The Garden and Paradise
By Mary Kroeger and Bev Lewis
Gardens are important to us. We enjoy their beauty, their food supply and the anticipation of a greater supply. Therefore, a study of the garden of Eden and of Paradise has to include the food they supply.
In Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Since God is spirit, an image of God would have to be a spiritual image. God’s way of doing things always surprises us. He began this process by forming a man out of the ground that He had created. Then He blew His breath into him, and he became a living soul. Let’s keep in mind that this image was formed of ground, and there is no ground in God.
This image, named Adam, was a mixture of the ground and the breath of God. God said he was a living soul. The soul is our sense of being - our will, mind and emotions. Before he disobeyed God, this man had a sense of being that came from God. But he was not a living spirit, and life is in the Spirit. He was only an earthy image of God. As such he enjoyed a relationship of trust and friendship with God. After he believed the serpent and disobeyed God, this relationship changed. He became afraid of God, tried to hide from Him. He realized his nakedness, and tried to produce his own covering (his garment of righteousness) by sewing aprons of fig leaves (that is self-effort). That is religiosity. This revealed his identity with the ground from which he was formed. So he was only in earthy image of God. The spiritual image of God would come in Christ!
Then in Genesis 2:8-9; 15-17 we read: “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'”
Adam and Eve disobeyed God. "Therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:23-25)
In this account we notice that God placed two special trees, namely, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as well as the tree of life, in the midst of the garden. “In the midst” does not mean in the middle – as many translations read. It means “among’. Actually, only one tree could be in the middle. These trees were planted among the other trees. God told Adam that he could eat the fruit of all the trees, with only one exception. The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not to be eaten! The day he would eat of it he would die.
This was a beautiful garden. They could live in the luxury of its provision! There was no lack, so they had nothing to fear. But there was one tree of which they were not to eat. Just one fruit among the abundance! That fruit was poisonous, for if they ate of that fruit they would die. The other special tree, the tree of life , would keep them from dying! They were free to eat of that tree!
We all know what happened. Adam and Eve obeyed the serpent instead of obeying God, and everything changed! They were sent out of the garden to till the ground. Moreover, they no longer had access to the tree of life! It was sealed off from the rest of the garden, and cherubim, with a flaming sword which turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life were placed at the east of the garden of Eden. The rest of the garden was not sealed off. Through Adam’s disobedience, humanity has inherited the serpent’s mindset. This mind is always against the Spirit of God! (Gal. 5:17) It accepts the serpent’s lies as its truth. After Adam and Eve’s disobedience, the garden is no longer called a garden. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil now exists and bears fruit in the carnal mind of man. It wants to satisfy its own desires and perceptions of what is good. This is evidenced by its many substitutions and perversions of what God has said. For example, people talk about heaven and hell, instead of life and death. There is a big difference in these concepts. Heaven and/or hell, emphasizes the place towards which we are heading, instead of the condition we are in – in life or in death. Jesus Christ is the Life! As we dwell in His life, and live out of His life, it is ours NOW! If we are not in Life we are in Death, a state of 'unperception'. In death we remain in our old identity with a future perspective of either good or evil. Our New Identity in Christ changes our 'now'. We now live by the faith that is in Christ! This brings us into the rest of God.
Self-effort can never enter His rest. Jesus said, "The work of God is this: to believe in the One He sent." (Jn. 6:29) Belief in a creed, a doctrine, is sometimes substituted for belief in Christ, who said He was (and is) the Truth. Our doctrine is important, but it has to flow dynamically from an intimate relationship with Christ. Belief in the Father and in His Son, crosses us over from death to life. (Jn. 5:24) In death we try to substitute the righteousness obtained by doing good works (self-effort) for the righteousness that is ours in Christ! Self-effort produces failures and a guilty conscience; so-called successes produce pride, power over the less fortunate, and a false image of self. This results in a guilty or prideful conscience. We often elevate a guilty conscience as a sign of humility. Hebrews 10:22 says we are to be cleansed of that. As we identify with Christ rather than our earthy old nature we will walk in the knowledge that we have been made holy by Christ's sacrifice. (Hebrews 10:10) We only understand this by faith, not by sight or feelings.
"Choice" is substituted for, or added to, "obedience."
