Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Posts tagged “restoration

In the beginning. Part 4: Living in a dying world

Repentance is the key to restoration

In the previous article in this series we saw that life for the first human beings, Adam and Eve, changed from joy and innocence to fear and guilt. This was caused by the sin of disobedience which resulted in a fallen universe and death for animals and people. Today we see how Genesis 3:8-24 shows us how to live in a world that’s dying.

Repentance and Restoration

The Bible starts with God seeking people whereas other religions begin with people seeking God. God asked Adam and Eve a series of questions. Firstly, “Where are you?” (v.9NIV); because Adam and Eve needed to realise that they were away from God. The fellowship they had with God was broken.

Secondly, “Who told you that you were naked?” (v.11). Where did this knowledge come from? This was a rhetorical question because no one told them that they were naked. The feeling of shame, guilt and fear had come from their human conscience. Adam and Eve needed to realise that it came from within them.

Finally, “What is this you have done?” (v.13). After blaming someone else they both confessed their sin, saying “I ate” of the forbidden fruit. Here God is bringing them to confession and repentance. He helps them see what they have done and acknowledge their sin. When they reached this point God stopped asking questions. If Adam and Eve had not been honest in answering God’s questions, then God would not have been able to help them as He did.

The same applies to us when we stray away from God’s intentions for us. We need to ask ourselves: “Where am I?”; “How do I know?”; “What have I done?”. We need to know where we are in life if God is to help us. We need to acknowledge that we are not where we should be because of our inner sinful human nature. We need to take responsibility for it. God wants to bring us to repentance where we acknowledge specifically what is wrong. He wants us to face the facts before He can restore us.

Jesus confirmed that we are defiled by the evil desires within our minds—it comes from within us (Mt. 15:19-20). This is our inner sinful human nature as shown in this instance by the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

The Bible tells us what to do after we are convicted of our sin: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn.1:9). Repentance is needed to start the Christian life. There is a need to confess one’s sins to God and realise that Jesus has taken the penalty for these sins. This rescues us from the eternal punishment of those who have rejected God. Repentance is also needed to live the Christian life. In order to live in fellowship with God and with each other, we must confess our sins on a daily basis. After we confess our sins God forgives us.

So the sequence of events from temptation to restoration is: temptation can lead to sin; sin leads to separation from God (spiritual death or loss of fellowship with God); conviction by a guilty conscience (Rom. 2:14-15) can then lead to confession; this leads to repentance and forgiveness; and the outcome is restoration back into fellowship with God (see Graphic). This is the process for restoring the sinner, which we see repeated throughout the bible (Gal. 6:1,2).

Three examples are:

  • King David’s adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11-12). He sinned and then tried to hide the sin and made it worse by having Bathsheba’s husband killed. After being convicted by Nathan’s parable, he confessed his sin and repented (Ps. 51). Then he was restored and David and Bathsheba reared Solomon.
  • Israel’s idolatry. The minor prophets Hosea, Joel and Amos accused the Israelites of being unfaithful to God and named their sins. They called for repentance and stressed that restoration only comes after repentance.
  • The prodigal son (Lk. 15:11-32) The son took his inheritance and wasted it in a distant country. He finished up destitute and eating the pigs food. Later he came to his senses and returned home and confessed to his father. Then he was restored to his family.

We can short-circuit this process by stopping temptation leading to sin. But when we do sin we need to follow God’s process for restoration and reconciliation. This means allowing our conscience to convict us and then specifically confessing and repenting of our sin. This is how to keep in touch with God and live in a sinful world.

The Blessings of a Fallen World

After Adam and Eve repented, God judged Satan and placed a curse on him. Then God reminded them of what life would be like for them in a sinful and dying world. For Eve it was pain in childbirth and the leadership of her husband. For Adam it was his toil in work and ultimate death. The death penalty was a blessing as well as a curse. It stopped Adam and his descendants from living in a state of sin, with its consequences, forever. It meant that the separation from fellowship with God need not be eternal. As death was the penalty for sin, it also enabled Jesus Christ to pay that penalty (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:12-28).

We suffer because we live in a fallen world. Life is tough. But God has turned the hardships of life into a source of blessing. All these things in our fallen world remind us of our need to rely on God and not ourselves. They counteract our pride and independence. Instead we are very limited and dependent on God. Any of us can be struck down by disease or death. What a humbling thought. Mankind constantly seeks miracle cures for diseases, but as soon as some disease is cured it seems as though another one arises. We need to realise that we are mortals created by God to be on this earth for 70 to 80 years or so. They remind us who we are; people who rely on God and His creation for our life support. They remind us where we are; in a sinful world. They bring us down to earth. Suffering, illness and death affect all in society. Those with power and wealth cannot escape them.

