From Glory To Glory
2. Separated from the Life of God
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Gen.. 2:16.17; NKJ)
Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:4-6)
The question is how did the devil come by our title, our office as gods of this world? And who is the devil in the first place? – Just like man, the devil is a created being. He is an angel and therefore a spiritual being: “But to which of the angels has He ever said: ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool’? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebr. 1:13-14; NKJ) – Just as we human beings, angels are spirit in the core of their being, but they don’t have a human body because they were not designed for life here on earth. In particular, the devil had been created a glorious cherub that served God; and he was also in Eden, in the garden of God (Eze. 28:13,14; s.notes about the devil).
Next we should come to an understanding of the laws according to which God established the worlds. Most people understand that our physical world/nature functions within the natural laws. But only few people, even among Christians, consider that also the spiritual world operates within such laws. Hebr. 11:3 (NKJ) says: ”By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” If you think this verse through to the end, you can realize that the laws of the spiritual world precede the laws of our physical world, like a substructure – everything we have is based on the laws of the spiritual world.
Spiritual and Natural Laws
Examples of the laws of nature are the laws of gravitation and of electricity. The laws of electricity existed and could have been employed by mankind from the very beginning, if we had understood them sooner. But even now that we understand electricity and can utilize it, still the effects of electricity can be either life-giving or death-bringing. The same is true about the law of gravitation – essentially, gravitation is a good thing. It enables us to lead a normal life here on earth without having to strap everything and keep ourselves buckled up. But if someone walks two steps over a precipice, then gravitation is deadly.
The laws of the spiritual world can be learnt only from the Bible – for example from Ro. 6:16 (KJV) where it says: ”Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” The same spiritual law is mentioned also in 2Pet. 2:19 (KJV): “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” – The devil, who was created before we human beings entered the picture, did know these laws and successfully employed them against mankind. He misled us into rebellion/disobedience and thus made us his servants, children of the devil. God had created the worlds, both the spiritual and the physical realm, within certain laws that He couldn’t establish and revoke at His convenience, at least not without having the worlds dissolve into chaos. The worlds were created by the Word of God and are dependent on the integrity of His Word (Heb. 1:3; 11:3; Ps. 89:34; 138:2; 119:89). Note that God had created our world and all the laws that govern the processes within our world with good intentions – they were good (s.Gen.1)! But after the good things that God created were perverted through the entering of sin into this world (and perverting things already existing is all the devil really can do; he cannot create something truly new), now the good things God created can also bring death to people.
God had given to mankind everything their hearts could ever desire. Every day they could enjoy new kinds of delicious fruits. They could admire all the different designs displayed in the plant and animal kingdom and discover each day another awesome detail of God‘s creation. They could begin to find out how the world around them worked. Every evening (“in the cool of the day” – Gen. 3:8) they could meet with God, wallow in His love and tell Him what they had discovered and experienced that day. They could thoroughly enjoy everything … only one thing they could not do: They could not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. – “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” (Gen. 2:15-17; NKJ)
And they had no desire to eat from it. They had so many other awesome things to discover. They didn’t even eat from the Tree of Life right in the center of the garden (Gen. 2:9). But then the devil sneaked up on them in the body of a snake (cf. Rev. 12:9), because even when he was still a glorious angel, he needed a physical body to do things here on earth (cf. Mt. 8:28ff.) – The devil talked the first human beings into doubting God’s boundless love and unlimited provision, and enticed them to take care of their “lack” for themselves. But in reality, this undertaking was what created their lack – man died, just as God had warned him he would. Man died because he had allowed the devil to seduce him to rebellion, to sin (Gen. 2:17; Ro. 5:12).
Death Means Separation – Not the Extinction of Existence
But from Gen. 5:5 we can see that Adam didn’t die physically on that day, but only about 900 years later. – What took place on this day was spiritual death. We must understand that death doesn’t mean extinction, but separation. (When a person collapses before our eyes and dies, then it is his body that has stopped functioning, but his spirit and soul continue to exit separately from his body.) And thus the death of Adam and Eva on that day wasn’t an extinction of their spirits, but a separation from the spirit of God. Man’s spirit was still able to function, but it didn’t live any longer in perfect union with the spirit of God, drawing on the life of God, but it was reduced to its own strength and ability. It had taken on the nature of sin. – From dependancy on the life of God they had transferred to dependancy on the devil. But the devil doesn’t administer life – Jesus said in Jn. 10:10: ”The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” and thus accurately contrasted the desires of the devil with the will of God.
