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“Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11 NASB)
So important is the lesson of sin that the Lord has allowed mankind more than 6000 years to experience the effect of sin and death so that the lesson will never be forgotten. This experience during the present life is critical. By it and the help of Christ’s earthly kingdom, mankind will be able to transform their hearts and minds, putting off sin, and once again reflect the image of their Creator.
Adam and Eve’s Disobedience
Let us recall the events that led to sin and put in motion the curse that has lasted these 6000 plus years.
Genesis 2:16-17 says, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” After Eve was created, we are told in Genesis 3:4-7 that the serpent deceived Eve into transgression and that led Adam to sin:
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
Because of their disobedience, God condemned Adam and Eve to death and evicted them from the Garden of Eden saying in Genesis 3:22-24, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
Eve desired wisdom, a desirable quality according to the scriptures: “Get wisdom, get understanding … wisdom is the principle thing … how much better to get wisdom than gold!” (Proverbs 4:5,7, 16:16). But Eve did not respect God’s commandment not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. She wished for wisdom, and was deceived by the serpent into thinking she could obtain this from the forbidden fruit without suffering the consequences of disobedience. Perhaps the serpent ate the fruit and this increased the temptation to Eve. Eve seeing the tree and fruit to be pleasant to the eye, and being convinced that eating would make her wise, she partook. What Eve failed to understand, due to lack of experience, was that the “means” for gaining wisdom must be in accordance with God’s law and commands. In God’s sight, the end result would never justify the means of “disobedience.”
Adam was not beguiled. His disobedience caused the two to be expelled from the garden. He may have feared the loss of the woman who was “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh” (Genesis 2:23). The painful thought of losing her led him to partake of the forbidden fruit as well. Like Eve, he showed a lack of trust, faith in and reverence for his Creator.
God tested Adam with a very simple command: do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The penalty for disobedience was death. Adam could have shown his love for God by being obedient to the Creator during this experience. But he did not.
God does not force his creation to love and obey him. Instead, God made man in his own image with a reasoning ability and desires voluntary obedience — from the heart. The best way to teach the lesson of voluntary obedience to all of God’s intelligent creation was to allow man to rebel and suffer under the penalty of death and then, rescue man through Christ’s kingdom. By this experience, mankind will see God’s love for them and want to return that love in the form of reverence for him and obedience to his commandments.
Choosing the Wrong Guide
Think of all that was given to our first parents: A wonderfully controlled climate, abundant food to eat, no illness or disease, fellowship with the Creator, perfect life, dominion over the animals, beautiful gardens, lovely sunrises and sunsets, and no backbreaking labor. Paradise! They wanted for nothing. God provided for their every need. Unfortunately, mother Eve was enticed by Satan, through the serpent, into disobedience by trying to obtain the wisdom God had not yet provided. Her disobedience demonstrated a great lack of reverence for God and instead, inadvertently honored the greatest liar of all time, Satan, who desired to be like the Most High (Isaiah 14:14, John 8:44). This lack of reverence for God caused our first parents to sin and now causes the vast majority of the world to stray from God and His righteousness.
The Hope of Recovery
Because of sin, man lost his dominion over the earth, fellowship with God and perfect life. Thereafter, he would be in a dying, sinful state forever, unless God intervened. The Lord did promise a future intervention in his curse upon Satan saying: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
This recovery of the race would come through the promised seed, his Son Jesus Christ, who brought both life and immortality to light through the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:10). This passage tells us the recovery takes two steps. God develops the spiritual seed (stars of heaven) which then develops and blesses an earthly seed (sand of the seashore) as God promised Abraham nearly 4000 years ago (Genesis 22:16-18). First, Jesus opened a new and living way to enable his faithful followers to become part of the great Melchizedek Priesthood. Their purpose will be to recover and bring mankind back into covenant relationship with the Father (1 Timothy 2:5-6, Galatians 3:26-29, 1 Peter 2:9-10).
Why Did God Allow Sin?
God in his wisdom, and through simple economy, tested his human creation early in their existence, before they had the chance to procreate. The reason was clear — to allow our first parents to sin and still make it feasible for one man to provide a ransom so that all could be redeemed. “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19 RV). By providing this ransom, sin and death would be destroyed, the Son of God would be elevated to have the preeminence, mankind would be recovered from the curse, and Satan, and all other beings out of harmony with God’s righteousness, would be destroyed forever (Revelation 20:9-10, 21:4).
