Spiritual Warfare:  The False Faith of Religion

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A Self-Righteous System Based Upon ‘Good’ Works

Now that we have finished mapping out the first two tiers of Satan’s earthly kingdom…

Its Physical and Financial Landscape; and,
The Educational and Media Structures making up its Cultural Landscape…

…it is time for us to move on to a survey of its third tier, which is the Religious Landscape over which he rules.  As we do, we need to keep in mind that the Structures in these Landscapes have been especially designed to maximize Satan’s control, conditioning, and corruption of Corporate Humanity’s Body, Soul, and Spirit.  As we have learned previously, it is through the manipulation of the…

Physical and Financial Structures that he Controls what people
can do and where they can go;
Educational and Media Structures that he Conditions the way people think and feel;

…and, as we shall learn in this session, it is through the…

Religious Structures that he Corrupts the worship of God and
redirects that worship to himself. 

As we have been reminded of so often over the course of these exercises, Satan’s motivation for this Corruption is his obsessive and self-destructive quest to usurp God’s throne and grab the glory that goes along with it.  Since most people consider Religion to be the means by which we are drawn closer to God, to say that Satan uses it to do just the opposite, might seem somewhat incongruous at first; however, once we have examined the matter more closely, I think we will come to see that the difference between Religion and the Righteousness required by God is as vast as the distance between the Heaven and Hades we learned about in Spiritual Warfare: Getting the Lay of the Land.  So, to clarify what we mean when referring to Religion, we must pause for a DOT—or, a Definition of Terms for this particular structure.

  1. Religion—What Is It?

As defined by Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Religion is…

…a system of thought, feeling, and action that is shared by a group and that gives the members an object of devotion; a code of behavior by which individuals may judge the personal and social consequences of their actions; and a frame of reference by which individuals may relate to their group and their universe.[1]

Breaking this definition down, we find that…

  • Because it is a system of thought, feeling, and action, Religion is something that appeals to, encompasses, and makes use of every aspect of the Human Soul—both the individual and the corporate one;
  • Because it is shared by a group, Religion provides its adherents with a community that they can be a part of and relate to; and,
  • Because it provides its followers with an object of devotion, a code of behavior, and a frame of reference…
    • Religion satisfies their inherent need for something to worship or revere;
    • Religion provides them with guidelines on how to behave or act by defining morality and establishing boundaries for them; and,
    • Religion helps them make sense of the world around them and explain its origins.

Religion, then, is the belief system expressly designed to meet the needs of the Human Soul which, as we know from our previous exercises, has been a part of Man’s Carnal or Fleshly Nature ever since it became separated from his Spirit (and God’s Spirit, as well) as a result of Sin.  Given this, and the fact that…

…God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24); and,

…all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment (Isaiah 64:6)…

…the Soulish Worship produced by Religion—no matter how pious it may appear to be on the surface—is something which is reprehensible to God.

  1. Religion—When and Where Did It Originate?

When trying to determine just when and where Religion originated, we must first decide which approach to the subject we are going to take—the Secular Approach or the Biblical Approach.  In choosing the secular one, we would find ourselves in the company of Anthropologists, Sociologists, and Historians who approach the subject from an Evolutionary Perspective; one which…

…starts with the view that man evolved from a pre-simian ancestor.  Since animals have no religion, there must have been, it is said, a long ascent through apish chatter and fear of the dark unknown to…a ‘belief in a vague, potent, terrifying inscrutable force.’

Animatism developed into ‘animism,’ the spirit-fearing religion of most isolated tribal people.  Then came the polytheism immortalized in the Greek mythologies.  Israel’s glory, so this summary of the development of religion suggests, was that she was able to narrow down the many gods of the surrounding nations to one tribal god.  And eventually the one Creator-God of the Hebrew prophets, together with the philosophical monotheism of Plato, paved the way for higher religion.[2]

The Biblical Approach, on the other hand, gives us a completely different and, to my way of thinking, a far more reasonable explanation; for…

According to the Bible, the first true man was a monotheist, and when he falls into sin, he seeks restoration through animal sacrifice.  The theory of the evolution of religion suggests that man is an animal taking a long time to become divine.  The Bible describes a human couple made in the image of God, who degenerated into what we are now.[3]

According to this approach, instead of it being the unexpected byproduct of, or the evidentiary support for, Man’s upwardly mobile evolutionary journey, Religion is actually the degenerative process that was set in motion by Man’s Original Sin back in the Garden of Eden.  Although we have made quite a few trips to the Garden already, it will be necessary for us to visit there once again, if we are to expose the roots and the true nature of Religion’s False Faith.

To do this, though, we must first have an understanding of the significance of the Garden to the relationship between God and Man.  Because God is Spirit and Man is Flesh, for the two of them to enjoy fellowship together, it was necessary that a special meeting place be created for them.  In much the same way that man’s spirit and his body of flesh needed his soul to be a place of mediation between two such disparate entities, God and Man needed a place—something like a Sanctuary, a Tabernacle, or a Temple—where they, too, could come together.  This, then, is what the Garden represented to them.

Although the world that God created was beautiful enough in itself, when it came to creating the Sanctuary of the Garden, He pulled out all of the stops.  He filled this Sanctuary with everything that was beautiful to behold and to enjoy.  It was well-watered by a river flowing up from underground springs and filled with every tree that was good for food.  In addition, the areas surrounding it were also well-watered and filled with gold and precious stones!  When this special Sanctuary was completed, God took the Man He had created and placed him in it, and charged him with the responsibility of caring for it.  God made it clear to Man at the time that if he wanted to maintain their fellowship and continue living there, he would have to obey the Word God had given him, even when tempted to do otherwise.

In addition to all the other trees in the Garden, God placed two very special ones at its center—the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  His purpose for doing so was to test Man—giving him the opportunity to choose for himself whether to obey God and be blessed, or to go his own way and reap the consequences.  In reality, what He was setting before the first Man and Woman was the choice between the only two Systems of Faith that would ever be available to mankind—the choice to either put their Faith in the Works of the Flesh and try to achieve Salvation on their own terms, or to do things God’s way and put their Faith in His Word as the only means of securing their Salvation and Eternal life.  Since these trees were representative of those two systems, an examination of their roots and fruit will aid in our understanding of the systems themselves.

Such an examination reveals that…

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…

The Tree of Works and Death

…was rooted in the same desires that motivated Satan to rebel against God.  As listed in Isaiah 14:13-14, these were…

I will ascend into Heaven;
I will be like the Most High;
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; and,
I will also sit on the Mount of the Congregation.

The SAP produced by it was Selfishness and Pride, and its Fruit was all about Me and My Glory.

On the other hand…

The Tree of Life…

The Tree of Grace and Life

…was rooted in the same desires that characterized Jesus, as described for us in Psalm 40:6-10…

I delight to do Your will;
Your law is within my heart;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; and,
I have proclaimed the good news of [Your] righteousness in the great assembly.

