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GENESIS 3:22,23

Elder G. Beebe; Dear Sir: If you have light on the subject, and time to write, and space for publication, please give your views on Genesis 3:22,23, especially on the latter part: “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.”

Ephraim J. Pemberton,
Rushville, Ill.
December 21, 1864.

Without claiming any extraordinary light on the true figurative import of the words of this text, we will venture to give such views as we have on the subject, hoping they may serve to enlighten those who are anxiously inquiring after the truth, and, if nothing more, lead them to a close examination of the Scriptures.

We do not understand the account given of the creation of the world, the entrance of sin, the fall of man and the early propagation of his seed, etc., to have been written as a mere history of events to gratify the prying curiosity of men in the subsequent ages of the world. The book of Genesis is not a record of facts noted as they transpired and so transmitted to posterity, like all profane history, but written by Moses more than two thousand years after the creation of the world. As Moses wrote by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, we infer not only the sacred truth of what is written as the testimony of God himself, but also that the sacred import of the record is, like all other parts of divine revelation, the opening of the mouth of God in parables, and the uttering of dark sayings, and all designed to be made plain in due time to the expanding understanding of the children of God by the same Spirit which inspired Moses to write. Instead then of reading it as a mere literal history of events, we regard every line and every word as the inspiration of God himself, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things which are to be fulfilled in the fullness of the dispensation of times. A clear understanding of these early records will show to the divinely instructed pupil in the school of Christ a perfect and beautiful cluster of types pointing to Christ, and the salvation of his church and people, in which the two parallel mysteries, godliness and iniquity, are strikingly developed. Had we the ability, the time and space, we would review the whole record from Genesis 1:1 to the text on which we are now requested to bestow our attention, but we must let it suffice for the time, to express some thoughts on the expulsion of man from the garden of Eden, and some things therewith connected. First, God in his triune relation as Father, Word and Spirit, not as three Gods, but the only true and living God, revealed in creation, providence and grace, created the world by the Word, for, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God (Hebrews 11:3).” “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds (Hebrews 1:1,2).” This accounts for the plural form of the pronoun: “Let us make man in our image.” And in our text, “Behold, the man is become as one of us.” Christ is declared to be the image of the invisible God, and the express image of his person, and the brightness of his glory (see Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3), and Adam is the figure of him that was to come (Romans 5:14). Man was not, as we understand, directly the image of the invisible God, but was made after that image, a facsimile, a figure, a type of Christ; “after our likeness.” Not like God in infinity, immortality or deity, but as a figure of the dominion of Christ over all created things, having dominion over the beasts of the field, fowls of the air, fishes of the sea and every creeping thing, etc. Nor do we understand that his created elements or perfections were like the uncreated attributes of his Creator, for then he could not have fallen, but the likeness and image was confined to his being the figure of him that was to come, that is, of Christ. Not only as lord over the animal creation, but also as the head of a posterity which God had created in him, also in his identity with his bride, and finally in all that is recorded of him in the Scriptures; he was the first Adam, Christ the second Adam. But let us not mistake, for that Adam which was first was not spiritual, but natural, but afterward that which is spiritual, as seen in the second Adam, which is the Lord from heaven. The first Adam was of the earth earthy, his antitype is heavenly; the first was natural, the last spiritual; the first was made a living soul, the second is a quickening Spirit.

Second, the first estate of man. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Here in an earthly paradise, which is also figurative of the church or garden of the Lord, man in his primeval rectitude was placed by his Creator, surrounded with every comfort for the eye and for the taste, all planted by the Lord God himself, and growing luxuriantly without the labor of man, and all perfectly adapted to the condition of man in his original purity, yet man was natural, and the garden natural, and all their surroundings were natural. In this consisted the adaptation, for if the garden and its trees, its plants and fruits, had been spiritual, they could neither have been pleasant to his sight nor good for food. As a natural man he could not see or discern spiritual things, nor could his natural and earthly nature have subsisted on spiritual food, yet Adam, being natural, could and did prefigure Him that is spiritual; and so also did the garden and trees, plants, rivers, etc., being natural, prefigure the church and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this garden was found every tree and everything that was pleasant to the sight, or good for food, or that could contribute to the support and comfort of man in his then present condition, but of these we propose to notice two trees which are particularly mentioned, and to show what they particularly represented.

1. The tree of life is mentioned, which was in the midst of the garden. This tree was among those of which man had permission to eat freely, and so long as he continued to eat of it, and obeyed the command of God to touch not, taste not and handle not the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it was to him the tree of life, for without transgression he could not die. The figurative allusion points to the tree of life, of which Christ is the Root and the Offspring (Revelation 22:2,14,16), the type being natural and the antitype spiritual.

