the Creator from the beginning. “Gee, Pastor, you are the most hardhearted man I’ve ever heard! Don’t you believe in a safety net?” The problem is when the safety net turns into a hammock—then it’s a problem—and I start to live off something someone else produces. That is when the economy starts running into problems, because it’s a rebellion against what God said from the beginning.
It’s interesting that when God re-creates everything—eternal state—sin will be gone—Revelation 21 and 22. What do you think you’re going to be doing in that eternal state? Wearing a halo and sitting on a cloud in a white sheet and singing the hallelujah chorus 10 million times because you’re bored out of your mind? No. You’re going to be producing!
Of that time period, Revelation 22:3 says, “His bond-servants will serve Him…” That’s industry! That’s creativity! That’s productivity! That’s exactly like it was prior to the Fall in Genesis 2:15. Think about that for a minute. You have certain energies, you have certain drives, you have certain interests, and you want to pursue those, but they’re really not moneymakers. So you have to put those on hold to eke out a living.
Think about living in the Eden where you don’t have to work to survive. Think about the eternal state where you don’t have to work to survive, and you’re just allowed to pursue your God-given energies and interests. You want to pursue art? Go for it! Entertainment? It puts a few limits on that, of course, but go for it!
Want to write a book? Go for it! Want to paint a painting? Go for it! No more of this situation where, “I can’t do it! I can’t do it! I can’t do it—I’m too busy. I’ve got to survive. I’ve got to do something I don’t want to do to survive.” That’s what Eden was like. That’s what the eternal state will be like when that burden is lifted, and the curse is lifted, but the productivity and energy continues.
Then we come to verses 16 and 17, and what does it say here? “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree [and you ought underline the word “any”] of the garden you may eat freely [and you ought underline the word “freely”]; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’ ”
What do we see again here? Free will. It is stated there in verse 9. It is stated again in verses 16 and 17. “Gee, God could have certainly saved a lot of problems by just not giving them that option.” But if God doesn’t give them the option for rebellion, He’s disrespecting how He’s manufactured them as image bearers of God.
What does He mean here when He says, “The day—or the moment—that you eat from that tree is the day you will surely die”? What does that even mean—to die? Well, I’ve got the Hebrew word underlined there—the word “die.” And that word is used 791 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, Hebrew Bible, and guess what it means every single time? Physical death.
Physical death will come. They didn’t even understand what physical death was. “Physical death is going to come the moment you rebel against Me. So you’re free to do what you want, but payday someday.” You can pick your sin, but you can’t pick the consequences.
Physical death is going to come, and that’s borne out in Genesis 3:19, is it not? “By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it [the ground] you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”
I want to be very clear on something. Death did not exist before Adam’s rebellion. God did not create a world with death in it! It’s very clear here; it’s also clear in the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, “For since by a man [Adam] came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
Romans 5:12 bears this out very well. “Therefore, just as through one man [who would that be? Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…” You have no scenario—New Testament, Old Testament—where death somehow exists before Adam’s rebellion.
That, by the way, is why the Bible makes painstaking effort to tell us that original humanity, prior to the Fall, were herbivorous. They were not carnivorous. Because if they are carnivorous, you’ve got to kill an animal. This is Texas, and now I’m on thin ice, right? We’ve got a steakhouse on every corner. Well, you’re going to get your steakhouse in Genesis 9—not Genesis 1.
It’s very clear that God said to them, “You can eat from the plants. You can eat from the trees. You can eat from fruit.” Again, He says, “every green plant,” but there was no death. That’s why, when the original sin happened and God took garments of skin and clothed Adam and Eve, that was a shocker! Because obviously God had to kill an innocent animal to retrieve for them those garments of skin to clothe them.
They didn’t even know what death was. They just learned the consequences of sin—that to cover death God Himself must bring in death of an innocent animal and sacrifice. But prior to that sin, there was no such thing as death. And guess what? When God re-creates everything, what will be absent in the eternal state? No more death! Death is gone. And this is why you will not hear from this pulpit—as long as I’m here—a single word advocating the gap theory.
I know there are different renditions of the gap theory. But the gap theory, by and large, is going to tell you that death existed before Adam. In fact, Merrill Unger, one of the great Hebrew scholars of Dallas Seminary? You can go back into his writings, and you can see him arguing for a pre-Adamic race that was wiped out through Satan’s fall. That is not what this is saying.
You don’t have death prior to Adam’s rebellion. Also, you will not hear a single word from this pulpit advocating theistic evolution—that God somehow used the evolutionary process to bring forth humanity. You want to blame evolution on God?
