Rebellion on Earth “
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’“ (Gen. 2:16-17, NKJV). When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, He warned Adam against eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve, his wife, was also aware of the warning.
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die’“ (Gen. 3:1-4, NKJV).
Who is this beast who is tempting the woman? Is it the serpent speaking or another creature speaking through him? In the twelfth chapter of Revelation, we read that Satan, the devil, is identified with the serpent. “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev. 12:9, NKJV).
“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:4-6, NKLV).
Through this act of disobedience against the revealed will of God, mankind declared independence from his Creator. He decided in his mind and heart that his way was better than God’s. He coveted in his heart to be like God. Even today, the same attitudes of pride and covetousness that caused Lucifer to fall, and Adam and Eve to sin, remain the root cause of rebellion against God. Mankind turned from being God-centered to self-centered and considered his knowledge and wisdom superior to his Creator’s.
Over the years, man’s rebellion has led him to question the wisdom and ways of his Creator, thus creating gods that conform to his logic and wisdom. “If God’s ways are contrary to my ways, then I can’t accept him as my God” is the statement that has been manifested millions of times in the decisions and actions of men throughout history.
Most of us view sin in terms of our relationship with our fellow man. We even go so far as to rank sin in degrees based on how we view the seriousness of the offense. Murder and adultery rank high in our concept of sin, with some even advocating that there is no forgiveness for these acts. However, we are reminded that in the ranking of the Ten Commandments, murder and adultery were addressed sixth and seventh, respectively. The first commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3, NKJV).
The Bible states that sin is only against God. Offenses against our fellow men simply manifest our struggle for independence from our Creator. After King David had committed adultery and murder, he confessed that he had sinned only against God. We read these words in his Psalm of penitence: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness…” “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight …” (Ps. 51:1a,4a, NKJV).
We declare ourselves a god when we alter God’s revealed will with our personal feelings. We consider our knowledge and wisdom to be superior to His. In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus admonished the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Jewish religious leaders rejected their Messiah because He did not conform to their preconceived ideas. They modified God’s revealed program to include their personal input. Leaven symbolizes sin in the Bible and is related directly to the first commandment. The Apostle Paul instructed us to “clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened… ” (I Cor. 5:7a, NASB1995).
The Bible states that we are all guilty before the Lord. Man’s depraved condition is universal because sin is imputed to each of us when we are born into the world. Each of us also inherits a sinful nature, manifesting in personal declarations of independence from God.
Since Adam was the legal representative of mankind, his sin has been imputed to us. Paul said it this way in the fifth chapter of Romans. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men…” “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners…” (Rom. 5:12,18a,19a, NASB1995).
If we look at other aspects of our life, it is not difficult to understand the concept of imputation. Our citizenship is imputed to us based on the country we are born in. Our status as slaves or free men is imputed to us, at the time of birth, based upon the status of our parents.
In the seventh chapter of Romans, Paul clearly states that the problem was brought about by our sinful nature: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Rom. 7:15,20, NKJV).
Who among us has not suffered from the agony of doing the very thing we least wanted to do? How often have our children or we been unable to explain the reasons for doing wrong when they and we knew better? The Holy Spirit has clearly revealed that we are personally guilty of sinful acts. Until confession and repentance are made for these acts, our fellowship with our Creator is broken.
The Apostle Paul was led to tell the Romans that: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23b, NKJV). Recognition of our inadequacy to live independently of God was so forcefully impressed upon the prophet Isaiah that he described all our righteousness as “filthy rags” before the Lord (Isa. 64:6).
God warned Adam that the penalty for disobedience was death. When Adam rebelled, he subjected himself and us to physical and spiritual death. Physical death is experienced as the separation of soul and spirit from an earthly body. Spiritual death is separation from fellowship with God and is an eternal condition that persists unless we are reconciled to Him through an unconditional surrender of our will.
Many complain that this penalty is far too great for one small offense. To understand, we must look closer at the nature of God. We have already seen that God’s authority is absolute; therefore, He is Holy and Righteous. In the book of Habakkuk and The Psalms, we read these words. “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor…” (Hab. 1:13a, NASB1995). “…Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Ps. 97:2b, NASB1995).
