Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat.1
So opens the epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton. Nearly all historical cultures have some mention of a “paradise” that has been lost. The Greek and Roman mythologies talk of a special “home of the gods,” who lost their perfect harmony through infighting that then resulted in ages of various efforts by the “gods” to regain their status—often consorting with and manipulating humanity in the process.
The Bible is more succinct. Only two chapters are given to describing what the Creator did and what He provided for the two who were to “subdue” and “have dominion” over all that had been “created and made.”2 In the second of those chapters, God reveals through Adam’s own experience recorded in Adam’s “book”3 the personal instruction and specialized attention that the Creator Himself granted to Adam. Unsaid, but surely implied, is that God is making sure Adam cannot be confused about the role he is to play.
God plants a stunning “garden” (we would probably refer to this as an “estate”). Though not recorded, it seems likely that Adam watches the “making.” And as “every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food” is caused to grow out of the ground of the garden, Adam is there—observing in “real time” the power of the Creator and the “good” of His omniscience and omnipotence.
“Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air,” and then God Himself “brought them to Adam” to let him experience these beautiful creatures personally and give them names.4 This all took place in the garden, in person, one-on-one with the Creator!
Finally, the point the Creator wanted Adam to understand came through. There was absolutely nothing else in all of the creation like him—the first human. As wonderful and beautiful as these animals were, there was “not found” any other creature that was suitable for a life companion. God’s solution, of course, was Eve.5
All of these personal events transpire on Day Six of the creation week. God’s purpose for the magnificent creatures who would bear His image is recorded in Genesis 1. Adam, and ultimately Eve, were in full possession of their sinless humanity and the magnificent “estate,” along with the operational guidelines to “dress it and to keep it.”6 They were fully aware of the Creator’s grace and bounty. Adam himself had seen demonstrations of God’s omnipotence, and both he and Eve had experienced some time of one-on-one fellowship with the Lord. Paradise was real—unlimited opportunity was theirs to gain; their only restriction was to refrain from eating the fruit of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”7
The whole focus of Scripture turns in chapter three. History changed. The relationship between God and man changed. Indeed, the “whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”8 The awful event described in Genesis 3 has had Bible scholars, scientists, theologians, philosophers, academicians, and just about everyone else debating for millennia. There is no question that Paradise was lost. No one contends that “things” are anywhere near perfect or idyllic. But what caused the “loss”?
Many would allegorize much of Genesis—especially the first three chapters! But the text is not presented as poetical or mystical. It reads just like what one would expect to find in a historical record. Facts are recorded. Sequence is logical. Names and places are identified. When Jesus was incarnated on earth, He quoted from this narrative account. He presented it as real history. There are many other passages in Scripture that refer to these events, and all of them treat the text of Genesis as presenting actual events. We who were not there must embrace the consistency of message and the necessary acceptance of that message—or openly reject the account, the message, and the consistency.
Strange, it seems, to encounter a “serpent” (Hebrew naw-khawsh’) who is so “subtle” that his ready wit mesmerizes Eve and appears to leave Adam in silence. This is the same Adam who held conversation with the Creator not too long before. What is it about this nawkhawsh’ that could so easily deceive Eve and tempt Adam into full, conscious rebellion?
No backstory is given in Genesis. We must either infer from the immediate text or search the rest of Scripture for insight. And the insight is chilling. “That old serpent” is the title given to the devil himself in Revelation 12:9 and 20:2. Some stunning personage is described in Ezekiel 28:12-19 who appears to be much more than an earthly king since he was “created” and was in “Eden the garden of God” covered with all manner of precious stones, entitled “the anointed cherub that covereth,” and while on the “mountain of God” was privileged to “walk up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” Whatever this magnificent and powerful being was, he was not a mere human.
Isaiah 14:12-14 tells of “Lucifer” (whether in prophetic hindsight or foresight) who was “cut down to the ground.” This “Light Bearer” thought himself to be so magnificent that he assumed he could “ascend into heaven,” exalt his “throne above the stars of God,” and “sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north”—further, he believed himself to be so powerful that he could “be like the most High.”
It is from these and other biblical insights that we draw the conclusion that the serpent in Genesis 3 is either the devil incarnate or an animal possessed by none other than Lucifer himself. Whether allegorist or literalist, theologian or philosopher, the message is quite clear: Evil has entered the paradise and, using man as the pawn, that which personifies evil is attempting to thwart the eternal plan of God.
The conversation between the serpent and Eve is the classic prototype of all temptation, deception, and final disobedience. First, doubt is cast when the question is raised about the accuracy of what God has said (Genesis 3:1). Eve’s response is both incorrect and interpretive. She leaves out the sweeping generosity of the Creator by failing to acknowledge that He has given them permission to eat of “every” tree except this one (compare Genesis 2:16 and 3:2), and then adds a note of personal interpretation by claiming that they were forbidden even to “touch” the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:3).
