Like One of Us
Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" (Genesis 3:22)
This is one of those verses in the Bible that has puzzled me all of my life. It just seems so uncharacteristic of God to appear suddenly worried, alarmed even, that Adam and Eve might suddenly be threatening God's position or status. It can easily begin to resonate with the very thing the Serpent had insinuated to Eve in the first place, that if she would take and eat of his fruit that she could become like God knowing both good and evil. Here God is saying that indeed this is what had happened
Each time I read this verse it seemed that either I had to ignore it or to bend it in some way to avoid allowing it to fulfill what the Serpent had promised. I simply could not allow that the Serpent might have been right, for he is a liar so I cannot trust his words or I could get into the same trouble as Eve and Adam did. But the real meaning of these words have always remained quite elusive as a result.
Yesterday I was discussing some things we had just finished listening to with my nephew and somehow we got onto this text and began reanalyzing it. During the discussion I suddenly began to see it from a brand new perspective. As with so many other passages in recent years, approaching it with a new context from a much larger perspective of the cosmic battle taking place brings a whole new light that allows the Word to suddenly become much more alive. As we further discussed this we began to see potential meanings in this passage that sync perfectly with the larger issues in this situation when viewed from the larger context.
When I look at what happened previous to this fall of humanity into the subtle trap of the enemy, I find important clues as to what God may have been talking about within the godhead. The much larger issues that made up the context in which all of this transpired had created a crisis in heaven that had been precipitated by massive accusations of the archangel Lucifer. His assignment by design had been to reveal and explain God and His ways to the rest of the universe. This highly trusted servant of the Almighty had been one most intimately involved at the very center of everything. But he had turned sour when he allowed jealousy of Christ to produce sin and rebellion in his own heart.
As a consequence of refusing to let go of this new way of thinking, Lucifer eventually was led to estrange himself from the godhead while launching a campaign of deliberate misinformation and slander about God that awakened discontent and distrust in the minds of myriads of other angels. Eventually he was able to convince a third of all the angels to rebel against the government of love in heaven in favor of experimenting with a brand new kind of government that Lucifer (now quickly becoming Satan the accuser) had proposed would be an improvement over the government of God.
Lucifer asserted this new government would be more stable and secure than the 'weak' government in place based solely on love that God had. Satan claimed that if there could be problems that might crop up – rebellion for instance – that God's ways of dealing would not be sufficient to face. In addition he circulated the sentiment that God was harsh and demanding and selfish for wanting everyone to worship Him all the time and that His laws were totally unreasonable and even unnecessary for highly intelligent and enlightened beings who could think for themselves. Thus the harmony of heaven had been shattered and every intelligent being all throughout the universe had been exposed to agonizing, even traumatizing events where all had been forced by circumstances to choose which side of the controversy they would take. Nothing like this had ever been imagined, so all of this had been very confusing to everyone. Even those who had chosen to remain loyal to God were still filled with unanswered questions aroused by Lucifer's diabolical insinuations that could not be resolved.
This all had resulted in a massive conflict that had erupted in heaven that forced Christ and His loyal followers to respond to Satan's attacks, accusations and incriminating insinuations about God and how He should relate to those He had created. The core of the crisis revolved around the issue of trust in God's character, for as absolute ruler over everyone, Satan asserted that having total power to do anything was simply too dangerous for anyone including God. Lucifer asserted that he should have the right to be allowed to become equal with God himself so that he could be a counter-balance for the perceived dangers of God's tyranny and offer an alternative that everyone could choose instead of being subjected only under God's absolute authority.
The intensity of all that had transpired before the creation of this earth is almost unimaginable for us today. We have scant outlines and hints of what must have taken place in heaven, but still the hints help us piece together enough to begin to see the context that explains much in the Bible that mystify so many today. And I have come to see that it is only by taking into account what happened in the early days of the history of sin in heaven can we begin to better understand and appreciate many of the things that happened in our own history. It is only as we look through the lens of this context in our study of Scriptures can we begin to see many things that previously seemed disjointed or even contradictory.
The core issue that was left unresolved but had to be addressed from Satan's rebellion in heaven and consequent expulsion to this earth, was the reputation of God's trustworthiness. One reason for Satan's rebellion was his insistence that Christ could not possibly be equal with God any more than Lucifer was. There is evidence that suggests Christ had taken on Himself the form of an angel, but evidently Lucifer did not have clear knowledge of the true divine nature of Christ. I highly suspect that Christ may well have also assumed the position as co-covering cherub with Lucifer over the throne of God. If this is true they may well have appeared as if they could be twins, which over time could have led Lucifer to assume that Christ was no greater than himself.
