Friday, June 28, 2019

Genesis 3:22-24 -- On Innocence and Immortality

"And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
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 3:22-24

Reading this part of the story of the Garden of Eden, it is easy to get the impression that God took the possibility of immortality/the tree of life away from Adam and Eve as a punishment for eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and essentially gaining a conscience.

It's an interesting situation, because it is hard to imagine a pair of adult people completely innocent and without the basic knowledge that the first tree offered.  They knew what God told them, and they knew the consequence, which probably sounded bad, but in such an innocent state, did they understand what death would mean, or what kind of death was even being talked about?  Part of the lie that the serpent told them is that they wouldn't die, but spiritual and physical death are complex things, especially to someone who has never experienced or witnessed either one.  Although it was a lie either way, the only immediate death was spiritual, because they were cast out of the presence of God.  Physical death came later (and after they learned how to repent and that spiritual death could be overcome).

Alma 12:26 clarifies for us that "if it were possible that our first parents could have gone forth and partaken of the tree of life they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state."  Basically, if they had eaten of the tree of life right then, they would never have learned about repentance and been able to be purified through Christ.  (People who lived before Christ looking forward to the atonement, just as we look back to it, and it applies eternally to us all.)  Death was necessary to the plan... Adam and Eve's "fall" made them mortal, subject to death, and thus granted us a time (this life) to work out our salvation and prepare to meet God.

God grants us all physical immortality after this life.  Mortality is not a punishment, but rather a gift that we have been given that we can use to also overcome our separation from God, as we learn and grow and repent and work our way through human desires, learn self control, and find our way back to God.  We don't have to worry about being denied immortality in the garden.  It will be ours, no matter what, when we are all resurrected.  The only thing we have to worry about is the quality of that immortality.  God prevented Adam and Eve from eating of the Tree of Life at that time so that they would not be forever miserable, and we need to watch out for the same thing.

Mormon 9:14 talks about the final judgement/restoration of all things, and it tells us specifically that whether we are filthy, righteous, happy, or unhappy, we will remain so at that time.  We're going to be restored  to what we have learned and how we have chosen to live.  Today, let's be grateful that God gave us all some time between spiritual death and physical death--before we have to face that judgement... time to overcome spiritual death through Christ's gift of repentance, to change, to work on things, to figure ourselves out, and time to prepare for that meeting with God.  Let's dive in and find the happiness that God has in store for us.

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