Genesis 2:17 gave clear warning of the outcome of disobedience ‘when you eat of it you will surely die’. We saw in the previous meditation on Genesis 3:7-12 that death and division entered into all of our relationships. Now we will see in 3:16-24 that physical death also entered, and, more importantly, that access to eternal life was prohibited. Because of our human choice in Genesis 3:1-6 we are condemned to death, we are banned from eternal life.

That which was God’s blessing in Genesis 1:28-29 now in Genesis 3:16-24 becomes the context of curse, condemnation and death:

The blessedness of being fruitful and multiplying is replaced by pain [3:16a].
The blessedness of the marriage relationship is replaced by dominion and dissatisfaction [3:16b].
The blessedness of dominion over the world is replaced with danger and difficulty [3:15,17-19a].
The blessedness of abundant physical sustenance is replaced with struggle for survival [3:17-19a].

At each of these points death is lurking around the corner. Indeed, death is inevitable [3:19b].

In these expressions of God’s judgement on sin, we are reminded that we were created for dependence on God, and that only in him can we find strength and identity. Each of them drives us to acknowledge our weakness and vulnerability, and the impossibility of our surviving either physically or emotionally without God. Had God left us as sinners in a perfect world we would have thought ourselves sufficient in ourselves to sustain ourselves and our futures. At every point of the condemnation, and in every age, the threat of death reminds us of both our rebellion against the word of God and our rejection of our identity as creatures dependent on God.

Then and now God’s judgement is, to a great extent, that he gives us exactly what we reach for [see Romans 1:18-32]. The condemnation here in Genesis 3 is directly related to life cut off from him. We in Adam reached for independence from God; God, in his judgement, condemns us to the outworking of that independence.

There is another aspect of the condemnation that entered in Genesis 3. It is recorded in versed 22 to 24. Here we read that God prohibited access to ‘the tree of life’. Humans from Genesis 3 on are ‘sinners’, and sinners are not permitted to ‘live forever’. Sinners are banned from ‘eternal life’.

The deep spiritual meaning of this prohibition is that we, as sinners, are denied access to God, who is the source of our ‘life’. He who is our life here excludes us from his presence. This is the most horrific outcome of our rejection of God. We are condemned to exist cut off from the one, the only one, in and through whom we truly live.

But this never was, and is not now, the end of the story. For even here in the midst of this condemnation is the grace of God.

For there is one whose coming was planned by God before the beginning of time, before the creation of the world, before Genesis 3 [2Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; Ephesians 1:4]. There is one who came and destroyed the prohibitive barrier and opened up access to God [Exodus 26:31-33; Matthew 27:50,51; Ephesians 2:18; 3:12; Hebrews 10:19-22]. There is one who came and took upon himself all the condemnation [Romans 8:1-4; 1Peter 2:24]. There is one who came and replaced this death with the eternal life which we forfeited in Genesis 3 [1John 5:12,20].

As long as we humans persist in our rejection of God we remain condemned. But when we return to God, when we receive him by receiving his Son, Jesus Christ, we are immediately removed from condemnation and restored to eternal life:

‘Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’ [John 3:18,19].

‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life’ [John 5:24].

Now, as in Genesis 3, death and condemnation are our choice. The Son of God has come and offers us life and freedom from condemnation: if we reject him we remain condemned. If we accept him we are forever free.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013, 2016