Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Preterist Perspective: Summary and Highlights
Whenever a city or kingdom was conquered by foreigners, the Bible often portrays this event as the destruction and creation of heaven and earth. See The Earth is More than 6000 Years Old: How Young Earth Creationists have Misinterpreted the Bible. Though probably not the very first mortal human being ever, Adam is called the first man in 1 Corinthians 15:45 because he was the first man in the Hebrew family line at the creation of a then new heaven and earth. Thus Adam inaugurated a new age. Another example in which “first” does not refer to the first ever is in Hebrew 9:1. Here the writer of Hebrews calls the Old Covenant the “first” when mentioning the Law of Moses (Hebrews 9:1) despite the fact that the Law of Moses was not the first covenant God made with His people. God also made a covenant with Noah (Genesis 9) and Abraham (Genesis 17) prior to the covenant He made with Moses.
According to Galatians 4:26, Hebrews 12:22 and Ezekiel 27-28, both Eden and the New Jerusalem are places in both heaven and earth. Thus Genesis 2-3 tells a heavenly story with an earthly shadow. At its heavenly level, Genesis 2-3 is a story about Adam being cast out of the Eden that is in heaven to Earth. (Interestingly, this is not the only time this was said to have occurred in the Bible (Ezekiel 28).)
If this is true, then the curses of Genesis 3:14-19 were, therefore, the result of Adam, the Serpent and Eve being cast from heaven to earth to experience these punishments in a world that had presumably already been this way for millennia. The metamorphoses that occurred to their bodies after the fall thus appear to be a change from their previous heavenly bodies to more corruptible earthly ones as a consequence of being cast from heaven to earth. This change from heavenly to earthly bodies at the fall of man is the opposite of the change from earthly to heavenly bodies at the resurrection according to 1 Corinthians 15:35-44. At the fall, Adam inaugurated a new age of spiritual death which came to a close at the resurrection of the saints to heaven at the end of that age. The resurrection, therefore, represents a kind of return to the Eden of Heaven.
There is also earthly significance or meaning underlying the literal story of the fall of man. Genesis 2-3 is an allegory about two children growing up and reaching the age of accountability. When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, this act represented the fact that Adam and Eve had reached the age of knowing right from wrong. Now knowing right from wrong, Adam and Eve then lost the innocence that pardoned them of sin in their early youth (Isaiah 7:16, Romans 5:13). At that moment they were then, therefore, guilty of their sins. This story is also our story.
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: The End Mirrors the Beginning. According to Galatians 4:26, Hebrews 12:22 and Ezekiel 27-28, Both Eden and the New Jerusalem are Places in Both Heaven and Earth.
The end of the age is a mirror opposite of the beginning. In other words, the new Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22 is analogous to Eden. Both Eden and the new Jerusalem are described in the Bible in such a way as to point to both heaven and earth. See Revelation 21: A Preterist Commentary and Revelation 22: A Preterist Commentary. Hebrews 8:5 says that the sanctuary of the Temple is “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.” The same can be said about the city of Jerusalem itself according to Galatians 4:26 and Hebrews 12:22. Galatians 4:26 states, “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” Hebrews 12:22 says, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.” Notice that Jerusalem is not just a city on earth, there is also a Jerusalem in heaven.
The same can also be said about Eden. According to Ezekiel 27:23, Eden is clearly a place on earth: “‘Harran, Kanneh and Eden and merchants of Sheba, Ashur and Kilmad traded with you [the city of Tyre].” However, in Ezekiel 28:1-19 Eden appears to represent both a place in heaven and a city on earth. In these verses, Ezekiel addresses the king of Tyre. In v. 7 Ezekiel predicts the destruction of this coastal city. This prediction came to pass in 573 B.C. when the city was destroyed by the Babylonians. While addressing the king of Tyre, Ezekiel says, “You [the king of Tyre] were in Eden, the garden of God.” Ezekiel then goes on to say that the king of Tyre was “anointed as a guardian cherub [an angel of the presence of God].” Then in v. 17, this cherub, the king of Tyre, was thrown to the earth. The symbolism used in Ezekiel 28 is intentionally meant to point to events in both heaven and earth. Here the destruction of Tyre and the death of its king are presented as typological shadows ultimately pointing to the casting out of an angel of the presence of God from heaven. Because of the dual fulfillment of Ezekiel 28 in both heaven and earth, it is clear that Eden is more than just a place on earth. Like the new Jerusalem, Eden is also a place in heaven. This idea is echoed in 2 Enoch where Eden (2 Enoch 42:3-4) together with the tree of life (2 Enoch 8:1-3) is said to also exist in heaven: “And I ascended to the east, into the paradise of Eden, where rest is prepared for the righteous. And it is open as far as the third heaven; but it is closed off from this world. And guards are appointed at the very large gates . . . rejoicing at the arrival of the righteous (2 Enoch 42:3-4).”
