By Antonella Pedley
I can still remember the day when my beloved grandpa returned home from the market with a surprise in his bicycle basket—a live hen! Grandpa gave it a home in an airy box at the back of the yard. My brother and I gave it a name and fed it. We watched it clucking away every day without a worry in the world—children and chicken alike.
One fateful morning Grandpa entered the house holding our pet upside down by its legs. He marched unceremoniously to the bathroom and locked the door behind him. Dark forebodings arose in my brother’s and my mind. We began asking curt questions through the door, banging with our fists, and demanding immediate answers. But alas, no answers came.
The next day, the mystery was solved by the arrival of our hen on the dinner table, dressed with all the trimmings of a weekend roast. My brother and I commenced our first quasi hunger strike in protest. The event also germinated my earliest vegetarian reflections.
Seeing our pet plated up for dinner introduced my childish mind to the sad reality that something was gravely amiss in the world—despite the otherwise happy and loving home of our grandparents. Since then, far greater losses have hammered home the perennial dimensions of death and suffering. The stern realities of our day, be they pandemics, disasters, or personal tragedies, are constant reminders that our world is broken. However, it was not always so.
The Bible talks of our primeval home in Eden, where the parents of the human race lived in perfect peace and happiness. Their fall into sin marred that blissful existence, and ever since and in a myriad of ways, people have attempted to regain our lost paradise, from religious sects to communist utopians, from present-day activists to well-meaning scientists. So far, none have succeeded. Consequently, a question arises: will the dream of regaining paradise ever come to fruition, and if yes, when and how? In searching for answers, we need to go to the beginning and recall what we lost that day in the Garden.
God started His grand work by creating on the first three days the environments and conditions for everything to thrive: (1) light, (2) the atmosphere and oceans, and (3) dry land with plants. On the next three days, the Lord filled those environments, one by one and in order: (4) celestial bodies—sun, moon and stars—to emit light, (5) birds and fishes to populate the atmosphere and oceans, and (6) animals and humans to roam on land. God provided abundant vegetation as food for all living beings and gave man dominion over the animal kingdom.
Most importantly, God created humans in His own image: godlikeness meant that they were to reflect His character. Man’s own motivations and will would coincide with God’s. The earthly order would be simple: plants would be consumed by both animals and people, animals would be under humanity’s dominion and care, and humans would obey God, who declared everything to be “good” and “very good.”
The Bible’s second chapter delves deeper into the beneficial relationships that God provided to govern earthly existence.
God and humankind: First, regarding the relationship between Himself and humans, which would serve as the basis of all other relationships, God rested on the seventh-day Sabbath and blessed and sanctified it. Another word for sanctify is consecrate, or “set apart for a sacred purpose.” The Sabbath was meant for face-to-face communion between God and man. In this communion, God expressed His will. The divine will is the foundation of morality, ethics, and truth, because God is the originator of life. Disobeying His will—His law—leads to death.
God filled the earth with good things and gave only one prohibition to Adam and Eve: they were to abstain from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In other words, good means conforming to God’s will, and evil is going against it. By obeying God, only good would exist in their world and evil would never be a reality.
Humankind to one another: Man would live best in companionship; therefore, the Lord made Adam a being “comparable to him.” V. 18. Woman and man would complement each other in marital union.
Humankind to their environment: God designed humanity’s interactions with their environment—He placed the first couple in their Eden home and charged them with tending it. The first companions the Lord made for Adam were the animals, which He brought to him to name. Living creatures were not to serve as food or shooting targets; humans were to be only gatherers of fruits and seed-bearing plants, not hunters. All earthly beings were meant to coexist in harmonious and mutually beneficial relationships.
In conversation with Eve, Satan, through the medium of a serpent, attacked both the content and validity of God’s Word and thus truth itself: “Has God indeed said …?” V. 1. “You will not surely die.” V. 4. Here, Satan insinuates that God is lying to them and that disobeying God’s command will lead to becoming “like God, knowing good and evil.” V. 5. Simply put, godlikeness would be achieved by experiencing evil, as if both good and evil were components of truth.
Persuaded by the serpent, Eve partook of the fruit and shared it with Adam, who followed his wife into disobedience. Their sin set in motion a chain of baleful consequences.
First, overwhelmed with shame and guilt, they hid from God, severing the face-to-face communion they had enjoyed with their Creator. Since they had transgressed God’s law by eating the forbidden fruit, they would lose the everlasting life that was conditioned on remaining loyal to God and His commands. The way to the tree of life was barred so that evil in man would not be immortalized.
Second, a wave of finger-pointing ensued. Adam blamed the woman and God, and Eve blamed the serpent. The harmony of symbiotic relationships was disrupted. As a consequence of sin, earthly hierarchy would become complex and prone to abuse. The relationship between man and woman became uneven. The story of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4) illustrates how envy and hatred began to poison human relationships and led to the first murder.
Finally, man’s connection with nature changed dramatically. The first animal was sacrificed to provide Adam and Eve with clothes to cover their nakedness. Man would have to cultivate weed-infested soil for food and earn his bread through much toil.
In the midst of this despair, God did not leave Adam and Eve without a plan for restoration. God promised to send His “Seed” into the world, and this Seed would crush the head of the serpent, representing Satan, who had brought evil and death into the world.
Through this means, the Seed, Jesus, our second Adam, would regain everything that the first Adam had lost. Because God respects free will, not all that has been lost at the Fall can be restored at once, but in two phases, “each one in his own order.” 1 Cor. 15:23. Right now, during our earthly probation, we may regain some of what we have lost. Between that promise made in Eden and the time of the final restitution which begins at His second coming, a great controversy between good and evil continues to rage for our allegiance.
Through His victory on the Cross, Jesus won the right to impart righteousness as a free gift to everyone who chooses to receive it: both forgiveness for past transgression and the power to overcome sin. God’s image can be restored in us now as our characters are transformed daily to more fully reflect His own.
Entering His weekly seventh-day temple in time, the only day of the week recognized and blessed by God for worship, is one way in which our relationship with God is healed. As we set aside this sacred time for communion with our Heavenly Father, we also show our allegiance to the truth of God’s Word, containing His law and will for our lives. However, unmediated, face-to-face communication with God will only be restored at Christ’s second advent. In heaven, access to the tree of life and everlasting life will be restored to redeemed humanity. And finally, the last enemy—death—will be conquered forever in the lake of fire.
Our relationships with other fellow human beings can start to be mended here and now. Marriages, families, and churches, as communities of believers sharing God’s love with the world, can be instruments to heal discord and division. The final restoration of human relationships will happen in heaven, when the leaves of the tree of life will act as balm “for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2); earthly hierarchies shall cease; and the original earthly order will be restored.
Finally, our relationship with nature can improve in the present as we stop exploiting it and start treating animals as a precious charge, not as sources of food and targets of sport. In the new heaven and earth, man’s dominion over nature will be restored: “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb” and “the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” Isa. 11:6.
It is the privilege of everyone to hasten the coming of this day by receiving God’s gift of renewal and becoming an agent of healing here and now. It is also our privilege to demonstrate clearly to all whom our lives touch whether or not Christ’s kingdom truly holds our allegiance.
For further study, see the following resources: Patriarchs and Prophets and The Great Controversy.
Antonella Pedley lives in Sweden and holds an MA in ancient religions from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.