Genesis 2:4-17 (text); Revelation 22:1-5
The Christian faith is under severe attack again. The Da Vinci Code movie is now showing all around the world, discrediting Scripture’s inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility; rejecting the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the salvation that he has accomplished for his people. Then there’s the Lost Tomb of Jesus which denies the resurrection of Christ, his deity and his perfect, sinless life.
Just yesterday, I read about another sad attack on the Word of God. Bruce Waltke, a well-known, highly-respected Old Testament scholar, resigned from Reformed Theological Seminary as a result of his support of theistic evolution, which is a denial of the Biblical creation account even with its “theistic” label.
Today, some theologians completely discount the creation of Adam and Eve as a legend or myth. The story is just a parable to teach us a moral lesson. But what do our canonical Scriptures tell us about creation, Adam and Eve, and the Garden of Eden? It tells us that Adam was created righteous, holy, and with true knowledge. It tells us that he lived in God’s holy sanctuary where God provided him with riches for his nourishment and pleasure. It tells us that God placed him in Paradise with a responsibility to serve and to protect the land. It tells us that after our first parents fell into sin and the judgment of death, God promised them a final redemption through the Seed of the woman.
I submit to you this morning that the life of the first man Adam in Paradise was characterized by:
1. His Riches
2. His Responsibilities
3. His Redemption and Restoration
The first two chapters of Genesis are introduced with the phrase “the heavens and the earth” (1:1 and 2:1). But in 2:4, the narrative is introduced in the reverse: “the earth and the heavens.” Now Moses focuses on the details of Adam’s creation, and how God provided for him in the Garden of Eden.
God ensured that Adam and Eve and their descendants had everything they needed. After the creation of the earth, there were still two things that God needed to do:
(1) There was “no shrub of the field,” referring to wild shrub and grass on the fields and hills. These were inedible to Adam but edible to cattle and sheep. Why? Because God did not cause it to rain yet; only mists rose from the ground. So God caused a mist to rise from the land, the rivers, and the ocean to form rain-clouds.
(2) There was “no plant of the field,” which are cultivated plants and grains, such as wheat and barley. Why? Because there was no one to plow the fields and plant the seeds; man was not created yet. So God created Adam from the ground. The Scriptures use the same Hebrew word sounds for “Adam” and “ground.” Adam’s home, nourishment, and grave is the earth. The first Adam had an earthly existence.
But man is not like the animals. While animals were created “according to their likeness,” Adam was created by God in his own image. He had true holiness, righteousness, and knowledge (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). While animals were given breath, Adam had the breath of God, making him “a living soul.” While animals are only physical beings, man consists of body and soul.
After God took care of these two things, He created a Garden in the land, and placed Adam and Eve there. It was not our ordinary garden, but a perfect, pristine, lush garden with everything in it: all kinds of fruit-bearing trees and plants, good for food; all kinds of friendly animals, multi-colored birds and fish pleasing to the eyes and ears, and good for companionship; all kinds of blooming flowers, pleasing to the sight, smell, and touch. No wilderness preserve or national park can even come close to the Garden of Eden. All of these were given to Adam for his enjoyment and nourishment (1:28-29).
The Garden of Eden is pictured as a place on a hill or mountain with a river flowing out of it. This river flowed down from Eden. As it flowed down, it divided into four rivers which went to four different places. It is difficult to attach the names of the rivers and places to place-names today. It is sufficient to say that from Eden, the rivers flowed in all the four directions of the compass.
Precious stones are also mentioned: gold, onyx, and bdellium. Again, these are for Adam’s pleasure and use.
God gave Adam and Eve all that they needed and more. They had everything in abundance for food and pleasure in the Garden. On top of this, they were holy and righteous, and had fellowship with God. God directly spoke to them whenever God wanted to.
And on one of these conversations, God gave Adam some responsibilities, which included a most important command. With privileges given to them came responsibilities too.
The first responsibility is to “tend” the land.
It is helpful to look at different translations to get the meaning of this word in 2:15: “tend it and keep it” (NKJV); “dress and keep” (KJV); “work it and take care of it” (NIV); “work it and keep it” (ESV)
This includes the “cultural mandate” in Genesis 1:28. God had a couple of instructions to Adam regarding the land. First, he was to “fill the earth.” Second, he was to “subdue” the earth, which means to “keep under” or to “force.”
After the Fall, nature became hostile to man (3:17). Thus, it must be forced to serve man. So “subdue” in Genesis 1:28 implies that creation will not do man’s bidding gladly or easily and that man must now bring creation into submission by his God-given intelligence and strength. Nature is not to rule man.
