We were made by God to have a relationship with Him. We can catch a glimpse of the type of relationship He intended when we see God Himself walking in the Garden of Eden and talking to Adam and Eve one-to-one.
"Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?' He answered, 'I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.'" Genesis 3:8-10.
Sin, however, had entered the picture at this point in the narrative, and the relationship that Adam and Eve had shared with God was clearly broken.
Furthermore, the consequences of what happened in the Garden of Eden continued on to affect all of the descendants of Adam:
"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned …." Romans 5:12.
But what actually happened when Adam and Eve disobeyed the command not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? The Bible tells us that death would result:
"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.'" Genesis 2:15-17.
But, since Adam and Eve did not die on the spot physically, did death actually come to them that day?
Eternal Life is a Relationship with God
When we look at the response of Adam and Eve to the presence of God, we can infer a dramatic change in their relationship to Him. They hide and are ashamed.
It is this break in their relationship with God that is significant; because it is the relationship itself that is a matter of life or death.
Take a look at the definition of eternal life:
"Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." John 17:1-3.
Eternal life is a relationship with God – that we may know Him. Therefore, we can extrapolate that death is a break or separation from a relationship with God.
Consequently, death did occur that day in the Garden of Eden, because there was a break in Adam and Eve's relationship with God. But death becomes a bit more complicated when dealing with a God who is triune in nature. Technically, one can have a relationship with each member of the Trinity.
Life or death, then, becomes a three-fold progression to or away from God.
Scripture plainly tells us that God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in Matthew 28:18-20 and 2 Corinthians 13:14.
We can also see the Trinity present and active at the time of Creation.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." Genesis 1:1-2.
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." Genesis 1:26.
The Hebrew for "God" in Genesis 1:1 is "Elohim," which is in plural form. Likewise, in Genesis 1:26, the plural nature of God is emphasized by the statement to make man in "our image, in our likeness."
In Genesis, we see God as the Will, the Word (i.e. Embodiment) and the Spirit of God.
Image of God
In order to have a "one-to-one" relationship with another, there has to be a shared nature. As much as I love my pets, my relationship with them will never be on par with the relationship that I can have with another human being.
The Bible tells us that man was made in the image of God. Since God is triune in nature, it should not be surprising that we are as well:
"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
God created man to be like Him. As such, we have the potential to commune with Him fully: Our spirit to the Holy Spirit; our body to the Body of Christ; and our will to the Will of the Father.
Life or death is a wonderful (or terrible) symmetry between the triune natures of God and man.
We see life as a progression from spiritual life to immortal life to eternal life. Likewise, we see death as a progression from spiritual death to physical death to eternal death.
Both hinge, however, on the issue of sin.
Tree of Law
Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying a direct commandment from God not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As soon as they ate, their eyes were opened and they knew right from wrong. They also became aware of their sin.
The Apostle Paul explains their (and our) dilemma this way:
"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 was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.' But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from 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. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 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 7:7-13.
We recognize good and evil, but our sinful natures cannot stop doing evil. We are unable to fulfill the requirements of the law.
Before we can become reconciled to God, the problem of sin must be dealt with. This is because God requires us to be holy.
"Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy." Leviticus 19:2.
The Apostle Paul addresses the solution to this dilemma, as well:
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be full met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1-4.
The Sin Offering
Sin requires the penalty of death.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23.
Simply, someone has to die.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness by sewing fig leaves together and making coverings for themselves. These man-made coverings were inadequate, however. So, God Himself made coverings for them out of animal skins.
Thus, the principle of the substitutionary sacrifice was established: "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." Leviticus 17:11.
"In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." Hebrews 9:22.
But the blood of an animal can never take away sins of a man. (See Hebrews 10:3-4.) Only the substitutionary death of a sinless man can take away the sins of another man.
So God Himself became that sinless man, and became the Sin Offering for all of mankind. (See Hebrews 10:11-14.) Imagine that! God became like us.
"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." Hebrews 2:14-18.
Unlike the myriad of animals that died under the sacrificial system, Jesus Christ offered Himself willingly. Nor did He remain dead. Instead, He had victory over death. And through His death and resurrection, we can too.
"For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." 1 Corinthians 15:21-22.
Someone has to pay the penalty for sin – but it can be either the sinner or the Substitute. The choice is up to each one of us.