Its SAP was Submission and Praise, while its Fruit was all about God and His Glory.

In comparison, then, the Two Systems of Faith line up something like this…

The Roots and Fruit of the Two Trees

Of course, hindsight being what it is, it’s easy for us to see that the reason the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was so attractive to Adam and Eve was because of its overpowering appeal to their flesh—to their selfishness and pride, as well as to their desire for self-determination and glorification.  Unfortunately, when they chose to eat of this tree, there was no way for them to know the kind of fruit it would bear in the lives of their children, grandchildren, and in the generations to come.  They had no idea that in choosing the Way of Works over the Way of God, they were dooming every one of their descendants (with the exception of Jesus Christ) to enter this world already bound to the same system–the system of Satan’s Soul-Centered False Faith of Religion, which actually leads it followers away from the Truth of God and on to their Spiritual Deaths.

  1. Religion—How Did It Develop?

Starting out as just a small seed of unbelief in the hearts of our first parents—but, nurtured as it was in the fertile soil of Satan’s prideful ambition—it didn’t take long for this False Faith of Religion to grow into an enormous tree with a very sturdy trunk.  That’s because it was founded upon Cain and his self-styled Worship of Works, it was fed and grew stronger on Man’s Worship of Nature, and its reach was eventually extended to cover the whole world through the many branches it developed following God’s confounding of the languages at the Tower of Babel.

Cain’s Worship of Works

That Cain and his offering would serve as the base upon which the Tree of Religion was founded should come as no surprise to us; for his—and his brother Abel’s—offerings were the first ones to be recorded after their parents’ expulsion from the Garden of Eden.  Given their proximity to that event, in both time and location, it seems reasonable to expect that Adam and Eve had instructed their sons concerning the type of offering that would be required of them by God.  The fact that Cain brought an offering of produce from his field, which was rejected, and Abel brought a lamb to be sacrificed and it was accepted, would tend to lend support to this theory.  But, was the difference in their offerings the only reason to look upon Cain as Religion’s Founding Father, or was it something that went much deeper than that?

We get an indication of the real issue in Hebrews 11:4, where we learn that the truly distinguishing feature between these two men and their offerings was faith, for…

By faith, Abel offered up a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.

Why, then, was faith the deciding factor here?  Because…

…without faith it is impossible to please him [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6); and,

…the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, the Lord looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

If it was a heart of faith that was required to please God, how did Abel’s offering reveal that?  The most logical conclusion is that, since…

…faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17)…

Abel must have taken to heart the Word that he had receivedmost likely from his parents and something to the effect of “…without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Heb. 9:22)”—then, acting upon that Word, he offered up to God his best lamb as the substitutionary payment for his sins.

Cain, on the other hand, having rejected the same Word, and determined to do things in his own way, foolishly attempted to come to God on his own terms, rather than approaching Him in the manner previously ordained.  Such an arrogant action on his part revealed that his heart was far from God, he was in denial concerning his sinfulness and need of sacrificial atonement, and his faith was in his own worthiness and works.  So great was Cain’s sense of self-righteousness that even when he was corrected by God and given an opportunity to repent, he refused—choosing instead to try to vindicate himself through the murder of his brother.  The true nature of Cain’s heart and actions were described centuries later by the Apostle John, when he warned his readers…

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous (1 John 3:12).

So, it was these characteristics of Cain…

  • An unbelief in and a rejection of the Word of God;
  • A life built upon deception;
  • A faith based on self-worth and the works of the flesh;
  • An inexplicable resentment and envy of the truly righteous; and,
  • An unjustifiable need to suppress and eliminate those who are walking with God…

…that have, ever since the time of Cain, become the hallmarks of the structure we know of as Religion—hallmarks which were clearly demonstrated by the Religious Leaders of Jesus’ day who, in their resentment and envy of Him, felt completely justified in their persecution and crucifixion of the very Son of God.

The Way of Cain

Man’s Worship of Nature

I must admit that when considering the transition from Cain’s Worship of Works to Mankind’s Worship of Nature, I was at a loss to explain how it could have happened.  I mean, why would any reasonably intelligent person choose to worship a being or a material entity lower in rank in the created order than himself?  It just didn’t make any sense, for the leap from the one to the other seemed far too great.  Thankfully, in Romans 1:21-25, the Apostle Paul provided us with some insight into this highly illogical progression (regression, actually) as he explains that it was really just a short hop because…

…although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!

It would seem, then, that if we—like Cain—don’t believe God and we reject His Word as the only source of Truth in the world, not only will we fall for any and every lie that comes down the pike, but we will also have to invent a few of our own if we’re going to ever make sense of our existence and the world in which we live.  After all, how else can we explain why…

  • The sun rises in the east and sets in the west on a daily basis;
  • The moon and the stars come out at night and move from place to place in the sky;
  • The wind is so powerful and yet invisible;
  • The thunder thunders and the lightning flashes randomly across the sky;
  • The land is separate from the seas and the earth, at times, rumbles mysteriously under foot;
  • The rivers race downhill from the mountains to the sea;
  • People are people and animals are animals—why we eat one but not the other; and,
  • People die and what happens to them after they do?

Well, those in ancient times chose to explain these things through the use of Myths…

Myths explained how Earth was created, where life came from, why the stars shine at night and the seasons change.  Why there was sex.  Why there was evil.  Why people died and where they went when they did.  In short, myths were a very human way to explain everything.

…in its most basic sense, a myth is defined as ‘A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the world view of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society (American Heritage).’  ‘Explaining aspects of the world’—that’s another way to say ‘science’ or ‘religion,’ the two principal ways people have used to explain the world.[4]

Creation myths set out to explain the origin of the world, the birth of gods and goddesses, and eventually the creation of human beings.  Explanatory, or causal, myths try to give a mythic reason for natural events, such as the Norse belief that Thor made thunder and lightning by throwing his hammer…another fundamental type of myth is the ‘foundation’ story, which explains the beginnings of a society—often with the distinct sense of superiority that direct descent from the gods clearly implies.[5]

This eventually gave rise to the rule and domination of men over men because…

Once local rulers understood that connecting themselves to the gods would cement their hold over people, myth was elevated to an institution that could prove more powerful than an army.  Most of the great ancient civilizations…were theocracies, in which there was no difference between religion and state.  With connections to the gods and usually the cooperation of a potent priesthood, divinely anointed rulers held the power of life and death over their subjects…[6]

…a development which eventually led to the founding of the world’s first empire in the land of Shinar—as well as the world’s first Religious System at the Tower of Babel.

