Friday, January 8, 2016

Lesson 2: Crisis in Eden

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Rebellion and Redemption

Lesson 2: Crisis in Eden

How did evil get started in the perfect world which God created "in the beginning"? The answer is astonishing: Human beings invited the devil in, opened the door to him, welcomed him—Adam and Eve. The devil could not push himself in unless our first parents should invite him into their home. We can understand this even today, for evil cannot intrude into a person's heart and control him unless he first gives his consent. In creating man "in His own image," the Creator endowed him with the ability to reason and to choose. The enemy took advantage of this freedom and deceived man.
The name that our enemy has earned for himself is "the great dragon, ... that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan" (Rev. 12:9). This key unlocks the account in Genesis so that we can understand how Satan was able to deceive the first parents of the human race. God had faithfully warned them: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:16, 17).
Disguised as a creature of great beauty and intelligence, and pretending to express concern for our happiness, "the serpent" intruded himself at the forbidden tree. "He said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? ... God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods [Hebrew, God], knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:1, 5). The path by which Satan found entrance was a temptation to taste-test something which God had wisely forbidden, "the knowledge of good and evil." The temptation was not a bald attack on "good." It was to invite evil in also. Satan knows better than to tempt us to renounce "good" completely. All he needs is to get us to combine good with evil.
It is true that "in the beginning," God did create opposites, evening and morning, night and day, male and female, earth and water, etc., and all were to be harmonious. But He did not endorse evil as an opposite to good; it was to be totally rejected. The serpent's argument went like this: If God has created all these opposites, if male and female are to be one, why not see evil as an acceptable opposite to good? God was holding back something from them, he said, some knowledge that would enhance their happiness and actually enable them to realize that they too were divine, yes, were "God." They could discover Him within themselves. Our mother Eve embraced the deception, seized the fruit and ate, and then persuaded her husband to join her in the experiment.
Eve actually believed the serpent's deception; Adam did not. He joined her in the evil step only because he loved her. Whatever this mysterious, unknown thing to come might be that God said was "death," he chose to share it with her. But mother Eve's original deception included the idea that there would be no death: "Ye shall not surely die," the wily serpent had assured her. Here is the origin of the idea of the natural immortality of the human soul.
His three deceptions were woven together into one strand: There will be no death, for Eve believed the serpent that man's nature is immortal; "knowing good and evil" is essential, for there is a conjunction of opposites; and "ye shall be God," for divinity dwells within every immortal human soul and only awaits self-realization.
Something unwelcome arose in the minds of our first parents following their sin: the sense of guilt. Its immediate effect was a painful shame and the desire to hide. The conscious mind could not tolerate the unwelcome thought of guilt repugnant to the conscience.
The 1888 message helps us to discern the deeper meaning of the entrance of sin into our world. What the tiny acorn is to the mighty oak, the sin of our first parents in Eden was to Calvary. As the oak is in the acorn, so the sin of Calvary was in the Edenic sin. But as the oak is not visible in the acorn, so the sin of Calvary was not discerned by Adam and Eve in their sin. They saw the "acorn," but could not dream of the existence of the "oak." "Every sin committed awakens the echoes of the original sin." [1] They with us are equally guilty of crucifying the Son of God. The original sin of the first pair was the acorn that grew into the oak of Calvary.
The basic sin of Adam and Eve was an unconscious one. Hence the prayer of Christ included them: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). The full magnitude of a conscious realization of their sin would have overwhelmed Adam and Eve so terribly that they would have died on the spot as God promised they should. But as the conscience could not endure this knowledge of guilt, it was thrust back by censorship, and the mechanism of repression began. In the expulsion from Eden commenced the separation between the conscious and the unconscious systems, and the beginning of the function of a psychic barrier between them.
The descendants of Adam and Eve heartily repented of Eve's folly and maintained a firm loyalty to the original truth of God. Genesis calls them "the sons of God" (Gen. 6:2). They became the progenitors of an unbroken line of generations of faithful worshippers of God who believed that man had forfeited immortality by rebellion against Him and could obtain it only through faith in a divine Saviour to come and in His sacrifice. These faithful believers in God's truth cherished the promise that He made to the serpent in the presence of the guilty pair in Eden: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15). A. T. Jones explains, "This putting enmity between man and Satan has broken up man's contentment with evil, and now he hates it. In the hatred of evil there is also created a desire for the good. And as good is found only in God, and as Christ is the revelation of God, this desire for good is the desire for Christ." [2]
This "enmity" against the serpent is something not natural to the human heart. No one is born with it. God puts this enmity against evil in the heart through the grand sacrifice mentioned in this promise. It is a gift of grace. Satan will have his followers known as "thy seed." "The woman" will also have "seed." And there will be "enmity" or war between the two "seeds." A Deliverer will come in the person of the woman's "seed," a descendant of Adam and Eve. This is a prophecy of the coming of Jesus. Satan will succeed in wounding or "bruising" the woman's seed on the "heel"—an "acorn" prophecy of the eventual crucifixion of the Son of God on His cross. But Christ's apparent defeat will prove to be a glorious victory—He will crush the serpent's head and kill him. Satan (the serpent) has been defeated by the sacrifice of Christ, and the long reign of sin and evil is to be brought to an end.
Paul E. Penno
[1] Ellen G. White, "The Warfare Between Good and Evil," The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, April 16, 1901.
[2] A. T. Jones, "Faith a Free Gift to All," The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, April 24, 1894, p. 265.