For believers, the “struggle against sin” and the hardships of life are said to be for our good, as they can bring “a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:4, 11). So the suffering experienced in our fallen world should lead to spiritual growth. The sinful world is God’s training ground; God’s gymnasium for us. It gives us a tough workout. The symbol used in Hebrews is of a father training his son. God is at work using the struggles of life to mould our character. He wants us to be what He made us to be. He wants us to rely on Him.

Paul wrote, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The context of this verse is “our present sufferings” and “our weakness” and a creation that groans in pain (Rom. 8:18, 22, 26). So if you walk in the Spirit, God will cause adversity to work for your good. Likewise, Peter wrote, “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Pt. 5:10). Don’t be discouraged, God is working behind the scenes to restore and strengthen us. The suffering is only for a little while compared with the eternal glory to come. By persevering in the suffering and struggles of the fallen world we can experience God’s blessings of spiritual growth and maturity.

New Name and New Clothes

Next God provides Eve with a new name and both of them with new clothes. What is the reason for this? It seems to be part of their new way of life in a fallen world. “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living” (v.20). Here we see that the name of the first woman changed from “Woman” to “Eve”. “Woman” means “taken out of man” and “Eve” means “life” (Gen. 2:23). From the beginning, Adam would have known that Eve was to be an ancestor of mankind (Gen. 1:28). In that sense she was the mother of all humanity. But Eve had also repented of her sin and her fellowship with God was restored. She was also at enmity with Satan and believed God’s promise (v.13,15). In that sense she was the mother of the redeemed. It is interesting that biblical characters change their name when there is a change within them. For example Abram and Sarai changed their names to Abraham and Sarah when God promised that they would be the father and mother of many nations and that they would have a son called Isaac (Gen. 15:3-5, 15-16, 19). Because Eve now trusted God, her destiny had changed from eternal death to eternal life (Jn. 5:24; 1 Jn. 3:14). Through her new name “life” she may be recognised as the mother of all those who would find life through Jesus Christ.

When Adam and Eve felt guilty and afraid after they disobeyed God, they made some clothes out of fig leaves (Gen. 3:7,10). These were “coverings for themselves”. Then God endorsed clothing for mankind when He “made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (v.21). This would have been more comfortable and more effective clothing than fig leaves. Skin comes from animals and to obtain enough for a garment implies the death of the animal. Maybe God was the first one to kill an animal on earth. Maybe this was the first animal sacrifice. This verse is the main reason we should not be nudists. Why do we wear clothes? God gave clothes because of sin. God showed that clothing is necessary for people living in a sinful world. As Adam and Eve saw things differently after the fall into sin there was a need to wear clothes as a covering for the body (Ex. 22:27; 28:42).

Banished from the Garden

Then “the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever’” (v. 22). The tree of life in the garden in Eden seems to have had the power to convey immortality. In the book of Revelation it symbolises eternal life in heaven (Rev. 22;2, 14,19). All true Christians will “eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). If Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of life they would have lived forever in bodies subject to guilt, shame, fear, sickness and degeneration. It would mean that humanity would never die physically but would go on in their sinful ways forever. But God had a better plan for the eternal part of their life.

“So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (v.23-24). The cherubim that God used to keep Adam and Eve away from the tree of life were angels that usually stand close to God’s throne. They were represented symbolically on the ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:18-22) and temple (2 Chron. 3:7) and seen by the prophet Ezekiel in a vision of the restored Jerusalem (Ez. 41:18-20). Ezekiel described four “living creatures” or cherubim each with four faces and four wings (Ez. 1:5-24; 10:2-22).

Afterthey sinned, Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden in order to “guard the way to the tree of life”, so they would find the right way, not the wrong one. There is no longer a physical way to the tree of life. There is nothing we can do physically to get eternal life. We can go to church each Sunday and do all the things that a Christian does, but if it just a physical thing God will remain outside our lives. The way to the tree of eternal life is now via the unseen part of our lives. We come to God in the realm of our soul and spirit. Jesus is now the tree of life—He is the way to heaven because He is the source of truth and the source of life (Jn. 14:6). Jesus is the only way to eternal life. He paid the penalty for sin so we can go to heaven.

Restored to the beginning

Many of the events we have seen in Genesis 1-3 are matched by events described in Revelation 20-21 (see Table). This is because, through Jesus, God plans to restore the relationships that were affected by sin; “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:19-20). Here we see that believers are already reconciled to God; we are part of “a new creation” described by the right hand column of the table (2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:21). Eventually all of creation except for Satan, demons and unbelievers will be restored to its original perfect condition (Col. 1:20). However, the latter will come under His rule on judgment day (Phil. 2:10-11). But we can look forward to a paradise that is like the original garden in Eden.

Table: Comparisons between Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22.

