The Apostle Paul wrote an illuminating message in Romans 8:18-23 comparing this world we currently live in to the perfect heavenly realm that we are anticipating after our bodily resurrection. In his ministry for Christ in preaching the Gospel, Paul had suffered terribly, and he had no illusions that his current life would be easy or long-lived. I’m sure all of us from time to time have wondered why this world is so messed up with all the evil, suffering, violence, and injustice. We believe in an all-powerful loving God, so why does God allow all the evil? Why doesn’t God intervene? Many of the objections I have heard from atheists involve this apparent conflict between belief in a loving God and the reality of evil in the world. Years ago there was a best selling book about this topic called WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE by Rabbi Kushner. The author could not, in his own rationalizations, rectify his belief in an all powerful God with the evil in the world; so he came to the conclusion that God existed and loves all people, but God is not all powerful and cannot do away with the evil. In Romans 8:18-23, Paul comes to a different conclusion based on his Biblical knowledge and the inspiration given Him by Christ. Paul states that the evil in this life is temporary, short lived, and not worthy to be compared to the glorious life after the resurrection. In fact this world has been purposefully “subjected to futility” by God. All of creation currently is longing for the day when it will be restored to perfection following the resurrection. In Rom.8:20, we read that God subjected the creation to futility, not because He wanted there to be evil, but because of His hope for the redemption and reconciliation of mankind. After the rebellion and disobedience of man portrayed in the story in Genesis 3, God knew that He must act out of what we might call “tough love” in order to restore man to a proper relationship with God and his fellow man. We can liken it in a lesser way to what our response might be to a rebellious child. The child would never learn why he/she needs to obey its parents unless it learned the hard way by experience. I can remember as a six year old running away from home, but I only lasted about three hours. When I realized that no one had come looking for me, it was getting cold and dark, and I was hungry—then I realized my mistake and went home. On a larger scale, and in a much more serious nature, Paul wrote that “God gave them over” to their own desires (Rom.1:24). It seems that when people first disobeyed the God who made them, God said, “Alright go ahead and do it your way and let’s see how that works out”, and of course a quick review of the history of the world reveals it has not worked well at all. We were created to have an intimate, abiding, loving relationship underneath the protective authority of God, and therefore on our own apart from God, life just doesn’t make sense and there is no fulfillment. Paul’s statement about God “subjecting the creation to futility” in hope of restoration is complimentary to the story of Genesis 3:15-24 where God cursed the creation because of original sin. God had told them in Genesis 2:17 that if they disobeyed the consequence would be death. The essence of that was separation from God. They had lived an idyllic existence in harmony and intimacy with God and each other, but if they disobeyed there would be a break in that relationship along with a series of vile consequences in addition to physical death.
Naked and not Ashamed
In Genesis 2:24-25, we read about the original relationship between man, woman, and God. The man and woman had such an intimate relationship that they became like “one flesh”. Not only that but the text says, “they were naked and not ashamed”. That is an awesome statement of their honesty, transparency, intimacy, and their total lack of vanity or shame. Nevertheless, belief and obedience are always tested– just study any of the many characters in the Bible, all of which had their faith tested. God put a simple test in the Garden of Eden, which made possible a breach in the relationship, and the entrance of evil into the world. When they disobeyed and failed the test, the extreme consequences followed. The next section of Genesis 3:14-24 is a cause and effect statement given by God, which begins “Because you have done this…” God put the responsibility and the consequences of their disobedience squarely on their shoulders. God gave at least six results of their sin which theologians call His curse upon the creation. I like to say that God rigged the world so life wouldn’t work without a relationship with God. From that time on, mankind has pursued happiness and fulfillment without success. We were made to live within a loving relationship in which we served and glorified God, but apart from God we can do nothing just as Jesus said in John 15:5.
