Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Light: What happened in the Garden?

Let us consider our situation, that which we find ourselves in. We are human beings, living upon the planet Earth, a troubled planet beset by much grief and disaster.  We see goodness, we see evil.  We find ourselves operating in the context of time and space.  And we find that life seems to break down to decisions we make, choices.  Choices are made, and life proceeds on Earth, for better or worse.  We also see that society is fundamentally based on morality.  We find ourselves in a moral universe, a universe where our decisions can be good or bad.  And principles like truth, love, goodness, liberty, equity, and many others are important to society.  And important in individual decisions. 

Let us return to the origins of humanity to begin to understand reality.  Of course we'll be approaching this from a Christian worldview perspective. 

The first humans are created by God, in a perfect place, a place without disease, war, suffering, or death.  This we see is the natural and proper state of humanity.  Humanity was meant to live on a perfect Earth, created by a loving God, to "work" the Earth, and spread across it, and develop civilization. Not only that, but humanity was tasked with creation, just as God created.  Man was created in God's image, which meant that man was special, humanity was meant to do more than simply exist and live, it was meant to be creative, to paint paintings, design buildings, write books and poetry, to develop technology, to procreate and teach their children, and so on and so forth.  God placed a spark of eternity in the human heart. 

But let's go back before even the creation.  God made the universe from nothing.  He made the galaxies, the stars, and the planets.  But let's go before that.  What was there before God made the universe?  Possibly and probably nothing at all in the sense of matter, energy, gravity, and so on.  Also realize this: Time is a construct of the universe, it's part of the program.  Thus, before the universe, no space, no matter, no time, nothing.  Only God in a state immeasurable by time, because God is not subjected to the concept of time.  Time has no dominion over God.  I imagine God doesn't experience time-passage at all, unless he desires to. 

Therefore before creatio ex nihilio (creation from nothing) there was only God almighty, the intelligent being who is the only fundamental being.  I always have wondered about that: Why would God exist, and not simply not exist?  Where did God come from?  God didn't come from anywhere, He exists outside time, but how does that work, that God has always existed, beyond time, infinitely into the past, present and future?  I can't really say.  It's quite stunning though, to realize that God is the fundamental reality of the universe, or more so, beyond the universe.  He is the fundamental constant of... all that is. 

I had to ask myself: What does that say about the nature of the universe?  Well, I've always approached reality from the mindset of the world, that the universe is fundamentally darkness, and light are the exceptions.  But now I realize from a Christian perspective, light, life, God himself is the fundamental constant of the universe beyond the universe.  Darkness is the exception.

But we aren't really talking about the material universe.  We're talking about that which was before, so instead of 'the universe' we'll refer to it as 'omnia' latin for everything.  So beyond the material and immaterial universe we have a reality, omnia, in which God exists, no, that's wrong, that which is God, and perhaps there is a place that God chooses to dwell, one might call it 'the heavens.'  And there God is. 

How long did God exist in 'the heavens' before he decided to create the universe and humanity?  Once again, we're speaking as if God were limited by time.  Time is a fact of the universe, not necessarily of 'the heavens.'  Though let's assume for the moment that time does pass in some form in this 'heaven' reality.  God created other beings, we know that, they are referred to in the scriptures as "angels" which simply means: "messengers."  God created these messengers at some point, who serve Him and go about doing his work.  We know there are millions of them, possibly more.  And we also know that they share the same gift of free will, choice, that humans have.  Are there other races that God created, other beings, or other forms of life?  There certainly could be, we just don't know. So God created all these beings, why?  It's not really clear to me why God would choose to create.  I suppose God would want to make use of his own talents and creative gifts?  It's hard to say from my perspective, I'm just a created being, created by an infinite God. 

We as humans are his creation.  But we are a bit more than a simple creation, but we are actually imbued with the eternal nature of God and the creative spark to create.  We were set on the Earth to live, to love, to marry, and to populate and live on the Earth. 

And if it ended there, and we were in the present in such a state, I imagine life would be perfect.  We would have populated the Earth, spread cities across the face of the Earth, lived in beautiful harmony with the animals and lived in joyous creative worship with our God who would walk amongst us.  We would marry, create works of art, write music, tend to the various endless gardens of Earth in peace and harmony, all united as a humanity worshipping God in joyous praise.  Oh, how I wish it had gone this way.  This is what God intended for humanity. 

But the sacred gift of choice was also part of the equation.  Humanity could choose to either love God or reject and fight against God. 

The first two humans, Adam and Eve lived in a garden on the newly created Earth. We see they live in a fruit-garden full of animals and God lives there with them and walks around with them in the garden.  It's quite beautiful, actually.  The first humans are allowed to eat from any trees in the garden, but at the center of the garden there is a tree they are not supposed to eat from, called the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  There's the other tree as well, called the tree of life, which they are permitted to eat from as well. 

