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Hope Beyond the Garden of Eden

Olivia Davis

How can we have hope beyond the Garden of Eden?

Hope is possible in any circumstance, even those that seem utterly unbearable, when the object of that hope is God’s promises to us. We see this even in Genesis 3, when God expels Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. We read:

…the Lord God sent Adam out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 3:23-24

As Adam and Eve face the barren world before them, they know that something has been broken. Their lives will now be full of toil, sweat, and pain (Genesis 3:17-19). Their relationship with God might never be the same; they might never walk with Him in the garden again.

However, Adam and Eve still have a reason to hope. Before they were cast out of the garden, God addresses the Serpent, saying that Eve’s offspring “…shall bruise [the serpent’s] head, and [the serpent] shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This means that the Serpent will not have the last word. Just as he deceived Eve into doing something that would lead to her death (Genesis 2:17), he too will die—at the heel of Eve’s offspring. The wrong done to Adam and Eve by the Serpent would be repaid, and justice would come through their children. Thus, even as Adam and Eve looked upon their hostile new world, they did not have to look upon it as people without hope because God had promised to make things right again.

It is significant that Adam and Eve’s hope rests in God’s promises because when the Serpent was tempting Adam and Eve, this is precisely what the Serpent calls into question. His first words to them are, “Did God actually say?” (Genesis 3:1). Then, he suggests that Eve might even become like God, bringing into question who she was and could be and even suggesting that God was limiting her (Genesis 3:4-5). Eve doubts God’s word, believing the Serpent’s instead, and she takes the fruit she was forbidden to eat. She then gives it to Adam, who also eats it (Genesis 3:6). Everything began by questioning what God actually said.

However, the same thing that Adam and Eve rejected (God’s word) could still be an object of their hope. Even though they did not know how the Serpent’s head would one day be crushed, God promised that it would be. They had hope that there was more of the story to come.

Jesus as the Fulfillment of God’s Word

On this side of the resurrection, we know Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of what God told the Serpent and Adam and Eve long ago. Jesus lived a perfect life. He took the promised Serpent’s bite on the heel upon Himself; He was struck by the world, and He died. Three days later, He rose from the grave in a literal resurrection. Death itself and all the Serpent represented were defeated. The Serpent’s head was crushed; Jesus was alive!

Jesus reconciled the world to God with His death and resurrection, and now, just as the curtain to the Holy of Holies was torn in two (Matthew 27:51), God is in communion with us through Christ. Maybe it is no coincidence that in the gospel of John, Mary Magdalene is the first to see the resurrected Jesus, and she mistakes Him for a gardener (John 20:15). When Adam and Eve leave the garden of Eden, the cherubim with a flaming sword guards the way to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24). Just as a serpent bite to the heel meant death, an attempt to reenter the garden would prove fatal. But now, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, we know the gardener, and we can walk in communion with Him in this world.

Although Christ has come, the world is still in the process of restoration. The kingdom is here, but not yet (1 John 3:2), and creation groans for its redemption (Romans 8:19-23). We hope for these things, for the promise of a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13), for the day when every tear will be wiped from our eyes and when we will dwell with the Lord forever (Revelation 21:3-4). And, just as it was for Adam and Eve, our hope in all these things is grounded in God’s Word. As David writes in Psalm 119, “My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.” (Psalm 119:81).

If you are struggling to hope, remember what God has said. Nothing—not even our own rebellion or unbelief—threatens God’s promises. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God did not abandon them. Instead, He sought them out and found them in the garden (Genesis 3:9). When they hid in shame because of their nakedness, God clothed them (Genesis 3:21). Their moment of unbelief in God’s word was no match for the hope that His promises offer. It was no match for His displays of love.

Christ overcomes all of our day-to-day struggles against sin, unbelief, and pride. He—and not ourselves—is our hope, and because of this, we can rejoice. We can look upon our world in all its brokenness from the view of our self-created exile, and be, as the prophet Zechariah writes, “prisoners of hope” (Zechariah 9:12). As Martyn Lloyd-Jones once put it, “When he lived in paradise, he turned it into a place of shame….O No! Man can never put this world right, but God can, and He will.”[1] Like Adam and Eve looking upon the world beyond the garden of Eden, we, too, can hope in the reality that God is in the process of restoring what we ourselves have broken and lost.

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[1] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “A Living Hope of the Hereafter.” www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/alivinghope.html