The curse has been in effect for more than 6000 years now. The purpose is for mankind to have the experience with the results of sin. The curse has caused man sorrow, pain, selfishness, a lack of love for one’s fellow man, lack of reverence for their Creator, lack of fellowship with the Creator and finally, the great pain of death. It has shown man that without God and His Law ruling in their hearts, they would have no chance for everlasting life.
But God’s plan also provides man with the opportunity to come back into the fellowship with God and recover all that was lost through sin. “God … will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Every individual will have the opportunity to be recovered back to God and learn righteousness under ideal conditions as taught by the great mediator, Christ and his Church (Isaiah 9:7, 26:9, Psalm 110:4).
The ultimate recovery from sin and death will require that man acknowledge his mistakes, make an unconditional consecration to the Lord God and the doing of His will, put off sin, and serve righteousness. This recovery includes replacing man’s stone-like heart of selfishness for a heart of flesh filled with love and compassion, becoming God-like in heart. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26, please see Watchtower Reprints 3202:6, 1244:6, 4777:2).
Heart Transformation Required
Ezekiel 36:26 says, “A new heart also will I give you.” During Christ’s Millennial Kingdom Reign, each person will need to transform their heart and mind into the image of the Father and return to His character likeness. The experience with sin that all people have had during this life will help them to understand what a privilege they have been given. They will recognize that they were born into iniquity as a result of Adam’s sin. By the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus, they will learn in Christ’s kingdom that they have been redeemed and have a chance to come to the knowledge of the Lord under very favorable conditions. If they make this heart transformation, it will mean that they have learned reverence for God.
How will this heart and mind transformation be exhibited? We are given a hint from our Lord’s parable of the Kingdom found in Matthew 25:33-40:
“And he [the son of man] shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
They will demonstrate this heart and mind transformation through the love and care they exhibit to one another.
Demonstrating Their Heart Transformation
Job wrote in Job 28:28: “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear [reverence] of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” Once reverence for God is restored, mankind will reject sin and evil. Instead, they will demonstrate what it means to be in complete harmony with God — perfection.
During Christ’s Millennial kingdom, mankind will be in various stages of regeneration as they walk up the Highway of Holiness. They will have the opportunity to demonstrate their change of heart by helping one another along this highway. Those that have been on the highway for a longer period of time will be expected to have developed this God-like heart to a greater degree (Ezekiel 36:26) and to demonstrate this change by helping those new to the highway. Bro. Russell describes beautifully how this heart of flesh will be demonstrated:
“All will awaken from the tomb without possessions of any kind. Illustrated in the case of Lazarus, Jesus only awakened him from death. His rejoicing friends were left to loose him from his grave clothes and clothe and feed him. We would not desire to have one get here and find that there was no place for him to eat, sleep or live; so we would make provision for him. Good works are indicative of sympathy, love, compassion. During the Millennial age knowledge will have practically supplanted faith; hence, faith will have no special rewards, but works will have the rewards.
“Works were the basis of the Law Covenant. Obedience, demonstrated through works, is to be the basis of … the New Covenant. Love and its fruit, good works, will be the ground upon which the sheep of that age will be rewarded” (Watchtower Reprints R701:1).
“Those who have the spirit of God, of love, will be glad to carry the message of reconciliation to all humanity — to apply the eye-salve to the blind, to unstop the ears of the deaf, and help the sin-sick back into harmony with God” (Watchtower Reprints R5531:5).
Assisting each other will be both a privilege and a heart-felt desire. Feeding one another literally will be important but providing the spiritual food and guidance in all things holy will be even more important. At this time God promises that all will know the Lord from the least to the greatest and the life of a man will be more valuable than the golden wedge of Ophir (Hebrews 8:11, Isaiah 13:12).
Mankind will learn that love is the principle thing; and as they have been forgiven, they must be ready to forgive those who have trespassed against them in the previous life. This spirit of love will be so strong that they will be ready to forgive and forget, and put behind them all of the hurt feelings and animosities of the past.
At the completion of Christ’s Millennial reign, mankind will have returned to the image of the Creator and be sons of God once again. They will truly have His spirit and His Law of love written in their hearts. “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). When all is completed, Paul tells us that God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).
Lesson for the Christian
As followers of Jesus, the lesson of putting off sin, and even keeping from the appearance of sin in our Christian walk, should be engraved upon our minds. We have given up our earthy will and fleshly ambitions to obey the will of our Heavenly Father. Failure to obey would be sin and mean failure to gain the promised heavenly reward. We are to strive against sin and be faithful unto death to receive the crown of life (Hebrews 12:1, Revelation 2:10).