A Few of Religion’s Many Faces

A System of Worship for the World

In Genesis 11:1-2, we are told that following the flood of Noah’s day…

…the whole earth had one language and the same words.  And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

Then, in Genesis 10:8-12, we learn that Shinar is where Nimrod, Noah’s great-grandson, came to power—and, where it was said of him…

…he was the first on earth to be a mighty man.  He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before [against] the LORD.’  The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.  From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

Although the Bible doesn’t tell us much about Nimrod, there are a number of references to him in ancient extra-biblical literature.  One such reference is in Antiquities of the Jewscompiled by the Jewish historian, Josephus…

Now it was Nimrod who excited them [the people] to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power…[7]

From what we read here, Nimrod sounds very much like the man of lawlessness the Apostle Paul warned his readers about later in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10—and described there as…

…the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God…The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan, with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and be saved.

And, from Josephus’ description of them, it would seem that those who were following Nimrod were very much like those just described by Paul…

Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than anyone could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.[8]

It should be noted here that the building of this tower…

…was not an innocent, scientifically naive, primitive effort to reach the highest heavens! It was, instead, a brilliant but blasphemous effort to dismiss forever the God who had commanded Noah and his three sons after the Flood to ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth’ (Genesis 9:1). Instead of honouring His name [i.e. God’s character and attributes], they said, ‘Let us build for ourselves a city … and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’ (Genesis 11:4).

In reality, this tower was created to be a religious center; one designed in the shape of a mountain which, when ‘scaled’ through the accomplishment of varying degrees of religious ritual, would elevate men to the status of deity and to the pinnacle of human power.  The ziggurat—or stepped tower–is probably what this “mountain” would have looked like; a place where…

The top compartment represented heaven. The inner walls, in all probability, were decorated with blue glazed tile, with the sun, the moon, and the five known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) lined up along the plane of the zodiac. In the centre of the room would be their “god” seated upon a throne! Nebuchadnezzar later rebuilt such a tower in Babylon, which the Sumerians had called E-TEMEN-AN-KI (‘the building of the foundation-platform of heaven and earth’).  The pyramids of Egypt and, much later, the great Mayan temples of Central America, reflected the design of the original Tower of Babel.[9]

Most Likely What the Tower of Babel Looked Like

So, in addition to establishing himself as the first tyrannical emperor in human history, Nimrod also made a name for himself as the instigator of the first organized false religious system in the world—one …

…based primarily upon a corruption of the primeval astronomy formulated by Noah’s righteous ancestors before the flood.  In the original this system, depicted by means of constellations, [was] the story of Satan’s rebellion and the war in the heavens, his subversion of mankind, the fall of Adam and Eve, the promise of One to come who would suffer and die to relieve man from the curse of sin [and] then be installed as Lord of Creation, and the final re-subjugation of the cosmos to God through Him.

[However] These eternal truths were corrupted…into a mythic cycle wherein the great dragon is depicted as the rightful lord of the universe whose throne has been temporarily usurped by One whom we can recognize as the God of the Bible.

According to this corrupted version…

…the serpent creates man in his present miserable state, but promises that a child would one day be born of a divine mother—which child would supplant God, become a god himself, and return rulership of the Earth to the serpent…

Madonna and Child

…and, it was this woman and child who would later become known everywhere as the Madonna with Child.  

These fables…were introduced under the guise of revealing hidden esoteric knowledge [but]…this esotericism…only masked the actual goal, which was the worship of the ‘heavenly host,’ which the Bible equates with Satan’s army of fallen angels.

Satan was quite willing to receive worship ‘by proxy,’ hence the third major element of the mystery religion was emperor-worship. This religion was propagated by a hierarchy of priests and priestesses, to whom were assigned the task of initiating the populace at large into its ascending degrees of revelation, culminating at the highest level in both direct worship of Satan and demon-possession.[10]

Given the true nature of this rebellious and blasphemous endeavor—and the fact that it was God’s declared will from the beginning that human beings scatter abroad over the earth so that the earth would…

…be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)…

…it was no wonder that…

…the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.  And the LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’

So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:5-9).

As a result of this scattering, when the people made their way into strange new lands, one of the things they all carried along with them was the false religion they had known at Babel in the land of Shinar—the place later called Babylon

…from Babylon this mystery-religion spread to all the surrounding nations…Everywhere the symbols were the same, and everywhere the cult of the mother and child became the popular system…The image of the [Madonna] queen of heaven with the babe in her arms was seen everywhere, though the names might differ as languages differed. It became the mystery-religion of Phoenicia, and by the Phoenicians was carried to the ends of the earth. Ashtoreth and Tammuz, the mother and child of these hardy adventurers, became Isis and Horus in Egypt, Aphrodite and Eros in Greece, Venus and Cupid in Italy, and bore many other names in more distant places. Within 1,000 years, Babylonianism had become the religion of the world, which had rejected the Divine revelation.[11]

And, it was for this reason that Babylon came to be known as the “mother” of every pagan religious system in the world— the system referred to in the Bible as Mystery Babylon, and the one described in Revelation 17:1ff as…

…a woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality;

…the great prostitute…with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk; and,

…having written on her forehead a name of mystery: Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.

Mystery Babylon–Satan’s False Religious System

This is the same Religious System used by Satan throughout history to deceive and seduce those following in the Way of Cain, and to oppress and destroy those choosing to follow in the Way of Abel.  The one…

  • Out of which God called Abram, in order to create Israel as the nation through which His Son would come into the world;
  • That enslaved the Israelites in Egypt—and, the one that God crushed when He delivered His people from bondage there;
  • That God commanded His people to destroy when they went into the Promised Land—but whose failure to do so led to their eventual corruption;
  • That killed the prophets God sent to call His people to repentance;
  • That eventually carried God’s people into captivity, destroying their temple and leaving their land barren and in the hands of their enemies;
  • That crucified Christ;
  • That has persecuted the Church throughout its history and been responsible for the death of its martyrs;
  • That was responsible for the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and all the religious wars throughout history;
  • That led to the formation of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Rationalism, Atheism, and every cult the world has known; and,
  • Whose syncretism is now manifesting itself in the New Age Religion that will soon serve as the State Religion during the reign of the Antichrist.

4. Religion–How Will It End?

Most importantly, it is the one that God will one day judge and destroy…

Like Her Master, She Will Meet a Fiery End

…and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. Rev. 16:19

…for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Rev. 18:5

‘Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.’ …her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her. 18:6,8

Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste. 18:16-17

Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more;’ 18:20-21

…[for] all nations were deceived by your sorcery…and in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” 18:23-24

In that day, like her Master and Manipulator, Satan’s Soul-Centered False Faith of Religion will meet her well-deserved doom—and, she will be seen no more!

 

Phillips, Craig, and Dean remind us that our salvation is all about God’s amazing grace–not our works…

 

[1] “religion.” The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. © 1994, 2000-2006 on Infoplease.
© 2000-2017 Sandbox Networks, Inc., publishing as Infoplease.
14 May. 2018   <https://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/philosophy-and-religion/other-religious-beliefs-and-general-terms/religion-general/religion/>.

[2] Robert Brow, “Origins of Religion,” in Eerdmans’ Handbook to The World’s Religions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), 30.

