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16.5.1. Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden is a “Temple” in the same sense as the New Jerusalem . There is no separate building or Holy Place because the entire environ is Holy and without sin. In this sense, the entire Garden may be said to be a “Temple” in that there is full and unrestrained access to God by man (Rev. Rev. 21:22+). The Garden, like the New Jerusalem, typifies the “Holy of Holies” of every other Temple—the place of unrestricted communion with God without the intimacy-destroying presence of sin. Until the quality of the fellowship man once had with God in the Garden is appreciated more fully, one will be unable to understand the horrible effects of sin and the great effort involved in carrying out the prescribed liturgical details attending the subsequent Temples where man approached God on a limited basis. The effect of The Fall upon man’s communion with God has already been described. No matter how one looks at it, the result was catastrophic . It is as if man reclined and ate at God’s table (John John 13:23; Rev. Rev. 3:20+) only to find himself removed from the table, locked outside the room, and only able to commune with God through a keyhole. Even on the Day of Atonement on his closest approach to God, the high priest was still required to burn incense when inside the Holy of Holies to cover the mercy seat and separate himself from God’s presence “lest he die” (Lev. Lev. 16:13). This would all change for believers in Jesus who are the Temple of the Believer, but that would not come until much later. In a study of the Temple, it is most useful to examine the Garden of Eden in relation to the condition of man immediately after The Fall, after having been driven from the Garden. In addition to the correspondence seen earlier between the earthly and heavenly Temples, there is a correspondence between both Temples and the Garden of Eden after The Fall into sin. In some sense, all of Scripture describes events associated with God establishing a way for man to return to the conditions of Eden prior to The Fall. In this sense, Jesus is Eden’s Bridge. Immediately after The Fall, Adam and Eve were expelled out of the Garden. Evidently, they were driven away toward the East for God placed cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” [emphasis added] (Gen. Gen. 3:24). God barred man’s way to the tree of life by placing Cherubim between the tree and Adam and Eve. When various aspects of the scene at the expulsion of the Garden of Eden are compared with the layout of the Tabernacle and Temple, numerous similarities can be seen:1
  • Eastern Entry - To return back into God’s Holy presence in the Garden, Adam and Eve would have had to return from the east toward the west. And this is exactly what we see in the pattern of the Tabernacle and Temple, both of which are entered on the east and which have the holiest place at the western extremity where the very presence of God abides.
  • Guarding Cherubim - In the same way that cherubim separated man from the tree of life in the Garden, so too the veils on the east end of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies contain depictions of cherubim (Ex. Ex. 26:31; Ex. 36:8, Ex. 36:35; 2Chr. 2Chr. 3:14). The Ark of God within the Holy of Holies, above which God’s Shekinah glory dwelt, was overspread by cherubim (Ex. Ex. 25:22; Num. Num. 7:89; 2Chr. 2Chr. 5:7).
  • Flames - The cherubim guarded the way back to the tree of life, but also to the divine presence, with a “flaming sword” (Gen. Gen. 3:24). Just outside each veil of separation in the Temple is found an altar upon which fire is found. The priest must pass by the bronze altar of sacrifice before entering the Holy Place, whereas the altar of incense stood before the veil into the Holy of Holies. The fire speaks of purification and judgment of sin.
  • River - A river flowed from the Garden of Eden (Gen. Gen. 2:10). The Temple contained a bronze laver with water for cleansing. The Millennial Temple is the source of a river of life (Eze. Eze. 47:1). So too the New Jerusalem has a river of life (Rev. Rev. 22:1+).
  • Mountain - Since a river originated in Eden and flowed outward from there, we may safely assume that the Garden was elevated above the surrounding countryside. As we have seen, the Temple stood on a mountain (Mount Moriah). The Millennial Temple will stand upon the “mountain of the LORD’S house” (Isa. Isa. 2:2; Isa. 27:13; Isa. 30:29; Isa. 56:7; Eze. Eze. 17:24; Eze. 20:40; Eze. 40:2; Mic. Mic. 4:1) as will the New Jerusalem (Rev. Rev. 21:10+).
  • Tree of Life - When man fell in the Garden, he lost access to the tree of life by which he would obtain eternal life (Gen. Gen. 2:9; Gen. 3:22). The testimony of the law of Moses was stored with the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies within the Temple. When Moses reviewed the law to the new generation about to cross the Jordan, he said “Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today . . . observe-all the words of this law. . . . because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land” (Deu. Deu. 32:46). Thus, the words of the law within the Holy of Holies represent the way of life. This is what Stephen referred to as “the living oracles” (Acts Acts 7:38). John recognized the life-giving power of God’s word when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” [emphasis added] (John John 6:68). Thus, the Tree of Life in the Garden is represented by God’s word recorded in the Holy of Holies of the Temple.2 The Tree of Life in our own age, when no recognized Temple stands on the Temple Mount, is the cross of Christ. Those who embrace it regain access to eternal life.
Many more similarities could be identified between the Garden of Eden, the various Temples, and the New Jerusalem (which some see as being in entirety a “Temple,” Rev. Rev. 21:22+). But in each case, the primary message we must not miss is that the Temple represents the way back to God. The entire concept of the earthly Temple is concerned with making allowance for sinful man meeting with Holy God in partial communion which is a shadow of what man once had and the redeemed will one day enjoy.

The arrangement of the Garden of Eden’s landscape corresponds to that of the Tabernacle and the Temple with its furniture. Eastward movement (out of the Garden) is away from God’s presence; westward movement (through the Sanctuary) is a return [to] God. On the Day of Atonement the high priest reverses the peoples spiritual exile from God and restores them to a relationship with God (through blood sacrifice for sin). [emphasis added]3


Notes

1 See [Randall Price, The Coming Last Days Temple (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1999), 195] for a more extensive treatment.

2 [Torah scrolls are] written on parchment, sewn together, rolled onto wooden rollers called eytz chayeem (tree of life), and read regularly in the synagogue.—Israel My Glory, May/June 2001, 23.

3 Price, The Coming Last Days Temple, 195.