THE first hint of eternal life in relation to man is contained in this passage: - " And now lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the Tree of the Lives -- and eat, and live for ever; therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden to till the ground ", (Gen. 3:22,23) according to His sentence. From this we learn that the fruit of this tree had the quality of endlessly perpetuating the living existence of the eater. To have eaten of this would have changed Adam from a living into an everliving soul; it would have cured him physically, and constituted him an incorruptible sinner, the ever abiding subject of the present state of good and evil. This would have been a fearful consummation; an immortal sinner in a corruptible estate, so that the earth would have become the abode of immortal giants in crime, without any hope of restoration. But this was not according to the Divine Plan. Immortal saints in a state of unmixed good is the finality of creation, providence, and redemption. The sinner was first to be sanctified, then tried, and afterwards to be immortalized, if approved: therefore, lest Adam should invert this order, and become immortal of body before he should be purified from sin and accounted worthy of acceptance, the Lord God expelled him from the dangerous vicinity of the Tree of Lives. He drove him forth that he should not then become incorruptible and deathless.
The expulsion from Eden forcibly separated Adam and Eve from the means of present immortality; and whether they should attain to incorruptibility and life depended solely upon the will and philanthropy of God. But the Lord did not content Himself with their simple expulsion. Wayward as they had proved themselves, they would doubtless have conspired to regain Paradise, that they might pluck from the Tree of Lives its immortalizing fruit, and so deliver themselves from the sentence of death to which they were consigned. They were expelled indeed; but to what will not the inconsiderate recklessness of man impel him! Apprehending some new act of presumption, the Lord God placed a destroying flame to keep, or defend the tree against their intrusion. Here, as in the Most Holy under the Law of Moses, He placed the emblems of His majesty, styled Cherubim, whose consuming fires infolded "the faces -- peni -- of the Lord" . The Tree was hid by these symbols of the divine presence, and the incorruptibility it was originally provided to impart and shadow forth, became to them a thing of hope and of present desire.
Seeing that they could not eat of the Tree of Lives in the midst of Eden, how could they attain to that incorruptible life which it adumbrated? In what "way" should they walk; or in what "path" should they tread that would lead them to it? The answer is, in the words of Moses, in The way of the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:24). In chapter 6:12, this way is styled "God's Way", from which all the Antediluvians, save Noah and his family, had apostatized by corrupting it; as it is written, "All flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth" . But there was no Bible, nor any priests in those days, from whom the exiles from Eden could learn "the Way leading unto life" ; (Matt. 7:14) there were none to say unto them, "This is the Way, walk ye in it" . (Is. 30:21) They knew the Tree of Life was situated in the midst of the Garden, and they knew the path which led to it; but the destroying flame which swept around it on every side, dared them to approach within its precincts. The Tree of Life was in "the East". They could look towards it wistfully; but the decree had gone forth, and they could never eat of that tree, nor even touch it and live. With the way to the Tree in Eden, then, they were acquainted, but of the way of God to the Tree of Life adumbrated by that Tree in the East of the Garden, they had no knowledge. They knew not where the new Tree of Life was planted, how could they therefore know the. way? It remained, then, for the Lord God to enlighten them, for He alone could reveal it. They were consequently "taught of God" . (John 6:45; 1 Thess. 4:9) He instructed them what to do in order that they might approach His Cherubim, and bow down before His "faces", without fear of the devouring flame, all the days of their lives. These instructions revealed to them the Way of Acceptance with Him, which then, as also through all subsequent ages, consisted in doing His commandments that they might have right to eat the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God (Rev. 2:7;22:2).
"The Way of the Lord God" is synonymous with what is termed "Religion"; which may be defined as the way of acceptance with God. Adam and his wife supposed they could appear before God acceptably by devising a way of their own by which to conceal their nakedness from His sight. But He refused to sanction their invention, and stripped them of the foliage they had wrapped around them. The way of the Lord teaches that no man can cover his own sin; it must be covered for him, and none can appoint the investment but the Lord. Hence, it is written, "The Lord God appointed coats of skin and clothed them" . (Gen. 3:21)
The appointment plainly indicates the sacrifice of the animals with whose skins they were clothed. Blood was shed in their investiture; and their sin was covered by the skins of the sin-offerings in conformity with the principle that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission" . (Heb. 9:22) But without faith it is impossible to please God. The mere sacrifice of animals, or offering of the fruits of the ground, will not gain man acceptance with God; for "it is not possible that the blood of bulls or of goats should take away sins" . (Heb. 10:4) Hence the association of something to be believed with the sacrifice of "the firstling of the flock and the fat thereof" , (Gen. 4:4) or, in other words, of "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" . (Rev. 13:8) As the subject matter of this faith, then, the Way of God directed the minds of Adam and Eve to the Seed, or descendant, of the woman, whose heel should be bruised on account of the sin of the world, and who should grow up as a tender plant out of a dry ground, and become the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God, in whom should be deposited the incorruptible life of the race of Man. Eve's son was to be the true Tree of Life, of which if a man shall eat he shall live for ever! A son, who, as the saviour of his people from their sins, must die for sin; for without the shedding of his blood he could not be a purification-sacrifice, and such an one was necessary, for the blood of animals was inefficient.