[3] Brow, Eerdmans’ Handbook, 31.

[4] Kenneth C. Davis, Don’t Know Much About Mythology (New York, NY; HarperCollins Publishers, 20060, 23-24.

[5] Davis, Mythology, 12.

[6] Davis, Mythology, 12.

[7] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews: Book 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1960), 79-80.

[8] Josephus, Antiquities, 79-80.

[9] https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/babel/.

[10] Bryce Self, Semiramis, Queen of Heaven (http://www.ldolphin.org/semir.html).

[11] Harry A. Ironside, Babylonian Religion (http://www.biblelineministries.org/articles/).

 

 

Closing the Case on Cain and Abel

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Cain and Abel with Their OfferingsBefore we can leave the story of Cain and Abel behind, there are still a few matters that we need to attend to; for, we have yet to identify…

  • The Life Lessons to be learned from their story;
  • The Contributions their story makes to the One Big Story being played out on the Heavenly Stage above us; and,
  • Any Revelations of God that their story holds for us.

The Life Lessons here are ones involving…

1.  Choice

One of the first lessons to be learned from the story of Cain and Abel is that each person, at some point in his or her life, will have to choose whether to continue eating from and bearing the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; or, to step away from the that Tree of Death and head over to the Tree of Life.  When that time comes, it will not matter who that person’s parents are, or how godly they may be, every child born to those parents will have to decide for themselves if they will continue to pursue the Way of Works or if they will abandon that natural and fleshly way for the Way of Faith—a Faith that is founded on the Word of God and which provides the forgiveness of sins and salvation made possible only through the substitutionary and atoning work of Jesus Christ.

2.  Cost

For those choosing the Way of Faith, the story of Cain and Abel also serves as an excellent reminder that their choices will come with a price tag attached.  Just as Abel’s righteous deeds served to convict Cain of his own sins, the righteousness of those who come to salvation through faith in Christ will also offend and separate them from the wicked around them—sometimes the members of their own families—and may lead to their persecution and, at times, even to their deaths.

3.  Consolation

Although we may recoil at the idea of an innocent person being senselessly slaughtered by a guilty one, merely because the one in the wrong arrogantly refuses to admit his guilt, we can take comfort in the knowledge that no injustice will ever escape the notice or the judgment of God.  Just as in the case of Cain and Abel, where Abel’s blood cries out to God from the ground, anytime the blood of a righteous person is poured out in the defense of his faith, it calls out continuously to the God who will see to it that the life represented by that blood will eventually be vindicated.  And, from what we have learned so far about the principles of sowing and reaping, we can be certain that the seed sown by this or any act of wickedness will produce a harvest that is in keeping with the nature of the deed.  On the other hand, the seed sown by the righteous will be sure to reap according to the promise of Jesus in John 12:24-25…

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

The Contributions here are all about Patterns…

1.  Patterns of Generational Sin

In Vignette #4, the Fruit of the Fall, after God’s confrontation with Cain about the murder of his brother and Cain’s subsequent refusal to acknowledge or repent of his sin, we learned that…

…Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.  Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.  [And] When he [Cain] built a city he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. (Gen. 4:17)

To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech.  And Lamech took two wives.  The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.  Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.  His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.  Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron.  The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. (Gen. 4:18-22)

Lamech said to his wives:  Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:  I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.  If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-seven fold.  (Gen. 4:23-24)

From this account, we can see the beginnings of a Pattern for Generational Sin that will continue throughout the Story of the Bible; a pattern becoming more prevalent as more and more people choose to go the way of Cain, turning away from God and insisting on living life on their own terms.  This pattern is laid out for us in the following illustration…Pattern of Generational Sinx

 

2.  Patterns of Conflict

In addition to the Patterns of Generational Sin, here in the story of Cain and Abel, Patterns of Conflict are also beginning to take shape.  These patterns, naturally arising out of the opposing natures of these two men—natures derived from the two systems of faith which they represent—will result in the division of humanity into two groups, the Righteous and the Wicked.

Just as God, on the first day of Creation, divided light from darkness and day from night, here in the lives of earth’s first siblings, we find the same kind of division taking place; a division which will continue to exist throughout the remainder of human history, and one which will provide the conflict needed to move the action of the story forward.  We will learn more about this in our upcoming Vignettes but, for the time being, this illustration will help us understand these Patterns of Conflict and their sources a little better…Patterns of Conflict

 

Revelations of God…

As for the Revelations of God in this story, we once again find Him presented as the gracious and loving God who, “…not willing that anyone should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9),” seeks out the sinner, and confronts him with his sin for the purpose of bringing him to repentance and restoration.  However, when these gracious gestures are rejected, we see God revealed as the Judge who must see to it that the righteous demands of the law are met and that any violators of that law are punished appropriately.  Even in His judgment, though, the picture painted here of God is of One who remains merciful, even to the point of protecting the life of the unrepentant offender from revenge-seekers; and, in His raising up Seth to take the place of righteous Abel, the One who remains faithful to His promise to Eve to provide her with a son through whom the Redeemer will one day come.

With humanity now divided into the two camps of the Righteous and the Wicked, and with Cain and Seth in place as their two heads, we are ready to move forward in our Story; and, to the presentation of our next Vignette, where we will learn how the actions and interactions of these two groups will result in the Judgment of the Flood.

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If we could talk to Abel today, he would probably agree with the sentiments expressed in “All My Tears,” by Selah, with Kim Hill…

 

Fruit Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

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Now that we have learned a little something about the principles of Sowing, Reaping, and the Nature of the Two Trees that were planted in the center of the Garden of Eden, it is time for us to take a look at the part these elements played in the Cain and Abel story which was recently acted out for us in Vignette #4.  Keeping in mind the principles that we have learned since then—which were, that for any seed sown…

  • More would be reaped than was initially planted;
  • The harvest for that seed, though delayed, would always come once the fruit had fully matured; and,
  • The fruit produced as a result of it would always bear the image of the original seed…

…it should be easy for us to see how the seed sown by Adam and Eve, when they ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, reproduced itself in the lives of their children and grandchildren; bringing forth a harvest more bitter and deadly than anything they could ever have imagined.

Their Births

Although we aren’t told a lot about Cain and Abel, either in Genesis 4 or in the few related passages that speak of them, we are told enough to know that these two brothers were as different as different could be—with the first difference being seen in the way in which they came into the world.  Although they weren’t born into the same paradisaical situation that their parents had first experienced, still, the world which greeted them both must have a very beautiful one.  Cain was born into it first and, because of this, his birth elicited a far more ecstatic reaction on the part of their mother.

Adam and Eve with Sons

Adam and Eve with Sons

As you may recall, back in Genesis 3:15, when God provided animal skins as a covering for Adam and Eve’s sin, He promised that one day the “seed of the woman” would come and crush the head of the Serpent—an act of redemption and deliverance which would free Man forever from his bondage to sin and death.  We can well imagine that from Eve’s joy when a male child was born to her, and from the naming of him as Cain (meaning “gotten,” as in “I have gotten a man from the Lord”), both she and Adam looked upon this child as the “Promised One”—or, as the One who would someday deliver them from the curse brought about by their sin.

