Introduction to the Bible: An Introduction to the Bible
by Rev. Ralph A. Smith
The Post-Fall Promise
The world itself was changed by the fall. A new covenantal relationship between Adam and God also meant that the relationships between Adam and his environment, Adam and Eve, and Adam's internal subjective condition were drastically altered. This new covenantal situation could only be temporary. It was clear that the fundamental problem of the fall could only be solved by a redemptive sacrifice that would wholly take away sin. In the meantime, man would have to continue the project God assigned had him at creation.
In many respects the situation of the kingdom is unchanged. Adam is the head of the race -- prophet, priest, king, and father. The earth is divided into three distinct areas, the Garden of Eden, the land of Eden, and the rest of the world. Adam's responsibility is to till the ground and worship God rightly. Although the new environment presents new challenges, the fundamental definition of good and evil does not change. God is still Lord over all, determining all things according to His perfect will.
However, there has been a fundamental covenantal change that is comprehensive in its effects. Adam aligned himself with Satan's rebellion against God, placing the world under Satanic authority, not in a proper sense (de jure), but practically speaking (de facto). From this point on Satan is called "the prince of this world" (Jn. 12:31). Adam is under Satan until he repudiates him. Adam's children, too, are open to Satanic influence and attack.
The distinction between Eden and the world before the fall was simply a matter of proximity to God, but now that Adam had sinned, the Garden of Eden became the holy place into which man could not enter, Eden became the holy land, and the rest of the world became the defiled land. The point is not that a new substance had been infused into the world to make it evil. Evil is not a substance. Evil is having a wrong covenantal relationship with God. After the fall, the world under Adam became covenantally separated from God and cursed with Adam. Wherever God manifested His presence, the area became "holy space," temporarily freed from the curse by virtue of God's gracious presence.
Death, Paul says, entered by sin (Rom. 5:12). Death is an ever-present and inescapable reality in the fallen world because of the curse. The world, in other words, was defined by the curse on man after the fall. Only in the grace of God was there hope for salvation.
1. God remained Lord over the world, but Adam could not approach Him as before. Man could no longer have intimate fellowship with Him as he did in the Garden. However, there is still hope, for God has revealed Himself in a new manner. He is not only the absolute Lord of Creation, He is also man's Redeemer. God made a promise to Eve of the Seed that would conquer Satan and deliver man. He also made "coats of skins" for Adam and Eve and clothed them (Gn. 3:21), thus teaching them of a future substitutionary sacrifice that would cover their shame.
2. Adam's position in the world was compromised. He was still responsible to God for his leadership in priestly, kingly, and fatherly duty, but he was also open to Satanic temptation in a new way. He now had an internal sympathy with Satan's sinful rebellion against God. Therefore, for Adam to stand with God meant a life-long war with Satan and a war against the sin in his own heart. From this time, Adam's work also included the fight to reclaim for God what Satan had stolen. For Adam to have authority in a fallen world meant that he must fight, either for God or against Him. Authority also included the pain of perseverance in a sin-cursed world. Adam would have had to work even if he had not sinned, but after the fall, his work is no longer the pure pleasure it should have been.
3. The essence of righteousness cannot change, but the instruction does change as the covenantal situation changes. Before the fall there was no need to teach Adam not to kill or steal because he was not inclined to commit such sins by nature. After the fall man's duty must be spelled out in some detail. We do not know how much or precisely what kind of revelation Adam had apart from what is recorded in the Bible. His descendent Enoch is said to have walked with God (Gen. 5:24) which implies more than just "spiritual fellowship" and may have included prophetic revelation.
Even without special divine revelation, man, as God's image, knew in his heart that murder was sin. Cain, for example, did not need an explanation of his crime. At the same time God forbade anyone to take vengeance for the murder of Abel (Gen. 4:15). Man was not yet mature enough to share in the judicial office, at least not with reference to capital punishment.
Lamech, the true heir of Cain's nature, committed the sin of polygamy (Gn. 4:19) -- forbidden implicitly in the original doctrine of marriage: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). His violence exceeded that of Cain in its intensity and pride. There can be no doubt that he did not worship the true God.