Topic Genesis 1-3 Revelation 20-22
Heavens and earth Created (2:1,4) Destroyed by fire (20:11; 2 Pt. 3:10).Renewed (21:1).
Day and night Created (1:3-5) No night (21:25; 22:5)
Sun & moon Created (1:14-18) Not needed (21:23)
Marriage & wife Of first Adam (2:24-25) Of last Adam (19:7; 21:9)
Satan Enters (3:1) Thrown into the lake of fire (20:10)
Sin Origin (3:6) Removed (21:27).
Pain etc Origin (3:16-19) Removed (21:4)
Curse on creation Imposed (3:17-19) Removed (22:3).
Death Origin (3:19; 5:5) Second death— the lake of fire (20:14; 21:8)Removed (21:4)
Access to tree of life Denied (3:24) Restored (22:2,19)

Foundation of the Bible

Genesis 1-3 is the foundation to understanding the key message of the Bible. It gives the foundation of the gospel and of many Biblical truths and principles. The original sin of Adam and Eve resulted in death and a sinful fallen world. This is the reason why Jesus Christ was born. The good news is that Christ’s death and resurrection paid the penalty for the sin of those who accept His gift of salvation and eternal life.

Genesis 1-3 reveals: God is the Creator; the universe was created in six days; humanity is made in the image of God; humanity rules over the rest of creation; Satan is the tempter; sin leads to a guilty conscience; the original sin affected the rest of creation. It also describes the origin of: sin, conflict, pain, thorns and thistles, toil, work, marriage, death, and clothes.

Finally, let’s remember what Jesus said: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13). He spans time from the beginning to the end. He who created it all in the beginning, and who redeems, will also finish it at the end.

Written, July 2004

See the first article in this series:
In the beginning. Part 1: The first week (Genesis 1)


The Idol Of Evolution: Part 2

Evaluating a common belief

In part one we applied three tests to determine that evolution is inconsistent with the Bible. In part two we will look more closely at the error of evolution and the truth of creation.

Did God Use Evolution?
It is clear that the theory of evolution, as taught in schools and universities and applied across the world, has no need for a Creator or God. But what about the possibility that God used evolution to create life after all? Can an evolutionary model be accommodated with the Bible? When we apply the three tests, this possibility may appear to pass the Jesus test. But the second question in the gospel test presents a challenge: Does it acknowledge our sinfulness?

The Bible teaches that sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, and that it brought death to mankind (Rom. 5:12; 6:23). Adam was told “to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19). This was the origin of decay and death in our world. It affected all of God’s creation, so that it was “subjected to frustration,” is “in bondage to decay,” and is “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Rom. 8:20-22). This is suggested in God’s words to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you,” and “It will produce thorns and thistles for you” (Gen. 3:17-18). The implication is that before this time in history there was no decay or death. This is consistent with the statement that the creation was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

In contrast, the evolutionary explanation of life assumes death has existed from the beginning of life, long before mankind was present. In fact, the theory of evolution relies on the death of many generations and claims that this is supported by fossils.

I can see no way of fitting the origin of sin and death as described in the Bible into the evolutionary explanation for life or vice versa, without disregarding essential parts of either. The Bible teaches that death is a consequence of mankind’s sin, whereas according to evolution death is merely a characteristic of the natural world.

The Bible and the theory of evolution also differ concerning the last point in the gospel test, the restoration of all things. Scripture states that Christ “must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets” (Acts 3:21). Although this may refer to the restoration of the nation of Israel (Acts 1:6), it is also consistent with the liberation from decay that all creation anticipates; a return to a time of no more sin or death, like it was before Adam and Eve sinned (Isa. 25:8; Rom. 8:21; 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:4). Christ called this the “renewal of all things” (Mt. 19:28). It has also been described as “paradise,” a word that is linked via the tree of life to the garden of Eden and to heaven (Gen. 2:9; Rev. 2:7; 22:2).

On the other hand, according to the theory of evolution there was no paradise at the beginning of time. This is inconsistent with a “restoration” or “renewal” to paradise at the end of time. So one can believe in either “evolution” or “paradise” but not both, because they are contradictory.

So to believe that God used evolution is inconsistent with either the Bible or the evolutionary model. It usually results in compromising the Christian faith and leads to a “different gospel,” where the words of “sin” and “Savior” have a different meaning from the Bible (Gal. 1:6-9). The Bible warns that those who add to or take away from the true gospel will be eternally condemned (Gal. 1:8-9).

Some debate as to whether Genesis 1 and 2 are literal or symbolic. This is answered best by comparing them with what the rest of the Bible says about the topics raised in these chapters. Scripture should be used to interpret Scripture whenever possible.