Abel’s birth, on the other hand, didn’t create quite the same stir.  There was no obvious excitement when he was born and, in giving him a name meaning “vapor, vanity, or breath,” it would seem that not too much was expected of him by his parents—that, maybe, in their eyes, he would never be able to measure up to stature of his older brother.

But, with both boys being raised in a generally pleasant environment by the same parents and, with them living in a world…

  • without any grandparents, aunts, or uncles to butt in (or to muddy up the family gene pool);
  • without any known sicknesses or diseases to afflict them;
  • without any governmental or police authorities to have to answer to;
  • without any schools, peer pressure, media or other cultural influences to lead them astray; and,
  • without any church or temple, bosses, or co-workers to be concerned about…

…it would be reasonable to expect that both of these young men would turn out to be equally fine specimens of humanity, wouldn’t it?

Their Vocations

The second noticeable difference between Cain and Abel was readily seen in their choice of vocations, with Cain, either willingly or out of necessity, choosing to become a farmer, and with Abel choosing the life of a shepherd. These were two completely different but equally demanding occupations, with the former requiring hard work to produce food from ground previously cursed by God; and, the latter demanding a twenty-four hour a day commitment to the raising of the animals which could be used for both sacrifices and clothing.  Although different, it would seem that these two livelihoods would prove to be mutually beneficial:  Cain could exchange some of his produce for the sheep he needed for sacrifice and for clothing, while Abel could use the produce he received to provide food for himself and his family.

Their Relationships

Of course, the major difference between these two brothers was in their opposing attitudes toward and relationships with God.  For, although both boys had been born into the same family, and were of the same spiritual stock—that is, in their original spiritual states, they were both products of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; Cain, at the time of our story, was still proving himself to be fruit from that Tree of rebellion, while Abel, through his actions, was demonstrating that he had found his way to the spiritual Tree of Life, and had become part of its fruit.  For evidence of this, we need to look no further than at the offerings these young men brought to God.

The Offerings

We first learn of these offerings in Genesis 4:3-4a, where we are told that…

Cain and Abel at the Altar

Cain and Abel at the Altar

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.

At first glance, nothing seems to be amiss in this situation; Cain, from all outward appearances, is bringing God some of the fruits of his labor, while Abel is doing the same.  But, then, things take a decidedly different turn as we read in verses 4b and 5 that…

…the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.

Hmmm…here we have two brothers with two offerings, both being made at the altar and both at the appointed or designated time for sacrifice—what could possibly have been wrong with this picture?  What was it that set these offerings apart, making one but not the other acceptable to God?  Was it because of the differences in the offerings themselves, or was it something that went deeper than that?

Different Offerings?

I have heard a considerable bit of discussion about this over the years, with some people advancing the theory that, because there was no specific written instruction as to what the offering should be, the one which Cain brought should have been okay; with those holding to this opinion frequently citing the provision of grain offerings in the Mosaic Law to support their position.  However, the grain offerings included in the Law were Peace and Thanksgiving offerings that were to be made once a sin or a burnt offering (offerings specifically calling for animal sacrifices) had been made and accepted by God.  While we have no indication that any type of grain offering had been sanctioned by God or instituted as part of the worship ritual in Cain and Abel’s day, we can find scriptural justification to support the belief that the animal sacrifice brought by Abel was the type that had been mandated by God.

In Leviticus 17:14, it says that “…the life of every creature is its blood:  its blood is its life;” and, in Romans 6:23 that “…the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Since, in these passages, God declared that the life of a person is in his or her blood, and that the wages of his or her sin is death, then it would follow that the person who sinned would be required to die and offer up his or her life’s blood to atone for that sin.  Although this was, and still is, the demand of God’s holy law, God has added something of a proviso to it; and that is, as an act of His grace, God stipulated that another’s life—and blood—could be substituted for that of the sinner, on condition that the life and blood of the substitute be sinless, so that it could satisfy the righteous demands of the law.  This law of substitution is what made the sacrifice of innocent animals necessary, and is why this type of offering became the precedent for all those that would be made in the future.

With this precedent having been established in the Garden, and with parents who no doubt told their sons all about it, why would Cain have dared to bring any other kind of offering to God?  Although we are not told so here, fallen human nature being what it is, there are some things that we can surmise which might help to explain his actions:

  • If Cain had grown up believing that he was the Promised Deliverer, he may have adopted the attitude that he could do no wrong, and that no matter what he did, it would be okay with God.
  • If this was the case, he would have had an ego the size of all Eden, accompanied by an attitude of superiority, which would have made going to his younger brother for anything, especially a sacrificial lamb, simply intolerable.
  • Certainly, the fact that Abel was a prophet (something not mentioned here but revealed later on by Jesus in Matthew 23:34-35 and in Luke 11:50-51) wouldn’t have helped to improve the situation in any way. If, in times past, when acting as a prophet, Abel had confronted Cain about his arrogant attitude and preached repentance to him, it surely wouldn’t have endeared him to someone with Cain’s exaggerated sense of self-importance.
  • Cain may have also been harboring resentment toward God; possibly for having kicked his parents out of Paradise for such an “insignificant” offense as eating from the forbidden Tree, and thus denying him the privilege of growing up there. He could have resented having to work so hard to get the earth, cursed as it was by God, to yield its increase—especially when a life of relative ease was waiting to be had, if only he lived in the Garden.

…Or, Different Hearts?

Whatever else may have been going on behind the scenes, one thing we can know for sure is that the real issue between these two men was neither physical nor emotional but spiritual in nature, and reflective of the two very different heart attitudes of the brothers.  For proof of this, we need only to go to  Hebrews 11:4, where we learn that the truly distinguishing feature between their two offerings was faith, for…

“By faith, Abel offered up a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.”

And why was faith the deciding factor here?  As it is explained so simply in Hebrews 11:6 and in 1 Samuel 16:7, respectively…

“…without faith it is impossible to please him [God], for however would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

“For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, the Lord looks on the heart.”

If a heart of faith was what was required to please God, then how did Abel’s offering reveal that?  Since “…faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17),” Abel must have taken to heart the Word that he had received, most likely from his parents, which said something to the effect that “…without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Heb. 9:22)”—and then acting upon that Word, he offered up to God his best lamb as the substitutionary payment for his sins.

