One of our editor’s contributed this brief article on one aspect of the creation of man.
In what estate did God create man? The Westminster Catechism states that, “God created man, male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.” Note that he created them righteous and holy. He created them without sin. There was no judgment in the garden of Eden, only perfect relational bliss. We see this in God walking in the garden in Genesis 3. We struggle to comprehend what no judgment looks like, don't we? We function in entire societies built around judgment and discipline, because of corruption. However, it is important to recognise that the world God created had no need for judgment. There was no corruption.
God not only created man holy and righteous and in relationship with him, but he created them for eternity. As Ecclesiastes 3:11 points out, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart.” There is an important distinction to be made here. What does it mean for man to be made for eternity? Does that mean he created them as eternal beings? Were they created like the angels, their spiritual forms not seeing corruption or decay? Or is something else intended? The Westminster Confession states that “their souls…neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence.” Though our souls are created eternal, our bodies are not.
This is where the importance of the tree of life comes in. It plays a minor role in the story of Genesis, but it would seem that the purpose of the tree of life was to give their body's life, which would match with their souls. This would be reinforced by the words God says later about it “Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever…He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life”. (Gen 3:22-24) So when we say God created man to live forever with him, it means he created them with a perfect body and soul, in perfect relationship with him.
This leads to an important question. In what estate did God place man? God placed the man in a garden for eternal bliss. He placed Adam and Eve in a garden with everything they needed. He gave them all the plants and fruit to enjoy, he said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” (Ge 1:29–30) There was nothing bad for them.
He gave them dominion over creation to care for it and see it grow. There was nothing lacking. God created them and left them in this situation so they could exist in perfection for eternity. The intention for man in creation was to glorify God and enjoy him forever. They were to exist in perfect harmony with God, each other, and creation for all eternity. Dying was not a present reality. Given the fact that he created their souls to exist forever meant God’s revealed intention was for them to continue existing forever.
In a world filled with such chaos and carnage, it is good to be reminded that God created man good. It is good to be reminded of this because it helps us picture what he is redeeming us for in Christ. He is redeeming all things so it will be set free from its groaning and return to the estate in which God created it. Let us strive with all our might to work with zeal to see image bearers of God restored to him. He created us for eternity and that shall not change. The only question is where will the souls of the men and women of the earth spend eternity? We have this life to point them to the salvation offered in the gospel.