When Christ was included in private councils of the godhead to make plans ahead of the creation of this world, Lucifer felt keen to be allowed to participate in these exciting brain-storming sessions. I think many of us might sympathize with that sort of situation, for even in our own lives we can sometimes begin to get jealous if someone who is close to us and seems to have little or no advantage over us is suddenly given high privileges and favor that is not granted to us. The problem began however, when Lucifer began to allow this perceived snub to form into jealousy which incubated in his heart over some time with apparently no external evidence that others might notice.
But God who reads all hearts transparently in real time knew exactly what was going on inside of Lucifer. He called a meeting of all the heavenly hosts to publicly explain the true nature of Christ to all the heavenly hosts. He explained that in reality Christ was one of the godhead and not merely an angel. As God explained the position and nature of Christ more clearly and that He was the One who could be most trusted to reveal God's character of love, all were eager to worship Christ as also God, and they all fell down to adore and honor and worship Him with increased appreciation.
Lucifer had gone along with this worship, but deep inside he resisted letting go of the seed of jealousy that had begun to take shape in his heart. This choice to not let go of the jealous lie within him gave that lie soil to begin to take root in his heart over time. As it deepened and grew, Lucifer begin to contrive ways to undermine the trust that others had in Christ and to attempt to divert their trust toward himself to compete with their allegiance to God.
The dynamics that emerged in this political struggle against the government of God began to divide the allegiance of the angels. Lucifer deceptively convinced more and more by his suggestions and doubts about God's government, implying that God Himself had hidden faults and that He could not be trusted to be always truthful. As evidence he could question why God had to call everyone together to insist that Christ was really God when everyone could 'plainly see' that Christ was an angel. Apparent discrepancies about Christ's true nature seemed to insinuate that God was not being up front Himself.
The chaos and division throughout all of heaven revolved around at least two main assertions: that the appearance that Christ was no more than an angel like the rest of them was proof that He should not be worshiped as equal with God, and that God could not be trusted to be completely truthful about this situation. Consequently He could not be trusted to be truthful about everything else.
Since the character of God the Father was the biggest target of all these accusations, His character and trustworthiness was the central issue that had to be resolved in everyone's mind before the universe could ever be restored to harmony and peace again. Lucifer's lies and insinuations and doubts had become so widespread and pervasive that something had to be done to expose the real truth so that every mind could be settled. A trial would have to be conducted to expose the real truth about God and to settle the accusations about who Christ really was before this controversy could ever be resolved.
This is the point where the creation of this world and humanity comes into the picture with extreme relevance. It is not until we begin to appreciate this background of what had been shaking the entire universe with questions and and increasingly vitriolic rhetoric that we can begin to grasp better what was unfolding in the descriptions of what took place on this planet in what is called 'the beginning.'
I believe, and this is supported by many scholars expert in the Hebrew, that the description in Genesis one of the creation of this world was also a reference to God's response to the accusations that were tearing apart all of heaven and was threatening the very existence of His government of peace and love. In the first words of Genesis we are told that there was chaos, the real meaning of the Hebrew word translated into English as formless and void. This not only described the condition of this earth but was also a reference to the chaos reflecting the condition of the universe after all the dramatic events that had just taken place.
As this earth was being created, it was happening in the presence of Satan who had been expelled from heaven with all his sympathizers where there was no longer any place found for him and his angels to live. We are told that they had been cast down to this earth.
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels were to fight against the dragon, and the dragon fought them, as did his angels, but he did not prevail, nor was room found for him in heaven any longer. And the great dragon, the old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who leads the whole world astray, was cast down. He was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven which said, “Now salvation has come about, as have the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers, who used to accuse them before our God day and night, has been cast down.” (Revelation 12:7-10 FAA)
Notice the cosmic nature of this vivid and broad description of the battle taking place. And notice carefully the clues in this passage about God's position in all of this. Satan is the accuser and the target of his attacks involved the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ. There is also hints here that God Himself needs salvation, for it is ultimately His reputation that is on the line more than anything else. He is the one on trial that needs vindicated; and everyone knows that when one is accused it is impossible to vindicate themselves. They must have outside witnesses in order to salvage their reputation.
Another important point here is that because of the massive slander campaign against the character and government of God, the credibility of God to act as judge in His own case became untenable. Someone else would have to become judge in the trial of God while all the accusations were examined, sorted through and eventually proven or discredited. Evidence had to be collected, claims had to be tried, all sorts of things were necessary to resolve the crisis that had shaken the universe. And it may have been agreed that the only way this could be resolved was to somehow find an unbiased 'jury of peers' as we often describe it in our human version of justice, to be presented with all the evidence and come up with an unbiased conclusion.