Genesis 3:14-15 gives a cryptic prophecy by God of the relationship between the spiritual descendants of the adversary (Satan), and the spiritual descendants of Eve, or put simply unbelievers and believers. Just as there would be continual hostility between God and Satan behind the scenes, there would be continuous hostility between believers and unbelievers that would come to a climax at the crucifixion when the ultimate seed of the woman (Jesus) would deal a death-blow to Satan. This was a cryptic way to say that there would be spiritual warfare from that time on which would be won by Christ on the cross. In Ephesians 6:12, Paul made this struggle of spiritual warfare a priority in our lives when he wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” John explains all this in 1 John 3:8, “the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose that He might destroy the works of the devil.” Theologians believe that Genesis 3:15 is the first mention of the Gospel recognizing the essential conflict between Satan and the Lord which also involves the people of God, but that Christ would deliver a death blow to Satan at the cross.
The second consequence of sin is given in Genesis 3:16—pain. The example of the introduction of severe pain is given in the most necessary and blessed event of childbirth. Thirdly, conflict in relationships is introduced in verse 16. The perfect oneness of the first marriage was disrupted by ongoing conflict. God said here that the woman’s “desire” would be for her husband but that he would rule over her. The Hebrew word translated desire here is “teshuquah” which is also used in Genesis 4:7, and means a desire to dominate or to master someone. The point here is that God set the man in a leadership position, but the man would selfishly abuse that privilege, and the woman would desire to take over, resulting in conflict. God gave man a stewardship to lead through unselfish service, but men would selfishly use that authority to get their own way. In my own limited experience of marriage counseling, I have noticed that people typically feel that marriage is a “fifty-fifty” proposition. The problem with that is that their judgment of the 50% is usually more like 20% to 30%, and when each spouse is only giving 30% that creates a 40% gap. In that gap lays an immense number of “issues” which remain unresolved and thus a source of continuous conflict. God expects each of us to give 100% as being servants of each other (Ephesians 5:1-2, 20-21). I believe this consequence of conflict was applicable to all relationships as is revealed in the very next story of Cain and Abel (Gen.4:1-11). Two brothers that should be living in harmony become rivals, and Cain became pridefully angry and murdered Abel.
The fourth result of sin is found in Genesis 3:17, where God curses the very ground that had previously been very productive in bearing various crops and fruit. Now harmful thorns and thistles would threaten to choke out the good plants, and bacteria designed to purify the ground would become harmful, parasites and viral systems would also result. In conjunction with these harmful changes, the fifth result was that there would be a struggle for survival. Previously, work was a wonderful fulfilling blessing given by God. In Genesis 1:26-28, we read that God created us in His image and blessed us as His special representative to rule over His creation and take care of it. We were to rule over and take care of every living thing and cultivate the multitude of plants, crops, and fruit (Gen.2:15). This was a great privilege and blessing, and all of the creation existed in peaceful harmony underneath mankind’s stewardship to God. After sin, work became difficult, tedious, and burdensome.
The last and most obvious result of the curse was physical death for all the creation. In Genesis 3:19 we read that the physical body would return to the dust of the ground. Paul wrote in Romans 8:22 that the whole creation “groans and suffers” this fate, and looks forward to that day of resurrection and restoration when death no longer applies. Amazingly, in Genesis 3:22-24 we read that God had a completely different view of our life and death than we typically do now. God said that it would not be good for us to live forever in this perpetual state of sin and fallenness under the curse. Therefore, God drove them out of the Garden of Eden where the tree of life might keep them alive. God actually saw our physical death as a good thing as being part of the process of dying to sin and becoming alive to righteousness. Paul expressed this very thing in his passage about the importance of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:35-50. He said that the resurrection body cannot come to life unless the physical body first dies, and “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
In Genesis 3:17, God told Adam that the curse was because of him, or a better translation is “for thy sake”. It was better that suffering and death accompany sin in order to eventually bring an end to the rebellion and a restoration of the relationship to God. He could not allow sin to thrive unchecked, but God acted so as to not limit free will and responsibility, thus He rigged the world so that it could not work without a relationship with God. In His love, God also provided the means of reconciliation through Christ.