Do you understand what evolution is? It’s the survival of the fittest over billions of years where the week die out and are replaced by the strong. And that was going on for billions of years until finally the first man climbed out of the primordial soup sometime in the distant past. That system is billions and billions and billions of years of cruelty before man even comes onto the scene! You want to blame that on God?
Be an evolutionist, but don’t blame it on God! God knows nothing about evolution! He knows nothing about the gap theory! He doesn’t know anything about the pre-Adamic race! These are all inventions of man—read into the Bible—rather than derived from the Bible.
“Well, gee, Pastor, I wish you could preach on something more practical. I wish you would preach on something more relevant.” You want to know how relevant this is? If you evangelize someone this week—and I’m going to pray that you get that chance—you know the first question they’re going to ask? “Your God is a God of love. My grandmother—or my mother—or my son—or my daughter—or my cousin—just died of cancer. Now you tell me about ,your God of love!” What are you going to say?
We actually have an answer to that! They may not like the answer, but it’s in the Bible. By the way, when you evangelize someone, you’re not responsible for the results. The results are God’s. You’re responsible to be faithful with what God has said.
“Will, gee, Andy, What are you going to do to build Sugar Land Bible Church?” Nothing! I’m not going to do anything to build Sugar Land Bible Church, because the building of the church is something God does. God never called a pastor, He never called elders, He never called deacons to build anything! What He called them to do is be faithful.
Whether the person converts or not? That’s God’s business. By the way, you might plant a seed, and they may not be converted for 10 years. You might look at yourself as a failure because you don’t see an immediate result, when all God wanted you to do is plant a seed that He would water.
So people will say, “God is a God of love? How do you explain all of the evil in the world?” The answer is very simple: There was a time in which evil didn’t exist. There was a time in which death didn’t exist—even in the animal kingdom. And you know what? There is a time period yet future when evil will be a thing of the past.
I realize the insurance companies call catastrophes “acts of God.” What a misnomer that is! These catastrophes are caused—and the groanings of the world that we’re living in have been caused—by the creature through their own volition making the wrong choice. That’s who you blame it on. I prefer to call them acts of Adam and Eve, acts of the serpent, acts of Satan. Don’t give God a bad name because of this.
It’s interesting, as God is analyzing these two trees, how important special revelation was. What is the difference between general revelation and special revelation? General revelation is the disclosure of God in all of creation. See, God has written two Bibles. He’s written the nature Bible, but He’s written something more finite—this Bible. This Bible is called special revelation. What you see around you is called general revelation.
General revelation is things like nature and conscience. Special revelation is things like the Incarnation, Scripture, miracles. General revelation is available to everybody. In fact, even atheists get up every day and read God’s Bible all the time as they’re looking around the natural world. Because God is the Author of the nature, just as He is the Scripture.
But special revelation is available to those who want it. General revelation can’t get you to heaven! You know what it can do? It makes you accountable to search for truth. But in the words of this Book is the information necessary to save the soul.
General revelation is nonwritten; special revelation is written. General revelation is natural; special revelation revolves around the supernatural and the miraculous. Do you know what God just gave Adam and Eve here in verses 16 and 17? Not Eve—I keep saying that; she’s coming.
Do you know what He just gave Adam with the two trees? He gave them general revelation. And then God says, “By the way, this tree over here will bring life to you. That tree over there will kill you.” He’s not giving them general revelation anymore; He’s giving them special revelation.
And He’s teaching them an important principle that you interpret general revelation by the special revelation of God. You are not free to interpret everything in nature and the universe any way you want to interpret it! You have to interpret it through a lens.
I would think that in Eden those two trees—life and knowledge—looked exactly the same. I mean, from a human perspective there was probably no conceivable or discernible difference between those two trees. And yet there was a world of difference. One was going to bring life to him; one was going to kill him.
And if they did not have a special Word from God, they would have not known the difference! You see that? And if they needed that special Word of God before the Fall, how much do we need this Word after the Fall? I am not free as a Christian to go out and interpret geology and the natural world any way I want to interpret it. I have to interpret it through a lens—that’s special revelation.
Back to Louis Berkhof. Look at this quote. “Since the entrance of sin into the world, man can gather true knowledge about God from his general revelation only if he studies it in light of Scripture…” That’s what your college professor isn’t doing. They’re not studying it in light of Scripture; they’re studying it through their own darkened mind.
