In the beginning, when God creates man and woman, He lives in relationship with them, even walking with them in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden. He does so, that is, until man doubts God’s goodness, disbelieves His Word, eats the fruit from the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and is deported from the Garden.
Instead of walking with God in faith and exercising God’s gift of dominion (see Genesis 1:28) over every creeping thing in Eden (including the serpent), the first couple begin to live life outside of Eden—exercising dominion over one another. As God had said, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (3:16).
Thus begins life outside of Eden—a world turned upside-down by sin. Adam and Eve’s dominion has been stolen by the serpent, who now exercises dominion over man (John 12:31; 14:30; Acts 28:18; Colossians 1:12-13; 1 John 5:19). People begin to experience brokenness within relationships—with God and with one another. Their dominating emotions? Fear. Shame. Guilt.
God, however, does not leave the first couple without hope. He provides the couple with a promise of redemption (“And I will put enmity between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel,” 3:15), and a picture of redemption (“Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them,” 3:21). God inaugurates life outside of Eden with the promise of redemption and its picture.
Life outside of Eden, however, proves disastrous for Adam and Eve’s children. Abel comes to God His way—through the shedding of the blood of the innocent on behalf of the guilty—and Cain kills him. Choosing to live apart from the face of God, Cain begins his own society. Add anger, murder, and polygamy to fear, shame and guilt. Life outside of Eden. Sigh.
Ten generations later, God assesses life outside of Eden—“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually . . . And God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold I will destroy them with the earth’” (6:5, 13). Life outside of Eden is wiped out by a global flood. Only Noah, his immediate family, and the caged animals on the ark are saved.
An altar scene inaugurates life outside of Eden following the flood: “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. The the LORD said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done’” (8:21).
Noah’s son Ham, however, demonstrates that the flood has not eliminated evil. Because of his sinful action he receives Noah’s curse. Redemption is promised in the midst of the curse, similar to what had occurred following Adam and Eve’s sin: “‘Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.’ And he said: ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant’” (9:25-27). This curse/promise provides a glimpse into the future, into God’s redemptive strategy and activity.
Ten generations later, Abram, a descendent of Shem, is introduced. It is through Abram that God will produce the heir that will build a nation in a land from which the promised Seed will come. As soon as Abram enters into the land of promise he builds an altar the LORD.
Against the backdrop of life outside of Eden, God demonstrates through His relationship with Abraham how to walk with Him by faith. This faith-walk begins with a promise of redemption and a man who dares to believe that God is good and His Word is true—and acts accordingly.
Paul uses these and other Old Testament stories to teach the way of redemption and to offer hope to those desiring to walk with God and to navigate life outside of Eden, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
- God is good and His Word is true. He longs to be trusted. He is passionate about righteousness. And, outside of Eden, He judges sinners.
- Only those outside of Eden who become altar people are altered people. They believe God’s promise of redemption and they, like Adam, Eve, Abel, a remnant of Seth’s descendants, Noah, and Abraham, embrace substitutionary death—the shedding of the blood of the innocent on behalf of the guilty—call upon the name of the LORD, and walk by faith. They are declared righteous before God.
- Life outside of Eden is filled with difficulty and it doesn’t improve over time.
- People navigate life outside of Eden either by scheming and dominating others or by clinging to the promises of God and waiting upon Him.