"Choice" has its source in our human thinking, and puts us in control. Obedience recognizes Christ’s supreme lordship over us. We are not our own. (1 Cor. 6:19) “Volunteering" to do a certain work, is often preached, instead of being "called" of God to do it. Paul said he was compelled to preach. Woe to him if he didn't. If we joyfully do what God has called us to do, we have a reward; if we do it against our will, we are simply discharging the trust committed to us. Jesus said He only did and said what the Father told Him too. (Jn.4:34, 5:19 & 30, 12:49-50) All this flows out of knowing we are crucified with Christ, and it is His righteous, submitted life that now lives through us. (Galatians 2:20)
Substitutions can only be recognized when the reality is revealed to us. The reality, the truth, is revealed in Jesus Christ. He is the tree of life! In Rev. 2:7 we find that it is no longer in the garden. It in a higher realm - in the Paradise of God! The overcomers can eat its life-giving fruit! When Jesus hung on the cross, the dying thief on the cross beside Him, asked to be remembered when Christ would come into His kingdom. (Luke 23:39-43) What remarkable faith! Being nailed to the cross and dying, the thief realized that he could do nothing to merit salvation. He also recognized that Christ was actually the King of a spiritual kingdom! Jesus, the tree of life, replied, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Amazing! The tree of life no longer has a relationship with ground and was no longer guarded by cherubim. It is in a higher realm – in Paradise!
Paradise is a place of life! Only obedience to the will of God is practiced there! The tree of the knowledge of good and evil does not exist in Paradise! Neither is it found in the New Jerusalem – the bride of Christ, the perfected church, the city that comes down from heaven! This city only has one tree - the tree of life! It grows on either side of the river of life that flows from the throne of God. (Rev. 22:2)
Since there is only one tree of life, and it is in Paradise and in the New Jerusalem, both names must symbolize the same place. The New Jerusalem is surrounded by a wall. Entrance can only be gained through the sacrificial death of Christ, symbolized by the gates of pearl. How fitting! For pearls are formed through suffering, and can only be obtained through the death of the creature!
There are important differences between the Garden and Paradise. There was NO wall around the garden. There was free access for all. Even the serpent could enter in! Paradise, as portrayed by the New Jerusalem, is different. It is protected and entrance is only permitted through the gates. The serpent cannot enter it, for it is confined to live off the dust of the ground. The garden had many trees, while Paradise only has one tree. The garden contained ground, while the New Jerusalem only has a street of gold (symbolizing our walk in our new humanity in Christ)! The garden is earthy, while Paradise is heavenly. (2 Cor. 12:2-4)
As we continue to look at the truth God is showing us, we see that we can easily be misled by the carnal mind! It is the spiritual mind that recognizes the difference between hearing a truth and obeying the truth. Adam heard the truth, but he did not obey it. Obeying a truth is the evidence that it has been internalized by being united with faith; disobedience is the evidence that it has only been received as a statement of truth! Adam and Eve only knew truth as a statement of truth. Therefore it had no keeping power. Power is only in the Holy Spirit! Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you.” (Acts 1:8)
We see this truth exemplified in Peter, the disciple of Jesus Christ. God had revealed to him that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Yet in the hour of testing, three times he denied knowing Him! Later, after he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he was ready to die for his faith in Christ! (Matt. 16:15-17; 26:70; Acts 4:19-20) In Hebrews 4:2 we read that "the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard it did not combine it with faith."
Why is the knowledge of truth, even the truth that is revealed to us by God, not enough to protect us from evil? When truth is not united with faith, it is only stored as knowledge in the natural or carnal mind. Everything that is not of faith is sin. (Rom. 14:23) Faith has its residency in the mind of Christ which we have been given. Although Adam had received the law of sin and death, and he had passed this knowledge on to Eve, it was not united with faith. So when the serpent described the merits of disobedience, they obeyed the serpent. By believing the serpent’s words over God’s words, in effect, they were saying that God is a liar. Their action revealed that they had elevated their thinking above God’s and judged Him to be wrong. All disobedience declares that God is wrong and we are right! We know better than God. Knowledge that is not rooted in faith is mere head knowledge. It is influenced by fear, circumstances, promises, etc. The limitations of head knowledge cause us to try to please the ego and to do what is right in our own eyes. This is disobedience! It does not have faith in God as its foundation! It does not exist in Christ, nor in the city that comes down from God!
Heart knowledge believes God! The trustworthiness of God has been tested and experienced! Spiritual knowledge withstands all the influences that come against it! Its source and residency is in the mind of Christ. Our very life depends on it!
Praise God, we have the mind of Christ! (1 Cor. 2:16) As we live out of His mind, we are eating of the Tree of Life that grows inParadise! The fruit of the Spirit will flourish in us, and the needy will be edified by it!