Adam's Probation - Garden's Temple
There is no short supply of theologians and lay-people talking about creation and scripture. Genesis 1 and 2 have become hotbeds of debate about authority, science, and nature; trenches have been dug and lines have been drawn. These discussions are important, but having a broader, biblical theological, vision of creation can help us breathe. It is in this spirit that I now propose some considerations on some of the greater themes of scripture from their points of origin within the Divine story of origins: the probationary period of Adam and Eve in relation to eschatological rest, and the garden of Eden as the temple of God.
The probationary period of Adam and Eve was a hard idea for me to get behind. Being raised baptistic and evangelical, I have had to fight against the urge to demand proof texts. If you want chapter and verse defenses for probation, you will be let down (as you will demanding proof texts for the doctrines of the trinity, hypostatic union, and a number of other core doctrines to orthodox Christianity). After wrestling with the text, I eventually came to believe, with remarkable certainty, that the probationary period is present in creation. In summary, the probationary period is that Adam and Eve were in probation in the garden of Eden. They were a part of a covenant of works and, depending on their obedience, they would have entered eschatological rest when they had finished their work.
In its broadest sense the argument is that Adam and Eve were created as image bearers of God. Image bearing describes the creature’s attributes as well as their responsibilities. Image bearing is ethical. Man was created to rule and create, have dominion and multiply (Genesis 1.28). This mirrors, or bears the image, of the creator. As God created and ruled, so man was supposed to create and rule. This was not all that God did however; God rested when he had finished all of his work. With the pattern of the vice-regent (creation-king) bearing the image of the regent (Creator-King), it follows that man would enter the Sabbath rest once they had accomplished all of their work (Hebrews 4.1-11).
Another argument is tied to the prohibition given to Adam and Eve. Of the two sacraments in the garden, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were forbidden from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they did eat of that tree, they would “surely die” (Genesis 2.17). Once they broke that command, they were kicked out of the garden lest they “take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3.22). Adam and Eve were sinless, yet they were mortal and the threat of death hung over them. The tree of life, the tree that is given to those who persevere in paradise (Revelation 2.7), the tree that will heal the nations (Revelation 22.2), this tree was withheld from them once they sinned and kept out of their reach by cherubim as they were exiled to death (Genesis 3.24). The original creation was good, but it was mortal and could always die. The glorified creation is best; it is immortal and will never die. Adam was created good, but he was designed for the best.
The last argument I will offer is the one that clenched the debate for me (and I am indebted to Richard Gaffin for it). Paul compares the two Adams in two places: Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. In Romans 5, the dichotomy between the two is sin and death through one, obedience and life through the other. In 1 Corinthians 15 we have a different picture. In his theology of resurrection, Paul contrasts created Adam and glorified second Adam. One is perishable, dishonorable, weak and natural. The other is imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual. One of made of dust, the other is made of heaven. One bears the image of the Adam of dust, the other bears the image of the Adam of heaven (1 Corinthians 15.42-49). In Romans 5 Paul was concerned with giving life to what is dead; in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is concerned with making eschatological what was created earthly. Romans speaks of the transformation from fallen Adam to redeemed Adam. Corinthians speaks of the transformation from created Adam to glorified Adam.
The Garden As Temple
The temple of God is a huge symbol in scripture. The garden of Eden being a type of the temple of God is a rather new idea to me, but as Gregory Beale explains it, I am starting to understand the argument, and its implications. In his Biblical Theology lectures on iTunesU Beale gives a number of points that, taken as a whole, offer good reason to believe that the garden was creation’s temple.
- The temple in scripture is the unique place of God’s presence. It is where man went to be in relationship with God. Likewise, the garden of Eden was the place on earth where Adam and Eve walked with God.
- In Genesis 2.15 Adam is told to “cultivate” and “keep” the garden. The Hebrew for these words, when used together, are usually “serve” and “guard”. When applied to priests, these words describe their role of serving God in the temple, and guarding the temple against uncleanness. This the precise role Adam failed to fulfill in regard to guarding the garden against the profaning work of the serpent. This priestly role was stripped from Adam when he was banished from the garden with two cherubim guarding its entrance. Noteworthy is that both the entrance to the temple and the garden face east. Also noteworthy here is the placement of the cherubim on the lid to the Ark of the Covenant which was contained in the Holy of Holies in the temple.
- The tree of life also has an interesting relationships to the garden and the temple. Many commentators believe that the lampstand outside of the Holy of Holies was described as and looked like a symbol of the tree of life. The base of the lampstand being its trunk with seven branches reaching up to the heavens. The symbols of both life and light are also connected in many ways to the true Temple, Jesus Christ the source of both light and life.
- The temple contained many floral images of a garden as well as images of trees. The art in the temple was very symbolic of a garden.
- The cultural mandate of Adam was to subdue the whole earth. The garden of Eden was placed on the earth, but the text seems to suggest that the work of Adam in subduing the earth, as an image bearer of God, was to not only fill the earth with humans, but to fill the earth with the garden. The glory of God in the garden, the special presence of God (temple), was to fill the whole earth (suggestive of Psalm 72.19).
Taken as a whole, these suggest a pattern that becomes clearer and clearer as scripture unfolds. The theology of the temple of God, the dwelling place of God, moves from a specific location in the old testament (garden/tabernacle/temple) to Christ and his church in the new testament which is sent out to all of the earth. It finally culminates in the new heavens and new earth, the heavenly Jerusalem, the new Eden, where Jesus Christ is the temple of God (Revelation 21.22) and he does fill the entire earth. What was offered in Genesis, what was typified by the earthly Temple in Jerusalem, what is now realized in the Church, will indeed fill the entire earth in the consummation of all things.
Both of these themes, probation and temple themes, show us something very clearly. Revelation sheds light on Genesis. The end interprets the beginning. Eschatology gives meaning to protology. Our God is the Alpha and Omega. Creation is consummated in new creation.
Editor's Note: This post is a part of the larger Torrey Gazette's "Creation Week." Multiple opinions are being expressed throughout the week and reader participation is encouraged.