Why leave this single tree of truth of good and evil at the center of the garden?  I suppose it allowed for choice.  And an easy choice it was, remember, these humans were not subjected to the sinful nature that we struggle with now.  They wouldn't have been tempted to go run to the center of the garden and eat from it, not the same way we are.  Isn't that interesting about our nature?  If someone tells us to 'don't touch that hot stove' we instantly want one thing: to touch the hot stove.  Why on Earth would we want to do that?  It's a state of our fallen nature.  But these first humans had no fallen nature, thus they wouldn't have been exceedingly tempted to run to the middle of the garden and break the one rule they live under. 

But we know that the serpent (Satan) came to Eve in the garden, and tempted her eat from the tree of knowledge.  Why?  Satan was once known as 'Lucifer' which means light bringer, and was probably one of God's most important 'messengers.'  But Lucifer became prideful, and jealous of humanity, and desired to rebel against God, and actually tried to overthrow God.

Isn't that crazy?  That is just some epic, whacky stuff if you ask me. God the infinite being creates these angelic beings, and one of them actually leads a rebellion against him!  That's wild.  We know that one third of the angelic beings joined Lucifer in his rebellion.  Was the rebellion before or after the fall of man?  I assume it was before, since Satan was wanting to tempt the first humans.  But it is possible that the rebellion happened after the fall of man. 

How was Satan able to enter the garden and take the form of the snake to tempt Eve?  Only with the expressed permission of God.  Satan can't do a single thing without God's permission.  Satan apparently wanted dominion over the Earth and humanity, but that was not God's plan.  So perhaps Satan said to God, let me tempt Adam and Eve, and if they choose to rebel against you just as I have, then they will join my rebellion and I will be their god on the Earth. 

Why would God allow this?  God created Adam and Eve, he loved them, lived with them, and instructed them in their ways.  Perhaps God wanted to make sure Adam and Eve truly loved Him, by allowing a situation where their love and obedience would be tested.  I mean there was only one rule.  And think of it, if Adam and Eve pass this test, and reject Satan, then Satan has no authority on Earth, and God can simply destroy these rebellious angels and evil is defeated right there.  Why not just do that and don't allow Satan to tempt Adam and Eve?  Well, I suppose that if God didn't allow the temptation then He could never be certain that evil would be forever eradicated.  It might pop up again in the future of humanity, if they aren't tested as the outset.  Remember that our entire race, all of humanity was 'within' Adam and Eve in a way, when they were first created.  There may be some genetic or spiritual mystery behind this fact, but this much is certain: they represented humanity.

Now at this point many of you must be thinking: How can I believe any of this!?  It all sounds so fantastic! But is it really so fantastic?  Or is it that we were indoctrinated into evolutionary biology, and a naturalistic worldview of reality in public education and college, and thus our minds have been conditioned toward naturalism and conditioned to reject the supernatural?  It's an interesting question.  How much does our indoctrination impact how we view a contrary worldview?  I would suggest that it impacts it a great deal. Remember the sole alternative: Creation of our universe from nothing, which is statistically impossible and not even logically coherent.  Something can't come from nothing.  

So despite having only one temptation before them, Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation and rejected God, and decided that they could redefine good and evil to mean whatever they wanted.  The name of the tree is interesting, 'the knowledge of good and evil.'  But whose knowledge? Humanity believed it was knowledge for them, but perhaps more so it was knowledge for God.  God would discover if humanity would choose good or evil.  And the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was God's knowledge of whether humanity would choose to follow Him or choose to fall.

Humanity fell.  They succumbed to the temptation, and they were expelled from the garden.  Reality became fallen.  We don't really know what all changed when the infamous fall occurred.  We do know that humanity was cursed to suffer death.  Death had never been a reality, the human body in fact has the capacity to infinitely regenerate itself, but now, for some reason, despite this ability to regenerate itself, our bodies crumble as we get older.  A result of the fall.  We also know that animals suffered under the curse, beginning to kill each other, and feed on each other.  We know creation itself was cursed.  There probably were no seasons before the fall, just an endless sublime perfect day.  But now we see seasons like fall and winter and spring and summer, with various concerns in them that affect humanity.  Humanity would have to work the ground to gain food.  Women would become subservient to men, and child bearing would become increasingly painful.  But these were not the original design for humanity.  

Throughout human history then we live in the results of the fall... and we see God interact in various ways with humanity over our history.  But fundamentally humanity was placed under the dominion of Satan and his demons. 

Do I understand this situation perfectly?  Absolutely not.  I really wish I did.  Because I would love to raise any number of objections to the whole scenario, such as: How are we responsible for the actions of two wayward humans?  Why should we suffer for their mistake?  

The answer is very simple, when anyone calling themselves by the name of Christian does something evil, some of the responsibility falls on us to make amends for what those people did.  We bear a responsibility.  It must be the same with our race.  And even more so, if one person spills ink on the carpet, they may be able to clean it up, but the stain will always be there. If one pilot makes an error, and crashes the plane, not only he dies, but the passengers die as well.  It's just part of community, the decisions of a few will often impact the lives of everyone.  In the same way, when one person sins, it often spreads like wildfire to others.  Think of drug addiction, or sexual immorality.  These things spread rapidly.  