The method how the devil has been able to bring death to mankind (and suck the life from us), was and is through sin: ”Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness … the wages of sin is death” (Ro. 6:16,23; KJV). Through the disobedience of Adam and Eva, sin has come into our world, and through sin came death (Ro. 5,12). God had made us humans “gods of this world,” so that we would rule here on earth – in union and fellowship with Him (cf. Gen. 1:26 and Jer. 10:23). Through guile, the devil had tricked mankind to yield their authority and dominion here on earth to him; but he still didn’t have a body through which this authority and dominion could be exercised. (That’s why in Mt. 8:28-32 the demons cast out of two men preferred to enter into a herd of pigs, rather than having to return to their own realm.) So the devil has had to keep manipulating people into sinning and cooperating with him, so that he could bring death into the lives of people (we are talking here not just about the grave, but all kinds of death that people experience in their daily existence, such as sickness, suffering, depression, poverty, fear, loneliness, etc.). – That’s the reason why after the fall of man (that is, after the spiritual death of mankind) life did not immediately depart from their souls and bodies. The high age the first human beings still reached according to the Bible shows us that the devil had to first train (program) people into his evil ways little by little, until the effects of sin would accumulate so much that the general lifespan began to decrease. But after the devil had accomplished this and sin had become “the normal thing to do” in the eyes of man, the effects became more and more dramatic and destructive to mankind as a whole.
“Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God … Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.” (Jn. 8:42-45; NKJ)
The spiritual death, that man died on that day when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, is symbolized in picture 2 by a homogenously black circle, because dead is dead (that is, totally cut off from the life of God). There are no gray areas. (The fact that the spirit of man was still able to function, cf. Jam. 2:26, but separated from the life of God became apparent when Adam and Eve’s primarily spiritual view all of a sudden was reduced to a physical view – cf. Gen. 3:7 with 2Ki. 6:16-17). The soul of man, however, is depicted as a zebra-like striped circle in picture 2. The reason for this portrayal is that the devil has not been able to completely and immediately re-program the soul of man (the intern computer-program that we normally perceive as our personality), therefore now our souls contain both good (life-giving) and evil (death-bringing) components. – And the soul in turn has a strong influence on the body (even medical science talks about psychosomatic diseases), so that the effects of the fall of man also affect the human body, which is symbolized by the darker color of the body that still allows the original color to shimmer through, because there is still a lot we can see from the original good plan of God’s design.
According to the law that each would yield fruit after his kind (Gen. 1:11), Adam and Eve were able to pass on to their descendents only what they were themselves now: Separated from the life of God (s.a. Ro. 5:12).
God’s Love Continues
Yet despite all that mess, God continued loving us humans, taking care of us, and desiring fellowship with us. You can envision this like a garden fence between you and God. The fence is your free will which God will always respect – in the sense that He would never force on you a relationship with Himself, or His way of thinking. But He is standing at the fence, waiting for you, wanting to communicate His love to you. Most people claim that God was holding Himself at a distance, very far away from them. But the truth of the matter is that it is them who ran away from God – and God did respect their decisions (still waiting at the fence for them to turn around and come back).
The continuation of God’s love can be clearly seen in the story around Cain and Abel. – Romans 5:13 says: “until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” – Spiritual and physical laws were in effect since the beginning of creation. Here, “law” is talking about the Ten Commandments and all the explicit instructions that God had given to His people Israel through Moses (the so called “Mosaic law”). As long as this law hadn’t been given, sin was not imputed to a person – in the sense that their relationship with God wasn’t tainted through it, and fallen sinful man could still enter God’s presence and experience fellowship with Him. So, when we read how confidently Abel offered his sacrifice to God (Gen. 4:2; Hebr. 11:4) and how coolly Cain responded to hearing God’s voice after he had just killed his brother Abel (Gen. 4:9-16), then we can sense that the contact with God was as normal for them as it had been in the very beginning for Adam and Eve when they still used to meet with God in the garden of Eden, before sin entered the picture (s.Gen. 3:8f.). – From Cain’s reaction we can tell that this fellowship had been continued even after the fall of man.