Abel Slain by Cain

Abel Slain by Cain

Cain, on the other hand, in his rejection of the same Word, and in his willful determination to do things in his own way, foolishly attempted to come to God on his own terms, rather than approaching God in the manner which had previously been ordained.  Such arrogant actions on Cain’s part resulted in God’s rejection of his offering, which provoked Cain to anger and to the subsequent murder of his brother, which led to a further curse being placed on his farming, and which, when he refused to repent, led to Cain’s separation from the presence of God, leading ultimately to a life of fearful wandering.  As for the true nature of Cain’s heart and actions, they were best described centuries later by the Apostle John, when he warned his readers in 1 John 3:12:  ““We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

Now, as we recall what we previously learned about the nature of the two trees—which was…

  • That the Tree of the Knowledge of Good an Evil was rooted in the in the same desires that motivated Satan to rebel against God, that it produced the SAP of Selfishness and Pride, and that its Fruit was all about Me and My Glory…
  • …while the Tree of Life was rooted in the same desires to do God’s will that characterized Jesus, its SAP being Submission and Praise, while its Fruit for God and His Glory

…then it should be plain enough for us to see that Cain, in his prideful reliance upon his own works at achieving righteousness, was the first and most perfect piece of fruit to fall from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—becoming, if you will, a regular “poster child” for all those who would come after him, seeking to come to God on their own merits.  Abel, on the other hand, with the placement of his faith in the gracious provision of God—that is, in the one allowing for the substitutionary death of an innocent lamb to provide a covering for his sins—was the first and a most fitting example of the fruit to be produced by the Tree of Life.  The offerings that they brought to God, then, were merely outward demonstrations of these inner beliefs.

Of course, both of these trees will continue to bear fruit in each of the generations to come but our inspection of that fruit will have to wait until next time; the time when we will also complete our assessment of the story of Cain and Abel by looking for…

  • the Life Lessons that we can take away from their experiences;
  • the Contributions that their story makes to the One Big Story taking place on the Heavenly Stage above us; and,
  • any new Revelations about God contained within their story.

Until then, though, let’s join with Kutless and reflect on just…“What Faith Can Do.”

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Sowing, Reaping, and the Nature of the Trees

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The Initial Seed of Evil

Previously, in Vignette #3, we watched sadly and helplessly as Adam and Eve deliberately chose to disobey God by eating from the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This one errant action on their part was all that it took to introduce Evil, with its accompanying fear, shame, deceit, alienation, and death, into what was then an ideal world.  Later, in Vignette #4, we saw how, after the passage of time and with the addition of their sons, Cain and Abel, that initial seed of Evil sown by our first parents had taken root and blossomed into the kind of bitterness, resentment, misunderstanding, self-righteousness, and anger that would lead to the first murder in the world.

So, what we want to do now, as we pause once more between Vignettes to critique this most recent part of God’s One Big Story, is to learn how things could go from bad to worse in such a relatively short period of time, and the lessons that we can take away from it today.  To do this, though, we first need to spend a few minutes acquainting ourselves with a few of life’s most basic and important principles—these being, the principles of sowing and reaping, and the nature of the two trees that are at the heart of all of life.

Sowing and Reaping

Because the majority of us have not, and probably never will have, any connection to anything agrarian (other than eating the produce we pick up from the local market), it may be difficult for us to understand how important sowing and reaping is in God’s plan for our lives.  And yet, we can begin to see their significance when we stop to consider that:

  • In John 15:8, Jesus said, “In this am I [God] greatly glorified in that you bear much fruit”;
  • In the Creation Story found in Genesis 1, we are told at least ten times the all living beings were designed to reproduce “according to their own kind”;
  • God told Noah in Genesis 8:22, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease”;
  • All of Israel’s God-appointed religious feasts and festivals were connected to an event in the agricultural calendar; and,
  • All of the major events in prophetic and redemptive history are associated with some part of the sowing and reaping process; with that process being described by Jesus in the following way:

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom.  The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.  Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.  In that place will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  He who has ears, let him hear (Matt. 13:37-43).

Reaping the Harvest

Reaping the Harvest

From this, it should become apparent that life itself is just one long cycle of sowing and reaping, the purpose of which is to produce more life and/or fruit for the glory of God.  A seed is sown, it is fertilized, watered and supplied with light by the sun; it takes root and after some time, it grows to maturity and reproduces the fruit which will either nourish some other living being, or provide the seeds needed to reproduce itself once again.  In theory, it is a very simple process; however, when it comes to sowing and reaping, there are a few principles that must be taken  into consideration, if we are going to be prepared for the harvest that we will inevitably receive.

Therefore, we need to remember that..

  • Although one seed will produce just one plant, that one plant is likely to produce a lot of fruit—so we will almost always reap more than we sow;
  • The seed we sow will not spring up into a plant overnight but it will take time, sometimes a lot of time, to grow to maturity—so that while our harvest will not be immediate, it will be sure and will come at the appropriate time; and,
  • Whatever seed we sow, it will bear the image of the original—so that the fruit produced by any seed we sow will be of the same kind and nature as its “parent,” with that kind and nature being passed on to all future generations of that seed.
You Reap What You Sow

You Will Reap What You Sow

But what do these principles of sowing and reaping have to do with our Story?  Well, in short, everything—which is something that we will come to see, after we learn a little more about the two trees at the heart of the Story.

The Nature of the Two Trees

Of course, the two trees to which I am referring are the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; trees which were planted by God in the center of the Garden of Eden for a very specific purpose. As we learned in Another Learning Interlude, this Garden was the designated place of meeting and fellowship between God and Man; where, if Man was going to continue his fellowship with God, he would have to live in obedience to Him, even when tempted to do otherwise.  God’s purpose for positioning the Trees at the heart of the Garden, then, was to test Man’s heart, and to demonstrate if he would choose to obey God and be blessed, or disobey Him and reap the consequences.

As for the trees themselves, and why Adam and Eve would choose the one over the other, I don’t think their choice had anything to do with one tree being more attractive than the other for, in a description of all of the trees in the Garden, Genesis 2:9 tells us that…

And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.

So, given that all of the trees were equally attractive and good for food, what was it that made the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil so appealing; and why would the first Man and Woman choose to eat from it instead of the one from which they could freely eat?  For a better understanding of this, let’s consider what these Trees represented to Adam and Eve—and what they represent to us, as well.

The Only Two Ways Available to Men

In His provision of the two Trees, God was presenting Adam and Eve with the only two Systems of Faith that would be available to mankind, and was confronting them with the choice that both they and we have to make at some point in our lives—the choice to either put our Faith in the Works of the Flesh and try to earn our salvation on our own terms, or to to do things God’s way and put our Faith in the Sacrificial Work of the Lamb of God as the only way of securing our salvation and eternal life.

If we were to analyze these two Systems of Faith in the following way, we would discover that…

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…

…Is rooted in the same desires that motivated Satan to rebel against God—which are listed in Isaiah 14:13-14:

I will ascend into Heaven.
I will be like the Most High.
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.
I will also sit on the Mount of the Congregation.

…Produces SAP of Selfishness and Pride.

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

The Way of Works and Death

…Produces Fruit for Me and My Glory.

