The First Sin
“By one man sin entered into the world” (Romans 5:12).
“The axe is laid unto the root of the trees” (Matthew 3:10).
ALL sins are great. It is impossible to commit a little sin against a great God. A spark of fire that simply burns a little wooden match may be esteemed a little thing; but if a spark of fire laid a great city in ashes who would call it a little fire? A man may smite his neighbor in the face and the insult will effect but a small circle; but let that same smite be given against the face of the president of the United States, the Queen of England, the Emperor of Germany, or the Czar of Russia, and a whole kingdom will feel the insult, and the news will be broadcast over the wide world.
Every sin is an insult against the Emperor of the universe. Every sin is a dart aimed at the heart of Jehovah. Every sin is a tramping under foot one of his holy laws. Every sin becomes infinite when committed against an infinite God. And yet some sins are greater than others. Jesus says to Pilate, of the sin of Judas (John 19:11); “He that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” (Luke 12:47-48) “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.”
“But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, in the day of judgment, than for thee” (Matthew 11:24). We also read of the “greater condemnation” (James 3:1) and of the “greater damnation” (Matthew 23:14).
But while the Bible thus speaks of “great sin” (Genesis 39:9) and of “greater sin” (John 19:11) it also refers to the greatest sin – the sin of which more account is made of in the Bible than any other – and that is unbelief. We believe it to be the greatest, because it is the root sin.
Let us illustrate this from the tree and its root.
I. The Root of Sin
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:4-6).
This act of plucking forbidden fruit was a trivial affair in itself but the inspiring motive – the unbelief that lifted the hand was a matter of great significance.
A. A Root is That from Which a Tree Grows
The trunk, branches, limbs, leaves, blossoms, and fruit are all the outgrowth of the root. The surest way therefore, to bring down the limbs and fruit of a tree is to cut at the root; hence the figure of our text (Matthew 3:10): “The ax is laid unto the root of the trees.” This was the great aim of Christ and the apostles, to strike at this root of the tree of unbelief.
Do we not lose a great deal of time and strength in seeking simply to lop off some ugly, knotty branches, instead of aiming our blows at that which lies at the bottom of all?
B. A Root is That Which Supports the Whole Tree
All its weight rests upon the roots. The moment the support of the roots is taken away the whole tree comes down in the dust. The moment a sinner becomes a believer, and gives up his unbelief, he is brought low in the dust at the feet of Jesus.
In 1858, when the chorus, “I do believe” was introduced in Northern Pennsylvania, a lady heard them for the first time. At the singing of the first verse of the hymn her eyes were opened to see her sin of unbelief, and by the frequent repetition of the chorus words she was enabled to make them the language of her heart; so that by the time the last verse was sung she was a happy Christian, and joyfully joined in singing:
“I do believe, I now believe,
That Jesus died for me;
That through his blood, his precious blood,
I am from sin set free.”
As soon as the jailer gave up his unbelief he dropped at the feet of the apostles.
C. The Tree Receives All Its Nutriment through Its Roots
You may lop off all the crooked branches of a tree and yet it will still stand and soon shoot out other branches, because of the strength it gets through the roots. It is said of our Savior that “he marveled because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:6). How many ministers of Christ still marvel at the strength imparted to sinners by their unbelief? They preach powerful sermons; they use clear and pungent arguments; they give reports of the glories of heaven; the wondrous love of Christ; the free offers of salvation; yet all in vain. And how often with sad hearts they return to their closets saying, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1).
D. Roots are the Concealed Support of a Tree
How deep down they run! How far around they spread under ground! Unbelief is of this character. What a hold it has upon human nature! People’s heads are often convinced; their hearts are touched and moved time and again, but still there is no yielding to Christ. Both the sinner and the preacher are puzzled to know the cause. It is hard to get to see the ramifications of the root of the tree. All the rest of the tree stands plainly before the eye; but it takes a long while to uncover the root. We need divine assistance.
This was one reason given why the Holy Spirit was sent into the world, not to convince men of sins, but of “sin”, of the sin of unbelief. For thus we read in John 16:8-9, “When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me.”
Listen to men in their prayers and confession; how seldom this sin seems conspicuous before their eyes, simply because they do not take time to uncover the root of the tree. A sinner thinks he believes the Bible. He feels it almost an insult to be called an unbeliever, and yet let him take time to examine God’s word, and how soon his unbelief will crop out on the surface. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).