One of the reasons why people doubt God’s love for themselves is the eviction of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:23), which is commonly interpreted so as if a holy God wasn’t able to stand the presence of sinful man. But the true reason for the banishment from the garden is told in verse 22 – “lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.”– Before the fall of man, eating from the Tree of Life hadn’t been a problem at all. This tree had even stood in the center of the garden (Gen. 2:9), and man had been welcome to take from it. – But now, after man had died spiritually, and the decline of soul and body now was only a matter of time, the eviction from the garden of Eden wasn’t punishment, but protection. – It was the protection from having to exist forever in the miserable state that would become very severe at some point (and which many people have to endure now day after day), without any hope of ever being able to get rid of this body.
God’s love did what was best for mankind under these new circumstances. But His master plan for our salvation was already about to take off. – God had said to the snake, that is, to the devil: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15). In this way, God indicated immediately after the ensnarement and the fall of man that He would send a savior. The long time span of about 4000 years that went by until that savior actually came, was caused by the limitations that God had subjected Himself to because of His own ordinances:
“Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth …” (Gen. 1:26; NKJ)
“The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD's; But the earth He has given to the children of men.” (Ps. 115:16; NKJ)
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29; NKJ)
Exercising authority here on earth is linked to the possession of a human body (or to the cooperation of the owner of such a body). While the devil and his demons don’t mind using Mafia methods in order to solve this problem, God is always gentleman and never forces anybody to cooperate with Him. That’s why it took so long until sufficient people were found who cooperate with God to set up and carry out His plan of salvation.
God’s Plan for our Salvation
And so there was a time of conscience when sin was not imputed (Ro. 5:13) and people were guided and judged only by their conscience (s. Ro. 2:15-16; Ro. 7:9-10). The problem, however, was that people took other people as a measuring stick and therefore thought that they really were not so bad. On the contrary, compared to their obnoxious neighbors, they were really good (we still have the same problem today!). – God let people do as they liked during this time and interfered with judgment only when mankind was about to wipe themselves out through sin. Even though these interventions of God were rather drastic (see for example the Flood, Gen. 6 and following chapters), they secured the continued existence of mankind. Because when sin was becoming rampant, it was comparable to the rampant growth of cancer that has to be cut out of the afflicted body part. Even if such an intervention can cost limbs or important inner organs, it is still preferable to its alternative. This period when man was responsible only to his conscience, lasted about 2000 years.
In all that He did, God has kept revealing to mankind HIS WAY of salvation, which is TRUST IN HIM – an utter conviction of God’s graciousness, benevolence and ability to bring about what He said He would do. This trust we see arise in Job: “For I know that my redeemer liveth ...” (Job 19:25; KJV). And it was this trust that was accounted to Abraham for righteousness before God: “who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” (Ro. 4:18-22; NKJ). Also Moses knew that trust/faith in God’s goodness is the way to salvation (cf. Deut. 30:11-14 with Ro. 10: 6-8); similarly King David, who even after his worst mistakes never stopped entrusting himself to the tender mercies of God (Ps. 32 and 51; 1Chr. 21:13). Also the prophet Habakkuk proclaimed already in the Old Testament: “the just/righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4).
But because, as time drew on, sin took on worse and worse dimensions and because there were only few people whose hearts were sensitive toward God and His ways, God had to introduce the (Mosaic or Old Testament) law in order to show people quite plainly their hopeless state and need for help. Because until they would realize this, they were not able to understand why they needed a savior and that they were not yet living the life for which God had created human beings. (Throughout redemptive history we can perceive that it seems to be really important to God that we live the life of God already here on earth!) And thus the time of the (Mosaic) law came – not for every nation, but only for the Israelites, God’s chosen people. But the other nations witnessed the works of God among this people and the absolute standard that was introduced by the law. In a nutshell, God was saying to the Israelites: “If you keep my commandments, you will experience rich blessings (the good life that I’ve been wanting for man all along); if not, you will be under the curse (reaping all the bad stuff that comes through sin – cf. Deut. 28).” The people Israel said; “Sweet! That’s a deal!” Yet the problem was that they were still slaves of sin and of the devil (and therefore under the curse anyhow), without being aware of it. And if they had been aware, it wouldn’t have done them any good. And so God took the existing spiritual laws and cut them into stone (both in a literal and in a figurative sense) and said to the Israelites (who didn’t understand the spiritual background details): “Submit to these commandments. Do these things, and don’t do those things!” When they submitted to God in this manner through their actions, they enabled Him to bless them and direct their daily life to their advantage; at the same time they resisted sin and thus curbed the scope of action for the devil (and the consequences of the curse).