Immediately, the retort by the serpent was to brashly and boldly declare: “Ye shall not surely die.” Full in the face of the words of God flies this arrogant denial. If this statement is to be embraced, then God not only lied, but did so to cover up His inability to perform His oath. Either God is unable to execute judgment, or He is unwilling to execute judgment. This masterstroke of manipulation requires a choice. One or the other is lying. There cannot be two opposite truths. Either Lucifer is right and God is wrong, or God is right and Lucifer is wrong. There cannot be another alternative.
Both Adam and Eve are silent. Eve is slowly being led into deception. Adam is not. But at this point, both should be shouting defiance against the awful lie! Both should be urgently calling for the Creator to rebuke the daring usurper. But neither speak!
Now comes the coup de grâce. Satan defames the holiness of God and distorts the unilateral love and limitless mercy of the Creator by stating the great lie: “God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).
The smile of the devil must have split the serpent’s face in two (perhaps that is part of the source of the vast maw of the snake). He had won! Eve rationalized through the deception, saw how good the food was and how pleasant it looked. She began to sense the power that she might have when she became “as gods,” reached out, took the fruit, ate it, and gave it to her husband—who was right there all along, and “he did eat” (Genesis 3:6).
Perhaps no other passage of Scripture has received such efforts to refute, to deconstruct, or to reverse the sentences pronounced by God on these participants than the specific focus of God’s judgment in Genesis 3.
Among herpetologists, there are those who specialize in the study of serpents. Many are qualified scientists who take a genuine interest in the academic discipline. Others, however, develop a macabre obsession with reptiles and have formed various clubs and societies to press for “acceptance” of these animals—in spite of the fact that the overwhelming majority of humanity revolts at the very sight of snakes. Why, one would ask, is there such a universal revulsion and fear of these creatures?
Perhaps we need not look any further than God’s judgment on the snake (Genesis 3:14-15). Not only was its very shape changed, but its habits and reputation were totally altered so that humanity would never forget the horrible event that took place in the garden. The snake would forever be an enemy of man and would forever remind us that God Himself would ultimately destroy its influence and power among humanity.
Eve had enjoyed a co-regency with Adam, but because of her duplicity and collaboration in the rebellion, she (and through her all women) were placed under authority and subjected to ongoing difficulties in the role for which she was especially designed (Genesis 3:16). Various cries for “equality,” for example from among some feminists, are actually protestations against that judgment.
Societies that do not follow God’s design suffer and ultimately fall. Marriages that are not functioning around God’s protocols are troubled, and many, many are destroyed. Men and women who seek “alternative lifestyles” are not at peace—they are angry, hostile, and ostracized. The growing gay and lesbian movements are essentially efforts to distort reproductive design, created by God, and to blur the distinctions that are so obviously built into mankind. God’s laws can be broken and God’s judgment resisted, but the consequences are severe and the emotive results, bitter.
But the great enemy is death! Adam’s horrible and willful rebellion brought into Paradise the most awful of pronouncements. The very “ground” would no longer respond to man’s oversight. Because of Adam’s rebellion, the planet itself would rebel. All life would return to dust. Living things would distort and mutate. Every effort would be hard and laborious and would ultimately end in death.
Every facet of fallen mankind’s intelligent endeavors attempts to thwart that judgment! Humanity spends untold amounts of priceless effort and money in an attempt to delay that end. Most academic disciplines try to define away the judgment and ignore the message of redemption. Many theologians distort the words and twist the syntax in order to gain some hybrid agreement that supports the pagan or atheistic effort to make death nothing more than a necessary part of creation—such as claiming that death is the natural means to weed out the “unfit” or to “work out” the ultimate plan of God.
But death is not “good.” Death is the “last enemy” to be destroyed.9 Death is a judgment—it is the awful sentence handed down by a thrice-holy God upon an openly rebellious creature who had the audacity to violate the very responsibility for which he was created. Death is the ultimate separation from the Creator, designed by the One who is Life to punish the angelic beings who dared to lead the rebellion.10
The Good News is that the sentence has been served. The payment has been made. Death can become Life! We who are “dead” can be “made alive” by and through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ and His victory over death in Jerusalem so many years ago. Because of His victory, paradise has been restored and awaits believers as a new heaven and a new earth.11
Perhaps it is sufficient to quote the wellknown message in John’s gospel, chapter 3, verse 16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
- Milton, J. 1674. Paradise Lost – a Poem in Twelve Books; The Second Edition; Revised and Augmented by the same author. London: Printed by S. Simmons next door To the Golden Lion in Aldersgate-street.
- Genesis 1:27–2:3.
- Genesis 5:1.
- Genesis 2:8-19.
- Genesis 2:19-22.
- Genesis 2:15.
- Genesis 2:17.
- Romans 8:22.
- 1 Corinthians 15:26.
- Matthew 25:41.
- Revelation 21:1.
* Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Morris III, H. 2013. Paradise Lost. Acts & Facts. 42 (5): 5-7.