The cost is so high though, isn't it?  It's very difficult. But I do trust God.  I trust that God is good and holy and pure.  There's nothing wrong with trust.  Trust is a very good thing.  Trust covers the rest when we don't overcome every doubt we have.  

The universe we find troubled by the curse brought by humanity.  We find humanity itself cursed, and caught under the dominion of Satan.  We find ourselves in a place where God is shrouded from us, and our natural selves incline toward selfishness, sin, and the desire to create a world without God.  But this world is chaotic without God.  Man can create no utopia apart from God, though man tries, they fail.  We dream of utopia, but utopia is not possible apart from God: How can one build a utopia on a foundation of humanism alone? God created all things. Apart from Him we would build on sand, on a plateau of nothingness.

Now we find ourselves in a situation quite reversed from the garden. Instead of the garden, we are now lost in the fall. We're astray in the wilderness, in a deep dark forest.  We're in a forest of trees, and these trees are full of deadly fruit, this fruit is called sin.  It tastes delicious, but it rots in your stomach and destroys your soul.  Endless forests of sin surround us.  And now, there is only one tree that can save us, one tree that leads back to the garden. It's a shrouded tree, often hard to see and hard to find, indeed it took me years and years in my life to find it, and only then by the grace of God.  

But when God enables our eyes to see it, this tree glows brightly with the light of the world. Our emergency escape hatch from this fallen universe, from this broken tangent reality is this one tree, the tree of light. 

The tree of light is the cross of Jesus Christ, and his atoning sacrifice on the cross. This tree of light, is the light that leads us to the rivers of the water of life, the life pouring out from the side of Jesus Christ.  Indeed, when we take this tree, it gushes forth the waters of the river of life. When we receive the savior upon it, we find the way out of the forest of sin, and we are set upon the river of life, that leads all the way back to the garden, the throne of God, and the new city, in the new heavens, on the new Earth.  That is our ultimate destiny.  

But it takes fleeing from sin, and embracing the new road home, upon the river of the waters of life. Just like Adam and Eve were told not to eat from the tree of knowledge, we are told we must now no longer eat from the trees of sin all around us, but instead we must eat from the tree of light, from Jesus, and eat the fruits of the Spirit that grow on this tree.  Not only that, but we help others lost in the forest, by pointing them toward the tree of light, even if at the moment they cannot see the glory of it's light, but only a dim tree that they don't understand.  

It will be a difficult journey, that much is certain.  We'll have to give up much, much that we've become accustomed to here on Earth.  The river often becomes rough, and at those times we must cry out to God in prayer.  But rest assured, that if we seek Him fully and love Him fully, and trust in Jesus Christ, he will be with us all the way home to glory,  and we will escape this nightmare world gone wrong.  

Our escape is made upon the rushing waters of the river of life, that leads to the very throne of God in the city of New Jerusalem.  Revelation tells us that this river leads directly to the tree of life, the tree that humanity lost access to in the garden.  

This is our situation friends.  We're lost in the forests of the fall.  We live in a fallen tangent reality destined for destruction.  The entire purpose for our lives, before we die and face judgment is to come to find the waters of life, to receive the waters of life, and take our journeys back toward the holiness of God, the city of God, which conforms us to the likeness of Christ.  We become through the work of God in us, more and more how we were in the garden before the fall.  We become more and more holy, more and more like God intended us to be.  

Our situation is that our race is in rebellion against God, and the chaos that resulted is this troubled planet we call Earth.  There are so many distractions.  So much entertainment, pleasure, so much selfish self focused lifestyle to live.  We could get lost in so many ways in this world, and never find that tree of light, and never even draw near it.  But God calls us to the tree of light, to Jesus Christ throughout our lives.  Jesus is our escape from this world, and our doorway, our entry to a new world.  

The new world is simply reality remade the way God intended it to be, with humanity and God at peace.  We are designed to live and love God, and live and love with animals and live and love in creative creativity in the gardens of a beautiful, perfect Earth.  That is our original destiny, that is our future! Yet so many of us are content to simply roll in the mud puddles of sin instead.  And we cling so strongly to those sins, when eternal joy is placed before us. Our destiny is placed before us, and we must have the courage to take hold of it.  We're lost in the wilderness right now.  That is our situation.  We're cut off from the tree of life.  But if we'll turn to Jesus, and eat from the tree of light, we'll begin our journey home to the New Jerusalem, in the new remade universe, upon a new Earth, free from sin, where the river of life will lead us back to the tree of immortality, the tree of life, of which we will eat, and never die, and that river ultimately leads to the throne of our Heavenly Father. Our destiny is to adore Him and be adored by Him. That is our hope, that is our destiny, that is our immortality. Take hold of it, somehow, before time runs out. 

Until next time friends... Amen. Glory to God.  

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