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: The Kingdom of Heaven is also located in Both Heaven and Earth.
The kingdom of heaven mentioned in the Gospels is also present in heaven and earth. Also called the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven is described in the Gospels in such a way as to point to an existence in both heaven and earth. By its name alone, the kingdom of heaven suggests that it is in heaven. However, it is also present on earth. In Luke 17:21, Jesus declares, “[T]he kingdom of God is among you.” In light of the fact that the kingdom of heaven is present on earth and in heaven, it is not surprising that Eden and the new Jerusalem are also described in the Bible in such a way as to simultaneously point to an existence in both heaven and earth with their heavenly counterparts being a glorious reflection of their earthly shadows.
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: What does the Bible Mean when it says the Saints are Not of This World?
Revelation 21:2 also suggests that the new Jerusalem is present in both heaven and earth. However, this verse is noteworthy in that when interpreted in light of Enoch 39:1 appears to hint at an important interrelationship between beings from heaven and beings on earth. This interrelationship could shed light on what exactly transpired in Genesis 2-3.
In Revelation 21:2 John sees “the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven.” What could this mean? How could heaven descend to earth? Daren Wisman, a controversial Christian apologist, has a fascinating answer to this question. He contends that this question appears to be explicitly answered in the Book of Enoch. In Enoch 39:1 the prophet writes, “In those days [the end times] shall the elect and holy race descend from the upper heavens, and their seed shall then be with the sons of men.” He then goes on to say that the descent of heavenly spirits to earth is also implicit in Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
According to Wisman, the fact that some people have an existence in heaven that predates their earthly incarnation is echoed over and over in the Bible though never fully explained. In the Bible the saints are often said to “not be of this world.” One example is John 15:19. Here Jesus says that the disciples “are not of the world.” Of, of course, means from. In this frequently used expression, Jesus states that the saints are not of or from the earth. Instead, they are of or from heaven. These saints that are from heaven are destined to return there after death. This message is conveyed in Romans 8:29. Here Paul writes, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. . .”
The soul’s preexistence is also explicitly stated in Enoch 39:8. In referring to the heavenly dwelling of the righteous, Enoch writes, “There was I desirous of remaining, and my soul longed for that habitation. There was my antecedent inheritance; for thus had I prevailed with the Lord of spirits.” While seeing God in the presence of the heavenly host, Enoch remembers this as having once been his home, that is, before being born on earth.
As illustrated by the quotations from the Book of Enoch above, the fact that many ancient Jews believed that some people have an existence in heaven that predates their earthly incarnation might come as a shock to some. Addressing this idea in far greater detail, Daren Wisman expounds upon what he sees as abundant Biblical evidence for the preexistence of some souls in heaven in his article The Biblical Solution to Christianity’s Predestination Paradox. Here Wisman also addresses those Bible verses often cited as evidence of the creation of the soul at conception and shows how these verses seem to imply a pre-birth existence when considering the context and alternative readings found in ancient manuscripts. Using basic textual criticism techniques, Wisman argues that alternative readings in favor of the preexistence of the soul are more likely to reflect what was originally written in the autograph. He also bolsters his case with evidence from near-death experiences that overwhelmingly testify in favor of the heavenly preexistence of some souls.
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: Did Adam have an Existence in Heaven before being cast to the Earth? Was Adam Cast out of the Eden that is in Heaven as was the King of Tyre according to Ezekiel 28?
The beginning and end of the Bible are mirror opposites. Like many saints of the kingdom of heaven, Adam also appears to have had a previous existence in heaven before his earthly incarnation. When Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was he cast from the Eden that is in heaven to earth to experience mortality with the rest of earthly creation?
