God had put this tree in the garden to give Adam and Eve the opportunity to live out genuine faith and obedience. Adam and Eve could have used the wisdom God gave them through his word to judge the Serpent’s lies and rebellion against God as evil, while clinging to God’s goodness. Adam should have crushed the head of the evil serpent then and there. He should have squashed this rebellion rather than taking part in it. Had he done so, Adam and Eve would have been able to eat their fill of the tree of life, and enter into a heavenly life, without ever having to experience death.
- Eden was good, but not yet fully glorious.
Eden was bright and beautiful, and we tend to think of it in terms of perfection. But rather than thinking of Eden in terms of perfection, we should think of it in terms of potential. Certainly, Eden was pure and pristine, ordered and filled, but the Eden we read about in Genesis 1 and 2 wasn’t yet everything God intended for his creation. It was unsullied but incomplete.
From the very beginning, Eden was not meant to be static; it was headed somewhere. We could say there was an eschatology of Eden. God’s intentions for his creation have always been headed toward consummation, toward glory.
- Eden was abundant, but it wasn’t yet expansive.
Genesis 2:8 tells us that on the earth God created, “the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east.” He instructed Adam and Eve to, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:28). Clearly there was an expansion project in the works. As Adam and Eve worked and kept the garden, and as they were fruitful and multiplied, Eden would grow beyond its current boundaries, and the glory of Adam and Eve’s royal rule would increase.
- Eden was completely good, but it wasn’t completely secure.
As good as the original Eden was, it was vulnerable to evil, deception, and even death. This becomes obvious when we consider that Satan inhabited the body of an ordinary serpent and brought death into the pristine garden. In Revelation 21, John takes care to assure us that this will not happen in the greater garden to come. It will be utterly secure. “Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life,” (Rev. 21:27).
- Eden had a rhythm of work and then rest, but not yet unending rest.
God did his work of creation, and then he rested. In his rest, God was setting before Adam something to look forward to when he accomplished his work of subduing the earth, exercising dominion over it, and filling it with image bearers. Had Adam faithfully finished the work, he and Eve and their offspring would have entered into a permanent Sabbath rest.
- Adam and Eve were made in the image of God, but not yet as glorious as God intended.
David wrote about the first man, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5). Clearly Adam and Eve, having been made in God’s image had a measure of his glory. Had they obeyed, they would have been transformed from one degree of glory to another. “Transformed from one degree of glory to another” has always been and still remains God’s plan for those made in his image. Even now, as the Holy Spirit works in us, we are being changed from one degree of glory to another. But it is the fullest resurrection glory we anticipate the most. “We await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:20–21).
- Adam and Eve were naked, not yet robed in royal splendor.
- Adam and Eve enjoyed one-flesh intimacy, but their bond was vulnerable to brokenness.
- Adam and Eve enjoyed God’s presence, but they were vulnerable to his presence in judgment.
- Adam and Eve could have gained the knowledge of good and evil without eating from the forbidden tree.
- Eden had the tree of life, but Adam and Eve were prohibited from eating from it.
Content adapted from Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Story by Nancy Guthrie. The article originally appeared on Crossway.org; used with permission.