However, corrupted humanity causes us to perform such a task mostly without regard for God’s good and pleasurable creation. Man has not been a good steward of the land which the Lord God has given to him.
In Genesis 2:15, God uses another word for man’s relationship with creation. He commanded Adam to “work” the land: the same word which means to “serve,” as in the service of slaves. Man is to till, cultivate, and make good use of creation’s resources. Is work part of God’s judgment on man? No, for even before the Fall, man is to work the land for his own benefit. Toil, not work, is God’s judgment on man. This is why the preacher says that all of man’s toiling is vanity, “All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied” (Eccl. 6:7).
So God is telling us here that we are both kings and servants of the earth. This means that we are to be benevolent kings of the earth. We must not fall into these two extremes: on the one hand, radical environmentalists: nature-centered; animals over man; no experimentation for man’s benefit (medical, scientific, etc); no service for man. On the other hand, environmental exploiters: man-centered; exploit the earth’s resources for personal and financial gain, without regard to earth’s destruction. God tells us here that our attitude toward nature must be balanced: subduing and forcing nature for our benefit; while also taking good care of it by not abusing or destroying it.
We are to tend the land.
The second responsibility is to “keep” the land.
The word used here means “guard,” “protect,” “watch,” or “take care of.” In other words, we are to “exercise great care over” God’s creation. The two words “work” and “keep” are the same words used for the responsibilities of Levitical priests in the Tabernacle (“serve” Num 4:23; “keep” Num 18:7).
The Garden of Eden is also called “the garden of God” (Ezek 28:13). This means that Eden is God’s Temple-Sanctuary; it is there where God and Adam would fellowship together; where God would teach Adam his ways. He is responsible for making sure that everything in God’s sanctuary is according to God’s instructions.
Adam’s responsibility is not only to tend and work God’s sanctuary. He is also to guard and protect it from all outsiders, from anything that is not according to God’s will. When Satan entered the Garden of Eden, Adam failed in his responsibility to deny the devil access to God’s sanctuary. In the same way, our responsibility as a congregation is to protect the church from Satan. Protect it from false teachings with true doctrine. Guard the holy sacraments from being desecrated. And warn covenant breakers with church discipline.
Adam’s responsibilities also include keeping the covenant of works.
Keeping and guarding the land also includes Adam keeping God’s covenant of works with him. Although the term “covenant of works” is not found in Scripture, here in our text we find all the elements of the covenant:
God’s covenant name YHWH is first introduced in Scripture here in Genesis 2:4. The two parties involved are God and Adam. The command is for Adam not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The blessing for obedience is eternal life and fellowship with God; the curse for disobedience is eternal death (physical and spiritual) and eternal separation from God. The sacramental sign of the covenant is the Tree of Life: a symbol of what Adam will have if he passed his probation.
But sadly, there are some, even within the Reformed community, who don’t accept the covenant of works. They say that Adam cannot merit God’s blessing by obedience; that grace was working even before Adam sinned. But “grace” means something given freely, an undeserved favor or merit. It is usually related to forgiveness of sins given by God to sinners. So how can grace be given to Adam before the Fall, if he has not sinned? How can forgiveness be given if he has not sinned?
After Adam sinned, then God has to bestow grace on him. Because without God’s grace, Adam would have died immediately after he ate of the forbidden tree. This he made clear when he emphasized to Adam that “when you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Here is where the Covenant of Grace comes in: after Adam’s sin, God was gracious and merciful to him that he wasn’t punished right then. God’s grace was not at work before the Fall.
People of God, do not mix these two covenants! The Roman church did, and it erroneously concluded that we’re still under the covenant of works; and therefore, we are justified by faith AND works. And some within the Reformed community are also mixing the doctrine of justification by faith with justification by works.
The Holy Scripture is clear: no amount of good works can make us righteous before God. Our obedience is the fruit of our gratitude to God for saving us through Christ, who fulfilled all the terms of the Covenant of Works. God says in his covenant with Adam: “Do this and you shall live.” But after Adam sinned, God tells us in the Covenant of Grace, “Christ has done all, therefore, if you belong to Christ, you shall live.”
This is the reason why we broke away from the Roman church, why we are Protestants. Let us not go back to Romanism with a doctrine of justification by faith and works!
Adam was to work and protect Eden, God’s sanctuary. He was also commanded not to eat of the forbidden tree. But he willfully rebelled against God, his good Creator.
His Redemption and Restoration
Here is also where the Covenant of Grace comes in after Adam sinned: that God would make a provision for his redemption and restoration.