While…

The Tree of Life…

…Is rooted in the same desires that characterized Jesus, the promised Messiah in Psalm 40:6-10:

I delight to do Your will.
Your law is within my heart.
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth.
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation.
I have proclaimed the good news of [Your] righteousness in the great assembly.

Produces SAP of Submission and Praise.

Tree of Life

The Way of Faith and Life

Produces Fruit for God and His Glory.

From our analysis of these two systems, it should be easy for us to see that the reason the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was so attractive to Adam and Eve was because of its overpowering appeal to their flesh—that is, to their latent selfishness and pride, and to their desire for self-glorification.  Unfortunately, because of their decision to eat from this tree and to go the Way of Works, they doomed every one of their descendants (with the exception of Jesus Christ) to enter this world already committed to this same system–which, as we have learned, is nothing other than the Way to Death.  However, because of God’s gracious provision of a Sacrifice to atone for or to provide a covering for their sins, both they and all those who would after follow them would have the opportunity to opt out of this system of Death, choosing instead to go the Way of Faith—which is really the only Way to Life.

As for how sowing, reaping, and the nature of the two trees affected the children of Adam and Eve, this will be more clearly seen next time, as we take a closer look at the Story of Cain and Abel, and inspect the fruit that didn’t fall too far from the tree. 

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As we reflect on these things, let’s join Unspoken in “Call It Grace.”

 

 

 

The Fruit of the Fall

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Exiled from the Garden

When we last saw Adam and Eve—at the end of Vignette #3 of God’s One Big Story—they were being evicted from their Garden home for violating God’s one and only condition in their lease agreement, which was to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This tree was one of two special ones located in the middle of the Garden and, by partaking of its fruit, they became guilty of disobeying God, and became sinners with a firsthand knowledge of Evil.  This, of course, meant that they could no longer stay in the Garden, where they would have continued access to the other tree at the Garden’s center, the Tree of Life; for, if they had eaten of the Tree of Life then, they would have lived forever in their fallen states, and would have never known the joy of becoming a redeemed Child of God.

Cain and Abel7a

Cain and Abel in Happier Days

The curtains here at Stage #1 are preparing to open again on what will be Vignette #4 of our Story and, as they do, we hear the voice of our off-stage Narrator bringing us up to date on what has happened since that sad and fateful moment when Adam and Eve were thrust out of their first home—the place where they had only known the Good that life had to offer.  He lets us know that a lot has changed, and that a considerable amount of time has gone by, when he tells us that…

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.’  And again, she bore his brother Abel.  Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.  (Gen. 4:1-2)

Cain and Abel6a

Cain and Abel at Work

It is at this point that the Stage comes fully into view and, while Adam and Eve are nowhere to be found, we see before us two young men in the foreground:  the one on our left is Cain, who is tending to his crops; and, the one on our right is Abel, who is tending to his flocks.  Behind them is a field, and beyond that, at the back of the Stage, there is the Angel with the flaming Sword who is still guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden.  Close to this entrance, there is also a pile of stones stacked neatly in the form of an altar—which, from the looks of it, has been used a number of times in the past.

As we continue looking at the Stage, our characters continue going about their work, even as the lights are dimmed and then relit six times—simulating the passage of six days and nights.  At the end of what would be the sixth day, however, their day-in, day-out routine is interrupted when Cain gathers up a portion of his crops, Abel selects what appears to be the very best—the firstborn—lamb of his flock, and they both head toward the altar at the back of the Stage—the place where they plan to meet with and to worship God, as they offer up to Him their sacrifices.

Cain and Abel9a

Cain and Abel at Worship

When they arrive there, the first thing they do is check to make sure the stones of the altar are clean and that none of them are loose; and then, after going out and gathering up sticks,  they proceed to light the fire for the altar.  Once they have it burning, Cain wastes no time in putting his offering on the altar—an offering which is very quickly consumed by the flames, and one which leaves behind no particularly fragrant odor to enjoy.  Abel’s offering, on the other hand, takes a good deal longer to prepare.  First, he inspects the lamb to make sure that it is unblemished in every way.  Next, he kills the lamb and cuts its body into pieces, draining the blood from it as he does.  Finally, he places the pieces on the altar—being sure to include the choicest pieces of fat—and then pours the blood out on the ground at the base of the altar.  He, now completely covered with the lamb’s blood, stands back, watching as the flames consume his offering, and as its sweet-smelling aroma wafts its way to heaven.

Almost immediately, the Lord lets the brothers know that the sacrifice that Abel made has been found to be acceptable, while the offering made to Him by Cain has been rejected.  When this happens, Cain becomes so obviously angry that it prompts God to question him in the following manner…

God:  Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. (Gen. 4:6-7)

Cain and Abel10a

Cain and Abel at War

Sadly, it appears that Cain has taken no heed of God’s warning for, as he and Abel are returning from the altar, he begins arguing with his brother.  Although we cannot hear what is being said, we can see that the argument is escalating very quickly—so much so that, by the time they reach the field, Cain has picked up a rock and has begun hitting Abel in the head with it.   After a couple of well-placed blows, Abel’s lifeless body collapses on the ground.   Upon seeing his brother lying there motionless, Cain, seemingly in a state of panic, rushes back to the front of the Stage.  If he had hoped that, in distancing himself from the scene of the crime, he would be able to claim his innocence, he was very quickly and sadly mistaken; for, no sooner than he had arrived, he found that God was there to meet him for the following confrontation:

God:  Where is Abel your brother?

Cain:  I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?

God:  What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.  And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength.  You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.

Cain:  My punishment is greater than I can bear.  Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from you face I shall be hidden.  I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.

God:  Not so!  If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.

At that, we see God placing a mark of some kind on Cain’s forehead—a mark designed to keep any avenger of his brother’s blood (possibly one of their other brothers) at bay.  Once that is done, we watch as Cain calls his wife, gathers up his belongings, and heads off into the distance—to a land east of Eden called Nod.  As he leaves, and as the lights dim on him and his wife, our Narrator offers us some insights into what Cain’s future holds, as he tells us that…

Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.  [And] When he [Cain] built a city he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. (Gen. 4:17)

Although we are not told so, we are left to imagine that, in his building of a city, Cain was trying to provide himself with a fortification where he would be safe from anyone seeking vengeance upon him.  We are also not told how he would be making a living, given that his former occupation was no longer a viable option for him.  But, we can wager a guess that, as a result of lives lived apart from God, the end that he and his descendants would eventually come to would not be a good one.  We are given an indication of this as several men and a few women line up on the Stage before us—and, as our Narrator announces that…

To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech.  And Lamech took two wives.  The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.  Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.  His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.  Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron.  The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

Spotlight2aAs our Narrator announces the name of each of Cain’s descendants, a spotlight shines on each one briefly, before moving on to the man in the next generation.  However, when the light shines on the last man, Lamech, we are surprised by his sudden and arrogant outburst to his wives…

Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:  I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.  If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-seven fold.  (Gen. 4:23-24)

If Vignette #4 were to end here, it would be a very sad ending indeed.  But, we are given renewed hope when our Narrator once again interjects…

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.’  To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh.  [And] At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord. (Gen. 4:25-26)

Praise God, all is not lost!