The problem facing the universe at this time was that it had become impossible to find anyone who had not already been polarized by Satan's accusations. A credible potential jury simply didn't exist at that time, which maybe gave Satan even more confidence that he could actually win the coup he had launched against the government of heaven. This coup is described most clearly in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 better than anywhere else outside of the book of Revelation. But what is not so clear is the plan formulated whereby God's character and reputation could be vindicated by an unbiased jury. This is exactly what I have started to see as being part of why this world was created.
What is most important more than anything else is saving God's reputation. This is what is referred to when the great multitude beyond number sees the much larger picture past just the salvation of humanity. And they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." (Revelation 7:10) For too long we have assumed this to apply only to our own salvation. Yet ultimately it is God's reputation that must be vindicated or else our own salvation and restoration becomes meaningless and empty. Not until God's freely acknowledged authority and trustworthiness is fully reestablished in the minds and hearts of all living beings can the government of God again be restored to its original security and peace.
With all of this context in place, it now becomes easier to see how the creation of humanity applies to the chaos and war that had rocked all of heaven and had caused turmoil and division. What was desperately needed was a group of unbiased people to act as a jury, to sort through all the evidence about God's character in order to arrive at a just and fair decision after careful deliberation. These people preferably needed to be free of the handicap of having been previously exposed to the opinions and prejudices that all other beings already involved had. Just as our justice system seeks to find people to make up a jury who have no knowledge or biases about the events or people involved in a trial so as to arrive at as fair a verdict as possible, so too the crisis in heaven needed an untainted source of intelligent beings who could discern truth about God and validate either His character or confirm the accusations of His enemy.
Interestingly, because humans were created in the image of God, they were as close as possible to be able to fill the role to be a jury of God's peers. It is impossible of course to have anyone be a complete peer of God to decide this case before the universe. But being created in the image of God is closer to this design than any other being that has ever existed. Quite possibly this new species of beings were specifically designed in order to have the credibility needed for the rest of the universe to respect their decision. They could be presented with all the evidence from both sides without having any previous prior knowledge of what had taken place before their own existence and thus be truly unbiased.
As we all know, what transpired at that point was nothing short of a miscarriage of justice. The great deceiver/accuser tampered with the newly-created jury and enticed them to take his side before they had even been prepared to view all the evidence objectively. Even from our very limited perspective this is clearly out of bounds with true justice. But then, Satan has always chosen to do whatever it takes to win at any cost. And capturing the loyalty of the newly-created jury was yet another scheme to hijack any and all resources that God might find to use in vindicating His reputation in His own trial.
Now we come back to my pondering over why God said to Himself what He did after Adam and Eve sinned and took Satan's side. In this context the text suddenly takes on far more significance when viewed in the light of the need for an unbiased jury to determine who was right in the trial of God the Father. God is in essence saying here that since the jury had been compromised, they could no longer be relied on to give an unbiased decision in His trial.
The key word that suddenly took on new meaning in this text for me was the word us. I had always assumed that God was only speaking about the godhead here when He used the term Us. But given new insight into the context of all that had transpired up to this point and the intense need for an unbiased jury, I now am beginning to see that the us in this verse may morel likely refer to everyone in the rest of the universe who could not be used as a jury because of their own exposure to both good and evil.
God in essence was saying, “Now that humans have become prematurely exposed to the evil side without having sufficient evidence or maturity to render a usable verdict, we have lost our jury pool and now need to take steps to limit the damage caused by our accuser.”
Given this perspective of what was taking place, it makes much more sense why God would want to cut off sinful human's access to the Tree of Life preventing them from living forever. It would be easy to view this as a punishment by God for breaking from Him and going over to Satan's side. God had told them that in the day they ate of the tree they would surely die, or more accurately, 'in dying you shall die.' But there is more going on in this story that what we often notice.
We need to take into account that up to this point Satan and all of his angels apparently felt no threat of extinction or death themselves. I believe that Satan was confident that death would never be a threat to him or his companion angels and he was planning to add all of humanity to his numbers to further his schemes to take over the rest of the universe and wrest it away from God's influence. But he did not take into account a new potential that was not apparent in previous circumstances.
God had wisely created a new situation when He created this world by including a built-in potential to die. This may sound very strange to us now, but I believe this potential to die without regular access to the Tree of Life actually appeared strange to the angels at that time. Death was something that had never happened anywhere up to that point, so when God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they chose to eat from a Tree that would signal their disloyalty to Him, it must have sounded almost bizarre to the rest of the universe. How could one die simply by doing something that would normally bring life – by eating food? Would God cause them to cease to exist, a.k.a. kill them? What was this death thing all about? Nothing like this had ever been experienced. And why was there now a Tree of Life installed on earth that would be necessary in order to prolong their life? Why were humans not designed to live indefinitely like everyone else apparently were designed to do up to that point?