David Aune writes, “According to some Jewish legends, Adam lived in a heavenly paradise (the third heaven, 2 Cor 12:4; 2 Enoch 5:1) and was expelled to earth for his disobedience.”1 Evidence that Adam was cast out of the Eden which is in heaven is implied by the fact that the tree of life is located in heaven as indicated in Revelation and the Pseudepigrapha. In 2 Enoch 8:1-3, Enoch is shown the third heaven and there he says he saw the tree of life. Furthermore, the New Jerusalem which is said to house the tree of life (Revelation 22:2) is said to come down from heaven in Revelation 21:2.
The First Book of Adam and Eve, another Pseudepigraphical work also suggests that Adam and Eve were in the Eden that is in heaven prior to their fall. In The First Book of Adam and Eve 10:5 Adam is said to have been a “bright angel” while he was in Eden: “Then God said to Adam, ‘While you were under my commandment [in the Garden of Eden], you were a bright angel[.]’” Angels in heaven are described as beings of light (2 Kings 6:17, Daniel 10:6, Matthew 28:2-3, 2 Corinthians 11:14, Hebrews 1:7). Thus if Adam was a “bright angel” or angel of light in Eden this suggests that he was in heaven in Genesis 2-3. Echoing the fact that Adam and Eve were in heaven while in the garden of Eden is also implied later in The First Book of Adam and Eve where it is stated that there was no sun in Eden, no darkness and no day or night (The First Book of Adam and Eve 11:9; 14:2; 16:7) just like heaven, “the realm of light” (The First Book of Adam and Eve 13:4-7). These vs. suggest that the story of Eden in Genesis 2-3 took place in heaven as night and day existed at the very beginning of the creation of the earth (Genesis 1:1-5).2
Interestingly, Adam and Eve may not have been the only people mentioned in the Bible to have been cast out of the Eden in heaven before their earthly incarnation. Addressing the king of Tyre, Ezekiel says the following in Ezekiel 28:1-2: “The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a mere mortal and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god.” Continuing to address the king of Tyre, Ezekiel then goes on to also say the following about how the king of Tyre had been cast out of the Eden in heaven because of sin in Ezekiel 28:11-17:
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings [emphasis mine].
Notice that according to Ezekiel 28:11-17, the human king of Tyre seems to have been cast out of the Eden in heaven before his birth on earth. Was this also what happened to Adam and Eve at the fall of man?
Adam and Eve Inaugurated Spiritual, Not Physical, Death at The Fall: Genesis 2:17 says that Adam and Eve would Die the Day They ate the Forbidden Fruit. Adam died 930 Years Later. Therefore, the Death Adam and Eve Experienced that Day was Spiritual Death (i.e. Separation from God).
There is abundant Biblical evidence that the death that Adam inaugurated was actually spiritual death which is separation from God, not instantaneous physical death on the earthly plane. For example, in Genesis 3:5 the serpent says to Adam, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Immediately after eating the forbidden fruit Genesis 3:7 says that “the eyes of both of them [Adam and Eve] were opened.” Here one can see that Adam and Eve learned right and wrong immediately after eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as promised in Genesis 3:5.
Now compare Genesis 3:5 with Genesis 2:17. In Genesis 2:17 God tells Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit “for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Interestingly, Adam did not die physically on earth that day. Rather, Adam died 930 years later according to Genesis 5:5. Thus Adam and Eve were able to discern good from evil the day they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:5-7) and yet did not die physically that day as stated in Genesis 2:17. This fact implies that the death that Adam and Eve experienced the day in which they ate of the fruit was not physical death on earth. Instead, the death they experienced that day was spiritual death having been separated from the presence of God by being cast out of Eden later that day. When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Eden that is in heaven in Genesis 3:22-24 they were literally and physically separated from the presence of God. It is this separation from God that the Bible calls spiritual death.3
In other words, Adam and Eve experienced spiritual death in a literal sense as a result of being cast out of the Eden that is in heaven to earth the day in which they ate of the forbidden fruit. Not only did Adam and Eve experience spiritual death as a result of being cast out of God’s presence in heaven, they also later experienced physical, biological death having been cast from heaven to earth. Adam died physically and biologically 930 years after eating of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 5:5) because after being kicked out of heaven, Adam and Eve were on earth. Furthermore, after having been cast to the earth and then subsequently experiencing biological death like all mortal humans, Adam was then presumably confined to even deeper separation from God in the dark oblivion of death called Sheol in the Bible. It was in Sheol that Adam and Eve were confined after physical death to await the resurrection back to heaven.
