Genesis 2:16-17 (NKJV) 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.”
In yesterday’s post, I said that the key to understanding the bible is understanding how it interprets two words; life and death. Deuteronomy lays out a choice for God’s people. We can have either life and blessing or death and cursing. The Lord is not talking about physical life and physical death. He is talking about spiritual life and spiritual death.
Yesterday we focused on life. Biblically, life is not just a state of being. Life is a force that flows from the heart of God. It is the nature of God. The Greek word Zoe is defined as “life in the absolute sense.” This means life that has no death in it. I like to define life as the “thing in God that makes him God.”
In James 1:17 we read that all good and perfect gifts come from God in whom “there is no variableness or shadow of turning.” There is not even a shadow of anything that is not good or blessing coming from God. Where, then, do the evil and negative things of human existence come from?
Just as life is a force that brings positive creative things to the earth, death is a force that brings corruption to the earth. Death comes from the heart of another spirit being. Originally, his name was Lucifer. He led the heavenly worship of almighty God. He was an angel created by God for this purpose. As he observed the worship God received, he wanted more. He opened his heart to a corruption that transformed the created life God had given him into something else. That something was an evil force that corrupted everything it touched. That force is called death.
When God cast Lucifer from his presence, he was given a new name, Satan. Satan was placed in the Garden of Eden with man as part of the system of choices man would be asked to make. Man could choose to eat from the tree of life. This tree represented the nature of God. If he ate from that tree, he would live forever. There was a second tree in the Garden. It was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God commanded man not to eat of this tree. This tree represented the nature of Satan, death.
One might ask why God did not want man to know the difference between good and evil. God did want them to know the difference, but he wanted to be the one to define the difference. The real nature of this tree was rebellion. It was not just to know good and evil, it was the temptation for man to take control of what was good and evil. This is the essence of Satan’s rebellion in heaven.
Today’s verse gives us the commandment of God to man when he told him not to eat of the second tree. It looks like what God said would happen did not. Man ate of the tree and did not immediately die. He lived on for hundreds of years. However, God was not talking about physical death. The Hebrew meaning gives us some insight into what God was really saying.
The literal translation of the he Hebrew is this. “In the day you eat of it, in dying you shall surely die.” Two deaths are spoken of here. One death was immediate and the other the eventual result of the first. Adam did die the day he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He died spiritually. His spirit was cut off from the life of God and connected to the negative “life” force of Satan. We call that negative life force death.
God had created man to live forever in a perfect environment. He had given him everything he needed to live and grow. He gave him the tree of Life, which would have sustained him forever. There was no death in the garden. There was no sickness in the garden. There was no lack of any kind. Everything lived in perfect harmony. That was the way God intended man to live. However, he had to choose life. For this choice to be real, there had to be a second choice; death.
Genesis 3 is the chapter that tells us the choice man made and the effect it had on all of creation. We read of a change of man’s nature. Righteousness has become unrighteousness. Love becomes jealousy and the shifting of blame. Fear replaces faith. This not only affected the man and woman, but it extended to creation. Death began to corrupt the perfect environment that God had created.
That corruption was not immediate, but it was persistent. As the history of the earth unfolds, we see that man’s rebellion has unleashed something that transforms the earth from a perfect garden to a place where man must fight for his survival. Sickness, poverty and hatred appear. Man has to labor to produce enough to survive and the earth no longer cooperates with him. He was created with dominion over his world. Now he is dominated by it.
The corruption seen in the natural is only a symptom of something that has happened in the soul and spirit of man. By Genesis chapter six, man has been so corrupted by death that God is forced to destroy civilization in order to preserve a remnant of humanity. Noah’s flood did not happen because God “lost his temper.” It happened because the thought and intent of every other person’s heart was “only evil continually.” The destruction of society had already occurred spiritually. The physical destruction was inevitable. God intervened so he could preserve Noah and his family.
From the Garden of Eden to this very day, these two forces have been in conflict on the earth and in man. Death gained the upper hand when man rebelled, but God was not through. He began to deal with man on the only level he could. He used the natural, death-dominated world. He spoke to man through prophets. He gave man a physical covenant so there could be relationship on the highest possible level. He gave him the law so he could walk according to the standards that the life of God needed to flourish. However, through all of this God was working toward something better.
God’s plan was to make full life available to man again. Death brought corruption to the earth and to man. That corruption produced every evil thing that we see in the human condition. This force infected every area of human existence. God was not going to allow this force to go unchallenged. It was his plan to restore the ability for his children to choose life. In the process he would destroy death and “him who had the power of death, the devil.” (Heb. 2:14)
The story of the bible is the story of these two opposing forces. Life is trying to restore man to relationship with God. Death is trying to destroy any knowledge of that relationship from the consciousness of man. Death corrupts good things and makes them evil. Life finds good in the midst of evil and energizes it.
Because of man’s choice, death is the dominant force in the earth. However, life can never be fully defeated. Life gains victory in every newborn child and with every person who chooses to obey the voice of God, walk in his ways and keep his commandments. We see this battle continue until God brings forth the ultimate champion of life. His name was Jesus of Nazareth. He was and is the “Christ” or anointed one. He was and is the Messiah, the bringer of life to the earth once again.
Hebrews 2:14-15 (NKJV) 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.