One of the interesting things that happens when you read the Bible for yourself is you find that the stories “as you remember being taught them in Sunday School” don’t always match up with what is written in the Bible. For me, one such misunderstanding is the story of the Garden of Eden. My understanding was that God made man and woman, put them in a garden, put a tree in the middle of the garden from which they could not eat, and when they did, He punished them by kicking them out of the garden.
If we look in Gen 2:9 we will see that there is not one tree of importance in the garden, but two trees. One is The Tree of Life and the other is The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Gen 2:16 is where God tells Adam not to eat of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So, The Tree of Life was available to eat from.
Let’s follow The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil for a minute. We next find it in Gen 3:1-6, which is the story of “the fall” (we will deal with “the fall” in a minute). Then in Gen 3:11 God asks them if they have eaten from this tree and lastly Gen 3:17 when God pronounces the punishment for eating from this tree. Near as I can find, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil never appears anywhere in the Bible again. I will make the assumption that “it” no longer exists.
The Tree of Life, however, gets a bit more attention. The most notable is in Eze 47:12 and Rev 22:2. Both passages speak of this tree being in the New Jerusalem, standing on both sides of the river that comes from the Throne of God, bearing 12 crops of fruit, yielding the fruit every month and its leaves are for healing.
The fact that the fruit is yielded monthly leads me to speculate that we must eat from this tree regularly in order to sustain our human bodies for eternity. Whether we eat monthly or harvest monthly and eat daily, I don’t know. If this speculation is correct, then it has some implications on the Genesis story. Let’s return to Gen 3:22.
The Lord, God said, “The man has become like one of us, knowing good from evil” (not like God in power, but like God because we know good from evil). “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from The Tree of Life and eat and live forever.” My speculation is then that one bite from The Tree of Life would not allow man to live for ever, but to be allowed to continuously eat from this tree would have allowed him to live forever. Thus an Angel is placed to keep them from eating from The Tree of Life and therefore they would surely die.
Now let’s draw our attention to “the fall” in Gen 3:1-6. What is the actual sin committed by Adam and Eve? Their sin was more than merely eating forbidden fruit; it was disobeying the revealed word of God, believing the lie of satan, and placing their own wills above God’s. Notice that satan sprinkled some “truth” with some “lie” in order to deceive Eve. This is the same approach that satan used with Jesus. Jesus defeated satan by use of the Word of God. This is the same approach used by satan today, so we must know the Word of God ourselves.
The Truth of the Word will help us recognize “lies” when we hear them. What “lies” are going around today that sound good? How about: There is only One God but many ways to get to Him, so we need to be tolerant of everybody else’s religion. But the Word says that Jesus is the only way to God, for if the law (anybody’s law) could save, then Christ died for nothing. Galatians 2:21.
This is how sin entered the world and in verse Gen 3:7 they realized that they needed to cover it up, but they didn’t know the correct way to cover their sin. In Gen 3:21 God shows them the correct way to cover their sin. An animal had to die in order for their sin to be covered. I wonder how dramatically God did this for them. Did He just show up with garments and tell them an animal had to die? Or did He bring the animal in front of them so they could see the animal being killed, cleaned and a garment formed from its skin right in front of them? Who knows?
The Problem of Evil
We have become like God, not like God in power, but like God because we know good from evil. This phrase tells us that before the fall, Adam and Eve did not know good from evil. This along with many other verses has sparked a line of thinking that has led me to an answer for the problem of evil. I define the problem of evil as, “Why would a Good God allow evil to happen to His creation?”
I must caution that this is my line of thinking. I have never seen anyone answer the question this way. Nor have I seen anyone answer the question to my satisfaction. But this answer has given me great comfort and I pass it on to you in hope that it does the same for you. If not, at least you have something to think about. So put on your skeptic hat and go for an interesting ride with me as I answer “the problem of evil.”
Maybe there is something to the idea that you can’t truly know “good” unless you know “evil” (Gen 3:22). I am encouraged by C. S. Lewis who said, “the more you know Good the more you will know evil. The less you know good the less you will know evil.”
Maybe we have problems seeing the logic of “a Good God allowing evil to happen to His creation” because we think that it is all about us. What if it is bigger than that? What if God is drawing the angels He created closer to Him (which is pure Goodness) by letting them “know” evil through our experiences. Eph. 3:10
But in His great mercy He is not making them all “experience” evil. His great mercy is limiting evil to this small planet for a short period of time and for this specific purpose: so that the riches of His Glory may be known to the objects of His mercy. Rom 9:23.
My line of reasoning
God created angels. Col 1:15,16
God gave angels freewill. Jude 6
Some angels chose evil. Jude 6, Isaiah 14:13-14
Those angels were either confined to the abyss (Jude 6) or to earth. Isaiah 14:12, John 12:31, Eph 2:2
God created man. Gen 1:26-31
God gave man freewill. Gen 3:5-7
Man chose evil. Gen 3:5-7
Man is separated from God. Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:23
Therefore God is recreating on earth what has already happened in the angelic world.
A petrie dish of sorts because there are many more angels than humans. Heb 1:14, Matt 18:10, KJV Heb 12:22
He is allowing a battle between good and evil to rage on this earth. Eph 6:12
The angels are witnesses (Heb 12:1) to this but do not have to “experience the battle.”
The angels are at war 1) Michael helps angel in battle with the prince of persia. Dan 10:13
2) Michael battles the devil over Moses’ body. Jude 9
But angels don’t “experience” torture, mutilation, terror, rape, or loss of love ones, etc.
At some point God will remove all good from this earth (rapture, pretribulation view) 1 Thess 4:17 and show what is the natural consequences of evil. Rom 6:23
The earth will then come to a point where if those days had not been cut short, no one will survive. Matt 24:22
Therefore God allowing evil to exist in this world is just as logical as humans doing experiments on animals to find knowledge that will benefit all humanity.
Man’s reward for going through this battle of good vs. evil is to be judges of angels (1 Cor 6:3); to be the bride of Christ. Rev 19:7
So my ultimate conclusion is God is not simply allowing evil to happen to His creation, but God is using evil to accomplish a greater good. God is drawing the angels He created closer to Him (which is pure Goodness) by letting them “know” evil through our experiences. Eph. 3:10. But in His great mercy He is not making them all “experience” evil.
I grant you that I do not have a full answer here. I assure you that my eye has not seen, nor has my ear heard, nor has my mind concieved what God has prepared for those who love Him. But, if I can come up with one reason for God allowing evil to exist then I am assured that the Master has even more and greater reasons than I can understand. My trust remains firmly and fully in Jesus.