2. The tree of knowledge of good and evil, being the only tree or thing in the garden that man was forbidden to touch or taste, is appropriately called the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for man without touching or tasting it could not have known evil, any more than we could have known sin except the law had said, “Thou shalt not covet.” But in partaking of it man became a sinner, and with his transgression death entered and passed on all the unborn posterity, which, being in him, were involved in the transgression, and consequently to the knowledge of evil. This tree, we understand, was designed to represent the law of God, the transgression of which brings guilt, condemnation and death to the offenders. In support of this position we assume, and shall endeavor to show, that the law of God answers to this figure, beyond all doubt or controversy.

It is a tree of knowledge of sin; of evil. “The sting of death is sin: and the strength of sin is the law (I Corinthians 15:56).” Where there is no law there can be no transgression, for sin is the transgression of the law. Hence it is written, By the deeds of the law no flesh living shall be justified in the sight of God. In perfect agreement, as we conceive, with the application of the figure were the circumstances connected with the giving of the law at Sinai. Three days before the descent of the Lord to proclaim his law he commanded Moses to sanctify the people of Israel, and to admonish them to come not up to touch the mountain on pain of death. “And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: There shall not a hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live (Exodus 19:12,13).” And after Moses had faithfully given this charge, and the time appointed had come, the Lord called Moses to him and again sent him down to repeat the solemn warning: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. And Moses said unto the Lord, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it. And the Lord said unto him, Away, get thee down; and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee; but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the Lord, lest he break forth upon them.” (Exodus 19:21-24; compared with Hebrews 7:18-21) How remarkable the coincidence when we compare the charge given to Adam (Genesis 2:17) and the charge given as copied above concerning Mount Sinai. The law of God, as given to Adam in this figure, and as reiterated in its covenant and perceptive form by Moses, clearly shows that no man can approach unto God by the law, for it could not give life, or righteousness should have been by it, but it is the ministration of death. An apostle tells us that the law is not made for a righteous man, and again that the law entered that the offence might abound, and that sin might appear exceeding sinful. So we see that man while in innocence could have no knowledge of evil, and consequently could not by comparing know good and evil, or good from evil.

Third. We now propose to show that Adam in partaking of the tree of knowledge, as in every other incident recorded of him, was the figure of him that was to come. Eve, who was created in Adam, and a part of himself, bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, and called woman, because she was taken out of the man, living in his vitality and existing in his flesh and bones, bore the same natural relationship to him that the church of God does of spiritual relation and identity to the second Adam, which is the Lord from heaven. For we are his (God’s) workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. And as Eve was the bride, the wife of Adam in this figure, so the church of God, which was created in the second Adam, was and is the bride, the Lamb’s wife, his body, his flesh and his bones. In this presentation of the figure let us trace the analogy in a few particulars. “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived; but the woman being deceived, was in the transgression (I Timothy 2:13,14).” Was it not even so in the application of these words to Christ and the church? Might not our apostle here add, as in Ephesians 5:32, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church?” Certainly Christ in identifying himself with the transgression of the church was not deceived. Well did he count the cost; well did he know that in bearing the sins of his people he must die, and for that very purpose came he into the world, and was made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law. Well did he know that to redeem his church unto God he must be made sin for her, that he must bear her sins in his own body on the tree. Now hear what Adam said when arraigned in judgment, and imagine his words as uttered prophetically as from the lips of Christ, the second Adam: “The woman whom thou gayest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Some have fancied themselves wise enough to tell us what were the thoughts and design of Adam in using these nineteen words, instead of frankly acknowledging the truth in a single word. Some have concluded that his object was to charge the blame on Eve, or on the Creator himself, for having given him such a wife, but we confess that our line is too short to reach the thoughts and intents of Adam’s mind; but whatever they were, we read in them a prophecy of the Husband of the church of God. “Thine they were, and thou gayest them me.” For what purpose were they given him? This is the will of the Father, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing. And, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).”