I now am seeing that the provision of having an option between two trees, one that would result in death and the other to perpetuate life, was possibly a new concept in the universe that may have never existed before. Yet in setting up their existence in this new way, God was making clear for the first time that eternal existence was conditional. No longer was He creating beings with no apparent option to cease existing; now it was becoming evident that there might be a potential termination of privileges, even existence, if one chose to disconnect from the only Source of all life.
I looked up a number of translations of this text to see if there might be clues about alternative meanings for live forever. I found one that conveys what I believe may be more helpful and closer to what God had in mind in His statement relating to the Tree of Life. Because the translation is rather awkward and closer to a transliteration, I will not attempt to quote it all here. But where it speaks of living forever this translation renders the last part of this verse, is he to have revived continually?
I have long wondered about how this Tree of Life was supposed to work in relationship to humans. Was God saying that if Adam and Eve sinned and then ate one time from the Tree of Life that they could somehow live on for eternity as sinners apart from Him? That sounds more like magic than reality, but not having the whole context in place can allow all sorts of crazy speculation. Now I see that God simply wanted to limit as much as possible any unnecessary extension of sin and the lifespan of sinners so as to limit the damage being wreaked by Satan. What was more important was to expedite as quickly as possible the final resolution of His trial and vindicate of His own character and government.
This is not to suggest in the slightest that God was more concerned with Himself than with the life of humans. His dealings with us have proven that rather clearly. The death that we experience is not the kind of death that concerns God the most, for our current deaths are only a sleep from which we all will at some point be awakened. But there are far more vital concerns in the cosmic conflict than whether we live or die on this planet, for the future safety of the entire universe is at peril if the issues raised by Satan's rebellion are not resolved. God can bring humans back to life, but it is far more dangerous to allow Satan's revolt continue any longer than necessary to vindicate God's ways of governing.
Was the trial of God put on hold when our first parents sinned until the jury pool could be redeemed and repaired? Did the heavenly arrangements suddenly have to be revised and other jury members found or created? Did Satan somehow score a victory by permanently disqualifying all of humanity and thus perpetuate his rebellion indefinitely? All of these are valid questions but cannot be fully answered at this point. But I do believe it is helpful to at least be more cognizant of these great issues behind the scenes so that we do not remain so confused about what we see in Scripture.
What did start to emerge and was later confirmed at the cross of Christ, was that Satan's existence would itself at some point be terminated. This must have come as a tremendous shock to him and likely caused him to become even more enraged in his vicious attacks against all that God was doing. Satan did everything he could think of to out-maneuver God and advance his own rebellion; but at the cross he overstepped his own schemes and fell into a trap by sealing his fate when he killed the innocent Son of God. In this act Satan lost all remaining links he had been able to maintain in lingering sympathies and questions in the minds of loyal angels. By taking the life of God's innocent Son, the beloved leader, Satan sealed his own doom with no recourse from that point on.
Christ had been Lucifer's nemesis since the early days of the rebellion had started over the throne of God. Throughout the life of Christ on earth Satan had contested fiercely to maintain the credibility of his own insinuations about God as well as to insist that Christ was not really God. This was simply a continuation of his original charges in heaven. But when Jesus demonstrated under extreme duress on the cross that God's love is impossible to quench or even diminish in the slightest no matter how much it is abused or resisted, the entire watching universe was united at last in their total rejection of any sympathy with Satan's insinuations. From that point on, all that is left is to salvage the jury pool and transform a group of people who will testify truthfully in God's trial.
From this view it seems to make sense to me that since there is no longer an unbiased free of a knowledge of good and evil to compose a jury, God may simply allow all the universe – humans, angels and any other created intelligent beings alike – to compose the jury. He is going to lay out all the evidence completely on the Great Day of Judgment and will ask everyone to decide for themselves if the evidence from the entire history of rebellion validates in the slightest any of Satan's accusations against Him or if the evidence reveals that He has been consistently fair and loving and has never resorted to any of the methods of His enemy to get His way.
That is the day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that God is good, gracious, fair and without the slightest fault and deserves all honor and worship. In that day every lie will be fully exposed, every deception proven to be a fraud, every secret motive will become clear. God's government based solely on love alone will be seen as the only sensible option. Then all those who have destroyed their own capacity to live in harmony with this selfless love will be destroyed in their own agony over the full revelation of the blazing truth about God's passionate love for them.
Yes, the jury has now been compromised. It was prematurely seduced into becoming victims of the greatest abuser and all of our minds, hearts and bodies have been warped as a result. But where sin abounds God's grace much more abounds. Through the redemption of humanity and the stunning revelation of the real truth about God exposed at the cross, God is taking this tragedy caused by Satan and will transform it into something even more beautiful and powerful for His glory than if humanity had never fallen in the first place. That is the nature of love; that is the superior power of grace.