Life in God’s Garden

Summary of Part One

  • God the Gardener created a son (Lk 3.38) to tend the garden.
  • God, as a father, was training up his children Adam and Eve in the garden.
  • Adam was put in a garden for instruction because gardening requires faith: both faithfulness in tending day by day and faith that what is planted and cultivated will one day grow. Planting and tending a garden is an exercise of faith.
  • The prohibition against the Tree of Knowledge, like the dietary laws of the Mosaic Covenant abolished in the New, was intended to be a temporary restriction.
  • The Tree of Knowledge was made for Adam and Eve when they matured.

Support for the last two points is found in Hebrews 5:13-14 (all quotations hereafter are from the NRSV): “. . .for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.”

  • Adam did not have to earn his place in God’s Garden: rather, God gave good gifts to His children.
  • Adam was gifted with gold, precious stones, rivers teeming with life, and authority over all living creatures; no dowry was demanded for him to take Eve as his wife.
  • God created the world so that faith was necessary from the beginning. Adam lacked faith in what God told him, and impatiently asked for his inheritance before time (cf. the Prodigal Son).
  • The temptation was a shortcut to glory (Genesis 3:5).
  • Satan tempted them with something they already had (Genesis 1:27).
  • God didn’t just throw His son out of the garden for the first mistake he made. God warned Adam of only one sin.
  • Adam was being taught to trust His Father and His goodness. Adam’s sin was his rebellion against his own experience of what God was doing in his life, impatience with God.

The Garden in the New Covenant

Is this motif shown elsewhere in Scripture? Martin gives examples of the gardening metaphor in the NT, specifically as regards life under the New Covenant:

  • “Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Mat 3.10
  • “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” Mat 12.33
  • “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.” Mat 20.1
  • “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. . .Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. . .My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and becomec my disciples.” Jn 15.1-8
  • “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree. . . For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.” Rom 11.17-24

Most interesting to me, however, was Galatians 5.22-23:

  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Now, the last sentence never made any sense to me before I looked at the Garden of Eden narrative as the referent for the fruit and the “law” against a certain type of fruit. Quite interesting, eh?

Psalm 1.3 recapitulates the picture of someone in right standing with God in terms of this garden metaphor: “They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.” Martin argues that man being restored to right standing is in a sense a return to the garden, but as a graduate rather than as a student. We no longer need the Law to regulate our morality and help us distinguish good from evil. In fact, Paul was quite scathing in his criticism of those Jewish Christians who sought a return to dietary restrictions and other obsolete aspects of the ceremonial law:

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Col 2.20-23)

The Law of God is written on our hearts (Heb 8.10). Through the work of His firstborn Son Christ, God has matured His children. We are now back to where we should have been all along: in possession and dominion of the New Garden, seen in Revelation 22.1-5:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Martin contends that futurism has the Church in a holding pattern over the wasteland between the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Revelation. A fulfilled eschatology has us already in the second garden, living victoriously and maturely (cf. Eph 4.12-15) with the Spirit as our guide and the world as the inherited Kingdom of the meek.

The Garden as Type

Martin insists that we choose the Garden of God as the source of our theology, rather than the wasteland of futurism that can only yearn for something God has left unaccomplished. He proceeds to show various manifestations of the pattern repeated throughout Genesis. (As I have noted, Lawrence Boadt points out the same thing about the structure of Genesis.)

The Fall of Cain

Genesis 4.6-7: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

  • This is exactly what Cain should have learned from the story of his parents.
  • The murder of Abel is the fall of Cain
  • God’s judgment: Cain was cast out from the “presence.”

The Fall of the Sons of God

  • Intermarriage with idolatry corrupted the nation.
  • Foreign women were “forbidden fruit.”
  • God’s judgment: Destruction by waters of the flood. (Genesis 6.11-8.18)
  • The Fall of Noah

    Noah was said to be a righteous man. He showed signs of greater maturity than his predecessors, such that a specific prohibition was not even given. Yet he abused his freedom.

    • We see Noah implanted in a new world – a new garden scene.
    • Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. (Gen 9.20)
    • New temptation: aged wine not fresh fruit.
    • Drunkenness is the Fall of Noah as he becomes “naked” in his tent.
    • Sin enters Noah’s household.
    • Judgment is pronounced by Noah on his own descendants through Ham

    Fall of Abraham

    Abraham follows Adam and prefigures Christ.

