The first two chapters of Genesis speak of a perfect world. It was a place where all creation existed under the dominion of those who were made in God’s image and lived in God’s presence. This harmonious relationship resulted in a world living within Creator God’s perfect shalom—peace, wholeness, goodness.
The man and the woman were unique among all physical creatures. They, alone, had been made in God’s image. This meant that they were created to be part of God’s household. They were His children. As God’s children they were expected to know their Father’s love for them and let the knowledge of His love lead them to trust Him. Like good children, their response of love would be seen in how they reflected their Father’s heart and purpose in all they did.
While all creation was declared good, there was trouble brewing in the heavenlies as some of God’s spiritual household didn’t like this new kid in town. Up until this point, they alone had been God’s household and had unlimited access to His presence and love. While we don’t know their motives (was it just pride or was there more?), we do know that something motivated many of them to rebel against their Creator and to try to take His place on the throne.
One element of their rebellious plan included the sabotage of these new, physical members of God’s family. The one we call the serpent came to visit the humans. I think it is helpful to remember that one Hebrew word for serpent is seraph (plural is seraphim—sound like any Holy Holy Holy hymns you know?). This word points to both a fiery snake and the fiery (glowing) angelic beings who reside in the very presence of God (remember Isaiah 6:1-4?). While this is not the word used in Genesis 3, any ancient reader would have made the connection. Eve was talking to a spiritual being.
The serpent tempts the couple to doubt God’s love for them. “He’s holding out on you. There is a better life available, but you will need to grab it for yourselves.” The man and the woman exercise their free will. Their disobedience requires that a curse be brought upon the serpent, the humans and all creation. Shalom is gone. Relationships are shattered. The unity and the love God intended becomes a memory.
The rebellious heavenly host continued their effort to disrupt God’s intent. They didn’t want any of these humans to faithfully honor the God with whom they were at war. They were largely successful at keeping the masses from serving Creator God. So Creator God stepped in and weakened the human battle against Him by assigning languages and breaking them into smaller groups (Genesis 11). He then declared that He would start over again by selecting one man and one woman who would have the faith to trust His word and believe what He promised. Creator God would reestablish His Edenic vision through their offspring. That couple as Abram and Sarai.
The rest of the Old Testament is the story of a great battle as God’s people seek to be faithful to God while the rebellious heavenly host and their human allies work hard to sabotage God’s effort. It looks like the rebels are successful, but then someone new and unexpected shakes things up.
Remember what the demonic realm said to Jesus so many times? “We know who you are!” “Why have you come?” “What do you want with us?” The rebellious heavenly host were having strategy meetings trying to figure out why the Word of God had come in human form (remember how God’s word appeared with human manifestation in many O.T. stories, see 1 Samuel 3 and notice the physical attributes given to the Word).
[Sidebar note: The Old Testament reveals Creator God as an exalted, holy and unapproachable Spirit who sometimes interacts with humans by taking on a physical appearance (called the Word or the Angel of the Lord) and who, from time to time, also empowers those humans by His Spirit. Why was it that Jewish disciples and even the Pharisee named Saul could so quickly embrace Jesus as Lord (the term used in the Old Testament for Almighty God)? Why did the Apostle John start his gospel by saying Jesus is the Word that was in the beginning? I think it is simply because they knew their Old Testament. We now return you to our story.]
The rebellious heavenly host knew that Creator God was up to something, but they didn’t know what. So they did what they always knew to do. If someone is in your way, kill him.
What they didn’t realize is that Creator God had formed His whole plan around the fact that they would do this. This was part of His “secret wisdom.” God crafted this plan before time began and He hid it from all beings until after it was finished. “None of the rulers of this age [this is not limited to physical kings here] understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). This is God’s “mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations but is now disclosed for the saints. To them God has made known the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossian 1:26-27).
Not only was Creator God recreating His Edenic vision, but He was also reaching into the very territory that had been won by the rebellious heavenly host and ransoming back for Himself those who had been held captive for so long. Having established a beachhead in Jerusalem, God now began to expand His kingdom rule one heart at a time.
But to what end? What is this Edenic vision God is returning us too?
Did you catch that last phrase in Colossians 1:27? “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Because Christ is in us, we have a certain hope—a promise—of glory. These fallen, twisted, sin-sick, virus-prone, aging bodies of ours are temporary. We will one day move out of these flapping, inadequate tents and move into an “eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
This heavenly body is a spiritual body that is able to live forever and able to endure being in God’s presence (2 Corinthians 15:35-57). When Jesus returns and we are glorified, then all creation will be restored, freed from its bondage to decay and returned to its original state of being “good” (Romans 8:19-25). At that time there will be a new heaven and a new earth that will come together so that God will live among His people and His people will use their gifts, creativity, ideas, and ingenuity to serve Him in love.
We are destined to be members of God’s household. Participating in His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) we will live with the Father and live like the Father as we serve Him within His shalom. Really? Yes, really!
The Bible records the greatest story ever told and it concludes with these words from Revelation 21 and 22:
5 “And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. 7 All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children…Behold, I am coming soon!...Behold, I am coming soon!...Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come Lord Jesus.”
Oh, my dear friends. There is so much more to share here but I want to leave you with the encouraging truth that your life is about far more than you may realize. As we journey through this spiritually war-torn land remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood. There is a bigger story going on here, one that has been happening for millennia.