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: Adam is called the “First” man in 1 Corinthians 15:45. This does Not mean He was the First Man ever, Hebrews 9:1 Calls the Law of Moses the “First” Covenant Despite the Fact that God also Made a Covenant with Noah (Genesis 9) and Abraham (Genesis 17) prior to making a Covenant with Moses.
Though probably not the very first mortal human being ever, Adam is called the first man in 1 Corinthians 15:45 because he was the first man in the Hebrew family line at the creation of a then new heaven and earth: ““The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” Most people understand this to imply that Adam was the first human being ever. However, Jesus is called the “last Adam” in this verse and He was not the last human being ever. The fact that Adam seems to have been created at or around the creation of heaven and earth in Genesis 1 does not mean that he was the first man ever. This idea may come as a surprise. However, the writer of Hebrews calls the Old Covenant the “first” when mentioning the Law of Moses (Hebrews 9:1) despite the fact that the Law of Moses was not the first covenant God made with His people. God also made a covenant with Noah (Genesis 9) and Abraham (Genesis 17) prior to the covenant He made with Moses.
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: If Adam was the First Man, Who was Cain Afraid of? And Who did Cain Marry in Nod?
In Genesis 4:1 Adam and Eve give birth to their first two children, Cain and Abel. After Cain kills Abel (Genesis 4:8), God expels Cain from the land and Cain worries, “whoever finds me will kill me.” Then in the following two verses (Genesis 4:16-17), Cain moves to the land of Nod and marries a woman. To this point the Bible does not mention any other people other than Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel. Who did Cain marry in Nod? Who was Cain afraid of? Did Adam have any other sons? After Cain killed Abel Genesis 4:25 seems to imply that at that time Adam had no other male children at all other than Cain and Abel: “Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.”
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: Whenever a Nation was Conquered by Another, the Bible Often portrays this Conquest as the Destruction and Creation of Heaven and Earth.
Furthermore, the Bible describes the destruction and conquest of several kingdoms in Old Testament history in imagery denoting the destruction of heaven and earth (Isaiah 13:9-13; 34:4-5; Jeremiah 4:23-26; Ezekiel 32:7-9). For a detailed explanation of how this fact implies that the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 may not be the first ever creation of heaven and earth see The Earth is More than 6000 Years Old: How Young Earth Creationists have Misinterpreted the Bible.
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: Though Not the Very First Man Ever, Adam was the First Man at the Creation of a Then New Heaven and Earth. Having been cast from the Eden of Heaven to Earth like the King of Tyre in Ezekiel 28, Adam Inaugurated a New Age of Spiritual Death. This Age came to a close at the Resurrection of the Saints to Heaven at the End of the Age. The Resurrection at the End represents a Kind of Return to the Eden of Heaven.
Though not the first man ever, Adam was the first man of a then new heaven and earth who was also presumably the one who first marked the spiritual death of his descendants in Sheol at the start of that age. In the age inaugurated by Adam’s fall from heaven all of Adam’s human descendants also experienced even deeper spiritual death or separation from God in Sheol after physical death.
From the vantage point of the earth’s surface, heaven is said to be up (2 Kings 2:1, Psalm 14:2, Lamentations 3:41, Matthew 28:2, Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9-11) and Sheol, Hades or the Abyss are said to be down (Numbers 16:31, Ezekiel 26:20, Luke 16:23 and 2 Peter 2:4). Whether or not this cosmology is literally true is impossible to know. Perhaps heaven is above the earth but it exists in another dimension and Sheol, Hades or the Abyss are below the earth in another dimension? Regardless of whether or not this is literally true, what this cosmology implies is a notion of degrees of separation from God. The Bible repeatedly teaches that God is in heaven (1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 14:4; 103:19; 115:3; Isaiah 63:15; 66:1; Daniel 7:9-14; Matthew 5:34; 6:9; 23:22; Acts 7:49; Hebrews 8:1; Revelation 4:1-6). To be in heaven where God exists in the “flesh” so to speak is to truly and literally be in God’s presence. To be in God’s presence in heaven is to be truly alive. Therefore, to be on earth is to be a degree separated from God in heaven: “[A]s long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6).” And if being on earth is a unit of separation from God, then to be in Sheol below is, of course, another unit of separation from God.
Job 15:14-16 sheds some light on this idea of separation from God: “What are mortals, that they could be pure, or those born of woman, that they could be righteous? If God places no trust in his holy ones, if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes, how much less mortals, who are vile and corrupt, who drink up evil like water!” According to Job 15:14-16 even the angels of heaven are capable of sin. This is why angels are sometimes cast out of heaven as is the case in Ezekiel 28 and Revelation 12. When angels sin, they are then said to be cast from heaven to earth (Ezekiel 28:17, Revelation 12:9). To be cast from heaven to earth is one unit or degree of separation from God. This is a form of death (separation from God) because sin and death are inextricably linked: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
The orthodox notion of original sin sheds light on why people are born on earth immediately separated from God. People are born on earth separated from God in heaven because they have inherited sin (original sin) even while still in the womb: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5).” “Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth (Isaiah 48:8).” Psalm 51:5 and Isaiah 48:8 imply that all human kind inherits sin from the womb. This inherited sin is presumably why all people on earth are separated from God who is in heaven. And because all humanity has sin even in the womb, this may be largely why the Bible often says that people are “dead” (separated from God in heaven) even while alive on earth:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Though to be on earth is to be physically separated from God in heaven and thus one could say that this is one form of spiritual death, to be in the dark realm of Sheol below the earth is to be even further removed from God and heaven and is therefore perhaps an even deeper degree of spiritual death or separation from God and heaven. (Though people are physically separated from God in heaven while living on earth (a type of spiritual death) it is possible to be unified with God spiritually while still on earth through the reception of the Holy Spirit. The reception of the Holy Spirit is spiritual life not only because it unifies the saint with God in a spiritual sense but it is also a deposit guaranteeing literal unity with God in heaven–like Adam and Eve experienced in Eden–after physical death (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13).)
This pattern of spiritual death continued until the end of that age when Jesus conquered death by releasing the spirits of the saints confined to Sheol at the resurrection of the dead. Having been freed from death at the resurrection, the righteous descendants of Adam experienced new life in heaven. In this way, the end looks to be the exact opposite of the beginning. In the beginning Adam appears to have descended from heaven to earth after being cast from Eden and was then later confined to Sheol after Adam died 930 years later on earth (Genesis 5:5). At the end, the saints who had died and been confined to Sheol after physical death were released and raised to heaven.
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: The Curses of Genesis 3:14-19 appear to be the Result of Adam, the Serpent and Eve being Cast from the Eden in Heaven to Earth to Experience these Punishments in a World that had presumably already been this way for Millennia. The Curses to Their Bodies then appear to be the Natural result of a Change from their Previous Heavenly Bodies to more Corruptible Earthly Bodies.
After Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, God cursed the serpent so that it was to crawl on its belly and be the enemy of humanity. God then cursed Eve such that her pain in child birth was to be intensified. And Adam was cursed to work the ground. And the ground or dust of the earth was cursed because of him. In Genesis 3:17 God punishes Adam by saying, “Cursed is the ground because of you[.]” Because can also be translated for. Thus all these punishments that affected Adam, the serpent and Eve seem to be the natural result of them having been cast from the Eden that is in heaven to the earth to experience the aforementioned hardships in a much less pleasant land that could have presumably already been this way for millennia.
Thus these curses at the fall of man need not have instituted a change in the biology of the whole earth as is typically supposed. The change in biology at the fall seems to have only affected the parties involved in the story of Eden: the serpent, Eve and Adam. The rest of the hardships these three figures experienced after the fall seem to be typical hardships already present on the earthly plane to which they entered and subsequently experienced after the fall. Thus no change need have occurred on the earth itself as a consequence of the fall. The changes to the biology of these three figures represent a change from their previous, glorified heavenly bodies to more corruptible earthly bodies.
Recall as stated above, that beings of heaven are described as beings of light (2 Kings 6:17, Daniel 10:6, Matthew 28:2-3, 2 Corinthians 11:14, Hebrews 1:7). The idea that Adam and Eve were cast out of the Eden in heaven is again suggested in Judeo-Christian tradition when Adam and Eve were said to have lost their heavenly “garments of light” when cast out of Eden (Irenaeus Haer. 3.23.5; Tertullian De pudicitia 9; De resurrection 7; Ginzberg, Legends 1:79; 5:42, 97, 103-4).4
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: The Change from Heavenly to Earthly Bodies at the Fall of Man is the Mirror Opposite of the Change from Earthly to Heavenly Bodies at the Resurrection according to 1 Corinthians 15:35-44.
In other words, the change that occurred to Adam and Eve is the opposite of that which occurred at the end of the age at the resurrection of the dead. The return to the incorruptible, glorified state of the departed saints at the end of the age is a transformation from earthly bodies to heavenly bodies. It is, therefore, the opposite of what transpired in Eden at the fall which seems to have represented a change from the heavenly to the earthly body. Thus the end of the age, in essence, represents a complete reversal of the fall of man by way of a return to heaven—a return to the heavenly Eden.
This idea is implied in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22: “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” These two vs. point out the fact that the death that Adam experienced at the fall is repaired by the resurrection of the dead. This idea implies that the death or separation from God that Adam experienced the day he ate of the forbidden fruit is the opposite of the resurrection of the dead. And if the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection to heaven, then this suggests that the death that Adam experienced in the garden was his being cast out of heaven, the exact opposite of the resurrection to heaven at the end of the age.
Is the resurrection of the dead a resurrection to heaven? 1 Corinthians 15:35-44 shows that the resurrection is a resurrection to heaven where the saints take on new, glorified heavenly bodies:
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. . . . So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
In the above verses, Paul dispels the mistaken idea that mankind will experience perfected, glorified earthly bodies at the resurrection. In vs. 35-44 Paul explains that the corruptible earthly bodies of the saints were to be raised into imperishable, heavenly bodies. To further solidify this idea, Paul also calls these new bodies spiritual bodies. Some might contest to this interpretation by citing 1 Corinthians 15:45-49:
So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
In the above verses, Paul likens humankind to Adam by saying, “The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.” Here Adam is said to be of the earth. Does this contradict the above interpretation that Adam began his existence in heaven? No. Adam was initially made of the dust, or stuff, of heaven as mankind is made of the dust, or stuff, of the earth. Furthermore, when Adam came to earth after the fall, he was again made of the dust of the earth as are all men. When Paul says that “[t]he first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven[,]” Paul simply starts his stop watch to start after the fall when Adam was incarnated as a man on the earthly plane.
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: The Spiritual Significance of the Curse of Genesis 3:17
Though the curses at the fall of man need not have affected all the biology of the earth, the fall did enact a spiritual curse. Let us now turn our attention in more detail to the curse of Genesis 3:17. This curse also has spiritual significance. Genesis 3:17 points to the curse that was also placed on Adam’s descendants after his fall from heaven. The ground or dust of the earth symbolizes the people of earth. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. In fact, the name Adam means “of the earth.” And his descendants, like those of Abram, are the people of the earth, the dust of the earth: “I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered (Genesis 13:16).” Therefore, when God cursed the dust of the earth after Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, he cursed the descendants of Adam, the man who was “of the earth” whose descendants, like those of Abram, are the dust of the earth.5 Thus all of Adam’s earthly descendants would, of course, also experience similar physical and spiritual death. The physical death that Adam’s descendants were to experience, though not necessarily instituted at the fall as people had presumably been dying on earth long before 4000 B.C. when Adam arrived, is a natural consequence of being born on earth. However, the spiritual death that follows physical death does appear to be a consequence of the fall.
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: What about Romans 8:19-21?
Because the fall was an expulsion from heaven to earth, the changes that Adam, the serpent and Eve experienced was a change from heavenly to earthly bodies as well as a change from a heavenly environment to an earthly one. If this is true, then the biology of the earth would not be expected to change at that time. This notion implies that the earth would also not undergo physical change at the end of the age.
Many commentators who believe in a future physical restoration of the earth often use Romans 8:19-21 as evidence: “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” The word translated “creation” in v. 20 is sometimes also translated “creature.” The creation or creature mentioned in Romans 8:19-21 is mankind, rational creation, not irrational creation like plants and animals. This interpretation is supported by Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:18-20, Colossians 1:15, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15. In all these vs. “creature” and “creation” explicitly refer only to mankind, rational creation. Mankind is freed from decay after the resurrection to heaven when at that time they receive new glorious heavenly bodies like the bodies that Adam and Eve seem to have had prior to the fall. These heavenly bodies are presumably free from decay. Thus Romans 8:19-21 can be said to be fulfilled even in a literal sense at the resurrection to heaven after the end of the age.
Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective: Genesis 2-3 also appears to be an Allegory about Two Children growing up and reaching the Age of Accountability. Having lost the Innocence that Pardoned Them of Sin as Children, Adam and Eve then Learned Right from Wrong were therefore Guilty of Their Sins. Their Story is Also Our Story.
There is more that can be said concerning the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of man. As stated above, Eden is both a place in heaven and earth. Above I described the heavenly side of the story of the fall of man, but I believe there is more to this story: Genesis 2-3 also seems to have earthly significance. The earthly side of this story is probably quite different from what one might initially think.
According to Matthew 13:10-15 whenever Jesus spoke about the coming of the new age, the kingdom of God, He always spoke in parables. Parables are nonliteral, symbolic stories similar to allegories. If Jesus described the coming of the new age only in symbolic, nonliteral stories called parables, wouldn’t one also expect Jesus to describe the arrival of a previous age in the form of a parable as well? If the Bible is truly inerrant and divinely inspired, then Jesus, the Word of God, is the Bible’s ultimate author who worked through His divinely-appointed writers to compose all of the various books of the Bible (John 1). Thus if Jesus Christ as the Word of God in John 1 is truly the ultimate author of the Bible, then if Jesus were to speak concerning the arrival of a previous age would one expect him to suddenly speak literally? In Genesis 2-3 there is a talking serpent, a tree that gives knowledge of good and evil and then kills whoever eats from it, and there is another tree that imparts eternal life to those who eat of its fruit. Does this sound like literal history to you? Below I explain how Genesis 2-3 is really a parable or allegory about two children growing-up and reaching the age in which they now know right from wrong. As stated above, Adam means “of the earth” or “humankind.”6 Adam is an everyman figure. Thus his story is humanity’s story.
At its earthly level Genesis 2-4 is an allegory about two children growing up in the earthly land of Eden. Adam and Eve run around naked in the beginning of the story because they are just children who do not know or care that they are naked. Adam and Eve then eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil symbolizing the fact that these children have now reached the age of accountability and now know right from wrong. A child is not born knowing right from wrong. This fact is shown in Isaiah 7:16: “But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.” Eve eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before Adam because she is a female and females generally develop faster than males. After leaving Eden, the first thing that Adam and Eve are said to do is have sex. Genesis 4:1 says, “Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain.” This is not said to occur in the garden because here Adam and Eve are just children.
One might object to the above interpretation by citing Genesis 3:6. In this verse Eve is said to give the forbidden fruit to “her husband.” Does the fact that Adam is said to be the husband of Eve while still in the garden mean that Adam and Eve were married in the garden and therefore must have been adults? No. It is not unusual when relaying a past event to call a person’s spouse “husband” even if that person may not have been this person’s spouse at the time. This is what appears to be occurring here in Genesis 3:6.
Thus at its earthly, symbolic level, Genesis 2-3 is a story of maturation. This account is an allegory about children growing up and reaching the age of accountability. Adam and Eve’s story is also ours. According to Romans 5:13 and Isaiah 7:16 when we are young and do not know right from wrong, we are not guilty of sin. This changes when we reach the age of accountability. At the point in which we know right from wrong, we are then in need of a redeemer because at this point we are no longer protected from sin by our ignorance.
Romans 7:9 says, “Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” Of course Paul did not physically die when he learned of the Law. Thus, the death that Paul refers to in Romans 7:9 is spiritual death which as defined above is separation from God. A similar type of death was experienced by Adam after he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 2:17, God warns Adam not to eat of the forbidden fruit “for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Adam clearly did not die in an earthly sense on the day he ate the fruit of the garden (Genesis 5:3-5). It must be stated that the day mentioned in Genesis 2:17 was, in fact, a literal 24-hour day since Adam did learn good and evil the day or moment he consumed this fruit as stated in Genesis 3:5: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The fact that Adam knew right and wrong on the 24-hour day in which he ate of the fruit of Eden is explicitly stated in Genesis 2:6-7:
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
The death that Adam experienced in the 24-hour day in which he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was clearly not earthly, biological death since Adam died after having lived 930 years (Genesis 5:3-5). Thus Adam lived for at least 800 to 900 years after having eaten the forbidden fruit.7 The death that Adam experienced the day in which he ate the fruit in the garden was spiritual death (i.e. separation from God).8
As stated above, when we are young and do not know right from wrong we are not guilty of sin. This changes when we reach the age of accountability (Romans 5:13; 7:9; Isaiah 7:16). At the point in which we know right from wrong, we are then in need of forgiveness because at this point we are no longer shielded from sin by ignorance. This is exactly what is depicted in Genesis 2-3. Here Adam eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and at that point he knows right from wrong. After knowing right from wrong, Adam immediately experiences spiritual death as Paul did when he learned of the Law (Romans 7:9). This spiritual death or separation from God is a direct result of the knowledge of right and wrong. Because it is at the point in which a person knows the difference between good and evil that a person is then accountable for his or her sins.
