Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
In the beginning God created everything. After that, God made a garden. The Bible records,
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground- trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:8-9).
So in this garden were many awesome trees, and then two trees in the middle; one that offered knowledge and experience, the other that offered life. Now most of us know what happens in the story, Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and are subsequently kicked out of the garden since the only rule in the garden was “Don’t eat from that tree.” But what always gets me when I read this story comes right after God pronounces the curse. We read in Genesis 3:22-23,
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.
This is when they get kicked out of the garden, but did you catch what the Lord said? He noted that the reason for their banishment was so that they couldn’t eat from the Tree of Life and gain eternal life- meaning that they hadn’t eaten from it yet. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? It’s called “The Tree of Life,” why wouldn’t they eat from it first!? I’ve always thought it was stupid for Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Life before thinking of anything else, but the Holy Spirit showed me that many people today do the same thing.
Consider this, in the garden, there were many trees that didn’t really do anything special (outside of providing tasty food for the original inhabitants); after that there were two trees, one tree that brought life, and one tree that brought knowledge of right and wrong. Likewise, there are many things in life that have no effect either good or bad on us spiritually. However, since these things have no bearing spiritually, they likewise do not offer life, and therefore are lacking in something that we need. This is why Jesus notes in Revelation 3:15, “I know you deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” Because if we had life, we’d be heaven bound, or if we gave our lives to sin, at least nobody would wonder why we’re going to hell. As it is, many people are living so-so lives and will be going to hell anyway (even kind people who aren’t actively sinning all the time). The garden may be gone, but there are still two direct lines to life and death. We can choose to ignore God, deny him, and to live our lives however we darn well feel. By doing so, we’re choosing to go to hell, eternal death. This is backed up in Ezekiel 18:4 when the Lord says, “For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son- both alike belong to me. The soul who sins in the one who will die.” However, we also have the direct line to eternal life, Jesus. This concept is further explained in John 3:16-18,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
So just like in the Garden of Eden, there are many choices, but only one of them leads to life. You can choose to sin, or you can ignore life, both of which lead to the same end, for there is only one way to life, Jesus.
Now, after kicking Adam and Eve out of the garden, the Lord made it impossible for them to return and take from the Tree of Life. Genesis 3:24 explains, “After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Every time that Adam and Eve’s decedents would get close to the garden, they would see this flashing sword, reminding them that they had no right to enter into the garden. In the same way, the Law was given to the Israelites in order to remind them that they had no right in approaching God since, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Paul talked greatly on the Law, which he felt both held him back, and yet was holy in and of itself (much like the holy sword blocking the path to the garden). He wrote,
What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really way if the law had not said, “Do not covet” (Romans 7:7).
So the Law, like the sword, became a reminder of what sin was and what it could lead to: separation from God. However, things get more complicated than that. Imagine for a moment that you are one of Adam and Eve’s children or grandchildren, and life had been going pretty well for you as far as you could tell and you thought your relationship with God was fine. Suddenly, you encounter this sword with an awesome garden behind it. How do you feel? Do you feel more motivated to follow the rules now that you see something you cannot possibly obtain? And so Paul writes,
But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from the law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death (Romans 7:8-11).
So no matter where the descendents of the first couple may have thought they stood in relation to God, when they reached the gates of the Garden of Eden and found the angel and his sword, they knew they were screwed. Likewise, when we encounter the laws of God, we realize that we can’t ever go to heaven since at some point or another we’ve broken most of the commandments. Many people are standing at the gates of Eden feeling like the Law is against them, and therefore they stand against the Laws of God and try to deny his existence- since after all, why would a God of love not let us do what we wanted to do? And how could a God of love let only the perfect (physically and spiritually) into heaven? Paul continues,
Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful (Romans 7:13).
Paul realized that by understanding the condemnation of sin, we quickly learn to hate sin, therefore although the law condemns us, it also helps us realize just how awful sin is. And so those of you who are standing outside the gates of Eden, you should hate the sin which is blocking you from entering.
Enter Jesus. We are all standing outside the gates staring at the sword blocking our path. However, the angel is telling us, “But our princess is in another castle.” Ok, well he’s probably not saying that, but he is telling you that you’re looking in the wrong place. When Jesus came, he was God descending from heaven to earth. In the same way, by his atoning death, Jesus moved the Tree of Life out of the garden so that we sinners could have life. For Christ himself said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Jesus brings us life, eternal life that once had been unobtainable due to our sinful nature. This was prophesized long ago in Zechariah 3:8-10,
“Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.
“In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sin under his vine and fig tree,” declares the Lord Almighty.
Now, I don’t know much about the multi-eyeness of heavenly things, but I do know that the stone is Jesus, and he brought some wood with him, and now we can all sit under our own trees (if we choose to go with Christ). So the Lord brought the Tree of Life out of the garden so that we too may eat of it when we choose to believe in him and trust in his name. Not only that, but you know that flaming sword that is the Law? Well, when Jesus comes into play in our lives and we are saved, that sword becomes not a weapon against us, but a weapon in our hands as we fight against evil. For we are told, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). So now that which once held you back helps you to push forward,
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).
And now instead of fighting against God, he has become your greatest ally, all because of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Adam and Eve made a foolish decision by not eating from the Tree of Life when they had the chance but we have a chance now to do so as well. Don’t waste another moment, for your life could be gone before you know it, and you’ll have made the same mistake that they made. Choose eternal life with Christ now! If you’re ready to accept Jesus and the life that comes with it, take a moment to pray with me. Just read the following words out loud, you won’t regret it:
Dear Lord Jesus,
I’ve been living this life making choices however I saw fit.
I found your commandments too much.
Indeed, they were too much.
But now I know that you’ve given me a chance at eternal life.
Come into my life and set me free, Lord.
Save me from the sin that has been entangling me,
And grant me the freedom and life that you’ve promised.
In your name I pray,