Now let us consider the circumstances of Adam’s complicity with his wife in the transgression. How stood the case? Did not Adam tell the truth in saying that God gave him the woman to be with him as a companion and help-meet for him? God had said, It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a help-meet for him. And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man made he a woman, and brought her unto the man; and Adam said, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The design of God that she should be with him, as a help-meet for him, and that through them to people this world, is too apparent to admit of contradiction, and the type with equal clearness applies to the spiritual Adam, and Jerusalem, which is above, and is free, and the mother of all the promised seed, designed to people the new heaven and new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. Shall we now indulge in vain speculation, and suppose Adam, being not deceived, had refused to follow Eve into the transgression? What then? Eve is involved in sin, she must be driven out of the garden alone and forbidden to eat of the tree of life; a separation final and everlasting must have followed. Adam in innocence could not go with her, Eve in transgression could not return to Adam. Suppose again, when the bride elect of Christ, beguiled by the old serpent, had fallen under the curse of the righteous law of God, the heavenly Bridegroom had resolved to let her go. An indissoluble union must then have been broken, a purpose of the immutable God must have failed, and the Bridegroom and the bride irrecoverably put asunder. Did Adam love his guilty bride? Did Jesus love his fallen and law-condemned people? Though Eve could not return to Adam, Adam could go to her, and such was the strength of his love, stronger than death, it was the only alternative. Rather than part, he plunges with her into death, that the union may be perpetuated. And hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth. God, who is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith he hath loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Thus far, then, the figure bears in its application to Christ and his church. Truly, “He hates putting away.” Once more: How was Adam involved in the transgression of Eve? Simply by receiving at the hand of his erring wife the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which we have taken to represent the law, and eating thereof, and by doing this came legally under the penalty of that law, and irrevocably doomed to die on that selfsame day, and do we not see the application of the figure to our divine Redeemer? He lived and reigned above the law that his people had transgressed, but to carry out the eternal purpose that, where he is, there his church shall be also. He bowed his heavens and came down. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. He was made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law. At the hand of his church he receives the fruits of the tree, or law; he who knew no sin is made sin for us, that we may be made the righteousness of God in him. His children being partakers of flesh and blood, he also likewise takes part of the same. His people are transgressors, he is voluntarily numbered with the transgressors, and the iniquities of all his people are laid on him. It pleased the Lord to bruise him. Partaking of the fruit of the law, he dies, but being in this so far superior to his type, he had power to lay down his life, and power to take it again. Adam the first could go no further than to involve himself in the condemnation under which his beguiled and deceived wife had fallen; he could share with her fate, but had no power to redeem or to deliver her.

Fourth. We come now to that part of the subject on which our correspondent desired us to write, as stated in Genesis 3:22, which we propose to consider in connection with the two succeeding verses of the same chapter.

1. We will offer a few thoughts on the import of the declaration of the Lord God in relation to the changed condition of man in consequence of having eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” The figure was now complete. Adam, who, according to the express purpose of his creation, was to be a type, likeness, figure or image of his Maker, of Christ, of him that was to come, of “one of us,” had now attained to the perfection of that imagery, not only as the first Adam, the head and embodiment of his natural posterity, a perfect figure of the second Adam, who is the head and embodiment of the spiritual seed, in whom also was the life and substance of his bride, but now, in eating of the tree which prefigured the law, Adam, who knew no sin or evil before, is made sin for her. While in a state of innocency what could even Adam know? But now, in receiving at the hand of his wife the fruit of the tree, the law, by which is the knowledge of sin, or of evil, the law being the ministration of death, he came to a knowledge of evil, and thus more perfectly the figure of Him that was to come; the figure of him who is holy, harmless, separate from sinners; of him who knew no sin, yet for the sake of his church became sin, by being made under the law, and by the assumption of all his people, who thus by following his bride in the transgression secured the purpose for which she was given to him, namely to be with him. Thus the man became as one of us in that particular, that is, by his knowledge of good and evil, the type of him who should bear his people’s sins in his own body on the tree. We cannot perceive that Adam’s knowledge of good and evil made him like his Maker in any other sense than that of being the figure of him that was to come, in actually coming under the curse and penalty of the law, for even of good and evil his knowledge could not approach the infinite knowledge of the supreme God. The “one of us” we understand was and is the man who is the fellow of the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 13:7).

2. Man’s expulsion from the garden was a consequence resulting from his connection with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. “And now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.” The evil which Adam knew, in consequence of eating of the tree of knowledge, was a pollution of his nature, and the sentence of mortality; death. “For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” This sentence placed Adam and his posterity beyond the reach of the tree of life. Christ’s coming under the law and bearing the sins of his people involved the necessity of his death in the same day, or dispensation, in which he was made of a woman, made under the law. In fulfillment of this figure, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, he suffered without the gate, that is, without the gate of Jerusalem, which figuratively signifies the same as did the garden of Eden. Here, perhaps, the figure ends, for Adam could not redeem himself or his bride. He had no power to raise from the dead or deliver himself, his bride or his posterity from the sentence of the law which consigned him to death. The tree of life in the midst of Eden, which was accessible to man as long as he remained in the garden, to agree with this whole cluster of figures, was natural life. As long as he remained in innocence and abstained from the forbidden fruit of the law, the tree of life secured to him that life which he had, and all the comforts adapted to his condition as an innocent man. He required no other, and indeed was not capacitated for the appreciation of spiritual life; that capacity he could not have without being born again, for the Scripture declares that that Adam which was first was not spiritual, but natural. And again, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit,” etc. And, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Now the sentence of death being upon Adam, and all his race in him, demanded his expulsion from the garden in which was the tree of life. The reader will observe that though the tree of life in the garden represented the natural life which man then possessed, yet it was figurative of the tree of spiritual, immortal or eternal life, which is found only in the midst of the paradise of God.