But if the sacrifice without the faith was insufficient, so the faith that the Woman's Seed should be a propitiation, unaccompanied by the appointed sacrifices, would leave the worshipper unaccepted; or if there were both faith in the promise and an oblation, yet, if the offering were not of divine appointment, the subject was regarded as an evil doer; for, "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" . (1 Sam. 15:22) This is obvious from the testimony that "by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained testimony that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts" ; (Heb. 11:4) for, "the Lord had respect unto Abel and unto his offering" . (Gen. 4:4) From this we learn that Cain was faithless, and therefore unrighteous. He had no faith in typical sacrifice; he did not believe that without the shedding of blood there was no remission; or that a purification sacrifice typified by the "firstling of the flock" would suffer for sin, and become a Tree of Life of the Lord's planting. Hence he "brought (only) of the fruit of the ground an offering to the Lord" while his brother, in addition to this, presented of the lambs of his flock. But God had no respect unto Cain's offering; for Cain evinced a wilful disposition ---- a waywardness which corrupted the Way of the Lord.
When he perceived that his unbloody and faithless oblation was not accepted, "enmity" was enkindled within him; his aspect became lowering and dark with destructive feelings; and he ceased to behold the Faces of the Cherubim with an upright countenance. While in the presence of these the Lord demanded of him why he was angry, and why he looked so downcast? Abel had done nothing to offend him; Abel had "done well", because he had kept the way appointed, and therefore his sacrifice was consumed. Had he done likewise, his offering would have been accepted too; as it is written, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door"; (Gen. 4:7) by all which we are instructed that the obedience of faith was the condition upon which the family of Adam might obtain a right to that Eternal Life which should be procured for them by the Woman's Seed.
The Lord's Way of righteousness and life, styled "the Way of the Tree of Life" , (Gen. 3:24) consisted in faith and obedience. This faith, the Apostle tells us, was "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen" . (Heb. 11:1,7) By the belief of these things, Abel, Enoch, and Noah pleased God, and "became heirs of the righteousness" (Heb. 11:1,7) on account of which life and incorruptibility are bestowed upon man. They hoped for the Woman's Seed, who they believed, on the testimony of God, should bruise the serpent's head. Their faith was a living faith, and therefore they kept the Way of the Lord, in offering "the firstlings of their flocks and the fat thereof" , "the fruit of the ground" , (Gen. 4:3,4) and in "walking with God" (Gen. 5:22,24; 6:9) by being "just and perfect in their generations" . (Gen. 6:9) Such was the religion of the righteous among the Antediluvians. They were faithful and obedient; and, as the earnest of what awaited them in the fullness of time, "Enoch was translated, that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God" . (Heb. 11:5) Thus they were taught that the corruptible body should put on incorruption, and "this mortal shall put on immortality" , and so "death shall be swallowed up in victory" . (1 Cor. 15:54)
Almost coeval with the institution of religion, as we have seen, it was corrupted by Cain, He rejected from his system the principle of remission by sacrifice, hence he repudiated the promise, and constituted himself an evil doer. Unbelief and disobedience became the characteristics of Cain and his associates, who dwelt eastward of "the presence of the Lord" . (Gen. 4:16) These were termed "men" , while those who "walked with God" (Gen. 5:22,24: 6:9) were styled "the sons of God" . (Gen. 6:2,4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Ps. 89:6) In the sentence, pronounced upon Eve and her posterity, the former are indicated as the Seed of the Serpent; and the latter, the Seed of the Woman, of whom one was to arise that should destroy him. Between these two classes of Antediluvians there was "enmity" (Gen. 3:15) such as was evinced in the fratricidal Cain. But the corruption first introduced by this arch-apostate undermined the principles and overthrew the allegiance of "the Sons of God" ; (Gen. 6:2,4; Job 1:6; 2:1 38:7; Ps. 89:6) for seeing that "the daughters of men" (Gen. 6:1,2) were fair, they inter- married with them; and the earth was replenished with a progeny fit only for capture and. destruction. Their: wickedness was great, and every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts only evil continually. The Antediluvian Apostasy was complete; "for all flesh had corrupted the Way of the Lord upon the earth" , (Gen. 6:2) which was "filled with violence through them". (Gen. 6:8) The Lord by His Spirit in Noah laboured patiently to reclaim them from their "disobedience" ; but they disregarded His expostulations, "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the Ark, when the flood came and took them all away" .(Matt. 24:38,39) But "Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord being warned by God of things not seen as yet, and moved with fear, he prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the (faithless) world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith" . (Heb. 11:7)
Eternal Life has been the Hope of those who have walked with God in all past ages and generations, since the fall. In walking with God they have trod the same path, and journeyed along the same road, which is the only "way that leadeth unto eternal life" . (Matt. 7:14) The entrance upon this Way is strait, and its passage narrow, and, though it leads to glory, honour, incorruptibility and life, there are few that find it. Belief in the testimony of God, and obedience to His commandments, are the grand characteristics of "His Way" (Gen. 6:12) in its successive manifestations in all time. Dispensations have varied; but these leading principles have always remained the same. "These are written that ye may believe" , (John 20:31) and "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the Tree of Life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God" . (Rev. 22:14; 2:7) "I" , says Jesus, "am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6) -- "I am the resurrection" (John 11:25) -- "I am the door, and no man entereth but by me." (John 10:9)