The Tree of Life and the Cross
God did an interesting thing after he clothed Adam and Eve with garments of skin. He barred them from the Garden.
"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. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sward flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:22-24.
So, what kind of life did the Tree of Life actually represent?
The answer can be ascertained from the fact that the bodies of Adam and Eve, which were made out of the dust of the earth, were naked. If you do a word search for the term "naked," you will find the following passage:
"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Corinthians 5:1-5.
It appears that our mortal bodies are considered to be naked until they are clothed with immortality. It seems logical then, in order to have a one-to-one relationship with an Immortal God, we must become immortal as well.
But God prohibited Adam and Eve from eating of the Tree of Life while they were in a sinful state. So how can we, the inheritor’s of Adam’s sinful nature, progress to immortality?
We just need to find another Tree of Life.
I do not think that it is a coincidence that the Cross is called a tree (See Acts 5:29-31 and Galatians 3:13) or that we are symbolically commanded to eat and drink the body and blood of Christ (See 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
The Cross has become our Tree of Life and Jesus Christ is its fruit. Like the original Tree of Life, its fruit is offered freely. We have the choice, however, whether we will eat from it.
Remember the two thieves who were crucified with Christ. Both were about to die for their own sins. One "ate" from the Tree of Life and went on to be with the Lord in Paradise. The other died and paid for his own sins. See Luke 23:39-43.
New life begins with the spirit, which makes sense because death began there in Eden.
"Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.'" John 3:5-6.
The progression to Eternal Life begins when the Holy Spirit is reconciled with our spirit. He comes to live in us and He has fellowship with our spirit.
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." John 14:15-17.
"The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." Romans 8:16.
The presence of the Holy Spirit in our bodies is also a guarantee of our next progression to immortal life. At some point in the future, we will be joined to Christ's Immortal Body.
"But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." Romans 8:10-11.
"After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church." Ephesians 5:29-32.
"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.
Finally, after all of mankind is judged and assigned to either the "first resurrection" or the Lake of Fire, a new heaven and a new earth will be created. At that time, God the Father will dwell with men.
"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." Revelation 21:3.
At that point, we will know the Father, Son and Holy Spirit on a one-to-one basis. We will have Eternal Life.
If a person does not choose Christ, however, he will remain spiritually dead. He is already condemned.
"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." John 3:16-18.
Physical death will come next, and we are told that the unsaved are sent to hell while they await judgment. See Luke 16:19-31. Unlike the Christian, who goes to be with Christ upon physical death. See Philippians 1:21-24.
"Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." Hebrews 9:27-28.
It is interesting to note that everyone will be resurrected to an eternal existence of either life or death. (See Revelation 20 which contrasts the "first resurrection" and the "second death" which is the Lake of Fire.)
"Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." Daniel 12:2.
"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." John 5:28-29.
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Matthew 25:46.
Those who die in their sins, will spend eternity paying the penalty for their sins – eternal death. Their separation from the Spirit, Body and Will of God will be complete.
Made in the image of the Last Adam
We are told that Adam "was a pattern of the one to come."
"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come." Romans 5:12-14.
Death came through Adam. Likewise, new life comes through Jesus Christ.
"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." 1 Corinthians 15:20-27.
Through Him, we have the expectation of an immortal body – like His. In fact, we will be made in His image.
"If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam, a life giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven." 1 Corinthians 15:44-49.
Jesus Christ is the firstborn of all those who will have victory over death.
"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church, he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." Colossians 1:18-20.
We will be able to commune with Him one-to-one because we will be like Him.
One-to-one Relationship with God
There is an interesting account between Moses and the Lord in which Moses requests to see His face:
"Then Moses said, 'Now show me your glory.' And the Lord said, 'I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,' he said, 'you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.' Then the Lord said, 'There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.'" Exodus 33:18-23.
Sinful man cannot look at the face of God and live. But through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our sins can be taken away.
"For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:11-12.
Furthermore, we have the hope of a resurrection which will transform us into His image.
"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." 1 John 3:2.
Then, we will be able to relate to the Triune God one-to-one with our spirit, body and soul.
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." Revelation 22:1-5.
We will dwell with God in the New Jerusalem – a new Eden, complete with a tree of life. He will seek us out in the cool of the day. And we will see Him, face-to-face, as He intended.
– Lisa Taylor