    • He was born in Haran (wilderness), placed in promise land (garden).
    • God poured out grace on Abraham (like Adam)
    • Abraham had become very wealthy in livestock and silver and gold. (Gen 13.2)
    • Like Adam, he was tempted by his wife with attempting to fulfill God’s promise on his own.
    • Like Adam, Abraham was tempted by what God has already promised him – a son – but he was impatient.
    • Immediately after Abraham’s fall God initiated the circumcision covenant by sacrifice.
    • Later faced another temptation on Moriah regarding his “one and only” son.
    • Abraham perseveres and sets the example for all of God’s children to come.
    • Abraham matured in his faith.

    The Perfection of Joseph

    In Joseph, the last account of Genesis, we see the stature of a mature man (Eph 4.13).

    • Nothing bad is recorded about Joseph.
    • He is the only one in Genesis “in whom is the Spirit of God.” (Gen 41.37)
    • He faces temptation (Potipher’s wife) and masters sin as the “perfect” son of God.
    • He ascends to the right hand of the king.
    • In the end, he was given a woman to be his wife (Gen 41.45) – which is exactly what was involved in his temptation. Because of his obedience, discipline, and patience, Joseph receives what he was tempted to have ahead of time.

    Israel as Adam

    Martin argues that we can see the nation of Israel as following the same pattern. The nation was born in the wilderness (Sinai) and then placed in the promised land (garden). God poured out grace on Israel (land flowing with milk and honey), but Israel broke the covenant and was cast out of the promised land (garden) through exile.
    But in Daniel, we watch God’s presence as it goes with His faithful people, just as His presence went with Adam and Eve before the Fall. They face the temptation of beautiful food, but through obedience and self-sacrifice, they ascend to the right hand of the throne of Babylon.
    Jesus was the New Israel, as the book of Matthew tries to point out. Like Israel, Jesus came up out of Egypt to the promised land. He, like the Israelites of the conquest, came through the Jordan (was baptized). His faithfulness was rewarded and He ascended on high to be the King of Kings.

    Comparison/contrast of the Temptations of Adam and Jesus:

    Adam – in the garden : Jesus – in the wilderness

    Adam – with food all around : Jesus – while hungry

    Adam – tempted with fruit : Jesus – tempted with bread

    Adam – called to live by faith in God’s word and failed : Jesus – stood firm by faith in God’s word

    Note here again that Jesus was tempted with something that God had already promised him – the nations. (Ps 2.8 – “I will make the nations your inheritance”) Jesus refused to take the (false) shortcut, and God gave Jesus the exact thing which the Devil used to tempt him! Jesus, like Joseph and unlike Adam, waited for God’s good gift in God’s time. The story follows the pattern from the original garden. Hebrews 5.8-9 summarizes Jesus’ experience in this pattern:

    Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

    You and I in God’s Garden

    Martin points out that temptation is still a reality for us in the New Covenant, but we are called to master it, as God told Cain. James 1.13-17 gives us instruction on how to handle temptation and master sin.

    How does God go about doing His work in the world? For Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn, the answer is through His children, just as a He always intended. With a futurist “wasteland” mindset, the Church has been blinded to its purpose: it is destined for dominion (Gen 1.28) and for assisting our Father in His designs for the world He created and over which He now reigns.

    Tim closed his presentation with the declaration, “The key to the future is going back to God’s Garden at the beginning.”


    I thought this was a fascinating presentation. Now, I tend to take a very organic, natural view of how Scripture was written and should be interpreted, viewing the kernel (if not the entirety) of the undeniably supernatural truths contained within to be apprehensible by an authorial intent hermeneutic and without the need of some esoteric overlay of a magical truth á la Gnosticism. I shy away from interpretations that claim a hidden meaning behind whole swaths of Scripture in ways that would seem wholly foreign to the original audience (although the intended message was subject to being misunderstood), and I can see the potential for this to be argued through what I have shared of Martin and Vaughn’s material. But even with my own interpretive rubric, I see that the final editor of Genesis may well have been piecing these already existent stories together, sculpting existing material for the purpose of illustrating this pattern that God had revealed. The authors of the New Testament, likewise, understood this intent and used the stories in the way in which they were intended by the Old Testament authors to explain what was happening in their time with Jesus and the New Covenant. I would like to be clear that Tim at least (haven’t confirmed this with Jeff) views Adam as an historical figure, but I would also like to note that I do not believe the references to Adam and the narratives of early Genesis are in any way dependent upon a literal Adam; on the contrary, this is exactly the sort of thing the story could have been meant for as a means of communicating important spiritual truths other than the mere historical record assumed and rigorously defended by so many literalists. Note also this presentation’s compatibility with my view of an individualized, recurring Fall (although, again, Tim and Jeff are not arguing this).

    Let me know what you think about this stuff. If you find it interesting, I suggest going to “the horse’s mouth” and listening to Tim’s recordings directly.

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