In the Bible there are two places where we will find perfection. Both are called Paradise. Both have just one rule. If you take nothing away from this web-site other than this, then know the rule, then read on to find the way back...
The first paradise was in the Garden of Eden. The second is the Paradise in Godís heaven. Each is beautiful beyond compare but itís not their beauty that makes them perfect, rather itís because God is found there. In both paradises we experience the full-on close intimate presence of God. Their beauty and perfection is a consequence of this.
But sin cannot exist in Godís presence. Adam sinned Ė he rejected God and as a consequence he was excluded from the Garden. The consequence of sin is to be excluded from Godís presence! Every bad thing is a consequence of being separated from God by sin.
The entire rest of the Bible is not God punishing man for sin but God trying to draw us back because He loves us. Ultimately God sent His own Son Jesus, to pay the price of sin, that is, death. Sin is now dealt with! We have been restored to the days of Adam. We have a free choice Ė to accept God or to reject God. And God has made even that simple. You have not seen Him, but you have seen Jesus Ė the physical likeness of God. If you accept Jesus then you accept God and if you reject Jesus then you reject God.
Thatís it boys and girls. Know the rules and decide if you want to get back.
The rest of this article is showing you how Rule 1 was played out in the Garden. Godís agenda was never to punish us, but to restore us. He was not angry, but grieved by the separation. The funny, or should I say sad thing, is that man keeps seeing it back-the-front...
God hand planted and prepared a region of perfection in this world and placed Adam the son of God, in it. It was almost like a womb, were everything was provided and Adam shared close fellowship with God. Adam sinned. Of course God knew that this had happened, but God came as usual seeking His son to have fellowship. God confronts Adam and asked Adam if he had eaten the forbidden fruit. Virtually all translations present this as a question in Genesis 3:11 but we know that God knew (Psalm 139). This was to give Adam a chance to say sorry so that Mercy could Triumph over Judgement (James 2:13). But Adam did not. Now, the following series of events is one of the places where we get it backwards, so letís play it back, backwards...
OK, do you see my point? Sin excluded Adam from Godís presence and the garden and the rest was a consequence, not a punishment. What was Godís immediate actions after this? Well, He immediately moved to cover their nakedness by clothing Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21) and settled them east of Eden (Genesis 3:24). Though banished from the Garden, God provides clothing and an alternate place to live. So Adam had to provide food but we see God providing clothing and shelter. Not an angry God.
In places I complain that we sometimes try and defend Godís image as merciful and all-loving and overlook that God does actually do stuff we donít like. Adam and Eve had sought to be like God, knowing good and evil and God does pronounce bad consequences. God was always to be the provider and source of life, but now Adam and Eve took on those roles and His pronouncements against them speaks exactly to those roles.
But even this, I do not see as punishment. The hardship was to turn us back to God and seek Him. All through the Bible, Old and New Testaments, God uses trials to draw us back to Him or closer to Him. All I see is a God who longs for us to be close to Him again Ė who desires all men to be saved Ė who did not even withhold His son that those who place their faith in Him could be saved.
God had to drive Adam and Eve out of the garden (Genesis 3:22-24). They were driven out because they did not want to leave. In The Post Fall Picture I point out how He re-settled them and provided protection. We get a glimpse of how terrifying Godís presence can be when the Israelites saw God appear on the mountain surrounded by flames and smoke. Do you think that if Adam and Eve saw an angry God for even a few seconds that they would not have ďheaded for the hillsĒ? They would not have to be driven out Ė they would have fled in fear.
When Cain killed Abel God declared that Cain would have to leave and become a restless wanderer (Genesis 4:10-15). But in verse 13 Cain did not want to leave the presence of the God. Do you think that if Cain saw an angry God for even a few seconds that he would not have ďheaded for the hillsĒ? No, Cain lamented having to leave the presence of God.
By Genesis 6:5, God can see that manís heart has fully turned to evil. Does God hit the Delete key and wipe mankind out? No, He hits the Reset button. He waits till He can find a righteous man Noah and through this man He preserves man-kind and animals. The flood was not punishment but a way to focus man back on God. If God did not act man was irreversibly destined for death.
But Noahís descendants, rather than learning about God from their ancestor Noah, they lose the plot, wanting to make themselves important Ė like God (Genesis 11). God had promised Noah not to hit the Reset button again, so God frustrates this by dividing them up so no one group or city can be all important, but rather God will be all important. Then, through one man, God raises up just one nation from amongst all the nations to be His own Ė a nation who would acknowledge Him alone as God. They would see Godís mercy and faithfulness to Abraham and his descendants, and always turn to God. But they lost the plot.
