Biblical Theology — 2
The Perished Kingdom
Last week we learned that at the end of Genesis 2, we learned that the Kingdom of God (God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule, and enjoying God’s blessing) had been established. For purposes of our study of biblical theology (study of the unity of the message of the Bible), we have called this epoch (or age) — The Pattern of the Kingdom.
In Genesis 3, we see how quickly everything is ruined by human sin. Notice three important truths in this chapter:
1. A Talking Snake
• It all begins with a talking snake (Gen. 3:1).
• It raises all sorts of questions: Who is this serpent? Where does he come from? How can a snake speak? Is this story real? Where did evil come from?
• How we should treat this story is guided by the gospel and the overall message of the Bible. The gospel makes sense only if there was a real temptation and fall which radically altered the course of human nature and the history of mankind thereafter.
• The humans existed in God’s creation and depended on God’s word for the true interpretation of reality.
• So the snake raises the first question: “Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:2)
• The assumption was being formed that the word not only could be analyzed and evaluated, but probably needed to be. But on what basis could Eve evaluate God’s word? Any standard for testing the truth of God’s word would have to be the word of an even greater authority than God (which is impossible).
• The next statement of the snake actually contradicts the word of God: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5) God is accused of being selfish, unloving, and untrustworthy.
2. An Act of Rebellion
• The serpent is cunning. These lies are presented in the context of truth.
• Eating the forbidden fruit did indeed mean that the humans came to know good and evil (Gen. 3:22). But the process by which they achieved that involved a rebellion against truth and its source. Instead of knowing good and evil by rejecting evil and remaining good, they choose rather to reject good and become evil.
• The most important effect of this is that God is no longer regarded as the self-evident Creator and Lord. His Word is no longer accepted as self-evident truth, but is reduced to the status of the word of the creature. Both God and His Word are seen as lesser authorities that must be tested by higher authorities. The truth of any proposition would from this point onward be tested by what was in humans themselves.
• Their sin is that of law-making, not just law-breaking. They were usurping His authority and establishing their independence. Dissatisfied with their humanness, the couple reached for godhood.
3. A Disastrous Decision
• When confronted by God, the man blames the woman and the woman blames the snake (Gen. 3:12-13). Both thereby blame God.
• Genesis 3:14-24 is about God’s judgment upon the disobedience of mankind.
• The judgment on the woman (Gen. 3:16) results in birth pain and broken relationships with the husband in a marriage.
• The judgment on the man (Gen. 3:17-24) results in an uncooperative world over which he has been given dominion (toil), the loss of paradise, and physical death.
Genesis 4-11 chart the spread of sin and death and God’s judgment against it.
• Chapter 4 tells of the first murder, Cain killing Abel. Once the vertical relationship with God has been broken, it is inevitable that horizontal relationships with one another will be broken as well.
• Chapter 5 contains the first genealogy in the Bible. While humans are obeying God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply,” we find in Chapter 5 that the consequence of sin — death — is also inherited.
• Chapters 6-9 shows the rapid growth of sin. It is so wicked that God is grieved that He had made man on the earth and resolves to act in judgment (Gen. 9:7). The resulting flood causes terrible destruction. It is a reversal of creation.
• Chapter 11 shows how God preserves one family through the flood. But, sadly, so did sin and God’s righteous response to it — judgment. God frustrates man’s empire-building by scattering them throughout the earth and giving them different languages. Human beings are now divided not just from God but from one another.
The Kingdom of God
We see at the end of Genesis 11, that the perfect creation that God had established is now nothing but a distant dream. The pattern of the kingdom has been destroyed by sin. The perished kingdom is characterized by:
• God’s people — Human beings are no longer God’s people by nature (we turned away)
• Live in God’s place — Man has been banished from the Garden
• Under God’s rule — Man rejects God’s rule. God continues to reign but He reigns in judgment.
• Enjoying God’s blessing — Man does not enjoy God’s blessing but instead faces His curse.
How will this story end? How will the pattern of the Kingdom we restored? It is the task of biblical theology to describe the way the Bible reveals this restoration as taking place.
(Material borrowed from God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts and According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy)