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First Quarter 2016 (January–March)
COMMENTARY ON REBELLION AND REDEMPTION
Week 2: January 2–8
COMMENTARY ON CRISIS IN EDEN
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Sabbath’s lesson opens with God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 in which He says the woman’s Seed would bruise the serpent’s head, and the serpent would bruise the Seed’s heel. The lesson introduces the week’s study and states that the week will begin to show how Satan was able to exploit human freedom and start the devastation we see today.
Sunday’s lesson says that God issues three blessings during creation week: first, He blessed the sea and the birds, telling them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the sea and multiply on the earth. Second He blessed man and blessed them, telling them to be fruitful, multiply fill the earth, and subdue it. He also told them to rule over the earth.
Third, the lesson jumps ahead to Genesis 2:3 and says God’s third blessing was His blessing the seventh day. The lesson then extrapolates from this blessing and says this seventh-day-blessing confirms that people are far more than animals, that they were created to enjoy “fellowship with their Creator”. In fact, the lesson states that this seventh-day blessing gives “unmistakeable evidence” that God gave humanity a special place in creation.
In fact, this conclusion deviates far from Scripture. First, Genesis 2 never calls the seventh day “Sabbath”. It never states that the seventh day was give to man for fellowship with God, nor is there any hint of a command for man to observe the seventh day as holy. In fact, Genesis 3:8 suggests that it was common for Adam, Eve, and God to walk in the garden together. There was no need for them to have “sabbath” in order to commune with God. They were spiritually alive and connected to Him, and there was no special time which God required of them.
The idea that God blessed the seventh day somehow demonstrates man’s special place in creation is utterly mission from Scripture. Rather, the Bible explains man’s special place: Genesis 1:26 tells us that God made man in His own image. Nothing else on earth was made in God’s image; it was this image of God in Adam and Eve that gave them special standing, and the seventh day had nothing whatsoever to do with confirming this fact.
Moreover, Genesis 2:3 states explicitly why God blessed and sanctified the seventh day: it was the day He ceased from His creating. Moreover, it was the only day that lacked an “evening and the morning” boundary. In other words, there was no end to the ceasing of God which came about on the seventh day. What God blessed was His finished work. He didn’t go back to work on the eighth day; He ceased, and He blessed that unboundaried seventh day. His work was perfect and complete, and He ceased.
God created Adam and Eve on the sixth day, and that unboundaried seventh day was their second day of life. There was no command for them to keep it, nor was there any hint that God would meet them in a special way that day. On the contrary, His work was done, and He ceased. He blessed His finished work and sanctified it. That finished work did not end with the evening of the seventh day; it was permanent and DONE.
Monday’s lesson opens with a pointed focus on “separations”, citing boundaries between light and darkness, land and sea, a day separated from others, woman separated from man, and a tree set apart.
Significantly, the biblical account does not draw the conclusions the lesson attempts to draw. In the first place, we showed in yesterday’s commentary that the Bible does not separate the seventh day from the other six in a repetitive way; rather, the account shows that the seventh day is unboundaried, unseparated. It does not have an evening or a morning separating it from the other days according to purpose or the continuation of God’s work. Rather, from the seventh day on, God’s work was done, and all days were equal.
Furthermore, although the lesson does not make this point clearly, this hint in the opening paragraph that mentions a woman separated from a man is further unbiblical. Ellen White states, and Adventists are taught, that Eve wandered away from Adam and was tempted by Satan, falling into deception and sin, because she was alone with the serpent. Further, EGW teaches that Eve took fruit to Adam where he was, and he was horrified to see that Eve had taken the fruit, but he decided that he would eat rather than lose his lovely and precious wife. Furthermore, she states that Eve was flushed with a special excitement and her senses were awakened, and Adam found her even more lovely after she ate.
None of these assumptions remotely resembles the biblical account. In fact, Genes 2: 6 says,
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.
Adam was WITH Eve. She had not wandered away; Adam stood there and saw the whole drama unfold, and apparently he did nothing to stop her. In fact, Adam’s presence and his lack of engagement during Eve’s temptation was reprehensible, because, according to Genesis 2:16-17, God explained to Adam that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was off-limits before He created Eve. In other words, it was Adam’s responsibility to explain to Eve that the tree was off-limits, and Adam failed to hold up his responsibility by being with Eve and not only allowing her to eat but also to eat what she gave him.
God asked Adam and Eve not to eat that tree—and the true test was whether or not they would simply trust and obey God’s word even in the face of confusing or compelling “evidence” that His word wasn’t complete. The issue was trust in God’s word. It wasn’t required that Adam and Eve understand God’s reasons; it was required only that they trust Him and be faithful to His word.
Tuesday’s lesson attempts to dissect Satan’s method of deception. In essence, however, the entire problem can be summarized by saying this: Eve capitulated to Satan’s ploy because she DISCUSSED God’s work with the serpent instead of choosing to put herself under it and obey it no matter what clever parsing of words the serpent did.
EGW’s great controversy paradigm requires Adventists to believe that Satan was challenging God’s authority and questioning His character. In fact, the lesson says that Satan’s temptation to Eve was “a direct attack on Him.”
In the Bible, however, this emphasis is not obvious. Satan was directly attacking humanity. He was attempting to destroy the creatures that were created in God’s image. He was, obviously, in rebellion against God, but he was not planting the seeds of the Adventist great controversy here. He was specifically attempting to deceive and destroy humanity directly. He did not need to attempt to malign God’s character; if he could get Adam and Eve to sin, they would die spiritually, and their special connection to God would be broken. They would come under his dominion.
