So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)
Adam and Eve would never have left voluntarily. They knew that the garden was the place of fellowship with God. And I think they wanted fellowship with God. I think that lapse, when they plunged into rebellious unbelief and turned their affections and their trust toward Satan, was over. They were God’s now, and they had repented. They had put their trust in God, and God had covered them.
Now they wanted fellowship with God, and they desired God’s presence and glory, and the garden was the place where they had always known that.
But God says, “You’re not suitable for my presence. I accept your repentance. I accept your faith. I cover you with my atonement. But you are not suitable for my presence. I’m going to secure you by throwing you out of the garden, because you would be such a danger to yourself and because you are not suitable for the fullness of my presence.”
And that’s how it is with us, isn’t it? You believed and you repented and the atonement of Jesus Christ provides a covering that cloaks you. Righteousness covers your guilt and shame. We are covered and we have repented and we have believed, but we aren’t suitable for His presence.
And so He says, “Out. You can’t come into my holy presence. And you can’t come into my garden, because if you do, you’ll take the tree of life and you will damn yourself to a hell of wretchedness forever and ever.”
This is a wonderful picture of security. We aren’t yet ready for His presence, but He prevents us from ever being damned. We aren’t yet ready for entering into the Holy of Holies, but believe me, He will never let us fall:
To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 25)
Hate evil, you who love Yahweh,
Who keeps the souls of His holy ones;
He delivers them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalm 97:10)
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
And I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish—ever; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:28-29)
There’s one last essential in the gospel that’s given here. On our part, salvation calls for hope.
Look at verse 23 again. God sends them out of the garden to cultivate the ground from which Adam was taken.
He says, “I’m sorry, that’s all for paradise. You’re out of here for your own good, because I have to keep you away from what would damn you.” He also throws man out into a very difficult life. He has to toil on cursed ground. And the woman has to bear children in pain.
He throws them out and He says, “Sorry, you’re going to have to live in sorrow. You’re going to have sorrow in childbirth, and you’re going to have sorrow in tilling the ground. You’re going to have sickness. You’re going to have suffering. You’re going to sweat. And in the end, you’re just going to die and turn back to a pile of dirt. You’re going to live your whole life feeling the weight of sin, bearing this pain and sorrow and suffering.”
And what will be welling up in their hearts as they live this way? Hope.
They will think, “Lord, when will it be over? When will the sorrow end? When will the suffering end? When will paradise be restored? I have seen the effects of sin. When does it end?”
Paradise regained becomes a hope for them, as it is for us. We don’t yet have what we have been promised, do we? I haven’t had all my problems eliminated. Neither have you. But we live in hope.
Sometimes people in the world look at us and they say, “You people must be crazy. You make all of these sacrifices. You follow Jesus. You say no to this and no to that. And you do this for some pie in the sky. You do this for something down the road. And then you get ill, or something happens to your kids, and God doesn’t stop it. It’s ridiculous. How can you live like this?”
We live like this because we believe the Word of God. And so did Adam. All that Adam could do was hope for the day when he could go back to paradise and commune with God as he once did.
Even though they were believers, even though they had repented, even though they had been forgiven, even though they had been covered, they were still sentenced to live a life of suffering and sorrow and pain and death. So they had to live in hope.
That’s the way we live. We hope for heaven. We hope for the fullness of the presence of God.
Why does God want us to live in hope? Because 1 John 3:3 says, “Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” This purifying hope is our anchor. In the words of Hebrews 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul.”
I look forward to heaven. Don’t you? And the longer you suffer in this life, the more you long for a peaceful, tranquil, joyous life. You long more for uninterrupted, perfect communion with God. Heaven appeals to you more. You can say with the psalmist in Psalm 39:7, “My expectation is in You.”
So you have in the end of Genesis 3 the essential elements of salvation. From man’s side, faith is the point of entry, and hope sustains us. From God’s side, atonement is the point of entry, and security sustains us. We believe and hope, and God atones and secures. In this way, the most tragic chapter in all the Bible ends with a glorious introduction to the good news of salvation.
Sinners, God has provided atonement. He will cover your sin and keep you secure until you reach eternal glory. It is available to you who believe and persevere in hope.
That’s what Adam and Eve had to do for a long time, and then one day hope became reality. They left that human flesh and entered in a perfect regenerated spirit into the presence of the creator, where there was awaiting them the communion they had so long wished for. And so it will be for us.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 2000 titled, “The Promise of Redemption, Part 2.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at masters.edu.
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