 

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Join the Gaithers in “There is Power in the Blood”…

 

 

The Perils of Personal Autonomy

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When the last installment of God’s One Big Story ended, here is where we were in the Story:

  • God had created a beautiful world, and designed it perfectly to sustain the lives of the people He would soon be creating;
  • Then, when this earthly home was completed, God created Man, a being so much like Himself that he would have no problem in being adopted as one of God’s sons;
  • Next, God created a Garden Sanctuary where He and the Man could meet regularly for fellowship; and, upon its completion, He placed the man in the Garden and designated it as his new home;
  • Because it was a grace gift from God, there was nothing that he could do to earn the privilege of living in this beautiful Garden Sanctuary, however, once it was completed, Man was charged by God with the responsibility of tending and protecting it. While it was an idyllic place in which to live, and was one which satisfied almost all of his needs, there was still one need that remained unmet, and that was Man’s need for human companionship;
  • So, to meet this need, God created a Woman from the Man, and then brought her to him, to be his Partner and Helper, and his Co-Regent over all of God’s Creation;
  • Together, they wanted for nothing. Their Garden home was filled with every kind of tree that was good for food; however, two trees in the middle of the Garden were designated by God as being special—the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Man and Woman were free to eat from the former but forbidden to eat from the latter;
  • At this point in the Story, everything in God’s Creation was “good,” and every one of Man’s experiences in life had been “good.” Man and Woman were living in harmony with one another and with God; they were naked before one another and before God—naked and innocent, and in their innocence, they were completely unashamed. At this point, Man had no knowledge—either theoretical or experiential—that a thing such as “Evil” even existed.

This, then, is the scene now opening up before us on Stage #1, as God’s One Big Story resumes, and as Vignette #3:  Man’s Sin and Fall from Grace begins.

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“…Now the serpent was more crafty…”

As the Vignette opens, we find the Man and Woman busy in the middle of the Garden, going about their daily routines, when a Serpent appears, seemingly out of nowhere.  We are immediately struck by the mysterious beauty of this creature, as he glides effortlessly across the ground and positions himself in and around the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  In his advancement toward the Tree, we watch almost spellbound as the multicolored scales of his skin give off the appearance of iridescent, undulating tiles rippling with each of his movements, as they glisten in the light of the sun.  This hypnotic effect is soon broken, however, when our off-stage Narrator suddenly calls our attention to another, far less attractive, characteristic of this particular creature…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made (Gen. 3:1).

As startled as we are by the sudden intrusion of the Narrator’s comments, we are even more stunned when the Serpent himself begins speaking to the Woman, instigating this brief but very effective dialogue:

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“Did God say…?”

Serpent:  Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’

Woman:  We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’

Serpent:  You will not surely die.  For God know that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

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“Hmmm…”

With the Serpent’s seed of doubt so simply yet skillfully planted in her mind, we watch as the Woman takes a piece of fruit from the forbidden Tree.  Holding it in her hands, she studies it from every angle, no doubt reasoning within herself about how beautiful the piece of fruit it is, how delicious it must taste, and how delightful it would be to be as wise as God.  Suddenly, after apparently casting aside all doubts as to what her next move should be, she bites into the fruit and then hands it to the Man who is with her, and he, following her lead, shares in the forbidden delicacy.  Immediately afterward, as an unsettling pall settles over the Stage, we realize that we have just witnessed an event so tragic that it will forever change life here on the earth.  Where everything in the Garden was, just a few minutes earlier, so light, bright, and beautifully untarnished, now the very same scene is one in which every pure hue of every created thing has been diminished or toned down through a universal application of gray.

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Self-efforts Can’t Cover Man’s Sins

In addition to these unpleasant environmental alterations so rapidly taking place in the Garden itself, we also become aware of some unexpected changes taking place in the Man and Woman.  For, immediately after eating of the fruit, we observe them looking at each other with such startled expressions that one would think that they had never seen one another before.  Instantly, the precious innocence which they once shared is gone; an innocence that has so quickly been replaced by the uncomfortable awareness of their nakedness, and of the shame accompanying it—a shame so intense, in fact, that it compels them to rush to a nearby fig tree where, after plucking multiple leaves from its branches, they begin fashioning make-shift garments with which to cover their nakedness and shame.  However, as we are about to learn, works such as these can never cover Man’s sin, nakedness, and shame before God.

This lesson is driven home to us as we see the disgraced Couple, upon hearing the Presence of God walking through the Garden, hiding themselves among its trees.  Even though they have done their best to completely cover up their disobedience and its results, when in the Presence of One so holy as the Lord God, these Sinners still find themselves to be naked and ashamed.  However, as the One who is ever seeking the lost, God calls out to the Man, asking where he is, and initiating the following exchange:

God:  Where are you?

Man:  I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.

God:  Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?

Man:  The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.

God (to the Woman):  What is this that you have done?

Woman:  The serpent deceived me and I ate.

God (to the Serpent):  Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall you, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

God (to the Woman):  I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.  Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.

God (to the Man):  Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out if it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

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They All Go Back to Adam and Eve

Once these judgments have been handed down, our Narrator interjects a final, seemingly unrelated, comment, when he tells us that…

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living…

…no doubt, to remind us that we, as descendants of Eve, are all partakers of the same sin nature that originated with her and her husband at this pivotal moment in time.

Fortunately for Adam and Eve, and for us, too, this is not where or how this part of our Story ends; for, as soon as our Narrator finishes with what he has to say, we get to witness another act of grace on God’s part, as He slays two innocent animals and, from their skins, makes the garments that Adam and Eve need to appropriately cover their nakedness.  With their sins temporarily covered in this way, God speaks once more, acknowledging the momentous change that has just taken place, saying…

Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.  Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever…

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Sin Results in Separation from God

…a change so devastating that, before He even finishes His sentence, God takes the action of driving the Man and the Woman out of the Garden; sending them back to the ground from which Adam was taken–where he will now have to toil for that which had freely been enjoyed in his Garden home.  Then, to keep them from returning to the Garden and eating of the Tree of Life and living forever in their present sinful conditions, God graciously places Angels and a Flaming Sword to guard the entrance to the Garden, and to the Tree of Life.

While it is at this point that Vignette #3 does come to a close, our Story certainly doesn’t end here.  For, as we shall soon see, because everything in God’s Creation was designed to reproduce “after its own kind,” Adam and Eve’s choices will produce fruit that will prove to be very bitter indeed, not only to themselves but also to their children, and to the society that these children create.  Because of that, in our future Vignettes, we will spend a considerable amount of time acting as “Fruit Inspectors” !

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Until then, though, let’s enjoy the message of “Before the Throne of God Above” by Selah