Had Eve obeyed God’s word without discussing what He had said with the questioning serpent, she would have resisted Satan’s temptation.
Like Eve, when we parse and discuss and analyze God’s word instead of taking it at face value, we twist its meaning and confuse ourselves into deviating from His will.
Today’s lesson camps on a point that is extremely significant in Ellen White’s writings but is completely missing from the biblical account. While Genesis 3:6 does say 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,” it does not suggest that this temptation was about “appetite” or “food”. It was something far more sinister; Eve was seduced by the temptation to know as God knows, to have her eyes opened.
The lesson even says that “Eve became overwhelmed by her senses,” and she “imagine that she entered into a higher state of existence.” These ideas come straight from Ellen White. The issue of Eve’s temptation was not getting adequate or desirable food. This idea is developed here, however, because Ellen White states that Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness was a temptation of his appetites, that He succeeded in gaining the victory over His appetite where Adam and Eve failed the appetite test.
Neither the Eden temptation nor Jesus’ temptation was about appetite per se. It was about whether or not they would trust God’s word even if the arguments against it sounded logical and accurate.
In short, Wednesday’s lesson takes the story of the temptation of Genesis 3 down a completely different road than the Bible takes it. This was not about exercising control over appetite primarily. This temptation was entirely about trusting and believing God’s word implicitly.
Ellen White’s prophetic authority within Adventism has given her unbiblical analyses the weight of apparent truth, and this twisting of the biblical account will lead people astray from the real issue of God’s sovereign authority and trustworthiness and of humanity’s spiritual death—a death with is separate from but yet connected to humanity’s physical death.
Today’s lesson talks about the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin. First, it must be stated that the DID die that day. Adventism teaches that they “began to die”, that their endless life began a trajectory toward death. Nevertheless, God had said they would die the day they ate the tree, and they did die. They died spiritually, and that death was not figurative. They lost the life of God in their spirits, and they became spiritually dead—a death which is their legacy to all humanity except the Son of God and Mary.
Colossians 3:13 states that we are in the domain of darkness prior to being transferred out to the kingdom of the Beloved Son when we trust in Christ. Furthermore, Ephesians 2:1-3 explains that we are born spiritually dead, under the authority of Satan:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Adam and Eve did die. To explain that they merely “began to die” because they remained alive is to imply that God lied. They confirm Satan’s suggestion that God didn’t tell them the whole truth. In other words, Adventists explain away the fact that Adam and Eve did die spiritually, that their shame and blame were evidences of their disconnection from the life of God. Instead of facing God directly, they hid from him in shame.
Moreover, while the lesson says that God provided an animal sacrifice, it does not deal at all with Genesis 3:21:
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and join wife, and clothed them.
Rather, the lesson makes a point that the Bible does not make: that God provided an animal sacrifice “to point to a Savior”, and it cites Genesis 3:21 as “proof”. On the contrary, in the Genesis account, God Himself IS their Savior. The significant thing about the animal skins is that, in a foreshadowing of what God would do for His people through the Lord Jesus, He covered them and took away the shame of their nakedness, just as He clothes us with the personal righteousness of the Lord Jesus when we trust Him. God covered them. God clothed them. God covers and clothes us with the Lord Jesus when we have faith in Him, just as He covered Adam and Eve and removed the stigma of their naked shame.
It must be noted that the lesson states that God only cursed the serpent but gave consequences to Adam and Eve. On the contrary, Eve was cursed with two outcomes: she would have pain in childbirth, and (the lesson does not even mention this one) she would desire her husband, but her husband would rule over her (Gen. 3:16).
Adam’s curse was even more identity-shaking. On the surface it looks as if God simply punished Adam by cursing the ground so his labor would be very, very difficult and exhausting. But something even more basic happened here. Adam was made from the earth. When God cursed the earth, He cursed the very substance of Adam’s being. It wasn’t just his work that was changed; Adam’s actual identity and substance were cursed. This essential curse of identity, the spiritual death plus the curse of our earth-bound substance, is the curse we all inherit from Adam. We are born spiritually dead, and we are born physically cursed in our essential physical nature.
For this reason we must be spiritually born again to be eternally saved to life, and we must be resurrected with “spiritual bodies” in order to live eternally.
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 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. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).
The lesson completely misses the significance of God’s curse on Adam and Eve. Moreover, it misses the significance of God’s curse on all of creation. Paul states it this way in Romans 8:18-25:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25 ESV)
Friday’s lesson suggests the Adventist teaching that God will one day restore us to Eden. The first discussion question mentions that our abhorrence of death is likely a vestige of what we have brought with us from Eden.
The Bible never suggests we are being returned to Eden. In fact, Scripture is clear that God will destroy the heavens and the earth and create a completely new heaven and earth:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed (2 Peter 3:10).
Our resurrection will be to a different kind of body than we have now—different from Adam’s body of earth. Our spirits will be alive, and we are filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. These things are not restorations of Eden. These are part of our legacy as joint heirs with Christ. Because of Jesus, we who believe Him will be made completely new, spiritually new here and now when we trust Him in repentance and faith, and physically new when He returns and takes us to be with Him. He is not taking us to “Eden restored”; He is preparing a new heaven and earth, and our new bodies will have a newly created home in which we will live with Him forever!