Since every sin defies the majesty of the infinite God, our sins must be blotted out before we can stand for an instant before God. Sin is totally inconsistent with the nature of God; it is completely incompatible with Him. Sin represents an offensive act of treason against God’s authority. Even based on man’s justice, treason historically deserves the death penalty.
Obviously, sin brought some real changes regarding dominion over the earth. But what are the changes in the personal character of mankind?
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Gen. 3:7, NKJV).
When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, they received a conscience; therefore, they immediately knew the difference between good and evil. Their whole nature changed, and they became shameful before God. Their shame was symbolized by their nakedness, and they tried to cover themselves. Some people believe they were clothed in a soft light covering before they sinned. This is the first time mankind has tried to cover, hide or find a solution for their sinful condition. Throughout the ages, men and women have continued to try to solve their sin problem through their own efforts. God rejected the first and all subsequent efforts.
“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself’” (Gen. 3:8-10, NKJV).
Why did Adam and his wife hide? Probably for the same reason that we don’t like to read the Bible or to hear a sermon of condemnation. We do not want to confront the righteousness of God. We much prefer to be measured against our fellow man. Adam’s conscience was an accuser, a judge, and a tormentor; thus, making him afraid to face God! The manifestation of spiritual separation prevented Adam from enjoying fellowship with God and, therefore, felt alienated. What a change in such a short period of time!
”And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’ Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’ And the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’“ (Gen. 3:11-13, NKJV).
God knew where Adam and Eve were hiding and why, but He apparently was giving them an opportunity to confess their sin and turn back to Him. They needed to recognize their failure and their inability to resolve the situation. Adam’s pride caused him to break the bond between himself and his Creator, and that same pride made it difficult for him to humble himself and admit his problem.
The Bible teaches that sinful man will not seek God: “There is none that seeketh after God” (Rom. 3:11, KJV). Jesus told his apostles, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16b, NKJV). Jesus also said that: ”No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him …” (John 6:44b).
God confronted them, but Adam and his wife did not repent. They made excuses and tried to pass the buck. Adam blamed his wife, and she blamed the serpent. Almost immediately, sin has an adverse impact on the special relationship between husband and wife.
What a change has taken place between these two! The honeymoon is over! Why is it so difficult for them to confess and ask forgiveness? Has the rebellious nature been so deeply planted in man that he has a new nature that affects every aspect of his life? There seems to be no explanation except that man has placed himself in bondage to Satan and is alienated from God.
God finally interrupted their finger-pointing and began explaining the consequences of their actions.
The first subject to be addressed was the animal kingdom, with special attention being given to the serpent, which was used by Satan. ”So the LORD God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel’” (Gen. 3:14-15, NKJV).
The awesome price of sin is now being revealed. The beautiful serpent successfully used by Satan is now condemned to crawl instead of walk like the other animals. He is also destined to endure a special conflict with man. Like no other creature, the snake invokes an instant response of fear and hate in mankind. Whenever we encounter a snake, our first reaction is to kill him. We almost automatically strike for his head and beat or cut him until he is dead. Consistent with his place on the ground, the bite he delivers to man is often received on our lower legs or feet. Although his bite is often serious, the danger to us does not logically justify our response to him.
Why did God place such a curse upon the serpent? The serpent could not have prevented Satan from using him to tempt the woman. The curse serves as a perpetual reminder of the instrument of man’s fall and the final destruction that God will deal to Satan.
Some may be concerned about the injustice to the serpent since he was not to blame for Satan’s corrupt possession of his body. Remember that God is the potter, and the serpent is the clay, and “the potter has power over the clay.” If God had chosen to do so, He could have originally created the serpent as a creeping creature.
The Genesis account indicates that God cursed the entire animal kingdom, but the serpent received a greater curse than the other animals.
Have you ever considered when the first animal died? Was it God’s chosen plan for animals to die or a result of sin? In the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, we are told that one day the lamb and the wolf shall lie down together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and the child shall play alongside of the vipers (Isa. 11:6-8).
Apparently, these were the conditions in the beginning when all was perfect. Adam was given dominion over the animals; he named them and looked for companionship among them. But after sin manifests itself, their relationship was cursed, and most of the animal kingdom continues to show a fear of man.
After cursing the serpent, God turned his attention to the woman. “To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you’” (Gen. 3:16, NKJV).