Jesus’ sacrificial death and subsequent return at the end of the age rectified these earthly and spiritual problems. Faith in Christ restores the protection from sin that we once enjoyed as a consequence of the innocence of our early youth. Furthermore, Jesus’ sacrificial death and return at the time of the resurrection also freed the descendants of Adam from their prison in Sheol, the realm of spiritual death, so that they might be raised to eternal life in heaven in a turn of events that is a mirror opposite of Adam’s fall from heaven to earth.
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For more compelling evidence of an old earth through sound Biblical exegesis see the following articles 1) The Earth is More than 6000 Years Old: How Young Earth Creationists have Misinterpreted the Bible 2) Why Isaiah 65:20 and Related Verses Imply that Physical Death Preceded the Fall of Man 3) Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective 4) How and Why the Imagery of Zechariah 14 Intentionally Mirrors Genesis 1:1-10 5) The Cycles of Creation and Destruction in the Bible are Reflected in Prehistory.
Interested in PRETERIST ESCHATOLOGY or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
- Ralph P. Martin and Lynn Allan Losie, gen. eds., Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 52C, Revelation 17-22, by David E. Aune (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 1187.
- It is possible that Eden is implied to be in heaven in The First Book of Adam and Eve as a result of gnostic interpolations as The First Book of Adam and Eve mentions Christ. Thus perhaps Adam may have originally been unfamiliar with night in this text not because he was in heaven, the realm of light and no darkness, as indicated in the text but perhaps because in the autograph Adam transgressed God’s commandment before nightfall on his first day of existence (The First Book of Adam and Eve 13:15).
- Don K. Preston, We Shall Meet Him in The Air: The Wedding of the King of Kings!, (Ardmore, OK: JaDon Management Inc., 2010), 6.
- The Hebrew word for skin (Gen 3:21) is very similar to light. Ralph P. Martin and Lynn Allan Losie, gen. eds., Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 52B, Revelation 6-16, by David E. Aune (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 897.
- In Genesis 2:7 God formed Adam “from the dust of the ground.” It is perhaps more precise to say “dust” are the dead people of the earth (Numbers 23:10, Psalm 104:29, Genesis 3:19; 13:16). The fact that Adam is created “from the dust of the ground” thus poetically implies that Adam was not the first man but that many had died prior to his creation presumably in the womb of his mother just as God creates everyone in the womb (Jer 1:5).
- Marcus J. Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Literally (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001), 69.
- According to Genesis 4:1 Adam ‘s first son, Cain, was conceived after being cast out of Eden. The birth of Seth was after the birth of Cain (Genesis 4:25) and Adam lived 800 years after the birth of Seth (Genesis 5:4).
- Don K. Preston, We Shall Meet Him in The Air: The Wedding of the King of Kings!, (Ardmore, OK: JaDon Management Inc., 2010), 6.
I love, love, love this article. 🙂
It’s much more in-depth than any Genesis studies I have done, but I’ve never been under the assumption that the story of Adam and Eve was a literal account.
With my studies, I had definitely come to the realization that it was in Heaven.
But I was really working towards making it about the creation of the holy spirit (male) and carnal human soul (female). Which would be why she was first tempted to try the fruit (the human soul is doomed), why I’ve read (in a few Bibles) that when she first tried the fruit, BOTH of their eyes were open. It would also make sense as to why the Bible reads “women” (the human soul) shouldn’t speak in church, must keep their questions to themselves and only allow the men (the holy spirit) to speak, and 1 Timothy reads a woman should learn in quietness and submission, but yet the Bible has several women leaders and prophets, like Miriam, Deborah, Esther, Huldah. Man meets a woman and become one flesh that God has joined, etc.
I recognize that women being subservient would also be deeply cultural, but I was thinking maybe it could work on two levels.
Of course I found verses that greatly tear apart my thoughts, haha. But I think that’s part of getting closer to Him. I love reading the Bible, but I feel stirred and moved and elated when I’m really trying to learn this big, beautiful mystery.
My point is ultimately that I’ve never bought into Adam and Eve being two literal human beings in a literal garden on Earth, and I’m overly excited to read an article about the spiritual and enlightening implications that come with the story being of Heaven and Earth.
Thanks for another great read. 🙂