God sent them prophets to re-direct them back to God. God gave them a covenant. It was a method by which He could bless them, and if they started to lose the plot He could send progressively worse curses to re-direct them back. These curses, which were actually consequences of turning from God, were designed to be merciful, so God would sent minor things at the start and only make it worse if they did not listen? Why, because God did not want to punish or inflict pain, but to turn them back. Failure to turn back meant death because they would be separated from God.
God even gave them the sacrifices as a way to avoid judgement and to keep them focussed on Him. These sacrifices were as much about feasts and festivals, as sacrifice, so that they were also a blessing. (Anyone found an angry God yet.)
But finally Israel provoked God by turning to other gods and God was forced to send them into exile or else lose them all together. This is exactly what God said back before they took possession of the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28) It was the consequence of their persistent rejection of God. But even before the exile God declared that He would restore them and He did, exactly after 70 years as He declared.
The exiles returned and quickly lost the plot. Making up their own rules and regulations and re-interpreting Godís requirements. God frustrated this by just letting them go, to make so many rules that even they could not live under them. (Luke 11:46) At least then they would grasp that they needed Jesus to set them free.
But when Jesus, the Son of God, came they rejected him and killed Him. Again man rejected the author of life. But to all who believe in Him God gave the right to be the sons of God. Not an angry God, but a God who holds His hands out all day long to a stubborn and obstinate people. God longs for us to return to him. That is His passion and that is what Jesus death on the cross made possible. Manís sin, that had separated us from God, was dealt with. All we have to do is make the right choice, the same decision that confronted Adam and Eve in the garden. Do I trust God or myself?
I just wanted to preach the above message in one hit without side issues distracting. The following is a list of issues that might be triggered by the above discussion....
Outside the garden was not paradise and therefore was not perfection. Yes, it was very good and Godís grace was there to enable Adam and his descendants to venture out.
The new Jerusalem is the equivalent of the Garden in Godís heaven. Both have the Tree of Life.
My children are happy children, but sometimes things happen, like they fall over, and they are briefly sad. In the same way, God is merciful and loving, but He can be provoked to anger. This is always brief, usually well delayed and considered because He is slow to anger. Since the cross, when Jesus paid the price of Sin and now intercedes for us before His Father, we will never fear His anger. However, after all who have accepted Jesus have been gathered in, there will be one final, measured, brief period where the world will experience Godís wrath. So donít get confused Ė God has been provoked to anger but He is not an angry God and right now He desires all to come to Him to be saved, restored, to be adopted as sons and to bypass all punishment, because the punishment was taken by Jesus.
You can find references to Godís ďpunishmentĒ in lots of places, e.g. Exodus 20:5, Exodus 32:12 and Luke 21:22. This is always seen as a consequence of failing to do what God had clearly declared. You have to see Numbers 14:18 at work. It is always a consequence of sin, not because God is angry, but sin has its consequences. God hates sin, not sinners, because sin cuts us off from Him. On the cross Jesus took the punishment that we deserve so that we can be forgiven and not punished or judged and not cut off from God. Since the cross God desires all men to be saved from the final punishment. The ultimate punishment is judgement that cuts us off from God (2 Thessalonians 1:9). I hope this clears up and confusion that links punishment to the thought that God is angry. You need to see 1 John 4:14-19 to round this off. God loves you and has spared nothing, not even His own son, that you might experience only His love, and not judgement.
There is a reverent fear of God, that is hard to explain and really only the Holy Spirit can teach it to you. It has nothing to do with punishment or salvation. I heard one preacher get close when he described it as, ďnever wanting to disappoint a loving FatherĒ. But I think God has to manifest this to you in the nature of your calling and not as some academic thing. For me, I know that if I get stubborn, other people will get hurt and I hate seeing people suffer. Over many years various incidents have moulded this into something like an awesome respect for His Word and His ability to pull off what He says. Privately I go to Him intimately, even casually, withholding nothing for He knows everything Ė that is my right as a son. Itís the right Jesus won for me on the Cross. But I also seem to need this respect and trust to persevere and wait with His peace. And that is a work in progress.
Death is not a punishment for Sin. Otherwise, we who are forgiven would not die. Nor is Judgement a punishment for Sin. Punishment would be proportional to the sin, but the judgement for all who are not forgiven is the same, that is, they are excluded from Heaven. This is the way it is. (If you donít like it, complain to God, not me.)
...ďNo Plan CĒ originally followed here.
The primary theme in this article is that ďsin separates us from GodĒ, Rule 1, and it emphasizes that God is not angry, rather He is seeking to reconcile us to Himself. I show this to be the case from Adam onwards. I canít finish this article without mentioning the flip side to this theme. It is the Grace of God.
...ďA Free ChoiceĒ originally followed here.
ďJust one ruleĒ was created here and then made an article of its own.