Before time or light or physical substance existed, God was. He had always been and always would be, an eternal and unchanging Spirit, knowing and seeing all things—past, present, and future. He called himself “I AM,” because no amount of names by themselves could adequately define the magnitude of his power, wisdom, and love.
Much of his greatness was known in the spiritual realm, but he had something more in mind—a physical realm in time and space. He wanted human beings to love him as much as he would love them, which would have to be a free-will choice.
He would give people power to choose independence from him. At the same time, he would give them a need to depend on him, but that need could not be so obvious and compelling that they could never consider going their own way.
For the choice to be real, a deceptive reason to disobey must exist. If the people were always obedient, then all the evidence would say they had been created without free will—that their choice for him must have been coerced. They would have to disobey. But if they chose to disobey, what force could turn their hearts and bring them back to him? He would then have to make a second choice available, this time a choice for life instead of death.
Time began when God exploded the universe into existence from a single point, which took billions of years from the human perspective, in the earth’s measurement of days. But from his perspective—in the expansion of time to create all matter out of nothing but his energy—galaxies, solar systems, and planets were formed in only a few days.
At first, Earth was a barren waste, but God moved upon the surface, and his Spirit brought life through his Word. When he said, “Let there be light,” the brightness burst forth, and the darkness couldn’t constrain it. Each time he said, “Let there be…” the power of his presence worked through his Word to make it so.
Nothing existed that his Word didn’t make. Life itself came from the Word, and his breath of life brought awareness and instinct to his creatures.
Then God said, “Let’s make man in our image.” This required more than simply creating living flesh from the dust. He gave people free will—the ability to say yes or no, to believe or disbelieve, to obey or disobey. Would they recognize his value and love him enough to sacrifice their right to be independent, or would they go their own self-serving ways?
In his infinite foreknowledge, he saw what Adam and Eve would do. For his plan to work, he would have to take upon himself the punishment for their sins. Then a second life-changing free-will choice would allow people to choose either the narrow path of righteousness or the broad road to destruction.
Had there been a better way, he would have chosen it.
In the midst of the garden where Adam and Eve were, he planted the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Of all the other trees, you may eat,” he said, “but stay away from this one. The fruit is poisonous. The day you eat of it, you will surely die.”
He could have built a fence to keep them out, but that would take away their choice.
He still had a problem. With all the other trees filled with good fruit, no good reason existed for them to disobey. For their choice to be real, he needed some kind of enticement, someone who would argue the benefit of disobedience. This was not something he could do himself, for it was not in his nature to tempt anyone to do evil.
Satan had already deceived a third of the heavenly host, so he was the perfect candidate to present his message on Earth. Could God allow Satan to encourage Eve to do what she had been told not to do? Yes, but only if God made a choice available for something better in the end, including forgiveness, healing, and eternal life.
Satan, the father of lies and the master of deception, knew how to twist the truth and make evil look good. He also knew how to pick the most vulnerable target. Not Adam and Eve together, because they would support each other with the truth. No, his best chance would be to slip in like a snake when Eve was alone.
When the opportunity came, Satan questioned God’s motives and showed Eve how good the fruit was.
God knew Eve faced a dilemma, but he dared not interfere. Doing so would have voided his gift of free will. She would have to make her own decision, apart from God and without Adam’s advice. What would she do?
The safe choice was to obey God, refusing the fruit. She considered what would be lost if she refused to listen to Satan. She would never know what the fruit tasted like. She would be stuck forever, being the secondary person she had always been. Where was the opportunity to grow, to become someone great?
On the other hand, if she was willing to take the risk and ignore what God had said, she could have what she longed for.
To be individually successful, being like God, knowing good and evil. Could she trust the serpent’s word that she wouldn’t really die? Yes, she believed so. But would Adam approve? It didn’t matter. The fruit looked delicious.
With the first bite, she noticed a small change in how she felt—disobedient and alone, no longer in agreement with Adam or with God. She felt embarrassment, as if her former glory had somehow departed. Was this the knowing of evil as well as good? On the other hand, she felt stronger, more independent, with greater self-confidence. Evidently, the serpent had spoken the truth. She wasn’t dead, was she? So she ate the rest of the fruit.
When Adam arrived, she felt like she was seeing a different man. She forced a smile as if nothing had changed and picked another fruit. “You should try this,” she said. “It’s very good.”
Adam recognized the tree and knew what Eve had done. She was part of him, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, but the spiritual intimacy wasn’t the same. What could he do?
She couldn’t walk with him, but he could walk with her, couldn’t he? Yes, if he ate the fruit, he would die, just as God had said. He was sure of that. But what value was life without his beloved Eve? Without her, he was as good as dead anyway.
His hope was for God to have a plan that would bring them both back to him. Why else would he allow them to disobey? Somehow God would have to intervene and give them a second choice for life. While this seemed impossible, he knew God well enough to know he could do such a miracle. So he accepted the fruit from Eve’s hand.
Afterward, God looked for them in the garden. “Adam,” he said, as if he didn’t already know where they were. He waited for them to come out of hiding.
“We were naked,” Adam said, “so we hid.” Their fig-leaf garments were not enough to cover their guilt and shame.
They needed better clothes.
God slew a lamb and made garments to cover their
nakedness, but that would not be enough to cover their emotional and spiritual needs.
One day, he would send a different lamb, his Son, Jesus, who would choose to die so they could have eternal life. He would bear their punishment so they could be free from condemnation and live with him.
But there was a problem. People might love their independence and seek greatness on their own. Without a reason, they might never repent. They needed to experience life without him, enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season. After doing what seemed right in their own eyes, they might feel the consequence for their self-serving, unloving actions and turn back to him.
To make them aware of their wrongdoing, they needed rules—commandments set in stone. But the Law would not be enough to bring true repentance and cause them to do right. No, Jesus would have to enter their lives. Then they could experience a change in heart and understand the greater blessing of giving above receiving.
God then gave prophets, priests, and kings to lead his people under the Law. Many followed no more than the religious form, making sacrifices but still doing what they wanted. God didn’t care about their animal sacrifices. He wanted his people to experience a change of heart.
Through the lips of his prophet Isaiah, God said, People who walk in darkness will see a bright light. Upon those who live under dark shadows of death, the light will shine. One day, a true savior would come, a prophet greater than any other, one who would save the world from sin. But after so many generations of hope in false messiahs, few Jews believed they would see God’s promise fulfilled in their lifetime.
Before the ministry of his son could begin, God needed a prophet to speak in the spirit and power of Elijah—stirring the hearts of the people, challenging them to repent, bringing fresh expectation of the Messiah’s arrival.
Then Jesus, the perfect expression of God, would be born in human flesh. He would be so completely filled with God’s Spirit that seeing him would be the same as seeing God himself in action.
Although he had made the world, most people in the world wouldn’t recognize Jesus for who he was. Some would love their self-serving ways so much, they would call their darkness “light” and their light “darkness.” They would say Jesus’ words were deceptive and his work was evil, claiming that his actions were under the authority of Beelzebub, prince of demons.
However, some would see the light and recognize the darkness in themselves. By being born again, not physically out of human desire but spiritually by the new choice God made available to everyone, those who believed and accepted Jesus could become a part of God’s family.
Exactly when, where, and how this would happen—only God knew. The people waited, doubting whether that day would ever come.
But God was ready to reveal himself and show the way to eternal life.