The other great sin of the era is recorded in Genesis 6. "The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose" (Gen. 6:2). The "sons of God" here definitely refers to the godly line of Seth. This verse gives us an explanation for what happened to the righteous before the flood. We are told in Genesis 5 about many generations of men who were the Christian descendents of Adam. How could their children just disappear? The answer is that they didn't disappear, they apostatized. Like Solomon, their hearts were turned away from God by the non-Christian women they married, for they took their wives from the daughters of the family of Cain. Of all Seth's children, only Noah remained faithful to God at this time of global infidelity (Gn. 6:8).
4. The curse of the covenant, already seen in the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden, was progressively applied to sinful men. Cain was driven farther east of Eden than Adam and Eve. But expulsion from the presence of God reached its climactic point in the judgment of the flood. Here the apostate descendents of Seth, together with the progressively wicked descendents of Cain, were driven from the face of the earth and the world was brought back to a new beginning.
The blessing of the covenant was revealed in a special fashion in the life of Enoch. Enoch's exemplary righteousness won for him the special blessing of being taken up to the presence of God without dying. This showed men that the blessing of the covenant was forgiveness of sins and everlasting life with God in heaven.
5. Man was to inherit the world as the kingdom of God, but sin deprived him of the full enjoyment of that inheritance. The grace of God intervening on man's behalf did preserve for men a certain degree of the original blessing in this life, even for those who did not repent of their sins. Cain became a city-dweller and his descendents were used of God to develop musical instruments (Gn. 4:21), for even the wicked serve God's purpose in history.
When the godly line of Seth apostatized, they lost everything. Only Noah found grace and was preserved from judgment. Noah, his wife, and his children lived on to become the new first family in a new world, having also inherited the knowledge and technology of the early ages: "the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just" (Pro. 13:22).
Man's Covenantal Response
From the sin of Cain to that of Lamech, the seed of the Serpent imitated their spiritual father. Murder, polygamy, pride, and tyranny characterized their family line. The Sethites, on the other hand, were godly for many generations. Seth's first son Enos became a priest and led men in the true worship of God (Gen. 4:26). The line of Seth apparently continued to be godly all the way until the time of Noah, who was named in hope that men would find comfort in him (Gn. 5:29). But the seed of the woman was deceived by the seed of the Serpent and led astray. The sons of God, the Sethite "seed of the woman," married ungodly Cainite "seed-of-the-serpent" wives. Their children became mighty men (Gn. 6:1-4). But these men were corrupt and they filled the earth with violence (Gn. 6:11). The whole race, except for the family of Noah, joined the Serpent in rebellion against God. This naturally led to mutual hatred and destruction among them, for Satan can only provide unity in hatred of God. And hatred against God is ultimately the hatred of all life and creation.
God's Covenantal Judgment
The sons of Seth broke the covenant like Adam before them. They turned the blessing into a curse. God destroyed the whole earth and brought the human race back to its original state of just one family. The judgment of the flood was an undoing of the creation, a de-creation judgment. When the flood waters covered the earth, the world looked like it did at the beginning: "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:2).
In judgment God was merciful: "God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark" (Gen. 8:1a). Noah and his family were preserved so that man could make a new start after the flood. The animals were preserved in the ark so that there would be a new animal world, too. In the "final judgment" of the flood, in other words, redemption was included. God would bring about a new world.
No other judgment in history is so much like the final judgment as the deluge. The almost-final judgment of the flood is the Biblical paradigm for covenantal final judgment. Whenever a covenantal era ends in judgment, the literary figures of speech recall the flood with the language of global catastrophe. Covenantal judgment is always, theologically, de-creation, even though no subsequent historical judgment is actually as spectacular as the flood.
After the flood, God established His covenant with Noah - a new covenant that was a renewal of the Adamic covenant, with redemptive additions - (Gen. 9:1-17). Noah became the new Adam for a new world. The first covenantal period after the fall of Adam ended in great failure and sin. But where sin abounded, grace did "much more abound" (Rm. 5:20).
The Covenantal Structure of the Bible: Introduction to
Berith.org is dedicated to applying the covenantal worldview to modern-day issues. It is a ministry of the Covenant Worldview Institute and the Mitaka Evangelical Church of Tokyo, Japan. The essays and books at Berith.org are (mostly?) written by Reverend Ralph Allan Smith, who has laboured as a teacher, pastor, and missionary in Tokyo since 1981, and as the director of the Covenant Worldview Institute since 1988. All feedback is welcome. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.