God knew that Adam would fail the test. But “the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” to those whom he had chosen (Psa. 145:8). So He made another covenant with humanity: the covenant of grace. In this covenant, God promised Eve that her Seed would destroy the seed of the serpent.
But the covenant God made was not with the First Adam. It was with another man. In Rom. 5:12-19, Paul calls this man the Last Adam. As the First Adam represented all mankind without exception, the Last Adam represented God’s elect people without exception (1 Cor. 15:22).
You see, Paul says that sin and death came into the world because of Adam’s sin. All of mankind are bound for condemnation and eternal punishment because of the First Adam’s rebellion (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).
The serpent, the devil Satan himself, had a plan to destroy man. But his plan would fail. Because, in the fullness of time, God would send the Seed of the woman to fulfill what the first Adam failed to do. And that Seed is Christ himself, the Son of God.
The First Adam failed to obey God’s command. The Last Adam’s mission was to live in perfect obedience to God’s command all the way to his death. He was to fulfill the covenant of works that the First Adam broke. So he lived His whole life in perfect obedience to God’s law, even in temptation and suffering. He knew no sin, even when he was tempted (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22-24).
The First Adam was tempted in the Paradise of God. He had Eve and the animals as companions. He had all kinds of pleasurable food to eat, and a crystal clear river from which to drink. His environment was a beautiful, verdant garden. But even with all of these things, the first Adam rebelled against God. He failed to protect God’s temple from Satan. Instead of driving Satan away, Adam was driven away from God’s sanctuary.
Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. He had wild beasts as companions. He did not have anything to eat or drink. His environment was a hot, dry, barren wilderness. But unlike the first Adam, this Second Adam endured all of Satan’s temptations. Christ protected God’s temple from sin. He drove Satan away, so he could build God’s church.
And Jesus was obedient all the way to the cross (Phil. 2:7b-8). Because His death on the cross was part of His mission. You see, Christ’s mission was to redeem us from the curse of death that we deserve. And in God’s law, the death penalty is administered by hanging on a tree. Death by hanging on a tree is a sign of God’s curse (Deut. 21:23). This is why Paul and Peter refer to his death as a hanging on a tree (Acts 10:39; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24).
For Christ, that tree was the tree of death. The cross was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which brought condemnation and death not only to the First Adam, but also to the Last Adam.
But for those whom Christ represents, the tree on which Christ was hanged became the Tree of Life. Because by this Tree, we are redeemed from the curse of sin and death and eternal punishment, and given eternal life. By this Tree, we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to live in obedience to God. Not a perfect obedience like Christ’s, but certainly a will and mind that has a desire to glorify and obey God’s law.
However, this Tree of Life is not given to all; only to those who come to Christ in faith. Only to those who trust in Christ and his completed work on the cross. Do not keep on striving to atone for your sin by your good works. Your good works will never please God without faith in Christ because you will never be able to fulfill the covenant of works. Only Christ was able to fulfill the covenant of works, and He accomplished this mission for your salvation.
This Tree of Eternal Life is all yours if you believe in Christ alone.
Beloved in Christ, this is why God promised Ezekiel that in the consummation, trees of life will line the banks of a river of life flowing from the Final Temple. These trees will bear fruits “for food, and their leaves [will be] for healing” (Ezek. 47:12). And to the church in Ephesus, Christ’s promise is the same: if they endured to the end, He “will grant [them] to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7).
The First Adam was driven from the Garden of Eden, the Paradise of God, and as a result, we lost fellowship with God. But Christ, the Second Adam, is “God with us” now, and in eternity, He will dwell with you in the heavenly Paradise. Revelation 22:1-5 gives us a vivid description of your eternal life in this Paradise of God: You will not sin, for the Tree of Life in that Paradise will be “for the healing of the nations,” for the healing of your corruptible body and soul. There will be no night there, for He will be its Light. You will not thirst, for He will be the river that flows in all directions of the heavenly city. You will not hunger, for He will give you the fruits of the ever-bearing Tree of Life. This Tree of Life is Jesus Christ our life-giving Lord and Savior.
And most of all, in the Paradise of God, you will dwell with Immanuel and enjoy Him for eternity. For in that place, He will fellowship with you forever and ever. Amen.
AMG International, Inc. The Complete Word Study Old Testament. Iowa Falls: AMG Publishers, 1994.
Futato, Mark D. “Because It Had Rained,” Westminster Theological Journal 60:1 (Spring 1998).
Kline, Meredith G. Kingdom Prologue. South Hamilton, MA: M.G. Kline, 1983.
Waltke, Bruce K. and Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.