Thus, the Mosaic law served first toward the containment of sin, so that mankind wouldn’t eradicate themselves before the promised savior could come. Second, through the Mosaic law people became keenly aware of their sin because the relative standard (comparison with other people) was replaced by an absolute standard (God’s righteousness). While God had intervened during the time of conscience only when sin had grown rampant, He now enforced the adherence to the law radically, with severe threats and execution of punishment. The many terrible side effects that the punitive demeanor of God entailed (such as knowledge of sin, condemnation, fear of God, a negative image of God and humans) make it evident why God had waited 2000 years before He had introduced the law. But mankind had to recognize the extent of their helplessness and powerlessness with respect to sin, in order to understand how badly they needed a savior. They had to realize that they could never save themselves by their good deeds (as many people believe even to this day). And that was the third purpose for introducing the Mosaic law – to show people their need and to arouse their willingness to put their trust in a savior.
Unfortunately, many people thought that the law was given so that they could save themselves. But just this never was the purpose of the law – and it still isn’t today:
“The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” (1Cor. 15:56; KJV)
“… by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Ro. 3:20; KJV)
“… I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’” (Ro. 7:7; NKJ)
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” (Ro. 8:3; KJV)
“For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” (Ro. 4:13; KJV)
God’s Word Does Not Return Empty
Because people at Old Testament times had been spiritually dead and therefore unable to understand spiritual truths (cf. Mt. 11:11), God gave them many ordinances that like pictures pointed symbolically to the coming salvation and that dominated their worship services (s. Hebr. 9). In addition, God kept raising up prophets from among His people Israel – humans whose heart was sensitive enough toward God so that He could talk through them to the people and proclaim His word. These words, which God spoke through His prophets, were extremely important for the coming of the savior. We will take a little time now to ponder the significance of God’s word.
“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11; NKJ)
“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebr. 11:3; NKJ)
“My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.” (Ps. 89:34; NKJ)
God’s word is like a seed. In Mk. 4:13-20 Jesus said: “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. … But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
And in Mk. 11:22 (BBE) Jesus said: “Have God's faith.” – Many translations say here “Have faith in God,” but if you look at the Greek, that’s not what Jesus was actually saying. He said: “Have God's faith.” Because He goes on to say in verse 23: “Truly I say to you, Whoever says to this mountain, Be taken up and be put into the sea; and has no doubt in his heart, but has faith that what he says will come about, he will have his desire.”
Jesus explained in these verses how He had been able to let the fig tree dry up instantly merely by the power of His word. – When God created the world, He said: “Let there be light!” And in Himself He saw the exact image of what He meant by saying this. And the result was “… there was light.” – This inner picture, which God projected during the process of creation through His words on the outside, this is God's faith that Jesus said we should have, too.
And we humans do employ inner pictures all the time, for example when we want to be creative. Nobody can build a house unless he has developed an imagination about it on the inside first. And the more exact and detailed this picture is, the better this building project will succeed. In order to share our inner pictures with our fellow human beings, we do draw pictures, either on paper or through words. – Words do contain pictures. – Everybody would be able to connect an inner picture with the word “dog.” And the more precisely I would describe this “dog” (for example, “a huge, black, male German Shepherd”), the more our inner pictures will harmonize. This inner picture, which is contained in God’s Word, this is the “the conviction of things not seen” (Hebr. 11:1; NAS) – this is God's faith that has the power to bring about the things that are contained in it.
God’s word contains God’s faith: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Ro. 10:17; NKJ). If, while reading or thinking about God’s word, you have the same inner picture on your inside like God – for example if you read “... by whose stripes you were healed” (1Pet. 2:24; NKJ), and on the inside (in your heart) you see yourself as healed – then you have the faith of God and Mk. 11:22-24 works for you, so that you will be able to see your healing also on the outside (just like the fig tree, that Jesus had cursed, was dried up also outwardly – Mk. 11:13ff.)
So, God’s word is like a seed – when it is quickened by God’s faith, it will “not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11; NKJ). – Now we can understand the significance of the prophecies about the coming of the savior in the OT. God’s prophets spoke God’s word and wrote it down. The OT is full of prophecies about the life of Jesus. Once you’ve understood this, then you can see this spiritual DNA in the OT all over the pages. Through these prophecies, God created the spiritual seed for Jesus’ life of here on earth, death, and resurrection.
When this spiritual seed was complete, it still took a devout virgin who would say: “... Let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1:38; NKJ).