Adam is included in Joseph’s genealogy (Lk. 3:38) and is referred to as a real man like Moses, Enoch and Christ (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22,45; 1 Tim. 2:13,14; Jude 14), while Eve is also mentioned as a real woman in the New Testament (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:13). The description of the creation of Eve in 1 Corinthians 11:8-12 and 1 Timothy 2:13 is consistent with Genesis 2:21-23. The Bible teaches that sin and death came through one man, Adam; just as salvation came through one man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:12,15-19; 1 Cor. 15:21-22). The origin of marriage described in Genesis 2:24 is quoted in Mark 10:7-8 and Ephesians 5:31. Peter’s description of creation in 2 Peter 3:5 is consistent with Genesis 1:6-9. These examples show that the New Testament writers treated the events and people in Genesis 1 and 2 as being true history and not poetic or metaphoric.

A Modern Idol
As shown above, the naturalistic view of origins is in conflict with the Bible and it undermines Christianity. As such it is a “deceptive philosophy” that is “falsely called knowledge” (Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:20-21). Unfortunately it has deceived many and has caused many minds to be led astray (2 Cor. 11:3). It is a modern myth and false worldview that is based on false assumptions.

The consequence of rejecting the truth of the gospel is to believe a lie, such as evolution, and worship part of God’s creation (Rom. 1:18-25). An idol is a false god or a false idea that lacks substance (Gal. 4:8-9). Although we may not worship images as was done in Athens, idolatry is prevalent today and the idea of evolution is a major idol of our times (Acts 17:22-23). Idolatry and the widely-held theory of evolution are both substitutes for the concept of the Creator God. Christians are warned to “Keep yourselves from idols” and “flee from idolatry” because they enslave us (1 Cor. 10:14; Gal. 4:8-9; 1 Jn. 5:21).

Furthermore, the leading evolutionists are particularly opposed to Christianity. In fact, evolution functions as a rallying point against Christianity. In view of the above, if we could be addressed by two New Testament figures, Paul and Christ, I could imagine Paul saying, “People of 2001, I see you are devoted to the theory of evolution,” and Christ warning, “Be on your guard against the cancer of evolution” (Acts 17:22; Mt. 16:6).

The Evolution Of Words
The English word “evolve” is derived from a Latin word that means to unroll or to unfold. In this sense it means to grow or mature, which involves no change in genetic information. However, the wide acceptance of the evolutionary explanation of the origin of life has led to the use of the word “evolution” to replace words such as “change” and “development.” For example, “the evolution of the airplane.” This is an example of a change in the meaning of a word over time.

Another word that has changed its meaning is “science” which comes from the Latin word for “knowledge.” The meaning of “science” has changed over time, from dealing with things that are observable and testable, to mean “naturalism” – a mechanistic view of the world. As a consequence, some science is only loosely based on what is observable and testable, and claims are often made in the name of “science” that go far beyond the available evidence. This has led to aspects of modern science becoming increasingly tenuous and speculative by including conjecture and dubious hypotheses.

Although we live in a “cause and effect” universe, ultimate causes, such as origins, are outside the realm of reliable science. Science can only reliably deal with the present world, and some aspects of the past and the future. It can’t reliably deal with the distant past, such as origins, or the long-term future, such as ultimate destinies, as it cannot directly observe these. All scientists should be wary of their assumptions, as these can largely determine their findings. They should also be wary of extrapolations outside the range of their observations. The further the extrapolation the less reliable the prediction, because changes made in the assumptions outside the range of observations will change the prediction. This applies in particular to boundary conditions, such as those involving initial conditions or origins. Therefore, scientists can only speculate, imagine and guess about the origin of life.

The Truth
The complexity of life on earth points to an intelligent designer and creator. The Bible says that Christ is the author of life; He made all things and continues to sustain everything (Jn. 1:3; Acts 3:15, Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2-3). Evolution begins with matter, but where did this come from? The only reasonable answer possible for those following this viewpoint is to say that matter has always existed and is eternal. On the other hand, the Bible begins with God who is eternal and has the power to create matter out of nothing and to create the complex design that is evident in life and the universe. After all, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Heb. 11:3).

The Bible implies that there are clear genetic distinctions between the groups of creatures on earth. God created them “according to their kinds” and “All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another” (Gen. 1:21,24-25; 1 Cor. 15:39). It emphasizes that humanity is unique in the sense of being made “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27). There is no suggestion of all life having a common ancestry.

It is not surprising that not all will accept the biblical account of origins, as Christians are warned that some will “distort the truth” (Acts 20:30), and others suppress and reject the truth in order to promote lies and myths (Rom. 1:18,25; 2:8; 2 Tim. 4:4). We should be alert as “even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). Don’t be deceived or accept explanations, ideas or philosophies without checking them against the Scriptures. Seek the truth by asking questions such as those in the three tests outlined in part one of this article. Be a critical thinker, have a discerning mind.

Published: June 2001

See Part 1 of this article:
The idol of evolution: Part 1