E. A Root is the Last Thing about a Tree to Die
Farmers, who clean pieces of woodland, find that they can soon get the ground cleared of the trunks, and limbs, and leaves of the trees; but how long it takes to get out the old roots! What digging! What pulling! What plowing around! And after they are no longer seen to be above ground, yet year after year the plough is caught and often broken by the concealed roots that the farmer comes in contact with in the subsoil.
Is it not so with the root-sin unbelief? Jesus often had to complain of the unbelief of even his disciples, who witnessed all his miracles. This was so even up to the very last, for, after his resurrection, it says (Mark 16:14), he “upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.” Thomas said (John 20:25), “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Is it, therefore, any wonder that one of old “cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
The deeper down a Christian digs, in the subsoil of his heart, the more he is astonished to find so much of the remains of the old root. The harvest of wheat may be waiving on the surface where once stood the trees, and yet underneath the soil may be spreading ten thousand branches of the roots of the old forest that once covered the ground.
II. The Hiding of Sin
“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:7-10).
Adam and Eve seek to hide from God.
Notice the fruit of this tree of unbelief it produces fear—delusion—deceit—death.
As soon as man became a sinner he felt the need of some refuge, some hiding place. Hence, we read that as “they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.” We find them flying to three different refuges, but each proved a refuge of lies.
A. Refuge of Trees
They tried to hide their bodies from the eye of God “amongst the trees of the garden;” yet what a delusive thought that these limbs and broad leaves could conceal them from the piercing eye of Jehovah. “He that formed the eye, shall he not see?” (Psalm 94:9).
How hard to live and keep out of this refuge of lies. Of the ostrich it is said that when pursued by an enemy it will run and hide its head in a heap of sand, and when it can’t see any one, thinks that no one can see it. What a silly bird! And yet is not man guilty of the same folly? How many blindfold their eyes with doubts and unbelief and then say, “no God!”
Prof. Mitchel was once using his telescope to look at a planet appearing on the horizon. In the range of his vision was an apple tree, some four miles distant, on which were some boys stealing the fruit; there they were twisting and turning to see if any human eye was about, little dreaming, that four miles away was one that was closely observing every motion of the head and hands. The psalmist in Psalm 139:1-12 forcibly represents the folly of those who try to hide away from God’s eye. “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.”
While father and mother were asleep one night a little boy crept quietly down stairs and out into a back yard, where there was a young pear tree that bore but a single pear. He ascended the tree and soon got within reach of the forbidden fruit, but as he reached up for it the wind blew the leaves aside just far enough to let in the light of a bright twinkling star. It looked to him like the eye of God. His hand trembled. The light seemed to go through him. He quickly dropped down from the tree, and with a broken heart hastened to his bed room. His sobbing woke up his parents, who asked what it meant. “Oh!” said he, “I was trying to steal a pear, and God peeped at me right out of heaven.”
It is reported of a man who one day was going to steal some corn; that he got on a high fence and looked all around to see that no one was about. He took his son, a Sunday School boy, along to hold the bag. After he had taken his survey, and was about to pluck the corn, the little boy said, “Pap, you didn’t look everywhere.” “Yes, I did, my son. I looked over there, down here, and out there, and all around.” “But, Pap,” said the little one as he pointed upward, “you forgot to look up there.”
That was enough. The arrow of conviction pierced the father’s heart, and he was glad to go home with an empty bag.
O, the eye of God how it penetrates the conscience! “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). “For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings” (Job 34:21).
David says (Psalm 90:8), “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.” This, David had learned from experience when he cried in deep contrition (Psalm 51:4), “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” Though the prodigal wandered through a far country he could not get beyond the reach of a father’s eye. When he came to himself his cry was: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight” (Luke 15:21).
B. Refuge of Lies
When our first parents found out that hiding behind these trees would not answer, they next tried to hide behind a lie. Then “God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?”
“And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He knew that was not so. He had been with God before when naked, and yet was not afraid. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper” (Proverbs 28 13); and yet how often men try to cover one sin by putting another on top of it. When a little boy falls into the mud he is apt to get up and try to wipe it off, and thus make it a great deal worse.
God uncovered this lying refuge by asking the searching question, “Who told thee that thou wast naked?” (Genesis 3:11). Ah! Here was a voice within that they could not hide from—the voice of conscience. Just as a man can run away from his own shadow, he can also so easily run away from his conscience.
Persons who are nearly drowned and yet come to life again often tell as a part of their singular experience the fact that the scenes of their life have flit past before their mind’s eye as a panorama, and with lightning rapidity.
A passenger aboard the steamer Arctic, that was wrecked at sea, on its way to California, and who was afterward rescued among the foaming billows, says: “When I went down, down in the depth of the sea with the sinking vessel I heard mother’s voice calling after me, ‘Charley, what have you done with sister’s cherries?’ Seventeen years before, as a boy, I stole some cherries belonging to a sick sister. At the top of a stairway mother called down to me as I stood on the floor below that searching question. I had forgotten all about it during these past seventeen years, until in the depths of the sea and as I was sinking, sinking, mother’s voice followed me, and louder than the roar of the sea was the thunder of mother’s voice, ‘Charley, what did you do with sister’s cherries?’”
As Adam and Eve hide in their hiding place they hear God’s voice calling from above, “Who told thee?” This refers to another voice talking within. An unexpected SPY has appeared in their hiding place; so that while there is a piercing eye gazing upon them through the leaves of the trees, and a voice that sounds like thunder from above, here is a shrill, sharp voice from within of one who sits where everything that is thought, said or done is seen and heard and recorded with indelible ink. It is hard work for a man to run away or hide away from his shadow, and harder still to hide away from the eye of his conscience that he carries with him wherever he goes.
After all the plans and maneuvering of Joseph’s brethren to conceal their sin, they gave utterance to what conscience was telling them from within: “And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us” (Genesis 42:21).
Conscience can be smothered, but it is like covering fire with ashes; the hot coals may be concealed for a time, but when the ashes are blown away it blazes up with unexpected heat and brightness. “Murder will out,” it is said. The murdered body may lay concealed for years; it may have all gone to ashes, yet the murderer carries the hot fire of his conscience in his bosom; and how often we read of cases where many years after the murderer confesses the deed in order to gain a little relief by giving vent to the pent-up flames within.
In this we have a striking example in the case of Judas. After he had accomplished his purpose in betraying Christ, and had gotten his money, he “brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (Matthew 27:3-4).
But that still does not allay the thunder of conscience within, and so it says (v. 5): “He cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”
“The wicked flee when no man pursueth” (Proverbs 28:1). Thus says King Solomon, and thus, says conscience. Here we see Adam and Eve have fled behind the trees when no one was after them. What cowards, conscience makes!
I was in a part of Ohio where the following incident is said to have occurred: Two men had been stopping at a country inn all night, and as they left early in the morning, took a bag of beans along. One year later they came the same way, and thinking as they had escaped detection, it would be safe to stop there again all night.
During the evening, as they were seated in one corner of the bar-room, a farmer came in, and getting something to drink, the landlord told him about a hive of bees that had been stolen the night before. As these two men listened in the distant corner of the room, the one was heard to whisper to the other, “Didn’t he say ‘beans?’” “Yes, I thought he did,” said the other; and thinking they were found out they got up and fled. Conscience had turned the “bees” into “beans;” and in their arrest the beans became buzzing, stinging bees within.
An account is given of a Sunday School boy on Lake Erie who saw two other larger boys steal apples. Fearing an arrest they said to him, “Knud, will you tell on us? If you do you’ve got to go into this lake.” “I must tell the truth if I am asked as to who stole the apples.” Seizing hold of the little fellow the big rowdies put him in the water, and then pulling him out again, asked, “Will you tell on us now?” “I must tell the truth,” said he. “Well, then, you’ve got to go in again;” and so in again they thrust him, putting his head clear under water, and then pulling him out again, they said, “Will you tell on us now?” As soon as he could get the water out of his mouth and wipe the wet hair from his eyes he said again, “I must tell the truth.” “Then you’ve got to go in again;” and in again they put him, and as they pulled him out the same question was put and the same answer given. Every time the little martyr came out his voice was weaker, until at length it was, indeed, hushed. He was dead. I saw the plan of a beautiful monument that was to be erected to his memory.
Just as it was with this little telltale voice so it is with the voice of conscience. It takes a good deal of water and many applications before you can drown it. It is hard work to make it be still. As the sinner goes to bed at night he wants to go to sleep, but the tongue of conscience keeps up such a clatter that he can’t get asleep. “Think,” says conscience, “of the many sins that have gone up to the judgment seat during the past day. Think of the unholy thoughts and desires. Think of the many idle words that have dropped from the lips; the many soul-destroying influences you have spread around.” “That’s enough,” says the sinner; “I don’t want to hear any more of such talk. Now, be still, I want to go to sleep.”
“I can’t be still,” says conscience, “I must tell you something about the sins of omission; they are just as big and black as the sins of commission. Didn’t you omit closet prayer and the reading of God’s word today? And many other things you ought to have done.” “Oh! Don’t begin those ‘many other things.’ Let me alone,” cries the sinner in reply. Now he turns around in bed and tries to induce sleep; but the clock strikes the midnight hour and still the talk goes on. Conscience is now making some practical applications of the facts enumerated: “Supposing you were to die tonight, don’t you see you would be forever lost; your sins have not been blotted out; you have no clear title to mansions above. Wouldn’t you better get out of bed and on bended knees supplicate for mercy?”
The sinner finds conscience won’t be still. What shall he do? He finds a plan, he promises to repent and be saved on “tomorrow;” with this promise he rocks conscience asleep, and so by and by he gets the long sought for rest. Tomorrow comes and there is the same little voice talking again and again; he puts it to rest by the same delusive promise; gradually it gets weaker; it is smothered; but it will have a resurrection, and then speak in tones of thunder forever.
C. Refuge of Others
We see that after this second refuge of lies fails Adam and Eve still try another: Adam creeps behind Eve and says, “I didn’t do it; she did it.” God asks (Genesis 3:11-13), “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”
“And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” That ugly snake did it; I didn’t do it; and I suppose if the serpent had been questioned he would have also hid behind some other creature. Is not human nature still practicing the same lessons learned from our first parents? What play is more common or more natural to little children than “Hide and Go Seek? And how soon they learn to carry out the play in hiding from their sin!
One time I was in a house in which a scene transpired something like this: something had been done that was very wrong. The mother wished to find out the culprit, and so she began to call upon each one to confess. “Willie, did you do it?” “No, Emma did it.” “Emma, did you do it?” “No, Cassie did it.” “Cassie, did you do it?” “No, Johnny did it,” “Johnny look me in the eye and tell me did you do it?” “Mother, Jennie did it.” “Jennie, did you? Speak the truth.” “No, mamma, Georgie did it.” “Georgie, what have you to say? Did you do it?” “No, the baby did it.” And thus, as they crept behind each other, the last one had nowhere to creep but behind the little baby.
Paul (2 Corinthians 10:12) speaks of those who, “measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” To hide behind a wolf in sheep’s clothing is neither safe nor wise. Hypocrites are not Christians and yet how many hide behind them. Many do not wish to join the church for fear of being with hypocrites, and yet are willing to spend eternity in their company in hell. Men do not refuse a bank-note because there are counterfeit ones afloat, and yet they refuse to take the genuine article of Christianity for fear of its counterfeits. Many say they are as good as many professors. Suppose they are and better too, will that hiding place do for the judgment day? Will the lives of such persons be the standard by which we shall be judged in the judgment day? In time of a thunder storm is it not a dangerous refuge to hide behind a dead, rotten tree? Eve had committed but one sin, yet even she—so near perfection—could not afford a hiding place for Adam. Even the green, beautiful trees of a Paradise cannot hide us.
D. Refuge of Heaven
Heaven itself could not afford a hiding place for a sinner.
Some of the unconverted think they would be happy if they could only get to Heaven; yet here we see two persons in Paradise who do not wish to stay there. Though Adam and Eve have sinned it is still Paradise. The flowers bloom and make fragrant the air with their sweetness just as they did before. The waters still glide along in the same silver splendor as before. The birds echo their songs of enchantment as before, yet because God is here and they have sinned, they wish to get away.
I was once passing through the mountains of northern Pennsylvania, when I stopped in a log cabin. Here I found a man who was blind, deaf, one half of his body was palsied, and part of his face eaten away with cancer. Never did I witness such a collection of diseases clinging to one body. His wife lifted up the cover far enough to shriek in his deaf ears, “There’s a preacher come into the house.” “Tell him,” said he, “to pray for me.” Never did I hear a more pitiful cry escape human lips than came out of that cancer-eaten mouth in this request for prayer, “Tell him to pray for me.”
Now, suppose we could have taken that palsied man from his straw bed and log cabin, and placed him on a downy bed of silk in a marble palace, and put before him the finest works of art, the choicest food, and filled the air with the sweetest music, if he took with him his blindness, his deafness, his cancer, and palsy, what good would the mere change of place have made? And yet how many who are not happy in their sins here think it is because of their surroundings, and that a change of place would bring the desired happiness. Here was but one sin between soul and God.
Listen to the words of Jesus (John 3:3): “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” No, no, and neither would he wish to see it. Like Adam and Eve, it would he too painful for him to be near the presence of Him whose eyes are as a flame of fire.
III. The Fruit of Sin
“Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:23-24).
Having now taken a look at the root, let us judge of the tree by its fruit. Jesus says (Matthew 12:33), “The tree is known by his fruit.” The first fruit of unbelief is death. God told our first parents that the day they ate of the forbidden fruit they should surely die. The serpent suggested unbelief: “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4).
They yielded to unbelief (v. 6): Eve “took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat”; and now notice the fruits. Their eyes were indeed opened, but only to see, first, their shame: and they covered themselves with fig leaves; then they tried to hide themselves; and Adam says (v. 10), “I was afraid.” Then we read (v. 17-19) that “cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee;…In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground;…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Here, then, we see shame, fear, sorrow, death, as the direct fruit of unbelief. We see them driven out of the garden; and at the closed gate was placed the angel with his “flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” Before driving them out it says (v. 21), “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” These skins had to come off of some animals that had to die to furnish the skins.
Wrapped in these dead skins, Adam and Eve had a constant picture before their eyes of the fruit of their sin of unbelief; and in the flapping of these dead skins the sound of death kept ringing in their ears wherever they went.
These dead skins also, may have implied that through the death of the innocent Lamb of God their sin and shame was to be covered. The Mohammedans say that this angel promised to open the gate and let them back again if they would find that which God liked best; so they hastened to and fro: first, they came with beautiful flowers in their hand, but still the flaming sword turned every way; then they came with gold and silver, but still the gate was kept closed; then they brought sparkling pearls and jewels, but still there was no admittance. At length they sat down and wept bitter tears of sorrow; and as their tears were pressed out from broken hearts, they caught up a handful and hastened to the angel with the shining tear drops. At the sight of these the angel smiled and dropped his sword and reopened the gates of paradise. We know of a surer way to get the gates of paradise open:--
“Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling.”
And yet how many perish outside the gate, because unbelief paralyzes the arms of faith, so that there is no clinging to the cross. Unbelief said to our first parents, “Gratify your appetites, follow that which is pleasant to the eyes,” and take the risk. How many still show their unbelief in the same way.
In the expulsion from Paradise here seen, we see another bitter fruit of this tree.
Sin drives; love draws. On the judgment day Jesus will invite the righteous, and will say, “Come.” To unbelievers he will say, “Depart.” “The angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just” (Matthew 13:49).
“Why are thy valiant men swept away? they stood not, because the LORD did drive them” (Jeremiah 46:15). Because of sin it was said to Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:32-33), “They shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field…and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen.” Cain said (Genesis 4:14), “Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth.” Job says (Job 18:11), “Terrors shall make him afraid on every side, and shall drive him.”
Christ drove the money changers out of the temple with “a scourge of small cords” (John 2:15). “Like the chaff which the wind driveth away”; “As smoke is driven away,” are the words of the Psalmist (Psalm 1:4; 68:2).
Sinners shall be driven. Isaiah says (Isaiah 8:22), “They shall be driven to darkness.” Job says (Job 18:18), “Driven from light into darkness.” (Exodus 23:28) “And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite.”
“Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein” (Jeremiah 23:12). Of one, we read (Luke 8:29) that he “was driven of the devil into the wilderness.”
Adam lived some 900 years after this expulsion from Paradise before it was said (Genesis 5:5), “And he died.” (Genesis 2:17) “The day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” In that day he became a dying man.
Here we see him leaving his home of life to enter upon a career of death. He would not believe God’s word, but did believe Satan’s (Genesis 3:4), “Ye shall not surely die.” But his unbelief did not prevent the ruin.
“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). It is, then, the heart of unbelief that causes all departure from God. This departing from Paradise was but the footsteps of unbelief. A counterpart of this scene will be witnessed on the great judgment day. “He that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). It is this unbelief that will cause Jesus to announce (Matthew 25:41), “Depart from me” to those on the left.
Here were only two persons driven from Paradise; then there will be unnumbered millions of the lost.
That angel standing at this gate of Paradise held a flaming sword “which turned every way” showing that the entrance to Paradise was closed. So Jesus says (Matthew 25:10), “And the door was shut.”
The bitter tears, the earnest cries of the foolish virgins did not avail to get the gate even ajar. We cannot pass the side of justice, but I am so glad to know that while this Garden of Eden is of the past, and the closed door of heaven speaks of the future but for today, the gate of mercy stands open, wide open. Jesus stands there with outstretched hand opened to welcome us in. Let us enter it quickly. God arranged the ark with an open door.