“…in which the elements of God’s original self-revelation which were obscured and perverted by the blight of sin, are republished, corrected, and interpreted… Some are inclined to speak of God’s revelation as a second source; but this is hardly correct in view of the fact that nature can come into consideration here only as interpreted in the light of Scripture.”
I’m at the Grand Canyon, and I’ve got all these strata. In fact, I went through one of those kinds of things in Australia, and the government financed tour guide said, “These were created through billions…” And he kept saying it over and over again. Every time he said it, I said, “That’s once.”
“Billions and billions of years!” He kept saying it, kept saying it, kept saying it, and kept saying it. I was well behaved; you would’ve been proud of me. But I felt like saying, “No, they weren’t. They were created in an instant through a catastrophe called the global Flood.”
Now, why would we be interpreting these layers of strata so differently? He’s looking at it without the right lens! See that? I’m looking at it with the correct lens. God here, before the Fall, is giving Adam and Eve a lens. He is explaining to them that, “You are not free to interpret things anyway you want, but you’ve got to interpret it through the correct lens.”
Genesis 2:17, “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” “Hold the phone, Pastor! Hold the phone! They didn’t die that day.” Adam, Genesis 5:5, lived to the ripe old age of 930. So, aren’t days ages? No. A day might be an age here. But in Genesis 1 it doesn’t just say YOM—day—it gives a number. It says, “an evening and a morning.”
Do you see that formula here in Genesis 2:17? It’s not here. So this is not grounds for saying the Creation days are not 24 hour days. And even beyond that, when you look at this in the original language, “in the day” is a preposition attached to the Hebrew word “day.” And when that preposition is attached to the Hebrew word “day,” a better translation is “when.” Not “in that day,” but “when you eat of it you will die.” That’s how the NET Bible translates Genesis 2:17—“when.”
It’s that same translation, same construction, in 1 Kings 2:37. “If [YOM + the preposition in] you ever do leave and cross the Kidron Valley, know for sure that you will certainly die! You will be responsible for your own death.” God is not saying that the death process is going to start in 24 hours, “In 24 hours you are going to be dead.” What He is saying is, “You’re introducing a process now that can’t be altered…and physical death will come.”
It didn’t come that day, but it came. It came, in the case of Adam, 930 years later. “Well, Pastor, I don’t like that interpretation. My Bible says, “In the day you eat from the tree you’ll die.” Okay, you can keep your interpretation. And here’s how it can work: they did die that day—spiritually. The cord was cut. They were severed and alienated from a relationship with God. And if you want this to be death in that day, I would argue it that way. But you don’t have to go that route; it can easily mean “when.”
And we haven’t even gotten married yet. So next week we’ll see the first marriage, beginning in Genesis 2:18-25. Is this really relevant? Well, the whole culture wants to redefine marriage. Why don’t we go back to the original blueprint and see what God has in mind?
The fact of the matter is “in the day ye eat thereof is the day you shall surely die” spiritual death. We’re all dead. Did you know that? We’re dead in our trespasses and sins. And the primary need that we have is to hear the gospel, through volition—through free will—respond to it by faith. And guess what? You’ll come alive spiritually.
Physically your dying day will come—if we’re not the Rapture generation. But you can be made alive right now through the new birth simply by hearing the gospel concerning the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, what we celebrated today at the Lord’s Table, the Lord’s body sacrificed in our place, the Lord’s blood spilled in our place.
And simply by believing—or trusting—in that transaction—not just intellectual assent. But it’s a matter of trust, or it’s a reliance. In a nanosecond a person is brought from death unto life. They receive the Holy Spirit; they are regenerated at that point. If that’s never happened to you?
Anybody in the room hearing this, anybody hearing online, anybody listening to this 10 years after the fact via archive, the offer is still the same. It’s the choice between death and life. Same choice Adam and Eve had. Our exhortation is to choose life, because God loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.
You can make that choice right now in the quietness of your own mind and thoughts and heart. You don’t have to walk an aisle to make that choice. You don’t have to give money to make that choice. You don’t even, quite frankly, have to pray a prayer to make that choice. Now, if you want to do all those things? Great. But those don’t save anybody. It’s faith alone in Christ alone. It’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord. It’s a condition in the heart. And once that happens, a person is ushered from death unto life. If it’s something you need more explanation on, I’m available after the service to talk.
Shall we pray?
“Father, we’re grateful for this foundational book and the things that it teaches and reveals. Make us good stewards of this section of Scripture as we seek to interpret our world in its fallen state according to the lens You’ve given us.
We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name.” And God’s people said, “Amen.”