3. Prohibited now from the tree of life, and condemned to die, we see man totally divested of all power to put forth his hand. He could not take of the tree of life to shield himself from the execution of the sentence which had passed on him, and on all mankind in him. From the hour in which he was driven out of the garden neither he nor any of his race have had power to perpetuate their natural lives one moment beyond the bounds which God has set. The days of man are as the days of an hireling, so that he cannot pass the bounds.

4. But viewing the tree of life, as figurative of that tree of spiritual life of which our Lord Jesus Christ is the root and offspring, we have one of the most clear and positive presentations of the total inability of man to raise himself from a state of condemnation and death, either by the law or the gospel. Not by the law, for he is condemned already by the law, and the wrath of God abides upon him; nor by the gospel, for he is driven out from the garden in which that tree is planted, and the way to it is kept by cherubim and a flaming sword, which turneth every way, meeting him at every possible point. How utterly hopeless are all the efforts of men to put forth their hand. The cherubim, or spirit of the holy law, watches every movement with untiring vigilance, and the flaming sword meets them at every turn. Nothing that the hand of man can perform, no offering that in their hand the sons of men can bring, can gain for them access to the tree of life. Nothing short of the way of holiness, the new and living way which God has consecrated for his people through the flesh of our Redeemer, can open to any man the gates of salvation. Christ is the only and blessed Potentate, who only hath immortality dwelling in the light which no man hath seen, or can see, whom no man can approach unto. He is the Way, and the Truth, and Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by him. Nor is there any possible evasion of this truth. He that hath the Son of God hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life. The way of the tree of life is securely kept; no fowl knoweth it, the vulture’s eye hath not seen it, nor hath the lion’s whelp trodden it.

In connection with the foregoing, it may be well to consider the destination of fallen man, as long as he shall remain on earth. “Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man,” etc. “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life: thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field: in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” How changed is the condition of man! Expelled from the garden which God had planted and blessed, where every comfort grew spontaneously that he could possibly need or desire while in a state of innocence, but now having become a sinner, and fallen under the curse of the law which he had violated, the productions of this garden were no longer suited to his condition, and even the outer world or earth into which he was cast was unsuited to his condition until God, for his sake, had pronounced a curse upon it. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake.” Now doomed to encounter the thorns and thistles, and in sweat and labor, in toil and sorrow was he doomed to seek his subsistence from the earth out of which he was taken, until his wearisome days of labor and sorrow should be accomplished, and then his earthly body should sink back into the bosom of the earth still groaning under the curse which for his sake was laid upon it. How strikingly in all this is the present condition of his fallen progeny portrayed! Fallen man doomed, as a righteous judgment of God, to seek and labor and sweat and toil to procure support and happiness from the earth, and forbidden and prohibited from putting forth his hands to take of the tree of life. Is it then surprising that the propensities of man are all drawn to the earth? Not only is he toiling for the support of his earthly body, but also for the comfort of his earthly mind. All his conceptions of a religious nature are also worldly, earthly, sensual and devilish, and as such they are always work-mongrel, and in his alienation from the tree of life he can conceive of no higher order of religion than that which he can attain to by his works, and works, too, which must perish and finally be consumed, when the earth and all the works thereof shall be burned up.

Lastly. As Eve and all the kindred of the earth are embraced in the earthly Adam, and all die in him, so all the church and seed of Christ are quickened in the second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven. In Romans 5:14, we read that after the similitude of Adam’s transgression he (Adam) is the figure of him that was to come, that he is in the similitude the figure of Christ, who has now come. “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence [not offenses, but a single offence] of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded to many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. For if by one man’s offence [or as in the margin, by one offence] death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as by the offence of one [or by one offence] judgment came upon all men to condemnation [that is, upon all the posterity of the one man]; even so by the righteousness of one, [or as rendered in the margin, by one righteousness] the free gift came upon all men [that is, all whom he represented] unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Thus in the transgression of the first Adam, whereby he involved all his natural posterity in sin, guilt, condemnation and death, the inspired apostle could see a similitude of redemption and justification to life of all the seed of Christ by his righteousness.

We have extended our reply to our correspondent to a great length, but venture to hope that we have not darkened counsel by words without knowledge. We have felt unwilling to give such views as we have on the single verse proposed, believing that we could make ourselves better understood by taking the general range of the whole subject. If our prolixity shall render what we have written dull and uninteresting to some, we hope that some at least may read it with profit and edification.

Middletown, N.Y.
April 1, 1865.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 162 - 173