The woman was told that her pain in childbirth would increase greatly, and she would be submissive to her husband. Women have suffered much over the years from both the pains of childbirth and the cruelty inflicted upon them by undisciplined husbands.
We often hear reports of mistreated women who choose to stay rather than leave an abusive husband. Both husbands and wives must recognize their roles and be responsible in their relationship. With due respect and fair treatment of women, the equal rights movement would be unnecessary.
“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust,’” (Gen. 3:17-19, NASB1995).
At last, Adam is brought to the center of attention. The great blessing of sharing in managing God’s creation has turned into hardship. All that was placed under Adam’s dominion is now accursed because he mishandled his responsibility. He placed his empire under the control of Satan and must, therefore, struggle to survive. The beautiful body of flesh and blood, which God made for him, is destined to fail under the stress and will return to the dust from which it was made.
The Seed of Promise
God always provides a light of hope in the darkest hour of tragedy. From eternity, He knew man would fall, so He established a plan to redeem and restore fellowship with Him. In Genesis 3:15, we have the first prophetic hint of the plan, which will be slowly revealed over the ages. Let us reread this verse: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15, NKJV).
One is to come from the seed of the woman who will bruise the head of the serpent (Satan). This time the emphasis is not on the animal but on the evil one who possessed the animal. Satan is to be defeated by the seed of the woman! This great promise has long been known as the first gospel.
We feel privileged to have the opportunity to follow the history of God’s unfolding plan through the ages. Perhaps, Adam was not given many details, but we can see them unfold as we follow the majestic plan through the Bible. As details are provided, we will see the last three major Biblical themes come into view: 1) God’s plan for restoring man’s fellowship with Him; 2) The destruction of all of Satan’s rebellious forces; and 3): The implementation of an eternal, theocratic kingdom of peace, justice, and righteousness.
A brief preview of some additional promises will help us see the program of redemption unfold in summary form. Yet, it will be many years before these events pass. Part of the fulfillment of God’s ultimate plan for the ages is still future even today.
It was many, many years after Adam’s passing before new elements of the drama were revealed. God made a request and a promise to a man named Abram from a pagan home in Southern Mesopotamia. “Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation ‘…”. “…’And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’” (Gen. 12:1-2b,3b, NKJV).
Three generations later, God spoke through the grandson of Abram and renewed this promise to Judah. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Gen. 49:10, NKJV).
Nearly a thousand years later, God spoke to a descendant of Judah named David, King of Israel. “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (II Sam. 7:16, NKJV).
But it was through the prophet Isaiah, who would live 300 years later, that God provided details. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14, NKJV).
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isa. 9:6-7, NKJV).
In the midst of Isaiah’s predictions about the great leader to come, he adds a strange twist. “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed….” “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand….”. “Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:5a,10a,12, NASB 1995).
Then the Prophet Micah received this message from the Lord. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2, NASB1995)
Later, the apostle Paul would add these words: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5, NKJV)
In the fullness of time, God sent the angel, Gabriel, to make an announcement to a virgin named Mary, who was of the lineage of David and lived in a city of Galilee named Nazareth, “Then the angel said to her, do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30b-33, NKJV).
The angel, Gabriel, also appeared unto Joseph, of the lineage of David, who was espoused to the Virgin Mary. And the angel said unto Joseph: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20b-21, NKJV).
The gospel of Luke provides us with details about the birth of Jesus. “That while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7, NKJV). The apostle Paul will later add: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born[a] of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5, NKJV).
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52, NKJV). When He was about thirty years of age, He began presenting the kingdom of God to the people. But He was rejected because He did not conform to their preconceived image of their Messiah. He was taken before a religious court, where He was found guilty of blasphemy, and then before a civil court, where He was found guilty of treason. As a result, they nailed Him to a cross and crucified Him as the King of the Jews.
Although our natural senses tell us that an untimely death brought the ministry of Jesus to an incomplete end, God had a special reason for sending the seed of the woman to the cross. In His substitutionary death, He made the payment for the sins of mankind. This was the means for defeating Satan and reconciling man to fellowship with God.
The Apostle Paul stated: “…that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them…For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:19b,21, NKJV).
The significance of the act was repeated in Colossians: “Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Col. 2:14-15, NASB 1995).
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible, copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked NASB1995 are taken from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1971,1977, 1995, by The Lockman Foundation, LA Habra, California. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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